This disturbing video is worth watching, because I think it encapsulates much of the consequentalist side of American gun control debate:

Gun control proponents think: More and better gun control would have kept that guy from having a gun in the first place. Gun control would produce a net loss of crime.

Gun advocates think: Weaker gun control, plus a culture that encourages everyone, especially women, to keep guns in self-defense, would have prevented this story from happening. The guy would have thought twice about kicking down the door if the mother were armed, and even if he did kick down the door, she’d have had a fighting chance. After all, the police couldn’t save her. Gun control produces a net increase of crime.

Of course, these are factual, empirical claims. A rational person would start off more or less agnostic between these two claims, and then form a belief on the basis of the evidence as proper social scientific studies come in, with only as much credence as the studies allow.

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  • Tim O’Keefe

    I think that cross-country comparisons between the U.S. and other developed nations give support to the gun control advocate side: see, e.g., http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/12/14/chart-the-u-s-has-far-more-gun-related-killings-than-any-other-developed-country/

    Of course, since the U.S. is already awash in firearms, any gun control measures would have only a limited impact at first.

    Also, if you’re looking at the costs and benefits of having a gun for self-defense in your house, you should focus not only the possible benefit of being able to repel the sort of intruder in the video, but possible costs such as accidental discharge, mistaking an innocent person for an intruder, suicides, etc. See http://www.news-medical.net/news/20100204/Guns-in-homes-can-increase-risk-of-death-and-firearm-related-violence.aspx:

    Based on a review of the available scientific data, Dr. Lippmann and co-authors conclude that the dangers of having a gun at home far outweigh the safety benefits. Research shows that access to guns greatly increases the risk of death and firearm-related violence. A gun in the home is twelve times more likely to result in the death of a household member or visitor than an intruder.

    The most common cause of deaths occurring at homes where guns are present, by far, is suicide. Many of these self-inflicted gunshot wounds appear to be impulsive acts by people without previous evidence of mental illness. Guns in the home are also associated with a fivefold increase in the rate of intimate partner homicide, as well as an increased risk of injuries and death to children.

    So you’re absolutely right that this is an empirical question, but it’s not one where there aren’t already studies and data available.

    • Dano

      But even the producers of studies and data evidently seek to support pre-accepted claims (save few, like Professor Gary Kleck, who reversed his position when his data showed the opposite of what he expected). By evidently, I mean: can you explain to me why anyone should want more intruders dead? An enemy body count (not even including lawful arrests!) is not really the sole basis for sound policy, is it? Yet that’s what your citation tried to slip under the radar — in reality, normal people who have guns for self-defense don’t want to kill anybody, and so the vast majority of the time do not shoot when they use a gun to turn away an attack or prevent a crime, and among the remaining few percent in which they do shoot (which still includes warning shots and shots-to-disable), the vast majority of the time, nobody dies. So if the number of household members and visitors (visitors have been known to include known acquaintances like drug dealers and known gang members and violent exes in some such studies), *including suicides* (which is hardly an access-to-deadly-things issue) to dead intruders, is only 12:1, other relevant facts would suggest the safety benefits far outweigh the risks. That 1 dead intruder represents hundreds if not over a thousand instances of armed self defense, compared to 12 deaths (and all but maybe 4-6 of them suicides?) that may or may not involve households and situations that were high in criminality and risk anyway; an incentive for gun ownership rather than a result of it.

  • Kevin Vallier

    I think the empirical disagreements also indicate the deontological structure of much of the debate. Conservatives and libertarians tend to think that people have a right to self-defense that gives them immunity against government regulations and prohibitions, whereas progressives tend to think that the state’s obligation to protect individuals undermines any right to self-defense that extensive. Progressives think the rights and duties of the state in protecting individuals are paramount in the absence of defeating conditions, whereas conservatives and libertarians think that individual rights are very extensive in the absence of curtailing conditions.

    Conservatives and some libertarians care about the empirical side not just due to consequentialism but because they acknowledge that an extensive right to self-defense can be circumscribed if some proposed exercises of the right impose serious risks on others. So if it turned out the widespread gun ownership led to significantly increased risk of violence and death, then even non-consequentialist libertarians and conservatives would have reason to worry that some gun control measures would be a good idea. Heck, even a Nozickian with Nozick’s worries about risk in Ch.4 of ASU, must be sensitive to the empirical information on the proliferation of guns, as the minimal state might be morally required by the natural rights of its customers to disarm certain individuals or restrict their behavior in other ways.

  • M Lister

    A rational person thinking about gun control would also need to consider things like: 1) accidental shooting deaths. There are lots of them. My understanding is that people w/ guns in their homes are much more likely to be accidentally shot (or to accidentally shoot someone) than to successfully protect themselves.

    2) increased likelihood of successful suicide attempts.

    3) increased likeliness of people getting really riled up and blasting someone when it couldn’t be plausibly called for, and wouldn’t happen w/o easy access to guns.

    I grew up w/ guns, enjoy shooting them, and am a pretty good shot, even. I owned a .357 for quite a while, before it became more of a pain than it was worth to me. So, I’m not reflexively anti-gun. But, I think that many people don’t consider all of the factors that are relevant. Those above seem like some important ones to me.

    (I’ve just noticed that Tim mentions some of these same factors, but I’ll go ahead an reiterate them.)

    • Jason Brennan

      Yes, all good points.

      • matt

        hi Jason,
        long time reader. I apologize but I am having trouble with my cap locks key so this will be in lower case except. so I saw you on c span talking about libertarianism what everybody needs to know which I have since picked up and really enjoyed. in that interview, you said the book presents the libertarian view on xyz and that you typically share that view but that gun control was an area where you were more skeptical of the libertarian perspective. I was curious as to why. i am all the more interested to hear your perspective given your sympathy towards anarchism as most libertarian anarchists have told me that we need not worry about people being armed to the teeth in anarchytopia because an armed society is a polite society.
        It seems to me that the points m lister brings up are reasonable ones for sure but the libertarian objections seem pretty compelling, especially on point two. if we are really serious about opposing paternalism then why should our gun policy be in anyway shaped by the fact that people might use guns to kill themselves. is that not their choice?
        none of this is to say that i am reflexively pro gun. i have deep doubts actually regarding the wisdom of letting almost anybody buy what is ultimately an instrument of death. really just curious to hear more about your thoughts

    • Bryan C. Winter

      It’s not just a statistical debate though.

