Thursday, August 25, 2005

The merits of gun control

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Despite my advocacy of small governments, in recent years I have become sympathetic to calls for gun control. I`ve not seen the Michael Moore film, since I`m confident it offers no insights.
My rationale for supporting gun control rested on several arguments:
  1. Lynch mobs: Ownership of guns should entail responsibility. Guns should be licensed, and licensees should be obliged to secure them safely in their house. They should be trained in how to use a gun, etc. Its argued that the role of police is to protect citizens. Just as dangerous as law-breakers are vigilantes that claim to speak for it where it lacks.
  2. Practicality: In what sense can gun ownership be said to be practical. For a gun to be a useful tool for self-defence, does it not need to be accessible. If its readily accessible by the licensee, then its likely accessible by others. eg. In a glove box, boot of a car, study of the house. If they are under lock & key, they are rendered less accessible. By the time you find your gun, the assailant has prevailed and stolen it from you. By comparison, policemen come in pairs rendering an attack less likely, and the activities of the assailant more easily traced.
  3. Tool: There is a compelling case that saids if guns are outlawed - why not kitchen knives. Its a reasonable point. Guns do offer a great degree of psychological power, since it would take several knife stabs to kill a person.
  4. Guns: If there are fewer guns, then there is a smaller prospect for murder & armed robbery. This argument needs to weigh up the counter-arguments for preventing opportunity vs preventing breaches of rights. Are there more neglectful, unsafe and unscrupulous users of guns, or are people generally safe and reasonable? I am reminded of the phase `Evil prospers when good men do nothing`.....or might that things carelessly.
This has been my rationale in recent times, but then the Libertarian Party in the US counters with the following statistics:
  1. If private gun ownership poses a threat, and gun ownership is rising, why has violent crime declined in America over the last 20 years? Since Liberals believe gun control reduces crime, why is violent crime declining? This is an over-simplification since it might well be due to other factors. eg. There has been an economic boom over the last 25 years making people less desperate. Availability of guns is just one issue.
  2. Do guns kill or save lives? Michael Moore saids that over 11,000 people die each year because of guns. He is impartial because he doesn`t discuss how many Americans have been saved by their guns. Regardless, I can`t say I`ve ever heard of any case of guns saving lifes. But it is likely to make criminals more cautious. But private gun licensees are only interested in saving their own lives, so don`t expect them to serve the general public - and nor should they.
  3. Why is the murder rate in England rising, since there are severe gun restrictions place? The answer to these questions are never so simple. Its conceivable that any number of issues could be the cause. eg. English borders are likely alot more porous than the USA, perhaps there was already an inventory of guns in the Irish economy? 

The only legitimate reason I can think for people to hold arms is if established nation states (say California) opposes the other states form of government, and sees the disparity in values as justifying the use of force. The notion of any individual fighting for the preservation of his rights is counter-productive because it cannot be argued that force will aid the situation, unless its his immediate survival.

Reason is the standard for debate.
- Andrew Sheldon
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