You have the right to own a gun… but not the right to not own a gun

Democracy Now! reported:

A city in Georgia has gone in the opposite direction of other states on gun control, making it mandatory for heads of households to own a gun and ammunition. City Council members in Nelson, Georgia, voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance to “provide for the emergency management of the city” and “protect the safety, security and general welfare” of residents. The measure exempts felons, people with certain disabilities, and those who object to owning guns.

In this sick, twisted world of the U.S. Right, you have the right to own a gun… but not the right to not own a gun.

I won’t even entertain the ridiculous arguments apologists for this decision make. However, a common response I’ve heard from liberals is “I agree it’s ridiculous, but anyone can opt out.”

I have to stand up against this. This idea is one you hear a lot in society. “Well, if you don’t like something, just don’t participate in it,” people say.

Life is not that simple. Culture is definitely not that simple.

The idea is that people can supposedly “opt out” of other laws too (let’s say the past war draft, on moral grounds), but

  1. only if they can somehow prove their moral objections (usually through religion) in some bureaucratic process that reinforces power structures (read: “You have the right to not do what you don’t want to do… but only if you, fill out a form, go through a bureaucratic process, conduct an interview, and get my permission first”),
  2. more importantly, at the expense of becoming a social pariah. And, believe it or not, most people don’t want to become social pariahs; they will do what they have to to avoid becoming one.

Laws influence — create, destroy — culture, which in turn is the ultimate arbiter of most people’s actions. Living in a gun-obsessed system creates a gun-obsessed culture — which, in turn, creates gun-obsessed people.

End of story.

In response to my above response, a friend wrote

The gun nuts get crazier by the day. If they were so concerned with self defense, they could just get a small can of mace. But anyway the statement “culture, which in turn is the ultimate arbiter of most people’s actions” is right on point for so many things (sexism, capitalism, racism, agism, etc.). The dominant culture in this country, and throughout the majority of the world, is centered on dominance/authoritarianism. The ultimate antidote to this is a culture centered on freedom in all aspects of life, which is why freedom has to be at the center of all liberation movements.

I couldn’t agree more.