      There is a question if you have a right to self defense. True, greater chances of gun accidents when you own a gun.But isn’t that up to the individual to decide for themselves, on the risk vs. reward? Certainly there is a non-zero chance of you getting mugged going into town, and while most people might not be wise enough to handle a gun, should be not allowed to actually protect yourself where a need exists, simply because someone else isn’t able to?

      Statistically speaking, we would be much safer if we only left the house in goverment mandated bullet proof bod suit, if we weren’t allowed to drive, smoke, or have unprotected sex.

      Realistically, we allow certain dangers into our life because that kind of control is just not helpful. Now the solutions i detailed above are of course absurd. I appeal to the absurd to illustrate the idea that safety is not the value here.

      Thankfully, gun violence, and violence in general has been trending down in America for decades, despite the increase the amount of fire-arms owned. I don’t believe that more guns increase safety and decrease crime in a macro sense, but I also don’t think more legal guns actually increases it by much either.

      To achieve the desired end, you would need truly draconian gun control that prevented most people from having them. And since there does exist a legitimate need for people to defend themselves, and no one can make the argument for many types of controls actually having a measurable effect on violence ..

    • Dano

      Studies that *actually* show people “successfully protect[ing] themselves” do not show that to be rare, or anywhere near as rare as accidental shooting deaths or the other negatives you mention, so I would guess your understanding is probably informed by the kinds of studies that in fact measure something else (be it a mistake, or an underhanded trick) like killed criminals instead of saved innocents. (That is actually my standard response, but sure enough, Tim’s did exactly that. I guess I’ll add here that in my experience [whilst getting my criminology degree], studies submitted to medical journals instead of criminology journals when their nature is clearly of the latter discipline, are almost always crap pushing an agenda.) That said I’m not saying you shouldn’t think about accidental shootings, but the solution to that is becoming trained and investing the time and money needed to be squarely in the statistical category where self defense is more common but accidental shootings still exceedingly rare.

      • greg byshenk

        Do you have any reference to those ‘[s]tudies that *actually* show people “successfully protect[ing] themselves’? I recall looking (some time ago, now) and couldn’t find any.

        Note that I’m looking for well-designed studies that actually -show- this sort of thing using some sort of minimally objective evidence (at least something other than self-reporting or survey results).

        • Dano

          is a good primer from a very thorough and (overly?) cautious source. There is also a within that quickly glosses over the dozen or so ‘pre-Kleck’ studies that range from around 1-2 million defensive gun uses. The article goes into the one study that got a much different answer (~100,000) and its problems for this particular issue, before talking about Kleck’s more thorough and famous sets of (far from the only possible link, google him and most studies you land on will be at least tangentially related), and then covers some of the the back-and-forth between and Hemenway (*cough*… a medical journal guy sometimes seen confusing safety for criminal body count). The latter source almost certainly has more bias, but that’s ignoreable to the extent the primary source is Kleck, for whom I think that last link should explain why it’s reasonable not to dismiss him when/if you find the hordes of detractors baselessly calling him things like ‘liar,’ ‘NRA schill,’ ‘biased,’ or ‘conservative.’

          • greg byshenk

            Unless I missed something, what you’ve provided is a list of links to self-reported survey data.

            I find such “data” to be of very close to no value in -show-ing that firearms -actually- have been used in self-defense, because such self-reporting overstates (perhaps wildy) the incidence of -actual- self-defense. The problem is that there is at least a portion of the firearms-owning population that seems to wildly overestimate the need for “self-defense” and thus also the contribution of firearms to defense.

            As an anecdotal example: I came across an “armed citizen” feature in a gun magazine some years ago (one of those “true stories of firearms for self-defense” features) in which not a single one of the (four?) stories was demonstrably a case of ‘self-defense’, nor even an instance of evident threat.

          • Dano

            You “find”? Did you study them and the literature reviews, or is that a guess? Do you find UCR estimates of crime (factual data only) as more accurate than NCVS estimates (non-self-selection survey data)? Every piece of evidence suggests the latter is more accurate — if you’ve accepted the claim that rape is a heavily under-reported crime, for instance, that’s what’s informing it — such is the realm of criminology that surveys are necessarily still an important part of what we can learn… the important part is designing studies to filter out errors. With over a dozen different methodologies for doing so, the ‘high-dgu thesis’ has repeatedly prevailed, while the ‘low-dgu thesus’ and the political arguments that prefer the latter have to fall back on a study that doesn’t even seek to asnwer the targeted question. Anyway, consistent with that self-reported data is some other types of studies cited in the first link, like polls of prisoners regarding them being deterred or stopped by gun owning victims.

  • http://www.libecon.com/ LV Agorist

    Unfortunately, advocates of gun control dismiss reality, instead relying on emotional knee-jerk reaction to sensationalism and fearmongering. If gun control worked, it would have worked already.

    • M Lister

      I wish I had any idea what that comment meant. Instead, I’m going to assume it was a joke put there by a gun control proponent to make the other side look silly.

  • Libertymike

    Why would a rational person limit his assessment of the facts to “proper social scientific studies” given that “proper social scientific studies” are hardly the apogee of best evidence (not to be confused with the “best evidence rule”)?

    • Jason Brennan

      Proper social scientific studies are indeed the best evidence.

      • Libertymike

        What is the basis of your assertion? Good luck with that!

        • Jason Brennan

          Epistemology and philosophy of science.

