One of the issues that repeats itself in practically any gun argument is the trope wherein the anti-gun party commences its argument by stating: “We are not here to take your hunting shotgun. We are here to ban some extremely dangerous firearm that is only useful for killing other people.” Many times the people who are trying to defend their gun rights are lured into attempting to argue that their firearm of choice is actually meant for sports, and not actually meant for combat or self-defense. The extent to which this line is bought by gun rights advocates is quite fearsome – I have had numerous discussions with European gun owners who told me they actually feared discussing the concept of armed self-defense in public for fear of reprisals from the government.
It is important to understand that in these cases, the antis are often not deliberately lying. They do not intend to abolish the ownership outright – and there is no European country where gun ownership has been totally abolished. Even in the United Kingdom, individuals can buy shotguns and rifles if they prostrate themselves before the state sufficiently. That said, the right to bear arms in those countries has been extinguished completely as a social institution. (While a right of course is innate, and cannot be abolished by government fiat, the practice of defensive gun ownership has been de-facto eradicated in most of Europe).
To be clear, what the anti-gunners oppose is not guns as such. They are not lying, in that sense. What they oppose is the notion of people owning weapons. To an anti-gunner, there is no legitimate application, in modern society, of private armed force. He intends to take it from you, either by outright banning the ownership of weapons, or by making it as bothersome and complicated as possible. Nobody believes, of course, that introducing ‘universal background checks’ will prevent criminals from buying guns – but it might reduce gun ownership by, say, 1%, just by making it as bothersome and irritating as possible. Nibble a bit there, a bit there, and eventually the amount of gun owners decreases – like that of smokers – until it becomes politically tenable to do anything to restrain their rights and freedoms.
At first it might appear – and millions of gun owners the world around believe this – that you can compromise with these people, after all not all of us personally own guns as weapons, if we but explain to them rationally that our guns are not weapons, we can preserve our hobby…
Every gun rights organization around the world that tried to have this as their driving strategy has been utterly crushed. The reason is simple: once you’ve accepted the narrative that the only legitimate reason to own firearms is to use them in the shooting sports, most people do not empathize with your desire to participate in shooting sports. When the average person – who does not have the shooting sports as their hobby – is offered the chance to choose between some gun control measure that is peddled as increasing the security of his children, and the right of some person he doesn’t know to engage in a strange hobby, he will only naturally choose his children’s security. (Obviously, in real life, these measures won’t make him safer, but he doesn’t have any way to know that).
Sadly, while the more advanced and knowledgeable segments of the RKBA movement have already understood this, there are still millions of people – especially outside the US – that haven’t quite grasped this concept. The lesson of the past few decades of gun rights activism is one that needs to be spread far and wide, beyond the core of the RKBA faithful.
The only meaningful strategy to defend the right to bear arms is to recognize what the Founding Fathers and the Framers of the Constitution have meant it as: a right to have weapons, implements of self-defense with which you will fight and kill people who intend to do you harm. Self-defense is a concern that all human beings share, and if you can poise an alternate narrative – telling the listener, in effect, that the right to bear arms is the mechanism by which you mean to enhance your own safety (a desire everyone shares), and that it arguably also enhances his safety, you will be able to forge a universalist argument.
The truth is, we support the right to bear arms – and we own various guns and other implements of combat – because we recognize that there is evil in the world, and because we hope we are prepared to face it with guns in hand. If we attempt to cede our opponents’ argument, to try and haggle with them based on the false notion that our firearms are not tools of self-defense, we will end up humiliated and vanquished – as gun rights advocates around the world have been.
Only digging in on the position of the truth – yes, I defend guns because guns are useful for killing criminals and tyrants – is going to be successful. Only the truth shall set you free.