The Right to Bear Arms is a Freedom Too Far

Wednesday 27 March 2013, 5.28am | VIDEO NOW ONLINE

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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.

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.


Speaker for the motion

Will SelfWill Self

Journalist, novelist and broadcaster


Speaker against the motion

Peter HitchensPeter Hitchens

Author and columnist for the Mail on Sunday



Panelists (via Google+ Hangouts)

Amitai Etzioni

Amitai Etzioni

Celebrated sociologist and Professor of International Affairs at The George Washington University

Stephen Halbrook

Stephen Halbrook

Attorney at Law and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute



Jeremy O'GradyJeremy O’Grady

Editor-in-chief of The Week magazine and co-founder of Intelligence Squared



All speakers are subject to change.