I think what you guys have decided, if I understand you correctly, is you’ve taken a fairly universally accepted right like “life,” the idea that we all have a right to “life,” and you’ve moved from there to “self-defense.” If we have a right to “life” we must have a right to defend that life. So far so good. But here’s where you lose me and a lot of other people too, If you have a right to “self-defense,” you keep saying, then you have a right to own guns in order to best exercise that self-defense. I say that doesn’t follow.
How about this? We have a right to life, right? Too many guns in the hands of irresponsible or criminal people are interfering with that right, the right to life. We need proper (strict) gun control laws in order to ensure the ability of people to enjoy their right to “life.”
Why would your leap of faith that easy individual gun ownership is the best way to exercise our right to life be any more valid than my idea that the best way is to severely restrict and control guns?
February 23, 2011
Comment to Quote of the day—LaciTheDog
[As I mentioned in the comments I was fairly impressed with MikeB302000 comment. It showed remarkable understanding of our position and a plausible alternate conclusion. And he did it without his usual animosity. I said that I would respond to him. But it took far more time and words than I thought it would and my response brings up points that I wanted to get more visibility than they would in a comment. I know I run the risk of exceeding his attention span but perhaps the first few paragraphs will get sufficient information across that he will at least catch a glimmer of my point.
You don’t explicitly call it this but your claim ‘We need proper (strict) gun control laws in order to ensure the ability of people to enjoy their right to “life.”’ is a hypothesis. And in the absence of little or no data I would consider it a quite reasonable hypothesis. Even “common sense”. Perhaps even qualifying as obvious and of little need for validation. In fact, I think it is just as common sense and obvious as the hypothesis that the earth is flat was 500+ years ago.
I think this is where your weak point is. It is “obvious” to you and your fellow gun control supporters. In your camp there is no need for validation. It is so obvious that if was just “done right” strict gun control would result in a safer society. But the test data does not support your hypothesis.
But after many decades of testing this hypothesis, all over the world, in many different circumstances and cultures the best that can be said about gun control is that the benefits are inconclusive. If you want to look at more middle of the road data we have the example of what happened to the murder rate in Washington D.C. when the gun ban was declared unconstitutional. Within one year it dropped to the lowest level since 1985 – a 24 year low. And what about forcible rape? That turned out different. Within one year it dropped to the lowest level since 1967—a 42 year low. Or (via Roberta’s comment) some international data that suggests similar trends. That should be a strong hint that strict gun laws are not the solution to increasing public safety.
But if you want to look at the strongest evidence that gun control is a risk to public safety look at the genocides committed in the 20th Century. From the 1 to 1.5 million Armenians murdered in Ottoman Turkey from 1915->1917 to the 800,000 Tutsi murdered in Rwanda in 1994 gun control enabled the murder of tens of millions of people by their own governments. The evidence continues to mount in places like Darfur. Genocide only occurs when the government knows who owns the guns and/or bans guns.
I think of people advocating gun control similar to people still claiming the earth is flat. They are absolutely correct that evidence to support their belief is all around us. It’s easy to see they are correct. It’s obvious if you just look around your neighborhoods and cities. But as soon as you look at the question from a little higher altitude you see the curvature of the earth and then you see the earth is unmistakably round and that gun control is not a net win for society.
Perhaps an analogy with public safety implications will help get the point across. When nearly everyone gets vaccinated you don’t see the downside of not being vaccinated. You only see the one in 10,000 or one in 100,000 that dies from a reaction to the vaccine. It is difficult to directly see the benefits. It is only through control groups and testing that the hypothesis is rejected and gun control is found to not improve public safety. The one valid point gun control advocates have is (as first pointed out to me in Wright and Rossi’s book) is that with firearms relatively freely accessible it enables criminals to hit harder targets. Instead of young thugs snatching purses from little old ladies they can “knock off” a bank or maybe even an armored car. Just as with vaccines there are innocent victims no matter which path you take.
Gun control shifts the demographics of the victims. How do you want to measure public safety? If you want to measure it strictly by the number of deaths which occur via a bullet, as Joan Peterson apparently does, then you end up with a different solution than you do if you measure public safety in terms of total murders and/or violence crime rates. Most people see no benefit to being murdered or raped by a criminal using a club or a knife instead of gun and this is a big part of why we are winning the gun control debate. This is especially true when the chances of being injured by a criminal increase with increased gun control.
Using the most favorable data to gun control advocates they can only say that the demographics of violent crime are changed in some favorable manner. They end up arguing that one person’s life is more important than an other. I suspect this is part of why the liberal elites are frequently in favor of gun control. It probably does make them safer because the rich generally are “harder targets”. And this is also the basis of “it’s for the children” type of arguments. With very strict gun control society can reduce the number of accident deaths of children. It’s not like murder, rape, or armed robbery where substitute tools come into play. Without guns in the home there will not be a substitute in accidental deaths by drowning or poisoning. What will be substituted is an increase in the murder rate for the weak who might have been able to defend themselves had they had access to the proper tools. And in the long term even the murder rate of children is dramatically increased because of the increased risk of genocide which seldom shows mercy to children.
Gun control also violates the principle of prior restraint. For the most part we punish actions which have victims. If one were to falsely shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater and it resulted in injures there could be both criminal and civil actions against the perpetrator. This is a reasonable restriction on free speech. An unreasonable restriction on free speech would be to duct tape everyone’s mouth shut as they enter the theater. The analogous restriction on firearms is that you couldn’t shoot your firearm in the theater unless it was to stop an attack that was believed to be a immediate threat of death or permanent injury. Something on the order of 10 billion bullets are consumed by private citizens in the U.S. every year yet there are only about 100,000 injuries via shooting. That is a ratio of 100,000:1. In other words a gun being fired is up to 100,000 times more likely to be used beneficially or innocently than maliciously or result in an accidental injury. [Yes, I know that the way I used the number it assumes only one shot per injury or death, but the 100,000 injuries or deaths also includes legally justified shootings of people. I’m hoping the errors will come close to canceling each other out.]
Yes, people have a right to life and gun control is a plausible means of preserving innocent life but when put to the test it failed to live up to it’s promise. It’s time to end the experiments.—Joe]