Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What if guns make us less safe overall?



  1. Wondering if you can shed some clarity on a point made in the article:

    “And like the right to life and right of self-defense from which it is derived, the right to bear arms isn’t subject to a cost-benefit analysis.”

    As I understand him, I’m not seeing a sufficient connection between right to life and right to self-defense, on the one hand, and the right to bear arms, on the other.

    Initially I was thinking along the lines of segments of history or other worlds where the rights to life and self-defense exist wholly apart from the existence of guns as a means of decoupling the relationship he attempts to establish. He does, however, mention that the right to self-defense entails the right to pursue “reasonable means...” with which I agree. But at that point, I’m not sure how the “reasonable means” criterion is *not* susceptible to cost-benefit analyses in the same way that the rights to life and self-defense are. A self-defense method’s meeting the standard of “reasonable means” could be thwarted, in principle, by a cost-benefit analysis, right? Suppose studies showed excessive collateral damage during many or most instances of self-defense with a gun, because, say, bullets kept traveling beyond the target and hitting others, or because a generation of poor gun-handlers arose. That’s wildly implausible in my mind, but in principle, a cost-benefit analysis could preclude that as a reasonable means of self-defense. Or minimally, that would justify stricter gun control by restricting these hypothetical bullets or requiring a gun-safety course first or whatever.

    Anyway, it doesn’t appear to me to be true that “the right to bear arms isn’t subject to a cost-benefit analysis.” At least not in the same way that the rights to life and self-defense are exempt. Possibly, excessive collateral damage *in and during instances of self-defense with guns* warrants restrictions on the right to bear arms in a manner that would never analogously apply to the rights to life and self-defense.

    1. I may have more to say later on, but for now, here's a related argument:


    2. I would quibble with these two premises:

      Premise (3) If every human person has a right to defend his life, then he has a right to an effective means of defending his life.

      Premise (5) In many circumstances, a gun is the only effective means of defending one's life.

      “Effective” seems too broad; “reasonable means” makes more sense to me. Also, qualifying it with “reasonable” better captures, I think, his later qualification that, “The existence of such an individual right does not entail that it is unlimited. Thus if I have a right to firepower sufficient to my self-defense, it does not follow that I have a right to firepower sufficient to lay waste to a city.”

      An easily maneuverable, perhaps handheld, flamethrower would be quite effective at warding off an assailant. Then again, it would also be effective in burning down my house, a coffee shop, or the woods. So, I agree with his qualification, but prefer the former article’s terminology of “reasonable” to capture the same the idea Bill Vallicella describes later.

      But then we’re back to introducing cost-benefit analyses. Mind you, I’m not in favor of stricter gun control than is currently on the books. (In fact, the opposite is true, especially in the state I live in.) However, I’m not yet convinced that the right to bear arms is on par with the right to self-defense, simpliciter— at least not in the sense that the Federalist article articulated.