A couple of weeks ago I traveled to New York and New Jersey to spend some time with a good friend and the family of my fiancée. The trip turned out to be truly edifying because I have not been to the East Coast in many years, and I ordinarily have very few chances to talk with the types of people who – well, let’s just say, the types of people who would vote for egomaniacs of truly heroic proportions. After all, the people of New York and New Jersey seem to have a particular skill in locating the most egomaniacal liars, criminals, and self-righteous scumbags in their states and then elevating them to public office.
Virtually every conversation that I had with the good people of New York and New Jersey revolved around guns, for the simple reason that I had seriously considered bringing one with me on the trip. Woodchuck season was open in New Jersey, and I figured I should probably take the opportunity to shoot one. We don’t have woodchucks in Colorado (although we do have marmots, which are similar), and I wasn’t sure I would ever get the chance again.
In the end, my fiancée talked me out of the idea, saying she thought it rather unwise to tote a rife through New York City in order to shoot what amounts to a very large New Jersey rat. Her good sense convinced me to leave my guns at home, which saved me from almost certain jail time. It turns out that you need a license to bring guns into New Jersey in order to shoot this large plague-carrying rodent. Who knew?
In any event, the conversations about guns that I had in both New York and New Jersey seemed to gravitate inevitably toward assault rifles. Upon learning that I am a hunter, the listener would inevitably insert the following leading question: “But, assault rifles – how are those necessary?”
I have to admit that I was not prepared for this type of question. The question assumes from the start that all legitimate guns are for hunting purposes only, and that we ought to make a determination about a gun’s permissibility based solely upon whether it can be used to shoot an elk or a woodchuck. My replies at the time focused on the fact that so-called “assault rifles” can indeed be useful and effective hunting rifles. The AR-15 and the much-maligned Mini 14 can be exceptionally good coyote guns, for example. Whether or not any of the guns that are designated as “assault rifles” can be effectively used to hunt game is highly debatable and is a question that each hunter has to answer for himself.
Having given the question more thought, however, I now realize that I ought not to have focused on the effectiveness of these guns for hunting purposes. As I just said, very few hunters are likely to agree about whether or not the AK-47 or the M-14 are effective guns for taking game, and that question is actually beside the point. The question that everyone kept asking me is not actually a fair question at all, and I ought to have set my sites on the concept of “necessity” itself.
The idea that some guns are “necessary” for hunting purposes while others are not is actually completely ridiculous. It is possible to hunt game with nothing more than a knife or a piece of string or one’s bare hands, for example, which means that guns in general are not “necessary” in order to hunt. Since guns are not even necessary in order to hunt, any distinction between “necessary” and “unnecessary” guns is completely arbitrary and thus absurd. Scopes and expanding bullets are also not “necessary” to hunt, so does that make them unacceptable too? Any line we might want to draw would be completely arbitrary, and would certainly result in more animals getting wounded by less lethal weapons.
The concept of “necessity” is almost always dangerous and insidious in political matters. Asking whether vanilla is necessary for a specific cupcake recipe is very different from asking whether guns or tobacco or beer or soda or cocaine is “necessary” for a person’s life. People place different values on different things, and it is supremely arrogant and insulting for a person to look at a particular product and think that he can decide for the rest of humanity whether it is “necessary” to own.
It is true that certain guns are not “necessary” for human beings, in the sense that without them people will immediately perish, but the same can be said of almost anything. Art and dancing and tennis, for example, are not necessary for human beings in order to stay alive. Does that mean that they can be brushed aside as inconsequential trivialities that the fat governor can and should take away from us?
If every person is going to try to decide what is “necessary” for his neighbor’s life, does that not take us down a dark and dangerous road? I love guns and beer but my neighbor does not. Shall he try to take those things away from me because he views them as “unnecessary” superfluities? He may love modern dance and American Idol, which I loathe. Shall I try to take those things away from him because I view them as “unnecessary” superfluities? Where will this type of thinking take us?
It is precisely this type of thinking has basically created a nation chock-full of hypocritical meddlers and a government so bloated and overbearing that people don’t even know what freedom means anymore.
Far better, I think, is to adopt the philosophy of liberty. As long as a person does not aggress against his neighbors’ lives and property, he should be free to live his life as he sees fit. You don’t have to like what your neighbor does with his life in order to recognize his natural right to chart his own course. You don’t have to like cocaine, assault rifles, modern art, Jerry Springer, hunting, plastic surgery, or prostitution, but, unless you want everyone else picking through your own flawed life, have the decency to leave the lovers of these things alone.
After all, the next fat governor or megalomaniacal mayor may decide that the things you like in life are “unnecessary” and thus fair game for being banned.