A Question Came up on Quora…

Asking how a “gun enthusiast” can still justify RKBA being more important than Public Safety.

I gave the following answer (most of which I’ve said before elsewhere on this blog):

Contrasting freedom and safety is a false dichotomy. When you “give up freedom” for “safety” what you are saying is that you are giving someone else the authority to look after your safety. The problem becomes how do you ensure that someone else will make your safety a priority? Will they take the steps necessary to actually keep you safe or will they make something else a priority and your safety gets brushed aside for some other goal? When the courts reiterate, time and again, that the police have no responsibility to protect you, the individual, how safe does giving them and the politicians in charge of them the decision making power over your safety make you?

And what do you do when those you have given decision making power over your safety become themselves the threats to that safety? More people have been slaughtered by their own governments in the 20th century than would be killed by criminals in the US at current rates in 7500 years. Who is gifted with the foresight to be able to say, with certainty, that government will never go rogue such that it needs to be forcibly resisted over the next 7500 years? History provides no basis for such a claim. The longest civilizations with any kind of political continuity would be either Rome or ancient Egypt (depending on how one defines “continuity”), and giving them the benefit of every doubt we’re talking at most about 2000 years.

Even leaving all that aside, we can just look at whether the specific case of restrictions of firearms to “keep people safer”. In addition to people using firearms to cause harm, we have people using firearms to keep themselves safe, to defend themselves from criminals. While some point to the low number of “justified homicides” (homicide in self-defense) as evidence that this is rare, the truth is that most times when a gun is used in self defense it’s never even fired and the incident is never reported to the police. Various studies have attempted to quantify just how often those unreported incidents happen, complicated by the fact that people are often unwilling to talk about them in an “anonymous” survey. There’s the fear of hassles with the police and the courts even if they fully expect to be eventually exonerated of any wrongdoing. The process alone can be a pretty significant punishment.

As a result of all that, there’s a wide range of results from the various studies from a low of about 500,000 to a high of 3 million per year. However, here’s the point. At the low end of that range, guns are used about as often to defend against crime as in the commission of crimes. And since that’s the low end of the range, it’s dubious in the extreme to think that any kind of prohibition of firearms is likely to lead to any net increase in safety. And if something in the middle or upper limits of that range is the “true” value, then restrictions on the ownership of firearms will end up making people less safe.

What you need to remember is that while horrific incidents like the recent shootings make headlines nationwide, indeed worldwide, the hundreds to thousands of incidents that happen each day of folk who aren’t the victims of crime because they were armed do not. There are few headlines for “man wasn’t robbed because robber saw he was armed.” There are few headlines of “woman wasn’t raped because she pulled a gun.” For the most part incidents are unseen, unreported, unremarked. But that does not make them less real. And that does not make them not a part of “safety”.

4 thoughts on “A Question Came up on Quora…”

    1. The full quote is “Those who give up essential liberty for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” The thing I don’t like about it is that it gives “quibble room” with “essential” and “little temporary.”

      I have come to the conclusion, however, that liberty is the only safety there is.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. “There are few headlines for “man wasn’t robbed because robber saw he was armed.””
    “If it bleeds, it leads.”
    Contrariwise, if it doesn’t bleed, and it isn’t the politically correct mix of predator and intended victim, not only does it not lead, it isn’t mentioned, and often is either denied or ignored.


  2. Good answer! Reminds me of Bastiat’s “The Seen and the Unseen”. The consequences of taking guns away from the Parkland mass shooter is seen, the consequences for taking guns away from everyone is unseen. Until you brought it out.


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