It’s hard to know what’s more annoying to read. Is it a gun control piece by a progressive who knows nothing about guns? Or is it a gun control piece by a progressive who actually owns guns but completely misses the point of the Second Amendment? How about a gun control piece by a progressive hunter who thinks small, homogenous Nordic countries hold the key to American peace and prosperity?
If you think it’s the latter, you may want to avoid the latest Vox piece by Tom Heberlein. Last seen proclaiming the virtues of Sweden’s high taxes, Heberlein regales us with tales of Sweden’s strict firearms regulations. A prospective gun-owner has to take a year-long hunter training course, pass exams, and then store the weapons securely. Gun registration is mandatory. According to Heberlein, Swedish authorities can deny weapons to citizens they have “reasonable cause” to believe are “unfit” to own a gun.
The result? Heberlein trumpets the fact that Sweden is 10th out of 178 countries in gun ownership rates, yet it had only 21 gun homicides in 2014. The U.S. had 8,000. Controlling for population, the U.S. gun homicide rate was 700 percent higher than Sweden’s.
I would respond simply by asking Heberlein if he had any data on the gun homicide rate by Swedish-Americans, but heaven forbid anyone bring up cultural and historical differences in American and European demographics. There’s a deeper issue here, however — the persistent failure of gun controllers to seriously grapple with the history and purpose of the Second Amendment.
The right to keep and bear arms has nothing to do with hunting, of course. It’s about self-defense — not just from other individuals but also from potentially lawless government power. What does a hunter training course have to do with protecting your wife and kids from random street crime? How does a mandatory year-long class help a young women who’s living in fear of vengeful ex-boyfriend who may try to break into her house tomorrow? How is mandatory gun registration a deterrent against tyranny?
Moreover, the Second Amendment doesn’t grant the right to self-defense, it recognizes and protects that right. And for the right to self-defense to be meaningful, I must have prompt access to the weapons that give me a fighting chance to repel foreseeable threats. It’s not a problem that I can walk into a gun store, get a background check, and walk out an hour later with a firearm, it’s one of the blessings of liberty.
The fact that Swedes aren’t all that violent is irrelevant to my life in the United States, and it’s completely irrelevant to my right to defend my family and myself. We undoubtedly have a problem with gun violence — with all types of violence — but grappling with that reality requires grappling with our own nation and culture. And it requires understanding and protecting each and every citizen’s inalienable natural and constitutional right to self-defense. Another citizen’s criminality doesn’t diminish my Second Amendment rights. It instead demonstrates their necessity.