Came across this last night:
America’s decades long national argument about gun control is not a normal political debate about addressing policy to problems but about what kind of politics to have. It is fundamentally about how citizens should relate to each other and the state, and that makes it a matter of political philosophy, Politics with a capital P. That in turn explains why the debate has gone on so long without resolution and the division and frustration it inspires.
Of course it is up to Americans to decide what kind of society they should have, not philosophers, and certainly not foreign ones like me. Indeed, part of my argument is that even this most fundamental question must be decided politically, by the people, and not by appeal to the special authority of sacred constitutional principles or social science or even philosophy. Philosophers’ pronouncements of truth and rightness have no special authority over politics, nor should they. What philosophical analysis can do is offer new perspective and argumentative resources by which a political debate such as this one might be improved from its toxic stalemate.
I know what you are thinking. This is going to be a long winded argument about how guns are bad. WRONG!
So what does my philosophical perspective come down to? First a diagnosis. Both sides of the gun control debate know they are right. But only one side recognises it as a fundamentally philosophical dispute. The other has systematically evaded the real debate about values in favour of the faux objectivity of a statistical public health argument [See Hunt for a discussion of what the gun control debate is actually about]. Second some positive advice. The advocates of gun control need to take the political philosophy of the gun rights movement seriously and show that a society without guns is a better society not that it is a safer one.
It only gets better from there:
I’m going to have to be blunt. Gun control advocates rely excessively on a public health case that is not only much weaker than they believe it to be but also crowds out the kind of arguments that might actually win over their opponents. Their confidence that they are on the right side of history has blinded them to the fact that they have chosen to fight on the wrong ground. They keep harping on about guns killing people. As if guns were like cigarettes, and as if the numbers were big enough to matter
Guns are an excellent killing technology. They are extremely good at transforming an intention to kill into its achievement. However, that doesn’t mean that they are a particularly significant cause of death; only a particularly exciting one.The idea that forcibly removing guns from citizens would reduce death rates in any appreciable degree is a triumph of moral indignation over statistics. America is not 43rd in the world for life-expectancy because it kills so many people with guns, but, principally, because of the social gradient in health that follows from its shameful levels of socio-economic inequality .
Let’s go into this a little more.
We hear a lot about the large number of deaths caused by guns in America, around 33,000 per year. This sounds like a big number. But understanding whether a number is big enough to matter requires considering it in context. 2.6 million Americans die every year [CDC] . Gun deaths represent just over 1% of deaths, and two thirds of those are suicides. From a public health perspective, many other causes of death seem much more deserving of our worry, and also more likely to yield to government intervention.
So happy to see someone else making the same arguments I’ve been using for years. This one addresses a plethora of typical arguments: Guns vs Cars, Suicide, Mass Shootings, etc. I have to disagree with the author’s “Your gun isn’t going to stop the military” argument for reasons outlined in previous posts, but you can’t have everything.