Mind over Gun: Ayn Rand’s Take on Gun Control
CNN recently hosted the first Democratic primary debate, and gun control was one of the most hotly contested issues of the evening. With Aurora, Sandy Hook, Charleston, and recently Umpqua, Oregon, fresh in many minds, the focus is on what can be done to protect citizens from mass shootings. As a libertarian who lives in Charleston, where one of the shootings occurred, I myself am on the fence when it comes to gun control laws.
To help sort it out, I looked to a personal hero of mine, someone who was an advocate for liberty, individual rights, and reason. Ayn Rand, the writer and philosopher who authored The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and many others, had a distinct perspective on this issue.
Rand made a distinction between laws (necessary and proper limitations for a just society) and regulations (non-objective rules that infringe individual rights). She believed that our individual rights were not to be hampered by regulations imposed by the government but that laws (so long as they were properly formulated) were necessary to protect individual rights by defining the crime within society and laying out just punishment as a response. The government exists only to enforce those laws and execute the penalties for those who violate them.
Inferring from these principles, Rand offered her thoughts on gun control in 1971. In an interview at the Ford Hall Forum, Rand stated that any gun legislation that forbids gun ownership or requires gun owners to register would not stop criminals from obtaining them. At the same forum in 1973, she emphasized that individuals do have a right to self-dense. All the while, she admitted that she did not know enough about gun control to draw an exact opinion, and even went as far as to say that the issue was not one of primary importance. One must consider, however, that these interviews occurred more than 30 years ago when times were much simpler than now.
Nonetheless, one thing she said still holds true today. What made anyone think that passing laws resrticting the use of guns could prevent criminals from acting on their ill intentions on those who cannot defend themselves? Guns can serve all intentions, good and bad: to kill on the whim and to save lives. It is not the gun by itself that determines our ability to be safe and secure, but the decisions people make on how they use it.