The Gun Control Paradox
As the new and improved Assault Weapons Ban is debated, it is instructive to study the strange circular logic used by gun control proponents to justify the banning of certain weapons for civilian use.
At the heart of most gun-control efforts is a desire to ban so-called "weapons of war," based upon the premise that such things have no place in civil society. And perhaps they're right, at least about actual "weapons of war." There are few people arguing for the legalization of rocket launchers for civilian use, and nobody wants to see people building nuclear weapons as a cottage industry. So the restriction of some types of weapons seems perfectly reasonable and necessary.
The problems arise when legislators attempt to classify firearms as "weapons of war" when such firearms do not warrant the label in the slightest. Many legislators and pundits have described rifles such as the AR-15 as a "weapon of war," but of course no competent army would ever outfit its soldiers with such a weapon, which is merely semiautomatic. Modern armies use rifles that are capable of fully-automatic fire, a feature which is more or less banned for civilian usage. The United States armed services, for instance, use variants of the M16, a more powerful version of the AR-15. Thus it is nonsensical to classify a civilian version of a military weapon as "military-style." Style does not equal substance, and an AR-15 is not substantive in the face of its military cousin.
This fact, however, is what gun-control proponents seize upon when making their case. After all, if the military is armed with M16s, and an AR-15 couldn't possibly hope to compete with the military's armaments, then why does any civilian need the latter firearm, given that it would prove effectively useless against a tyrannical government? Hence the call to ban these and other weapons on the basis of their inability to protect against tyranny.
Pause to consider that line of thought for a moment: because current civilian weapons are unable to forestall or defeat a tyrannical government, we must ban them. Does not something seem off about this kind of twisted logic?
It is true to state that all the weapons to which modern American civilians have access would very likely be ineffective were the military to truly mobilize against the citizenry. The armed forces have the above-mentioned fully-automatic weapons, along with tanks, grenades, gasses and, most ominously, drones. Civilians have some semiautomatic rifles and pistols, along with shotguns and revolvers. Three guesses as to who would win that fight.
And yet it is still nutty to insist that the answer is more restrictions on more types of weapons. Of course, gun- control advocates are calling for such bans in part to protect civilians from each other -- to stop the next Sandy Hook or Aurora, for instance. There is both nobility and reason in such a rationale. Yet when gun rights advocates point out that the Second Amendment was created to protect against tyranny, and that we should thus be cautious in banning the weapons it guarantees us, we are once again treated to a host of claims as to how the Second Amendment is now irrelevant because the government is inarguably more powerful than the citizenry could ever hope to be. So the argument becomes at once both rational and confusing: we cannot compete against the military, but we can and should strip the populace of many firearms in order to protect ourselves from ourselves. Say what?
The other side of the coin, however, is equally thorny and problematic: if private citizens are not equipped to take on the modern U.S. military, should we give citizens more armaments -- allow the sale of surface-to-air missiles, say, and make it easier to purchase fully automatic weapons? The answer is almost certainly no; were these weapons easily accessible to the populace at large, and fell in the wrong hands, the destruction wrought could be catastrophic on a scale no single firearm could create.
So we are left with a great philosophical condrundrum: on the one hand, people shouldn't have access to hyperpowerful weapons with which they could easily kill hundreds or thousands of people, while on the other hand, it seems bizarre to conclude that a people's lack of adequate armaments as a defense against tyranny justifies a further stripping of Second Amendment rights.
While there is no easy answer to this quandary, one thing is clear: we should not be so easily seduced by the strange circular logic of gun control advocates; their crusade creates questions about civilian disarmament that should be answered before any bill is passed.