Tag Archives: guns vs cars

Pro-click: “The Political Philosophy Of Guns – Would America Really Be A Better Society Without Them?”

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 [1].

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] [2]. 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.

Another head scratcher from the Washington Post: “How to protect gun rights while reducing the toll of gun violence”

WaPo churned out an editorial that had me shaking my head about the gall of the antigun movement.

The opening paragraph doesn’t hesitate, but rather leaps straight in to revisionist history:

Twenty years ago, one of us was director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, supporting research to build an evidence base to advance the science of gun-violence prevention. The other of us was a Republican representative from Arkansas determined to dismantle that effort because conservatives had concluded that it was aimed at gun control and not gun violence.

Well.  That’s one way to put it.

The two authors, Jay Dickey & Mark Rosenberg, are listed with the byline:

Jay Dickey, a Republican, represented Arkansas in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2000. Mark Rosenberg, president and chief executive of the Task Force for Global Health, was director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1994 to 1999.

Dickey was the the key figure behind the Dickey-Wicker Amendment that slapped the CDC on the wrist for their overt bias in antigun research; he apparently had a change of heart after Sandy Hook.  Rosenberg was the head of the CDC department that funded said research, and is by no means impartial, having been a supporter of outright confiscation.  This Reason article contains quotes from him, including:

Rosenberg “envisions a long term campaign, similar to [those concerning] tobacco use and auto safety, to convince Americans that guns are, first and foremost, a public health menace.” In 1994 he told The Washington Post, “We need to revolutionize the way we look at guns, like what we did with cigarettes. Now it [sic] is dirty, deadly, and banned.”

Oh yeah, I’m sure he’s completely changed his tune twenty years later. It’s not like he was quoted here in 2013 when talking about the CDC funding prohibition:

“It terrorized the bureaucracy and it terrorized the research community,” Rosenberg said of the episode. …

“I think they want to suppress information that doesn’t support their ideological position,” said Rosenberg, referring to the gun lobby.

Terrorized? That is strong wording it must be a fluke… oh wait, here’s one from a month prior.

Mark Rosenberg, former director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, had even stronger words. “The scientific community has been terrorized by the NRA,” Rosenberg said.

And here’s one from October 2012:

We’re being held hostage to firearm violence,” Rosenberg says, citing the NRA as the cause. “All of the science that could possibly give us answers is being stopped.”

Sure, he’s changed his tune, just listen to him:

When we met, at a congressional appropriations hearing in 1996, we fiercely opposed each other’s positions. But over years of communicating, we came to see that, while we had differences, we also shared values. We became colleagues, and we became friends. We have argued with each other and learned much from each other. We both belong to the National Rifle Association, and we both believe in the Second Amendment.

The problem with this statement is that the 2nd Amendment isn’t there to preserve duck hunting or single shot .22LR pistols.

The dishonesty continues just two paragraphs later:

Our nation does not have to choose between reducing gun-violence injuries and safeguarding gun ownership. Indeed, scientific research helped reduce the motor vehicle death rate in the United States and save hundreds of thousands of lives — all without getting rid of cars. For example, research led to the development of simple four-foot barricades dividing oncoming traffic that are preventing injuries and saving many lives. We can do the same with respect to firearm-related deaths, reducing their numbers while preserving the rights of gun owners.

Sure, we haven’t gotten rid of cars.  There’s also no organized movement to remove them, no “Moms Demand” for mass transit, no “Everytown” to get rid of sports cars. You can bet your ass though that when driverless cars are a viable option, they will be mandated.

You know what’s missing from this empty statement? An actual example supporting his claim.  You mention scientific research into cars and even a layman can list improvements that reduce accidents & fatalities: seatbelts, third brake lights, airbags, etc.  All of these, however, were privately developed by automobile companies and only later mandated in safety standards.

Strangely though, the authors can’t give a single example for research & development that would preserve firearms rights as he claims. Why is that?  Why have all of public health recommendations been “ban assault weapons” and “ban magazines” and “ban guns”?

If we are to be successful , those of us on opposite sides of this issue will have to do a better job of respecting, understanding and working with each other. In the area of firearms injuries, collaboration has a special meaning. It will require real partnership on the design of the research we do because while we often hear about “common-sense gun laws,” common sense is not enough to both keep us safe and to protect the Second Amendment.

