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Gun Control Would Make Us Less Safe

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Government programs are notorious for achieving results that are the exact opposite of what they intend. If advocates of gun control get their way, there will be no better example of this principle. Gun control would result in a less peaceful, more dangerous society.

There are two major reasons for the right to keep and bear arms: so that citizens can protect themselves from the tyrannical acts of their own government and so that they can protect themselves from violent people. Proponents of gun control suggest that the first justification is baseless, since we live in a democracy. And by disarming everyone, the argument goes, violent crime against innocent people will plummet.

Let’s address the second argument first. This argument for gun control is based on two alternative assumptions: either that violent people would obey gun-control laws or that gun-control laws would prevent violent people from acquiring guns.

Is either of these assumptions valid? If a murderer intends to break a law against murder, why would he have any more respect for a law prohibiting him from possessing a gun? It defies credibility that murderers, rapists, burglars, thieves, and robbers are going to say to themselves: “There’s a law against my owning guns and, therefore, I should obey it.”

What would happen instead, of course, is that innocent people – that is, those who are the intended victims of violent crime – would end up complying with the gun-control law. Therefore, they would have been forced to give up the legal means of defending themselves from people who themselves would have no respect for the law.

Would a war against guns really eradicate guns? Well, has the war on drugs eradicated drugs? For a good example of the results of gun control (and the drug war), check out Washington, D.C. And if you think the collateral violence associated with the drug war is bad, imagine what would happen if the stakes were guns rather than drugs.

The right to keep and bear arms actually makes everyone safer, even those who oppose it. If violent people do not know which people are carrying arms and which are not, they are much less likely to take a chance. The reason a mugger on the street feels safer than a burglar of a home is that the mugger knows that he is less likely to encounter an armed defender. (Why don’t gun-control advocates display window signs in their homes announcing “This is a gun-free home”?)

But as important as the right of self-defense is, it isn’t the primary reason for unfettered gun ownership. Our Founding Fathers placed the Second Amendment so high up on the Bill of Rights because they understood the vital importance of this restriction on government power. They recognized that the greatest threat to the safety and well-being of the citizenry lies not with some foreign government but rather with one’s own government.

Gun-control proponents suggest that that doesn’t apply to the United States anymore because we can trust our government officials. After all, we do live in democracy, they tell us. “We are the government.” There’s nothing to fear because democratically elected government officials don’t do bad things to their citizenry.

But U.S. government officials have done bad things to the American people. They rounded up and incarcerated American citizens of Japanese descent without even the semblance of a trial. They conducted nuclear radiation experiments on unsuspecting American servicemen. They subjected African-American men to bizarre syphilis experiments. They shot and killed an innocent woman and her teenage son at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. They used military tanks and dangerous, flammable gas on men, women, and children at Waco, Texas. Today, they regularly confiscate assets belonging to innocent people and then deny them the benefits of trial by jury.

And most of these actions have occurred in the absence of a national crisis. Imagine what government officials are capable of in an enormous crisis involving the security of the nation.

How does the Second Amendment protect the American people from the most militarily powerful government in history? It stands as an insurance policy. In a society in which the citizenry are armed, government officials must always consider the risks of armed resistance to massive tyranny. In societies where people are disarmed, government officials know that citizens must willingly obey orders.

The Second Amendment, therefore, accomplishes what gun-control advocates say they wish to achieve: a safer, more peaceful, and more secure society. Gun control, like most other government programs, would end up with a result that is opposite to that which is intended.

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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.