In light of the recent calls for a “national conversation” about gun violence and gun control, and in light of the admiration that some of us here at BHL have expressed for the philosophical work of Michael Huemer, I thought I would take the opportunity to refer readers to a nice essay of his entitled, “Is There a Right to Own a Gun?

Like his excellent essay on immigration, this piece contains a useful mix of philosophical and empirical analysis. And like that essay, it argues for its conclusion on the basis of widely shared moral premises – ones that libertarians can certainly embrace, but that liberals, conservatives, and for that matter utilitarians and deontologists can embrace too.

Huemer’s answer to his titular question is that yes, we do have a right to own a gun. Like most rights, it is a prima facie right, that is, a right that can be justifiably overridden in certain circumstances by sufficiently weighty reasons. But is a right that is supported by serious moral considerations. Among the most weighty of these is the right to self-defense. Huemer believes that gun control unjustly infringes upon this right. To support this claim, he asks us to consider the following hypothetical scenario:

A killer breaks into a house, where two people—”the victim” and “the accomplice”—are staying. (The “accomplice” need have no prior interaction with the killer.) As the killer enters the bedroom where the victim is hiding, the accomplice enters through another door and pro- ceeds, for some reason, to hold the victim down while the killer stabs him to death.

Obviously, the killer in this situation is doing something seriously wrong. But so too, most of us would think, is the accomplice. But what is the accomplice actually doing? He is simply coercively preventing the victim from exercising his right to self-defense. But isn’t that precisely what a legal ban on firearm ownership would do? If, then, the action of the accomplice in the scenario is wrong, doesn’t this give us good reason to think that a legal ban on firearm ownership would be wrong too?

Of course, there are differences between the hypothetical scenario and a legal ban on firearm ownership. But Huemer is characteristically good about anticipating and pre-emptively responding to these objections. Take a look at the paper yourself.

It’s worth noting that Huemer’s aim in this paper is fairly limited. He is arguing that there is a a strong prima facie right to own a gun. But that conclusion is compatible with the belief that the exercise of that right ought to be regulated in various ways. Huemer talks about some of the stronger forms that regulation might take – a ban on all handguns (as opposed to rifles and shotguns), and a ban on concealed carry. And he argues that we have some reason to be wary of such measures/ But nothing in his paper directly tells against, say, limits on the capacity of magazines, waiting periods, background checks, bans on fully automatic weapons, or a host of other actual or possible regulations. I suspect that Huemer would find current calls for bans on all semi-automatic weapons to be unjustifiable, given the utility such weapons have both for recreational and defensive purposes. But that, it seems to me, is a fairly modest claim.

More BHL on gun control here and here.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=146900296 Jeremy McLellan

    I’m sympathetic to the conclusions about what the state shouldn’t or couldn’t do to prevent the use of firearms in self-defense. I doubt that gun control in the US would be just or effective, even if I grant that reducing the proliferation of firearms is a net social good. However, you summarize Huemer as saying that “a legal ban on firearm ownership” is “coercively preventing the victim from exercising his right to self-defense.” The assumption here is that guns are needed for self-defense. Holding someone down while an intruder stabs them is not just taking away the right to use guns in self-defense, but the right to flee, use a knife, talk them down, lock the doors, have a guard dog, or tackle them. Even granting the empirical findings of his section 5.2.1 it’s still a small jump to “get to” the idea that in those cases guns were absolutely needed,
    not just used legitimately. I suspect that if we invented a hand-held instant-death ray gun, you’d see it employed in lots of justifiable uses of self-defense, just with a much higher fatality rate. Most people would start using that instead. Then when you studied the incidences of defensive ray gun use, you’d conclude that they were essential to self-defense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.huemer Mike Huemer

    Thanks for that post, Matt. Regarding the recent gun control discussion prompted by the recent shooting: I will point out, as I usually do when something like this happens, that school shootings are a minuscule, negligible portion of murders in the United States. So 20 people were shot. Why is that a national news story? *16,000* people are murdered in the U.S. every year. Most of them we don’t hear a peep about from the media, apparently because they’re mostly poor adults getting killed rather than middle class kids. If we actually want to do something about murder in the U.S., shouldn’t we look at the thousands of gang-related and drug-related murders, which have been going on year after year for decades, rather than 20 middle-class high school student murders? A social problem that kills only about 20 people a year in a country where something like 2.5 million people die every year is obviously not worthy of a national conversation.

    • Fallon

      Hi Mike. How might you respond to the following:
      “A gun ban, as nonsensical as it is, should at least start with the government itself.”

      • https://me.yahoo.com/a/MxzBQIImm_wh8ERpxOEEhex1DFqaVTNVHg--#a3e78 No Mist

        very much true. as far as possible no one should have the “prima facie” right to carry advanced killing machines, even governments.

        all gun ownership by anybody (including govts) must be argued and allowed only if justifiable … no messing with “prima facie”-ness.

        • Fallon

          My view of aggression, a concept that justice requires but has little definitional agreement, would indeed find expression in a right to self-defense, a right that makes “prima facie” weapon possession a default. Justice doesn’t stop there of course; it is a social idea. My point is that “government” people do not have special rights if non-aggression is to be applied equally. Today, private and public persons who have access to government power directly or indirectly are people of parasitical and tyrannical status. Regardless of motives.

    • J D

      Mike, perhaps you’re interested in responding to Jeff McMahan’s recent NYT piece, “Why Gun ‘Control’ is not enough”.