And for some reason the “common sense” laws aren’t so much “common sense” as talking points that don’t bear up.  There’s no “respecting, understanding and working with each other” because one side has absolutely no interest in compromise or even rational thinking.  They just want a death by 1000 cuts approach until they can make sweeping bans.

There is urgency to our task. Both of us now believe strongly that federal funding for research into gun-violence prevention should be dramatically increased. But the language accompanying this appropriation should mirror the language already in the law: “No funds shall be used to advocate or promote gun control.” This prohibition can help to reassure supporters of the Second Amendment that the CDC will use the money for important research and not for gun-control advocacy. However, it is also important for all to understand that this wording does not constitute an outright ban on federal gun-violence prevention research. It is critical that the appropriation contain enough money to let science thrive and help us determine what works.

Overall, I’m not impressed with this plea for funding.  Sorry, Dr Rosenberg, but we’re way past the “once bitten, twice shy” stage. The funding prohibition against gun control advocacy already exists and yet antigun “researchers” simultaneously whine that there is a prohibition on research (through various articles & OpEds that fail to mention the CDC’s past activities) while churning out antigun studies funded by Bloomberg & Joyce.  Given these facts, why do you think we should not be suspicious that revisiting the issue and increasing funding will happen without

  1. The advocacy prohibition being stripped away
  2. A return to the previous shenanigans

It’s not like Wintermute, Hemenway, Kellerman or any of the others have changed their stripes.

If you have a plan on addressing “preventable” firearms deaths, you need to realize that suicide, homicide, and accidents are three distinctly different problems that require separate solutions. Come back when you have a proposal other than “Remove guns, problem solved.”

Volokh – Why not regulate guns like cars?

Eugene Volokh is one of the great constitutional lawyers of our day and age and is pro-gun as all get out.  Check out this dismantling of the typical anti-gun “Why not regulate guns like cars?” argument:

A commenter on a recent thread asked — seemingly from a pro-gun-control perspective — “Why can’t guns be treated like cars, regulated and available, only to those who demonstrate competence and compliance with laws?” That is a perfect excuse for me to reprise my analysis of the guns-cars analogy.

Cars are basically regulated as follows (I rely below on California law, but to my knowledge the rules are similar throughout the country):

(1) No federal licensing or registration of car owners.

(2) Any person may use a car on his own private property without any license or registration. See, e.g., California Vehicle Code §§ 360, 12500 (driver’s license required for driving on “highways,” defined as places that are “publicly maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel”); California Vehicle Code § 4000 (same as to registration).

(3) Any adult — and in most states, 16- and 17-year-olds, as well — may get a license to use a car in public places by passing a fairly simple test that virtually everyone can pass.

(4) You can lose your license for proved misuse of the car, but not for most other misconduct; and even if you lose your driver’s license, you can usually regain it some time later.

(5) Your license from one state is good throughout the country.

This is pretty much how many gun rights advocates would like to see guns regulated, and is in fact pretty close to the dominant model in the over 40 states that now allow pretty much any law-abiding adult to get a license to carry a concealed weapon: No need to register or get a license to have a gun at home, and a simple, routine test through which any law-abiding citizen can get a state license to carry a gun in public. And even if we require a test for all possession of a gun, at home or in public — again, something that’snot required for cars — that would still mean that pretty much any law-abiding adult (or 16- or 17-year-old) would be able to easily get a license to carry a gun. That would provide more functional gun rights in the remaining non-shall-issue states (including, for instance, New York) than is provided under current gun regulations.

Now I suspect that many gun control advocates would in reality prefer a much more onerous system of regulations for guns than for cars. Of course, one can certainly argue that guns should be regulated more heavily than cars; thoughtful gun control advocates do indeed do this. But then one should candidly admit that one is demanding specially burdensome regulation for guns — and not claim to be merely asking “why can’t guns be treated like cars?”

Incidentally, I don’t claim any great originality on these points: Others have made them before me, see, e.g., David Kopel’s “Taking It to the Streets,” Reason, Nov. 1999. But some things are worth repeating.