Gun Control Arguments: Pro Gun Control vs Anti Gun Control

[Editor's Note: The following article was originally published as "Gun Control Arguments: Pro Gun Control vs Anti Gun Control" on the website Meditations On Life at February 20, 2014, by D.S.D.]

Gun Control Arguments: Pro Gun Control vs Anti Gun Control

photo of gun and lock with caption Pro Gun Control Arguments vs Anti Gun Control Arguments
Pro Gun Control Arguments vs Anti Gun Control Arguments
It’s no surprise that gun control arguments tend to be fiery and emotional, with logic and civility getting blown away by feelings of fear, frustration, and anger. Most pro gun control or anti gun control arguments tend to be full of fallacious reasoning, red herrings, and ridiculous emotional appeals, even when made by the highly educated.

We’ve all heard the cliched definition of “insanity”: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That’s a pretty good description of our discussions on gun control.

An horrific shooting stuns the nation. People panic—everyone thinking “what if that happened at my job or at my children’s school?”—and they cry out for change. And then the same unimaginative solutions are offered by each side, and we end up with the same stupid compromises. And then a few months later, another horrific shooting occurs.

And neither side is happy with our gun laws. Gun owners feel their rights are being infringed, while gun control advocates are frustrated by the incredible ease with which a criminal or crazy person can get hold of a gun. For the most part, the compromises between gun rights and gun control tend to be worse than either total gun control or no gun control at all!

But there are better and more imaginative solutions to the issues of gun rights and gun violence. To attain those solutions, we have to acknowledge the strengths of each position and understand the rationale behind it, and we have to be honest with ourselves about the limitations of our own side. And we need to identify and prioritize the values of both gun owners and gun control advocates, to see where those values coincide, so we can achieve a sensible solution that people on both sides of the debate can support.

In this article, I begin by addressing what I believe is wrong with the gun-control arguments that typically occur in the mainstream media. I then set forth in turn what I believe are the strongest pro gun control arguments and anti gun control arguments, and give an analysis of each. I conclude by stating my own opinions as to what gun control measures are needed, and which present gun control measures should be abolished.

What’s Wrong with the Gun Control Arguments Taking Place in America Gun Control 

As an issue is very interesting; however, the debates one typically hears on the subject are often not.

When the subject of guns or gun control comes up, passions instantly burst forth in one direction or another, and the arguments blindly go wherever the emotions take them. As David Hume put it, Reason is a slave of Passion. This is especially true when the subject is gun control.

The average gun-control argument goes like this. Mr. Pro Gun Control throws down his newspaper, shakes his head, and exclaims, “Another victim of gun violence! Why is it so easy for any average idiot to buy and carry a gun in this country?! With all the violence in our cities, we have to enact stricter gun laws!”

Ms. Anti Gun Control gasps in horror and shouts, “Are you kidding? With all the violence in our cities, the last thing we need to do is disarm law-abiding citizens with more stupid anti-gun laws!” And that’s the entire argument.

Most of the pro gun-control arguments amount to little more than “I am afraid of guns; lets ban them!” And most anti gun control arguments are little more than “I fear violence, but my gun makes me feel less afraid; you better not try to take away my gun!”

Even where the arguments are dressed up in fancy facts and constitutional arguments, they are guided by feeling. Maybe if we talk frankly about our fears, we could actually get somewhere.

The Voice of the “Silent Majority” Is Absent from America’s Gun-Control Arguments 

There’s something else that keeps us from having an adult conversation about gun control: the extremists are dominating the debate.

Most of the people who make their voices heard nationally on any issue tend to be extremely passionate—and to have quite extreme views. It takes so much to develop national influence, that most normal people don’t have the time; they have to work and raise families. They have well-rounded, balanced lives. On the other hand, your extremist with a one-dimensional life tends to devote everything to his chosen cause. The extremist makes his voice heard; the moderate does not.

This is especially true of the debate regarding gun rights vs gun control, and most gun control arguments wind up being little more than bombastic shouting matches.

So gun control is an emotional issue, and then the only people who make their voices heard in gun control arguments are the extremists. It’s no wonder the opposing sides feel so misunderstood.

