Time to ban guns

The horrific shootings in the US may or may not produce some restrictions on the gun culture there, but they provide a renewed warning of the dangers here. Australia has experienced a substantial reduction in gun deaths since John Howard bravely introduced severe restrictions in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre. But the gun nuts, aided and abetted by people like Campbell Newman, have been chipping away at those restrictions ever since.

It’s time to take a clear stand on this. There’s no reason why anyone should be allowed to own a handgun. Their sole purpose is to kill people. Those who need handguns for their work (like police officers[1] and armored car guards) should have them checked out at the beginning of each shift, checked back in at the end, and kept securely locked away when not in use. Farmers and professional shooters need rifles and shotguns, but anyone else who wants to use deadly weapons like these should seek psychiatric treatment. Anyone outside these categories found with a weapon designed to kill people should be assumed to have that end in mind and locked away from the rest of us until they can show that it is safe to let them out. And, obviously, military weapons should be confined to the military.

Undoubtedly, criminals will ignore the law – that’s why they’re criminals. But in a situation where only outlaws (and police) have guns, the possession of a gun will permit an easy conviction in cases where crims might otherwise get off.

fn1. As UK experience shows, there’s no reason for the majority of police to carry guns. That should be limited to trained specialists.

145 thoughts on “Time to ban guns

  1. I think that it is time to trot out the Magpul FMG-9 video again

    Just think about the sentiments and ideas displayed in this video. The selling point that you would want to have one of these in your back pocket when you put out the trash, or check the mail box. Just in case you might need to……..

    “….get down to business!”

    The other notion here is that Magpul have absolutely no intention of manufacturing this “thinking out loud” weapon. It is just an idea. Now have a look and see just how much excitement it has created. How long will it be before you can buy it on line?

    This whole thing is out of control.

  2. David Irving – you’re making s##t up. The police sometimes stop the massacre and sometimes it is stopped by civilians. For example the Monash University Shooting was stopped by two civilians, one of whom was a martial arts practitioner. It was not stopped by police.

    In terms of massacres being stopped by armed civilians there are plenty of accounts from the US. The following blog post outlines many:-


  3. @Fran Barlow
    I agree with your first paragraph. The time for an armed uprising is just before the totalitarians rise to power. At the moment it doesn’t look likely for Greece, but that could change very quickly. The Nazis (Sorry, Godwin I know, but we all knew it would happen!) never had more than a plurality of votes. The display of base thuggery they put on by Golden Dawn during a live TV interview, when even the leader couldn’t restrain himself from physically attacking female members of the opposition, convinces me that the only sane thing to do with these people is to kill them in their beds before they do it to us.

    I’m not sure what “autogenic” means. Self good? My point was that total disarmament of the civilian uprising makes it much more difficult to carry out these very occasionally necessary prophylactic measures.

  4. My view that the law needs further tightening largely reflects this case in which a delusional paranoid legally acquired six guns, which he used to kill or wound a number of fellow-students at Monash University.

    JQ – I don’t know anybody who would argue with that logic. Unless your starting point is to assume that all people who want to buy guns are delusional paranoids. If you look at pro-firearm organisations like the NRA in the US or the LDP in Australia they support licensing regimes for shooters because the evidence is pretty clear that some people should not have firearms. Of course the difficulty is in categorising people effectively and having a regime that doesn’t leak. Preferably without unnecessarily inconveniencing people who are in the good guy category but with due regard to the risk of category errors. A total ban on firearms will create a class of people opposed to the regime. It will create a ready market for illegal firearms. Like drug prohibition it will have unintended consequences. If you want good will from the community of shooters in Australia a good starting point would be to show good will towards them. If you want to create a criminal class and drive shooting underground then be prepared to own the consequences.

  5. A good licensing regime should be:-

    a) as simple as possible for all involved.
    b) ensure those that are licensed are competent with firearms.
    c) ensure those that are licensed don’t pose an unacceptable risk to others by virtue of being licensed.

