I finally found an argument against the assault weapons ban that makes sense. It is an argument I can empathize with and relate to, and it has nothing to do with either self-defense or liberty.
Mike and I were working out together, and discussing gun control. Specifically, we were talking about how stupid and crazy people can get when trying to explain why they are against gun control. Both of us support gun control, so we are both a little baffled by the depth of raw emotion that people have over the issue.
Specifically, Mike pointed out, people here in Texas seem to completely flip out over the assault rifle ban. Why do people get so crazy and emotional about the assault rifle ban?
Then Mike mentioned this analogy…
What if someone came along and said: We’ve done a study, and most injuries happen at gyms by people using free weights. That’s dumbbells and barbells, for those of you who don’t know the lingo. So a team of researchers, made up mostly of people who don’t work out themselves but who like to study things and use statistics, have gotten together and recommended that free weights be banned.
They say: “You can get a perfectly good workout using a weight machine. You don’t need free weights to work out. There’s no real reason that you have to have them, plus they cause all of these injuries. They are dangerous. In order to protect people, we will ban them.”
Now how do you feel?
I will admit this: part of the reason I’ve always felt awkward in discussions about gun control is that I simply don’t like guns.
They are loud. They are messy. They don’t accomplish anything that I particularly want to accomplish (I’m not a hunter). I grew up in neighborhoods where I felt safe and protected. Moreover, guns are just unfamiliar to me: when I was young, my dad took me out in a field with a BB gun and we shot small clay disks. But that is literally the extent of my exposure to guns. So I don’t like guns. It’s not rational: I’m just not into them.
As a result, I simply don’t feel any empathy for the topic. When someone talks about banning a particular kind of gun, I simply don’t care. But when suddenly the conversation is about something that I do care about… now everything changes. And this made me realize something about the gun debate.
People aren’t really mad because their “freedom” is threatened…… not really.
People aren’t really mad because they need the gun to defend themselves…. not really.
People are mad because they like their guns!
It is honest-to-goodness that simple. When you want to take away a gun-lover’s gun, you are messing with his hobby.
It’s not my hobby, so I’ve always felt indifferent to it. But when I take a look at the analogy, the idea of “banning free weights” at gyms, I understand better what it is like. Now (in the analogy) they are talking about MY HOBBY, and suddenly it matters!
Now, I suddenly have a little more empathy for the other side.
If I were actually up in front of someone who was arguing to ban free weights, I would say something like this:
“Look, I know that a lot of people injure themselves with free weights, and obviously I want that to happen less. But the problem is that people can just walk into any gym and go and work with free weights. They are stupid, and they don’t know what they are doing, and they hurt themselves. I’m totally fine with requiring that people take a class, or a test, or get a license in order to use free weights. I will take any test you want me to! But I have worked long and hard to become really good at using free weights, and I see no reason why I should have to stop just because there are people who don’t know what they are doing!”
Wow. Did ya notice? I totally just used the pro-gun argument against the assault rifle ban.
Moreover, it felt like the right kind of argument to me…. when applied to a hobby that I actually care about.
Obviously, using free weights and owning an assault rifle are not exactly the same. That’s why it is called an “analogy” and not an “exactly-the-same-thing-ogy”.
But the take-home point is important, I think: when you cut through the crap of all of the ideological arguments about protection and rights and the constitution and freedom and liberty, there is a very simple and relateable fact at the root of all of the emotion surrounding the assault weapon ban: you’re messing with people’s hobbies.
In some ways, I think the anti-regulation crowd should just frame the argument this way from the start. It would be more honest, for one thing. But for another thing, it would be more relateable. If you have a hobby that you have dedicated hours, days, maybe years of your life getting really really good at, then you get upset when someone says “you can’t do that any more”. Of course you do: you wouldn’t be human if you did not.
And I’ll be honest, now that I’ve thought about it in these terms—now that I’ve pondered the horror of the government taking away my free weights—I find myself more open to having a discussion about the issue.
Well… it’s not like my mind has been completely changed! I still think there are important differences between free weights and assault rifles. It is not an “exactly-the-same-thing-ogy”, after all.
But at least I can now appreciate the need for a real debate and discussion. At least, I can now see that there are questions that it is reasonable to ask.
For example: Why can’t we simply have stronger restrictions and testing and licensing of assault weapons? Do we really need to ban them entirely? Wouldn’t it be enough to just make certain that they only get into the hands of the right people?
After all, those are the questions that I would want people to ask… if it were my hobby they were messing with.