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Security First: The Conservative Case for Gun Control

David Callahan

Ask a conservative about the proper role of government and the first thing they are likely to mention is security. The right has long backed a major role for the state in protecting citizens from harmful threats, whether in the form of domestic criminals or foreign adversaries. 

What's more, conservatives have routinely argued -- throughout history -- that maintaining security should trump individual rights. So it is that conservatives have supported, or spearheaded, nearly every major curtailment of civil liberties in the past century -- from the Palmer raids to Japanese internment to McCarthyism to investigations of antiwar protesters in the 1960s to the antiterrorism legislation of the mid-1990s and, most recently, the Patriot Act. 

Also, of course, conservatives have historically been for giving police greater leeway to do their job and against granting suspected criminals new rights. 

Given all this, it makes sense that conservatives would back a greater role for government in regulating guns. After all, guns pose a major threat to the security of Americans. More Americans die every year from gun violence -- many more -- than have died in all terrorist attacks against the United States and its citizens put together. Mass killers are routinely opening fire on innocents using weapons designed for killing enemy soldiers in warfare. They have even targeted members of Congress for assassination. 

In the face of this real and present danger, it is inconsistent for conservatives to elevate the individual rights of gun owners over the prerogative of the state to take all necessary steps to provide security. 

Security first has been an axiom of right wing politics for generations. It's about time that logic was applied to the threats that actually matter most to typical Americans -- citizens far more likely to be killed by the next Adam Lanza or James Holmes or Jared Loughner than an Al-Qaeda terrorist.