    Point c) should be in the context of our risk tolerance in all areas of public policy. For instance licensing a motor vehicle owner also entails some risks to others. Letting people buy matches entails some risks as per the Childers backpacker killing.

  6. One of the arguments against easy access to firearms is the number of accidental deaths, especially children.

    In 2008 there were 680 accidental firearms deaths of all causes in the US

    In 2010 there were 56 accidental firearms deaths of all causes in Australia.

    The population of the US is approx 15x larger than the Aust pop.

    Yet US deaths are only 12x larger.

    Given the huge proliferation of firearms in the US, the record of gun safety in the US impressive.

  7. @Sam

    I’m not sure what “autogenic” means.

    Self-generating. The output comes from within rather than being prompted from without. cf: anthopogenic — generated/caused by humans {climate change}

    The display of base thuggery they put on by Golden Dawn during a live TV interview, when even the leader couldn’t restrain himself from physically attacking female members of the opposition, convinces me that the only sane thing to do with these people is to kill them in their beds before they do it to us.

    If your fear is an autocracy based around the impulses of extra-state thugs then the last thing you want to do is to create a natural alliance between the state and their putative thugs. I’m sure you will recall that the Trotskyists advocated mass intimidation, dispersion and humiliation of these groups whenever the balance of forces was in favour of the working people and their allies. Murder or even potentially lethal or substitutionist violence was never proposed.

  8. @Fran Barlow
    My fear is that thugs become the state, and that the unquestionable monopoly on violence enjoyed by state security forces are placed in their service. If this looked likely, it would be justified to carry out extra-state killing to prevent it. It would be harder to do this with an outright ban on guns.

  9. So shooting hobbyists are now not merely to be denied the benefit of our good reputation, but forced into psychiatric treatment after our valued property is stolen? JQ, this sounds like a nasty totalitarian society indeed. Perhaps its a natural next step after the push for Media control, in a crowd desperate for political cover over their failed economic ideas and a deeply incompetent government.

    I hesitate to launch this discussion in a climate clearly hostile to non-emotional arguments, but perhaps the good Doctor would tell us the murder and accident rates in Austrlalia per 100,000 licenced shooters, and tabulate it against the murder rates per 100,000 ordinary citizens, or even by ethnic group where the persons identify with such a group?
    What is startling about the figures is how little effect the laws had in many ways. The downtrend in gun murder and gun suicide ran since the late eighties or early nineties, and each legislative change appears to not correlate with inflection points or step changes at all. A simple before and after average of gun suicides has been used to claim benefits; but in the presence of a constant downtrend is an obvious false positive for ‘interested’ parties to hang their hats on. There was a clear rise in hanging suicides starting slightly before and exactly matching in rate a downtrend in firearm suicides.

    Of course, it takes a special level of intellectual dishonesty to pretend that removing ‘automatic and semi-automatic weapons’ is going to reduce suicides, when they have been substituted almost one for one by manual repeating or single shot firearms.

    It is far more likely that fashion effects are in play, and making shoting deeply unpopular also made shooting suicide unattractive.

    May I ask if you have any opinion on the effect of imitative behaviours? For suicide there are clear reporting guidelines in place that, when broken, create a rash of copycat suicides. Gun massacres have been called ‘para-suicide events’ by criminologists.

    In Australia, there was a prime-time teaching seminar on how to get illegal guns on national television six months before Port Arthur , and that killer bought his AR15 ‘about five months’ ago’ before the massacre. He launched his killings as the media craze over the Dunblane murders subsided.

    Lee Rhiannon spent a huge effort after the 1997 buyback going on national media to alert the public how they could get semi-automatic handguns, which very likely roused the interest of a certain foreign student. After weeks of crazed media attention on the Washington snipers, that man acted out his paranoid delusions and shot seven people at Monash University, killing two.

    It is possible that safe storage and background checks have contributed to a slight increase in community safety. It is extremely doubtful that the buybacks did any good whatever, except to make smug, self-righteous people very proud that they joined a lynch mob against the people who did not commit any crime.

