Gun Restrictions Punish the Rational and Responsible for Acts of the Irrational and Irresponsible

The basic argument for restricting the manufacture, purchase, and possession of firearms runs as follows: Because some gun owners use their guns to commit crimes or suicide, or they use their guns irresponsibly, the rights of all gun manufacturers, sellers, and owners must be restricted. Thus, the case for restricting guns rests on collective guilt. (The guns under consideration here are those those suitable for personal self-defense, including shotguns, semiautomatic shoulder rifles and handguns, and the like.)

That guns can be (and usually are) used in rights-respecting ways is obvious. Nearly half of the U.S. population—scores of millions of people—own a gun. Many millions of Americans use guns for recreational target practice and hunting. Many millions possess a gun for self-defense—some ten million have a permit to carry a concealed handgun—and every year many thousands of Americans use a gun to defend themselves.

Granted, some people misuse guns: In 2011 an estimated 11,101 of 15,953 homicides involved a gun, as did 19,766 of 38,285 suicides, as did 851 of 122,777 accidental deaths. But such misuse is not grounds for outlawing guns. Legitimate laws—those that protect individual rights—do not punish law-abiding individuals for the crimes of others, nor do they restrain the psychologically healthy because of the suicidal, nor do they restrain the responsible because of the irresponsible.

In addition to the fundamental problem with gun-restriction laws—namely, that they violate individual rights—such laws don’t solve the problems they are purported to solve.

Regarding crime, career criminals, particularly gangsters who currently operate the black markets for drugs, are expert at acquiring and selling guns on the black market. Typically, criminals choose victims who are physically smaller and weaker than they—or they attack in gangs—so even if it were possible to deprive them of guns that would hardly deprive them of the ability to commit heinous crimes. Gun-restriction laws do, however, disarm the intended victims of criminals.

Regarding suicide, those who wish to address the problem should address the mental illness or psychological problems that usually underlie suicide, not ban for everyone one of an unlimited number of items (others include ropes, cars, knives, bridges, etc.) that can be used to commit suicide. (In certain circumstances a mentally ill person may properly be restrained or deprived of potentially dangerous items, but that fact has no bearing on my broader point.)

And regarding irresponsible gun use, a civilized society does not ban or restrict a useful item, whether a gun, a knife, a bag of sugar, a table saw, or an automobile on the grounds that some people use the item irresponsibly.

As philosopher Harry Binswanger has argued, the proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights, not to engage in some sort of utilitarian calculus that attempts to achieve some social outcome by sacrificing the rights and values of individuals. But that’s just what gun-restriction laws do. As Binswanger puts it, such laws “say to the rational, responsible gun owner: you may not have or carry a gun because others have used them irrationally or irresponsibly.”

Ironically, those who advocate outlawing guns claim to be concerned with public safety, but they ignore the single greatest threat to the citizenry: a rights-violating government. A government that can ban (or substantially restrict) guns is a government that, by the same logic, can censor “dangerous” speech, curtail life-promoting energy production, allow warrantless searches, and so forth.

Those who would violate individual rights for the alleged sake of “public safety” would do well to recall the words attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” If we wish to preserve our liberty and our ability to produce and retain the values that sustain and protect our lives, we must advocate a government that protects individual rights and does not violate them.

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  • http://twitter.com/John_R_Shepard John Shepard

    “Badness and Mental Illness: Not the Same Thing” by Dr. Michael J. Hurd: http://drhurd.com/index.php/Daily-Dose-of-Reason/Ethics/Badness-and-Mental-Illness-Not-the-Same-Thing.html

  • John Shepard

    “Badness and Mental Illness: Not the Same Thing” by Dr. Michael J. Hurd: http://drhurd.com/index.php/Daily-Dose-of-Reason/Ethics/Badness-and-Mental-Illness-Not-the-Same-Thing.html

  • Guest

    Some have argued that their right to life could potentially be violated by a gun owner’s incompetance, e.g. missing their intended target during a gun fight, or by a round penetrating the body of a criminal, and hitting or killing a bystander.