    • Craig Duncan

      Michael Huemer wrote “So 20 people were shot. Why is that a national news story?”

      I have to say that this is THE most emotionally tone deaf claim I have read in the wake of Sandy Hook. I realize you are trying to make a humane point (I agree everyday violence needs much more attention). But you chose to make it in a grotesquely counter productively way. Do you really want to be taken seriously or do you just enjoy being contrarian?

      • Puzzled

        That this statement cannot be taken seriously is a sign of just how insane our society has become. Huemer’s statement is absolutely correct, and will turn off any reader.

    • Philip Robichaud

      The Newtown shooting is a token event that can be classified into many different event types. According to some of these types, the shooting will seem insignificant. Consider ‘murders per year in the US’. 20 people murdered out of 16,000 a year does seem insignificant, and thus not newsworthy. However, the Newtown shooting is also an instance of the following event types, all of which happen with much less frequency:

      Mass murder

      Mass murder in schools

      Mass murder where most of the victims were young children

      Mass murder using a firearm that was banned less than 10 years ago but is no longer banned.

      The Newton shooting is significant relative to any of these other event types. For example, since *mass murders in schools* are highly infrequent events, it’s not at all obvious to me that token events of this type are not newsworthy. (Of course infrequency is not the only relevant factor, but infrequency coupled with bloodshed makes a story at least prima facie newsworthy.) So, when evaluating a token event, which event type should we keep in mind when assessing its newsworthiness? Michael has provided precisely zero reasons for pinning the newsworthiness of the shooting to the specific event type ‘murders per year in the US’. It is obviously insignificant on relative to that event type. But, just as obviously, 16,000 people murdered each year, which Michael seems to think *is* newsworthy, is rather insignificant relative to the event type ‘total deaths in the world per year’. Should we not be talking about 16,000 people dying either?

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/MxzBQIImm_wh8ERpxOEEhex1DFqaVTNVHg--#a3e78 No Mist

    Let us take the argument of Jeremy to ridiculously exaggerated level. Suppose some one invents a nuke weapon hurler hand gun the size of a pocket pistol. Also suppose that it emits just enough energy to completely evaporate one human being and (possibly) harm a few bystanders a little maybe more than current assault rifles but not by a huge margin.

    Would the arguments against banning weapons still hold. What if there is an entire range of such hand guns from one human vaporizer to 100 humans vaporizer … with maybe some intermediate ones too (like 10 babies and 2 goat vaporizer) and maybe some advanced ones like one building vaporizer.

    would we still be willing to entertain such weapons in everybody’s hands … even at a prima facie level ?

    going even further, why not allow the right to keep a private army instead ? that is also presumably for self defense … at least for those who feel that they need such measures and can afford it.

    I feel arguing such things from the pulpit of liberty is not appropriate. Liberty is of a great importance … in fact barring one thing and only one thing, liberty must be considered paramount.

    That one thing is : the right of everyone to be alive.

    I mean to be minimally alive in a strict and literal sense of “not being dead”. And if there is something, say X, which impinges on this right of someone on account of an intentional action by another human being (even if that other human being is mentally incapable) then we must seriously reconsider giving “prima facie” status to X. This impinging on this right to be alive can even be a potentiality for the above argument to be valid. So even something which threatens someone mortally must be reconsidered (maynot be totally abolished though).

    I feel it is clear that if we put X = “ownership of an advanced killing machine”, then X impinges (or at the very least threatens) the right to be alive of someone who happens not to consider X. now the Nash-equilibrium solution for this (destructive) game tells us that very quickly everyone must own some advanced weapon. And very soon we begin an arms race leading to that nuke powered hand gun or a private army.

    The advancedness of weapons ranges from simple stick to simple knife to a tank to a fighter plane to a nuclear submarine to an entire navy. This is a whole continuum of killability. And I feel, it is clear that we must draw the line somewhere which may appear to be arbitrary and be decided by the peculiarities of that society. But no society can afford to refuse to draw that line. Indeed all of our societies have demarcated the weapons we can hold from others which are totally prohibited. And all libertarians would agree that all private citizens should be absolutely prohibited to raise an army of GSG9 type commandos (which for the purposes of this argument could be automatic robots).

    So the only point worth arguing here is where should we draw that line, and not whether to draw that line or not.

    And an automatic firearm, however small, is sufficiently alarming for (at least) me to ban it wholesale. I am not sure if I would be willing to allow even a mongolian era bow+arrow or an European lance, but I am willing to see the merits or demerits of it.

    • https://me.yahoo.com/a/MxzBQIImm_wh8ERpxOEEhex1DFqaVTNVHg--#a3e78 No Mist

      I am sorry for the long post. After seeing it published, it appears too long. The only point I want to put across is -

      In the hierarchy of paramountcy, “being alive” takes precedence over all rights and values including Liberty. Once we have made sure that “being alive” is in principle ensured, we can aim for Liberty.

      The argument of Liberty does not apply to gun ownership issue because it threatens “being alive” and hence the argument is flawed.

      PS : I had indicated this line of reasoning in a twitter argument (@nirax) with you too.

      • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

        Your point about “being alive” trumping liberty sounds disturbingly Hobbesian to me.

        As for your other point about dangerous weapons and line-drawing, I don’t see anything here incompatible with Huemer’s argument. He’s arguing for a right to own a gun, not a nuclear device or a small army. If handguns were as dangerous to innocent bystanders as nuclear devices, then perhaps a good case could be made for banning them. Huemer is, after all, only defending a prima facie right here. But they aren’t that dangerous. So the reductio doesn’t work.

