Gene Callahan has suggested (as has Fran) that any debate over proper gun policy would best be done rationally and without reference to emotional arguments. I concur, and though I am very much pro-gun, I would even extend it (as Gene suggests) to attempting a non-ideological argument to determine more exactly what a 'realistically ideal' policy would look like.
What do I mean by non-ideological and 'realistically ideal'? What I meant in the last several posts -- resisting the impulse to assert an abstraction of reality as reality itself, or to construct a set of rules which flow from a direct translation of the abstract even when it flies in the face of reality. By this, I certainly do not mean thinking as a political moderate, especially as I see the facts of the matter very much in favor of something close to present policies, though perhaps somewhat more lax.
To begin, I turn to a suggestion by Plato, which I think is eminently helpful, as would anyone who had spent a substantial amount of time wading through arguments attempting to divine (or obscure...) the 'original intent' of law.
Plato thought that an ideal law should consist of two parts -- a clear statement of the purpose of the law, followed by the concrete legal stricture itself. This structure makes very clear the intent and purpose of the law, so that any later reading and interpretation would be greatly facilitated and much less controversial, as would determining whether or not the law had been a plain failure in securing its purpose and needed to be altered or abolished.
Oh, had only the Framers followed this advice!
The Second Amendment itself contains very little language to directly state its purpose outside of the phrase 'being necessary to the security of a free state.' I do think the intent is pretty clear on the basis of external writings, but the vagueness of the document itself has of course invited in all sorts of ludicrous interpretations. Further, the tendency of the Framers to 'concretize the abstract' ideas of the Enlightenment into law, instead of stating their aims in the abstract and securing these aims in the concrete, rather invites claims of a need for 'reasonable interpretations' as being practically necessary. Things would have been much more clear if they had followed Plato's advice.
Undaunted, however, I plow ahead to look into the purpose of the 'right to keep and bear arms.'
On the Purpose of the Second Amendment
I will begin to argue for what I think is the purpose of the Second Amendment by making an observation on the rather curious usage of the word 'right.'
If you ask a conservative if he has a 'right to keep and bear arms,' he will almost certainly answer something along the lines of 'yes, absolutely.' But if you ask him if he has the right to something from a different sphere, say, the right to eat, or the right to decent food, he will most likely get a bit surly, and start talking about the logic of welfare or 'a chicken in every pot' or some other similar argument that anyone who has ever followed politics even a little bit has almost certainly heard before.
Why is it that he thinks the second right implies that the government must supply the food, but not that the first implies that the government must supply the arms? Obviously, two different conceptions of the nature of rights is in operation.
What he meant by the first right -- the right to keep and bear arms -- was that the government ought not to have the legal power to interfere with this practice. If the same were meant in the second case -- that the government ought not to have the legal power to interfere with eating or with the procurement of 'decent food,' whatever that means -- I don't think he would have any problem with it, though he might think it a rather strange law.
In fact, I'm pretty sure that anyone might find the second law a bit strange. Why? Because it would probably not strike anyone that such a thing needed to be written, as no one would reasonably suspect a government of such designs that a populace would need protection from it. Maybe such incredulity has proven naïve, but anyway, there it is.
Plainly, this is the interpretation to be given to the right to keep and bear arms. Nobody would reasonably argue that it meant for the government to supply weapons to those without access to them, the other common (if usually incorrect) interpretation of the word 'right.' But on the other hand, to interpret it in this way plainly means that the intent was to protect the populace from attempts by the government to limit access to weapons.
However, this does not yet, I think, quite answer the question as to the purpose of the law. For if the Framers did indeed intend to protect the populace from this situation, they clearly feared designs of government to disarm the populace, and therefore viewed the prospect of a disarmed citizenry as a dangerous, or at least undesirable, situation. Otherwise, they would not have sought a level of legal protection on a par with freedom of speech, religion, and the other freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.
