Jim Downey begins a discussion on UTI about guns and self-defense, and UTI being what it is, most people come down on the libertarian side of things. I left a very acerbic contrarian comment about today’s first world’s not being the wild west, but there are other issues I’d like to address that don’t quite fall under the morality rubric.
1. Guns increase crime. The US is the only developed country that gives its citizenry licenses to carry handguns; in comparison, Switzerland requires people to keep the weapons they use for military service unloaded and locked to prevent accidents, and Canada only lets civilians purchase rifles. Not coincidentally, the US also has the highest homicide rate in the developed world.
Now, the standard retort is that the US has high crime rates overall. But in fact, the US only has high reporting rates. The USA’s overall violent crime rate as determined by National Crime Victimization Survey is half this of Britain as determined by the British Crime Survey. Undeterred, pro-gun advocates shift their argument to saying Britain’s crime rate is so high only because of gun control; but in fact, since 1997, when Britain instituted its strict gun control measures, survey crime has gone down.
2. The standard compromise in the US, state-based laws, doesn’t work. The guns used in New York gang violence come from the South. In a highly mobile, highly integrated economy, any local law banning the sale of an item or commodity can easily be circumvented by moving to another jurisdiction. It’s even spilled over to Canada, whose murder rate is higher than it should be.
3. It’s easy to be romantic about defending oneself from a tyrannical government. It’s harder to have the army it takes to defeat the government. In post-communist Russia, everyone who wanted a gun could get one; predictably, the mafia outgunned everyone else. Ditto China during its civil war, and even interwar Germany (if the SA hadn’t outgunned the Reichswehr 20 to 1, Hindenburg would’ve outlawed the Nazis instead of invited them to form the government). You’re not Malcolm Reynolds.
4. According to the FBI, 75% of solved murders in the US are committed by an acquaintance of the victim. And the plurality circumstance of homicide is argument, covering 40% of murders. You’re likelier to be murdered by someone living together with you than by a stranger stricken by the urge to kill someone on the 2 train. When you’re carrying a concealed gun, you’re not defending yourself; you’re just carrying a murder weapon you won’t need, ever.