The smoke had barely cleared from this week’s shooting in Las Vegas before the usual suspects began coming out of the woodwork to exploit the tragedy for their own political aims. It’s a tactic that we’ve seen time and again, and we should hope that it won’t be successful this time around either. The idea of punishing innocent gun owners for the misdeeds of a homicidal maniac should be as abhorrent to the right-minded as punishing the residents of an apartment complex because a murderer happened to live there. Yet that is the only proposal for action that we ever hear from the left.
The idea that crime could be reduced by banning guns is an old one that has been shown time and again to be false. It fails to stand up to scrutiny, both empirical and theoretical. As the old saying goes, God created men but Sam Colt made them equal. If guns could be completely banned, it would only lead to an increase in criminality, as the largest, strongest, and most brazen criminals would no longer have to fear the consequences of being shot by their smaller, older, or weaker victims.
It goes without saying, of course, that guns can never be completely banned. To think that governments could ban 19th-century technology that can be built with relatively simple machine tools is the height of folly. And as long as police and soldiers are armed with guns and are able to be bribed, there will always be a steady flow of black market firearms.
Everything good can be abused, but that abuse doesn’t make the misused good evil. The nature of freedom is that bad people will sometimes use good things for evil purposes. Food is a good thing that gives us the sustenance we need, but some people use it to overeat and damage their health. Cars and trucks can be used to transport people and goods but they can also be abused, by drag racing on public streets or, as we have seen in Europe, driving them into crowds of people. Guns can be used for sport, for providing food for families, and to defend people against criminals, but they can also be misused to kill innocent people.
Because human nature is fallen, evil exists and it will never be completely eradicated. And as much as we would like to see evil eradicated, often the quest to eradicate evil can end up spawning even greater evils. Blackstone’s maxim comes to mind, that it’s better for ten guilty men to escape punishment than for one innocent person to suffer. The necessity of tolerating evil grates against our innate desire to see justice done and the wicked punished, but those desires need to be tempered.
The only way to bring about the gun control that many in the United States clamor for would be to establish a totalitarian police state along the lines of East Germany or the Soviet Union, with 100% surveillance and armies of informants ready to turn in their neighbors in an instant. Not only would that be a nightmarish world in which to live, it wouldn’t even be effective at keeping guns out of the hands of murderers. Governments can’t keep guns, knives, and drugs out of prisons today, so why do some labor under the assumption that government can do on a large scale what it has proven incapable of doing on the small scale?
For those who value freedom, gun control is anathema. They understand the means by which gun control would be enforced and the consequences of limiting private gun ownership. No one wants to see innocents slaughtered, but restricting gun ownership is not and never will be an effective way to prevent murderers from committing their heinous crimes.