        • https://me.yahoo.com/a/MxzBQIImm_wh8ERpxOEEhex1DFqaVTNVHg--#a3e78 No Mist

          I dont see any reason that “being alive” trumping liberty shd be labeled Hobbesian. There is no compulsory submission to anybody (least of all to a sovereign or a Monarch) if right to being alive is demanded. After all what use is any lofty value if there is no life to cherish it.

          My right of “being alive” is bare minimal. It is a right to be “not dead”, no guarantee of prosperity or even freedom from hunger, no assurance on life span or diseases. In other words, it is just a right to “exist” in a strict sense. I do not see anything that could possibly take precedence over this.

          If someone thinks that being “liberated” comes before existence, I would like to know the basis of such a thesis. Labeling Hobbesian wouldn’t do.

          On Huemer’s point of a handgun not being so dangerous – this now becomes an issue of empirical study/observation. And I agree with it. However anything bigger than a handgun should be a candidate for outright ban.

          • http://www.facebook.com/mike.huemer Mike Huemer

            I don’t know what it means to say that “‘being alive’ trumps ‘liberty’”. Does that mean that it is right to destroy any amount of liberty for any number of people, provided that in doing so one could save at least one life? And that this is true regardless of any other conditions (such as how the one life was going to be lost, whether one’s action is a doing or an allowing, etc.)?

          • https://me.yahoo.com/a/MxzBQIImm_wh8ERpxOEEhex1DFqaVTNVHg--#a3e78 No Mist

            I mean that if someone’s life is “intentionally” endangered by someone else’s liberty, then the “right to life” trumps “liberty to endanger life”.

            The key word is intention. And it does not matter how many people’s liberty is trumped and how many lives are endangered provided “intention” is involved.

            And the more intentional risk (or danger) to life there is, the more unacceptable it becomes. And that is why I oppose gun ownership. It is clear that a firearm endangers life much more than a simple knife or stick. Hence, firearms are much less acceptable than sticks or knives.

            Beyond this it becomes a matter of empirical verification (and some amount of personal taste). I believe (and presently I have no empirical basis for it) that firearms pose sufficient “intentional risk” to life that an outright ban is justified. If some one could demonstrate beyond doubt (with sufficient empirical study) that it is not so then I am perfectly willing to reconsider outright ban and advocate whatever amount of regulation (or even no regulation) is needed.

            PS : I must repeat that here “being alive” is bare minimal … just existence, no “quality of life” is being talked about here.

          • https://me.yahoo.com/a/MxzBQIImm_wh8ERpxOEEhex1DFqaVTNVHg--#a3e78 No Mist

            One more point worth mentioning -

            A self-defense/revenge operation and/or war is a special case since “intention” is a reciprocation and hence justified. The responsibility/blame of intention lies on the first mover attacker and only on the first mover.

          • Puzzled

            Fucking hell. “Life” trumps all other values infinitely – so that millions of people can be tortured to extend one life – except that revenge killing (!) is perfectly fine, and when government decides to kill massive numbers of people, that’s cool too.

          • biasedmonster

            An outright ban for the police too? A ‘right to life’ often doesn’t mean squat to somebody enforcing the law.

          • Joe

            You fail. Let one consider, in accordance with your argument, that “be alive” is the most fundamental right. From that position then, the primary measure of property value would be the effectiveness of X in sustaining “be alive”. In the context of aggression, by whatever means or from whatever source, if X allows more people to “be alive” than Y or NOT X, then X has primary intrinsic value higher than other choices. Since it is clearly demonstrated that when X=guns, more people remain to “be alive” then the only policy decision is in the SELECTION of guns that maximize “be alive”. In the real world, these questions have already been answered for self-defense policies and high capacity repeating arms with big bullets are optimal. To argue against them is to argue against “be alive”. It ain’t complicated, at least not in reality.

          • Puzzled

            I think we need to separate two things if we are to deal with this “life trumps liberty” (as Ben Franklin said, right?) thing. We can be talking about practices which, as a general matter and statistically, are life-promoting. I say gun ownership fits this one, because guns are not only used for aggression, they are used for defense against physically larger people, thus discouraging the tendency for the large to attack the small when they can. So does our inquisitor, it seems, when he allows government to own the things, he just has an odd idea that government will come to the defense of the smaller, all of history to the contrary notwithstanding.

            On the other hand, we can talk, as he seems to be doing, about a case by case analysis, where if, in any instance, a policy can lead to death, whereas its opposite can only lead to loss of liberty, then that policy is wrong. But this is entirely absurd – the same argument could be made in reverse if not for how successful guns actually are. See, of course there are instances where a gun saves a life, and gun control would have cost that life. We have the Luby’s shooting and the Portland, OR mall shooting, for instance. But Luby’s is rendered invisible in this analysis, while the Portland shooting doesn’t rise to the level of a mass killing, and hence is irrelevant, precisely because the gun stopped it.

            We should also doubt the premise here. Life is finite, what matters is precisely how it is lived. That’s why people choose to let their cats outside – they will live a shorter but more rewarding life.

          • Devon Sanchez

            So with ownership of a gun, there exists an inherent “intent” to due harm. So by your philosophy: McDonalds selling fatty and high caloric foods intentionally harms the people of this planet, so McDonalds and Mcdonalds-like foods should be made illegal for consumption.