And with no real substantive conversation about the core issues, what ends up happening is that solutions are cobbled together ad hoc out of political expediency. We wind up with compromises that create more problems than they solve and which wind up being worse than either total gun control or no gun control at all.

Gun Control Arguments: The Middle Ground

I am pro gun control, to a point, and anti gun control, to a point. I think I’m probably like most people in that regard.

I want sane, law-abiding citizens to be able to defend themselves from criminal attack, and I therefore want sane, law-abiding citizens to be able to legally obtain the necessary means for successful self-defense, which may include a firearm.

I also want society as a whole to be able to defend itself from insane or violent criminals, which means that our elected leaders should enact laws that keep crazy people and violent criminals from getting guns.

That’s the middle ground on gun control; something that would give us the best of both worlds, as much as possible. Both sides have legitimate values they’re seeking to advance, and there’s a kernel of truth to the arguments of each side.

So let me take a step back and state briefly what I think are the best arguments pro gun control and anti gun control, and then analyze each. Please note that this is a synopsis of each position, so I will not give every reason for or against, just the highlights of what I believe are the best arguments.

Pro Gun Control Arguments

Pro gun control arguments generally go as follows: (1) handguns and assault rifles are useful only for killing people; (2) because we value human life, we should ensure that such guns are not available for those who would kill people without justification; (3) there is a correlation between private gun ownership and the rate at which guns are used in unjustifiable killings; therefore, (4) to reduce unjustifiable killings, we should restrict guns to police and military.

At this point, I’m not evaluating this argument, but only trying to describe it.

Handguns and Assault Rifles Serve No Purpose Other than Killing People

Photo of AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles with caption Pro Gun Control Arguments: Assault Rifles
Pro Gun Control Arguments: Assault Rifles

Guns are essentially killing machines. Unlike most other weapons, such as knives or tire irons, guns are not very useful for any other purpose than killing.

In particular, hand guns and assault rifles are essentially tools for killing other humans; they are not very useful for hunting (i.e., killing animals), and they are certainly not very useful for purposes other than killing.

The killing of human beings is generally harmful, whereas the preservation of human life is generally good. Our society’s laws should promote the overall good of its citizens, while limiting what is harmful. Since the purpose for which guns are used is generally harmful, rather than good; and because our laws should promote the overall good and limit what is harmful; our laws should therefore limit the use of guns.

We Must Ensure that Guns Are Only Used where Necessary, i.e., where Use of a Gun Is the Lesser of Two Evils. 

There are cases where the killing of a human being is the lesser of two evils, and is therefore necessary for ensuring the overall good of society. These instances are the exception, not the rule. Therefore, we should limit the use of guns to only those instances where killing other humans is necessary.

The Best Way to Ensure that Guns Are Not Used Improperly Is to Restrict Them to Police and Military Personnel 

To most effectively limit the use of guns to only those instances of necessity, we should limit the possession of guns to police and military. This ensures that those given the awesome power of carrying guns (i.e., killing machines) are also accountable to the people via their elected leaders and the officials those leaders appoint. This also protects us from mob rule and vigilante justice.

More Privately Owned Guns Equals More Gun Crimes 

Allowing private citizens to own guns causes more harm than good. There is a direct correlation between rates of gun crimes and rates of gun ownership. See, e.g., The Guardian, High Gun Ownership Makes Countries Less Safe, U.S. Study Finds; Fox News, Areas with Higher Gun Ownership Rates Have More Firearm-Related Deaths, Study Finds; but see also,, Congressional Study: Murder Rate Plummets as Gun Ownership Soars.

While it is possible that high rates of gun crimes induce people to purchase more guns, it seems more likely that it happens the other way around: more gun purchases leads to more gun crimes.

This especially makes sense in light of the fact that a significant number of firearms are stolen each year in the U.S. Between 2005 and 2010, about 1.4 million guns were stolen according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. See also, Washington Post, Five Myths About Gun Control; USA Today, ATF Report: 190,000 Firearms Lost or Stolen in 2012; but c.f ., Frontline, Hot Guns: How Criminals Get Guns(“Stolen guns account for only about 10% to 15% of guns used in crimes”). Every gun that is stolen is, by definition, in the hands of a criminal.

