News & Politics

We Shouldn't Need to Arm Ourselves to Feel Safe

Glenn Beck has a new mantra this week, advising all Americans to arm themselves. “Those who claim to be responsible, step up to your responsibility; get a concealed weapons permit [and] learn how to handle your gun,” he told his radio audience. In the face of continual efforts to impose further gun control, and with incidents of gun violence prominent in the media, it makes a certain degree of sense that we would defy both trends by arming ourselves.

But is that the ideal? Should we tolerate a society where each individual must go about armed in order to feel safe? Or should we aim for something different?

Yaron Brook offered a provocative answer in his presentation to the 2013 Objectivist Summer Conference in Chicago. Brook immigrated to the United States from his native Israel, where he served in the military and lived immersed in a gun culture forged through necessity. That experience fostered a unique view (starting at 25:07 in the video on the next page):

I don’t like guns…

You need them in emergencies. You need them to protect yourselves. But… I would rather not live in a culture in which I needed a gun in order to protect myself on a daily basis. It’s not a culture I want to live in… I want to feel safe without having to carry a gun…

… We’ve delegated our right to self-defense to government. That’s what it means [when we say that] the government has a monopoly over the use of retaliatory force. It means that they’re now responsible for defending me. And I can now, if they’re doing a competent job, I can now not have to carry a gun in order to defend myself. I’ve delegated that to somebody else to do. And I like that, because government brings objectivity — it brings professionalism to the question. They specialize in it. It’s what they’re there to do. It’s the one thing — one thing that government’s supposed to do. It’s to protect our rights. They’re the pros. I want to live in a society where they do such a good job that I never fear for my life.

Brook goes on to address the counter-argument that government cannot always be there to protect you, upholding the notion that individuals should retain the ability to defend themselves in such contexts. He offers a nuanced view of the issue that is not common in our modern political discourse.

Often, being for gun rights gets conflated with being for gun ownership. The two positions properly ought to be considered separately. We should have the right to own a gun and use it for legitimate purposes. But we should not accept a culture in which one must be armed in order to maintain a rational expectation of safety.

Watch the video on the next page.