          • Puzzled

            But, a better point is that a person choosing to eat a Big Mac is a counterexample to the basic claim.

          • Devon Sanchez

            Furthermore, building upon that, does the self-choice of suicide factor into your “being alive” scheme? Is someone’s right to deny their own life possible in “your” world?

          • Puzzled

            So all cats should be indoor cats. Also, people should, if they are supposed to give up freedom for life, should also give up quality of life. We should be living in rubberized cages and fed a nutrient broth.

            The absurdity of this claim is pointed out each time a person eats a cheeseburger.

            But, no – this argument is never applied whereever it is logical. It is always applied only in the narrow areas where the person using it wishes, ahead of time, to restrict people’s freedoms, usually to do something he has no wish to do.

        • Devon Sanchez

          A gun such as a mini gun, which can be owned with enough money, would be no different than a “nuke weapon hurler hand gun”. In a free society, both would be accessible through an “over-the-counter” transaction. Period.

    • Puzzled

      Distribute the newly-invented devices to drug dealers and the war on drugs will end immediately.

  • Richard Chappell

    But cf. Jeff McMahan:

    “Gun advocates sometimes argue that a prohibition would violate individuals’ rights of self-defense. Imposing a ban on guns, they argue, would be tantamount to taking a person’s gun from her just as someone is about to kill her. But this is a defective analogy. Although a prohibition would deprive people of one effective means of self-defense, it would also ensure that there would be far fewer occasions on which a gun would be necessary or even useful for self-defense. For guns would be forbidden not just to those who would use them for defense but also to those who would use them for aggression. Guns are only one means of self-defense and self-defense is only one means of achieving security against attack. It is the right to security against attack that is fundamental. A policy that unavoidably deprives a person of one means of self-defense but on balance substantially reduces her vulnerability to attack is therefore respectful of the more fundamental right from which the right of self-defense is derived.”

    • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

      A reasonable point in theory. But its success depends on a lot of empirical assumptions. How effective would a gun ban be in depriving aggressors of guns? Whether it deprives them of guns or not, how much less liable to dangerous attack would such a ban leave victims? (Someone who shows up in your bedroom in the middle of the night with a knife is still a deadly threat)

      “Guns are only one means of self-defense,” true. But how effective a means are they compared with alternative means? Huemer cites data from the National Crime Victimization Survey which show that “individuals who defend themselves with a gun are less likely to be irijured and far iess likely to have the crime completed against them than are persons who take any other measures.”

      • https://me.yahoo.com/a/MxzBQIImm_wh8ERpxOEEhex1DFqaVTNVHg--#a3e78 No Mist

        Practicality of gun-ban is a totally different issue from the principle of it. It is true that there is no easy way to ensure a gun-ban on the current USA. But we are not arguing about the best way to do it. We are arguing whether to allow it in a hypothetical society which previously had no guns (maybe because we are at liberty to conjure up a society or design a nation). If we agree that we will not allow guns in our hypothetical society, I see no reason that we should shy away from it in any real existing society.

        If we agree that it is desirable, we can try to figure out the best way of implementing it. In case it is not practicable, it still doesn’t invalidate the conclusions about desirability.

        • Devon Sanchez

          As I said in a previous comment: Please, remember that guns, weapons, and violence exist. You cannot simply wave a magic wand and rid our planet of them. It could never happen.

          (Desire does not equal probability or even possibility)

        • Puzzled

          I think reducing the number of guns in society is, in itself, harmful. Why should physical largeness be sufficient to make one immune to self-defense? A gun ban leaves a 220 pound rapist far better off than a 90 pound woman.

    • Dan

      Assuming McMahan’s empirical claims are true for the sake of argument, this line of thought is still cogent only if one adopts what Nozick called a “utilitarianism of rights”. But if rights are taken with a modicum of seriousness, they aren’t the sort of thing to be traded off against one another to, “on balance”, minimize violations.

      (Huemer invokes the same kind of considerations in the essay, BTW, when he says “it is wrong to violate one person’s rights (in particular, his right
      to life) even if doing so would prevent several rights-violations of comparable seriousness”. Now you might not agree — and given what I know of your views, you probably wouldn’t — but, for what it’s worth, this is a basic deontological thought, and not one that can be so easily dismissed.)

      • Javier

        It’s also worth pointing out that Jeff McMahan rejects “utilitarianism of rights” throughout his work and accepts a distinction between doing and allowing.

    • Devon Sanchez

      Failed logic. Tell that to the gangsters of the early 20th century who used “illegal” Tommy Guns and automatic weapons, and the police force who intellectually decided using the same weaponry to deter them.

  • Athanasios Anagnostopoulos

    “He is simply coercively preventing the
    victim from exercising his right to self-defense. But isn’t that
    precisely what a legal ban on firearm ownership would do?”

    Not at all, the way I see it. People may still have many gun-less ways to defend themselves, be it their fists or their kitchen knives. Contrary to the victim in Huemer’s example.

    • Aeon Skoble

      With all due respect, that’s too much Bruce Lee for me. If your opponent is armed, and you have only karate, you’re going to have a bad time. If you’re both unarmed, but the assailiant is twice your size or a lot stronger, you’re going to have a bad time. There’s a reason they used to refer to guns as equalizers.

      • Athanasios Anagnostopoulos

        Your point may very well be valid, but I didn’t intend to show off my bruce-lee-ness, just to stress what I consider a flawed analogy: a ban on guns doesn’t equal to a ban on defense, contrary to what the example used implies.