  10. gun control is easy in australia because there is a low-gun equilibrium. Gun crime is low.
    see http://www.harryrclarke.com/2012/12/16/gun-control-in-the-us-will-fail/#comments where HC points out that
    “the political popularity of guns is strengthened by Prisoner’s Dilemma disincentives for individuals to retreat from high levels of gun ownership. Accepting a gun buyback would be unattractive to citizens who would recognize high levels of overall gun ownership in the community and, hence, their own personal increased vulnerability if those with criminal intent acted rationally and kept their weapons.”

    I agree with HC. It is hard to get out of an arms race. wishful thinking will not help. there is no arms race in australia, so there are far more options.

  11. I would like to trow in a wild theory about mass shootings that i have been carrying arround for a while now. And a prediction; there will be few more shootings in next 5 days, and then slow down.
    My wild theory is that mass shooters truly believe in comming apocalypse and think, “what does it matter if i kill few people when apocalypse will kill billions prety soon”.

  12. @Sam
    The problem with Fran’s postulation is that if you wait for the totalitarians to amass power you will find they have taken your guns away and you are now rotting in prison.

  13. One thing people should remember is that under enough pressure anyone can “go postal”. It is not necessarily the case that paranoics have low impulse and anger control. It is quite likely that full-blown paranioa imposes enormous stresses and pressures on the rest of the personality and all its regulating mechanisms. Reality checking is also compromised. If you put people in the normal psychological range under enough stress you will get behaviour equivalent to paranoic and psychotic behaviour.

    Thus if a government creates a large, disposessed and alienated underclass it is multiplying the probability of these “random” events not to mention riot and violent revolution. Riot and violent revolution, at least in their more spontaneous forms are just bunches of people “going postal” in concert. The easily apparent shift in the group norm re the acceptability and supposed utility of violence facilitates that shift in individuals.

  14. @Sam

    While knowing what your trying to argue here, your argument is very weak. With the modern military power, if a government turns totalitarian, a gun is simply not enough to do any paramilitary operation other than maybe assassination. So to make your argument viable, you have to argue for RPGs, Anti-Air Missiles, Land Mines, Remote Explosives, and perhaps tactical nuclear warheads etc. to be available for sale on the market.

  15. @Tom

    That’s true of course, and it’s not merely military power in the orthodox sense that is in their asset column. Unlike the 19th century, modern transport and comms infrastructure accords states tremendous tactical advantages over relatively disorganised citizens. This advantage imposes a very high personal cost on anyone contemplating armed revolt and argues against organising one except in the most dire of circumstances — i.e where the cause would likely be hopeless but the stakes are so high and so certain to materialise that the downside risk is negligible.

    There’s no way that a civilian insurgency could command airspace, or rapidly move offensive forces possessed of the firepower needed to defeat a unit of the regular military or even the paramilitaries on a regular basis. Your only real hope is to divide the armed forces and paralyse it from within — but for that you need not guns but effective political insurgency. The idea of an armed revolt succeeding against any but a state in at least partial decomposition (and that only with external assistance from a militarily well-resourced external entity) is a romantic fantasy. Typically, in these cases, totalitarianism* is threatened by agents peripheral to the state rather than the state as a whole, and so splitting the armed forces becomes a plausible scenario.

    That is not to deny that here and there, possession of weapons by those allied with the resisters, and who are competent in their deployment may prove useful. To do so however, there must at least be the prospect of a serious contest for power between putative authoritarians and those opposed to it.

    *totalitarianism probably should be reserved for states such as Pol Pot’s Kampuchea, or the DPRK, or perhaps Turkmenistan. States like Russia and China are probably better described as coercive or authoritarian as open dissent attracts a degree of toleration.

  16. Armed revolts alone have never been effective against a modern state (let us say, a nation state based on Napoleonic or post-Napoleonic principles.

    Even the highly successful Parliamentary forces of the English Civil War were defeated by a crisis of legitimacy. Remarkably, apart from that factor, the Protectorate was running quite smoothly. For example, it suffered no tax revolt and its finances were in sound order.

