Ben Schwartz

There are only a couple of answers I take seriously when it comes to why people should be able to own so-called “assault rifles.”

One is something along the lines of, “I think guns are cool and fun and the Constitution says I can have them, so I have them.”

The other is home defense, however unlikely it is that such a situation would ever arise (and it is extremely unlikely).

Yet, whenever there is a mass slaughter of Americans such as occurred in Orlando, the conversation on social media is always directed by gun rights absolutists to that ol’ chestnut; that guns are necessary to protect liberty from tyranny.

One would have thought that such sentiment would have gone out the window over 100 years ago, once governments started rolling out tanks and dropping bombs out of airplanes, yet, here we are.

There’s some cognitive dissonance to the logic of these folks that I’ve never been able to square.

In my observation it’s this particular group that is typically the most vocal about their support of the military. And when you point out that all the AR-15s in the world won’t do much good against a government that controls the world’s most powerful military, the response is always that the military, and veterans, will come down on the side of the people when “the trouble” comes (the trouble is rarely specified). Same deal with law enforcement. When the stuff hits the fan, they think law enforcement will side with the people.

That’s good, because all those “I support the troops” and “Thin Blue Line” posts on Facebook are going to look mighty dumb if you are out there fighting soldiers and cops.

But the next logical question is, if the military and law enforcement officers will defend the people (and I too believe they would), who exactly are they defending the people against? Who are the tyrants? The IRS? The EPA? The Food and Drug Administration?

Maybe, I guess. The Wall Street Journal just published on Friday a piece from former Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn and government watchdog Adam Andrzejewski which posited that the Obama Administration is spending millions of dollars outfitting seemingly bureaucratic agencies like the IRS and EPA with weapons and gear.

The article poses the question, “Who are they preparing to battle?”

Hmm, dramatic indeed. But even if every word of the article is accurate, it still doesn’t add up: 2,316 IRS special agents, 3,700 Veterans Affairs law enforcement officers, 183 “heavily armed special agents” from the Food and Drug Administration. Those are the numbers to article cites and that is not exactly an intimidating fighting force. Unless the EPA is hiding a secret army of Lord of the Rings Orcs or something, it’s hard to see how this would be a situation the real military couldn’t handle when “the trouble” comes.

So… why the need for armed gun nuts, then? Are they really needed to defend liberty? They are just going to get in the way when “the trouble” comes, like a five-year-old who thinks he’s helping put away groceries but really is just spilling the milk all over the kitchen floor.

Honestly, I don’t think banning certain types of guns that are currently available is cost-effective or realistic, and I do not think that eliminating “assault rifles” would have much of an impact on gun violence in America. Rifles of any kind, not just “assault rifles,” account for a minor fraction of murders (between two and three percent in 2011, according to the FBI. Five times more people were killed by knives that year). Including gun suicides, which typically account for around 60-percent of gun deaths, rifles are on the hook for around one-percent of total gun deaths in a given year.

But that doesn’t mean that action is not necessary, and it doesn’t mean that America isn’t some sort of weird gun cult.

It’s hard to imagine even a reasoned national discussion taking place (never mind any sort of gun control reform) when people can’t be honest with themselves about the role of guns in our society. Serious people simply must step up and start hashing this out, because we cannot continue to subject each other, and each other’s children, to this kind of violence.

I’m a gun owner myself. I like them. I think they are cool and fun. But I don’t harbor any delusions that I am somehow protecting liberty by owning them.

I do that when I vote.

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