FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Gun Control and Arms Control

by LAWRENCE WITTNER

In a number of ways, gun control issues are remarkably similar to arms control issues. Gun controllers argue that the availability of guns facilitates the use of these weapons for murderous purposes. Arms controllers make much the same case, asserting that weapons buildups lead to arms races and wars. Both stress the imperative of weapons controls in an era of growing technological sophistication, pointing out that assault weapons sharply increase dangers domestically, just as nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons increase the dangers of a holocaust globally.

Weapons enthusiasts have also adopted a common approach. The National Rifle Association insists that weapons are harmless. According to the NRA, “people” are the problem, which can be solved by “good guys” using guns to intimidate or kill “bad guys.” Adopting much the same position, the military-industrial complex and its fans contend that the people of their nation are “good,” and need superior armaments to deter or destroy the “bad” people.

In this debate, the weapons critics have a better case. Even if one leaves aside the difficulty of distinguishing between “good” and “bad” people, there is copious evidence indicating that, all other things being equal, the more access people have to weapons, the more likely they are to use them. States and nations that have strict gun control laws have less gun-related violence
than those that don’t. Furthermore, heavily armed countries are more often at war than are militarily weaker nations. Indeed, nations flooded with weapons are particularly prone to bloodbaths. Just look at Syria, the Congo, Mexico … and the United States!

Although weapons enthusiasts in the United States lean upon other justifications for armed might, these are even flimsier. The much-cited Second Amendment to the Constitution deals with a “well regulated militia” — an outdated institution that has no connection to today’s gun-owners. Moreover, the alleged patriotic necessity of resisting the U.S. government by force of arms is not only unconstitutional, but treasonous.

Even so, the weapons enthusiasts have spotted a genuine weakness in the case made by the weapons controllers. Specifically, while weapons exist, it is necessary to prevent or restrain armed aggression – by individuals or by nations. The fact that the enthusiasts’ “solution” – throwing more weaponry into the mix – merely exacerbates the problem cannot hide the existence of the problem. So what, in these circumstances, should be done about it?

 

Preventing or restraining armed aggression needs to be tackled not only by arms control and disarmament, but also by just and effective governance on the local, national and international levels. To some degree, this job has been accomplished within many nations. Particularly when countries have representative governments, equitable laws, an impartial judiciary, fair policing, an accessible mental health care system, and a high level of social well-being, conflicts within them can often be settled short of resorting to armed violence – at least if they are not awash in guns.

The issue is trickier on the international level, where governance is a much newer and more rudimentary phenomenon. In this case, there is no alternative to supporting the development of global institutions that will replace the rule of force with the force of law. Clearly this transformation will require scrapping aggressive action by individual nations, as well as vigilante action by groups of nations. Above all, it will require developing the United Nations as the final arbiter and resolver of international disputes.

As many people of goodwill recognize, the United Nations has shown the world the path that should be taken toward eradicating poverty and disease, defending human rights, and resolving conflicts among nations. The problem with the United Nations is that it is often too weak to move the world very far in this direction.

If, on the other hand, the United Nations were strengthened, it would not only provide a better means for the spread of international law, justice, and social well-being, but a more effective force for disarmament and world peace.

After all, this is the job for which the United Nations was created. And is it so unreasonable to provide the world organization with the appropriate authority to handle the task? In the Book of Isaiah, there is a well-known prophecy: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Today, a dramatic “Swords Into Plowshares” statue adorns the garden of the New York City headquarters of the United Nations, awaiting the day when that prophecy will be fulfilled.

Lawrence S. Wittner is professor of history emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is “Working for Peace and Justice: Memoirs of an Activist Intellectual” (University of Tennessee Press).


Lawrence S. Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at UAardvark?

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
Graham Peebles
Ethiopian’s Crying out for Freedom and Justice
Robert Koehler
Stop the Killing
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: Of Dog Legs and “Debates”
Yves Engler
The Media’s Biased Perspective
Victor Grossman
Omens From Berlin
Christopher Brauchli
Wells Fargo as Metaphor for the Trump Campaign
Nyla Ali Khan
War of Words Between India and Pakistan at the United Nations
Tom Barnard
Block the Bunker! Historic Victory Against Police Boondoggle in Seattle
James Rothenberg
Bullshit Recognition as Survival Tactic
Ed Rampell
A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits
Kristine Mattis
Persnickety Publishing Pet-Peeves
Charles R. Larson
Review: Helen Dewitt’s “The Last Samurai”
David Yearsley
Torture Chamber Music
September 22, 2016
Dave Lindorff
Wells Fargo’s Stumpf Leads the Way
Stan Cox
If There’s a World War II-Style Climate Mobilization, It has to Go All the Way—and Then Some
Binoy Kampmark
Source Betrayed: the Washington Post and Edward Snowden
John W. Whitehead
Wards of the Nanny State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail