November 29, 2012

Gun Control: Making Heroes Into Criminals

The case of SAS Sergeant Danny Nightingale has gotten pretty much zero coverage on our side of the pond. But it illustrates perfectly how government, in the name of this or that social good, turns ordinary citizens into criminals.

In this case, not just an ordinary citizen, but a war hero.

Sgt. Nightingale was an SAS operative in Iraq where he was given a 9mm pistol as a token of appreciation from an Iraqi counterpart. He brought the pistol home, and was arrested for illegal gun possession.

He pleaded guilty, throwing himself on the mercy of the court and expecting some leniency given his record and the circumstances under which the the pistol was acquired, but he was sentenced to 18 months.

18 months because a special forces soldier had a gun.

And his job in the SAS? A sniper. You wouldn't want a sniper to have a gun. That's dangerous!

Surreal.

Today, after a long public campaign, Sgt. Nightingale's sentence was suspended and he was released. Thank God for small favors from the government that sent him to prison in the first place:

SAS Sergeant Danny Nightingale was dramatically freed today after winning an appeal against a conviction for his illegal possession of Glock 9mm war trophy.

Three judges suspended his sentence after a special hearing in the Court Martial Appeal Court today.

The sniper's wife, Sally, who had said her husband didn't want "to get his hopes up", wept as the judges said he would be released immediately.

After he walked free from the cells at the Royal Courts of Justice tonight, he hugged his wife and father in the main hall of the building as he wiped away tears.

Gun control isn't just a bad idea because it takes away our natural right to self defense, it's a terrible idea because it makes laudable behavior a crime.

Even if we were to admit that reducing the number of guns in a population generally would bring down the number of those killed in violent crimes, wouldn't that generalization not apply here? That is, even in the UK certain highly trained and highly trusted individuals in the police forces are expected to carry weapons. It's considered a good thing.

This guy, Sgt. Nightingale, has much more training and has been in positions of trust much higher than even those limited number of police officers who carry weapons. Think about it: the British government gave him guns and then trusted his judgement as to when it was appropriate to pull the trigger or not. And the circumstances under which he could exercise that judgement were much broader than those under which a British police officer could exercise that judgement.

The government spent a great deal of money teaching this man how to handle weapons, and then a great deal more money prosecuting and incarcerating him for the very thing he was trained to do!

In this way gun control criminalizes behavior that is otherwise considered a good thing.

It places it in a very different category than, say, drug use. As a small "l" libertarian, I believe drugs -- all of them -- ought to be legalized. But I also believe drug use is almost always a bad thing. The same with prostitution. It should be legal, even though it's bad.

I actually think that the act of paying someone for sex makes someone a bad person. Both the John and the hooker are engaged in grossly immoral conduct.

I think the same thing about drug users. If you use drugs, you are bad.

Yet, in both cases, the government ought not to prevent the action based on the principals of limited government, free contract, and preventing harm only when there is a third party directly and negatively affected without consent.

Guns, on the other hand, are not inherently bad. Owning a gun does not make one a bad person. In fact, in many instances -- such as the case of Sgt. Nightingale -- there is a very strong argument that owning the gun improves the person's ability to act morally.

Far reaching gun control, then, is in a special category of government evils. It punishes good people for doing good things.

How can a society be expected to long survive when deviants are lauded but heroes are labelled villains? It can't.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 01:12 PM | Comments |