          Here’s the argument in short:

          What causes what in the world? We can’t just pull the answer to that question out of our asses. So, we have to go look, making sure to collect proper data, test it using reliable statistical methods, and examine it from multiple angles to see if different data sets and ways of testing reach a conclusion.

          • Sean II

            I believe Mike’s point is that nearly all social science is improper in one way or another, and thus that there is a very good reason why no one honestly uses social science data without backfilling from ideology.

            Try this sometime: pick a few social science papers of the better sort and show them to someone from hard science, someone who has no axe to grind save a nerdy respect for methods. They’ll be gasping and rolling eyes before the end of the abstract: “What? No, no, no. You can’t learn anything about gun ownership by comparing Detroit to Dallas. Even less by comparing either to Dublin or Derby. For one thing…(begin incredibly long list of other things which are clearly not held equal).”

            So really what it comes down to is: the only way social science gets to be “proper” is when it is hedgy, dodgy, waffly, and just one split hair away from agnostic. In other words, the essential characteristic of proper social science is that it lacks the power to change anyone’s mind.

            And that’s what happens with the good stuff! Think of the absolute crap one must sift through, even to reach that! A reasonable person who merely wants to understand the world would be wise to spend his scarce time some other way.

          • murali284

            And that’s what happens with the good stuff! Think of the absolute crap one must sift through, even to reach that! A reasonable person who merely wants to understand the world would be wise to spend his scarce time some other way.

            Say you’re right about social science being as bad as you say it is, the rest of your conclusion still doesn’t follow. After all, everything else could be (and probably is) even worse than admittedly dodgy social science.
            Consider: The social sciences control for some factors, but not nearly as many factors to be relied on in any significant way. Alleged sources of knowledge about the social world that come outside of the social sciences? Those are even worse at controlling for the various variables.
            Social science is still the best, even if that is not saying much.

          • Sean II

            I used to think to that, but changed my mind for two reasons:

            1.) The cargo cult of science gives people a dangerous sense of false intellectual security. There’s this creeping feeling of “I know this was garbage when we started, but just look at the elegant regression we forced it through. It sure doesn’t smell like garbage now.” The damage wrought by that false confidence outweighs the gains most of the time, and certainly with most of the people.

            2) Direct experience, for all its problems, is a hugely underrated means of learning things about people and society. Consider, for example: which of the following people is more dangerously ignorant about the state of public education, more prone to make huge errors…

            a) An assistant professor who’s never set foot in an inner city school, writing a paper based on piles of data in re: property taxes, teacher salaries, teacher credentials, computers per student, administrators per teacher, SAT scores, grades, college admissions, lifetime income, etc.

            b) A person of comparable intelligence who actually just went into some schools and watched what happens in them.

            I usually find that the person in a) category has more damaging gaps in their knowledge – i.e., has less of the knowledge that really matters – than the person in b), who often knows enough at least to avoid being a total buffoon.

          • murali284

            I would still trust the assistant professor. Here is why. If I were a leftist who was against holding teachers accountable, when I went in and looked, I would try to interpret everything that happened in as favourable a light as possible towards the teachers. For example, any difficulties a teacher may have with a student would tend to be interpreted as difficulties that decent teachers have with problem children from disadvantaged backgrounds. On those instances where I did see a teacher do something egregiously bad, I would see it as an exception and not a systemic problem. And that would confirm my belief that teacher’s unions were not part of the problem.
            On the other hand, if I were already prone to viewing teacher unions as part of the problem, then I would view any problems with students as an incompetent teacher who is way above his or her head who should expect teenagers to be typically difficult, but is still unable to handle them. And that would confirm my belief that teacher’s unions are part of the problem
            Ideally, we would want someone who had access both to the gross statistics and extensive direct observation so that such a person would know which numbers to look at.
            The assistant professor at the least has some theoretical understanding of the issue, some significant amount of which, is moderately reliable. You might say that the theoretical knowledge is suspect, but it has already gone through various peer review processes. Even if each individual researcher has impure motives if the peer review process ultimately yields a general consensus on a topic, there is good reason to think that said belief is more than reasonably reliable.

          • Sean II

            Murali, I’m afraid you’ve rather proved my point.

            By theorizing about what would happen if you walked into a troubled public school, you came up with two very plausible-sounding scenarios. In Scenario A, you start out sympathizing with the teacher’s union and confirmation bias leads you to end up sympathizing even more. In Scenario B, you start out hating the union and interpret everything you see in that light. (You err, however, by making it seem like a professor is less likely to suffer from confirmation bias. He’s not. In fact, given the need to build and defend his published CV, the professor is more likely to suffer from confirmation bias, and given his near total insulation from consequences, he’s also more likely to be a stubborn ideologue. He may, of course, be able to say the words “confirmation bias”, but this fact should not be confused with anything that confers an immunity to it.)

            Here’s the problem: you dreamt up those scenarios without actually setting foot in a troubled public school. So you’re defending the perspective of the armchair…while still sitting in an armchair.

            As it happens, I actually lived though your Scenario B, but the ending of the story was very different.

            A few years back I did a consult with this charitable foundation engaged in joint work with Teach for America. I went into the collaboration with two premises: 1) The T4A kids were probably a bunch of peace corps style idiots, and 2) Teachers’ unions are the root of all evil in public education. In other words, I carried a standard set of right-libertarian priors, worn straight off the rack.

            But the project required me to actually to visit several public schools, and see what goes on there. The result completely changed the way I see our education problem.

            I still don’t LIKE the teacher’s unions, mind you. They are just what they seem – grubby little rent-seeking gangs, hell bent on resisting any change. But I’ve long since stopped blaming those teachers of their union for our education problem. Why? Because it turns out the teachers are not really predators, just scavengers.

            Turns out…it’s not the teacher’s fault, it’s the students.

            Funny how quickly it started. In a matter of hours I was sympathizing with those teachers against my will. I came to respect many of them, and even started to share their resentment against the clueless Teach for America do-gooders who wandered in, oh so temporarily, to meddle in their shops.

