Thoughts on Gun Control

My views on gun control have changed over the past 30+ years. At one point I often wore a t-shirt that read “Gun Control Means Being Able to Hit Your Target”.  I moved to a more traditional libertarian position when I argued that as long as the state was armed, so to must individuals be seeing in a possible state monopoly on violence the harbinger of an oppressive regime. However, when I came to oppose war—starting with the Vietnam War and continuing to the current time—I came to also oppose violence in the political sphere. And when I grew to taking stances against particular weapons systems, such as the cruise missile, I came to also oppose weapons designed for more intimate killing. Just as opposing war lead me to opposing political violence, opposing weapons of mass destruction lead me to opposing the availability of domestic weapons.

In Toronto a young person was recently killed in a high school. In some of the responses I’ve come across, this killing was blamed on illegal weapons. Toronto Mayor David Miller’s call for a handgun ban is an interesting response—it points to the fact that guns are almost always produced legally, often with direct or indirect state subsidy. Guns don’t magically appear. The skills and equipment necessary to manufacture guns, either for military or home use, aren’t easily acquired. Certainly in North America, the guns used in murder are overwhelmingly legally produced.

If we are ever going to move towards a society where war is not a tool to advance national, sectarian or economic interests, we are going to first have to stop using
violence to respond to our personal slights and frustrations and anger. And one step
towards decreasing the impact of violence inn our homes and community is to end the local arms race. We need to end the manufacturing and distribution of weapons of limited, communal violence. If we can take the steps necessary to make violence in our neighbourhood less possible, we will be taking major steps towards making war and political violence unacceptable.

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