Let’s Talk About Abolishing Gun Ownership

Actor Vince Vaughn shared his thoughts on gun ownership, among other topics, with British GQ, which appeared in a preview of a forthcoming interview:

“I support people having a gun in public full stop, not just in your home. We don’t have the right to bear arms because of burglars; we have the right to bear arms to resist the supreme power of a corrupt and abusive government.”

This kind of rhetoric is extremely common in the U.S. Though it has faced some mild resistance in recent years, enthusiasm for gun rights and even gun rights absolutism, is a powerful force in American culture and politics.

Conversely, few Americans advocate for an absolutist position against gun rights, with notable exceptions. The result of this asymmetry is that gun control advocates already start with a weakened hand. If you go into a debate with half-measures and compromises as your default position, and your opponent thinks any compromise would be a defeat, you’ve already lost.

Consider President Obama’s 2013 plan to fight gun violence. Its boldest provisions included strengthening background checks, banning military-style assault weapons, and restricting high-capacity magazines. Predictably, even this relatively tepid approach could not overcome the immovable force of the U.S. Senate.

It’s time we start thinking a little more boldly and demanding much more. We should consider abolishing private gun ownership.

I’ll admit it may seem brazen, but it’s an idea worth taking seriously. Australia enacted strict gun regulation in 1996, with little pushback. To own a firearm, an Australian must take a safety course and provide a “genuine reason” for owning a gun. “Self-defesnse” does not count as a reason, according the Australian government–and I assume ”resisting the supreme power of a corrupt and abusive government” doesn’t count, either.

Some estimate that the laws save nearly 200 lives a year. Since Americans are killed much more frequently by guns, similar measures here could save many more lives, both per capita and in total.

In 2013, over 11,000 Americans were victims of homicide with a firearm. That same year, almost twice as many Americans committed suicide using a gun. If over 30,000 American lives were lost every year because of a vaccine, GMOs or terrorism, nothing could stop us from trying every possible method to stop these deaths. Why are we so reluctant to discuss an outright ban on guns?

The natural response is that guns are fundamentally a part of our culture, in the way that they weren’t for Australia before their ban. This may be the case, and for this reason, it may be true that passing any laws seriously limiting gun ownership is unworkable at present. But my point is that we need to begin talking about the very good reasons we have to abandon a culture of guns if we ever expect to move beyond it.

The usual reasons for claiming a right to guns are by and large spurious. Many people just assert their Second Amendment rights, as if they were divinely given. But the Bill of Rights is simply a list of amendments like any other, written in a very different time. The question is really, do we have any reason to continue to endorse the Second Amendment?

The Second Amendment was intended, as it explicitly says, for the creation of a well regulated militia and for protection of the state. These days, we have little need of militia, given our unmatched Army, Navy and Air Force, not to mention National Guard, Coast Guard and municipal police departments.

Do we need personal firearms to protect ourselves against a government which has such power, as Vaughn suggests? It should seem strange to think that personal gun ownership is much of a defense against a national military or even police force.

But even if you actually thought it might be good idea to stock up weapons to overthrow your government, you have no reason to think your government should allow you to do that. Moreover, we must remember that many people we do not like and with whom we have fundamental moral and political disagreements might also dream of resisting the government through armed conflict. Rather than insisting that no one’s right to violently resist the government be infringed, why don’t we instead rely on and employ the non-violent means of democratic governance to settle our political disputes?

As for self-defense from criminals, the Australian case suggests strongly that having more guns does not in fact make us safer. As former deputy prime minister of Australia Tim Fischer told WBUR, “If more guns made us safer, the US would be the safest nation in the world.” Indeed, there’s little reason to think ensuring a right to gun ownership is the best way to protect the citizenry, because more guns generally leads to more killing.

Does this mean we should ban knives as well? Hardly–knives serve important functions, and kill far fewer people than guns do. What about cars? Well, cars do kill roughly the same number of people as guns do. It would be great if we could make them significantly safer, or find a viable alternative. We don’t need an alternative to guns, we just need people to realize that guns aren’t needed.

Finally, there are strategic advantages to be gained from adopting my proposed stance. Many might worry that anyone who said they wanted to abolish private gun ownership would be branded a looney left-wing radical; but in fact, many guns rights enthusiasts throw around just these accusations at any indication of support for gun regulation. If enough people actually claimed to support banning guns, those who favor merely stronger regulations could then claim the middle ground and may have a greater chance at success.

