Poll Numbers Don’t Matter in Gun Control Debate – aka Liberty, Freedom and Mob Rule
Anti gun politicians keep saying that 90% of the American people polled support background checks.
There are a few issues with this. First off, we don’t know exactly what people are thinking when they hear background checks. Are these polls asking people, “Do you support background checks for gun purchases?” or “Do you support background checks if it would save the lives of children?” or “Do you support a universal background check on all firearms transactions which will create a paper trail that is a gross invasion of privacy and civil liberties that will cost gun owners $10-30 every time a gun changes hands?”
I’m just going to guess it’s not that last one, but if it was I think the poll numbers would be a little different.
There is also the issue that gun owners, and I’m stereotyping a little here, enjoy their privacy more than your average person. This could mean gun owners are refusing to answer poll questions when they are called.
OK, so we already know the numbers themselves are suspect. We know probably 90% of American people DON’T support invasive, expensive background checks, but let’s forget that. What if they did? It doesn’t matter.
Our government is considered a republic or elected democracy. This is different from a true democracy. In a true democracy, every citizen would be able to weigh in and vote on every issue. Obviously with a population of over 300 million in our country that would not work. All we would be doing is voting. Also, the country would be subjected to every whim of mob mentality.
So what did our founding fathers have in mind?
Let’s look at the following analysis of James Madison’s Federalist Paper No. 10.
He then argues that the only problem comes from majority factions because the principle of popular sovereignty should prevent minority factions from gaining power. Madison offers two ways to check majority factions: prevent the “existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time” or render a majority faction unable to act. Madison concludes that a small democracy cannot avoid the dangers of majority faction because small size means that undesirable passions can very easily spread to a majority of the people, which can then enact its will through the democratic government without difficulty.
Madison states, “The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man”, so the cure is to control their effects. He makes an argument on how this is not possible in a pure democracy but possible in a republic. With pure democracy, he means a system in which every citizen votes directly for laws, and, with republic, he intends a society in which citizens vote for an elite of representatives who then vote for laws. He indicates that the voice of the people pronounced by a body of representatives is more conformable to the interest of the community, since, again, common people’s decisions are affected by their self-interest. (Source)
Madison presents a solution to the mob rule mentality that exists with democracy. He proposed elected officials that represent groups of citizens.
Now the founding fathers also saw potential problems with this. Those elected officials are obviously human, as are the rest of us and could be subject to the same type of mob rule mentalities under certain situations and could make policies which are detrimental to the well being of their constituents, even while being well meaning.
So, the founding fathers put together a document called the Constitution in order to lay out a set of rules of what these elected officials could and could not actually do.
That documented was amended with the Bill of Rights, to ensure that the most basic, fundamental rights of the people were always protected. The Bill of Rights was put in place to insure that no mob rule mentality could ever trample the rights of the citizens of the United States as long as the Constitution was still the law of the land in regards to the government.
Our government type (republic), Constitution, and Bill of Rights were all put in place to protect this country from the dangers of mob rule. Even if 90% of the American people did want invasive universal background checks (I promise, they don’t), the system in place protects the rights of the minority, because the right to bear arms is one of the explicitly protected rights in the Bill of Rights.
Let’s think about it another way. What if 90% of the country wanted to get rid of all religions except one? What if 90% of the country wanted to reinstate slavery? What if 90% of the country wanted to institute Sharia law? In those situations we would expect our elected officials to protect the citizens from mob rule and use the documents our founding fathers put in place to protect us from tyranny. This debate is no different, and actually more important, because if the Second Amendment is eroded enough all of those terrible things I just listed could much more easily become reality.