Now we're making some progress. The Framers clearly intended for the Second Amendment to ensure that United States would have an armed populace. As it seems to me, this general state of affairs was seen by them to be desirable for three purposes which I will shortly enumerate. However, let me first deal with a few objections. It may be objected that, while this was the original intent of the law, it is no longer necessary or desirable that it should be interpreted in such a way, or that the law should be changed to fit a changing situation. Fine, I disagree, and I shall argue against this position. I suspect such a disagreement will simply have to stand, as the people on either side are not usually amenable to persuasion.
However, what I will not brook is the suggestion that this was not the original intent of the law, that somehow there has been this great confusion over the last two-hundred plus years, that the Founders never really intended people to have guns and that they would have been perfectly fine with however legislators saw fit to regulate them. I don't care what creative interpretation is used to justify this position -- that they meant some sort of collective right, that they intended this right only in connection with the militia -- it is unworthy of serious consideration, and either the honesty or the intelligence of the person holding it is suspect, to say the least. This idea totally flies in the face of any reasonable understanding of the times and common sense. We are talking about 1) colonists, who 2) lived alongside and often fought with Indians 3) in what was generally considered a wilderness, 4) that had just fought and won a guerrilla war against Great Britain, mostly as voluntary militia. To suggest that such people would have been even slightly sympathetic to gun control is positively insane.
Now, to enumerate the three main purposes, as I see them, of this piece of legislation --
- That the right and ability of people in general to 'pursue happiness' in the manner they see fit, independent of the opinion of others, ought to be given the greatest consideration practically possible by the law. This is consistent with the general tenor of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, though as I'll argue, this probably does not secure as much 'firepower' as the other two purposes. I would say that this applies to hobby and recreational type shooting, and that such use of arms was probably intended to be preserved by this law.
- That the right of people to defend themselves from depredation and abuses by others ought to be preserved and protected under law, again, to the greatest degree possible consistent within a functional, peaceable society. This would protect defensive weapons such as handguns and other weapons independent of their utility for hunting and recreation.
- That the capacity of the citizenry to credibly resist government intrusion and encroachment -- especially illegitimate encroachment using means outside of legal sanction and without due process, as with political corruption, coups, revolutions, and other such actions which do not have public sanction -- is absolutely critical to minimizing the probability of such events actually taking place. Basically, guns are the best security against tyranny. The capacity of the people to resist oppression is the last line of defense against oppression. Of all the purposes of the Second Amendment, this is probably most clearly central to its intent, especially given the background of the people who wrote it, and yet it will be the most controversial.
It is this final purpose which I think most directly indicates that this legal protection was intended to secure the right to weapons such as assault rifles. Far from being 'controversial,' these types of weapons are the most deserving of legal protection, as they are the weapons which present the most credible threat to any attempt at armed suppression of the population. They are absolutely central to the purpose of the Second Amendment.
Now, before the gun control sympathizers go completely crazy with me, let me just say that yes, there are considerations to weigh against these assertions. I am actually committed to the non-ideological analysis of the question, and am not going to do something like attempt to use the first purpose as a carte blanche legalization of absolutely everything. In general, I think the law was meant to secure for citizens the right to arms as widely as practically possible, and that any attempt to restrict this right must not run directly afoul of these three purposes. But there are very real factors which I think do necessitate some limitation.
They just probably aren't the factors you might think.
Factors Weighing Against an Absolute Right to All Weaponry
To interpret the Second Amendment as an Absolute Right to All Weaponry is to interpret it ideologically. Actually, though, that is probably not totally inconsistent with its original intent. Washington and Jefferson lived in a day when the very best weapons were available to practically everyone; governments did not control a stash of extra-special instruments of death and in general, the Founders probably would not have imagined something like a nuclear warhead was even possible. So, even the most extreme interpretation would probably not have sounded outrageous to them.
But I do think that, basically, certain aspects of material reality necessitate some limitations on what would othewise be an absolute right, the main one being the fact that the Second Amendment is embedded in the framework of a state. Like it or not, for better or worse, the system of soverign political authority in the US is presently a state, and that comes with consequences.
