Arms are a dicey, sensitive subject that forces the body politic to confront some of the deepest, darkest aspects of the human condition. Few contemporary issues challenge an idealist more than these few pounds of metal shaped by a gunsmith from a lump of raw material into a political statement. Are human incorrigibly violent? Is crime the product of an inanimate object so seemingly regulatable and whisked away by legislative fiat? Or does it stem from deeper sources that some groups have conquered better than others through the bewildering array of tools known as culture? With political correctness and post-modern cultural relativism dominating so many types of discourse, is it even fair to make and point out potentially unflattering cultural comparisons?
Ultimately, is the unpleasant tension of Domestic Detente the best humans can reliably count on?
Unfortunately, in answering the Chairman's call about the Purpose of Arms I fear that the response is an unpleasant one on all sides. A subject philosophers debated for centuries is now being conclusively answered through the tools of evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, and anthropology - Humans are Violent. Given this, mortal threats against man lurk in even the most civil bastions - we may be impressed with societies that have achieved a low violent crime rate, but we have yet to see one that's achieved zero or whose broad lessons are exportable en toto to the great dynamic, heterogenous experiment of America.
Arms, even in our modern times, are ultimately required for one human to credibly kill another human.
We need them not because they help us achieve a perfect world but rather, merely a world better than the one we've been born into and have created vis a vis our fellow man.
I'm sympathetic to the type of world The Challenger's wants to see. However, not all ideals are realistic - especially when they start with the messy, conflicted raw material of Human Nature. More often than we like to accept, the choice society faces is not between Good and Bad but rather between Bad and Worse. In this case, not between "No Guns / No Violence" vs. "Guns / Violence" but rather between "No Guns / Violence" and "Guns / Defense against Violence".
In order to make his case, the challenger ultimately needed to prove that the stuff of man could be changed - which he hasn't. In lieu of that, the challenger's argument primarily rests upon the assertion that certain low/zero gun ownership nations have lower crime rates than the US. However, in at least one major case - Japan - the challenger was forced to agree that culture was the dominant, proximate variable rather than gun policy. In several other cases, for ex., Sweden vs. Finland or Australia vs. New Zealand, we have neighboring countries with diametrically opposite gun laws and yet identical violent crime rates.
My case started with the mortal violence of man and moved forward by deriving it's corollaries. If man is violent, then sometimes violence or the credible threat thereof is the only defense. Sometimes, even small breaches of the social convenant (e.g. auto theft) need to be credibly met with large potential consequences (risk of getting shot). And, for a variety of reasons, mano a mano violence can't be solved with government intervention but rather only via mano a mano counter-violence.
But perhaps ultimately, while I did more than my share of dabbling in statistics, the ultimate issue wasn't one of comparing good vs. bad stats but rather the decidedly libertarian stance of "why shouldn't I have the right?" No matter the potential harm, we trust adults with many other situations of comparable or greater harm - why should we allow them that exercise in this most personal of all circumstances - defense of my own body?
I agree that these issues give birth to a larger locus of political thought - and hence are divisive on many fronts. I close with a debate I saw on television a few years back on the topic of gun control - a progressively flustered control proponent was against a gun rights advocate. After a few rounds of banter, she exasperatedly said -
"Why don't you gun freaks just leave and start your own country?"
He responded - "We did, who invited you in?"
Perhaps arms are truly is The Issue that separates?