            I don’t exactly know how to describe this, but you could just tell the veterans teachers knew a secret. They had this confident look that said: “Go ahead, you stupid interlopers. I’ll enjoy watching you make fools of yourselves!” I became very curious about that look, and wanted to know what was behind it. Eventually I found out. The secret those teachers know is: the students who can be taught are already learning, and the rest can’t be taught no matter who tries to teach them.

            So now, instead of peddling the usual libertarian horseshit about how school choice will make Lean on Me happen in real life, I tell people that what we really need to do is…frankly, give up….stop romanticizing education (and really, who does that more than a libertarian preaching about vouchers!)…dial down our expectations…fret less about test scores…stop comparing ourselves to Finland & Japan…accept the warehousing model as the inevitable civic compromise it probably is…and other things like that.

            So, Murali, you’re talking to a guy who completely changed his views on education as a result of some close observation, and you’re telling him close observation doesn’t change minds because of confirmation bias. You’re wrong about that.

          • CT

            You’re right. Way too many social scientists start with their accepted ideology, then analyze events and interpret studies through that lens without ever informing the reader what the lens is.

            Then there’s causation. I find too many social scientists never attempt to test both side of the coin. Is it that guns in the home result in more deaths or is it that people involved in dangerous activities own more guns and die a lot more?

          • Sean II

            Amen to that second point. This is another area where background ideology comes in, big time. Most social scientists are blank-slaters. They are very slow to consider things like “maybe this group of people are different…were different to begin with.”

            Indeed, when it comes to data on gun violence there are some very big possibilities that almost no one employed in the social sciences wants to consider.

          • Jason Brennan

            Great, then agnosticism it is!

          • Sean II

            No, I’m afraid not. In the meantime there are questions which do have to be decided.

            We must, for example, decide whether it’s a good idea to use guns against our fellow human beings for the purpose of stopping them from having guns.

            There isn’t an agnostic position to be had there.

          • Libertymike

            Note that Jason does not deliver the goods in response to my request for a proffer of proof. All he offered was tautology.
            My original point was that a rational person should not and would not CONFINE his assessment of the facts to the results of proper social scientific studies. Forget about the biases, forget about asking cui buono, forget about the stakes of the sponsors and forget about the myriad of questions about the reliability of the data allegedly gathered and studied – forget all of that and ask why would a rational person exclude all other evidence not the product of a “proper social scientific study” from his assessment and consideration of any matter? It strikes me as rank ignorance.

          • Jason Brennan

            Libertymike,

            Your posts make me want to quit blogging, I find them so depressing.

          • Libertymike

            Why do you find my posts so depressing?
            I know – the answer may be found in a proper social scientific study!

          • Jason Brennan

            Well, you and I don’t get to decide that, so you and I can be agnostic.

            But that wasn’t what I said to be agnostic about.

          • Sean II

            The options as you have them:

            1) Empirical evidence is important. Therefore let’s ignore the very serious problems with social science and just call what we get from it empirical evidence anyway.

            2) Social science has very serious problems. Therefore all empirical questions should remain open at precisely 50/50.

            Those are not the only options. Not even close.

          • CT

            I’m actually floored that on a libertarian site the elephant in the room is being ignored in terms of gun violence. I mean, it’s as if Radley Balko and Mark Thornton didn’t exist. Tim, above, who states that a cross-sectional comparison is all that is needed to support gun control goes almost unchallenged (Dano being the only one). This is the worst type of data to support any position … and yet mostly crickets.

          • CT`

            Just to clarify: I’m not advocating we ignore the social sciences … I’m more suggesting an overhaul of how the social sciences are practiced and perhaps even more importantly; interpreted.

          • Sean II

            In my case, the form that overhaul should take is: stop pretending.

            Stop pretending to have controls when you don’t. Stop pretending that borrowed methods (with borrowed prestige) can solve the problem of garbage in, garbage out.

            Most of all, stop pretending that anyone ever approaches the social sciences from a neutral, let-the-chips-fall starting point. No one does that. It’s SOMETIMES possible to be emotionless when, say, one is searching the genome for associations with eczema. But no one comes to questions of politics and morality like that.

            Indeed, if someone had no prior opinion about, say, the minimum wage and unemployment, all that would prove is: that guy has no business studying the minimum wage and its potential connection to unemployment.

          • Gould’s Assistant

            Then there is the problem of reification. Statistics and sophisticated methods of factor analysis are used to seemingly “prove” race and race hierarchy on an IQ basis. Yet it is philosophy of science debunking what really appears to be an a priori belief among racialists. e.g. Correlation does not equate causation; and the fact that IQ tests generate numbers does not mean they can do the work the racialists want them to do etc…

  • ThaomasH

    I think the main point of regulating gun ownership is to prevent accidents. Keeping guns away from people who want them for crimes is unfeasible and keeping them away from those who want them for self defense and can show that they can use them for that purpose is unnecessary.

    • M Lister

      Keeping guns away from people who want them for crimes is unfeasible

      In fact, in functioning countries with strong gun control laws, gun crimes (or the use of guns in crime) is a lot lower than it is in the US, so this seems almost certainly false as a general claim. What might be true is that there is no feasible way to get to such a state in the short term in the US, even if we really wanted to (because we have so many guns floating around right now), but that’s a different issue than whether gun control and reduce the use of guns in crime to a significant degree.

      • ThaomasH

        Agree, but still I think the main harms from too many guns is from accidents, not crime.

      • Sean II

        “In fact, in functioning countries with strong gun control laws, gun crimes (or the use of guns in crime) is a lot lower than it is in the US…”

        So clearly you’re just terming your way to success here. Any troubling counter-examples and you’ll say those countries aren’t “functioning” or their guns laws aren’t really “strong.”