Thus, private gun ownership, even by the most law abiding among us, leads to more guns in the hands of criminals and to increased gun crimes. Private gun ownership causes more harm than good.

Pro-Gun-Control Arguments Based on the Second Amendment 

Many anti gun control arguments are based on the Second Amendment. In D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago, the Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment to mean that individual citizens have a fundamental right to own a handgun, and the Court has found that this right applies to the states (and therefore local governments) via the Fourteenth Amendment. Based on these Supreme Court decisions, the Seventh Circuit determined in Moore v. Madigan that states cannot categorically deny all private citizens the right to carry a handgun in public. While this is only one circuit, the court’s analysis in that case seems persuasive in light of the decisions in Heller and McDonald.

So gun rights activists appear to have the upper hand when it comes to Constitutional arguments.

Gun-Control Advocates Should Seek to Change the Second Amendment

But even if these court decisions are right about what the Second Amendment “means,” we can always change the Second Amendment. The Constitution of the United States was not delivered to Moses on Mt. Sinai! We can change it! In fact, we should change it, where its provisions cause more harm than good. Just as we amended the Constitution to outlaw slavery or to bring about the popular election of senators, we should amend it to permit greater gun control.

Utilitarian Pro-Gun-Control Arguments

Pro gun-control arguments tend to be utilitarian in nature. What that means is that they are based upon the belief that laws and social policy ought to maximize the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

Where Utilitarian Pro-Gun-Control Arguments Are Vulnerable

While I won’t go into a description of utilitarianism here, it has its weak points (e.g., the oppression of a small minority may benefit the vast majority, and may therefore be moral under a utilitarian analysis). Pro gun-control arguments, therefore, also tend to have the weaknesses inherent in the utilitarian position.

There are two general ways for a gun-rights advocate to counter the gun-control advocate. First, the gun-rights advocate could argue that gun control actually causes more harm than good to society at large. She could present her own studies and statistics that show that increased gun ownership causes a reduction in crime, or that guns are more often used to thwart crimes than to commit them. A noted example of this is the book More Guns, Less Crime, by John Lott, Jr.

The problem with countering the utilitarian premises is that the pro gun-control utilitarian will (1) attack the methodology of the pro gun rights studies and (2) bring even more data and studies in rebuttal. I’m not qualified to analyze the methodologies of these conflicting studies, but my intuition tells me that all in all, the data favors some degree of gun control.

The second (and in my opinion better) alternative is for the gun-rights advocate could deny the major utilitarian premise. Obviously, she would not be saying that the greatest harm to the greatest number should be our goal. Instead, she would be arguing that fundamental individual rights are more valuable than some abstract good for society as a whole.

This is similar to the arguments made for Freedom of Speech, even in circumstances where the “speech” seems to cause more harm than good, such as in situations involving publication of leaked government documents. In spite of the harm that such publications may cause to military personnel or to undercover agents, we allow the publications to occur. As a society, we have decided that our rights to free speech and a free press are more valuable than the utilitarian considerations, except in extreme instances where the speech has no redeeming quality, but causes great harm ( e.g ., speech such as perjury, shouting “fire” in a crowded building, false consumer advertising, etc.).

I think a reasonable gun control advocate would allow for gun rights, but would insist that there is a sort of sliding scale where the utilitarian and rights-based considerations are balanced. If too great a harm is threatened to the many, substantially outweighing the benefit of a particular activity to which a right is attached, the utilitarian consideration should prevail (similar to the rationale for allowing exceptions to the First Amendment protections in instances of perjury). And after Newtown and Aurora, I believe we have some powerful examples of tragedies that tip the scales too far.

So that is a recap of the typical pro-gun-control arguments. Now for the anti-gun-control arguments.

Anti-Gun-Control Arguments

I believe that the strongest anti gun-control arguments essentially say that (1) the right to defend one’s life from criminal attack is fundamental; (2) guns are sometimes necessary for defending one’s life from criminal attack; (3) therefore, the right to own a gun is fundamental.

