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Truth and consequences

October 24th, 2002

The debate over gun control rages on, but as far as I can see, no-one on the pro-gun side of the debate has taken up my invitation to present a principled libertarian position. Instead, as Jack Strocchi points out in the comments thread for a previous post, the pro-gun side is trying to make a consequentialist and utilitarian argument that widespread gun ownership will save lives. It’s dishonest to make this argument if, in fact, you would oppose gun control regardless of the net impact on murder rates and so on. So, I’m putting forward a proposition which I’m inviting pro-gun writers like Alex Robson to join me in endorsing:
Proposition: Since any other costs and benefits of gun policy are trivial in relation to the saving of lives, I support whatever gun policy is most likely, on the available evidence, to minimise the loss of life from homicide and related causes
As far as I’m concerned, anyone who is not prepared to endorse this proposition (or some marginal variant) should be assumed to be dishonest when they present factual claims about the effects of different gun policies on murder rates and so on.

Anyone who is genuinely interested in the facts should read the analysis posted by Ken Parish. My prediction, though, is that having lost both the statistical argument and the political debate, the gun libertarians will resort to Steynwalling.

Update The proposed response of the Howard government has been excellent – a ban on all handguns except for police, security guards and elite pistol shooters and a gun buyback. Importantly this means a total ban on most types of handguns, which are not used in shooting competitions. And after initially ducking the issue as is their wont, the Labor state premiers have sniffed the political wind and realised that their only chance is to be even tougher. Bracks is pushing for a change which would require sporting shooters to keep their guns locked up at gun clubs, and Carr is pushing to include a bigger push against illegal gun imports (a factor in the localised rash of gun crimes in Sydney’s inner west). My guess is that the combination of requirements for psychological testing and the impossibility of actually having a gun to stroke at home will deter most of the marginal types from taking the sporting shooter route to gun ownership, and that membership of gun clubs will decline precipitously as a result.

Further update I should note that a couple of libertarians have responded to my invitation. ct8o (can you believe that I’ve seen this sig about 50 times and not realised that it’s a fancy way of writing “Cato”) put up some points to which Ken Parish has responded both in the comments thread and on his own blog. John Humphreys has a comment under “Guns and Libertarians” a couple of posts down, to which I’ve responded.
As I’ve been getting a lot of new visitors lately, some of whom may be new to blogging, I’ll repeat my advice to click on the comment line. In my not-so-humble opinion, this blog has one of the best comment threads to be found anywhere. In quite a few cases, the comments add more value to the debate than the original post. And please, don’t be shy about adding your own comments. You can always use a pseudonym, or just “Anon”.

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