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Norway and Gun Control

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At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the massacre in Norway reminds us, once again, of the three big reasons that our American ancestors enshrined the right to keep and bear arms in the Second Amendment.

First, the right to own property is a fundamental, God-given right with which no government can legitimately interfere. Guns are private property. Thus, even if there had been no Bill of Rights and no Constitution, people would still have the fundamental, inherent, natural, God-given right to keep and bear arms. Keep in mind that the Constitution and Bill of Rights don’t purport to grant people any rights. Instead, they prohibit government from interfering with the preexisting rights of the people.

Second, guns provide people with the means of self-defense against violent criminals. What happened in Norway is a perfect example of this. Like the rest of Europe, Norway has strict gun-control laws. The idea is that with gun control, criminals will either obey the law or be unable to illegally acquire guns.

What nonsense, as we libertarians have long pointed out. If a would-be murderer isn’t going to comply with a law against murder, why in the world would he comply with a law prohibiting him from possessing a gun? Moreover, since there are plenty of guns around the world, the notion that a would-be murderer would be unable to acquire an illegal gun on the black market is downright silly. What gun-control laws do, then, is simply prevent innocent people from defending themselves against violent criminals.

This week, Forbes magazine, which I’ve always thought was a conservative publication, published an article entitled “Less Restrictive Gun Control Laws Would Not Have Stopped the Oslo Massacre” by E.D. Kain, which suggested that the right to keep and bear arms would probably not have altered the situation in Norway anyway.

Kain makes three primary arguments in support of his thesis: First, a “vigilante” (by which he means a person carrying a concealed weapon) is no match for a “shooter.” Second, people with concealed weapons would probably end up killing innocent people in a shootout with the murderer. Third, it’s unlikely that people at a youth camp would have been exercising their gun rights anyway.

What a ridiculous set of arguments.

For one, there are plenty of people who carry concealed weapons who are extremely competent in using them. That’s not to say that a person with a handgun is any match for a person with a semi-automatic rifle, but ask yourself: Who’s got a better chance at keeping a murderer with a rifle at bay until the police arrive: a person with a handgun or a person without a handgun? The person with the handgun can barricade himself, along with several defenseless people, and hold off the would-be murderer for some time. At least they’ve got a chance at survival.

Second, while there is the possibility that innocent people could be killed in a crossfire between people who are defending themselves with guns against a murderer with guns, isn’t it better that some people survive rather than have the murderer kill everyone?

Third, while it’s true that people on that Norway island might not have been exercising their right to have a gun, Kain misses the real point. The point is that people have the right to carry a weapon to defend themselves from a would-be murderer. If they choose not to exercise that right, that’s their choice. But under what moral authority can Kain or anyone else say that people should be denied the right to make that choice?

Moreover, when a would-be murderer doesn’t know who’s carrying a weapon and who isn’t, everyone is safer because the would-be murderer doesn’t know who’s armed and who isn’t. In the Norway situation, the murderer knew that no one could defend himself with a gun, thanks to gun-control laws.

So, what’s Kain’s solution? Better trained police. Yawn. I suppose he just forgot to also say, “Get better people in public office.” In other words, keep placing your faith in government to protect you from murderers, robbers, rapists, and the like. What happens if your trust proves to be ill-founded? You suffer the consequences, and don’t think that you or your heirs will be able to sue the police for negligence or breach of contract because under the law, they are immune from liability.

Finally, let’s keep in mind the biggest reason our American ancestors enshrined the right to keep and bear arms in the Second Amendment, a reason that Kain doesn’t even mention. The right to keep and bear arms is an insurance policy against tyranny. The right provides people with the means to resist with force a tyrannical regime whose forces are indiscriminately killing, incarcerating, torturing, and raping innocent people.

That, of course, is one of the big differences between foreign countries and the United States. When people in foreign countries are subjected to tyrannical governments, they have but two choices: submit or die. Thanks to the right to keep and bear arms, the people in the United States have another alternative in such an event: resist with force.

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Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.