    My rebuttal to that arguement has been that the individuals involved in that gunfight would or should be held liable in the wounding and/or deaths of any innocent bystanders. The victim should still be held responsible for the type of ammunition he uses, the type of weapon he carries, and his competancy with the firearm.

    Some also argue that although knives, table saws, and automobiles can potentially be used as a deadly weapon, guns were designed solely for the purpose of being a deadly weapon.

    My arguement has been that that although guns are designed and intended to kill living things, you have to bear in the mind the context in which it is used to do such a thing. Is it wrong to use it kill an animal which you intend to consume or product a product in order to earn a living? Is it wrong to use it kill a man to take his property? Is it wrong to use it to kill a man seeking to take your property or life brandishing a gun, himself? We know the answer to these questions, and they differ because of their context. You cannot allow opponents to context-drop in order to portray a seemingly valid idea, because it is not valid.

    I hope this helps some of you out there debating gun-control proponents who use these seemingly rational arguements.

  • Guest

    Some have argued that their right to life could potentially be violated by a gun owner’s incompetance, e.g. missing their intended target during a gun fight, or by a round penetrating the body of a criminal, and hitting or killing a bystander.

    My rebuttal to that arguement has been that the individuals involved in that gunfight would or should be held liable in the wounding and/or deaths of any innocent bystanders. The victim should still be held responsible for the type of ammunition he uses, the type of weapon he carries, and his competancy with the firearm.

    Some also argue that although knives, table saws, and automobiles can potentially be used as a deadly weapon, guns were designed solely for the purpose of being a deadly weapon.

    My arguement has been that that although guns are designed and intended to kill living things, you have to bear in the mind the context in which it is used to do such a thing. Is it wrong to use it kill an animal which you intend to consume or product a product in order to earn a living? Is it wrong to use it kill a man to take his property? Is it wrong to use it to kill a man seeking to take your property or life brandishing a gun, himself? We know the answer to these questions, and they differ because of their context. You cannot allow opponents to context-drop in order to portray a seemingly valid idea, because it is not valid.

    I hope this helps some of you out there debating gun-control proponents who use these seemingly rational arguements.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vasquja Jason Vasquez

    Some have argued that their right to life could potentially be violated by a gun owner’s incompetance, e.g. missing their intended target during a gun fight, or by a round completely penetrating the criminal, and hitting or killing a bystander.

    My rebuttal to that arguement has been that the individuals involved in that gunfight should be held liable in the wounding and/or deaths of any innocent bystanders. The victim should still be held responsible for the type of ammunition he uses, the type of weapon he carries, and his competancy with the firearm.

    Some also argue that although knives, table saws, and automobiles can potentially be used as a deadly weapon, guns were designed solely for the purpose of being a deadly weapon.

    My arguement has been that although many guns are designed and intended to kill living things, you have to bear in the mind the context in which it is used to do such a thing. Is it wrong to use it kill an animal which you intend to consume or produce a product in order to earn a living? Is it wrong to use it kill a man to take his property? Is it wrong to use it to kill a man seeking to take your property or life, brandishing a gun, himself? We know the answer to these questions, and they differ based on their context. You cannot allow opponents to context-drop in order to portray a seemingly valid idea, because it is not valid without context.

    I hope this helps some of you out there debating gun-control proponents, who use these seemingly rational arguements as proof against the restriction of our rights.

  • Jason Vasquez

    Some have argued that their right to life could potentially be violated by a gun owner’s incompetance, e.g. missing their intended target during a gun fight, or by a round completely penetrating the criminal, and hitting or killing a bystander.

    My rebuttal to that arguement has been that the individuals involved in that gunfight should be held liable in the wounding and/or deaths of any innocent bystanders. The victim should still be held responsible for the type of ammunition he uses, the type of weapon he carries, and his competancy with the firearm.

