Turn it Around

One common refrain in the gun conversation (such as it is) is that if someone wants to kill people, they’ll find a way, guns or no guns. Now, I’ve talked already about part of why this is ridiculous–namely, that guns make it way easier to kill people than most things (see the recent knife attack in China for proof of that: 22 injured, none killed)–and there are plenty of other reasons as well. It’s a weird combination of a perfectionist fallacy and slippery slope, for instance.

But the weird thing is how they never apply it to their other arguments, namely the one that says more guns would prevent this kind of incident.

When people advocate gun control, shooters become these industrious madmen, bent on killing, and willing (and able) to do it by any means. Guns are illegal or hard to get? They’ll find a way, the crafty devils. Maybe they’ll get guns off the black market, or maybe they’ll make bombs using common equipment, or maybe they’ll resort to a knife or a fork or a pencil, but by gum, they’ll find a way!

Their one weakness, apparently, is the presence of armed civilians. See, when the premise becomes arming everyone, these gunmen suddenly become super-rational actors, who can and will always weigh the costs and benefits of their actions. “One of my targets may be armed,” they think. “If that’s the case, they may shoot back and I will get hurt. I’d better not go on a killing spree today, it wouldn’t be safe for me.”

But why not turn the argument around? Arm everyone, fine. These guys aren’t dumb, they’ll find a way to kill people anyway! Maybe they’ll dress up in body armor or use tear gas or smoke bombs to prevent other people from shooting back! Gosh, why does that sound so familiar?

See, here’s the thing: either the shooters are perfectly rational beings who will reasonably weigh the risks and consequences of going on a shooting spree (in which case they’ll prepare for those risks, like the Aurora shooter did) or they’re people who want to kill no matter what and will find a way (in which case armed targets won’t be a deterrent).

Or, as is more likely, some shooters belong to each camp, and others don’t belong to either.

But one thing we do see with these spree killers and mass murderers is that they’re not usually real concerned with their own safety or mortality. Many of these things end in suicide, or at least the death of the perpetrator. The ones that don’t? They take precautions to limit how much their targets can fight back, and how much damage they could do.

This idea that concealed carry or open carry is some kind of deterrent–especially to these would-be mass murderers–is as much a myth as that of the person who could’ve stopped it if only they’d been armed. And it’s perpetuation in our culture and the halls of power is only going to result in more dead kids and more dead adults until we recognize the correlation between stricter gun control laws and fewer gun-related deaths, the way that every other damn civilized country has.

2 Responses to Turn it Around

  1. I like to think I came up with something clever and useful to say on this topic the other day, so I thought I’d share it with you:
    If you think the government should know about it if a civilian owns an anti-aircraft gun or a shoulder-mounted missile launcher, then you’re for gun control.
    If you think that hunters should be allowed to have their hunting equipment, you support Second Amendment rights.
    Everything else is just haggling over the price, as it were.
    I think if people realized that none of this conversation is as black and white as they are trying to make it, we might actually get somewhere useful. I mean, in a very formal-logic sense, the NRA is kind of right, in that “guns” aren’t the problem, guns in the hands of people doing bad things are the problem, but no one is proposing taking guns out of the hands of people not going to do bad things with them, and anyone who says otherwise is probably pushing an agenda.

  2. Bronze Dog says:

    One issue I have is that it’s not just about criminals and would-be criminals having easy access to guns, it’s also irresponsible people having easy access to guns. We have a culture that encourages such irresponsibility, and I think it really poisons any chance at sensible discussion on the national level. The responsible gun owners get drowned out by the mainstreamed loonies who suffer from the delusion that they’re the stars of an action movie.

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