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by Michael Mitchell

April 4, 2002 — Gun owners are often criticized and denigrated by our political opponents with the accusation that we are “unwilling to compromise.” In other words, we are stubborn, inflexible, unreasonable, extremist — choose your adjective. Let us analyze for a moment what exactly it means to compromise.

By definition, a compromise is an agreement reached between differing sides of an issue where each side makes concessions. Each agrees to give something up in order to receive something in return. It’s an equal exchange of give and take, such that each party walks away with something of value that they wanted.

In order for there to be a valid compromise, there must be an exchange of values. In other words, each side must give something to his opponent which has value. For example, if you and a street vendor are haggling over the price of his goods, you have both agreed to exchange something of value for something else of value. The only point of contention is how much each item is worth.

Therein lies the fundamental problem with the ‘no compromise’ accusation: In no case do gun owners receive anything of value in exchange for giving up some portion of our freedoms. By definition, a compromise would mean that each side gains something of value in exchange for giving something of value. Why is it that we never gain anything of value? Because we are the only ones with anything of value to trade.

What value does each side in the gun debate bring to the table? We who support private firearm ownership bring freedom. We bring the right to keep and bear arms, which is grounded in the natural right of self-defense, which is grounded in the right to life. One cannot claim that men have the right to life and then deny them the means to protect that life when threatened.

We also bring a proven safety record (the average gun owner is likely to be involved in one firearms related death every 5000 years — in other words, probably never). We bring proven crime reduction — on the order of two million prevented crimes per year. In other words, we have significant values associated with our side.

By contrast, what do our opponents offer of value? Nothing. They promise a ‘safer society’, which runs directly counter to the proven facts. American cities with strict firearms controls — including prohibition — continue to experience high rates of violent crime, while those with higher rates of firearm ownership, or who acknowledge the individual’s right to carry a defensive weapon, enjoy reduced crime as a benefit. They offer more governmental control over our lives — which virtually never improves the quality thereof. They offer a promise of government protection — which the government has neither the responsibility nor the ability to provide.

Here’s the real kicker: Even if they were to offer a reduction in restrictions on firearms in some other area, they’re offering to trade you something they stole from you in the first place. Your freedoms aren’t the government’s — or some hoplophobe’s — to give. The fact that you may not have them any more is simply a result of strongarm theft. It’s as though a burglar broke into your house, stole your silver collection, then offered to give you half of it back in exchange for your VCR and your TV.

The notion of compromise is grounded in the fundamental requirement that the two sides agree on the principle of trade — that of an exchange of values — and that only the particulars vary. The gun debate is radically different, because there is no common principle, and only one side has anything of value to offer — or lose. Not only is compromise not desirable in such a situation, it is fundamentally impossible.

You have your freedoms, which are of inestimable value. They are yours, “endowded by [your] Creator.” There is simply nothing anyone can offer you that is worth trading them away, not even a little. Such a ‘compromise’ isn’t — it’s incremental surrender of the right to the wrong, the good to the evil, the priceless to the worthless. So the next time someone suggests that you, as a gun owner, are ‘extremist’ because your are ‘unwilling to compromise’, ask him this question: “What are you offering me that has value even approaching the value of my freedom?” My wager would be, he has no answer.
That alone makes compromise impossible. Your unwillingness to do the impossible is not a character flaw, it's rational conformance to reality.

Copyright 2002 Michael A. Mitchell. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this article in its entirety, including this copyright notice. Mike writes for; read some of his other work at You can contact Mike at