Original Sin and Guns

“You know, obviously, if he comes inside the residence and assaults you, can you ask him to go away?”

That’s the advice that a 911 operator gave a woman who called to report a break-in last year. Having explained that “I don’t have anybody to send out there” (the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office is closed on weekends, of course) the public servant offered the victim this shrewd counsel.

It was, apparently, of little practical use to the woman, who was choked and raped by the intruder ten minutes later.

Girl-at-RangeConsider the operator’s suggestion in the context of the gun debate. Supporters of gun control legislation – about half of the country – wholly predicate their arguments on two assumptions: 1). We can trust the government to provide for our personal safety, and 2).  It’s safer to cooperate with an attacker than to resist them.

Both of these ideas were very much at play in the Josephine County case. In their cultural context, in fact, the 911 operator’s violently naive statements really ought to be unsurprising.

It’s not hard to see where gun control advocates might derive these assumptions. If the first is true, we can expect elected officials to be virtuous. In other words, a decision-making body will tend towards increasingly moral choices as it grows to include more human beings.

If the second is true, criminals are not particularly interested in harming you. Home invaders do not have a human desire to do violence, but purely financial motives brought about by outside circumstance.

imagesThe ultimate foundation of gun control advocacy, then, is the notion that man is good. If this premise is true, in fact, it actually makes the arguments for gun control rather compelling.

But it is not true. In fact, it’s so plainly and calamitously wrong that it must take some intellect to trick oneself into believing it. I’d say, moreover, that no doctrine in human history has been responsible for more evil than the notion that man is good.

Last month, I happened upon Gina Luttrell’s column “Guns Aren’t the Answer to Rape.” Luttrell concludes her piece by cutting right to the core of the gun dispute.

Suggests that people are “naturally” rapists

I will be the first person to admit and to say, that rape, just like any other kind of violence, is not going to be completely eradicated from our society. However, again, if you look at the claim that women should simply be armed in order to prevent their own rape, there is a fundamental assumption in there that rape is natural, can happen at any time, and that we should just prevent against it like we do a cold or natural disasters. You’re basically assuming that people (and, implicitly, men, although of course men are not the only ones who rape) are inherently rapists. And that certainly is a disturbing thought.

Though Luttrell’s analysis of the gun divide is spot-on, it’s unclear how she chose her side. She gives us no reason to think that rape is entirely environmental except that the alternative is disturbing. Conversely, I can point out that dolphins and orangutans are known to commit violent rapes. Likewise, testosterone has been shown to reduce empathy and is found at high levels in rapists.

earthquake-4-sep10-0073Perhaps Luttrell is equating the natural with the good. Admittedly, if I heard the statement “rape is natural” in isolation, I might assume the speaker was offering a moral defense of rape. Yet Luttrell has dealt eloquently with this problem already: disease and earthquakes are natural. And while most of us are now aware of this fact, we have not become apologists for malaria or Krakatoa.

Moreover, we are given the power to save many people from both of these horrors – to “just prevent against it” – by our knowledge of their origin: the natural processes of a flawed world. Medicine and disaster-preparedness would be less successful if we instead pretended that the world is otherwise than it is.

There is little need for liberty if there is no cause for cynicism. John Adams said that he distrusted rulers because he perceived “danger from all men.” We should be glad that Adams had this cynical temperament; otherwise, we might be even less free than we are today.

We should carry arms, then, because a world of perfect safety is not possible – and because we couldn’t trust politicians to create one if it were.

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