From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.
-Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program (1875)
I have been reading with somewhat passing interest the current debate about gun control in the wake of the senseless shootings that happened last year. The focus of the debate has been military style "assault rifles", although some politicians are taking aim at handguns as well. Now, I probably don't qualify as a gun nut, since I own only 2 rifles, one an antique which is probably not in fireable condition (and I would have a hell of a time finding ammunition for it if it was), and a semi-automatic hunting rifle (it was used and at a very good price). Since I do not hunt, I use the rifle primarily for recreational target shooting (once in the last 10 years) and for defense (not my ideal choice, I prefer a 12 gauge shotgun, but it is quite a pain in the neck to buy a gun in California now). I have never and probably will never own a handgun, mainly because any handgun that is worth a crap is hideously expensive, and even harder to get in California. So having established that I am not a gun nut, why wouldn't I sympathize with a ban on military style assault rifles, or strictly limit availability on handguns. After all, very few of us really need those weapons, right?
Well, there is my problem, that word "need". See, the 2nd amendment to the Constution nowhere says we have to have a "need" in order to possess a weapon. In fact, none of the rights enumerated by the Constitution have any prior condition of "need" in order for us to exercise them, We have the right to free speech and freedom of the press, whether we really ":need" to speak or write or not. We don't have to "need" to be secure from unreasonable search and seizure in order to be secure; we are all secure whether we have "something to hide" or not. We do not have to demonstrate a "need"for our religious faith, or lack of it, in order to exercise that. So, why do we have to "need" a weapon that we already have the right to possess?
This is a philosophical question that comes right down to the core of what is happening in our society today, and it's not just guns. We also don't "need" 20 oz sodas, so Mayor Bloomberg says we can't have them. We don't "need" cigarettes, so we'll tax hell out of them. Pretty soon, we will have to justify everything we do with a "need", and if we can't, well, just forget it bub, you can't do it. You want a motorcycle? You don't need one. You want to go surfing tomorrow? You don't need to. You want to get surgery for that painful back condition? You don't need it, you can survive without it. Then we will be in the position that Marx envisioned: someone else will get to determine what we need and don't need. And that will really suck.