        • Devon Sanchez

          “a ban on guns doesn’t equal to a ban on defense”

          No, it doesn’t equal a full ban on defense. But it does contradict the ability for one, under threat of life or limb, to protect their property by any means by categorizing any threat as “unnecessary for gun use”.

          • Puzzled

            Suppose the victim had a gun, and the accomplice emptied it before the attack took place. Or suppose the victim had a gun with 10 bullets, and the accomplice took out half of them. Wouldn’t we still think the accomplice is bad?

  • Scott

    The analogy is informative: In real life “the accomplice” is some guy who steps between two guys who are throwing punches. His focus will generally be on whichever guy is throwing more punches, and his goal is to minimize the number of punches thrown. Would anybody accuse such a Samaritan of violating rights?

    The difference (and difficulty) is that the government must try to prevent punches from being thrown ex-ante, not in real time. Nevertheless, how would we feel about an “accomplice” who stands by and watches as two guys punch (or stab, or shoot) each other — especially when he has the power to stop the fight?

    • Devon Sanchez

      “how would we feel about an “accomplice” who stands by and watches as two guys punch (or stab, or shoot) each other — especially when he has the power to stop the fight?”

      I don’t understand your point about an “accomplice”. But, I will say, a person watching two or more others punch, stab, shoot or, otherwise, maim each other has no obligation to step in to prevent or subdue the incident.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.huemer Mike Huemer

    One other comment about military rifles (“assault rifles”, etc.). These weapons are less important for self-defense than handguns, so the prima facie right to possess them would be much weaker. At the same time, however, the public safety argument for prohibiting them is also much weaker, as they figure in only a tiny fraction of gun crimes. (Cf. my first post.) Most gun crimes are carried out with handguns.

    I’d also like to reiterate the observation that making a law that says “Don’t do x” is not equivalent to stopping people from doing x. It is generally an effective way of stopping the law-abiding majority from doing x; in many cases, however, including the case of gun laws, the law has almost no effect on people who are initially criminally inclined. So the question isn’t whether we want to make it so that no one has assault rifles. The question is whether we want to make it so that ordinary people don’t have them, while criminally inclined people continue to have them. Gun control opponents have made this observation repeatedly, but the other side almost always seems to ignore it.

    • Ethan Pooley (furball4)

      I thought your article was excellent. Now I’m going to disagree slightly with everything you just said. :)

      1. The prevalence of assault rifles in crime is not really to the point. Their special appropriateness to crime (if any) is what matters. There may be more crime committed with Glocks than with Rugers, but if so it is a distinction without a difference: outlawing Glocks isn’t going to make any of that crime go away. Likewise, civilian assault-style weapons are not used in crime in ways that rely on their unique features. What they are really built for is accuracy at range while remaining versatile enough to operate at close quarters. That, and their endless configurability, are the only things that are actually special about them. Although I am against most gun control, I keep trying to help my pro-gun-control friends understand this so that we can at least be arguing about something that matters. Semi-auto handguns with interchangeable magazines are, unfortunatley, just as well suited as assault-style weapons for the indoor slaughter of unarmed victims.

      2. Assault-style weapons, even without full-auto capabilities, *are* specifically appropriate for militia and/or revolutionary purposes, for the same reason that militaries like them: versatility, accuracy at range, and lightweight ammo. While most people like to snort derisively at the idea of civilians protecting themselves from the U.S. military – and at the need to do so – this remains a great reason for the populace to be appropriately armed and it is historically naive to think otherwise. However things might be arranged now, we have no idea how they will be arranged decades or centuries from now. It’s amazing how effective a few appropriate arms in the hands of the populace can be, which is why we’ve provided them to a few revolutions ourselves. And our experiences in war post-WWII have shown us that while you can’t make a traditional military lose, you can absolutely keep it from winning. The thought of another civil war or revolution is horrifying – because of the things that would bring it about, even more than the thing itself – but to suggest that millions of civilian-owned AR-15′s are irrelevant to the outcome is preposterous. Ask a vet from Iraq what the difference is between an insurgent with a handgun and one with an AK. The distinctions that don’t matter indoors against unarmed victims suddently make a great deal of difference out in the field.

      3. I disagree that gun control would have almost no effect on the procurement of guns by criminals, and by extension on the prevalance of gun crime. I think that any gun control the U.S. actually adopts is likely to be very ineffective, but even ineffective control would probably have some noticeable effect. Moreover, there are theoretical controls that I think could have a very powerful effect. Most criminals wouldn’t be well-connected enough to get around them. You have to go in the general direction of a complete ban to achieve this, is the problem, and as you point out, we just don’t have any right to do that. I think, though, that acting as if control can’t possibly work is oversimplified and inaccurate.

      One pro-gun-control writer who is at least tackling the core problem of mass killings suggested a limit on magazines: that all interchangeable magazines be outlawed, that internal magazines be limited to six rounds, and that reloading an internal magazine must be a one-bullet-at-a-time affair. There are massive practical problems with this, to say the least. But it does clear hurdles of theoretical effectiveness that most other suggestions trip over. However, even such an extreme suggestion (short of an outright ban) is seeing its sun set just as it might have risen. 3d-printing can’t make the important parts of a gun yet, and it may even be some time until they can (go ahead – bet *against* technology, I dare you…) but they can already make any other part. Which means that it’s already getting trivial to produce modified loading mechanisms and magazines, on demand, in contravention of any law. I don’t think there is any law that could stop this method – you can always chop up a legal, working gun and replace parts with fully-custom alternatives, designed for the specific instrument if need be.

