Since the Newtown shooting on December 14, 2012, both sides of the gun control debate have rallied new members to their causes. As expected, each side has been attacking the arguments made by the other side for their factual or logical inconsistencies. But in such exchanges, what seems to be missing from mainstream discourse is a philosophical, first principles approach to the issue. Let us use such an approach to attempt to discern the truth about gun control and the right to bear arms.
First, let us consider various consequentialist arguments that are being made. Some gun rights advocates are claiming that any move toward increased restrictions on guns will lead toward a totalitarian state complete with mass democide. Some gun control advocates are claiming that if a new restriction on guns saves even one life, then it is worth trying. Both sides of the gun control debate state facts and figures concerning gun violence over time, and then try to claim that gun control laws have either caused an increase or decrease in gun violence. All such arguments from consequences are unsound because the future is unknown and unknowable, making such arguments “computationally intractable,” in the words of Daniel Dennett. The unknowability of the future ultimately results from the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, so it is a fundamental part of nature that cannot be evaded. The arguments claiming to show whether gun control has worked to reduce gun violence also commit the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, as it is impossible to know whether changes in crime rates occur because of changes in gun control laws or in spite of such changes. Thus we must take a deontological approach.
Next, let us examine what exactly is meant by gun control. There is a misconception in the mainstream discourse that gun rights advocates are pro-gun while gun control advocates are anti-gun, but this is not the true nature of the debate. The debate is really over who should be allowed to own certain weapons. The most extreme ends of the spectrum are the belief that gun rights should be absolute for all people and the belief that gun ownership should be centralized exclusively in the hands of a political elite, with all other positions falling in between these two extremes. No one in the debate is truly anti-gun or pro-gun control, as this would imply that both the state and the people should be disarmed because such weapons are bad for everyone. Those who advocate for gun control are only advocating for the elite and against the public.
Finally, let us examine the appeal frequently made by advocates of gun rights to the United States Constitution in general, and its Second Amendment in particular. Let us ignore for the sake of argument whether the Constitution is valid, as it is not a necessary instrument for the purpose of defending the right to keep and bear arms. The right to keep and bear arms is proven to exist by the result of a logical proof by contradiction. The proof is as follows: Suppose that people do not have a right to keep and bear arms. This necessitates some means of stopping people from possessing arms, which could only be accomplished by forcibly disarming people. This means that some people must be granted the right to keep and bear arms in order to keep other people from doing so. But we have already supposed that people do not have a right to keep and bear arms. This is a logical contradiction, which disproves the original supposition. Therefore people do have the right to keep and bear arms.