guns

The Second Amendment: An Outdated, Ideological Fallacy

This is not about rationality: arguments against gun control are almost entirely constructed and founded on their ideological underpinnings. And as with any devout ideologue, the wider picture and the resultant implications are willfully and purposefully ignored.

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This piece was co-authored by Peter Kelly.

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Anthony Machinski’s recent piece on TRS – “Gun Control: You Can’t Test Irresponsibility” – is, at best, the work of an individual firmly fixated on trying to make reality look like a world in which the Second Amendment is still relevant. At worst, it is one so dedicated to this fantasy as to have dangerous illusions as to the continued relevance of an armed militia concerned with resisting a tyrannous federal government. For that was the purpose and reasoning leading to the Second Amendment.

Machinski’s arguments are based on statistics, but these are either incorrect, invalid, or irrelevant to the matter at hand. Like Machinski we wish to take a moment to remember the lives devastated by this tragedy, however to do so without seeking ways to stop this trend towards such tragedies is a fatal mistake.

If we do not look at the underlying and facilitating factors to Columbine-esque shootings such events will continue to feature: is the post-revolutionary right to bear arms really worth the continuous killings of so many children?

Firstly however, we would like to address some incorrect claims made in the Machinski piece.

1) People will always be able to “get their hands on whatever item they want if they so choose”

Machinski chooses to exemplify this with reference to prohibition and the failure of legislation to tackle drug abuse. These are wholly illegitimate comparisons.

Firstly, there is a huge difference in intent.

The intent of someone who drank alcohol during prohibition was not to be able to maim or kill. Similarly, for one who is recreationally taking illegal drugs the intent is to enjoy themselves.

Irrespective of our respective views on the use of recreational drugs, it is readily apparent that for the vast majority of users the intent is not to commit any violence. With guns, the sourcing of a weapon is for the sole purpose of being able to maim at some point in the future, even if this is under the guise of defence.

Secondly, and more applicably, most killers lack the connections or experience to get hold of illegal weapons (as opposed to gang members).

Reductio ad absurdum: why don’t we just give all mentally unfit persons a firearm? According to Machinksi they are going to get them anyway.

2) The UK “has problems with school shootings”

The factual inaccuracy here is startling. A simple Wikipedia search would have displayed to the author that the only school shooting in the UK in living memory was the Dunblane massacre of 1996.

The Cumbria shootings of 2010 had nothing whatsoever to do with schools or children – as proven by virtue of the fact that all victims were over the age of twenty three. We can further consider that the only other major gun massacre in the UK (again, in living memory) was that which occurred in Hungerford in 1987. Again, nothing to do with a school.

Thus, of the three mass shootings in the last three decades in the UK, only one has taken place in a school.

3) In “no way, shape, or form would gun control laws have helped prevent this tragedy”

Firstly, should the type of guns permitted to be licensed be lower down the “ease-of-use” scale it is highly unlikely that this tragedy would have been as extreme as it is; had the shooter’s only weapon been a handgun it is doubtful that the casualty count would be so high.

The weapon he used was akin to the M16 (as employed by the U.S. Army). Its efficacy in lethality is demonstrated by the short time-frame of the killing spree (the killer shot himself less than ten minutes after the first shot was fired, just as the first police officer entered the school). Less efficient legal weapons would likely result in less deaths per mass killing.

Secondly, legal weapons have been used in approximately seventy five per cent of the sixty two mass killings in America since 1982, thus demonstrating the complete failure of the American licensed weapons system.

A more holistic attempt at ensuring that active weapons do not get into the wrong hands – a greater degree of federal specificity over how guns are stored; the enforced separation of gun from ammunition in storage; the ineligibility of those living with person(s) with mental health issues to possess a weapon, etc. – would indubitably result in less legal weapons being used for illegal purposes.

Such restrictions – gun control laws – would likely have limited (if not put a stop to) this mass murder.

We must also consider arguments which frame the fight against the Second Amendment; this is a debate which cannot be won solely on the defensive.

Outdated

The Second Amendment is archaic and belongs to the time of slavery and the looming threat of the British Empire. In short, a time well before the U.S. could truly have been called a democracy. Now, when federal government depends on votes to remain in power, votes are the weapons every household needs.

There is no need for every man to wield a weapon to warn off a federal army which has its hands tied controlling Afghanistan, let alone the three hundred and ten million citizens of the United States – even were they completely unarmed. Besides which, where is the organised militia such armed citizenry are supposed to belong to?

The Second Amendment is a disastrous carry-on from a past era. The eighteenth century solution (to eighteenth century issues which no longer exist) has created a twenty-first century problem.

