“People can still kill without guns” is a stupid argument against gun control

Some people argue against gun control on the basis of other methods to kill existing. To put their argument in a valid form:

  1. We should control guns only if no other methods to kill people exist.
  2. Other methods to kill people exist.
  3. So, we should not control guns.

They state 2, which is obviously true. The problem is that 1 is obviously false. The generalization, “We should control X only if no other method to do what X does exists,” entails not controlling almost anything. Now perhaps someone wants to go in on that, but the only way I see that happening is if they are just anti-control in general. But then 2 is irrelevant.

Killing people is also just one feature of guns. Guns can also do other things. Guns also kill people differently from how other things kill people. On the second point, guns are different from knives in how efficiently they can be used for killing. On the first point, the uses of guns and knives are very different. So, consider a refined argument for gun control:

  1. If something is a particularly efficient tool for killing people and also is not much better than alternatives at some good function, then access to it should be restricted.
  2. Guns are a particularly efficient tool for killing people and also are not much better than alternatives at any good function.
  3. So, access to guns should be restricted.

To this, the objection that other methods of killing exist does not apply. Any of the following would be applicable objections:

  • Guns are not particularly efficient tools for killing people.
  • Guns are much better than alternatives for some good function.
  • Something is a particularly efficient tool for killing people and also is not much better than alternatives at some good function, and access to it should not be restricted.

The first option is just silly. Guns are great for killing people. That’s most of the appeal.

Some people do go in for the second option (they point to hunting, collecting, etc.), though that those are sufficiently good functions is very unclear.

I think the third option is right. I will not dive into it in this post, but an objection of that form needs to find one or more examples of things that are good for killing, not great for anything else, but should not be restricted. Of course, to just say guns fit the description would be to beg the question. Some other example, like bombs, needs to be given, and an argument for that made.

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Cars and guns

People have posted a lot about guns and the control of guns over the past several days. I’d say that this happens every time there’s a shooting that makes the news, but that’s almost continuous. There’s a constant competition for attention between the stupidity and evil of Trump and friends on the one side and people killing each other on the other.

As usual, the charge against guns is they are rather effective means of killing people. The defense is cars are also an effective means of killing people. The response to that is that, yes, cars are possible deadly weapons, and they are heavily regulated. Foolish gun-lover, you have fallen right into a trap!

See the source image

The exchange is so common now people just skip to the third step and share this image on social media. However, the chart is misleading. The entire “let’s treat guns like cars” proposal doesn’t give the person against gun rights what they want because:

  1. Gun regulations would look pretty different from car regulations. The purpose of gun regulations is to keep them out of the hands of people who would do bad things with them. Skill is usually secondary. Car regulations are far more skill-oriented. We let felons drive.
  2. The training, tests, etc. are requirements to operate a motor vehicle. Presumably the target of restrictions with regard to guns is on ownership.

If car regulations looked like gun regulations, anyone would be allowed to go out and buy a gun. Actually using the gun would require a license. This entirely thwarts the goal of making guns less available to people who want to do bad things with them. They could still buy them. Their mode of use is already illegal, so nothing there has changed.

Perhaps there is something salvageable. You do need a license to take a car out. Likewise, a license system could be implemented for taking guns out. This would hardly stop anyone who wants to grab a gun and kill a bunch of people, but it might stop someone with anger management problems from ill-advisedly taking a gun out and killing someone in a fit of rage. Or stop someone who can’t aim from trying to be a hero and instead killing more people.

There was an armed cop and Pittman doesn’t understand the words he writes

Interesting two bits from Eschaton:

That there already was an armed cop means the people crying for there to be authorities with guns lurking in schools don’t really have a point here. Unless they want a bigger presence. I guess as long as we keep the prison model of primary and secondary schooling we may as well have armed thugs to really stay true to it. Though perhaps there’s some better alternative. (Of them, arming the teachers doesn’t sound awful. Teachers can be insane, too, but I’d guess the overall insanity level in the teacher population is lower than the student or security populations.)

As for Pittman, perhaps someone should inform him communists are almost all in favor of less gun control.

Saving the discussion for another day is just a dishonest way of supporting the status quo

Pretty much anyone who’s paid attention to a few meetings has enough information to notice the status quo is generally easy to hold, and the easiest move to hold it is to delay change.

Fighting change is risky. To fight change to have to open the floor to discussion. If a case is presented, it gets at least thought about. If I talk about how awesome guns are, you’re going to judge whether I’m right or not. Which means you might judge not. Which means the case for guns beingĀ not awesome can get its foot in the door.

If I want to keep the gun situation the way it is, I shut down the discussion. I say now is not the time to talk about it. Then neither side gets to say anything, so the status quo holds. If some people want to make me do some work by, say, having the organization put on an event, and I want to just collect my paycheck without doing anything of value, I keep saying “we’ll talk about it next time” until I’ve run out the clock and there is no next time to talk about it. Because doing nothing at all is what happens when you delay the dialogue forever.

It is, almost always, a cop-out move. It’s lazy. It’s worthless in terms of doing anything of worth. If one is fully neutral with regard to future action, then one may as well okay a tentative plan. Gun ban in six months unless revised. Rave in eight weeks unless revised.

And if someone isn’t willing to do that, they’re not neutral; they’re dishonest.

W

An observation on guns in the US not temporally local to a massacre making the rounds in the news media (I’m scheduling the post on Dec 29. I sincerely hope we can make it to the post date without a major massacre.):

Observation: Full auto and other such heavy duty firearms are causally relevant to very few deaths (in the US). Nonetheless, most of the discussion seems to compromise around doing more to keep them away from people. Meanwhile handguns take the lion’s share of homicide (and suicide), but they don’t get nearly so much attention. There’s some pretty obvious explanations for why handguns are more popular for homicide, even when compared only to other legal instruments of death. They’re portable. They’re convenient. Just like making suicide a pain in the ass makes it less common, making homicide a pain in the ass makes it less common.

I have three hypotheses, in descending order of likelihood, though I would guess all three play a role in explaining the discrepancy. (I’m assuming if a compromise is to be made, the reasonable place is to restrict the deadlier object, and that that isn’t the compromise demands explanation.)

1. The obvious explanation, smaller arms tend to go with smaller acts. It’s not much of a spectacle. Someone spraying a 60 round clip into a crowd gets a lot more attention than the accumulation of homicides over the course of a day. (There’s approx. 45 homicides per day in the US.) It sells a lot better.

2. The less obvious, though rather damning explanation, people can more easily explain away the day to day homicide as being most skewed towards certain outgroups. Outgroups they are of course not a part of, and are morally unscrupulous enough to not care about. Poverty and violence correlate, so if you’re not in poverty, just blame the poor. Or pick another race and say it’s them shooting each other. Or gangs. So many options. Meanwhile the heavier weapons tend not to discriminate so much. Even an upper middle class white person could be at the next club, concert, or school someone decides to fire into. (See also: the amount of care given to a school shooting being proportional to the average income of the families of the students who attend.)

3. The kinda conspiracy sounding, though quite feasible explanation, the powers-that-be have way more incentive to get rid of heavier weapons than lighter handguns. If there’s any violent resistance to existing power structure, they’d far rather it be something that won’t do much damage. (This connects with 2, but more of a top-down approach. You can defend your home from a random intruder with a rifle just as easily as a pistol. The state and friends cannot be defended against so easily.)