The right to bear arms
The right to own weapons is a difficult subject: there are good arguments both for and against it, which I've tried to list below. Really it boils down to a matter of personal taste: do you want to live in a country that permits civilians to go armed, or one that doesn't?
As in all such cases, the best solution is for some countries to permit armed civilians, and for other countries to forbid them. That way, anyone who feels strongly about the matter can choose to reside in a country where his preference is catered for. Of course, any country that forbids weapons will have to implement strict border controls to prevent them creeping in from permissive countries. This is one of those unfortunate facts of life.
In the longer term, what we need is a weapon capable of stopping a bad guy effectively without killing or injuring him. If such a weapon were available, I think there would be no remaining excuse for owning a gun at all.
|For armed civilians||Against armed civilians|
|Buying or owning a weapon doesn't involve any use of force. If you use force to prevent purchase or ownership, you're imposing your morality on someone, which is immoral.||By the same argument, someone could stockpile nuclear weapons capable of destroying whole cities or biological toxins capable of destroying whole countries, and no-one could do anything to stop him. The owner of a deadly weapon puts his neighbours at risk; it's arguable that they should have some right to object to this.|
|Widespread gun ownership reduces crime because it makes crime more dangerous for criminals: their victims may shoot. They will think twice before committing crimes — even against old or weak victims, who may be armed like anyone else.||It seems that widespread gun ownership in the USA does reduce some types of crime in some circumstances; however, overall, the USA is no crime-free haven. Furthermore, widespread gun ownership makes life more dangerous for everyone, not just for criminals. People who are crazy, stupid, drunk, addicted, bad-tempered, etc., may use their weapons without good enough reason. Your child may take your gun and use it. Anyone may shoot for what seemed like a good reason at the time, only to find out later that it was a mistake.|
|Owning a weapon is your only protection against violent crime. If you should be attacked, the police won't protect you: they won't be there. At best, they may catch the criminal afterwards — when it's too late.||In a gun-owning society, you can expect that any violent criminal will carry a gun and know how to use it. If you're attacked by armed men and you try to use a gun, the most likely result is that you'll be shot dead. In fiction, the good guys usually win the gunfights; not so in real life. A weapon is a useful protection only if your attackers are unarmed and in front of you. No weapon is going to be useful if someone hits you unexpectedly from behind.|
|Guns are merely one way of killing people. If you outlaw guns, people can still kill each other with knives, clubs, poison, etc. Murder was invented long before guns.||Guns make killing so much easier, both practically and psychologically. You can kill from a distance just by pulling a trigger. And children who grow up watching American films learn that shooting people is a normal and common thing to do.|
My own experience is that I've spent my life in relatively safe surroundings in which I've never been physically attacked. So I've never felt there was any point in owning a gun. Even if I were attacked, it seems unlikely that owning a gun would protect me, unless my attackers went about it in a really stupid way.
If you live in a violent society and feel the need of a gun for protection, I can understand that and sympathize; but there's obviously something badly wrong with your society, and I'm glad I don't live in it myself.
It seems unlikely that widespread gun ownership will make a violent society any less violent. I don't know of a case in which it's happened.