Let's imagine a scenario. You are at home, enjoying a quiet afternoon. Looking out your window, you see two people, maybe black, fiddling around with the door of the house next door. As a long-time NRA member, you have been trained in the proper use of firearms and understand the importance of protecting yourself and your neighbors. So you call your teen-aged son, grab your Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, load in a clip, and head outside. Turning off the safety, you approach the intruders. You raise your weapon and call out for the two strangers to drop what they are doing and raise their hands. You confront a middle-aged couple, he's black and she's white. You're not taking any chances, so you keep your gun trained on the two, telling them not to move while you call the cops. Though cowed by the sight of your firearm and your apparent readiness to use it, they have some sort of story they are eager to tell you. You tell them to shut up; you've just caught two home-invaders red-handed, and you're not interested in their bs story. After many tense minutes go by, the cops arrive. They arrest the intruders and take them away. You return to your home, saying a quick prayer that no one got shot, and thanking your lucky stars that you live in America with its guarantee that all citizens can own firearms to protect themselves.
This scenario actually played out last week when Robert Canoles and his son Brandon used their AR-15 assault rifles to threaten and detain Jean-Joseph Kalonji and his wife Angelina, when the couple were attempting to change the locks on their recently purchased house in Newton County, Georgia. The Canoles father and son team saw the mixed race couple (he grew up in Zaire, she in Romania), and assumed they were breaking into the house next door. The Canoles held Jean-Joseph and Angelina at gun-point for 10-15 minutes, and refused to hear when Jean-Joseph and Angelina explained they were the rightful owners of the house in question. The police arrived, and promptly arrested Jean-Joseph and Angelina on suspicion of burglary.
Gun advocates tell us they are fighting for the civil rights of all citizens. They tell us that in fighting for greater gun availability and liberalized gun laws, they are protecting our civil rights. However, Jean-Joseph and Angelina Kalonji actually experienced a loss of their civil rights at the hands of gun enthusiasts Robert and Brandon Canoles. The Kalonji were not allowed to enter their own home, and were subsequently detained and spent two days in jail. In this case, guns were used to restrict the civil rights of the Kalonjis to enter and enjoy their own home, to peaceably go about their business in their own neighborhood, and to be free of imprisonment by government authorities. Robert Canoles is unapologetic: “This is my second amendment right” he told the local newspaper. For some gun enthusiasts, their second amendment rights include threatening their neighbors and telling them what to do on their own land.
Gun advocates like to tell us we live in a dangerous crime-ridden society, in which guns are necessary to protect life and property. Of course, one of the things that makes this a dangerous society is the free availability of guns. Hardly a week seems to pass without another story of a deranged gun-owner engaged in a public mass shooting. The answer, say gun enthusiasts, is for more Americans to arm themselves. If everyone had a gun, say gun advocates, then any public shooting would be quickly halted by the armed citizenry themselves. And because this is a crime-ridden society, gun enthusiasts have been lobbying for reduced restrictions on their use of guns. Hence, “stand your ground” laws have been passed in numerous states. The laws provide legal defense and/or immunity to gun-owners who use deadly force in self defense. Roughly half the states in the US have adopted the “Castle Doctrine”, stating that a person has no duty to retreat when their home is attacked. Use your gun to protect yourself in your home, and you will not be charged with a crime. “Stand your ground” laws provide similar protections to gun-owners outside their homes, allowing the use of deadly force for self-defense in public spaces, without the obligation to retreat. Gun enthusiasts like to claim that the greater availability of guns and “stand your ground” laws have a deterrent effect on criminals and result in safer communities.
But what might have happened if Jean-Jospeh Kalonji himself was such a gun enthusiast? Let's imagine a second scenario.
You and the misses are going to stop by your newly-purchased home and change the locks before you begin moving your stuff in. You have a conceal-carry permit that you have keep for a number of years; having grown up in Zaire, you have seen how quickly violence destroys the lives of the weak. You thank your lucky stars you now live in America with its guarantee that all citizens can own firearms to protect themselves. This particular trip involves your wife and a ride out into the countryside, so you are not taking any chances today; your Glock 32 .327 handgun with 10 round clip goes right where it should be in your Galco In The Pants holster. You arrive at your property and proudly lead your wife as the two of you walk around the yard of your new house; this is a dream you have worked years to see fulfilled. It is at this moment that you see the two men step into your yard, both carrying rifles pointed at you. This is your own home, your own land, and those coming towards you are not the Welcome Wagon. Your reaction is instinctual, the result of all those training classes in self defense you took at the gun club. You give your wife a healthy shove to the side, draw your piece, wrap both hands around the grip and drop into a crouch. The shooting starts almost immediately, and seems surprisingly loud.
Gun enthusiast love their guns as long as they are the only ones holding them. They love the power and authority that pointing a gun gives them. This is actually a rather cowardly view, because the feeling that comes when someone else is holding the gun is much more uncomfortable. Ask Ted Nugent, who will proudly tell you how much he loves hunting and shooting with his guns, but went to great lengths to avoid hunting and shooting in the military where he might have faced the prospect of being hunted and shot at by others. The perfect spokesman for the NRA. But the trouble with advocating for more and more guns is that sooner or later you will find yourself looking into a muzzle instead of looking down the sights. Gun advocates say that if that unhappy moment comes, you want to be sure you are armed. And if you are, who then wins?
The gun industry itself doesn't care who wins. Every guns and bullet sold is a profit for the gun industry. And every law that makes it easier to buy guns and ammo, and every law that provides protections to those who use their guns, means greater profits for the gun industry. The gun industry uses those profits to lobby state and federal legislators for fewer restrictions on guns and ammo sales, thereby ensuring their increased profits for years to come. Regardless of whether the bullets end up in the home-defender or the home-invader or the 5-year kid living across the street, the gun industry makes a profit.