Is gun ownership detrimental to civil society?
Alan Jacobs at The American Conservative has a thoughtful piece on his opposition to the idea of teachers being armed in case of the next Sandy Hook incident. It’s worth reading.
But what troubles me most about this suggestion — and the general More Guns approach to social ills — is the absolute abandonment of civil society it represents. It gives up on the rule of law in favor of a Hobbesian “war of every man against every man” in which we no longer have genuine neighbors, only potential enemies. You may trust your neighbor for now — but you have high-powered recourse if he ever acts wrongly.
And in so writing, he captures the essence of my own objection to the owning and use of firearms: it is detrimental to a civilized society. It undermines any sense of neighbor by presupposing that at any moment what peace exists will be broken by an armed intruder intent on stealing your possessions or worse. He continues,
Whatever lack of open violence may be procured by this method is not peace or civil order, but rather a standoff, a Cold War maintained by the threat of mutually assured destruction. Moreover, the person who wishes to live this way, to maintain order at universal gunpoint, has an absolute trust in his own ability to use weapons wisely and well: he never for a moment asks whether he can be trusted with a gun. Of course he can! (But in literature we call this hubris.)
The understanding of many is framed by a romantic notion of an America where government is not needed because government by the people takes the form of an armed populace. In this sense of American, I am profoundly un-American and that part of me raised and formed in Great Britain takes over. I understand that I have given to the police the right to use lethal force to protect me. I wil, of course, l protect my family to the best of my ability. What I won’t do is arm myself for the minute chance that I will need to. Should I need to protect my family, I believe that there’s more to be said for deescalation, escape, and evasion than for the use of a firearm.