Thursday, June 16, 2016

Liberal and Conservative Gun Delusions And The Better Off Unarmed Argument

   Predictably, we're seeing the Better Off Unarmed argument rear its silly head again.
   Liberals and conservatives each have their own foolish beliefs when it comes to armed response to mass shooters. Conservatives think that increasing the frequency of concealed carry is a reasonable solution to mass shootings. Liberals think that armed citizens defending themselves against mass shootings actually makes things worse.
   As for the conservative idea: it just isn't going to happen. We're simply never going to have enough people with CCWs to make it appreciably likely that there will be an armed citizen present most places a mass shooter might strike. A large percentage of the population bursts into tears at the very thought of being near a firearm. So they're out. Some of us could carry...but honestly, it's just too big a pain in the ass when the odds of needing a weapon are so very small. Hell, I'm perfectly comfortable around guns, I'm a good shot, I'm reasonable...I'm exactly the kind of person that would make everyone safer if I carried a gun. But it simply isn't worth it. I live in a low-crime area, I'll never be near a mass shooting, and I'm not going to lug around a firearm that has such a low probability of ever doing anyone any good. (Add to this that many people who own and enjoy firearms have no business having them... Think about the person recently who pulled out her gun to shoot at a shoplifter fleeing a Wal-Mart...)
   (Though, when you think of this, some of it is good: mass shootings are so rare that it really just doesn't make sense to plan for them...)
   The liberal delusion here is much, much more delusional than the conservative delusion, however. Liberals often argue that armed response by an ordinary citizen will probably make a mass shooting incident worse. This is completely wrong. It's so wrong it's almost hard to believe that anyone could actually think it. Add one citizen with a concealed handgun at the club in the Orlando shooting, and the expected number of casualties drops significantly. Add two, and it drops even further. Add one person with decent training, and the expected number of casualties goes way down. Yes, it's fairly likely that someone with a concealed weapon will accidentally hit another innocent person. What is not likely--and, in fact, not even really possible--is that he will kill 50 people and injure 50 more. That will not happen. Set up a simulation and run it a million times--you're not going to get a worse outcome than 100 casualties. Fill the club knee-deep in loaded Uzis, you're still not going to get 100 friendly-fire incidents.
   Think of it this way:  you and ten family-members are in your house. Escape is extremely difficult or impossible. A murderer is going to enter the house with an AR-15 and try to kill everyone there. You have two options:
(a)  Leave things as they are
(b) Add a person who has had a little training (the equivalent of an average CCW course) and who has handgun and wants to defend you.
   Only someone blinded by emotion and politics could even consider choosing (a). Your odds of surviving in (b) are immensely higher than your odds of surviving in (a).
   Liberals think that conservatives are irrational about firearms--and many of them are. But imagine what liberals sound like to conservatives when they repeatedly rely on the Better Off Unarmed argument. You've got to question your interlocutor's sanity if they make an argument like that. This fringe of the anti-firearm movement basically wants to argue that guns are always bad, that it is absolutely impossible for them to ever make a situation better. And that, of course, is simply false, and obviously so.


Anonymous rotgut said...

Yes, guns seem to be the issue where otherwise normal, reasonable liberals lose their minds. I'm at a university in TN, where the state just passed a law allowing full-time employees to carry on campus. Seems to me like not a terrible idea. But faculty is predictably apoplectic. And they absolutely count on me just nodding along with them. There have been numerous occasions when a colleague has complained about the law and I've simply asked "why is so bad?" The first answer is usually that it makes them feel unsafe. Then it turns to some version of the "better off unarmed" argument. It is maddening.

I don't think I would carry. The chances of needing to use a gun here are, I think, vanishingly small. I did have a legit stalker a few years ago. She waited outside my night classes, sent me texts about what I was wearing, sent emails describing watching my wife and I at my house. I don't know if I would have carried on campus during that time, but I would have liked the option. I can think of no convincing argument for the conclusion that my being unarmed made me better off.

11:49 AM  
Anonymous cb said...

"Add one citizen with a concealed handgun at the club in the Orlando shooting, and the expected number of casualties drops significantly. Add two, and it drops even further. Add one person with decent training, and the expected number of casualties goes way down."

well, there was one armed guard there who didn't seem to help very much (same was true at columbine). admittedly that's not exactly what you're talking about, isn't one of the problems with the "good guy with a gun" argument the fact that any assailant attempting mass murder will have an CC civilian badly, badly outgunned?

i would think that if "armed good guys" is your favored solution to mass murder attempts, you would favor restricting (or banning) the types of weapons that cannot be carried concealed, but are capable of killing lots of people very rapidly and easily. yet from your recent post castigating the way the media talks about weapons like the AR-15, i imagine you don't agree. and that i find hard to understand.

certainly if i was out minding my own business with a .32 in my shoulder-holster, i'd feel much better about my chances if whatever crazy that wanted to shoot the place up came in blazing with a revolver of some sort instead of a semi-automatic combat rifle.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah man, I know what you mean about expecting you to nod along. I found out about that awful, pseudo-scientific episode of 20/20 "If I Only Had A Gun," because one of my colleagues brought it up while we were standing at the photocopier. He praised it highly. When I went and watched it, it was sophistries on parade...with every single minute of the thing straining hard for anti-firearm conclusions.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


Coupla things:
A. CCWs aren't my favored solution to the mass-murder problem... That's why I criticize that argument above.

B. I don't *have* a solution. Though, like the Mystic, I actually think that *more CCWs* is some kind of a start.

C. I don't have a settled position on the availability of AR-15s. I don't have a big problem with making people jump through more hoops to get one. I posted that other thing just because I think that our collective deliberations ought to be based on fewer falsehoods.

D. I think large magazines are a bigger problem than the AR-15. Getting rid of AR-15s completely--which is impossible--would just mean that bad guys would go to AK-47s or some other magazine-fed rifle or shotgun.

E. Yeah, I'm not saying any of this is a magic bullet. Even having a cop around won't help every time. It's a matter of probabilities and risk-benefit calculations. *On average,* better to have a gun than not.

F. I like your gap-closing argument. I was arguing something vaguely similar with respect to people who think the reason to have an armed populace is as a bulwark against a rogue government. Seems to me that if you argue that, you should also want a smaller military...
But your argument is more interesting to my mind. The fact that "assault weapons" so outgun anything a person can conceal for protection is a reason to consider banning them...
Not a decisive argument, I'd say, but not nothing...

G. OTOH, the assault we weapons ban didn't work before.

H. OTOOH, it was kind of lame as weapons bans go...

I'm less and less happy about government control of our lives. And I believe that we're losing our freedom incrementally. And I know that only a very small percentage of crimes are committed with "assault rifles." But still, I'm shamefully willing to listen to ideas for more restrictions.

4:06 PM  

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