Secondary to these points is a rebuttal of the evidence offered in support of the utilitarian position (i.e., an argument that gun control causes more overall harm than good).

Anti Gun Control Arguments Photo of image with text Ban Gun Free Zones
Anti Gun Control Arguments: Ban Gun-Free Zones!

The Right to Defend One’s Life from Criminal Attack Is Fundamental 

If any right can be fundamental, the right to defend one’s life and limb from criminal attack must be. Logically, our other rights would be of little use if we could not defend them against unlawful and violent violation. While police and military are officially tasked with maintaining the peace, they cannot be in all places at once. It is also no secret that in high-crime, poor neighborhoods, the level of police protection is often lower than in wealthy, low-crime neighborhoods. In some cities, unless there is a dead body (or money to be made from drug busts or traffic tickets, which is another topic altogether), the police will keep you waiting an hour or more after you call them. Residents of these places are rightfully doubtful of the ability of the police to protect them from crime.

Again, if you have a right to anything, you have a right to self-defense. As Hobbes put it, this is the only right that you can never fully transfer to the sovereign.

Guns Are Sometimes Necessary for Self-Defense 

Guns are sometimes necessary for self-defense. Even if every gun were removed from the planet, one can easily imagine instances where a gun would still be needed for self-defense. An elderly and infirm individual attacked by a strong, youthful, and athletic robber. An isolated individual attacked by a group. A woman attacked by a knife-wielding rapist. Private citizens sometimes need guns to defend life and limb successfully.

The Right to Keep and Bear Arms Is Fundamental 

The right to keep and bear arms is fundamental. If we accept that the right to self-defense is fundamental and that guns are sometimes needed for self-defense, it necessarily follows that the right to a gun is fundamental.

Moreover, the Second Amendment explicitly say that this right shall not be infringed.

None of the other rights in the Bill of Rights are subjected to the sort of balancing test that we use for the Second Amendment. Imagine if we weighed costs and benefits to society at large when determining whether a criminal defendant should have the right to an attorney or to a jury trial. Or imagine if I could use my First Amendment right to free speech and free press only if I first obtained a state-issued permit. And let’s say I live in Kansas and am traveling to California on business. Imagine that when I got there, I could not speak freely the entire time I was in California, and that if I did criticize the California state government, I risked arrest and felony prosecution, all because my Kansas “Free Speech Permit” was not recognized in California. Sounds crazy, but that is what happens to gun owners, like Shaneen Allen, who exercise their Second Amendment rights in places like New Jersey.

Just as we would not tolerate such infringements of our rights under the other provisions of the Bill of Rights, we should not tolerate violations of our Second Amendment rights.

Some say that in the Second Amendment, the right of “the people” to keep and bear arms means only that states have a right to maintain a National Guard (i.e., a “well-organized militia”), but there are no other portion of the Bill of Rights that receives similar treatment. Where a right is reserved to “the people,” it means the people , not the states. Besides, with the National Guard being federalized these days, there’s really not much of a militia left at the state level.

But even if the Second Amendment doesn’t explicitly confer the right to own and carry a gun for self-defense, surely such a right is implicit in the Constitution. I mean, come on, the Supreme Court has held that the Constitution contains an implicit fundamental right to privacy, including a right to contraception and abortion and to engage with other consenting adults in whatever sexual activities you want behind closed doors. Now, this is in spite of the fact that privacy—and all the myriad things that have been granted the status of “rights” under the heading of “privacy”—are nowhere mentioned in the Constitution; and in spite of the fact that laws proscribing certain private sexual conduct were on the books when the Constitution and Bill of Rights were ratified.

I’m not saying that I disagree with the right to privacy, or that I think we should have laws governing what couples do in the bedroom; but I am saying that if the Court can find a right to privacy, surely its holding that we have a fundamental right to gun-ownership is on a stronger footing.

The right to keep and bear arms is and should be fundamental, and it should not be infringed.

