The concept of ‘need’.

The concept of ‘need’.

I’m a bit concerned about a trend in the gun community, one borne from defending against the prohibitionists who have gotten their second wind courtesy of the Newtown tragedy. That trend is arguing ‘need’.

The prohibitionists (gun-grabbers, if you prefer) like to ask the question “why do you NEED” some specific gun or feature on a gun. Whether it’s a “high capacity magazine” or a “military style rifle”, the question puts the onus on us to justify our desire to have the item in question. I think that’s misguided, and I think we’re aiding and abetting our own entrapment.

Don’t get me wrong; there have been a number of superb essays on the subject by people I know and respect. In virtually every case I agreed with all the points they made. I just don’t think we should be wasting our time making them.

If a prohibitionist asks why we “need” something, he is presupposing that the exercise of a fundamental right is contingent upon showing good reason to exercise that right. The idea that humans have rights simply because they exist is completely bypassed, and the concept that rights are something a government confers upon subjects is cemented in the very structure of the question. By answering, in any form or manner, the question of need we tacitly accept their premise that rights do not exist beyond what someone else is willing to allow. Even entertaining the question plays into their trap.

We need to stop doing that.

When the question of need comes up, we (as a community, let alone as a nation) shouldn’t acknowledge any legitimacy to the question. To do so signals our acceptance of their base premise. Instead, we should completely bypass the question and tell them that rights – ours and theirs – are not subject to tests of need or social utility. The correct attitude is not one of educating the questioner about firearms, but rather educating about inalienable rights.

I’m even in favor of turning the question back on the questioner: “who are you to determine what I do and do not need? Who or what gives you the moral authority to force me to justify my desires to you?”

Perhaps we should ask them to lay their lives open to us for a similar examination: “why do you NEED a car that has 120 horsepower? Why do you NEED a television with a screen over 20 inches? Why do you NEED granite countertops? Why do you NEED a designer dress?”

I’ll admit that this is a purist point of view, and purists are often notoriously lacking in the pragmatism necessary to function efficiently in society. Still, I believe that we need to drive the discussion away from the minutiae of hardware design and back to the fundamentals of human freedom. If we keep answering their call for justification, we’ll continue to battle on their terms.

-=[ Grant ]=-

  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On February 4, 2013