This letter to the editor was written by Benjamin Ristow, senior in history and vice president of the College Republicans at Kansas State University. If you would like to write a letter to the Collegian, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit kstatecollegian.com/contact.
On March 15, a white supremacist murdered 50 men, women and children at Muslim mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
In addition to other weapons, the terrorist used semi-automatic rifles. Within days of the attack, government officials in New Zealand had already begun the process of banning semi-automatic guns in their country.
At the same time, left-wing politicians and pundits in America began calling for similar gun control measures here. It seemed obvious to them that the proper response to mass shootings is more gun control, and many felt that America should take a lesson from New Zealand.
I beg to differ.
It isn’t obvious that the proper response to mass shootings is more gun control. I’ve written before about common gun control myths. One of the biggest myths is that gun control is needed to stop large scale attacks, but this is simply false.
In France, where gun ownership is prohibited without a hunting or shooting sport license, attackers simply ignore the law or find ways around it.
In November 2015, terrorists in Paris, France, used illegal guns and explosives to carry out attacks, killing 130 people. In July 2016, a man in Nice, France, simply drove a truck into a crowd, killing 86. Each of these attacks killed more people than any singular U.S. mass shooting in history since record-keeping began in 1949.
In America, where there are supposedly as many guns as there are people, the two deadliest large-scale terrorist attacks we’ve experienced, the 9/11 attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing, involved the use of vehicles and explosives, not guns of any kind.
Our deadliest school attack, the Bath School massacre in 1927, took the lives of 44 victims using explosives. Even our deadliest school shooting, the Virginia Tech shooting, involved the use of two semi-automatic handguns, not “assault weapons” or any kind of semi-automatic rifle.
It seems obvious to me that banning certain kinds of guns, or even all guns, won’t stop massive terrorist attacks. Evil people who want to hurt the innocent will find other ways.
Conversely, the innocents will be left defenseless. It is no coincidence that the vast majority of mass shootings take place in gun-free zones. Disarmed people make easy targets.
Banning guns wouldn’t have even stopped the most recent terror attack in New Zealand. The terrorist specifically stated that he didn’t have to use firearms.
In his manifesto, he wrote, “I could have chosen any weapons or means. A TATP-filled rental van. Household flour, a method of dispersion and an ignition source. A ballpeen hammer and a wooden shield. Gas, fire, vehicular attacks, plane attacks, any means were available. I had the will and I had the resources.”
He chose firearms for a reason, which I will get to later, but for now, suffice it to say that banning guns won’t protect New Zealand or anywhere else from terrorist attacks.
Another common myth is that more gun control is needed to reduce violent crime. This isn’t the case in America or the world at large.
Just look at places like Chicago, which has a high gun violence rate despite the state of Illinois requiring a license or permit to buy any firearm.
In London, where only rifles and shotguns are legal with a license, the current murder rate is higher than in New York City. The United Kingdom has even placed a ban on certain kinds of knives in a futile attempt to curb violent crime without realizing that criminals don’t care about the law.
How much further will they have to go before they realize that their efforts are in vain? While the UK has one of the lowest rates of gun homicide in the world, in an ironic twist of fate, they have rid their population of an effective means of self-defense by banning guns.
In the United States, the vast majority of burglaries occur when no one is at home. Thieves generally aren’t keen to face armed resistance.
However, in the UK, the majority of burglaries occur when the property is occupied. When the people have been disarmed, there isn’t much for the thieves to worry about.
It also isn’t the case that New Zealand needs more gun control. New Zealand has around 5 million people, around 250,000 licensed gun owners and between 1.2 million and 1.5 million guns. There are generally less than 60 gun deaths per year, and less than 10 gun homicides per year.
New Zealand doesn’t need more gun control to stop violent crime. Despite all their guns, they didn’t have much of a violent crime problem to begin with.
So, if gun control fails to stop mass attacks, doesn’t reduce violent crime rates and leaves innocent people defenseless, why does the left keep pushing for it?
I have my own theory.
The “alt-right” gets a lot of media attention. Their racist and sometimes violent ideology is worth calling out (although we should perhaps be thoughtful about who we label “alt-right”).
Despite the media’s fascination with the “alt-right,” they often overlook a much larger force in the toxic game of politics: the “control-left.”
The “control-left,” as the name implies, wants to control you. It’s no coincidence that the same politicians calling for increased gun control are also calling for bigger government, equality of outcome and laws to limit what you can say and with whom you can associate.
In their eyes, the solution to society’s problems are more government intervention. Disparities must be caused by discrimination, privilege has to be combatted with affirmative action, offensive language and ideas must be silenced and we can’t trust people with the means to their own defense, so we have to disarm them.
Largely thanks to the “control-left,” we are losing our liberty. It begins with “common sense” laws that ensure equity, banning “assault weapons” and outlawing “hate speech.” It ends with tyranny.
For now, the process is mostly slow and piecemeal. As public opinion shifts and small-scale legislation passes without complaint, liberty dies the death of a thousand cuts. However, there are occasional flash points that the “control-left” seizes upon to pass sweeping anti-liberty legislation. The New Zealand attack is one such example.
As I mentioned above, the terrorist in New Zealand used firearms for a reason. He explicitly wrote several times that one of his primary goals was to drive a further wedge between Americans on the issue of firearms, culminating in a civil war between left and right. The “control-left” is playing right into his hands by immediately demanding broad, sweeping gun control.
It doesn’t matter that so-called “assault weapons” are no different than regular firearms. They look scary. And let’s be honest, the end goal will be to ban practically all private firearm ownership eventually.
It doesn’t matter that gun control doesn’t stop violent crime or mass attacks; it makes people feel safe. Feelings, of course, matter far more than facts.
It doesn’t matter that enforcing gun bans will likely require police to kill or be killed by otherwise law-abiding civilians who refuse to comply with what they see as unconstitutional legislation. Those people are probably far-right crazies, anyway.
It doesn’t matter that this issue might very well bring about a new civil war and the fragmentation of the United States. If the “control-left” wins, they can finally create their utopia on the ashes of what was.
More likely, however, the “control-left” will simply get their way because they speak loudest and silence those who dissent with labels of bigotry or accusations of being conspiratorial about the liberal agenda.
And when the people have lost the ability to defend themselves or rise up, when they have become coddled and pacified by reliance on government social programs, when they can no longer speak freely for fear of being silenced, then we can finally enjoy the utopia of the “control-left,” where everyone is equal and everyone is safe, having finally rid ourselves of that pesky thing called liberty.
I, for one, don’t want to lose it. Millions of Americans, including myself, believe that we have certain unalienable rights, including the right to defend ourselves from harm and tyranny with the most effective tools capable of doing so.
I understand that liberty can be dangerous, make no mistake about it. But it can also be beautiful, and it is worth preserving.
As Thomas Jefferson put it, “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty, than those attending too small a degree of it.”
Benjamin Ristow is a senior in history and vice president of the College Republicans at Kansas State. The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to email@example.com.