Many people are incredulous about uncompromising American gun attitudes. They tend to think that the right to keep and bear arms has something to do with personal security. Why else, after all, would anyone want a gun, save for hunting, if you are into that sort of thing.
Accordingly, they expect gun ownership support to wane in the wake of shootings, which is precisely what happened in the UK, Canada, and Australia within the past 20 years. Guns are simply too dangerous to be circulating in the population.
Hence the oft heard call for “common sense” restrictions on gun ownership.
Americans stubbornly reject such restrictions, as the Senate did just last week after the terrorist attack in California. It all does not make sense to non-Americans (and admittedly a relatively few Americans huddled in pockets like New York City.)
The disconnect is a fundamental misunderstanding about the Second Amendment. The right to keep and bear arms isn’t about safety. It isn’t about hunting or controlling criminal or terrorist activity. As a practical matter it is a deterrent and a defense to tyranny by the government. But as an idea, where the real power is, it is about sovereignty.
If you read the Constitution in one sitting, it is short and won’t take long, We the People got together and decided what we would allow the government to do and how we would allow them to do it. It lists the powers that We the People grant to each branch of government. It sets forth how We the People choose who is in that government. And then for good measure, it provides another list of what rights We the People do not permit the government to trespass upon.
That is, while non-Americans usually approach the question of rights by looking for permission, what gives a citizen the Right to do something, Americans assume the right exists and ask by what leave does the State limit us.
In America, the people are the sovereign. All governmental power comes from us, not the reverse. The right to keep and Bear arms is the deterrent and defence against any government that would seek to overthrow us. We have experienced such governments in the past and we remain wary of any that might come to our present or future. Maintaining our power advantage, that is what the Second Amendment is for.
Now it is true that we could amend the Constitution and permit Congress to pass weapon restrictions for public safety. We have not and likely will not for two reasons, one practical and minor, And the other paramount. The practical reason: we’ve seen other countries disarm law abiding citizens and have not seen them become safer societies.
Restrictions accompany an increase in violent crime and leave the population more vulnerable, especially to mass crime as they have grown accustomed to waiting for authority.
Australia had a mandatory buy-back programme. They got 33 per cent compliance on the high estimate and loudly declared the programme a success, hoping that no one would notice that sending three quarters of their citizens’ gun stockpiles into secrecy is not exactly what the law was designed to do.
Canada abandoned their voluntary registry programme because it was futile; few complied.
The UK has been most ‘successful’ with its gun restrictions, probably because the courts have essentially criminalised self-defence.
After the restrictions came into effect, violent crime rates soared.
The Norway shooter rampaged for 90 minutes and took 77 lives. The London riots raged for days while people locked doors.
The Woolwich killers stood with bloody hands over the solider they had slain for 20 minutes, unchallenged. In the Paris theatre, the terrorists had the Opportunity to reload, and that more than once.
Mass gun crimes happen in gun-free zones, almost without exception. And although it is difficult to measure guns and crime prevention, by definition you are looking for crimes that did not happen, about once a year some high profile commentator will compile a list of stories that did make the news, as Eugene Volokh did in the Washington Post a few months ago.
The paramount reason we will not accept Second Amendment restrictions, however, is because it reduces our sovereignty to fading words on an old piece of parchment. If the government breaks faith with us and we are not armed, then we are not capable of enforcing the terms of the contract. We are not only vulnerable to this current government, one that has proven quite untrustworthy in protecting our lives or our liberty, but also to the ones that come after it. If we allow restrictions, then our sovereignty is lost.
The ‘common sense’ schemes ask us to trade the unlikely chance of short-term security for the promise of a future with freedom. We will not make that trade. To us, that is common sense.