If you have engaged in the often highly heated discussion on gun control in the United States, chances are that you have heard the “slippery slope” argument, which is used by pro-gun (or anti-gun control) people. Basically, this argument means that there really can be no “in-between” gun regulations or limits imposed without violating the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. I disagree with this argument, and believe that we can and should have tougher gun restrictions without violating the Constitutional right to bear arms.
If you can imagine standing on a ledge, and that ledge represents the absolute right to bear arms, and below you there is the other extreme, which is having no right to bear any arms. The slippery-slope argument postulates that as soon as you start moving from the top level, or right to bear arms, to the lower level via gun restrictions or increased regulation, you will begin sliding down the slope and end up at the lower level, in which all guns are banned.
This argument doesn’t work for a few reasons. One reason is that there are current examples of other Constitutional rights being limited without an overall, absolute threat to the right in question. For example, the right of free speech. There are limits to this right. A person cannot expect to yell “fire!” in a crowded movie theater, for instance, without repercussions. Inciting a riot is also something that can get a person into a lot of trouble. Yet, we still have this fundamental right to free speech in America. In most circumstances, a person can say pretty much whatever they want without fear of being put in jail or worse.
Another reason the slippery slope argument doesn’t work is that, frankly, if it were true, it would already be happening. There are already regulations and limits pertaining to what kinds of weapons a person can own. A person doesn’t have the right to make nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, for instance. Why not? It’s an “arm” to bear, isn’t it? The logic behind it is that such weapons are likely to cause great harm to other people than those that are being protected by them. While fully automatic AK-47’s and Uzi’s are in fact legal in some states, you need to jump through a lot of hoops and pay the appropriate fees to own one. So there are already examples of us having tougher regulations with certain specific kinds of assault rifles, without the overall right to bear arms being violated.
Instead of thinking of it as a slippery slope between the untouched right to bear arms and the other extreme of all guns being banned, it is better to think of it as a staircase. Meaning, you can go down a few levels without sliding all the way to the lower extreme. With the concept of a staircase, we can impose certain regulations and restrict certain specific weapons without endangering the overall right to own guns and defend your life and property.
So, the next time you are in a gun control argument and you hear someone say it’s a “slippery slope,” tell ’em “Not true! We can build a staircase!”
Photo credit – www.freedigitalphotos.net – vectorolie