    Modern states, whether blatantly coercive or not, in addition to broad tacit consent of their populations, rely for survival upon complex and intricate systems. These systems are particularly vulnerable to various forms of sabotage and compromise. Personal weaponry of the kind imagined by the most liberal reading of the US Second Amendment can be an adjunct in such a struggle. When the state decides to coerce openly its agents must face a credible threat to life and limb. But sometimes the will of the state to fight evaporates.

    Some modern examples:

    Despite denials, the Thatcher government had been negotiating with the IRA since 1990. The Bishopsgate bomb of 1993 threatened to destroy London’s status as a world financial centre. The IRA wrested huge concessions from the Major government. None of this would have been possible but for the existence of an armed guerrilla force.

    In 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed from with hardly a shot fired. There was no armed insurgency. However, the armed forces of the Soviet Union including, incredibly, the shock troops of the KGB, refused to follow orders to suppress civilian demonstrations, including encirclement of the Lubyanka and the removal of the giant statue of Iron Feliks. Communist loyalists recognised that from that moment their cause was lost.

  17. @Fran Barlow @Tom
    Targeted assassination – especially of people who aren’t yet heads of state – is still possible without tanks and rpgs though. A hundred semi-trained people with bolt action guns could take out the entire leadership of Golden Dawn in one “night of the long knives”-style event. And new technology can often help disorganized groups as well as governments. Terrorists seem to make good use of cell phones, encryption, and the internet.

    I should emphasise that this should only be done in extreme cases, where a genocidal political party looks likely to take power. It should go without saying that there is no political figure anywhere in Australia with more than 1% of the vote who would merit this type of action, and nor has there ever been to my knowledge. Joh Bjelke-Peterson comes the closest, running a heavily gerrymandered government based on corruption, illegalization of protest, and implicit support of police brutality, but even then his actions were not in my view extreme enough to warrant “second-amendment measures.”

  18. I agree with Fran and Katz. Being a redneck with a hunting rifle is not going to enable you to overthrow a totalitarian regime with modern command and control and a modern army. The civil service, police and army all need to be split and a good part of it side with the people.

  19. With enough guns in the population you can force the military to have to make a clear decision between staying loyal to the regime or else taking casualties and killing civilians. The right pressure applied at the right time can change history. That said I wouldn’t rely too heavily on this argument to oppose all gun control. I would use it however as part of an argument to oppose the sort of blanket ban proposed by John Quiggin. A position I find to be extremist and totalitarian.

    My view of “rights” is that however they come into existance they ought to be removed by governments only on a case by case basis and only via a transparent procedure based on evidence. As such the government can deprive you of liberty (put you in prison) only after a fair trial. I personally believe we should regard the ownership of personal weapons of defence in the same manner (ie as a right). However we should allow governments to remove that right on a case by case basis following a transparent procedure based on evidence. So for instance we could (and in my view should) prevent people with a history of violent crime from having firearms. We should stop people with certain mental conditions or impairments from having a firearms. Such procedures should however be transparent and open to appeal. I think banning guns on a blanket basis without any assessment procedure or appeal process is totalitarian and warrants active resistance.

  20. * As an atheist I don’t subscribed to the view that rights are god given. They are in my view a human construct. However I see their origin as being natural and common law not government.

    p.s. if you think that rights come from government then you are left with the question regarding the origins of the right to govern.

  21. p.s. I note that prior to the recent challenges to the regime in Syria they had very tight gun control and low rates of gun ownership amongst civilians. One could argue that this didn’t stop rebellion or you could argue that rebellion would have happened a lot sooner without these controls.

  22. America has done a pretty good job of handing power to the plutocracy despite guns and democracy. IIRC narry a shot was fired and voting continued.

    This suggests to me that arming the citizenry isn’t a very good strategy for protecting the will of the people.

    Hey, maybe that suggests that democracy isn’t a very good strategy either…

  23. @TerjeP

    Not true.

    In the late 1970s and 1980s the Islamic Brotherhood mounted a determined and bloody insurgency. There were plenty of arms, whether legal or not.


