The only “common sense gun control” that its advocates are eventually going to agree on is to take your guns away. And you won’t get them back. How do I know that? That’s exactly what they did in Europe.
Much has been said in recent week in the United States about “common sense gun control,” and not being a U.S resident is likely going to get me a great deal of vitriol. After all, it happens to be a regular occurrence that when Europeans comment on the American gun debate, they do so with a big deal of ignorance about both guns, gun culture, and the United States as a whole. A noticeable difference in history education between my American friends and myself was that we weren’t taught American independence as something fundamentally important, but as more of yet another lost war in European history. You win some, you lose some. That this loss has brought about one of the most fundamental state philosophies of freedom goes unnoticed in the European education system.
The fact that American revolutionaries stood up to the tyrannical rule of the British Empire, especially that they were up against an experienced military that was feared on the European continent, is important. Their bravery to take up arms against an oppressor is exactly what drove the French Revolution. Its decision to include the values of individual liberty in its founding documents was shared by the French revolutionaries as well, as they did with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1789, the same year that the Bill of Rights was written.
The fact that the United States enshrined the right to keep and bear arms is because the Founding Fathers drew the right conclusions from the revolution they had undertaken. Their move was bold and protective, and it was the correct one. While the Founders were building a minimal state that protected the freedom of its citizens, the French Revolution resulted in the so-called Reign of Terror in which anti-monarchists rounded up and executed those who had supported the King. They were able to because they were facing an unarmed populace.
What is even more interesting is that modern-day gun control advocates agree with this analysis. One of their more regular responses is that “the Bill of Rights was written at a very different time,” admitting that it had its legitimacy then. If it had legitimacy back then because King George III of the United Kingdom could decide to overthrow the revolutionaries in an attempt to regain his territory and because the threat of new government becoming tyrannical was real, then what has changed? Is the United States immune to a foreign attack? Is government unable to become tyrannical? The Second Amendment might be old, but the concerns it expressed are just as accurate today as they were in the 18th century.
Saying that the circumstances don’t allow the common man to own a firearm anymore is probably what King George III would have claimed as well. He would certainly have sympathized with people who are more suspicious of their own neighbors than those in the political offices far away from their homes. The exploitation of a tragedy for the gain of governmental control has repeatedly lead to authoritarian regimes.
The Power of Government
The essential question about government power isn’t who should wield it, but who could wield it. If there is the possibility of a tyrant gaining access to the highest offices (and according to many Americans, that is already the case), then wouldn’t you want constitutional provisions protecting you against that? The idea of tilting the balance between liberty and complete control as much as possible to liberty is because the people who have access to power are dangerous, whether they have good intentions or not.
Look to Europe if you’re interested where the gun control advocates will lead you: the European Union adopted even tougher gun control measures last year.
Some dangerous semi-automatic firearms have now been added to category A and are therefore prohibited for civilian use. This is the case for short semi-automatic firearms with loading devices over 20 rounds and long semi-automatic firearms with loading devices over 10 rounds. Similarly, long firearms that can be easily concealed, for example by means of a folding or telescopic stock, are also now prohibited.”
The Union also enhanced control of the supervision of firearm owners as well as the sale of guns, even if they are merely deactivated objects for collectors. When the United States focuses the gun ban debate on AR-15s after a shooting is committed with this firearm, then there seems to be a reasonable connection to be drawn. In this case, the EU regulated firearms which weren’t used in the terrorist attacks in Brussels or Paris, yet it used those attacks as a reason to tighten controls. This shows that gun control advocates don’t actually need a connection to the act in question in order to argue for less gun accessibility.
In most European countries, the administrative burden of going through the process to even own a gun paired with the associated costs makes it impossible for a large number of people to become firearm owners. Owning a gun makes you a rare breed of people. Believing in people’s right to carry guns makes you a dying species.
Interestingly, the idea that a trained civilian can save lives if in possession of a gun seems to be accepted by France, which allowed off-duty police officers to carry their guns after the terrorist attacks in 2015. The narrative is much less about the use of guns than about a state-monopoly of its use. Once again, King George III would agree.
The Slippery Slope Is Real
Americans should be aware that the notion of “banning all guns” is not just a concept by conservative radio show hosts to rally people against politicians, but it’s very much what the state will do if constitutional protections are removed. This is why the Czech Republic, a relatively gun-friendly country, has seen legislative initiatives to constitutionally enshrine gun rights in order to serve as a protection against decisions by the European Union. Once launched, the legislative avalanche of anti-gun rights laws are hard to stop: EU legislators pass the bills as fast as they get suggested. The debates on the issue are minimal.
Once governments have normalized a disarmed populace, it will be virtually impossible to regain the principle of responsible gun ownership as a debate in the houses of democracy, and even less in the minds of the man in the street.
Bill Wirtz is a Young Voices Advocate. His work has been featured in several outlets, including Newsweek, Rare, RealClear, CityAM, Le Monde and Le Figaro. He also works as a Policy Analyst for the Consumer Choic