Values are not derived from facts, and do not “follow” from facts. Thus, a correction in a person’s state of knowledge by the addition of new or correct facts does not, presto-chango, alter a person’s values. For this reason, one can never “win” a gun control debate by replacing or correcting the opposition’s false facts with true facts.
The facts are not why anti-gunners believe what they believe. In fact, the facts are often merely justifications for what they want to believe. At best, new facts may lead a person to re-evaluate his values, but, even then, the facts do not determine the values.
Consider as a case in point the fact that the English press is beginning to learn that the universal pistol ban enacted in 1997 following the Dunblane massacre has not delivered the country from gun crimes. And consider the reaction to this news.
In an article titled “Britain’s Tough Gun Control Laws Termed Total Failure” appearing in the May 3-16 issue of Britain’s venerable Punch magazine, Peter Woolrich writes:
“Four years after the Dunblane massacre, Britain’s tighter gun laws have failed completely… There are now an estimated 3 million illegal firearms in the UK, perhaps double the number of four years ago, and the only effect the knee-jerk political reaction that led to the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1997 has had is to shut down legitimate gun clubs.
“The new research suggests that in some areas a third of young criminals, classed as those aged 15 to 25 with convictions, own or have access to guns ranging from Beretta sub-machine guns to Luger pistols… ‘There is a move from the pistol and shotgun to automatic weapons,’ says Detective Superintendent Keith Hudson of the National Crime Squad. ‘We are recovering weapons that are relatively new– and sometimes still in their boxes from eastern European countries.’
“Home office figures soon to be released will show that, overall, armed crime rose 10 percent in 1998…”
The article goes on to favorably quote Bill Harriman, a spokesman for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, who criticizes the current legislation for focusing on the law-abiding instead of being directed at illegally-held firearms. The article further pointedly notes that “…the government had plenty of evidence at its disposal to realize that simply banning certain types of weapons is ineffective. For example, fully-automatics have been prohibited since 1937, but it has not stopped criminals from using them.”
Now with these facts, the author could go in at least two directions. He could use this information as the beginning of an examination of whether gun control is a valid or effective means of securing reductions in crime, for example, by questioning whether it ever can in fact succeed, or whether it imposes too high a price on the law-abiding. Alternatively, he could take it as evidence that not enough restrictions have yet been enacted.
At this point we are on pins and needles! What, oh what, will our British author do? What direction will his values or his “knee-jerk response” take him?
The article concludes by examining existing loopholes and inconsistencies in the current law, such as the fact that it did not control access to ammunition and permitted persons who could not acquire or own pistols to acquire and own shotguns, and criticizes the “laxity” of the Dunblane legislation.
It quotes the Home Affairs Committee recommendation that “…the time is now right for Parliament to address the entire issue and produce an completely new Firearms Act. Any lesser step will be insufficient.”
Nowhere does the article argue that new legislation could or should re-establish pistol ownership by law-abiding members of shooting clubs, let alone raise the issue of whether people have a right to the means to self-defense.
One of the interesting, and revealing, things about the article is its seemingly tough criticism of Parliament for a “knee-jerk” political and ultimately ineffectual response, which, the article implies, Parliament should have known would not work.
By sheer coincidence, my wife and I were in England at the time the Dunblane legislation and report were being considered. The English media and populace were absolutely rabid for the banning of pistols. Leaders of sportsmen’s clubs who appeared on television, wrote op-ed pieces or lobbied Parliament to defend the rights of law-abiding citizens to own and shoot pistols for sport– self-defense is a taboo subject– were simply savaged in the papers and on television.
Often the strongest and angriest criticism was that, by resisting the proposed ban, the country’s pistol owners were not respecting the grief of the parents whose children had been massacred!
One would never know any of this reading the Punch article. The way it is written, one would think the poor English people were blameless in the outcome, patiently sitting by expectantly, and hoping merely that the experts in Parliament would protect and serve them well. And then, lo and behold, the bumblers simply did the most expedient and easy thing.
Sure, a “complete ban” sounded good, it played well on television, but ultimately– and they should have known this– it would prove ineffectual. And now, now, things are worse. By George, this time, they better get it right!
Refusal To Charge
And this refusal of the author to charge the people with their own stupidity and cupidity, this refusal of the people to own up and take responsibility, is symptomatic. In the end, the article exhibits the same response as the original response to Dunblane. We bear no responsibility for ourselves; we take nothing upon ourselves. Government must do something to protect us.
Close those loopholes, clamp down further. Evil still works unencumbered, and you, our protectors, must stop it.
It is this underlying “knee-jerk” reflex, this utter and childish dependency of the individual and society upon government, this learned helplessness, this presumption that the individual cannot act, that only the state can act, which is the reason for the prohibition on pistols.
This valuelessness of the individual, this timidity, this rejection of personal responsibility, is why mounting revelations of the ineffectualness of gun laws lead only to demands for more and more restraints, and why the facts prove powerless to change men’s minds. It is not information that is lacking. It’s that there’s no there there.
This article was originally published in American Handgunner magazine and is reproduced with permission.
Sam Cummings: “I am not personally an enthusiast of the M-16.”
Sen. Stuart Symington: “In Vietnam they are enthusiastic because of the weight.”
Cummings: “The World War Two carbine was a useless weapon… Everybody loved it because it was light, but it was a dog.”
Symington: “Why is it a dog?”
Cummings: “Ballistically. You can have a hatful of the cartridges in your stomach and still live long enough to blast the man who fired at you.”
Stenographer: “He’s right! He’s right! I was in the Battle of the Bulge and I shot a German six times with a carbine and he was able to shoot me!”
– US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, 1967