    Some also argue that although knives, table saws, and automobiles can potentially be used as a deadly weapon, guns were designed solely for the purpose of being a deadly weapon.

    My arguement has been that although many guns are designed and intended to kill living things, you have to bear in the mind the context in which it is used to do such a thing. Is it wrong to use it kill an animal which you intend to consume or produce a product in order to earn a living? Is it wrong to use it kill a man to take his property? Is it wrong to use it to kill a man seeking to take your property or life, brandishing a gun, himself? We know the answer to these questions, and they differ based on their context. You cannot allow opponents to context-drop in order to portray a seemingly valid idea, because it is not valid without context.

    I hope this helps some of you out there debating gun-control proponents, who use these seemingly rational arguements as proof against the restriction of our rights.

  • Natalie

    I understand that you do not want to ban guns, but what is your position on universal background checks before a gun can be purchased?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=100000501085308 Martin Lundqvist

      I cannot speak for Mr. Armstrong.

      However, since criminals are disregarding individual rights in others they have forfeited any claims to freedom. Restricting their access to firearms only increases our own security by limiting the tools and options of the criminals.

      Mandatory universal background checks into individuals’ criminal records would no doubt be a step in the right direction.

  • Natalie

    I understand that you do not want to ban guns, but what is your position on universal background checks before a gun can be purchased?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=100000501085308 Martin Lundqvist

      I cannot speak for Mr. Armstrong.

      However, since criminals are disregarding individual rights in others they have forfeited any claims to freedom. Restricting their access to firearms only increases our own security by limiting the tools and options of the criminals.

      Mandatory universal background checks into individuals’ criminal records would no doubt be a step in the right direction.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charles-Ivie/821714719 Charles Ivie

    It is the policy of liberal-progressives to disarm the honest citizen while doing nothing to disarm the criminal. It is quite clear who they want to win in a confrontation.

  • profchuck

    It is the policy of liberal-progressives to disarm the honest citizen while doing nothing to disarm the criminal. It is quite clear who they want to win in a confrontation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ryan.olcott.1 Ryan Olcott

    Hey Ari, great post. I wholeheartedly agree with your arguments. However I am having trouble with the qualification you use in your first paragraph:

    “(The guns under consideration here are those those suitable for personal self-defense, including shotguns, semi-automatic shoulder rifles and handguns, and the like.)”

    What is your chain of reasoning that leads you to qualify the arguments that follow to this particular set of arms?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ryan.olcott.1 Ryan Olcott

    Hey Ari, great post. I wholeheartedly agree with your arguments. However I am having trouble with the qualification you use in your first paragraph:

    “(The guns under consideration here are those those suitable for personal self-defense, including shotguns, semi-automatic shoulder rifles and handguns, and the like.)”

    What is your chain of reasoning that leads you to qualify the arguments that follow to this particular set of arms?

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.s.williams.39 Paul Scott Williams

    I object to the characterization of suicide as a “misuse” of guns. For one thing, one’s own life is the only life one has the absolute right to take. As AR said in AS, “No man can prescribe how much another man should have to bear.” For another, a gun is absolutely the best method. Who wants the few seconds of terror it takes to fall from a building or bridge, or to sit around for the time it takes to bleed out in a bathtub? A gun is quick and painless.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.s.williams.39 Paul Scott Williams

    I object to the characterization of suicide as a “misuse” of guns. For one thing, one’s own life is the only life one has the absolute right to take. As AR said in AS, “No man can prescribe how much another man should have to bear.” For another, a gun is absolutely the best method. Who wants the few seconds of terror it takes to fall from a building or bridge, or to sit around for the time it takes to bleed out in a bathtub? A gun is quick and painless.

  • 1autumn

    Full version: Black conservatives against gun
    control discuss why they are
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKMi023Ofro

  • 1autumn

    Full version: Black conservatives against gun
    control discuss why they are
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKMi023Ofro