Pistol Whipped

I come from Scotland, a country where no one has guns. The cops don't have them. Most criminals don't have them. And the cops don't want them. If cops had guns, then the few criminals who are armed would have a reason to shoot at the cops, fearing that otherwise the cops will shoot them. In Britain, most people go through their lives without ever seeing a gun anywhere other than on a TV screen.

When I relocated to Phoenix, it was a shock. I couldn't believe it when I saw people in cafes or malls with holstered guns hanging from their belts. My first apartment here was near 19th Avenue and Camelback. I would hear gunfire nearby just about every night.

My feeling about guns at that time was unambivalent; I hated them. I believed guns to be intrinsically evil. Yes, you can kill a person with a knife, a baseball bat or a bottle, but these things have other uses. The only purpose of a gun is to kill. I wanted to see all guns banned.

But I also wanted a gun. While any thug in town could be armed, I wanted to be armed, too, so that I could protect myself from them. I resented the necessity. I used to say that I would vote tomorrow for the confiscation of all guns, and happily hand over any that I might have. But, until then, I wanted to be armed, too.

I no longer feel this way.
In a world in which guns exist, I now believe every citizen should own one and know how to use it. In particular, I believe it is the height of stupidity for women not to be armed.

My reason for this belief is not the same as that of the gun nuts who quote the Constitution, and whose arguments are so illogical that they give ammunition to the gun-eradication nuts. The constitutional right to bear arms is an anachronism; the right is supposed to ensure democracy by enabling the citizens to rise up against the government if necessary. This might have made sense 200 years ago. But in this technological age, the military would crush an armed insurrection more quickly than it could start.

There is only one relevant argument for the right to be armed, and it's the only argument necessary: the right of every citizen to defend himself.

Gun control--background checks, child-safety locks, etc.--makes sense. But the liberal arguments in favor of gun eradication are naive in the extreme. Gun eradication is an ideal, and an impossible one. Any move in that direction results in a vulnerable citizenship. The people who shouldn't have guns will still have them. How can we implement an across-the-board banning of guns? Stop manufacturing them? All that will do is raise the price of guns, so that only the wealthy and the lawless have access to them. Just confiscate 192 million privately owned firearms? If we do, only law-abiding citizens will hand over their weapons. People who are prepared to commit murder are probably not going to worry that the murder weapon is illegal, too.

Take New York City, one of the most violent places in the country. New York ignores the constitutional right to bear arms; you need a permit to own a gun, and these are extremely hard to obtain. But that doesn't mean that people there don't have guns. What it means is that it's hard for law-abiding people to get them. The fact that many people there have guns is evidenced by the numbers of citizens who are shot or robbed at gunpoint day after day. And they have nothing to fight back with.

New Yorkers are famously rude. Arizonans are not. An armed society is a polite society.

As an example of the evils of firearms, people have pointed to the recent road-rage shooting in Phoenix. A man flashed his brights at a driver who had just cut him off. The other driver responded by shooting the man and his passenger. Wouldn't have happened if we didn't have guns, people tell me. But every state does have guns, whatever the law says. And if someone is enough of a jerk to shoot a person for flashing his brights, he's going to be enough of a jerk to ignore the gun laws, too.

In 1996, two people in New Zealand were killed by handguns. In Japan, the number was 15. In Britain, 30. In Canada, 106. In Germany, 211.

And, in America, 9,390.
In America, the presence of a gun in the home triples the risk of homicide, and increases the risk of suicide fivefold.

So, in the light of these statistics, shouldn't we want to get rid of all guns?

Yes.
Wouldn't the world be a better place if guns didn't exist?
Yes.

But they do exist. And we can't get rid of them. Many people are going to get shot. The best we can hope for is that the people who get shot really deserve it.

It's a sad commentary that owning a gun makes it three times more likely that a family member or a friend will be killed. The problem there is not that we own guns. It's who we are, our brutality and destructiveness, and our lack of civilization. At the end of this vicious century, we're still not civilized, and there's nothing to suggest that we're going to become civilized.

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