A key talking point of the NRA is that good guys with guns are the only way to stop bad guys with guns. In mathematical terms GGG > BGG. As part of this view, the NRA has advocated arming teachers and banning gun-free zones. Mike Pence, who is a solid supporter of the NRA, recently spoke at the NRA convention. Since Pence is the vice-president, it is no surprise that a gun-free zone was created around him. It is also no surprise that the NRA and Pence were mocked for this apparent hypocrisy.
On the face of it, this does show that Pence and the NRA are hypocrites: they advance the principle that the only way to stop bad guys with guns is for good guys to have guns and thus oppose gun free zones while, at the same time, accepting that there should be a gun-free zone around Pence. The NRA, of course, contends that they are just obeying the laws regarding the prohibition against firearms in areas where Secret Service protection is being provided. The easy and obvious reply is that if the NRA should simply obey these laws without protest or efforts to change them, then they should apply the same approach to other laws aimed at creating gun-free zones based on safety. Yet, the NRA actively opposes all other such laws. As such, they seem to be acting with utter hypocrisy and engaging in an inconsistent application of their avowed principles.
This line of reasoning is, obviously enough, analogous to the criticism of gun-control favoring liberals who act in ways contrary to their avowed principle. For example, Rosie O’Donnell claimed that people should not be allowed to own guns, yet was fine with having an armed bodyguard. These positions are obviously inconsistent and hypocritical—just like the position of Pence and the NRA, albeit for different reasons. That is, one group professes to oppose guns, except for their protection, the other opposes gun-free zones, except for their protection.
As with any charge of inconsistent application of a principle, the NRA’s proponents can argue that there are relevant differences between the situation involving Pence and other gun-free zones. One approach is to argue that the vice-president is simply more important than other people and is thus entitled to a special exemption to the principle. That is, the rest of us should run the risk of being around armed people, but the better folks should be protected from the armed riff-raff, such as NRA members. O’Donnell and her fellows can avail themselves of an analogous reply. This is, obviously enough, a problematic position.
A much better approach is to argue that it is a matter of probability: the odds of anyone trying to shoot any of the rest of us is very low, while the odds of someone trying to go after a celebrity or politician is much higher. As such, Pence (and other elites) should have his gun-free zone. This would also help the liberal anti-gun folks out as well—being unarmed is fine for the little people, but celebrities like O’Donnell and Pence deserve special exemptions for their protection.
In can be countered that this is still unfair to the rest of us. If Pence and other elites are entitled to gun-free zones for protection, the rest of us should have the same right. Likewise, if O’Donnell and other elites are entitled to the protection of guns, the rest of us should have the same right. These rights are, obviously enough, in conflict—if we have the right to be armed for our protection, then gun-free zones are out. If we have the right to gun-free zones, then the right to be armed is limited. Naturally, there could be compromises—areas that are free of guns and areas where people can go armed. However, there is still an obvious conflict here. Those who think guns make us safe would contend that gun-free zones make us unsafe. Those who think gun-free zones make us safe would contend that allowing people to have guns would make us unsafe.
As noted above, the exception for elites option that “solves” the problem: pro-gun Pence can have his gun-free zone for his safety, while insisting that the little people should rely on good guys with guns or be good guys with guns. O’Donnell can have an armed bodyguard while insisting that the little people go without guns. The rest of us are, of course, stuck with whatever laws the elites impose on us.