There is quite a bit of (well deserved) public outrage after the killing of seventeen people at the high school in Parkland. Everyone wants to see this fixed, but, as usual in America, the proposed solutions are polarized between two camps.
A few days ago, I engaged in an online debate with a couple of guys who are very pro-gun. I enjoy spirited debates, not because I am trying to convince anyone of anything, but because I learn so much about how other people think, and I also admit to it being fun for me. Anyway, it provided me with some insight as to why some people believe that having more guns than people in the United States is still a little light in the gun department.
The central arguments for keeping guns and gun laws the way they are apparently include:
- History teaches us that governments will always become more oppressive, so we need an armed populace to defeat them when they try and take over militarily.
- Anything other countries do to solve any problem is of no consequence simply because they are not the United States. Part of the argument is cultural difference, and part of it is size difference.
- The second amendment is irrevocable and unchangeable.
- They like guns.
In response to number one, I asked this simple question: “Since firearms were first invented, when in the history of the U.S., England, Canada, and Australia have guns been necessary to keep the government at bay?”
I received no reply, because of course, it’s never happened.
I use those other countries because they are most similar to us socially, we speak the same language, and we’ve all been around for hundreds of years, cumulatively for over a thousand years. And yet the fear of Pol Pot reincarnating in the United States is enough for them to insist we must have guns to resist this future tyranny, as unlikely as it actually is. As a result, Americans shooting each other more than anyone is an unfortunate byproduct of preventing a military takeover or coup or whatever, even though that’s never happened in our 242 year existence, nor in similar countries during that span. Somehow the U.S. is the only country to insist the solution is to have more guns, while the others are far more peaceful than the U.S. and lack just as many military takeovers.
On to number two: I just want to say that my experience in moving to Europe is that We is You, and You is Us. Aside from language and minor cultural differences, such as preferring no ice in their drinks, not refrigerating eggs or milk, not being particularly keen on tipping, not shooting each other very often, never being willing to trade their socialized medicine and educational systems for the U.S. versions for all the tea in China (and the Portuguese are the ones responsible for turning English into the tea-drinking maniacs they are), and they would go into a sugar coma just from thinking about drinking a 64 ounce Big Gulp. For my European friends, that’s nearly 2 liters of soda pop. Intended for one person in one sitting. I’m not kidding. They even have a 128 ounce (3785ml) version. The recommended daily sugar intake for a man is 36 grams, and 20 for a woman (sorry ladies, you’re already too sweet I guess). The Super Big Gulp has 80 grams. Wow. I wish this whole debate were about whether you should drink Big Gulps, it would be a lot easier one.
Anyway, the point is that aside from these minor differences, Western European culture is virtually the same as it is in the U.S. So the idea that we can’t learn from them, much less understand that they have a lot more experience with shooting in their neighborhoods solely due to World War I and II, is just plain silly. You’d think if guns were the answer, Europeans would have armed themselves to the teeth to prevent another Hitler. Interestingly, they went completely the other direction, and are far safer for it.
I’ve been to Japan a handful of times, and while they don’t have guns either, I’d say their culture was different enough that it’s not worth trying to bring the reasons for that mindset into the American culture. But Western Europe is a whole different story.
I would also argue that the culture of the United States in 1791, when the second amendment was passed, is far, far different than almost any developed country in the world today. There was slavery and women couldn’t vote, for starters. And the U.S. was fresh off a war of independence from Britain, certainly making them pretty sensitive about fighting to free the land from tyranny.
I have also heard a million times that you can’t compare any country’s success in anything to the U.S. because they’re smaller. That’s such a specious argument because what it does is eliminate every country in the world except India and China; the U.S. has the third largest population in the world. Of course, that doesn’t stop those same arguers from insisting that China should adopt America’s democracy and morals. Irony abounds.
More importantly, the EU is very similar to the US in that even though it is formed by separate countries instead of states, they’re all connected economically with the same currency, they are regulated from a central authority, they are free to cross borders at any time, and can live in any place they want.
The two have roughly the same GDP, and the EU has a larger population. So if the EU does something, such as socialized medicine or free college, you can’t dismiss that as irrelevant because they’re smaller, or socially much different, because they’re neither. My guess is that some might respond, “Well, they’re bigger.” In which case the only way you can compare and learn from any other country is if there is an alternate universe where you can look at the same exact country and hope they do things a little different.
The whole argument of “you can’t compare” or “we can’t learn from other countries” sounds to me like someone telling his neighbor, “Yes, I see you eliminated all your gophers with that scheme, but it wouldn’t apply to my yard because it’s larger and I have more weeds.” Okay, then live with the gophers. Or in this case, the murders.
As for the second amendment, it was an amendment. Its very presence proves these documents can be changed. And I would remind people that back when it was written, everyone had pretty much similar levels of armaments as everyone else, even the government (maybe except for cannons, which hardly compare as weapons of mass destruction). Today’s governments have tanks and missiles and drones and satellites and training and so on. Ironically, the same people who are so hellbent on pouring more money into what is already the world’s largest military are usually the same people who want to arm themselves in case it all comes back to bite them.
As for liking guns, I get it. I own some myself. But I still want sensible laws and restrictions on who can buy them. We have to jump through a fair amount of hoops to get a driver’s license. Why? Because cars can kill. Hmm, I think there’s a comparison there somewhere.
I know there are more pro-gun arguments, such as it’s already too late because there are more guns than people in the US, but my point is that all of our minds should be open to learning and certainly having civil discussion on the matter, with the subject at hand being allowed to be on the table. America is a Republic that mostly functions as a democracy. If the majority of Americans desire more gun control, why is it the minority, led by the NRA, allowed to impose their will on the rest of us?
Anyway, my main contribution to the debate is to point out that the rest of the world is not as different as many Americans might think, and that we can learn from everyone, including those who live in other countries, perhaps even including shithole countries!
Feel free to post some counterarguments– we need this debate!