        But more importantly…why ignore the long list of obvious problems involved in comparing the U.S. to those other countries? The U.S. is not like those other countries. It’s especially not like those countries when it comes to crime.
        Just to spell things out: 15% of our population accounts for about 50% of our murders.

        • M Lister

          So clearly you’re just terming your way to success here. Any troubling
          counter-examples and you’ll say those countries aren’t “functioning” or
          their guns laws aren’t really “strong.”

          Nope. You’re just assuming that, as is typical. All I wanted to rule out is countries where crime control and regulation _generally_ don’t work to a degree that is at least roughly similar to the US, because those won’t tell us anything about gun control regulation.

          Your second issue is just a red herring, of no significance to the issue I was addressing. The claim I was responding to was that gun control can’t work because criminals who want guns will get them. But, there is a pretty good amount of evidence that this isn’t _generally_ true. As I noted, there _are_ particular problems in the US- we shouldn’t assume that would could just, say, pass Germany’s gun control laws and have the same results. But the general claim- that gun control laws _can’t_ help keep guns away from criminals who want them- is pretty clearly empirically refuted.

          • Sean II

            So – and forgive me as I choke back the laughter – it’s okay for you to rule out places like Colombia (not “functioning” I presume?) and South Africa (gun laws not “strong”, we expect?)…but it’s just a total red herring to point out that Baltimore is different from Brussels because it has lots more black people? Okay then!

            I trust you can see, M, that whatever you’re carrying here, it’s not really the torch for social science integrity?

          • M Lister

            I didn’t talk about murder rates at all in my comment, so yes, that’s a red herring.

            Normally, when countries are compared in various ways, we use ones with similar levels of economic and social development. That would typically mean comparing the US to places western Europe, Canada, Australia, and so on. There are problems with those comparisons, but less than comparisons with developing countries.

            I am, though, unsure about your claim and how it relates to the topic under discussion- whether gun control could cut gun crime. Do you think it’s generally false, or that it’s only false in countries with lots of blacks, or something else? Gun control measures strongly reduced gun crime in Australia, for example. Is your claim that that was only possible because of the relatively fewer number of blacks in Australia?

          • Libertymike

            Why ignore the evidence we have with respect to the jurisdictions that have instituted the most draconian gun registration / ownership laws and the murder rates in those jurisdictions, such as NYC, Washington DC, Baltimore et al?

          • M Lister

            The murder rate in Baltimore is very bad, but not tops in the country. The best comparison I could find (from 2012, so not long ago) didn’t have NYC or Washington DC in the top 25 per capita at all. (NYC is one of the safest big cities in the world) So, I don’t think this claim stands up. Note that I don’t think you can tell anything about the cities by their gun laws, since it’s not that hard to bring guns in to a city from surrounding areas. (I’ll admit to being rather surprised, when I first learned of it, how bad many mid-west cities, especially St. Louis and Kansas City do.) The US city with the most murders per capita is, it seems, New Orleans. I have no idea what the gun control laws are for the city or the state, but it’s clear that the “evidence” doesn’t support the claim in the comment by Mike.

            Here’s a nice presentation:

            http://www.businessinsider.com/most-dangerous-cities-in-america-2013-6?op=1

          • Libertymike

            If gun control measures actually worked, what explains Chicago’s ongoing spate of murder and mayhem?
            Why were there far more murders in January of 2013 than in January of 1929 in Chi-town? In 1929, the year of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, there was no comprehensive gun regulations / restrictions of which to speak. Yet, in 2013, and for many years prior, Chicago had one of the strictest gun control regimes in the country.
            Gun control has been consistently advertised, promoted and sold as a can’t miss solution to crime and murder and violence by legions of its proponents. Yet, when implemented it has utterly failed.
            It is amazing how some can construe failure as success.

          • Jason Brennan

            Libertymike,

            How would we know whether those laws have a marginal net positive or negative effect on crime? We can’t tell just by looking at overall violence rates.

            Oh, yeah, social science.

          • Libertymike

            How? Please, no tautologies.
            As an epistemologist, you should know that the more one studies the conception, design, financing, input and sponsorship of “proper social scientific studies”, the more measured one should be about the reliability of the data “found” and the conclusions derived therefrom. If you find the foregoing depressing, try being an anarchist in a totalitarian world.

          • Libertymike

            Of course, given that this is supposed to a libertarian hang-out, one should not ignore another elephant in the room:
            Gun control, per se, is a failure as any impediment to gun ownership imposed by the state represents a diminution of individual liberty.

          • Libertymike

            Of course, given that this is supposed to a libertarian hang-out, one should not ignore another elephant in the room:
            Gun control, per se, is a failure as any impediment to gun ownership imposed by the state represents a diminution of individual liberty.

          • John Alexander

            I am a bit confused by this discussion. Do not all social rules/laws place a limit on individual liberty? I would like to know what you mean by liberty – what exactly is it?

          • Libertymike

            John, short answer: I am an anarchist, therefore liberty means the NAP and the absence of the state.

          • Jason Brennan

            Rawls accepts the NAP; he just disagrees with you about what counts as aggression, because he disagrees with you about who has a rightful claim to what.

            We’ve been over this.

          • Jason Brennan

            Rawls accepts the NAP; he just disagrees with you about what counts as aggression, because he disagrees with you about who has a rightful claim to what.

            We’ve been over this.

          • Libertymike

            Yes, we have. Rawls? Why would any person who claims to be a friend to liberty, much less an actual libertarian, accord much weight to Rawls?
            Regarding self-ownership, Rohtbard’s robust conception is far more in keeping with the NAP, not Rawl’s creepy coziness with collectivism.

          • Libertymike

            Yes, we have. Rawls? Why would any person who claims to be a friend to liberty, much less an actual libertarian, accord much weight to Rawls?
            Regarding self-ownership, Rohtbard’s robust conception is far more in keeping with the NAP, not Rawl’s creepy coziness with collectivism.

