A family member sent me a link to this video over email and asked for my response. Below is what I wrote back.
I know your mind’s pretty made up on this issue. But since you sent this to me, it seems like the courteous thing to do is reply.
I would ask you to read this whole thing if you’re going to read any of it, and to read all of it before you respond. I know it’s long, but I don’t operate very well in sound bytes. It takes me a while to say what I think.
I can’t speak for the politicians. All I can do is explain my views on this political issue, and why I support certain gun control measures.
To the video:
1. He says, “I never, in 15+ years of doing this, arrested someone on a gun crime who had that gun LEGALLY.”
Yes. People who commit gun crimes often steal those guns from people who buy their guns legally. This was the case with both the Sandy Hook shooter and the Batman shooter. This is why I think it’s not going to be very effective to keep passing laws that make it harder for people to buy guns legally.
One solution to this would be to make it harder for people to steal guns. So maybe we pass a law that requires anyone who wants to purchase a gun above a certain caliber or magazine capacity to also purchase or prove that they own a gun safe, and/or pass a law where, if your gun is stolen and it wasn’t in a safe, that carries a criminal penalty (like a fine or a restriction on your ability to buy guns in the future.)
Big picture, though, I think it’s about supply and demand. Guns are easily stolen because guns are plentiful. If we effectively passed laws that decreased the number of guns in the country, they would be harder for criminals to come by. Would they still get them? Yes, some of them would. The really determined criminals will find a way to get their hands on a gun. But I think a lot of them wouldn’t. Consider the Sandy Hook killer. He stole his guns from his mom’s closet. If she didn’t have those guns where would he go? Would he have the determination and wherewithal to seek out an arms dealer and purchase the guns he needed? I doubt it. We can’t stop everyone from getting guns. But we can put up roadblocks, make it more difficult, and stop a lot of people from getting guns.
Looking elsewhere, I think there’s evidence to support this. For instance, ownership of fully automatic weapons (M-16s for instance) is heavily restricted in America. It’s not illegal to own one, but it’s really hard to come by a legal one. As a result, there aren’t very many crimes committed with M-16s. Can a determined person get one? Sure, if he has the money and the contacts. Is there demand? Sure. I’m pretty sure that if the Sandy Hook killer or the Batman killer were able to get their hands on a fully automatic weapon, they would have. But they couldn’t, so they didn’t.
You’ve got to ask yourself: if the biggest, most powerful weapon the Sandy Hook killer had been able to steal from his mom’s closet had been a Glock, would as many people have died? Would she have been any less safe from criminals?
2. He says, “I could have carried a gun, my entire time, anywhere in the United States, on planes, anywhere I chose. I didn’t. That was my choice!”
Not exactly. That was his special privilege, afforded him by his job. As a secret service agent, he has gone through intensive screening and special training to make sure a) he’s not a nutcase who’s going to hijack a plane and b) he knows how to use his gun responsibly, and when, as well as how to make sure it doesn’t get taken from him. Also, as noted above, the kind of gun he’s allowed to carry anywhere in American is limited by gun control laws.
He says “That was my choice!” Like every American has the right to choose whether or not they want to take an AR-15 as their carry-on item when they travel. Not only is that NOT the case, I’d be surprised if he really thought that SHOULD BE the case. Let me ask you: do you think every American should be able to bring an assault rifle with them on an airplane?
This is what gets me every time in this debate: people who act like it’s all or nothing. Like there’s only two positions in this debate: PRO gun control or ANTI gun control. The fact is, it’s a scale of deadly weapons, where “1″ is a pocket knife and “1000″ is a nuclear bomb. If there were only two positions, than one side (the “liberty” side) would have to believe that nuclear bombs should be for sale at Wal-mart, and the other side (the “safety” side) would believe that possession of a pocket knife should be a felony offense. I don’t think anybody believes pocket knives should be illegal or nuclear bombs should be for sale (well, you never know – maybe a handful of kooks out there. There’s always a handful of kooks.)
Instead, we’re somewhere on the scale with our current laws – say, everything below “300″ is legal, and everything above “300″ isn’t. And one side is arguing that everything above “295″ should be illegal, and the other side is acting like our essential liberty is defined by the guns between 295-300. And next year, one side will be arguing that everything below “305″ should be legal, and the other side will be acting like keeping the guns between 300-305 illegal is all that separate us from absolute, apocalyptic chaos.
When the fact is, ALL of us (except for some kooks) believe in some degree of gun control, and ALL of us (except for some kooks) believe in some degree of liberty. And all we’re really arguing about is whether or not we’re going to slide the laws 5 or 10 degrees to the left or right.
3. “It was my God given right to protect myself and my family.”
First off, I don’t think that’s a God-given right. At least not the Christian God. Jesus says love your enemies, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and then he demonstrates it by refusing to protect himself when he’s arrested and put on trial, as well as refusing to protect his family when John the Baptist (his cousin) is arrested and executed. And if you say, “well, that’s Jesus, he was special, that’s not for us to presume to be like him,” let me point out 2,000 years of martyrs who also refused to protect themselves and were willing to die rather than fight.
Secondly, he seems to imply that in order to protect his family, he needs to have a gun and be willing to kill someone with it. I don’t agree with that at all. There are nonviolent ways to protect your family.
I do believe we have a responsibility to protect our families, and the weak and innocent. But not at the expense of another person’s life. I will lay my life down for my family; I will die before I let someone hurt them. But if it becomes a choice between losing my life and taking someone else’s, I will lose my life, because my eternal destiny is secure.
These are my convictions; I hope that if they’re ever tested, I have the courage to stick to them.
Having said all that, I absolutely agree with him that our rights are not given to us (or taken away) by our government. To quote the great anarchist and rabble rouser Utah Phillips, “The state can’t give you freedom, and the state can’t take it away. You’re born with it, like your eyes, like your ears. Freedom is something you assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it away. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free.”
4. He says: “We live in a society of wolves. You do not fight back by creating more sheep!”
I don’t believe that we live in a society of wolves. I believe that we live in a society of people. Created in the image of God, loved by God enough that he would die for him. The worst, most depraved, most hardened and violent criminal in America is still loved by God and bears his image. God gives life, and God takes away life. If God decides that someone is too wicked to live, he can stop his heart in a second. If I decide that someone that God, in his mercy, has let live, is too wicked to live, than I am standing in judgement over and against God on that person. And Lord help me if I ever do that.
Maybe refusing to own a gun makes me a sheep. Jesus said “I send you out like sheep among wolves,” and he himself was led “like a lamb to the slaughter.” If believing that there is another way to fight evil in our world – a better way, JESUS’ way, the way of the cross and of laying down our lives – if that makes me a sheep like Jesus, then I’ll be a sheep.
5. He says, “I’m just a guy who wants to live and let live… but ladies and gentlemen, to use your tax dollars to pay a government that slowly but surely every day whittling away more and more of your ability to live and let live is not what people who died and bled for meant this country to be. That is not what [the flag] represents. That is not a piece of fabric, it’s not a tablecloth, that is an idea, an idea that’s unique to this place, right now right here!”
This little part of his speech is wonderfully libertarian. It’s not hard to hear Cheech and Chong shouting it in the ’70s. It could be copied word for word by someone who wants to legalize gay marriage, legalize marijuana (or any other drug) or keep abortion legal. Among a dozen other things.
Those are my thoughts. I want to be respectful of the places where we disagree, and don’t intend to offend you or instigate/rile you up in any way. If you want to respond back, I’m open. If you don’t, if you just want to agree to disagree, that’s fine with me too.