Now that another mass shooting has occurred, the debate between the pro-gun and the anti-gun camps is raging once again. It plays out about the same way every single time. One side says that we need to restrict firearm ownership in some capacity if we want to save lives, and the other side will say that to do so would be a violation of our constitutional rights. Then they will add that actually, if more civilians have access to guns, then society will be safer overall.
I’m here to tell you though that this argument is a trap. Even though I do believe that an armed society is a safe society, I don’t think that this is the argument that gun owners should be making to support their rights, at least by itself. Here’s why:
Just about every aspect of our lives is influenced by the “freedom vs safety” argument. Everything we do and believe in, can be placed somewhere on that spectrum. Do we want a certain activity to be completely free and unregulated, do we want it to be completely safe and controlled (a state of affairs which we could also call “tyrannical” rather than safe), or should it fall somewhere in between? What do we value more? Human life, or human freedom?
Because the anti-gun crowd believes that there is a net benefit to gun control, that taking away guns would save more lives, they think they value life more than freedom. However, it’s kind of messed up when you think about it, because even the most ardent of gun control advocates will begrudgingly admit that yes, from time to time guns do save lives. It’s in the news all the time. Sometimes homeowners stop murderous home invaders with guns, and sometimes women stop vile rapists with guns. It’s an undeniable fact.
So what they’re really saying when they make this net benefit argument, is that it’s okay if a few people die so that the rest of us can live. That’s simply the cost of living in a safe society.
However, if you believe that guns save more lives than they kill, you’ve just made the same exact argument. In this case, most gun owners would say that there is no real choice between human freedom and human life. More freedom means more safety, because an armed society is a safe society. However, you have to admit that there are people who would die in an armed society that would not die in an unarmed society. Criminals have more access to firearms in our country, and a number of them would not be able to kill if they didn’t have a gun. Would most of them find a substitute to kill with? Yes, but not all. Would there still be more deaths in an unarmed society? I personally believe so, but it misses the point.
For instance, you could also say that if everyone was allowed to carry a gun, then criminals would have a harder time committing crimes. However, if more people are allowed to carry guns, there will also be more gun related accidents. Sometimes people miss, sometimes they shoot themselves, and from time to time they target people who aren’t really criminals. It’s unavoidable.
Can you see the problem with net benefit arguments? They don’t hold individuals responsible for their actions, which is why advocates for freedom shouldn’t make them the crux of their argument. If you do, you’re just reciting numbers without context.
Again, I still believe that guns make society safer, but there is obviously a flaw in any argument that implies a net benefit. At the end of the day, no matter where an issue falls on the freedom vs safety spectrum, somebody is going to die who would not have died otherwise. If you argue that a position on that spectrum will save more lives than it would kill, you’re still saying that it’s okay for some people to die in exchange for the rest of us. That’s simply the cost of living in a free society, right?
See what I’m getting at? The freedom vs safety argument is a trap with no winners, and you can see it at work everywhere in our society. Should drugs be banned or should we get to decide what we put in our bodies? Should the government force you to wear a seat-belt or not? Should car manufactures be forced to install air bags in their vehicles? Should healthcare be run by the government? In all of these cases, you can argue all day about which is more beneficial to society, but somebody is going to die regardless of the outcome. And if you truly value human life then you have to admit that it’s not fair to exchange one life for any number of lives.
By now you might be thinking that if I’m right about this, that somebody is going to be hurt no matter how society is run, and that one life should not be outweighed by the many, that the whole argument is meaningless and it doesn’t matter how we live. I don’t mean to say that at all. In fact I still believe that choosing safety over freedom won’t actually make us safer, and it’s still important to make that practical argument to the gun grabbers. It’s just that, what is useful and beneficial needs to stand on the shoulders of what is right and wrong.
By that I mean, instead of making a statistical argument, you also have to make a moral argument. It’s not enough to convince someone that one way is beneficial and the other way is not. You also can’t just say “because the Constitution says so” and leave it at that. You have to make a compelling argument that freedom is ethical.
You have to convince them that it is wrong to punish people for crimes they haven’t committed, which is exactly what gun control would do. You have to convince them that we all have the natural right to defend ourselves and our property. They need to realize that there is no morality without freedom, because if we don’t live in a free society, then we lack the authority to make moral decisions on our own. They need to know the truth. If we don’t live in freedom, then there is nothing to live for. There isn’t a point to life at all if we can’t make our own choices.
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Contributed by Joshua Krause of The Daily Sheeple.
Joshua Krause is a reporter, writer and researcher at The Daily Sheeple. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and is a freelance writer and author. You can follow Joshua’s reports at Facebook or on his personal Twitter. Joshua’s website is Strange Danger .