    Moreover, since Bush’s disaster in Iraq, doubtless Syria’s porous borders with that country have been crossed by Sunni Islamists and others bearing many weapons.

    Footage of the Syrian Civil War demonstrates the ubiquity of AKs and Soviet-style RPGs that comprise a more or less unfettered trade from Afghanistan to the Congo, including Syria.

  24. @Jim Birch

    And one could also argue that the widespread ownership of guns during the Civil War ensured that is took more lives than would otherwise have been the case and that the rebellion was reactionary — aimed at propping up slavery.


    One could argue that this didn’t stop rebellion (against the Assad regime in Syria) or you could argue that rebellion would have happened a lot sooner without these controls.

    Of course, if the regime had not been an autocracy, rebellion might not have been necessary, making the regime’s attitudes to guns entirely moot. Then again, it seems that the rebellion is not an entirely endogenous affair and may well reflect the intersection of salafists with more general discontent amongst non-Alawites and non-Christians and to some extent Kurdish separatists/proponents of autonomy.

  25. arms races have been known in virtually all recorded history.

    Gun control is like nuclear arms control. Success depends on both sides pulling back.

    The rational course for citizens to arm because criminals cannot make credible commitment to disarm and not rearm again

    Aumann’s theory of repeated games is about repeated interaction in long time frames.

    Many conflicts originate in a lack of information coming from infrequent contact between the parties and the pressures and freedoms that come with short-term interactions.

    We have short-term interactions and few repeat interactions with criminals dangerous enough to want a gun and to use it.

    Schelling suggested that relationships between parties could improve if negotiations are split up into many small steps.

    Gun control introduced in small slices is better? ban both assult rifles and those gun free zones that spree killers love.

  26. Responding to the thread about needing arms to overthrow tyrannical regimes – a study of regime change in the twentieth century with respect to effectiveness of functioning after the change would suggest that non-violence is likely to be a better route to take.

  27. People (normal people that is) don’t think that for democracy to exist citizens need to have flame throwers, TNT, nuclear bombs or other life taking devices so how does owning guns escape the mix?

    Logically a society that advocates gun ownership should also allow for euthanasia (both represent personal control of ones life) however logic doesn’t sem to play a role in this debate.

  28. @TerjeP
    Do you have any examples where a member of the public bearing arms has prevented or greatly curtailed a person engaged on a shooting rampage? I can’t think of one and it’s my hunch that, if any such cases do exist, they are the exception rather than the rule.
    Interestingly in the 2011 Tuson killings the assailant was brought down with a folding chair. A person with pistol did arrive but the action was over.
    TerjeP has a somewhat Hollywood view on the matter in my opinion. He has a vision of a Dirty Harry like character calmly walking through the cordite laden atmosphere dispatching baddies with a large calible weapon. And who can blame him? A folding chair doesn’t make for great visuals. And you can put Scott and the crazy libertarian person and the US gun lobby in the same category.

  29. @Katz
    What a curious coincidence that you specifically chose to compare 2006 (although you first claimed it was 2008 and 2010). Funnily enough if we take those other years you mention the Australian picture is a bit different with 2008 (5 deaths) and 2010 (10 deaths) putting a little whole in the ‘deterioration post 2001’ theory.

    The resolution to all this is clear if you simply eyeball a graph over those years [1] which shows extreme variability in the Australian unintentional firearm death rate, I suspect due to changing classifications of accidental vs intentional suicide. Some salient advice from the wiki page on firearm related deaths by country: “The death rate is also sensitive to fluctuation if the absolute number of incidents is small and for countries with relatively small population”.

    [1] http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/compareyears/10/number_of_unintentional_gun_deaths

    PS If you were going to cherry pick a year you should have gone with ’07, that was a doozy.

  30. Armed private citizens have shot or stopped people who were firing on innocents. However, if a privately owned gun in the US is used to shoot someone, that person is most likely to the owner, a family member, or a friend, rather than an unknown assailant. So statisically speaking, owning a gun is a bad idea. Unfortunately, as our own gambling industry demonstrates, generally human beings are not very good at thinking about probability.

