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by Michael Mitchell

August 20, 2002 -- One argument frequently leveled against gun ownership is one of the potential harm that a gun owner can do should he choose to misuse the power his weapon represents. The train of thought is that, because the possession of a gun allows an individual to kill relatively easily and quickly, such possession should be strictly regulated or prohibited. This argument is most frequently heard when the possibility of relaxing restrictions on civilian carry permits is discussed. “We can’t allow people to carry guns; every fender bender would turn into a blood bath!” “It would be Dodge City!”

At its core, this philosophy is based in an attitude of “what if?” It rejects the notion that the past behavior of the individual in question is germane, but only questions the possibility of his future misuse of power.

Just for the moment, let us accept this principle. Let us assume that the potential for causing harm is a valid reason to regulate or remove a person’s activities or property ownership. Where would such a philosophy lead?

Anyone who lives in a house with more than one story is capable of pushing an individual out of an upstairs window. Therefore, we should ban windows or doors in buildings above one story tall, because someone might be murdered by this method.

All women, possessing vaginas, are capable of committing prostitution, possibly passing along sexually transmitted diseases. Therefore, all women would be required to possess a “vagina owner’s license”, complete with photographs of the area in question. Furthermore, they should all be required to submit to periodic testing for a variety of STDs, to verify that, should they prostitute themselves, they would not infect some poor man with a disease.

Since all men possess penises, they have the ability to commit rape. Therefore, perhaps the government should require every man to apply for a “penis owner’s license”, which would include the submission of semen samples for use in criminal investigations of rape, along with fingerprints, photo ID, and perhaps photos of the penis (erect and flaccid) to facilitate identification by rape victims after the crime.

Absurd? Of course. However, it is important to realize that the only difference between licensing and registration of gun owners and licensing and registration of penis possessors is one of degree. In principle, they are the same - you are singling out a group of people based not on any intent to commit harm, nor on any past history of wrongdoing, but on the possibility that they may misbehave in the future, and have the ability to do so.

The danger inherent in this mindset is why those very wise men we call the Founding Fathers instilled the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” Such a principle prevents the grouping of people into perceived-dangerous groups, and forces us to deal with people as individuals, with individual motives and morals. It is the only way to live in a free society.

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