          • Authoritysteve

            Because Rawls is concerned about everyone’s freedom, including the freedom of the least fortune who don’t have access to as many resources as others. You’re only a friend to the liberty of the lucky. You don’t care about the liberty of the unlucky.

          • Libertymike

            No, you are wrong about that John.
            The unlucky are those poor souls who get in the way of the rulers and their enforcers. In my world, Eric Garner would be alive today. In my world, Kelly Thomas would be alive today. In my world, Jose Guerena would be alive today.
            In my world, Glenn Greenwald is a hero. In my world, Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning are heroes. In my world, William Norman Grigg is a hero.
            In my world, Preston Tucker’s vision would have flourished. In my world, the transcontinental railroad building would have been accomplished by the likes James J. Hill and not the Lincoln crony capitalists.

          • Authoritysteve

            Yes, I realize that you AnCaps like to claim that in your system, everyone (apart from the current ruling class) would be much better off, including the least fortunate among us. What a lucky coincidence that your system, which is the only legitimate one from a deontological perspective, also happens to have the best consequences. What are the chances? There must be some divine plan at work here.

            Rawls argues that just institutions must work to the benefit of the least fortunate. You disagree with this, and yet you’ll probably still claim that your system just happens to work to the benefit of the least fortunate anyway. How convenient.

          • Libertymike

            Institutions, in the real world, exist for the sake of the institutions and the best interests of the institutions, not to benefit the least fortunate.
            It is not as if Rawls understood institutions like Butler Shaffer does. Mr. Shaffer is the guy you want to read on the subject.

          • Authoritysteve

            So your claim now is that the institutions Rawls favored would not have achieved the results he wanted, namely benefitting the least fortunate. Fine, that may be true. But that’s beside my point.

            You and most other AnCaps (apart from a few consequentialists here and there) favor your system for reasons other than the good consequences it will have for the least fortunate. If it works to their benefit, then yay, what a lucky byproduct. If it leaves them out in the cold to starve, then oops, too bad, sad day for them. The welfare of the least fortunate is an irrelevant consideration to most AnCaps.

          • Libertymike

            No, you are assuming facts not in evidence – at least with respect to my conception of liberty and to my motivations.
            However, given that you want to focus upon consequences, what do you think better enables the eleemosynary element of our nature, free enterprise or command and control regimes?

          • Authoritysteve

            I don’t know. I don’t even know if those are the only two options, or if some combination thereof is also an option.

            But maybe I am wrong about your motivations. So would you support the existence of a state if it worked to the benefit of the least fortunate, or if it significantly promoted the general welfare?

          • Libertymike

            Would you support anarchy if it worked to the benefit of the least fortunate or if it significantly promoted the general welfare?

          • Libertymike

            Would you support anarchy if it worked to the benefit of the least fortunate or if it significantly promoted the general welfare?

          • Authoritysteve

            Absolutely, I would. I find David Friedman’s arguments for Anarcho-capitalism to be fairly compelling. What I don’t find compelling are the various a priori arguments offered by many (I’d say most) AnCaps involving NAP, self-ownership, argumentation ethics, universally preferable behavior, natural rights, taxation is theft, statism is slavery, etc. In my experience, most AnCaps tend to lead with these latter arguments.

          • Authoritysteve

            Absolutely, I would. I find David Friedman’s arguments for Anarcho-capitalism to be fairly compelling. What I don’t find compelling are the various a priori arguments offered by many (I’d say most) AnCaps involving NAP, self-ownership, argumentation ethics, universally preferable behavior, natural rights, taxation is theft, statism is slavery, etc. In my experience, most AnCaps tend to lead with these latter arguments.

          • Libertymike

            Okay, I will do some reading of Mr. Friedman’s work.
            Methinks he has posted comments here or perhaps I have read his comments on the Volokh Conspiracy?

          • Sean II

            I get what you’re trying to say, which is “it’s possible to embrace the NAP and yet disagree about what counts as aggression.” And no doubt you’re right. Such arguments are possible.

            What I can never understand is why you insert that argument into the mouths of people who didn’t really make it.

            Rawls, if he wished, could have made the NAP his first principle. He was in the ballpark anyway, so why not go all the way. But he didn’t. Indeed, Rawls first principle sounds like something a conflicted utilitarian might have written.

            Now, since Rawls didn’t say “I accept the NAP” despite having plenty of chances, why go around saying things like “Rawls accepts the NAP”?

          • Authoritysteve

            But he does more or less accept it. He believes there are constraints on what one person may do to another. That’s just the NAP. Right wing libertarians believe that aggression is permissible to defend their version of property rights, and Rawls likely believes the same about his version of property rights.

          • Authoritysteve

            NAP is a nonsense first principle, since it allows aggression to defend property. An authoritarian dictator can accept NAP and yet claim that all natural resources on the earth belong to him. Then he can use all the aggression he wants to defend his “property” without violating the NAP.

          • Libertymike

            Kind of like the United States government.

          • Sean II

            “NAP is a nonsense first principle, since it allows aggression to defend property…”

            The first principle version of the NAP doesn’t say anything about property.

            To get that, you need at least a second principle.

            Like many trolls, you’re having what must be a really cool argument inside your own head. Trouble is the guy you’re arguing with isn’t here, and certainly isn’t me.

          • Authoritysteve

            “The first principle version of the NAP doesn’t say anything about property. To get that, you need at least a second principle.”

            That’s why it’s a nonsense first principle. It’s compatible with pretty much any moral or political philosophy. Rawls didn’t say “I accept the NAP” cause he’s not an idiot. How dumb do you have to be to advocate a principle that amounts to “Don’t use unjustified aggression” and think you’re committing yourself to anything substantive? You might as well make your first principle “Do no wrong.” Now if you’ll excuse me, I have more trolling to do.

          • Sean II

            The NAP does not reduce to “don’t use unjustified aggression”. That’s not what it means.

