A Rational Take on Gun Control

David Pfeiffer
6 min readSep 28, 2018

Tensions over gun control in the US have spiked, becoming more controversial, divisive, and polarizing than ever. The arguments from both political parties over-generalize the issue, misrepresent alternative viewpoints, and inaccurately divide our country into two schools of thought. In response to this madness we consider a rational take on gun control, arguing that neither political party is necessarily right or wrong, but that each party simply has different priorities.

Photo by Quentin Kemmel on Unsplash

The Problem

Before we debate gun control it is important that we agree about the actual problem. The problem is not access to guns, nor is it guns themselves. The problem is that a small number of people are inclined to use the tools at their disposal to hurt or kill people they’ve never even met. The only people with blood on their hands are those actually killing people — not the NRA, not the media, and not our politicians.

That being said, just because guns aren’t the problem doesn’t mean that gun control can’t be part of the solution. By limiting access to certain types of guns we may be able to limit the number of lives these people are able to take.

The Argument Against Gun Control

The second amendment is an important consideration in the gun control debate. It is natural to consider the amendment in an argument against gun control, as it is very clear about the right of the people to bear arms.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Second Amendment to the US Constitution

One argument against gun control is that allowing citizens to arm themselves takes power away from the federal government and gives it to the people. This helps prevent governmental abuse of power and protects the independence of states, counties, and individuals.

A second such argument is that guns themselves are neither good nor bad: they are just tools, and they can be used to accomplish good and bad things depending on how they are used. This argument is certainly valid, and points to the source of the problem as previously discussed.

A third argument against gun control is that, due to the widespread availability of guns in the US, gun control only takes guns away from law-abiding citizens. Criminals do not follow the law, so gun control may be ineffective at preventing them from obtaining guns. If a shooter opens fire in public, certainly a gun-carrying, law-abiding citizen could take out the shooter and limit the number of casualties. Gun control advocates may refute this point, arguing that gun control would work if restrictions were strictly enforced at a national level.

A fourth argument against gun control is that there are plenty of legitimate uses for guns, like hunting and personal security. Strict gun regulation may impede the ability of law-abiding citizens to use guns for these purposes.

There are many other arguments against gun control. Certain studies show that gun control does not deter crime, that gun ownership does deter crime, that guns are used for defensive purposes more often than by criminals, and that guns account for a relatively small number of deaths in the US. To be fair, not all gun control advocates would take issue with all of these points, as they may agree that most law-abiding citizens should be allowed to own guns, as long as they pass a background check and purchase a legal firearm.

Finally, in an article for the Washington Post, Leah Libresco categorizes victims of gun violence and consequently breaks down many of the misconceptions held by advocates of gun control. She explains that most gun related deaths in the US are suicides, followed by gang related homicides, followed by women murdered as a result of domestic violence. She notes that gun regulation is unlikely to help people in any of these main categories.

The Argument For Gun Control

The second amendment states that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but gives no information about what types of arms are to be permitted. Certainly citizens do not need flame throwers, tanks, or military-grade missiles to protect their families. As such, it seems reasonable that we have some degree of regulation on what kinds of weapons citizens are permitted to own. In other words, some form of gun control is inevitable.

The second amendment was written over 200 years ago when the Bill of Rights was ratified as part of the US Constitution in 1791. As Henry Blodget points out, a lot has changed since then:

  • Exponential population growth and higher population density
  • Much more powerful weapons technology: we went from single-shot muskets to semi-automatic riffles

The advancement of technology changes the world we live in. Not much is stopping people in the US from purchasing assault riffles and unloading endless rounds of ammunition on innocent civilians. This has happened innumerable times in modern history with no end in sight.

Many advocates of gun control argue that effective gun control should limit the ability of individuals to kill a large number of people in a short period of time. This may involve limiting access to certain types of firearms, as well as requiring background checks when purchasing firearms. There are certainly other arguments for gun control, but this is often the argument made in response to a mass shooting. The mass shooting events are especially disturbing because they involve such a large number of innocent people being killed, often by a single shooter. There are many ways to kill humans; if you want to commit premeditated murder there is no law we can pass to to stop you. The goal for gun regulation is not to prevent gun violence, but to limit the damage that these psychopaths are able to inflect on innocent people before they are locked up or killed.

As previously mentioned, gun control would likely be ineffective at preventing the most common occurrences of gun related deaths. Although this is a valid argument, it does not imply that gun control is entirely useless. While gun control may not limit the number of deaths due to gang related homicides, it may limit the number and severity of mass shooting events. It is not unorthodox to suggest that we sacrifice a small amount of personal freedom to try and limit the degree of terror which terrorists are able to inflict on our society. Few people consider the National Security Agency to be especially controversial, yet the trade-off is the same; terrorism accounts for an extremely small number of deaths in this country, yet the NSA invades our privacy every day in the name of preventing such terrorism.

Does Gun Control Actually Work

One of the most commonly debated questions surrounding this issue is also one of the most ambiguous: does gun control actually work?

First, we may not have enough data to answer this question. There are regulations on government organizations that limit research into gun violence, and many studies that attempt to make sense of the limited data that is available are inconclusive.

Second, it depends on what exactly you mean by work. According to many studies, effective gun control results in: lower suicide rates, less availability to guns, lower rates of gun related violence and homicides, and potentially less frequent and less tragic mass shooting events.

They Want To Take Our Guns

One of the most common arguments against gun control is that restrictions of any kind will eventually lead to the government outlawing guns entirely. This argument relies on the slippery slope logical fallacy, and is not logically sound. As previously discussed, some form of gun control is inevitable. Moreover, just because some guns are made illegal doesn’t mean that all guns will eventually be made illegal. Many politicians have expressed a desire to limit the kinds of guns which are available, or to limit the availability of guns to those with mental illness.


There are many valid arguments both for and against gun control. These arguments are not mutually exclusive; rather, it seems that which arguments you find more convincing depends on what your priorities are. Perhaps you feel that we must maintain our independence from the federal government at any cost. Conversely, perhaps you want to do everything in your power to protect the lives of innocent Americans and end these mass shootings. It is possible that both of these are important to you, even if you tend to lean more in one direction. In any case, try to remember that one side of this debate is not necessarily right or wrong, that the burden of this problem lies only with the terrorists actually killing people, and that we all want to do what is best for our country, even if we don’t always agree about what exactly that is.



David Pfeiffer

I write about science, technology, philosophy, personal growth, education, and life.