L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 197, November 4, 2002
Special to TLE
Last Friday, as I was coming into work, I saw a friend of mine engaged in an animated discussion with the security guard. My friend walked out of the building looking disgusted, and I followed to find out what the trouble was. Turns out that Jim (not his real name) had committed an egregious faux pas: he had brought several shotguns to work in the trunk of his car. No, he was not preparing to go on a killing spree; he was going hunting after work. Because he had several thousand dollars worth of firearms in the car, he asked security to keep an eye on his vehicle. They responded by making him move his car off the property. A guard was dispatched to ensure that he did so.
Jim's experience was not especially surprising. Given the general public's hysteria about guns, it should have been expected. No one believed that Jim was going to start thinning the herds of middle management, or that he had any nefarious purpose at all in mind. Still, he had (intake of breath and furtive glances around) guns! Right here on company property ... guns!
That's the problem. Because of a lack of understanding on the part of the urban population, guns are now seen as dangerous and maleficent presences, not as inanimate objects. I doubt that corporate security believed that the guns would rise up and start blasting away of their own accord. I doubt that they thought anything at all. The mention of firearms has a remarkable ability to short-circuit the reasoning process of otherwise rational people.
Many times, when I have mentioned that I enjoy target shooting, or that I keep a rifle around the apartment for home defense, I am greeted with nervous glances. I'm a gun owner, and so they relegate to one of three groups: right wing wacko, hillbilly, or potential psycho. I am none of the above. Yet, because I enjoy shooting and believe in self-defense, I have been branded.
It is impossible to talk rationally about firearms with someone who starts from the premise that guns are inherently evil.
Any meaningful attempt to repeal the host of silly laws passed by the anti-gun lobby must be preceded by a meaningful attempt to educate people about the true nature of guns. They are not evil. They are tools, and their existence is morally neutral. Morality refers to actions, and comes into play only in discussions of how guns are used. A person using a gun to defend his family has done something morally good. A person who uses a gun to rob a store and kill the owner has done something evil. The guns themselves have no moral status.
Many on the anti-gun side of the argument will maintain that however they are used, guns are inherently dangerous. They are right. Guns are inherently dangerous. So are chainsaws, and so are lawn mowers. We do not ban tools simply because they can cause harm if used improperly; as individuals, we ensure that we, and the people we care about, know how to use them safely.
The gun-control debate must not focus on crime statistics and arguments about the Second Amendment. Any rational debate requires the participants to define their terms. As gun owners, we must make it a point to define the word "gun" as referring to a morally neutral object, and not a malevolent tool of right-wing nuts and gang members. Otherwise, we will have lost before we begin fighting.
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