25 September 2009

Tennessee Gun Permits and Thomas Hobbes

This gun business has gone far enough. I’ve been waiting for common sense to kick in, or for someone with more time and energy to express more vigorous opposition, but my patience has been officially exhausted.

The infamous legislative bill arming the general public has never been about anything but money. If it were genuinely about anybody’s rights, the capitol would not be excluded from the growing list of gun-tolerant properties. In fact, I dare say that if it had anything whatsoever to do with the Constitution, any such committed and idealistic legislators would be fighting for the chance to be the first to share space with the newly armed. Why isn’t that the case? It’s something of a “health risk,” plain and simple, and they all know it.

Legislators have shown repeated disregard not only for Tennessee voters’ opinions, but potentially for our lives and those of our families and children. Many have reportedly solicited contributions directly from pro-gun groups and individuals since this circus began. What that means, essentially, is that this legislation was a sale, one big, greedy business decision, the direct investment of Tennesseans’ safety and well-being in a very lucrative interest, possibly to replace revenues lost due to the weakening of the tobacco lobby or the Bible belt disadvantage of the alcohol lobby.

How much money can possibly be involved for elected officials to threaten their constituents (their supposed livelihoods) with lawsuits for not complying with legislation that was unwanted by so many to begin with? Isn’t anybody curious?

That’s just the stuff that should bother our heads. As for our hearts....

Philosopher Thomas Hobbes proposed the theory of a “social contract” voluntarily, but necessarily, adhered to by members of a society in order to avoid giving their existence over to chaos. In other words, if you don’t want everybody else doing whatever they please, especially in public, then you agree not to either.

If I want to carry a gun, what is the worst that can happen if it’s not "allowed," and I can pretty safely assume that most, if not all, the people in the room with me are unarmed as well? If I do not want a gun anywhere near me, what’s the worst that can happen when it’s very possible that a great number of the people in the room with me are armed? The main reason I’ve heard given by the pro-carry people (besides “it’s my RIGHT, damn it”) is that if the bad guys are going to have guns, they want them, too. Following that logic, the more people there are who carry guns, the more people there are going to be who didn’t before but want to now. Statistically, the more people who adopt the practice, the better the chance that it was an impulse, that they’ve had minimal gun education or experience, that they’re more afraid, their judgment not as sharp, and so on.

I support, albeit sometimes with great reservation, the second amendment. I don’t care if people own guns and in fact agree wholeheartedly that everyone has the right to protect themselves and their property. I simply think that once that desire for protection leaves an environment where my individual needs are quite reasonably the only priority (my home, my vehicle) and spreads out into an environment where many individuals’ needs must be balanced (our workplace, our restaurants, our parks, our movie theatres, our churches, or your workplace, your garage sale, etc.), and my need is one that, under certain circumstances, has the proven potential to do direct and grievous harm to others, then I should be willing to lay down my need, to maintain order in the society in which I have chosen to be a part.

We actually have, in keeping with that same amendment, a militia formed for our defense—they’re called police officers. We could take care of ourselves, in whatever manner we find most reassuring, in our own homes and even in our cars and continue to trust our public protection to the properly trained, equipped, and legally informed force we already have in place. Even given the exceptions committed by the evil and desperate, I would prefer that to being at the mercy of what are potentially nothing more than a bunch of yahoos armed with guns and self-righteous ignorance.