A state is generally taken to have more or less absolute authority over a number of functions, and one of those is the waging of war. Even for people who don't much like the state, this is an important function that the state simply cannot tolerate other powers under its authority to engage in. A state in which private persons are free to engage in foreign invasions and campaigns against one another is not much of a state, as it apparently has no sovereign authority. One may disagree with the present wars which the US is engaged in, but nevertheless, the issue of state tolerance or sponsorship within its borders of violent activities against other powers must be taken seriously, and necessarily call into question the legitimacy of such a sovereign power. Who is to be held accountable for such a state of affairs when these kinds of events come to pass, if not the state?
The state therefore has an obligation to maintain a semblence of order within its territory, lest it no longer is sovereign and no longer a state. Really, this goes for any authority of any kind. An authority which has lost the ability to maintain order within its given, legitimate sphere of jurisdiction is a failed authority, whether one is talking about a parent, a pastor, a school board, or an emperor.
Given that we live under a state, then, the state is obliged to take measures necessary to ensure that civil order -- and by extension, its own authority -- is upheld. The test, then, of the necessity of any particular 'necessary' measure which might infringe on certain rights and the purposes of law would appear to be the the degree to which not taking the measure would cause a descent into chaos -- or, I suppose looked at in another way, the degree to which pursuing one purpose would cause another vital purpose to fail. As has been famously said, 'The Constitution is not a suicide pact.' That would defeat the purpose of law.
Many aspects of this question, then, would boil down to the character of the people. Can they handle living with firearms in their midst, or would liberality (taken in the old sense of the word) in these matters result in the dissolution of society? To the degree that human character is allowed to decay, I find it difficult to see how one would expect the legal regime to continue on as if it had not -- that law written for people of one nature would function or even continue to exist when said people manifestly possess some other nature. As the decay progresses, what the legal policy of the state 'should be' becomes rather immaterial; it will be what it will be. People who can't behave themselves with guns usually have states that won't allow them. And vice versa. There isn't a lot of choice about it.
But I suppose that this whole discussion was always a bit of an exercise in futility. Still, I will slog on.
Absent some comprehensive and highly accurate theory on the exact nature of human nature, I doubt the question of exactly where the line ought to be drawn (such that both liberty and civil society are both maximally preserved) may be settled by a purely theoretical inquiry. This would be the point where statistics would usefully enter the argument, and I would grow bored while the frothing-mouthed, hairsplitting ideologues would begin trembling with anticipation and glee.
I'll have no part of bringing joy to such people, so I'll skip that part and move on to the question of how far the regulatory incursion might be allowed to come before one has truly violated the purposes of existing law in an intolerable way. But what one has here is basically an intersection of two abstract systems and one concrete reality -- the rights of free people and the obligations of the state, plus the concrete reality of the actual, non-idealized situation. For the ideologue, this intersection becomes a insoluble collision. If taken in the absolute, these two abstractions cannot coexist with the real-world. For the non-ideologue, it becomes a puzzle, the balancing act necessary between the two idealized abstractions necessary to make them work with the concrete reality of the situation.
Now, to define the limits of the balancing act.
Thus Far and No Further
What kinds of weapons might be banned or restricted to such a point that the three purposes I have enumerated experience violation of their substance? At what point have they been substantially compromised?
Firstly, I think most of the kinds of availability restrictions that one sees so commonly proposed (and inflicted) are ineffectual and a waste of time and resources. So long as the market is in operation, and human beings are allowed any degree of privacy and latitude in their commerce with one another, whatever items are available to a substantial fraction of the populace will ultimately be available to all with very little to do about it.
There isn't much point in disallowing some to own what others are allowed -- real enforcement of the law would require intolerably draconian and intrusive measures. The recent incidents in Connecticut and the firefighter attack are prime examples. Disallowing psychotics and felons to own weapons would have made little or no material difference in availability in either case, while the record-keeping and other such means necessary for the restrictive mechanism do pose a very real threat to the legitimate owners, as evidenced by the recent publication of the names and addresses of New York gun owners. There is almost nothing to recommend such forms of regulation; they are simply not effective and pose dangers in their own right. At the least, they should be kept to a minimum, and quickly discarded if (or more likely, when) they prove ineffective.
