Saturday, October 19, 2002

The Shortest Essay on Gun Control

Talk about spilled ink. Philosoblog's wisdom is far from sufficient to add anything to the last two-hundred years of discussion of this topic. But perhaps I can contribute one of the most concise arguments ever on the point at issue.

A liberty to do something desireable may be deprived on the grounds that some people in the society will abuse that liberty and harm innocents. But the harm done to the innocents by the abusers must vastly outweigh the desireability of the activity to the responsible users. In other words, you ought to give up your right to do X, only if allowing people to do X will result in very much more harm to innocents than the harm or dissatisfaction you would feel in giving up X. Allowing harm to an innocent is wrong only in cases of extreme imbalance, in which the benefit you derive from allowing the harm is dwarfed by the benefit the innocent would derive from your taking the trouble to prevent his harm. (Prove this premise for yourself by considering cases of various kinds.)

Therefore, gun ownership is as permissible as the use of cars and alcohol. The desireability of self-defense (against criminals, enemies of the nation, and tyrants), transportation, and social drinking are immense. The abusers of these rights harm innocents, but the harm does not vastly outweigh the harm that would result from prohibiting these three activities.

Gun registration? Which guns to keep legal? Bah! Details! Use common sense on those issues.