The Statistics

The homicide by firearm rate in the U.S. is completely disproportionate to its position as a Western nation. It is only bested by developing countries and the nearest developed countries to it are Liechtenstein and Switzerland (also low gun-restriction countries).

The disproportion is by a rather telling factor of four.

One can point to all kinds of different mitigating statistics to this, but the inescapable line is that lax gun laws equal more gun murders in developed states. In the United States, unless you were to insult the entire populace with the assumption that they are more homicidal than average, a factor of four is simply too large of a difference to be challenged.

Bringing the United Kingdom in hardly helps the case – it has a gun-related homicide rate of approximately forty times smaller. The rate of gun crime has halved in the years since stricter gun laws were enforced and cannot be attributed to a culture of less crime, as the United Kingdom has a slightly higher crime rate.

It also rubbishes the claim that those without guns will find other means, as despite the higher crime rate the UK’s homicide rate is significantly smaller than that of the US, 1.2 per 100,000 against 4.2 respectively.

Conclusion

The fact of the matter is that the strength of the argument for gun control is all but irrelevant. As Sam Leith, writing in today’s Evening Standard, argues, “the issue in the US is a dialogue of the deaf because it’s about identity politics, not harm reduction”. The Second Amendment equates the gun to freedom, and as we are aware, freedom is a big word.

This is not about rationality: arguments against gun control are almost entirely constructed and founded on their ideological underpinnings. And as with any devout ideologue, the wider picture and the resultant implications are willfully and purposefully ignored.

Resultantly debate on this matter is nothing but a formality. No matter how much the facts stack up on one side, votes will be matched along these lines of identity, not of rationality. What needs to change is what “freedom” really means: that we should be looking upon it as freedom from death and suffering, not freedom to wield a weapon of your choice to cause it.

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This piece was co-authored by Peter Kelly.

Peter holds an MSc in International Security from the University of Bristol and a BA in Philosophy and Politics from Durham University. His focus is on security and conflict issues in the western world, Middle East and Africa. He runs the site A Third Opinion.

Photo credit:  Jenn Durfey

9 thoughts on “The Second Amendment: An Outdated, Ideological Fallacy”

  1. wow! that was was one the best reads ive ever read on this debate.

    pretty much nailed every truth about this deep rooted gun problem we have here in the usa.

    the whole freedom thing is spot on. people think if ur gun is taken away its like ur freedom will be takn away. we are a nation of guns and so are our elected officials.

    its a lost cause. the NRA is a powerful lobby and the one with the most money will come out on top. thats the ugly truth.

  2. Americans fear the Federal government, with good reason.

    Which is why they will never willfully surrender their firearms.

    The heritage of freedom and liberty in the United States, however trampled upon today, will not be surrendered.

    Elected officials know this, which is why they will never pass a law making firearms illegal.

    “When in the course of humane events . . . . ” “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,”

  3. Wow, talk about the pot calling the kettle black . . .

    “This is not about rationality: arguments against gun control are almost entirely constructed and founded on their ideological underpinnings. And as with any devout ideologue, the wider picture and the resultant implications are willfully and purposefully ignored.”

    Change “against gun control” to “for gun control” and you have this “article.”

    “With guns, the sourcing of a weapon is for the sole purpose of being able to maim at some point in the future, even if this is under the guise of defence.”

    Talk about an ideological underpinning . . . guns only kill people. What about shooting as a sport, as in the Olympics? Or hunting?

    But let’s just ignore the “wider picture” and examine the statement. If the intent of a 100 million gun owning Americans is to maim and/or murder (and that is a huge “if”), why aren’t more people maimed or murdered. That many people with that intent and that many efficient weapons should be able to kill at least, what, one other person per week or month or at the very least one person a year?

    So, either a 100 million gun nuts are so incompetent that they can’t even muster up one maiming or murder per year or the weapons are really not that efficient. Or, your premise is fundamentally flawed.

    Hmmm, the Second Amendment is “archaic.” Wow, talk about a completely unsupported statement of ideology. Also, your “well regulated militia” argument is grammatically invalid. Notice that pesky comma that separates the two clauses . . . the people have the right to firearms, so that they can better serve in the militia. The right belongs to the people, not a militia.