The only really effective form of such restriction is to allow the targeted items only to a very small, tightly regulated fraction of the population. This is presently the case with fully automatic weapons, and it does seem to be effective. It is very rare to observe such weapons for sale at, for example, a gun show. But on the other hand, this type of policy more than smacks of elitism, and is highly inappropriate, in my opinion, in a system committed to equality before the law. So, I think it also should not really be entertained as a legitimate gun control option.
What is more effective is outright banning, much as I might dislike that fact. An item which is not available or only in very limited quantity really does become hard to come by. The usual kinds of social detritus that do things like attack innocent people are much less likely to summon the faculty to procure such items. Witness the very few (if any) nuclear warheads, F-15's and M1 Abrams that have ever landed in private hands. That kind of regulation really is effective. To get one of these kinds of things would require a Herculean feat either of corruption or industry.
So, what kinds of weapons would be fair game, however reluctantly one might be to accept it, in the state's effort to preserve civil order, if it proved absolutely necessary?
Well, clearly with respect to the first two enumerated purposes, the violation would have to effectively be either total or non-existent, as there is very little material difference between one sporting rifle and another, or between one handgun and another. There would be almost no point or effect in banning any one or two or ten in particular without banning them all. So I would put these totally off limits, unless it were actually desired to have a society totally free of guns and to totally be rid of the right to keep and bear arms. Which, again, I think is a really, really stupid idea, but if that is one's belief, it is one's belief. Just let there be no confusion that such a person is a tyrant, and in my opinion, an intolerable individual, given the real circumstances.
The question, then, really only concerns military style weapons, and as I have said, this is a delicate issue, as it concerns the central purpose of the law.
I think the key lies in the notion of credible resistance. The widespread possession of these weapons must pose a credible threat to civil authorities in the attempted imposition of its will without public sanction, i.e. oppression of the populace. Which means that these weapons need to be of sufficient capability to cause a general to think twice about attempting such a thing.
Now, this clearly does not require tanks, aircraft carriers and warplanes. Resistance is not the same as wielding invasive force. These are offensive weapons of mass warfare, appropriate to conflicts between states, and totally unnecessary to resist the militaries of even the most powerful states in the world. Witness the effectiveness of Al Qaeda. In fact, for a rebellious group to attempt to engage an established state with such weapons, as equal against equal, would almost certainly prove a horrendous failure, no matter the size of such a group. Witness the fate of the South in the Civil War.
The state claims the sole right to wage outright warfare, rightfully so if it is in fact to be a state, so I would say that regulation of such things is fair game if shown by the facts to be necessary, especially as it bears upon the issue of preventing one's own citizens from launching attacks against foreign states. But again, the legitimacy of such a prohibition flows directly from the existence of the state. In a stateless organization, such as some kind of feudal or clan structure, obviously things might be different, as these bodies would need the means to defend themselves from groups with similar capabilities.
Low-level guerrilla warfare is the only realistic option for resisting a state militarily. History has shown this repeatedly. Of course, civil disobedience and free expression are better, so long as they are effective, but here we are assuming that things will have come to blows. Therefore, coming from the other direction, in order for the law to serve its purpose it would seem that access to such weapons would need to be preserved whatever the circumstance, so long as the state remains the sovereign power and the central purpose of this law is to remain intact.
What kinds of weapons does this entail? Small arms such as assault rifles, clearly, form the core component of such a resistance. Probably also, at least to a degree, explosives, though not necessarily whole grenades, mines and other such readily-deployed weaponry, and other low-level equipment -- night-vision, laser sights, body armor, etc. Beyond this, at least for me, the line blurs; I am not exactly a military tactician, and that is the question that must be answered, the answer depending of course on the capabilities of the force to be opposed. Perhaps it is incapable of being answered perfectly clearly. I certainly lack the details.
At any rate, here the line lies, in this general vicinity. Any further, and the purpose of the law is defeated. Obviously, it would be better for the citizenry to enjoy an absolute right, with no limitation whatsoever. But in the interests of securing its obligations in the real-world, a state might encroach up to this point within reason.
