“But why do you NEED a gun?”

This is a common objection to gun ownership that we hear all the time; there are many who just don’t see the point. They cannot wrap their minds around how it could be or why it would be important. 

On the surface, a sensible person could be forgiven for accepting the idea that making guns hard or impossible to get will produce less violent crime. They could also be forgiven for believing the idea that if you have a room full of children who are throwing rocks at each other, the sensible thing to do is remove the rocks. 

But this assumes society is made up of children to admonish.

Something we all tend to do is distrust statistics that don’t align with our beliefs, while fully accepting statistics that say what we want them to say. Statistics won’t change minds, because ultimately, we all know that you can fiddle with the numbers to make them say anything. 

Scientific studies offer up similar results, where we can cherry pick what we want and ignore what we disagree with to form a comfortable wall around our already-held beliefs. Most of us are too ignorant to have any understanding of how studies are conducted. We wouldn’t even know what questions to ask if we had a desire to question them. We don’t have the depth of knowledge to read between the lines. 

So, most can’t be expected to effectively sift through the data on guns and come up with a conclusion based on evidence. Most have an opinion already, and it’s probably based on simple conclusions that have been handed to them, things that make sense and don’t require much thought. 

When someone implores “but WHY do you NEED a gun though?,” the norm in his or her world is to not own a gun, and not see guns around. This is paired with the fact that a gun is meant to harm others in dire situations (I can’t pretend I bought a .38 special to hunt deer). 

So, have I even been in a situation where I needed my own gun? I have not, which means that in a strict sense, I have not needed a gun nor have I needed to exercise the right to have it. 

This is a good thing, but it’s not the point. Why do we need free speech in its various forms? We don’t, until someone decides that it’s time to take that right away. This is when it’s most important. I don’t need property rights until someone comes along who does not believe in private property and wants to relieve me of my things. Suddenly, property rights are imperative. In the nonexistent perfect world, rights never come up because no one ever violates them. 

Individuals have the right to defend themselves against aggression. Your self is your property, anyone violating your self is violating your right to bodily sanctity, so you have the right to use the minimum amount of force necessary to stop them. A gun’s place in this is as a tool for self defense in the extremely rare case where one’s life is threatened. 

But if you never needed a gun, do you still have a right to own one? Why do you need to have one if you never need to use one? 

In this citation, you can break society into three groups. At the bottom, you have criminals who do not respect rights and violate the rights of others to get what they want. In the center, you have the regular people who generally respect the rights of others and stay within the cultural norms, and you have enforcers, police who purportedly protect the second group from the first, but also violate the rights of others on a regular basis to get their job done. Making guns illegal only removes them from the middle group. I’m reminded of Junior Murvin, singing

Police and thieves in the street, scaring the nation with their guns and ammunition”

The criminals are creative, and they’ll find a way to get their hands on anything that will give them power in their world. In a world where guns are rare, a gun is a powerful tool. The police will have to have guns to fight off the criminals, and to force the population to give theirs up. They also collect more guns in this process. The normal people in the middle are left in the crossfire, caught between two groups to whom they have no choice but to defer. 

But, and I lift this directly from Lysander Spooner, at least the thief has the respect (or shame) to leave you alone after he has stolen from you, whereas the government sector continues to steal from you and tell you it’s for your own good, and that you should actually be thankful for their intervention. 

I don’t need a gun. We need guns. The people need to equalize the balance of societal power, because outsourcing this power and centralizing it into the hands of the law has only put us at the mercy of those who would use us for their own betterment, and do so without our consent. Police and thieves, fighting over the product of our labor. 

This conversation often devolves into one person saying that you need a gun to defend against the bad guys who have guns. The anti-gun person will say that the problem is the guns, if the bad guys didn’t have them then we wouldn’t need them. 

If it was possible to erase all guns from existence, this might be true. But that’s not an option. We can’t make rules for the world we wish we were in, we must deal with reality, and reality is where guns exist. Try as they might, they have yet to find a way of getting them out of the hands of those who mean to harm others. 

Governments will always require guns to maintain power, so they will always continue to be manufactured. Again, this is the world in which we exist. We can’t hope that the governments of the world will all agree to stop making firearms, then their armed forces will collect every single gun that exists. 

Every. Single. Gun. 

After they make sure there are no other guns, every country will melt down all the guns, including the ones belonging to police and military, and then no one will ever start making them again. This is childlike thinking. We must exist in reality.

So again, I don’t need a gun. We need guns. We all need guns so the thieves think twice, so the state thinks twice.

To learn more about gun rights, be sure to check out the upcoming 2A Summit in Cincinnati, OH, on Saturday, April 15, 2023. This event will bring together policy makers, industry professionals, and activists to preserve the right to keep and bear arms. Click on the button below to get your free ticket.

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.