  31. @Katz

    Armed revolts alone have never been effective against a modern state (let us say, a nation state based on Napoleonic or post-Napoleonic principles.

    What about Spanish Civil War? That was armed rebellion against state that succeded.
    British in Grece in 1950s also succeded.
    Every military coup is armed revolt alone. The reson for revolt is less of an issue in your statement.

    Fran Barllow at #21
    What about armed insurgency without air power and modern military that did not succed? there is only two in the world since 1941; IRA in Northern Ireland and Kosovo. In Iraq, insurgency won by being included into government. Kosovo insurgency have lost totaly but saved by NATO.
    Afganistan is still in the game.
    But there is another way to prevent insurgency, that this article doesn’t mention.
    When Serbs took over control of over half of the Bosnia in 1992, in order to prevent insurgency they removed all nationalities that could start insurgency, hence ethnic cleansing.
    Knowing how succesfull insurgency was in Yugoslavia in WWII, Yugoslavian (Serb) military was afraid of having insurgency in teritory they occupied and expelled all opposition that could grow and support it.
    Only way that was possible to do was by torture, mass killing and forcing the women and children out. They tried to kill all military able man, but that was a huge number to kill with very small number of people that were able and willing to do such inhumane acts, so they concentrated on inteligencia mostly. By fear they forced out everyone. They did that in Croatia, then Bosnia and in Kosovo. That was very succesfull prevention of insurgency by totalitarian regimes.
    Giving that insurgency can spread only if there is enough of desperate people, but in modern countries where people still enjoy great comforts, there is barely such desperation. Considering Parreto principle you need over 4% of really desperate people that have nothing to loose by figthing and dying.

  32. @Patrickb
    Tucson assailant was taken down when he had to change clips, and person with a pistol tought of shooting the person that jumped on the assailant. He tought initially that jumper was shooter. He could have killed an inocent man, which shows how helpfull arming the untrained citizens would create even more chaos. I lived in Tucson at the time.
    Case in Chicago from last year was that police tought of shooting an armed citizen who came to help and attack the shooter, but he trew the gun away as soon as they pointed gun at him.

  33. Having read a couple of peer reviewed articles, I can conclusively say that, for those who are pro-gun, possession of a gun simply does not make one safer as defined by the firearm homicide rate. (To be fair, owning a gun is not as dangerous as the anti-side make it out to be, the risk being 2 – 3x the unarmed rate). It’s one of those conclusions that may seem counterintuitive, but to repeat myself for the umpteenth time, when guns are hard to come by criminals will use knives and other hand to hand weapons. When guns are in abundance, they will choose to arm themselves with those, and you can assume that even the petty thugs will be so armed with even a cheap stolen pistol. Thugs with the likely advantages of location, initiative and numbers.

    Now, at this point, you are already worse off. It’s a prisoner’s dilemma where rational actions by both sides lead to you personally suffering reduced quality outcomes. If he has a gun you risk copping a bullet no matter what you are armed with. He doesn’t need to get within arm’s reach and you can’t outrun a bullet. If you draw you run the very real risk of being shot over some petty possessions.

    As for the security against the encroaching state thing (despite the fact that gun control in a democracy was never ever remotely a cause of a dictatorship). Well, there are many options rather than just handing firearms out with fewer restrictions than a driver’s licence. Besides, don’t you just need one firearm in that case instead of a literal small arsenal? You would have to do some pretty serious talking to convince a listener that a community of people with bolt action Lee-Enfields each supplied with 50 rounds, for instance, was any less safe and had more potential for abuse than a survivalist’s wet dream stockpile.

  34. I am intrigued that glibertarian-neocon* “logic” is all three of counter-intuitive, counter-logical and counter-empirical. Here is a sample;

    More prisons will make you free;
    More inequality will make you happier;
    More guns will make you safer;
    More pollution will make you breathe easier;
    More selfishness will lead to more public good;
    More false statistics you make you see the truth; and
    More anecdotes will make you objective.

    *Note: If I may misquote John Dryden;

    “Great Glibs are sure to Neocons allied,
    And thin partitions do their thoughts divide.”