          • John Alexander

            Thanks for the reply. There are many varieties of anarchism so simply stating that you are one is not that helpful, although it does give us a starting point. It seems to me that the NAP is a constraint on liberty in the sense of liberty being the ability to act on what one knows and has the power to do, or maybe that is just freedom and I am confused (or a fool as another commentator suggested), The problem that I see is that if S has a gun and S’ does not then what stops S from using the gun, or treat of using the gun, to gain an advantage thereby violating NAP? I take it that one of the reasons that you are opposed to the State is that you do not want concentrated power re the control and use of force in the hands of others. S’ might well think that S having a gun is similar to the State having the guns – it creates a disequilibrium that favors those with guns. But S might well think that having a gun is actually a constraint on others using force to gain an advantage and is required for the NAP to be viable as an action-guiding principle. After all, why should not I, or you, gain an advantage if we have the knowledge and power to do so? So, if S’ is morally opposed to having guns (using NAP) and S is not (using NAP) – how does one resolve this problem. I tend to side (philosophically where it all works out in theory) with S’ in so far as a co-operative society would not need them in a post-industrial society.

          • Authoritysteve

            Ha. Liberty means everybody is forced to follow Libertymike’s rules, and property arrangements are exactly how Libertymike commands them to be.

          • Sean II

            “Gun control measures strongly reduced gun crime in Australia, for example…”

            I like how you casually slipped that in as though it were some proven point.

            I know: Australia is so geographically unique that the usual rules about correlation not = causality just don’t apply there.

          • M Lister

            I know: Australia is so geographically unique that the usual rules about correlation not = causality just don’t apply there

            When this good rule of thumb is used in such a silly way it makes me want to go fully Humean and claim that causation is nothing butcorrelation. But, the value of this thought is that it helps separate spurious correlations from causal ones. How do we tell? We look for plausible mechanisms. In this case, we have a plausible mechanism- change in law leads to fewer guns (that’s beyond dispute in Australia) and fewer guns leads to lower gun crime and violence. (there’s an inference there, but it’s not hard to see how that _could_ work, and the timing is right, and there are no other clear changes that could be causal that have been suggests, so it’s a _good_ inference.) If, say, I’d claimed that since there had been a decrease in eating vegemite sandwiches at the same time, and so maybe this was the cause, or that fewer people had been bitten by rabid kangaroos, and so maybe this was the cause, it would make good sense to invoke the old correlation =/= causation bit, because the mechanism would be obscure. But here it’s not obscure, but rather plain. In cases like this, invoking the old chestnut is just sophistry.

          • Sean II

            “…but it’s not hard to see how that could work, and the timing is right, and there are no other clear changes that could be causal that have been suggests…”

            Big point you’re missing: the apparent absence of “other clear changes that could be causal” (especially when you’re not even looking) is hardly a clincher for your theory.

            Crime goes up. Crime goes down. Lately it’s been going down a lot, in a lot of different places.

            You don’t know why. Neither does anyone else. Tis the work of a fool to insist that because crime went down, it must have gone down in response to some policy-made cause which you a) can see and b) happen by the merest coincidence to like.

          • M Lister

            Tis the work of a fool to insist that because crime went down, it must
            have gone down in response to some policy-made cause which you a) can
            see and b) happen by the merest coincidence to like.

            Except that it wasn’t “crime” that went down, but rather gun violence. Here one variable was changed- access to guns- and a related one- violence with guns- went down. You’d have to be a full-on skeptic of he hardest sort to not think that causation was at least _likely_ in that case. Now, maybe you are such a skeptic. But then, there’s no use talking further.

          • Sean II

            Gun violence is crime. If gun violence went down, that means crime went down. No scare quotes required. No one ever said crime had to go down in all categories.

            But you’re right. There’s no use talking further. Here we are having what could be an interesting conversation about methods, limits of knowledge, etc, and yet all you want to do is flog some totally-in-the-ideological-tank cherry-picked case study you picked up from Mother Jones or Salon.

            Christ, man…your lack of introspection here is a bit frightening. Even cats grow up to learn their reflection isn’t really another cat.

          • adrianratnapala

            Regarding Australia, the percentage of homicides to do with firearms has been falling since the ’60s (http://www.aic.gov.au/statistics/homicide.html ), presumably as firearms became less common (if only because people moved from the bush to the city). Total homicide rates seem to have peaked in the late ’80s (http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4524A092E30E4486CA2569DE00256331).

            I doubt we can say much about the effect of gun control legislation. A famous gun buyback happened in the mid 90’s, but both of the trends above precede it.

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            Not refuted at all. I would like to see numbers on which nations (1) had almost no gun control for many decades and (2) millions of firearms proliferating everywhere, (3) suddenly enacted strong gun controls, then (4) had no problems just confiscating them all.

          • M Lister

            Les- I’m going to assume you just missed the part above where I said,

            What might be true is that there is no feasible way to get to such a
            state in the short term in the US, even if we really wanted to (because
            we have so many guns floating around right now), but that’s a different
            issue than whether gun control and reduce the use of guns in crime to a
            significant degree.

            (As I understand it, Australia did make a move that was at least similar to the one you suggest, though on a lesser scale than in the US. I think it would likely be very hard to do in the US, even if most people thought it was desirable, which is why I said the bit that you didn’t notice.)

            But, the practical difficulty of introducing gun control in the current US is a different issue from whether gun control can ever reduce gun crime or violence at all, I hope you’ll agree.

  • John Alexander

    There seems to be an ‘all or nothing’ thrust to this discussion – the status quo or no, or very limited, gun ownership. Why not discuss some actual constraints that might make sense, i.e., age requirements, background checks and adequate training before ownership? We require that people be a certain age, pass certain qualifying courses and tests before we let them drive so as to minimize the chances of causing harm either to themselves or others. Why not do the same for owning a gun?
    I leave with this thought regarding safety and self-defense – if one wanted what you have, or wanted to cause you physical harm, and thought you were armed, would that deter that person? Maybe; but maybe that person would simply sneak up and disarm you or shot you in the back. I think t,hat there is an assumption in the status quo argument that others want what I have, or want to cause be physical harm when in fact most people that I come into contact with already have what I have and could care less about what I possess and have no desire to physically harm me. It is not the gun that stops others from taking things from you, it is the fact that they do not what what you have, etc.. When I see people armed (I live in AZ), I do not think “oh God, now I can’t take anything from them.’ There is nothing they have that I want. If I really wanted what they have, or if I really wanted to physically harm them I would sneak up behind them and…

    • JoshInca

      You’re a fool.

