So long as capitalism exists we will always have the gun control debate. On one side the liberals say we must lose our guns because they kill people. On the other we have the conservatives saying they need their guns to protect themselves. As Marxists we understand that the reality of the situation is more complex than what either aside has laid out. To truly understand why we need guns, and to understand why people kill with guns; there must be an investigation. So how do us Marxists see gun ownership? It is not enough to simply remind people that Marx said the workers needed to be armed. We must go further and prove why both the liberal and the conservative positions are wrong. We must also explain why we are right.
In the liberal view, guns cause people to be killed by gun violence. When liberals argue for gun control (or banning ownership), they site some kind of mass shooting as a reason. In others they point to the number of people who kill themselves by accident, and suicide. Children who are accidentally killed, or accidentally kill someone is another strong talking point. There is no doubt that gun crimes, suicides, and accidents are higher in the U.S. than any other First World country. This gives a lot of weight to the liberal side of the argument. Having guns does make death by guns more likely; just as having more knives would make an increase in knife deaths more likely. But is that enough to justify taking guns away?
In the conservative view we need guns to protect ourselves. This protection stretches from simple home invasion, to an invasion by a foreign military, to a totalitarian takeover by the government. It can be rightly argued that the Second Amendment was intended to safeguard against an overreach of government infringing upon people’s rights. I hardly think it can be argued that you don’t have the right to defend your home. Given the power of the U.S. military I think there is little possibility that a foreign army would invade. In this day and age there is more likely to be a nuclear attack. As for a totalitarian take over by the government, I think this is a real possibility. But, how effective would gun ownership be against such a move remains questionable. Regardless, such a government action is however a real threat. But does this justify keeping guns in people’s hands?
These are two sides of the same incorrect coin. Liberals are usually preoccupied with the avoidance of deaths, rather than looking at the reasons guns are needed. Conservatives are preoccupied with the reason guns are needed, rather than avoiding the unnecessary deaths. Neither one of these views is really giving the whole picture. Together, we get some measure of the picture, but not all of it. Each of these views is dependent upon certain bourgeois perceptions of the world.
The liberal has a bourgeois sense of morality: the deaths of Americans from guns is wrong, so we must take them away. But, guns should remain in the hands of the real killers; police, and the military which enforce class rule. Particularly the military which doesn’t victimise the American people, just the rest of the world for the benefit of the American people.
The conservative has a bourgeois sense of entitlement view of guns: they need to guns to stop anyone from infringing upon an unjust conception of rights which are inhumane and murderous towards others. They want them to defend their land stolen from Native Americans. They have an inherently racist view of the need for guns, to protect themselves from minorities. Conservatives want guns to enforce their hateful views that probably cause most gun violence (preservation of poverty etc.).
What do both of these views have in common? Neither actually addresses the reasons why Americans shoot each other. Guns obviously don’t kill people, they’re inanimate objects. People kill people. To stop people from killing other people you need to address why they want to kill each other. Conservatives are not concerned with why, while liberals have an incorrect understanding of why it happens which leads to meaningless action. People kill because of social antagonisms (class, race, etc.) that arise as a result of capitalism, a system predicated on contradictions that produce antagonisms. They advocate reforms that would reduce these antagonisms a bit, but not abolish them. Capitalism cannot create equality, it is predicated – based on the opposite. It cannot deal with the antagonisms in society because it cannot create equality.
The abolishment of capitalism is the only way to eliminate the need and want people will have to kill each other. Capitalism will not go away on its own. Revolution must be fought for. The correct conditions are needed and the people must be willing to take control of society. The bourgeoisie will not just lay down their arms and surrender. The people must be willing to fight in order to change the world.
This leads us to a simple conclusion: “To have peace, you must prepare for war.” To put it in Maoist words:
“…war can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun.
– Mao Zedong, “Problems of War and Strategy” (November 6, 1938), Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 225