I’ve yet to come across an enthusiastic proponent of gun control who wasn’t making some basic mistakes in reasoning. Today it was the turn of Jim Rossignol to rehearse the usual blunders. I picked out his most substance-rich comments from our twitter exchange.
It’s impossible to read reports of US murder cases without thinking: “They allow people to own guns. Actual guns”
In general I take Rossignol to be implying that disallowing citizens to own guns would lead to a better outcome, and by ‘better’ I mean something like less death and suffering.
But there are no solid grounds for reaching such a conclusion. As I pointed out in the post Gun Control Agnosticism, there are a number of factors that, alone, would suggest a decrease of deaths and suffering under gun control conditions, and a number of factors that, alone, suggest increased deaths and suffering under gun control. It’s ambiguous what the net effect would be in any particular case.
 If the prohibitionist mistakenly believes that inter-country comparisons can help lend credibility to his preference for gun centralisation we also need to bear in mind that global statistics show a weak negative correlation between gun ownership rates and homicide rates. Gun prohibitionists have all their work ahead of them.
As far as I can see a high incidence of gun deaths supports gun control, regardless of what is happening in other countries.
No it doesn’t. There are two mistakes being made here. The first mistake is that Rossignol is focussing only on gun deaths, when he should be looking at overall homicide/violent crime rate. Quoting myself here’s why this matters:
Intentional homicides is a more relevant figure to look at than rates of gun-related deaths. This is because if an attacker expects that a victim may have a gun, they’ll be less likely to attempt any kind of attack.
Put another way: Imagine that one legally owned gun is added to a population and that this coincides with a small increase in gun related deaths but a huge reduction in overall killings. The gun would be improving conditions in that population, while a myopic focus on gun death statistics would misleadingly paint the opposite picture.
Secondly, Rossignol appears to be ignorant of Bastiat’s lesson that one must consider what is seen as well as what is unseen. The ‘seen’ in this case are the gun related deaths. Given their media attention they’re hard to miss. For people not used to thinking critically these gruesome spectacles are where consideration ends and the misguided twitter posts begin. More careful thinkers know that the ‘unseen’ is of crucial importance too. What are the unseen costs of preventing citizens from owning firearms? Here’s what I wrote about that a few months back:
At any time, there will be a higher proportion of law-breaking aggressors with guns, relative to law-abiding people with guns, than if guns were more widely available legally.
Because of 1, those considering carrying out an armed attack would judge the likelihood of sustaining an injury or being killed during the attack to be lower, they would be emboldened, and so more likely to carry out such an attack.
Because of 1, any mass shooting which does occur is likely to last longer and harm or kill more people, since there’s less likely to be a person on the scene with a weapon who could stop the shooter.
In an area in which many people demand guns (such as the US), prohibition will result in a boom in the market for black market guns, and an associated increase in violent gang activity both domestically and abroad. If the government declares a ‘War on guns’ in response, we should expect it to be a similar failure as the ‘War on drugs’ is. Just like the ‘War on drugs’, a ‘War on guns’ will result in the loss of many innocent lives.
Gun prohibition creates a greater likelihood of democide. Which, in the 20th century claimed many times more lives than were ended by ‘private’ murders. Most democides are carried out against members of populations that have been legally disarmed beforehand.
These are costs to be taken very seriously. And bearing these in mind it’s clear that a high number of gun related deaths (compared to whatever standard), on it’s own, does not help the case for disarming citizens. To claim otherwise is to beg the question—by assuming that the rate of violent crime/homicide will be reduced if citizens are disarmed. This is exactly the controversial claim that the gun centralisation advocate needs to support!, he cannot validly depend on this assumption as a premise in his argument.
I will always believe that making a right of weapons and violence is something for feudalism, not a modern democracy
This one is a gem. As an advocate of gun prohibition Rossignol necessarily believes that agents of the state have a right to intervene in the lives of peaceful people in order to prevent them from owning weapons. Citizens are likely to comply with whatever demands the agents make because they understand that these demands are ultimately backed by the threat of deadly force. In other words, if you’re disobeying them (by owning a gun for instance) there’s a good chance that the agents will kill you before they leave you alone. And everyone understands this on some level.
Rossignol’s political blind spot prevents him from realising that despite his claim to the contrary, he’s actually a staunch advocate of the right to use weapons and violence, he just believes that this right should be limited to people dressed in uniforms! For once we can agree that this kind of barbarism does belong in the past though.
To say that that the right to carry a weapon in any way negates the power of the state is clearly nonsense.
This odd claim relates to my suggestion that an armed populace is a deterrent to democide. I queried him about this several times, but got no reply. I’m hoping he realised his mistake but was just too proud to admit it.
On the face of it, exterminating an armed population is a dramatically more dangerous and expensive operation than exterminating an unarmed population. It costs a state significantly more resources to carry out. Given that resources are finite, the increased resource cost of exterminating an armed population (as compared to an unarmed one) disincentivises the democide. Far from being ‘clearly nonsense’ I don’t think I’m suggesting anything remotely controversial here. I would enjoy any attempts to show otherwise.