  35. @TerjeP
    Sorry Terje, but you’re trying to wriggle off the hook. No evidence to support your ideological position? Oh well, wouldn’t be the first time. A quick scan of your blog link shows that were the assailant has been stopped by a member of the public it is rarely if ever a result of the member of the public drawing a gun and shooting the assailant. This is possibly the weakest and most disingenuous reason for advocating the carrying of guns. Untrained member of the public enforcing the law with firearms. Good luck with your libertarian values in that society.

  36. @TerjeP

    Yes. Given that the author of TerjeP’s link had every incentive to adduce compelling evidence for his pro-gun position, it is remarkable just how sparse and weak is his examples are.

    Doubtless, occasionally, a gun-toting civilian is effective. The trouble is that this expectation, whether rational or not, is factored into the decision making of a malefactor. This expectation of lethal violence can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Innocent people die needlessly.

    But it is clear that gunmen who commit school massacres expect and probably intend to die. They want to make their exits as grievous and as memorable as possible. Whether they kill twenty or just two before they themselves are killed is probably irrelevant to their decision making. The possibility that a teacher may have a pistol stashed in her locked desk (surely that schoolroom desk drawer MUST be locked) will not deter the suicidal gunman. Instead, the gunman will simply kill the teacher first.

  37. Individual reports of spree killer being taken out by armed members of the public are not critical evidence for the gun debate. It is bound to happen sooner or later if everyone is armed. The important question would be whether we have more or less killings with more or less weapons.

    The “favourite stories” approach is a crazy, distracted way to argue anything about net public welfare, and is virtually certain to produce bad policy. It’s medieval, isn’t it?

  38. @Fran Barlow

    I get your point Fran and I get Orwell’s points. Even so, I find some of the essay English of the inter-war writers to be poor. If we go back to a writer like Austen we find that “presently” in context means “now”. “I will do it presently,” means I will do it now, in the present. When did “presently” come to mean “soon” or “in a little while”. How is that logical or even a useful nuance? A perfectly good word is already available. It is “soon”.

  39. Jim Birch :
    Individual reports of spree killer being taken out by armed members of the public are not critical evidence for the gun debate. It is bound to happen sooner or later if everyone is armed. The important question would be whether we have more or less killings with more or less weapons.
    The “favourite stories” approach is a crazy, distracted way to argue anything about net public welfare, and is virtually certain to produce bad policy. It’s medieval, isn’t it?

    Exactly. I have previously written on this thread concerning the general topic of gun advocates blindly rejecting the likelihood of negative externalities exceeding the positive externalities. I have also stated the maxim that people will tend to arm themselves with whatever is effective and readily available, be it guns, knives or lead pipes. It must be said that firearms are more effective and less psychologically taxing to use than other weapons. More guns in the hands of the public means more murder/suicides at the hands of the mentally ill, more jilted spouses killing their partner, more accidental deaths, heated arguments getting out of control…. Sure, in a best case scenario more guns could mean fewer massacres and lower rates of some categories of crime, but that needs to be balanced out with the extremely likely potential for a higher death rate overall.

  40. I’ll mention that using a gun or a knife to fend off a mugger is not self defence. It is self endangerment. If self defence is defined as keeping one’s self safe, then the safest thing to do during a mugging is to hand over your wallet, iPhone, etc. This is because pulling a weapon dramatically increases the chance that that the mugger will shoot, stab, or otherwise attack you. Also, not pulling a gun reduces to zero the chance that you will shoot someone who you thought was a huge mugger with a gun in his pocket but will turn out in retrospect to have been a slightly built 15 year old with an asthma inhaler in his coat pocket who was begging for money. And while most of us are certain we’d never make such a mistake, I’ll point out that most of us are also certain we’re better than average drivers. Human beings just aren’t good at assigning probabilities to these sort of events. So if we include self defence as including avoiding a murder or manslaughter charge and keeping one’s self out of prison, then that just makes using a gun or knife to attempt to prevent a mugging an even worse idea than it already is.

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