For Your Own Good, Not Mine

Our local paper ran an article the other day about proposed state legislation to limit Californians to purchasing only one rifle or shotgun per month.  A similar limitation for handguns is already California law.  Despite serious questions about what such a law would actually accomplish (have multiple rifle/shotgun/handgun purchases in a single month been behind any mass shooting incident?), supporters remain staunch.

The article quoted Toni Wellon, founder and chair for the Coalition Against Gun Violence, which turns out to be an organization local to me.  “If you can buy one every month, you can have 12 at the end of the year – how many do you need?  These are just sensible gun laws that any person who owns one wouldn’t object to.”

Being of somewhat limited disposable income, it’s hard for me to imagine buying a single rifle or shotgun every month, let alone multiple ones. But it’s the logic and the implications that I find most disturbing.  It is representative of a growing assumption in our culture that some people know better than others and should be able to force others to do what they think is best through legislation.  This is not a cultural consensus sort of situation, though organizers always seem desperate to insist that it is.  They seem aghast at the idea that they are pushing their own private agendas.  Instead they insist that they are acting on behalf of the whole, for the good of the whole.

I don’t know how many rifles someone needs to acquire.  I don’t see it as my business to determine how many pairs of shoes someone owns.  I have a buddy who claims to have 200 pairs of Nike sneakers in showroom quality in his closet at home.  Is that how I would spend my money?  Nope.  But should there be a law limiting his purchases of sneakers?  On what grounds?  That nobody needs that many sneakers?   That it’s a poor use of his money?  That it exploits child labor in disadvantaged countries?

How about pumpkin spice lattes?  How many of those did people chug down during the Fall?  All that sugar and caffeine?  That’s certainly not healthy.  How many pumpkin spice lattes should a person be allowed to have in a given week or month?  After all, now that healthcare is subsidized, those excesses affect the bottom line for all of us!

Without any compelling evidence to limit the consumption of a given product, why should such limits be sought, and why should voters (or lawmakers) agree to them?  At one level they’re easy.  It’s probably a public relations nightmare fighting against a limit on the number of guns somebody can buy in a given month.  It sounds like an easy, relatively cheap way to demonstrate your concern about the levels of violence in our society today.  The number of people it curtails will probably be rather  small.  Proponents and legislators can claim to be “tough on guns” or whatever you want to call it without actually trying to impose limitations on the vast majority of gun owners and enthusiasts.

Everybody wins, it would seem.  Until the next mass shooting episode.  Oops.  Twelve is too many in a year.  We better make it six.  Oops.  Six wasn’t enough, better make it one.  Ooops.  Better just ban them completely.

I’d much prefer people deal with the underlying feelings of helplessness and despair and callous disregard for human life that seem common in these mass shootings. That’s a much larger issue than just limiting how many guns a person can own.  It risks revealing some unpopular realities about the glorious new society some people insist we are moving towards.  But until we take on that much harder task, it won’t matter how many guns people can buy.  People will continue to lash out and hurt one another with whatever they can get their hands on.  The only actual benefit will accrue to those in power who see it as their duty to tell us what is best for us, and force us to accept it if we won’t agree to it quietly.


2 Responses to “For Your Own Good, Not Mine”

  1. williamb Says:

    Your second to last paragraph hits the nail on the head. It’s just an entry point for a further reduction. What is it they say about letting the camels nose into the tent?
    It seems to me, and I know this will approach heresy on this blog, but every argument you make for gun control or banning guns you also need to be making that argument in regards to alcohol.
    So, for your one bottle per month allotment will it be tequila or bourbon? ;)

    • mrpaulnelson Says:

      I agree that the arguments for gun control would be better used against drugs, alcohol, cars, and any number of other things that nobody would dream of assailing these days. And these days, that would be a tough call to make!

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