    • https://me.yahoo.com/a/MxzBQIImm_wh8ERpxOEEhex1DFqaVTNVHg--#a3e78 No Mist

      I dont see how you can stop a “Reservoir Dogs” from happening if we really buy into :- since “bad” guys anyway have guns, let us give it to the “good” guys too.

      Apparently the current “good” guys are descended from angel’s wings and will never have baser motives. They probably will never have a shot of tequila or two when they are walking with their “liberty salvaging devices”. And their kids are also apparently made from star dust quarried by angels. Not even one Adam Lanza gets born in a “good” family.

      Why not make it more difficult for the “bad” guys to have the guns instead ?

      After all some nations have been able to do so … The Japanese Yakuza are finding it difficult to procure.

      I think it is a shame that a respectable nation like US has double the rate of gun ownership than a rogue nation like Yemen. And no one sees the joke that libertarians are trying to defend/promote/laud this absurdity.

      • biasedmonster

        what excludes the police and military from your reservations, other than the faith that ‘they’re experts’? Angels wings? Your end result still gives even power and leverage to the most powerful class in society, a class that already has monopoly power over the ultimate possession of these weapons. A class whose claim to being legitimate arbitrators on the use of these weapons for the apparent protection of the public is not only a poor guarantor of keeping crime rates down, but stands in contradiction to a record of increasing altercations against law-abiding citizens that I’d think you’d find disturbing enough.

      • Devon Sanchez

        “Why not make it more difficult for the “bad” guys to have the guns instead ?”

        This is the best method in a land of no laws on procuring armaments. The free market would regulate this quite well.

        • sandy

          How?

          • Devon Sanchez

            Business owners, especially firearms dealers, do not like to see 20 dead children by the use of their product (the Sandy Hook incident being only one example; 28 total dead). The same goes for when a meat company sells bad meat that effectually sickens or kills its customers, the meat company will handle its own recall and compensation. If the customers do not confront them, the media and the private associated business bureaus would. This would subsequently ruin their reputation, diminish their customer base and possibly detriment the future of their business. This is how its works. This is the greatness that is “the free market”.

          • Nikolaj Lykke Nielsen

            How come that mechanism is not working today?

          • Devon Sanchez

            Because the consumer goods of the largest manufacturers are insured by the relative government regulatory agencies and reactionary government policies.

      • Devon Sanchez

        “After all some nations have been able to do so … The Japanese Yakuza are finding it difficult to procure.”

        I can guarantee you that the organized crime syndicates of the world continue to have access to any guns, and have little trouble finding action for any vice they offer, for that matter.

    • Devon Sanchez

      This is the best/most logical argument for no laws on armaments.

  • Vlad

    “A killer breaks into a house, where two people—’the victim’ and ‘the accomplice’—are staying. (The ‘accomplice’ need have no prior interaction with the killer.) As the killer holding a knife enters the bedroom where the victim is hiding, the accomplice enters through another door and proceeds, for some reason, to give the killer a gun.”

    Obviously, the killer in this situation is doing something seriously wrong. But so too, most of us would think, is the accomplice. But what is the accomplice actually doing? He is acting in a way that makes the effort required for self-defense greater.

    Similarly, people who own guns in a society generate an arms-race with the criminals. The result of this arms-race is that the effort and spending required for self-defense gets larger. Gun owners create a negative externality. The losers are those who remain unarmed + everybody’s paying more taxes to arm the police better + everybody is in greater danger each time they interact with the police. This is true especially because the criminals, as well as the police, don’t know who is armed or who isn’t.

    • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

      I don’t know how apt that analogy is. Sure, if someone *gives* a gun to a person who he *knows* is going to unjustly kill another person, that’s wrong. But it’s much less clear that *allowing* someone to acquire a gun when you *don’t know* what their intention is, is.

      Your point about negative externalities seems right, in a way. Though I suppose you could also run the opposite argument. Because criminals don’t know who’s armed and who isn’t, gun owners create a positive externality. Non gun-owners are able to “free ride” off the fact that a sufficient number of other people own guns, thus creating a general apprehension among criminals.

      • https://me.yahoo.com/a/MxzBQIImm_wh8ERpxOEEhex1DFqaVTNVHg--#a3e78 No Mist

        If non gun owners are free riding gun owners, then does it imply that gun owners shd be compensated for this ? So shd we provide subsidy for guns instead of taxes ?

        We should study non gun ownership nations and see how their crime rates behave.

        • Devon Sanchez

          Your argument does not make sense. A subsidy is a tax.

        • sdfsdfsdf

          What you should do, is just do nothing. Really, stop trying to figure out where and what type of force to apply to other members of society.

    • Devon Sanchez

      If the innocent bystander is more equipped, why would the local/state/federal police need to be better armed?

  • Jay_Z

    One thing that I have proposed is that gun ownership should be allowed but liability should be attached. You should need to insure the guns you own against claims for the damage they may cause.

    Automobile owners are required to insure against potential damages. So should gun owners. Even if you never use your gun, you need to put your money into the pot from which claims are paid.

    • https://me.yahoo.com/a/MxzBQIImm_wh8ERpxOEEhex1DFqaVTNVHg--#a3e78 No Mist

      That is a very smart idea in the cases it helps. But in cases where the assailant commits suicide after massacring with someone else’s gun (and kills the owner of the gun too) then I am not sure how this helps.

