I have thought about the usefulness of writing a type of “confession” encompassing my years as an avid supporter of gun control. It has taken me some time to synthesize the ideas and concepts that I held during that period of my life, and to analyze each one in depth. I’ve opted to divide the narrative chronologically: (1) pre-US; (2) arrival in U.S. and pre-college (prior to 1990); (2) the college years (1990-1995); (3) graduate school (1995-2001); (4) post-graduate years (2001-2005); (5) the epiphany and disillusionment (2005); and (6) up to the present day. For each period, I hope to provide as complete a picture as I can of my thinking, motivations, rationalizations, etc., for strict gun control. Pre-US Years This period covers a large span of my life. Not surprisingly, given the number of years covered, there was an array of key episodes that informed my view of firearms and the uses of firearms-related violence. I was born in one of those Latin American nations that projected a thin veneer of democratic government, but which was actually ruled by an elite caste of military officers and landed oligarchs. Interestingly, firearms were not banned nor forbidden to the general public (to the best of my recollection). Although not an individual right, in the American sense of that concept, firearms were available and individuals could obtain firearms for sport or self-defense by fulfilling the extensive (but not prohibitive) licensing requirements. Indeed, my native country was much more liberal with regards to firearms than some American jurisdictions today (and remains that way still). For example, to obtain a license to carry a pistol, average citizens were required to pay a fee, undergo a criminal background check, register with the military, and pass a simple knowledge exam. While such requirements may appear odious to liberty-minded Americans, keep in mind that fulfillment of said requirements resulted in the issuance of a license to carry – something denied to average law-abiding citizens of jurisdictions such as New York City, Chicago, DC, and Maryland (among others). Legal constraints played a relatively small role in the proliferation of firearms. Money was a stronger predictor of firearms possession – average families barely meeting their basic needs had little discretionary income to spend on firearms, ammunition, or the licensing process. A second factor that played a role in the proliferation of firearms was an attitudinal one. Firearms were strongly associated with the military ruling caste. Firearms in the hands of the people were never viewed as deterrents to tyranny. Our historical experience had taught us that whatever power was conferred by firearms would invariably be abused. That is, there was no common understanding that a revolution carried out by an armed populace would lead to the establishment of a representative republic with a limited government. At best, such a revolution would result in a social-democratic welfare state that would invest heavily in services such as universal health care, education, and so on. Much more likely (in the public’s estimation) was that a popular revolution would simply swap one set of armed masters with another – akin to the Russian experience, where the Czarist aristocracy was replaced by the Soviet nomenklatura. Needless to say, a widespread type of fatalism and learned helplessness shaped the national consciousness, in a way that could not be fathomed by native-born Americans. Finally, a third factor played an important role in cultural attitudes towards firearms: government-sponsored assassinations. The military establishment, as well as paramilitary groups that served as enforcers of military hegemony, carried out assassinations in the tens of thousands. I can remember clearly from my childhood that no family was untouched by such violence: you either knew, or knew of, someone that had been executed by the military. The public was disgusted simultaneously with the human agents that carried out the killings and the firearms with which these killings were accomplished. The two were inseparable in the public mind. These factors, then, affected my view of firearms. With but a single exception, I never came close to a firearm. My father never owned one. My uncle, an NCO in the Army, owned a .38 caliber revolver that he showed me once or twice, but which I was never allowed to handle. After my father’s assassination by a paramilitary death squad, my mother became stridently anti-gun. She destroyed all of my toy guns, and would scold me when I played “cops and robbers” with my friends. (The same reactions, by the way, can be discerned today among relatives and friends of those who have been killed by individuals wielding firearms. I believe that anti-gun attitudes among these individuals are designed to manage the trauma of loss.) Arrival in the US and Pre-College Years When I moved to the United States in the mid 1980’s, my family settled in Los Angeles. For me, the most obvious feature of my new home was the drastically lower level of violence; even with the type of violent crime that typified L.A. at that time, the difference was stark. Since the military was not a feature of daily life in my new home (e.g., no military patrols on the highways), I saw many fewer weapons than I had back in my native land. It occurred to me that two things were simultaneously true about L.A., as compared to my previous home: I saw fewer firearms, and violence was very low. I concluded then that the near-absence of firearms must invariably have caused the near-absence of violence. By the age of 10, then, I had fixed in my mind the notion that fewer guns led to lower crime. This would remain an axiom of my knowledge base for over 20 years; it was never questioned. Two features contributed further to my developing attitude towards firearms during this period. First, in my new home, I only saw two groups with firearms: police and gang members. Here, an interest dichotomy formed: I de-emphasized firearms in the hands of the “good guys”, and magnified firearms possession in the hands of the “bad guys”. Thus, in my mind, firearms were “bad” because they were utilized by “bad people” to commit crimes and terrorize peaceful communities. The converse conclusion, however, did not gain equal prominence, i.e., that firearms could be “good” because they were utilized by “good people” to protect the public. Second, my concept of firearms and their role in society was set concretely by the dichotomy described above: there were “good guys” (police) and there were “bad guys” (gang members and criminals). The notion of an average citizen owning a firearm was impossible. By definition, if you were not one of the “good guys”, you were one of the “bad guys”. So, if I knew someone owned a firearm, and that person was not a police officer, I immediately assumed that that person was “bad” or was involved in something illegal. Even if I knew the individual in question as otherwise law-abiding, the simple act of owning a gun meant that they were “up to no good”. Thus, this was the attitudinal core that carried me to the end of the high school years. Peripherally, I started to become aware of the existence of gun control laws; given my attitudes, and the generally anti-gun climate in California, I saw nothing wrong with these laws. I was convinced that only the police ought to have guns, and that firearms should be taken away from everyone else. I could not fathom why guns weren’t simply outlawed completely. Of course, nowhere in my public or private school education was there a discussion of the Second Amendment. Even when I eventually took a course on government in high school, where we discussed the Constitution and its history in some detail, no discussion of the Second Amendment ever arose. In light of all this, there could be no legal, moral/ethical, or logistical challenge to civilian disarmament: (1) the government is charged with our safety, and if they pass gun control laws, it is for our own good; (2) only “bad” people could have any objection to gun control; and (3) disarmament was easily achieved by passing a law mandating everyone to turn in their guns to the police. It didn’t enter my mind that criminals might not comply with a disarmament edict – the logistics of implementing such an edict were quite fuzzy. I will stop here for now. Before I plunge further into this narrative, I'd like to get your feedback, to see if you find this useful or interesting.