The Fetish and False Promise of Gun Bans

By Chicago 7 Min Read

The Left is doing its best to create a moral panic over semi-automatic rifles and every other firearm they can label “assault weapons”. Gun control activist David Hogg recently declared that there’s no home among Democrats for those who don’t support an outright ban on semi-automatic rifles, while New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie insists that America’s “fetish” for AR-15s and other modern sporting rifles is “destroying its sense of freedom.”

I’d say it’s actually the fetishizing of gun bans that’s destroying our sense of freedom, with prohibitionists like Hogg and Bouie serving as false prophets in pursuit of safety with their insistence that the only way to a safer society is by criminalizing the possession of commonly-owned firearms. And make no mistake, their issue isn’t just with semi-automatic rifles, but gun ownership in general, as Bouie himself made clear in his latest column.

It’s not just about the AR-15, of course. For many Americans, the right to own a gun is liberty itself — the very definition of what it means to live in a free country. But the question raised by the Maine shooting, and especially the lockdown that followed, is just how free that freedom is.

How free are you really when you know that a trip to the grocery store or a morning in prayer or a day at school or a night at the movies can end in your death at the hands of a gun? How free are you really when you protest on behalf of a cause you believe in and are met on the street by armed counter-demonstrators? How free are you really when state authorities have to lock down a city so that they can stop a mass shooter from striking again?

I have written before about the fiction that an “armed society is a polite society,” an aphorism taken from the science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein’s novel “Beyond This Horizon,” where men carry weapons and duel with one another over perceived slights and insults. An armed society, I argued, is a society in which fear and suspicion replace trust and equal regard. And in that society, democracy cannot work.

We’ve been an armed society even longer than we’ve been a republic, so if Bouie believes that democracy can’t work in a society where the right to keep and bear arms is respected then I guess he believes the United States has been a failed experiment from the get-go… which, now that I think about it, is also pretty standard thinking for folks on the Left these days.

Bouie tries to have it both ways, however. Despite his proclamation that we can’t be free while bad people are doing terrible things with firearms, the columnist couches his prohibitionist rhetoric with a tacit acknowledgment that guns aren’t going away.

It’s not that guns can’t be useful, but they should be tools, not totems. They have been used to secure freedom, of course, but they aren’t freedom in and of themselves. To think otherwise is to fetishize. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the worship of the gun as a symbol of American freedom grew even deeper in the years after the Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008, reduced the communal language of the Second Amendment — “A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State” — to an extraneous detail.

As Americans, we understand the ownership of guns as an individual right, but in so many respects it is an atomizing right. When given pride of place in our political lives, this particular right can cause the ties that bind society to fray. It can also consume the other rights we hold dear: the right to speak, the right to assemble, the right to worship and the right to live.

I don’t think that many Americans are fetishizing guns to begin with, but if Bouie is really so concerned about that then I’d humbly suggest that one way to get folks to view firearms as a tool instead of a totem would be to stop trying to ban them. The more that anti-gunners like Hogg and Bouie demand the eradication of commonly owned firearms, the more gun owners are going to hold tight to them.

Mask all the way off.

They want them all. They’ve always wanted them all.

— Firearms Policy Coalition (@gunpolicy) October 31, 2023

The real fetishization is with banning guns, not owning them. Rifles are used in just a small fraction of violent crimes, and less than half of all active shooting incidents, yet an “assault weapons” ban remains the Unholy Grail of the gun control lobby. We know that banning drugs hasn’t eradicated overdose deaths any more than banning alcohol a century ago ended drinking. Handgun bans in Washington, D.C. and Chicago failed to reduce violent crime, and in fact homicide and violent crime in general are lower in those cities now than when their bans were in effect. So why are anti-gunners like Bouie and Hogg so adamantly convinced that it’ll somehow be different if we ban so-called assault weapons?

I don’t have the answer, but I do know that tens of millions of Americans will never buy into the delusional belief that sacrificing our freedoms will lead to greater security. Just ask those Mainers who flocked to gun stores while a killer was on the loose. When their safety was threatened, they wanted a gun of their own, not a ban on gun sales. You don’t have to fetishize gun ownership to know that banning firearms is not only an affront to our constitutional rights but a decidedly dumb way to ensure our personal and collective safety.

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