Georgia has pretty strict gun control laws – not that you would notice.
I have often described the country as a libertarian paradise in many ways – laws are few and far between, and enforcement of existing laws is often lax to nonexistent. Government regulation rarely or never gets in the way of everyday activities, and it is amazing how much more present and real the government feels in the US than it does in Georgia. You can drink a beer out on the street, build a stairway without a handrail, change the wiring in the walls in your own house without a license, and generally dig your own grave in a variety of ways that Americans would find either liberating or terrifying, depending on their inclinations.
But carrying a gun around is not one of them. Most Georgians don’t seem to have guns, or they have them but only for hunting (and I mean like a simple, no-frills rifle – not like, an AK-47 that they use to hunt wolves from a helicopter or whatever bullshit people in America need unlimited firepower for), and my former police students explained that you need a license to own or carry a gun.
No, in Tbilisi, you worry a lot about getting hit by a car when crossing the street, and not at all about getting shot by a psychopath (or by a trigger-happy cop).
I saw this image macro on someone’s fb wall that had a picture of a woman holding a rifle and the text said something like “you don’t support women’s rights if you want to strip them of their right to self-defense.” This is bullshit in like eight different ways, starting with the fact that a rifle is highly impractical for self-defense in the vast majority of situations in which a woman might find herself in need of a firearm.
But also, there’s something to be said for a woman’s right to not have to worry about self-defense. I mean, isn’t it more meaningful for a woman to be able to walk around with confidence because no one is going to bother her than for a woman to be able to walk around with confidence because she knows that if it comes down to a life-or-death situation, she might be able to kill one or more assailants?
You are not safe in any situation where you have to carry a gun to feel safe.
And what about a woman’s right to be protected from the trauma of shooting someone? What about the psychological effects of having weapons training – of practicing and mentally and physically preparing for and rehearsing the act of killing another human being? What about the social impact of living in a society where people are assessed as threats rather than as neighbors and friends? What kind of quality of life can a woman expect to have, knowing that she is one step away from becoming a war zone?
In other words, this pro-gun poster supposes that the burden rests on women to modify their behavior – by acquiring and learning to use a deadly weapon – in order to remain safe.
But wait – doesn’t that sound like something else? The burden on the victim, in this case women? Sounds to me like rape culture.
So if you evaluate gun rights rhetoric in light of the ideas of feminism, and specifically of anti-rape activism, it places the entire issue in an interesting light. We would never say that a woman who wears a burka and never leaves her house, all to avoid being raped, has more liberty than a woman who wears whatever she wants and goes wherever she wants and understands that she lives with some rape risk.
And yet we hear that a man who fortifies his house with enough weapons to re-fight the War of 1812 and carries a gun just to go get Starbucks has more liberty than a man who spends his leisure time reading or jogging and never worries about whether he might have to kill the next person he meets.
It seems like a peculiar kind of liberty that makes us afraid to walk around unarmed.
The fight against rape culture is a fight to move the burden of preventing crimes from the individual to the society. It is a struggle to educate men and women about what constitutes rape, about warning signs that it’s time to intervene, about how to report a rape and how to act in response to a reported rape. It is a struggle to convince people in society to collectively reduce the number of rapes by engaging in positive individual and collective action. It is not a struggle to arm all women so that they can just shoot their rapists.
I would argue that we could make a similar argument against gun culture. If we live in a society, it should not ultimately fall to the individual to protect himself or herself from violent crime or to defend his or her property from incursion. That’s the whole point of society – in a sense, the reduction of the need for individual self-defense is the whole reason we put up with each other.
Maybe you can’t trust your government to uphold its end of the bargain – maybe you live in a high-crime area and law enforcement just doesn’t do its job right – but taking matters into your own hands seems more like a desperate, last-ditch attempt to stay alive than a coherent social philosophy which we should enshrine along with our most cherished ideals. Maybe you sometimes *have to* take matters into your own hands, but your *ideal* should be a society in which crime is discouraged collectively, through education, community-building, and other positive action.
Judging by the example of Georgia, the right to own a gun doesn’t seem to correlate strongly to other rights that we value in a democracy – especially in a modern, egalitarian democracy. To beat this drum one more time, lack of intrusive regulation in Georgia means we pay a flat, low income tax and flat, low VAT tax, we pay anywhere from 10% – 20% of the price for medications as Americans pay, we pay much less for utilities, phone service, and internet, and we invest almost no resources in complying with a set of labyrinthine laws designed to confuse and confound the public and turn the entire populace into criminals.
Meanwhile, public services are more efficient, public transportation is more comprehensive (and cheaper), and essentially the government governs much less, and much better, than the American governmental apparatus. Georgians are strong advocates for their own rights, and angrily reject the types of corruption in their politics that Americans accept without question in our politics. Again, imagine an American politician losing an election over an issue like prison rape – prison rape! It’s as American as apple pie.
The country has problems – including widespread poverty, underdeveloped regions, and a lack of credible opposition to a growing theocracy – but it would not be at all credible to say that the people of Georgia are lacking when it comes to political and civil rights, liberties, and freedoms.
And somehow they manage it without a well-regulated militia.