“The Right to Bear Arms is a Freedom Too Far”

This event has already taken place.

Host: Intelligence Squared
Location: LBS, Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN 020 7863 8198
Speaker: Will Self



Following our sell-out debate in February on drones, we're back for the fourth in our series of monthly Versus debates with Google+. This time, we investigate the right to bear arms.

Combining the flair of Intelligence Squared debates with the innovative technology of Google+ Hangouts, we’re bringing the world’s best speakers to the fray, either hosting them on stage at the Sadler’s Wells Lilian Baylis Studio in London or beaming them in from wherever they are in the world. And you’ll be able to join us either at the venue or by tuning in on the Versus Google+ and Versus YouTube channels.


A fraction of a second: that’s all it takes for your brain to send an instruction to your trigger finger. Ask Oscar Pistorius. Ask the people of Chicago, where gun related deaths exceed one a day. But that’s the thing about guns: the threshold between anger and homicide is miniscule. That’s why the US murder rate is four times the UK’s – it’s not that Americans are intrinsically more homicidal than Brits: it’s just that they have absurdly easy access to guns. So forget  everything you hear from gung-ho Americans about the precious freedom to bear arms as enshrined in the Second Amendment to the Constitution. That’s a useful freedom when you live in a frontier society with no organised police force and when the gun you’re firing is an unwieldy musket. But when the guns in question are semi-automatics that in a second transform a brawl into a bloodbath, it becomes a freedom too far. The right to bear arms is a wrong.

That’s your standard liberal line. But as usual with liberals it entails the smug acceptance that if we let nice Mr Central Government take responsibility for protecting us, all will be fine. It won’t. The US states with the highest homicide rates tend to be those with the tightest gun control laws. In Switzerland, where every adult male is legally obliged to possess a gun, there is virtually no gun crime at all. What unites the Swiss and the Americans is that they are both fiercely independent people, with a strong tradition of local government. “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes.. they make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants.” Thomas Jefferson said that. Whose side are you on?

Whose indeed? Join us for the latest in our monthly series of Versus debates as we investigate the right to bear arms.

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