Pushed beyond this by circumstance, and perhaps the state really ought to dissolve itself, as its citizens would appear incapable of reasonably sustaining such an order without the potential for horrific consequences. When a state begins dismantling prudent checks against its own power, either of its own accord, in an attempt to maintain adequate order, or because a sizable portion of its citizenry has deemed it expedient or proper to do so, it has entered territory which I think history has quite clearly shown is dangerous. Witness almost every attempt at modern statecraft outside the West, and more than a few episodes within the West's own history.
Absent a state, people could seek out some other order for themselves, perhaps as smaller, more cohesive states or other governments.
While I am on the subject of assault rifles, I thought I might contribute some small bit of thought to a discussion which appears to have gone totally amuck.
The first fact to correct is that the Connecticut shooter did not, in fact, use an AR-15, as was widely claimed. If he did use an assault rifle, it would appear to have been one of the hundreds of lower-grade weapons. The Colorado shooter earlier this year did use an AR-15, however, as did the shooter who attacked the firemen.
In making sense of the world of assault rifles, several categorizations would probably help the lay-person to think a little bit more clearly about the matter.
The first would concern what exactly is an assault rifle, and what is not. I would say that a firearm must satisfy a number of conditions to qualify. First, it must be a long-arm, and it must use full-sized ammunition suitable to a rifled long-arm. This would exclude shotguns, and also submachine guns, which use handgun ammunition and I think deserve their own category. Submachine guns have a different intended tactical purpose and considerably different capabilities, especially concerning range and knock-down power. For those who are unfamiliar with what a submachine gun is, perhaps an analogy would explain it most succintly -- long-arm rifle:handgun::machine gun:sub-machine gun. A submachine gun is a bit bigger than a typical handgun, but not a great deal bigger, and has a similar range.
An assault rifle must also be at least semi-automatic, which means that it automatically reloads after being fired. Fully automatic means that it also automatically fires again, so long as the trigger is pulled -- i.e., it is a full-blown 'machine gun.' A semi-automatic weapon can be fired as fast as the trigger is pulled, a fully automatic weapon fires as fast as its mechanism can operate. Finally, to qualify as an assault rifle, it must accept a detachable magazine capable of holding several rounds, usually ten or more. Anything with these four characteristics might reasonable be called an 'assault rifle', though perhaps not all such weapons might actually be called so in general practice.
Within the category of assault rifles, there are several useful distinctions that might be made to think more clearly about this large and varied class of weapons. The first might be what presently is legally allowed to the citizenry vs. the military. At present, even though the guns may look almost exactly the same, civilians are not allowed to possess automatic weapons. The AR-15s widely available for purchase by civilians are not capable of fully automatic fire, while the military versions are. As I said before, fully automatic weapons require a special, tightly regulated license which is difficult to come by and possessed by vanishingly few people.
Another useful distinction would be between the types of ammunition these guns use. While there are many varieties, four dominate the market, and these four can be categorized usefully into two pairs. The first pair are sort of 'standard issue' -- the .223 (used by the AR-15) and .308. The second pair are used by NATO -- the 5.56mm and 7.62mm. Probably 90% or more of assault rifles use one of these four shells.
In fact, some use more than one. The .223 and 5.56 rounds are so similar that many weapons can use both. Likewise, 7.62 and .308 are also very similar, to the point of being nearly identical. So, what you really have is two basic types of weapon in two different systems of ammunition. This distinction is useful, I think, to get a handle on the design and purpose of these weapons, which I think reveals some important truths, some of which are a bit uncomfortable.
After the muzzleloader was exchanged for the 'repeating rifle,' designers of small arms for warfare rather quickly settled on the .30 caliber range. The .30 caliber established itself as the optimum man-killing caliber -- large enough to kill efficiently, not so large that it poses an unnecessary expense or burden for troops carrying a supply of them. The modern .308 and 7.62 caliber weapons carry on this tradition. Much larger than this, and the rounds become expensive and burdensome without being significantly more lethal; smaller than this and their lethality begins to drop off.
But these are not the weapons being implicated in these shootings. Rather, it is the smaller caliber .223. Apparently even more strangely, these are no longer the calibers favored by our own military -- again, that distinction belongs to the .223. What is going on here?