      Moreover if someone kills all members of a family, who gets the insurance money ? In this case, the sum of money is likely to be huge so some inheritor may even plot to kill all members of a family.

      There looks like a lot of potential unintended consequences of this proposal.

    • Devon Sanchez

      This is a false conclusion. Today, if one were to pull the trigger of their legally owned gun, killing another person, they are liable for those damages.

      Automobile owners would be held accountable for liable damages with or without insurance. Insurance does not guarantee liability, it only mitigates liable damages.
      Also, forced auto insurance creates a system not unlike PPACA or FDIC.

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/MxzBQIImm_wh8ERpxOEEhex1DFqaVTNVHg--#a3e78 No Mist

    Allow me to draw your attention to these two articles -

    1. About Japanese homicide by guns (and it also has some interesting statistics about gun ownership in US) – http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/07/a-land-without-guns-how-japan-has-virtually-eliminated-shooting-deaths/260189/

    2. about the situation in US. one thing we may project from this is that within a few years gun-ban may become politically approachable due to declining gun ownership. – http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/07/23/six-facts-about-guns-violence-and-gun-control/

    • Devon Sanchez

      In the Washington Post article, there are a few things that should be brought up and considered with each point in the article.
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/07/23/six-facts-about-guns-violence-and-gun-control/

      1. Are there other studies to corroborate the study shown here?
      What are “deaths due to assault” defined as? Does this include police action?

      2. Again, does this study include police action?

      3. Does the Washington Post, its readers, or anyone who honestly considers this study to be valid not consider discretion/no comment or blatant lying about their possession of a firearm when posed with this question of ownership/possession?

      4. This study, just as the two first points, keeps the information aimed in one direction: personal ownership. When one considers the information that the state possesses many more firearms per person than the average citizenry, then a new picture is drawn.

      5. Is this study true? Chicago, Illinois is considered a murder capital of the world (19.4 deaths per 100,000). Caracas, Venezuela has 130 deaths per 100,000 and Caracas has imposed an outright ban on personal ownership of firearms. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-18288430

      6. This poll, if asked correctly, shows that Americans are less content with current gun laws and have, over the years, asked for fewer laws governing the sale of firearms.

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  • ThaomasH

    “given the utility such weapons have both for recreational and defensive purposes”

    The utility for “recreational and defensive purposes” of a weapon that can fire large caliber rounds of ammunition rapidly for a period long enough to kill dozens of people in seconds
    is exactly what is under discussion.
    One has to acknowledge the right to self defense, but also the legitimacy of regulating how that right is exercised to balance the dangers to others.

    • Devon Sanchez

      The regulation of rights has never yielded a greater freedom for all or reduced the dangers to all.

      • ThaomasH

        Is it then your position that the rght to bear arms is unlimited?  Automatic weapons?  Shoulder launch rockets?  I’d say those restrictions do increase my freedom to live a less dangerous life.

        Thomas L Hutcheson

        • Devon Sanchez

          To answer your question, yes. All weapons should be available. The markets will determine their value and responsible nature.

          Also, what makes you believe that automatic firearms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers are not currently in your neighbor’s possession? Beyond the reasoning that most of these weapons are very expensive to procure, many (aka ‘alot’) people have such “illegal” items in their possession.

          • ThaomasH

            If the difference between a liberal and libertarian is that the latter believe that their is an exclusively market solution to what sort of weapons should be freely bought and sold, I’m happy to say I’m not a libertarian.

            Thomas L Hutcheson

          • Devon Sanchez

            “The maintenance of a free society is a very difficult and complicated thing. And it requires a self-denying ordinance of the most extreme kind. It requires a willingness to put up with temporary evils on the basis of the subtle and sophisticated understanding that if you step in to try to do something about them, you not only may make them worse, but you will spread your tentacles and get bad results elsewhere.” –Milton Friedman

            By real definition, there is no difference between a liberal and a libertarian. But, if you speak to some people about the word liberal, they tell you it (newly) defines a progressive socialist. Also, I do not believe that one can be properly defined as a “conservative” when one despises excess government intervention on welfare benefits but accepts food and drug subsidies or foreign affairs spending. This is not a “conservative”, this is a hypocrite. I am proud to be an individual who believes that people do not need to be controlled and corralled like cattle for slaughter.

            What are your thoughts about what I asked you before? And, do you believe that many school teachers today, who teach young children, use illegal drugs to get them through the day?

          • ThaomasH

            “If you speak to some people about the word liberal, they tell you it (newly) defines a progressive socialist.”
            If you speak to any of those people, please tell them to ask liberal what he actually believes rather than assume that he believes in the progressive nationalization of the means of production or even the “commanding heights.”
            The only teachers I know do not use illegal drugs.

            Thomas L Hutcheson

          • Devon Sanchez

            “If you speak to any of those people, please tell them to ask liberal what he actually believes rather than assume that he believes in the progressive nationalization of the means of production or even the “commanding heights.””
            I always will.

            “The only teachers I know do not use illegal drugs.”
            Even so, the one’s who do use them, I have no quarrel with. I only hold issue with those who believe there is a difference between “street drugs” and “prescription drugs”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Glen-Raphael/749878721 Glen Raphael

      Where by “large caliber” you presumably mean “small caliber”. It’s a simple matter of physics: if the bullets are large you can’t fit as many of them into a clip that fits in your pocket and is easy to carry than if the bullets are small. Guns that accomodate huge clips typically fire much LESS deadly bullets than guns that do not. (Also, the claim that any generally available to the public guns can kill “dozens of people in seconds” is a pretty wild overstatement)

      • ThaomasH

        I’ll let you help figure out the best way to diminish the most lethal weapons.  Size of bullet, speed of fire and total number fired without reloading all make a weapon more deadly in a mass shooting incident.  What the best values for these should be for determining lethality (or better said minimizing the cost of the regulation net of the benefits to gun owners) is beyond my expertise.