Gun-Control Laws Should Be Subject to Strict Scrutiny 

Because the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental, any laws burdening this right should be strictly scrutinized. This means that to enact valid gun-control laws, the government should be required to show that the law is necessary to achieve a compelling interest.

From the Supreme Court’s recent gun cases, I gather that it would apply intermediate scrutiny (i.e., in between strict-scrutiny and rational-basis) to laws infringing on the right to own a gun for self-defense, which would mean that the government must show that the law is substantially related to an important interest. This is the level of scrutiny used by the Court when analyzing gender-based classifications, and in that context, the Court has required an “exceedingly persuasive justification” for a law to be valid.

I think the same should be required of any and all forms of gun control: gun-control laws should have an exceedingly persuasive justification to pass Constitutional muster. This means that these laws should be based on a solid argument and solid data showing a real relationship between the law and its intended goal.

A vague sense of fear combined with conflicting data does not amount to an exceedingly persuasive justification. Under that standard, much of the gun control laws in the United States (and especially in places like Chicago and New York) should be invalidated immediately.

Some Gun-Control Restrictions Are Reasonably Necessary, and Some Gun-Control Restrictions Are Just Plain Idiotic 

There are certainly some restrictions that are substantially related to the important interest of ensuring public safety. These restrictions include laws prohibiting convicted felons (particularly those convicted of violent offenses), young children, and psychotic persons from possessing guns. However, there are other gun-control laws that are neither necessary nor reasonable, and which should therefore be abolished.

This is where I criticize the Supreme Court’s holdings in McDonald and Heller, for its acknowledgment of the “need” to keep guns out of “sensitive places” like schools. It is no coincidence that most of America’s mass-killings have occurred in these gun-free zones. Now I can understand a courthouse being a gun-free zone. But a public university? One should not have to forgo one’s right to defend oneself from criminal violence in order to obtain a post-high school education.

I’m a former college student myself, and I recall seeing the signs stating that possession of a firearm on university premises was a felony punishable by so many years in prison. Because I’m a law-abiding citizen, it dissuaded me from carrying a gun at school. But would the threat of a felony conviction and imprisonment deter a madman planning to massacre his fellow students and then kill himself? Probably not. It certainly didn’t dissuade the Virginia Tech killer.

 And what about keeping military personnel from carrying firearms in public just because their overseas deployment has ended? That doesn’t make a lot of sense, and in fact seems rather hypocritical. We give you a rifle and tell you to guard overpaid civilian contractors in a third-world country, but once you get home, we deny you the right to carry a firearm to protect yourself or your family.

For example, in the Victory Base Complex (VBC) outside Baghdad, Iraq in 2009, a soldier with PTSD snapped and shot five people, killing all five. See , Wikipedia, Camp Liberty Killings. But guess what, everyone else was carrying a firearm and ammo at the VBC, so this soldier was quickly stopped.

Later in 2009, at Fort Hood (a “gun-free” zone), a deranged jihadist shot 43 soldiers, killing 13. See , Wikipedia, Fort Hood Shooting. Had these soldiers been shot at by a jihadist in Iraq, they would have been able to return fire and defend themselves. However, our benevolent government stripped them of this right upon their return home, and they were slaughtered as a result.

Let’s see: 5 shot in a gun-carry zone (by an experienced combat soldier using an “assault rifle”), compared to 43 shot in a gun-free zone (by a medical officer using a handgun, not an assault rifle). Seems like our policy of creating gun-free zones cost some soldiers at Fort Hood their lives.

Domestic military bases are not the only places a veteran cannot carry a firearm. New York City has some of the most stringent gun-control laws in the country, and even though it is legally possible for a private citizen to obtain a concealed carry permit in NYC, in practice it is impossible. Impossible, that is, unless you are ultra wealthy or a celebrity. So a veteran—whom the federal government has trained in the use of firearms, firearm safety, when to shoot, and (just as importantly) when not to shoot—cannot carry a gun in NYC; but a movie star with no training whatsoever can. Gee, that makes a lot of sense.

