By Thomas DiGennaro | United States
On November 27th, 2018, season two of TruTV’s comedy series “Adam Ruins Everything” aired. This episode resonated with many on the all-too-familiar topic of guns. For those who aren’t familiar with the show, host Adam Conover explains and debunks myths and untruths that almost everyone believes. This episode, “Adam Ruins Guns“, portrays an argument between a gun-toting, NRA card carrying, elderly father and his young daughter who advocates for ‘common sense’ gun laws.
Like any other episode of the series, Conover shows up to debunk both sides’ opinions and “tell neither of them what they want to hear”. This article aims to explain the correct arguments Conover made debunking myths about guns and gun control, but also to include glaringly left-out arguments, as well as one specific myth.
Adam Conover embarks on a relentless journey to highlight the ineffectiveness of many of the proposed solutions to gun violence and the myths about America’s gun violence issues. A few, for example, would be that ‘common sense’ gun laws and ‘assault’ weapon bans would deter gun violence. The rebuttal to this myth is that A) very rarely is a brand new, just-purchased firearm used in a crime and B) also very rarely are AR-15s, and other rifles of a similar style, used in crimes; it’s almost always handguns.
So if that doesn’t work, what’s next? Do we ban the sale of any type of firearm? Well, Conover has a response for that one too. It is the undeniable fact that there are over 300 million legally owned firearms in the United States. Even if nobody manufactures or sells a gun again, there are about as many guns in the country as people. So, continuing down the slope of how extreme of a measure of gun control could work, the daughter resorts to a favorite criticism by the left of America and guns: Australia.
In 1996, Australia, in wake of several mass shootings, passed the National Firearms Agreement requiring a license to possess a firearm. Citizens cannot obtain the license without showing a “genuine reason” for ownership. However, the law does not consider self-defense a “genuine reason” to own a firearm. The argument against self-defense aside, the practice in Australia would be to no avail in the United States; there are simply too many guns in circulation.
Thus, the question is: how did Australia eradicate the country of guns prior to the NFA? They conducted a mandatory, nationwide buy-back of all guns in circulation at full market value. But the tremendous cost of buying back the guns Australia’s population of 24 million owns pales to that of the United States. The USA has 325 million people and 300 million-plus guns. Plus, the Australian buyback was not effective in reducing crime, anyways.
Clearly, there doesn’t seem to be an effective measure of gun control that is currently being proposed by the left. Keep in mind, this rebuttal to gun control measures is entirely independent of any argument about the negative effects of gun control. Just one of those is the classic conservative argument, but with a little more depth; the idea that if you take away legally owned guns, only criminals will have them. Simply put, there will always be a black market. Anytime something is outlawed, banned, or prohibited, the only thing that occurs is the diminishing of legal means of purchase, possession, and ownership. We as a country had a firsthand experience with the exact practice in the early 20th century with the prohibition of alcohol, and again in the past few decades with narcotics.
The Framers’ Intent
Conover doesn’t support anyone’s stance, he just argues with everyone. The foundation of his argument is the widespread myth today that the intention of the framers, a common argument for guns, was the individual’s right to personal self-defense. Obviously no one cannot be 100% certain to precisely what the hell a bunch of guys in powdered wings with wooden teeth meant over 200 years ago. However, the argument Conover cites is nothing but an assumption based on a whim; the right to bear arms is not intended in the context of personal self-defense, but rather for the capability of citizens to form militias when the bell rings.
A little history lesson: the founding fathers did not believe in a standing army. In times of war, invasion, men would be called to the militia, and they would show up toting their Kentucky Long Rifles. It is often forgotten that the reason the founders believed that this right was inalienable and could not be infringed was the idea that the very force that the militia would be called to fight was their own tyrannical government. So in order to ensure that the government could not prevent the militia from being able to assemble and revolt, the Second Amendment reads “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The statement is rather complex and seems difficult to even understand what it means. An easier to understand structurally and grammatically worded phrase that encaptures the same meaning is, the right of citizens to have access to firearms is necessary for the citizens to form the militias, which is necessary for the safety and security of the nation, and it shall not be infringed.
Throughout the portion of the episode where Conover is arguing against the intent of the framers’ argument, he discusses how the NRA, when originally formed, was not an advocate of gun rights. Rather it was an organization with the agenda to make the armed citizens of the country better marksmen after “embarrassing shooting” during the Civil War. Furthermore, he explains how the Supreme Court refused to rule on the issue of the Second Amendment until more recent times. This happened when the NRA adopted the position of gun rights and through growing power and lobbying, spread the belief that the Second Amendment was drafted with the intention of the individual right to personal self-defense.
As a brief disclaimer, the NRA is a bunch of corporate suits and lobbyists who are only concerned with lining their pockets. The Gun Owner’s of America organization is a truly principled gun rights advocacy group that has received support from Ron Paul and other leaders in the liberty movement.
Regardless of whether or not the Second Amendment was intended for the right of self-defense, is not only a libertarian principle but one that is primarily the basis of the non-aggression principle and the idea of negative rights. (The right not to be killed, not the right to live).
Moreover, as Conover and UCLA Constitutional Law Professor Adam Winkler–who was invited on the show to provide expertise on the subject–stated: the Second Amendment, with original intention, can most concisely be laid out as an individual right to be armed so that the militia can be called upon. I do not dispute this. However, the myth I hope to disprove, that has become widespread since Justice Scalia’s ruling on D.C. vs Heller, is the notion that the ‘first portion’ of the second amendment, the militia, is obsolete today.
The militia was vital in the 18th and 19th century because the founders did not believe in a standing army, so the militia was our national defense. But it is still vital today for two reasons. The first is that a citizenry most certainly must be able to defend themselves from an oppressor, including their own government. The United States Armed Forces and all of its branches are under the control of the United States government. In a case where people must defend themselves from grave injustices committed by their own government–in the words of George Washington– “A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined”. A well-regulated militia still is necessary to the security of a free state, to use the exact language from the Second Amendment.
The second reason for the essential nature of an armed citizenry forming a militia coincides with its universally agreed upon intention, to defend the nation from foreign attack. If the United States must commit a vast majority of its forces overseas to fight a major war, who will defend the home soil? Sure they can call the reserves and we have our weekend warrior national guardsmen, but the vast majority of our defense will be armed everyday men. Police, truck drivers, factory workers, businessmen will have to take up arms for a common defense, the same way in 1776 farmers and blacksmiths held the line against tyranny from an imperialistic British Empire. I will support that claim.
Adam is Ruined
Adam Conover is not an expert on guns. And his ruining of the mainstream opinions surrounding guns is a fundamentally flawed endeavor. He fails to grasp the empirical results of gun control and has little understanding of the intentions of the founding fathers.
As Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II said:
“You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass”.
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