There’s Nothing More Dangerous than Law-Abiding Citizens

While I was getting some work done at Starbucks this past weekend, a guy at the table next to mine began to pontificate loudly about guns.  (This was the third topic he’d gone through loudly.  I think he enjoyed hearing himself talk).   His point of view was not particularly original.  He agrees that there are a lot of guns out there, maybe even too many, but, hey, it’s a dangerous world, so we have to protect ourselves.  And if we outlaw guns, then they’ll just be in the hands of criminals, and the good guys won’t have any way to defend themselves.  This is hardly a unique point of view.  It’s something that we’re all used to hearing–if we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns, as the bumper sticker goes.

And….look, obviously a lot of people find this persuasive.  But we can just take a step back as a society, talk about this particular argument, and agree that it might be the most ridiculous of all the anti-gun control arguments?  It is overly simplistic and I’m just sick of it.

Let’s go through the obvious first.  There is no political discussion, in the United States, about outlawing guns.  None.  There are political discussions about outlawing automatic weapons, and about making sure people with restraining orders and domestic assault convictions don’t have guns.  But even if we were talking about strict gun control, there are lots of countries who have, if not outlawed, then at least severely restricted gun ownership, and guess what!  They were not taken over by roving gangs of criminals!  Japan has virtually outlawed gun ownership, and Tokyo is one of the safest major cities in the world.  In Britain, it’s hard for anyone to even find a gun, and yet it still has law and order–and even it’s own Law and Order.  So this isn’t really a concern.

Secondly, let’s address this idea that we should be so much more scared of criminals–whatever people mean by that–having guns.  Yes, obviously, I don’t want criminals, or anyone else, having easy access to guns, and this is a point in favor of gun control.  After all, tightening gun control laws certainly isn’t going to make it easier for outlaws* to get guns.  And street crime, especially in certain neighborhoods, is a problem.  But my greatest fear with weapons honestly isn’t whatever it is that these people mean by “outlaws.”  My greatest fears involve law-abiding citizens.

I’m afraid that a law-abiding citizen, or someone who thinks of himself as one, will shoot one of my teenage neighbors for not looking like he belongs in the neighborhood.  I’m scared of a law-abiding citizen killing me or a friend because he’s irritated in a movie theater and thinks he has a right to kill someone if they talk back.  I worry about a law-abiding citizen murdering one of my friends’ kids because they’re playing loud music.  I’m concerned a law-abiding citizen will forget they have a gun in their bag and shoot me or a friend at Starbucks.  Or accidentally fire at my car while cleaning their gun.  Or leave their gun where their child or mine will find it.  I’m terrified that a law-abiding citizen, or one of their kids, will shoot up my church, or theater, or my child’s school.  And I’ll admit it–just as they’re hoping, I’m nervous around all the law-abiding citizens who come packing heat to a lobby day or a festival just because they can, law-abiding citizens who have something to prove and who joke regularly about how me and mine should be shot.

So, yes.  If guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns.  And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.




*Seriously, what do people mean when they say this?  Are they afraid of Black Bart, and think they only thing keeping their family safe is their official Red Ryder carbine action 200 shot range model air rifle?  Because I do not think that is as big a fear as they think it is.


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