The key is in recognizing that, first and foremost, the AR-15 was designed as a weapon of war, not as a defensive weapon or for target shooting or any other purpose. But seemingly paradoxically, it is not actually designed for maximum killing efficiency. That may seem a rather strange claim, but it is easily born out by the facts.
Probably the easiest demonstration rests in a simple definition. In warfare, casualties are given as the number killed plus the number wounded. The AR-15 was designed to maximize casualties, not kills. As a weapon of war, its purpose is to subdue enemy infantry, as part of the ultimate goal of commanding the field of battle. To this way of thinking, whether or not any particular broken and torn heap of flesh allied with the enemy happens to be alive or dead is immaterial. The point is that it isn't fighting back.
The AR-15 can certainly be used to kill, but that isn't its primary purpose. It is not optimized for lethality; if anything, it is more optimized for maiming. This is reflected in the relatively few deaths in the Colorado shooting -- 12 dead out of some 70 hit. If the shooter had used a truly deadlier weapon -- like an AK-47, or an M1A, which use 7.62/.308 ammunition -- there probably would have been a considerably higher number of fatalities. As well, our own military is perfectly aware of this, and for some special forces missions -- where deadliness counts over casualties -- the weapon of choice is often the larger caliber weapons.
But any hunter could have told you that. A hunter that went after deer with a .223 would not be held in very high regard. He would be considered rather cruel and inhumane for using such a small caliber. I suppose what's good enough to use against people doesn't cut it when it comes to animals. But needless to say, all the comments one hears in the news about 'these people' having access to 'high power, heavy military ammunition' is pure stupidity. The .223 round is one of the smallest and weakest rounds in use that isn't explicitly designed for a handgun. Almost any deer rifle is far more powerful.
The adoption of the AR-15 as the primary weapon of US infantry (going by the military designation M16) occurred during the Vietnam War as a result of a change of thinking. It replaced the M14 (now known as the M1A) which, as I said before, fires the more traditional .30 caliber round. Because of this, the M14 is sometimes called 'the last battle rifle,' as it was the last one that used full-power ammunition. The defense planners at the time thought that the M16 would be more effective, as the ammunition was far cheaper and lighter, and would allow soldiers to carry and use far more ammunition. It also has less recoil, making the weapon easier to operate.
These qualities all helped to optimize the process of inflicting wanton destruction, as opposed to the more 'gentlemanly' forms of engagement in which one actually expected to kill the people he shot at rather than simply maiming them into relatively inert hunks of meat and letting mother nature take care of the details, in keeping with the general decline in standards of conduct in war over the course of the 20th century. They also helped to make assault rifles of this caliber extremely popular with hobby shooters. They are just more fun to handle and much cheaper to shoot, and as a result have tended to proliferate.
Truth be told, they are not nearly as deadly as other weapons that might have been chosen. And if they are banned out of hand without banning the far more powerful weapons available, in all likelihood future shootings could actually prove more deadly.
But if these weapons are actually rather weak and not particularly effective at killing lots of people, which, ostensibly, would seem to be the goal of these types of shooters, why on earth would anyone choose such a weapon?
First of all, they are likely morons who don't know any of this and have little experience with guns. The Colorado shooter in particular would probably have killed far more people with a plain-Jane shotgun than he did with his assault rifle. But if he really wanted to use the type of weapon that he did, there are a number of much cheaper varieties with almost exactly the same performance as the AR-15. In particular, the mini-14 is far more widely available at about half the price.
But there is probably a more important reason that is easily demonstrated by looking at a few pictures. The mini-14 and M1A look more or less similar, and are not particularly noteworthy. If you didn't already know what to look for, you probably would not think they were anything special, just ordinary 'deer rifles.' The AK-47 -- another popular and widely available assault rifle that would have been a deadlier choice -- is a bit flashier, but also not especially noteworthy.
The AR-15, on the other hand, boasts a much more unconventional design. It just looks like what you would expect of an assault rifle. No doubt the 'cool factor' contributes to the reputation of this weapon and the desire to ban it. I suspect that the shooter in Colorado was not primarily interested in killing people so much as doing what he did as some kind of sick form of 'expression.' Hence the crazy hair and the choice of a flashy, yet low-firepower weapon.