And don’t give me that garbage about New York’s gun laws causing a drop in crime (Michael Bloomberg likes to make this argument). Those same gun laws were in effect there in the 1960’s, when NYC’s crime rates skyrocketed, and on into the 1970’s and 80’s, when violent crime there remained out of control. And Chicago has had even stricter gun laws than New York, but that hasn’t stopped the Windy City from making headlines with its homicides. Meanwhile, Alaska has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the country, and one of the lowest murder rates. 

Two replies to Bloomberg and others who say strict gun laws reduce crime: (1) you can’t prove causation with statistical data, and (2) even if you could, much of the statistical evidence contradicts your argument.

Utilitarian Arguments for Gun-Control Are Based on Doubtful Data, Meaning that Utilitarian Considerations Should Be Trumped by Rights-Based Principles

With regards to the statistical evidence used in pro gun control arguments—even if you could prove causation with statistics (you can’t, just correlation)—the statistics and studies are disputed. For example, in More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, Third Edition (Studies in Law and Economics), John Lott points out that the types of crime that occur are different in countries with higher rates of gun ownership. In the U.K. (strict gun control), more than 50% of all burglaries are so-called “hot burglaries,” meaning that the residents are home when the burglaries occur. In other words, a home invasion. On the other hand, in the U.S., only about 13% of all burglaries occur when the residents are home.

In both countries, a resident would presumably call the police if he detected burglars in his home, so police protection cannot account for the difference. However, in the U.S., homeowners frequently own firearms, and “castle doctrine” laws allow them to fire at will upon criminal intruders. It is reasonable to assume that it is the presence of firearms that deters burglars from entering an occupied home, since the abundance of privately- owned firearms is the major point of distinction between the U.S. and the U.K. with regards to violent crime.

Also, while some studies show a link between gun ownership and gun crimes, other studies have demonstrated the opposite. See, An Interview with John R. Lott, Jr. And even if there is a link between gun ownership and gun crimes, there is no such link between the issuance of concealed-carry permits and gun crimes. In fact, concealed-carry permit holders are statistically far less likely to commit a gun crime—or indeed any crime—than the general population. The bottom line is that the utilitarian arguments are doubtful, and doubtful considerations about “the good of society as a whole” should not trump the fundamental right of a law-abiding citizen to defend herself against criminal attack.

The Ultimate Non-Sequitur In a Gun-Control Argument: Why Not Let People Own Grenades or Nukes? 

Some smart-aleck may quip, “Well, why not let people have hand grenades? What about nukes?” The proper response to this non sequitur is that we are talking about self-defense. Grenades are essentially offensive weapons, and in a civilian setting, there is simply no situation in which using a grenade would be advisable for self defense. In a civilian setting, one can accomplish every needed self-defense objective with a gun. Guns are distinguishable from other weapons used by the military.

How Effective Are Rights-Based Anti Gun Control Arguments? 

As noted above, anti gun control arguments tend to be rights-based in nature. How effective this is depends ultimately upon whether you are, at heart, a utilitarian or a Kantian. Suffice it to say that all these years after Kant , Bentham, and Mill died, we are no closer to any sort of consensus about moral philosophy than we were when they advanced their respective positions. We certainly won’t be able to resolve these questions here!

How you weigh the Constitutional arguments—and the role of the courts in resolving those issues—would also be determined by your beliefs about jurisprudence (i.e., philosophy of law). That’s another can of worm, so we’ll leave it alone for now and stick to gun control arguments.

Which Arguments Are Most Persuasive: Pro Gun Control or Anti Gun Control? 

After reviewing the pro gun control and anti gun control arguments, which is more persuasive? Neither is absolutely correct, and both have a strong element of truth. I think that we do have a fundamental right to self-defense, and therefore we have a right to the tools necessary for self-defense (i.e., guns). But that right certainly has limits.

I support background checks to ensure that violent criminals and psychotic individuals are not able to buy guns. I would mandate some minimal level of training and education before a person can buy a gun, and certainly before a person can carry a gun publicly. If we require would-be drivers to pass written tests, showing they know the rules of the road, and practical tests, showing they are able to operate a car without causing death or serious injury to others, I think we should require the same sort of training and proficiency with regards to guns.

