Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Right to Bear Arms - Literature of Liberty, April/June 1978, vol. 1, No. 2
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
The Right to Bear Arms - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, April/June 1978, vol. 1, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
About Liberty Fund:
This work is copyrighted by the Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and is put online with their permission.
Fair use statement:
The Right to Bear Arms
“Why a Civil Libertarian Opposes Gun Control.” The Civil Liberties Review 3 (1976): 24–32.
Following the political assassinations of the 1960s, gun control moved to the forefront of the liberal legislative agenda. However, it may be argued that those of liberal or civil libertarian convictions should oppose gun control. Gun control would lead to greater governmental power and more frequent invasions of privacy by law enforcement agencies. It would court these intrusions without providing greater security against violent crime. Nor would it be particularly advantageous for minorities and women.
The immediate consequence of strict gun control legislation would be to give the military and police a monopoly on arms and the power to determine which civilians may possess them. This would harm the interests of political and racial minorities, as well as women, for two reasons. First, such groups are subject to unusually high rates of violence in spite of the law enforcement efforts of the police. Although studies such as the Eisenhower Commission Firearms Task Force Report have claimed that armed civilian self-defense is ineffective against criminals, contrary evidence exists for believing that arming women and shopkeepers, for example, can dramatically reduce the incidence of rape and armed robbery. Second, the military and police sometimes will fully fail to provide protection to unpopular groups against politically or racially motivated violence. The salient illustration there is the behavior of southern state and local law enforcement officials during the height of the civil rights movement. Had blacks and civil rights workers not been armed, there might have been far greater bloodshed. In fact, it seems that it was the intended victims' ability to defend themselves against the Ku Klux Klan and others that oftentimes provoked the police into doing their job.
Advocates of gun control assume as self-evident that restrictions on, or prohibition of, guns (especially hand guns) will reduce violent crime. There appears no evidence to support this belief. On the contrary, a 1975 study done at the University of Wisconsin concluded that gun control laws have no individual or collective effect in reducing the rate of violent crime. But in addition to being ineffective against crime, effective enforcement of gun control laws would require giving police far more sweeping powers to search and otherwise invade the privacy of the citizenry. Worse, this would doubtlessly result in the arrest and imprisonment of many otherwise law-abiding people.