        Thomas L Hutcheson

        • Devon Sanchez

          “I’ll let you help figure out the best way to diminish the most lethal weapons.”

          Who, of sane mind, would presume to be the arbiter of such a decision?
          (hint: subverting a right to defense knows not expertise, only blind power)

    • sdfsdfsdf

      So you have a right to self-defense if one or two people attack you, but you don’t have a right to self-defense if several people attack you?

      • ThaomasH

        One has a right to self defense against any number of attackers. That is not under discussion. The discussion is whether pubic safety may be improved if certain restrictions are placed on the purchace of certain weapons and size of ammunition clips.

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/MxzBQIImm_wh8ERpxOEEhex1DFqaVTNVHg--#a3e78 No Mist

    Please allow me repost my comment on The Economist on this issue.

    —–

    Time and again I hear the argument of Liberty against gun control. These misguided folks ignore the fact that there is no liberty without life. I agree that Liberty is sacred, but being able to avoid death courtesy some deranged psycho is even more sacred.

    Moreover there are other arguments for Gun ban too -

    1. True that owning gun is a matter of individual liberty, no doubts about that. But every gun owner/flasher decreases the liberty of everyone around him to some extent. Economists talk of “distributed costs and concentrated benefits”. This situation fits it to the T. Gun ownership is equivalent to deteriorating liberty of many by enhancing liberty of few.

    2. Once guns reach a high level of penetration (which it already has), there is always a danger that some deranged fanatic will not like someone’s opinion and take out his ire by shooting. Everyone would have to be circumspect in voicing their opinions (viz, on religion, on church, on govt, on subsidies, etc) lest a demented crazy is not within earshot. It need not only be “opinions”. Some crazy sportstar fan may try to shoot other athlete in order to increase chances for his idol. Remember Monica Seles incident. If Guns were allowed, she would have been dead. So it is clear that in addition to decreasing liberty of the non-gun-owners, even the liberty of gun-owners is decreased.

    3. it induces a state of fear/hysteria. do we want a nation where everyone looks over the shoulder of everyone else just in case a “Reservoir Dogs” do not start.

    4. One of the sacred principles of libertarianism is sanctity of life and undesirability of destruction. Gun ownership violates both the maxims. How do Libertarians reconcile this contradiction ?

    5. There are certain things provided by technology for which human psychology is ill-suited. Such things must be well regulated by state. Much as I dislike it, this is the strongest argument I find in favor of having a state as opposed to “anracho-capitalism” which i am personally naturally inclined to. Some of the products of technology we have aimed to regulate are – talking on mobile phone while driving, drinking while driving, wearing seat belts while driving, etc. I am yet to find a Libertarian (bleeding heart or otherwise) who argues that talking on mobile while driving is a fundamental liberal right. I see no reason that guns should not be seen in this light.

    4. Finally one argument against “limited gun control”. In my view, there is no moral reason to stop bigger guns while allowing smaller guns. Whatever is fit to posses is fit for an upgrade too. Moreover what will we do when more powerful small/miniature guns do appear. Remember that technology does not obey any speed limits. Considering this reason, I feel, the only control which is justifiable is total gun-ban.

    Only total gun-ban restores Liberty and enhances it. Those who say that Guns enhance Liberty are probably high on crack.

    • Devon Sanchez

      1. Your argument falls short of the concentrated force that resides in the central authorities’ right to unilaterally own or brandish a gun. This display of power diminishes liberty much more profusely than when everyone is of equal standing to exercise their right.

      2. This argument is based on presumption. Presumption is not a valid argument.

      3. Another argument based on presumption. Less restrictive laws in America’s history have shown a great reduction in overall violence. Less violence would seem to indicate a society of less tension.

      4. How do you logically come to this conclusion? If the right to gun ownership, and the exercising of that right, by all can help subdue senseless destruction (such as teachers or administrators returning fire on a suspect, rendering him less able to complete his senseless destruction) and in the process raise the possibility of saving the lives of the innocent, then what is the argument against such as idea. You are thinking in a world void of guns, armaments and, frankly, violence. You cannot get rid of guns or weapons or violence, ever. So the best and most logical method would be to let all people decide on owning a weapon (i.e. firearm) in order to help reduce the frequency of senseless murdering and the reduction in probable fulfillment of such an act.

      5. Again, you cannot hypothetically remove guns, or more broadly weapons or violence from society. One cannot possibly exist with the possibility of the other existing.

      No, guns don’t enhance freedom or liberty. But, by the same token, guns do not inherently create violence. The right to (the same) gun ownership does allow the highest possible chance to deter the same violence perpetrated upon a person or persons.

      Please, remember that guns, weapons, and violence exist. You cannot simply wave a magic wand and rid our planet of them. It could never happen.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tatiana-Covington/100002159242044 Tatiana Covington

    Own guns because you jolly well feel like it and to hell with everyone else!

  • R.L. Styne

    >Thinks leftists like Maddow are the friends of libertarians.
    >Thinks gun control is bad.

    Pure idiocy.

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