      • John Alexander

        You might be right – I may be a fool. But simply stating that I am one does not demonstrate why (that) I am one. So avoid ad hominums and give me the reason why you think I am a fool. I want to learn and I am sure that you can teach me.

  • martinbrock

    Videos of this sort don’t disturb me, not as intended anyway, and they’re not my idea of a debate. The stereotypes are too familiar. I’m too keenly aware of the melodrama and its manipulative intent. An episode of the The Rockford Files is more disturbing.

    If Susan Sarandon intervenes and blows away the bad guy with her own gun, the gun control spin reverses, and the “argument” is no more persuasive.

    • Sean II

      Right you are. To call that cheesy video “disturbing” is to give it way more credit than it deserves. Also, just a lame way of signaling the obvious: “Hey, I’m against domestic violence”.

      Although I love how the actors are tricked out as middle class whites of precisely the sort who don’t shoot each other in custody disputes. I mean, you can kind of tell the producers considered but then rejected the idea of using some more plausible specimens of poor white trash.

      No doubt the message there is supposed to be: “This can happen to anyone”. Even though everyone knows…that’s just total bullshit.

      • Jason Brennan

        Maybe I’m more sensitive than you guys. I don’t like watching videos where children are frightened because a man pulls out a gun.

        • martinbrock

          You aren’t watching a video of a child frightened of a man pulling a gun. You’re watching a video of a child pretending to be frightened of a man pretending to pull a gun. Just so you know.

        • martinbrock

          You aren’t watching a video of a child frightened by a man pulling a gun. You’re watching a video of a child pretending to be frightened by a man pretending to pull a gun. Just so you know.

          • Sean II

            Can’t recall the exact line, but David Mitchell had a nice comment about the fragility of drama. Doesn’t take much to make you suddenly realize “it’s all just actors saying lies in hats”.

          • adrianratnapala

            The dude is wearing a beanie, not a hat.

          • Sean II

            Now that is disturbing.

        • Sean II

          Perhaps you are really less sensitive, in a way. Most people develop a kind of protective immunity that triggers on contact with obviously manipulative ploys.

          You know how this works. See a cute puppy in the park, it’s just a cute puppy. See a cute puppy on a billboard, and it’s “Hmmm….looks like some ad man is using that cute puppy to sell something. Wonder how many treats it took to make it sit still for the duration of the photo shoot.”

          Watching a video like the one above, my mind is magically carried away, not to the intended destination, but to the meeting where it was screened and approved. The bottled water. The wall mounted flat-screen. The moment when you notice “this furniture is surprisingly luxurious for a 510(c)(3).” The poor schnook who shot the video, because that’s what he does after giving up his dreams of Sundance. The committee members flinging buzzwords at each other. The way they all share the goal of producing an image that will shut down thought and put emotion in the driver’s seat for anyone who watches.

          So if you just see a kid with a gun in his face in that video, you’re not really watching.

  • stargirl

    Both positions seem wrong. Gun ownership seems to have a very weak effect on crime (studies disagree on the sign of the effect but it is always found to be small). In my opinion this suggests we should weaken gun laws as people get intrinsic enjoyment out of guns. Reducing hassle and limits si good if it is likely to have a small effect on crime.

  • Debbie Dresner

    Seriously? This is the thanks I get? I’ve been working my butt off to show that being BHL IS A SERIOUS FORM OF MENTAL RETARDATION- this is money you could be claiming so as to make your homesteading of YOUR OWN PUBIC LICE an economically viable project. Fuck is wrong with you?
    Oh. Right. You are Racist cunts.
    Enjoy.

  • Caphon

    Or you could just approach it using common sense – police won’t arrive in time, ever, in that scenario; she’s better off with an effective means of self-defense, for even before dude pulled the gun, she was at a grave disadvantage. On those points, hopefully there is not debate.
    Without some means of force-leveling, she remains at a disadvantage. The state can’t provide it, so she needs to have a plan, whether it involves a safe-room (great expense), an armed guard (great expense), extraordinary martial arts proficiency (unlikely for most of us) or a weapon (who cares what – a crossbow, taser or gun, but something she can be effective with).
    There are risks of accidental discharge and suicide with her crossbow or gun, sure, but let’s assume this lady isn’t a baboon and has demonstrated she can manage risk – e.g. driving her kid around in a car presents much greater statistical threat to her child than owning a gun. Probably the same with her pool out back.
    I still am befuddled why the aggressor’s gun takes the limelight – I know it’s a Rorschach tests of sorts, but I watch this and only see a call for a woman to come up with a better defense plan. I’m at a loss as to what progressives think society can do to help her here that she could not be more effective at by doing herself.

  • Tedd

    “A rational person would start off more or less agnostic between these two claims…”

    Well, yes, of course. The tricky part with any of these issues is to be consistent about how you rank empirical (i.e., utilitarian) results relative to principle — such as liberty and the concomitant right to self defence. I try to always put principle first. They’re called principles for a reason!

    The empirical data only comes in later. If, for example, it could be shown that less restrictive gun control lead to thousands of times as much crime-related death then, yes, I would consider going against my principles. Or, more accurately, the principle of harm reduction multiplied by such a large factor would begin to rival the principles of liberty and self defence. But for a few percentage points, or even single-digit factors? No, that’s not enough to overcome the inherent difference in the rank of the principles involved. There has to be a better way to achieve the desired result.

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