Gun rights is another issue where it seems nobody ever tries to understand the other side’s perspective. I am empathetic to people who want to own handguns and other weapons for personal defense, hunting etc. I don’t agree with hunting for sport personally, but I don’t have a right to legislate my personal taste on others. And I don’t think people should generally own a gun, but I understand why many people do.
I think the main reason people don’t understand where the other person is coming from is simply differences in culture. I live in ohio in a city with a few hundred thousand people (and a few million in the metropolitan area). Guns are not absent from my city, but you just don’t see them in everyday life. Not counting the occasional holstered gun on the hip of a police officer I don’t even think I’ve seen a gun in person since I was about 14, and that was a hunting shotgun in a private home. People simply don’t walk around with visible firearms in my city, and if someone did it would be seen as unnecessary, excessive and deliberately intimidating. People would think “what’s that guy’s problem”? But this is a part of my local culture. By the same token there are places where people use machetes in everyday life and if someone walked around with one they would blend into the background. But imagine someone walked into burger king in new york and plopped their machete on the counter before ordering their meal. They would be asked to leave at best, arrested at worst. Different behavior is received differently in different places.
I can understand where people are coming from who either live where guns are pervasive and visible in society (if everyone seemed to have a gun I wouldn’t want to be the one schmuck who didn’t have one). And I can also understand why someone who lived an hour away from the police department or the emergency room would want a gun to protect themselves – you simply can’t count on the police or neighbors if you don’t have them nearby. You have to be self-sufficient because you’re basically living in the wild west. And while I’m sure the odds of someone coming to your country house and trying to kill you are probably remote, the odds are similarly remote anywhere but a) it still happens and b) we still think it justifies having a police force, so it ought to justify self defense measures too.
But I don’t live in the middle of nowhere, the police are about 2 miles away from my front door, the local fire station is literally on my street, and the hospital is close enough that if someone stabbed me I could likely walk there before passing out. So I just don’t feel the need to own a gun. And I don’t feel like I’m the only person who doesn’t have one.
Then there’s the legal arguments, people say it’s constitutionally protected because the second amendment is titled “right to keep and bear arms”. But the actual text protects the right of the states (not explicitly individuals) to maintain a “well regulated militia”. This was written before the US had a standing army and each state had their own smaller militia. On one hand I don’t think the letter of the second amendment guarantees individual’s right to own fire arms. But I think part of why it doesn’t is because that issue wasn’t even on their radar back then. It would’ve never occurred to them to ban weapons because a) automatic weapons were very new at the time and b) most other weapons were commonly used for hunting, not for sport but for survival. It was a given that people should have the right to own rifles and shotguns because many people relied on them for food, it would be like outlawing plows in farmland. So they simply didn’t address the question.
So what is my actual position? Let people decide the issue locally. If a city wants to ban handguns, let them. If they don’t, let them stay legal. I don’t think handguns or hunting weapons should be banned or protected federally. Also I think anyone who has private property, be it a store, church, home, whatever should have the right to prohibit firearms on their property. I do think there ought to be a federal ban on some weapons though, I don’t think people should be able to buy RPGs in walmart any more than they should be able to buy vials of anthrax on e-bay. And where to draw the line of what weapons civilians can own is of course going to be debatable. But I think in the spectrum from knives on one end to nuclear weapons on the other, any sane person will agree there has to be a line somewhere.
I’ve given a fair amount of thought to this over the years and tried to understand where conservatives are coming from on this and other issues. Any conservatives willing to look at it from my perspective?