One last aspect of this situation simply can't be passed over without mention. The central issue here isn't really guns or gun control. The gun issue is only one facet of a much larger conflict that is really at the center of what divides America these days. That issue is lifestyle.
The reason that gun control comes up is that guns simply don't fit into the lifestyle of a certain relatively large portion of the population. They believe that widespread ownership of firearms threatens the way of life which they would prefer, even if they don't necessarily have a problem with other people enjoying the use of firearms in-and-of-itself. And in truth, they are right.
Note that almost nary a soul has suggested that the problem of school shootings isn't the guns but the schools. It is simply unthinkable that schools should change in any substantial way. A great number of factors go into events such as these, yet rarely do the other factors get mentioned. They are too central to the lives of the majority of the population; to make any significant changes that might address them is unthinkable because it is inconceivable that life could be lived any other way. Some -- most -- people simply deal with the situation. C'est la vie. So it is.
But the vocal fraction feels that it shouldn't have to. It does not want this responsibility, and it does not care why such things happen, so long as they don't in the future and their chosen lifestyle is unaffected. It wants responsibility to be in someone else's hands -- preferably someone competent and effective. In other words, it wants to employ the division of labor -- in this case, government -- to keep itself safe, and doesn't mind giving up an entire realm of life and experience in order to achieve this -- a potentially rewarding and enjoyable realm, if not for themselves, certainly for others.
It wants specialization. But more than that, it wants hyper-specialization.
In general, gun control advocates are found among the more urban, liberal, and 'sophisticated' than the remainder of the population. While they are often known for wanting to 'broaden their horizons' through experiences, say, of other cultures and such (which is all well and good), nevertheless it seems to me that one of the hallmarks of this way of thinking is its enthusiasm for narrowing existence and cutting out experience in other realms which are not so appealing.
Hence the enthusiasm for government subsidy of things like childcare and schooling. Nobody wants to change diapers or deal with obnoxious toddlers and teenagers, but raising children, including the annoying parts, is a big part of the experience of life -- and of maturing and growing as a person. Ostensibly, the purpose of these types of 'programs' is to broaden experience, by allowing women to have a career, for example. But really -- how does that compare with raising your kids, especially in terms of importance, even if you believed this kind of thing? The imperative of having a two income family is used to justify what in other times would appear a rather intrusive and disjointed life-arrangement.
More disturbingly, the case could be made that the same is true of the regulatory, welfare, and criminal justice system. There are certain individuals who seem to simply have no useful place in our system, especially as relates to the competitive economy intersecting with this type of sensibility. In regulating the poor out of the experience of poverty, many of them get regulated clean out of a job. With the added costs, they simply aren't worth hiring, such as they are. And of course, 'how they are' is often a product of... well, never mind.
Rather than 'deal with them,' we choose to pay them to stay out of everyone else's way -- i.e., welfare. Or we incarcerate them when they choose lifestyles we'd rather not see lived out in public, warehousing them in a nice and orderly fashion, similar to the way we do our children. While expensive, the upshot of this arrangement to all involved is obvious -- it obviates anyone from the necessity of personal growth, which can be a tiresome and uncomfortable process.
Just how is it that government so consistently and reliably winds up dealing with trash, criminals, indolents, and children? Because it becomes a sort of catch-all for dealing with things most people would rather not deal with or spend too much time and effort thinking about or worrying over -- so they can spend more time on what they supposedly enjoy. Witness the push for 'universal healthcare' and other such arrangements across the West. Who wants to think about that stuff, when you can just...not? Why not just pay for it all with taxes and let somebody else deal with it? Then the rest can be like an allowance, for the fun stuff!
In the process, people become stunted and infantilized, their experience and existence as people ever more narrow and slanted. But maybe they like this existence. Perhaps pawning off yet another unpleasant bit of reality like the existence of guns onto the shoulders of government seems to be the way to go.
Well, it isn't, and as I've discussed, eventually this sort of process will come to a screeching and unpleasant halt.