We Can’t Do Much Worse than the Gun-Control vs. Gun-Rights Compromise that We Have Now 

I think what we have now is the worst of all possible scenarios. Anybody can get a gun, but law-abiding citizens are severely limited in where and how they can possess or carry a gun. Any paranoid schizophrenic or rapist can go to a gun show and buy a gun without undergoing any sort of background check whatsoever. And as the Aurora killer showed, you can amass an arsenal of assault rifles and pistols, hundred-round ammo drums, SWAT-team-grade tear gas, and body armor, and you will never trigger any alarm bells in a law-enforcement database.

What this means is that there’s really very little standing in the way of the next madman mass-murderer. Another Aurora or Newtown is, tragically, inevitable.

But even though any madman or criminal can get a gun, no ordinary citizen, except those willing to break the law, can carry a gun in all the gun-free zones out there (e.g., Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, New York City, etc.).

So the crazies and the criminals can get guns, and will not be dissuaded by gun laws from carrying them into an elementary school; however, a schoolteacher—who may very well be a National Guardsman or Reservist with significant training in firearms and firearm safety—cannot carry a gun at her workplace. So when a madman shows up with an AR-15 and starts mowing down children and teachers, hopefully the teacher will be able to barricade the door to her classroom, because she sure won’t be able to defend herself or her students.

Our gun laws are upside down. Fewer people should be able to own guns, but those who are able to own guns should be able to carry them anywhere except the most sensitive government buildings. This would likely have the incidental effect of reducing the number of guns left unsecured in homes and cars, resulting in fewer guns being stolen. This would also help ensure that the next Aurora or Newtown madman cannot get his hands on a gun, but that if he does, he will likely be confronted wherever he goes on his rampage. The NRA may utter a lot of nonsense, but one thing they are quite right about is that the only thing that stops a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun.

Gun-Control Measures Involving Specific Types of Firearms 

Regarding types of weapons, I think that limits are certainly reasonable here. I’ve heard decent arguments against assault-weapons bans, but I think the better position is to limit these weapons to police and military. If you need to fire 100 rounds in under a minute to get the job done, there’s a pretty good chance that you aren’t acting in self-defense.

On the other hand, civilian gun ownership is a safeguard against tyranny. Like it or not, this seems to be the overarching motivation of the Second Amendment’s authors. And as our experiences in Iraq and Vietnam have shown, it’s not so far-fetched to think that an armed populace could prevent a military takeover, or at least make it so costly for the occupying army that it ultimately withdraws.

Even though I think our First Amendment freedoms are of greater importance in defending against tyranny, we should not discount the Second Amendment protections in this area. The Viet Cong and Iraqi Insurgents demonstrated that a rag-tag group of guerillas, armed only with assault rifles and homemade weapons, can put up a pretty good fight against a modern army equipped with fancy technology. So while I am personally in favor of restrictions on assault rifles, I know there are very strong arguments that can be made against that position.

Reform the Patchwork Quilt of Concealed-Carry-Permit Reciprocity 

I also think that Congress should enact a reciprocity law, setting forth some minimal standards for issuing a concealed-carry permit, and mandating that for any state that enforces these standards, its permits must be recognized by every other state. This could easily be accomplished under Congress’s Commerce-Clause power (think about the right of over-the-road truckers to keep and bear arms).

As it is now, gun owners who live near a state border (e.g., the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border in Philadelphia) can find themselves facing felony prosecution for inadvertently carrying their gun across state lines. Again, why should anyone’s rights under the FEDERAL Bill of Rights depend upon which state they are in? Why should Constitutional protections apply in your home state, but not ten miles away in a bordering state?

But for a nationwide reciprocity law to work, there would need to be some minimum standards for states to issue carry permits. That would effectively increase gun control in some states, which should make gun-control advocates somewhat happy.

Anyway, that’s what I think, but as the saying goes, reasonable minds differ. Check out additional gun control arguments on this blog, such as whether there should be nationwide concealed carry permits or whether assault weapons should be banned, and visit this blog's Facebook page at And feel free to let me know your objections, as well as any better pro gun control or anti gun control arguments that could be made. 

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