    On a very personal and completely ad hominem basis — I will damned if I am going to take constitutional advice or commentary from an elitist Brit wanker. (Apologies, but I so rarely get to use “wanker”)

    I have owned and used firearms from age 5 and up. Never killed anyone nor have I maimed anyone. I have hunted, though not in recent decades. I have carried a concealed Glock 22 loaded with hollow-points, but I have never drawn it in anger or fear, though I have put my hand behind my back and popped the holster latch, which had the desired effect of backing down several thugs who seemed to think I was going to give them my car and money. And for the record, I would not have maimed them, I would have killed every single one of them and slept like a baby that night and all that followed, if they had not backed down and my life or property (yes, I said property and mean it) were threatened with violence.

    1. Hi Lawgriff. Thanks for posting, but may I ask why you are responding so extensively yet claim that you are unwilling to take commentary from a couple of Brit wankers? Seems a little contradictory. However I have to admit it’s a fantastic word.

      Your main argument seems to be that weapons tend not to be used for killing and instead for other practices. This simply doesn’t bear out. The number of sport of hunting rifles is dwarfed by those for “other” purposes and a tiny proportion of Americans are involved in either of these practices. The huge majority have weapons for one purpose, the capacity of a gun to kill or wound more efficiently than any other weapon.

      As for why there aren’t more killings: Is 9 sprees in a year not enough for you? The highest gun crime rate in the developed world?

  4. I have a couple of major problems with this article. First, take any article with a grain of salt that quotes Wikipedia as a source of their research. The author has a master’s degree and has yet never been told that Wikipedia is not a valid source of vetted information. Odd.

    Second, statistics are exactly what you make them to be. Washington, DC has one of the strictest gun control laws in the United States, yet has one of the highest murder rates per capita of any city in the United States. Need another example? Connecticut has the second toughest gun control laws of any state in the Union. Did that prevent this shooting?

    Perhaps we should implement gun control like China. Did that stop the crazed man from entering a middle school three weeks ago and stabbing 13 students? Did that stop the man a week later who drove his car into a group of 20 students on a field trip, intent on killing the whole group? Perhaps we should outlaw knives and cars as well.

    Next time you have a “meth head” criminal rob you at knifepoint, who would you like to have with you? A legally armed citizen, or a citizen who is unarmed and can only offer you words of encouragement as make peace with your Maker? I choose the legally armed citizen.

    1. Hi realist. We are indeed Masters degree holders, however we also know the difference between academic practice and journalism. If you want to verify our statistics go ahead, or if necessary I can provide alternatives. Wikipedia is only invalid if not correctly sources, these statistics were, we checked.

      Washington DC and Connecticut are in the United States, gun control simply does not work on a small scale and comparisons are difficult due to the different demographics of each area. Equally I could say gun crime in congress (where gun control is strict) is far lower than in Aurora, where it is lax. Making such comparisons don’t work.

      In China not a single student died, that’s the primary difference. Guns are significantly easier to kill with than any other weapons.

      I choose neither. The chance of being killed significantly increases in crimes where the victim is armed. Just give over your wallet and wait till he goes away, easiest way to survive.

  5. Hmm it looks like your website ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any recommendations for rookie blog writers? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  6. Peter,

    I rarely ever visit blog sites like this as most of the time its filled with people who have no clue what they are talking about but try to claim they do. ill keep this short and sweet

    1) The second amendment is not an outdated fallacy. We have the right to defend ourselves against anyone who threatens our liberty, including a out of control government. Im terribly sorry your government took that right away from you. if you like being at the mercy of someone else, good for you, stay in europe. Btw this amendment was not aimed at the ‘threat of a looming british governement’. It was aimed at our government to ensure that the power stays with the people. As long as we have a second amendment, there will never be a tyrant in this country. Yes people can commit awful things with guns, but guns also save millions of lives in the process with people who use them responsibly, which happens to be the majority of this country.

    2) Banning guns doesnt remove the guns from bad people, so yes they will have them. Go a head and pass an all out gun ban tomorrow. I would love to see how many street thugs from Chicago/DC/NYC/LA etc turn their guns in. The only people to turn them in would be the LAW ABIDING people. Police dont know which criminals have guns and thus wouldnt be able to go and pick them off the street. Do you think the criminals in the UK turned their guns in? Nope. They still have them.

    3) Do you have any experience with firearms at all? The second you said an AR15 is akin to an M16, you lost all credability. They look similar yes, but thats it. They function completely different. You realize that the entire argument of the ‘assult weapon ban’ is based on the way something looks. My big ol’ scary AR functions the same way my handgun and hunting rifle work. You say if the shooter had a handgun, it would be less devistating- heres a tip research VA Tech shooting, the deadliest in our country… all of that was done with a handgun. Your theory is invalid. Walking into a a room full of children with any sort of weapon would end the same way. The kids had no way to defend themselves against anything. Yay for gun free zones….obviously those work so well.

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