Everyone's a Cowboy: The Paradoxical Relationship Between Gun Control and Self Defense

By Comrade Sloth

With gun control standing as one of the most dominant issues surrounding the 2016 presidential race, candidates certainly have plenty of current events to draw their platforms upon: the US saw at least 352 mass shootings in the year 2015.

Every time we see these events in the news, it seems to reignite the debate over gun ownership rights. There are two camps that seem to dominate the argument: gun lobbying groups, who have proposed arming civilians in the hope that a hero will emerge in situations of public threat, and gun safety advocates, who suggest tightening current restrictions on the purchase and sale of firearms. The ultimate goal of both groups is the same: to keep dangerous firearms out of the hands of those who would cause harm. However, because their solutions are so directly opposed, gun policy in America continues to be a stalemate. As a result of this gridlock, access to firearms will continue to make our society less safe until it is addressed in a comprehensive manner.

President Barack Obama addresses the audience at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Centre in Paris, calling for stricter regulations on firearm sales in the wake of the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting.

President Barack Obama addresses the audience at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Centre in Paris, calling for stricter regulations on firearm sales in the wake of the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting.

Critics of gun ownership certainly raise a valid point. First and foremost, it’s not reasonable to expect that even a clear-minded civilian with a concealed weapon could locate and put down a shooter when even trained policemen have hit ratios that hover around 18%. Add that to the stress of a panicked crowd and a lack of tactical training and that ratio drops down to nearly zero- meaning that any shots fired at the attacker are almost certain to miss their target. Even if an armed person in the crowd does miraculously manage to hit the original shooter, in a panicked crowd of screaming people, they stand a good chance of being mistaken for the initial threat and subsequently shot by yet another hero. Anecdotal examples of gun owners stopping mass shootings notwithstanding, the number of accidental and intentional shootings far outweigh the benefits of an armed society.

On the other hand, making things illegal to acquire doesn’t seem to do much to dissuade the public from getting their hands on them. Just look at how well that has worked with the War on Drugs: after investing over a trillion dollars into prosecuting people for the sale and use of illegal substances, the U.S. remains number one in the world when it comes to criminal drug use. Even if cutting off legal access to weaponry did work, there’s little chance of that becoming a reality as long as the National Rifle Association, the country’s largest gun lobbying group, maintains its strong influence over Washington policymakers. Every time a mass shooting occurs, gun sales skyrocket as the public fears that this may be their last chance before the federal government clamps down and makes guns more difficult to obtain. With the firearms industry generating over $6 billion in annual revenue, manufacturers and lobbyists aren’t going to go down without a fight.

Either way, the discussion about tightening controls on gun shop sales is becoming more obsolete by the day. With the advancement of 3-D printing technology, it is now possible for anyone with one of these printers to manufacture a plastic gun that fires – and passes through metal detectors. One man created his own AR-15 using uploaded files on the internet, where they were copied over 100,000 times before the State Department took them down.

Unfortunately, with the amount of political gridlock surrounding this very controversial issue, nothing much has seemed to change when it comes to the real problem of gun violence in our country. Many Americans hold a deep-seated fear that unless they can defend themselves with firearms, they are vulnerable against any armed gunman that could burst through their door at any moment.  Whether or not this fear is rational, we can’t ignore what it means: that people do not trust the police to keep them safe. Until we address the underlying issue of a lack of confidence and cohesion between civilians and police forces, people will continue to take the matter of personal protection into their own hands, no matter how deadly the cost.