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What are “gun rights”?

What are “gun rights”?

On Sunday, I tweeted this:

If there is no such thing as “gun violence”, there can be no such thing as “gun rights”. Be consistent – owning a gun is a HUMAN right.

Let’s delve into what that means.

I noticed that those in the shooting community bristle at the term “gun violence”. It’s the term used by gun control advocates and much of the media (but I repeat myself) to focus attention on the object rather than the person who wields it. The focus on the object, of course, is necessary to convince people that the object needs to be controlled. It leads people to believe that it’s the unique nature of the object which makes its possessor dangerous, rather than the objectives and desires of that possessor.

Demonize the object, and you can control the object. This is why the prohibitionists constantly call for an end to “gun violence”; once they’ve established that it’s the gun which is the root of the problem, the next logical step is to “get guns off the streets.” It’s a close cousin to the term “assault weapon”, and works for the same reasons.

I think we, generally, understand this tactic. We object (though not strenuously enough, in my view) to the use of the term “gun violence” because we recognize the reason for its use. We can (and should, rightly) argue that guns cannot be guilty of violence, as they are inanimate objects. Violence is an action, a behavior involving physical force to achieve a purpose. Inanimate objects do not have behaviors and cannot independently engage in an action. They are, as many have pointed out, tools to be wielded; violence comes from the person who wields them.

“Gun violence”, then, is an illogical term. It makes no sense other than to achieve a political aim, and thus is a legitimate target of scorn and derision. We should object whenever it is used, and have at ready hand an explanation as to why it is objectionable: because it makes no sense!

Unfortunately, we’re guilty of the same silliness ourselves in the use of the term “gun rights”. Rights are those fundamental freedoms possessed by humans, freedoms which they may (or may not) choose to exercise at any time they wish. The trouble with the term is that, again, guns are inanimate objects. The have no freedom, because they can neither think nor move; they have no ability to choose, let alone to exercise a freedom. Just as a gun cannot itself shoot a human being, it cannot declare itself to be free of infringement upon its thoughts or activities.

The term “gun rights” is therefore as illogical as the term “gun violence”; if you accept that the former exists, you will have to concede that the latter does. I’m not willing to do either.

If we are to insist that our opponents be logical, we must be as well. We need to purge the term “gun rights” from our vocabulary; we need to instead talk of human rights, of the inalienable freedoms we have simply because we exist. You may choose to ascribe those to a deity if you wish, but as a community we should never allow ourselves to speak in terms other than the rights of human beings. We have the right to keep and bear arms not because there is something special about guns; we have that right because the Founding Fathers understood and voiced the right to defense of oneself, family, and community, and that the freedom to use efficient tools to do that was essential to protecting that right.

Guns don’t have rights; people do. Guns prohibitionists focus on the object; we should focus on the people. Be consistent, in the same way that you would insist the other side be.

-=[ Grant ]=-

  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On February 11, 2013

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