Feb. 18 2013 03:32 PM

What we ‘need’ is to pursue the things that make us happy

Ed Decker

I'd like to state at the outset that I'm not necessarily against gun control. What I am against is a certain argument that many gun-control activists use when referring to assault rifles. It's an argument that boils my gallbladder every time I hear it, and I damn near hear it every time I observe a gun-control debate.

Take New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said, in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, "No one needs an assault rifle to go out and shoot a deer."

Yes, duh, nobody needs an assault rifle to shoot a deer. But nobody is saying that's the reason they need them. It ain't about hunting. It ain't even about "need." No civilian needs an assault rifle for pretty much anything. Nor do they need cigarettes, Big Macs, chocolate, surfboards, Red Bull, thoroughbreds or paintball, and for damn sure nobody needs another has-been rocker to record an album of classic cover songs because he or she can't write original music anymore.

And while we probably do need automobiles, we don't need high-performance sports cars that go from zero to 100 in slightly less time than it takes for something ludicrous to come out of Ted Nugent's gaping venison-hole.

Indeed, the word "need" is way too subjective. Are we talking about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, as in air, food, water and shelter? Or are we talking Decker's Lower-archy, as in, "I had a rough day, and I need to get high"?

Well, guess what? It doesn't matter. The point of a free society is that we have a right to have and do and want the things we want. And if there's concern about any of these things, such as assault rifles, the burden is on the government to prove that something is too harmful to the well-being of society and that prohibiting or regulating it will put a meaningful dent in the problem.

Reasonable minds can disagree on whether assault-rifle prohibition is warranted; just don't give me any of this "nobody needs them" garbage, because if "need" were the decider, you can say goodbye to about 85 percent of the things you have and do and want.

People want assault rifles for different reasons: Collectors want them because it gives them a sense of satisfaction when they add a new weapon to their display, no different than a stamp collector or art collector. Others want to shoot their big, loud weapons at the range. It's an adrenalin rush. It stimulates endorphins, like a snort of good whiskey (which nobody needs, either). Then there are those who want to protect their families from home invasion or believe Armageddon is coming. Regardless of why these people want, or think they need, assault rifles, the question remains: Who are we to arbitrarily decide they don't have a right to the security, comfort and/or pleasure that an assault rifle gives them?

Look at it this way: Let's say you have a swimming pool. You love your swimming pool. You love sipping poolside margaritas with your wife on the weekends and periodically jumping in to cool off. Then one day, four kids drown in a local pool accident, causing a group of swimming-pool-hating reactionistas—who can't understand why anyone would want to bask in an over-chemicalized urine receptacle—to leap into action. They form an activist organization (Mothers Against Over-Chemicalized Urine Receptacles), whip up a fear campaign, lobby local government and send out press releases revealing persuasive statistics such as the utterly true fact that children die in swimming-pool accidents far more often than they do by guns. Finally, they convince the public that "Nobody needs a pool" (which is also true), and the next thing you know, you're sipping margaritas beside a cement-filled hole in the ground wishing you hadn't voluntarily surrendered your antique Dragunov SVD sniper rifle because there's rooftop access to the building across the street from the offices of Mothers Against Over-Chemicalized Urine Receptacles.

Oh, and isn't that the way it works in this world? People are so eager to support a ban on the things that other people have and do and want until the time comes for somebody to take away the things that they have, want, do. But, hey, if, after all this, you still have a need to bring "need" into the discussion, then fine. I've got your need right here.

Bear with me for a moment.

It should be evident to everyone—thanks in part to the founding fathers who created this country to escape tyranny—that human beings need to be free. We need to control our own lives and pursue the things that please us. Maybe we don't need assault rifles, per se, but we all need the freedom to have them. Indeed, we need that more than we need the guns themselves. That is how "need" factors into it.

Regardless of what you think of the Second Amendment, it is in the Bill of Rights. And as Thomas Jefferson famously told Ben Franklin one night while Googling "inexpensive French whorehouses" on a snuff-and-opium binge, "The Constitution is not just another iTunes contract for us to click 'Agree' and forget about."

Write to ed@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.

Make sure not to miss the Sordid Tales podcast!