Photo Credit: Peretz Partensky


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Maggie W.
Maggie D2 years ago

It is beyond naive to think that banning guns will make them disappear. It's simplistic and goes to the heart of the problem. "But the Bill of Rights is simply a list of amendments like any other, written in a very different time." Like any other what, Bill of Rights? There is only one Bill of Rights that I'm aware of and the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights are the bedrock of the Constitution. That they were written at a different time does not in any way diminish them. The times we live in are at least as dangerous as the times were when the Constitution was written. I have NO objection to background checks. I do object to the taking away of rights guaranteed under the second amendment because if it were to be altered who's to say the language of the other nine amendments can't be altered to suit a Congressional lobby. THAT'S the real danger, not the guns.

Lee Rowan
Lee Rowan2 years ago

Anybody else get the impression we're getting canned bullcrap from the NRA fan page?

Lee Rowan
Lee Rowan2 years ago

The part of the 2nd amendment the rabid gunhuggers do not seem to understand (I doubt any of them have read the Constitution) is:


when that amendment was written, America had no standing army, no national guard, no Federal marshals. They did, however, have wild carnivorous animals outside a lot of towns, not to mention many tribes of native people who were justifiably angry at having their homes stolen.

This is no longer the case. And you can't convince me (or anyone with an IQ over room temperature) that these gangs of trigger-happy idiots roaming around with their overcompensatory "open carry" are "WELL-REGULATED." Either as a group or by what passes for their brains.

Lee Rowan
Lee Rowan2 years ago

David F, is a check in the mail from the NRA? You too, John H. Sharpton. God, you racist clowns must just pee your pants thinking of Al Sharpton, because, hello, Sunshine, he's not running for office. Get a grip.

And, Care2 -- who's paying YOU? This kind of headline is guaranteed to stir up the gunhugger lunatics.

The issue isn't ownership, per se. It's ownership by people who are mentally unbalanced. And since the NRA opposes laws that would screen them out, we can safely assume that the NRA either supports psychotic killers, or simply doesn't care as long as the profits roll in--because the NRA is funded by the munitions indu$try.

The thing to do -- since we always see that imbecile argument "well, CARS kill people, hurr hurr.." is to say this:

Treat guns like cars.

Minimum competency test required for licensure

Minimum AGE requirement for ownership or use.

Mandatory insurance covering damage done.

That'd help, for a start.

Amy L.
Amy L2 years ago

It is really scary to think that the Canadians and Mexicans could take over the US at any moment. I feel so much safer knowing that my crazy psychotic neighbor has an arsenal of weapons to defend my freedom.

Eric Lees
Eric Lees2 years ago

... then after they take all the guns* and people are still being murdered they will call for taking away the next dangerous weapon.

"British Police Call On Nation To ‘Save a Life, Surrender Your Knife’ As ‘Knife Violence’ Continues"

*except from the government and criminals

Eric Lees
Eric Lees2 years ago

@Simon "Eric L. you are an idiot. Look outside your myopic, insane and obsessional viewpoint at western Europe. I realise your brain is so small it probably barely manages autonomic functions, but just try and learn the lesson from our experiences."

Personal attacks are uncalled for and show your lack of ability to argue the facts. Having a opinion that differs from yours does not make me an idiot. Everyone bases their opinion on their own experience, everyone's view of the world is different as all of of are individuals. I tend to look at the big picture on issues, on this I look at the whole world and the history not just the USA or Western Europe as you suggest. It's not the guns that are different it's the people, their culture, their respect or lack of for others that varies.

We are all here because we care so show some respect for your fellow humans. You will never change someone's opinion by first insulting them.

Simon Tucker
Simon Tucker2 years ago

Jean W. - handguns were banned in the UK (not England) in 1997 - long after any chance of a Bolshevik revolution. There were restrictions put in place during the 20th century, starting with the Pistols Act of 1903, leading up to that complete ban on handguns in 1997 (with a couple of very specific exceptions).

Regardless, our homicide rates are minuscule compared to the USA. You only have to read the posts from morons like Billie C. and john h. to understand why the USA has the homicide rates of the most lawless and undeveloped countries in the world.

Pamela A.
Pamela A2 years ago

Thanks for posting