Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Having A Firearm Does Not Make You Easier To Kill

Both sides in the gun wars have some crazy arguments. But IMO the craziest one is the anti-gun argument that says that if you find yourself in a mass shooting situation it's worse to be armed. This argument is repeated over and over in various forms whenever the debate heats up.
   Look, I doubt that getting more people to carry is a very good solution to the problem. More guns means, even ignoring everything else, more accidental shootings. And, though CCW-holders are much less likely to commit gun crimes than the general population, that might very well change were we to encourage more people to carry. Furthermore, mass shootings (actual mass shootings, not shootings that meet the bogus definitions deployed to artificially inflate the numbers) are extremely rare in the U.S. Arming people en masse seems like an inefficient response...though I'm not exactly sure how to think about that, honestly. Finally, it seems unlikely that enough people would ever carry to make a difference.
   However, the very worst argument lives on the left, and, reduced to its essentials, it goes like this: even if you were to find yourself in the midst of a mass shooting, you are better off (as are all the other potential victims) if you are unarmed. So we're not talking about increased chances of death and injury under normal conditions. We're talking about only those people actually already caught in a mass shooting. The position entails that, should you ever find yourself about to be attacked by a mass murderer, and should you run across a gun, you should leave it be. All it will do is raise your odds of dying. Somehow. I've seen people argue that they're too small and weak--"he'd just wrestle it away from me." No, he wouldn't. He's not going to wrestle with you. He's going to shoot you. The only question is: would you rather have a chance to shoot him first/too? Or would you rather just be slaughtered? "I'd probably just shoot innocent people!" Well, you might. But he's going to. He's aiming to kill people, and, unless stopped, will do so. Him trying to kill them is more likely to kill them than you accidentally doing so. To argue that you shouldn't return fire if possible is approximately like arguing that, if you see Smith trying to kill Jones, you should try to stop him, because you might hurt Jones. Yeah, you might. Your airbag might kill you in an accident. You might have a deadly reaction to antibiotics. You might have a heart attack at the gym. The point is that you should decide on the basis of probabilities, not possibilities. Run a hundred simulations with real people and paintball guns. See whether arming the potential victims increases the death toll. And lemme know if you'd like to bet on the outcome. Because I'll bet however much you like on it.
   According to the anti-gun folks, guns have a weird magical property--they only kill the innocent. They make bad guys invincible, but are completely ineffective in the hands of the good guys. Except for agents of the state. There they become effective again...

   There's a kernel of an idea in there: training matters. And the training for CCW permits is pathetic. It's almost impossible to fail to meet the requirements. And surely there are some people out there so panicky and incompetent that they'd just make such a situation worse. But that's not most people. We're talking about a situation that, realistically speaking, can't get much worse. In the vast majority of cases, it's going to improve the odds if you can get at least a little bit of lead flying in the general direction of the killer--rather than none at all.
   It's just astonishing how terrible these anti-gun arguments are. They're obviously driven by emotion and political preferences, not an honest effort to figure things out. The pro-gun crowd--i.e. mostly conservatives and libertarians--can be nuts about the issue. But at least that position doesn't encourage people to accept their own helplessness as a point of dogma. That's one of the more worrisome things about the left, as others have noted. It is, to a large extent and at a very fundamental level, opposed to agency and self-reliance.
   As I've said many times before, the right tends to be wrong about what happens before the shooting starts--it tends to think that mass arming of the population is (a) a real possibility and (b) likely to work. But this weird idea on the left that guns can never improve the situation...that's the most obviously crazy position in the debate. I'd kinda like to see a horror movie made to illustrate these leftist principles. The characters are running away from the cannibalistic chainsaw-wielding psychopathic undead clown...they run across a loaded shotgun...."NO MINDY DON'T TOUCH THAT!!!!111  YOU'LL KILL US ALL!!!111"... They keep running across AK-47s, flamethrowers, crates full of Desert Eagles...they react with horror to each one, preferring to take their chances with the monster...they're almost certain to get minced and eaten...but anything's better than picking up a gun...after all...the clown might wrestle it away from them! They might hit a bystander! They'd probably instantly kill themselves! And everybody else in the party...or everybody in the whole world!!! Because the only thing that can stop a bad clown with a chainsaw is single-payer healthcare with generous mental health benefits. And guaranteed basic income. And mandatory diversity training. And probably open borders.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anti-guns-every-damn-place advocates are stuck in a real rhetorical bind. People generally have a very difficult time thinking about decision making as being time and contingency dependent. The following two proposition can both be true: (1) If someone starts shooting up a school or church or mall, and you have a gun, you are going to be very glad you had it and may be able to save many people's lives. (2) For just about everyone, carrying a gun around is fantastically stupid.

Most people are inclined to consider that, even if 1 and 2 are not simply contraries, that the truth of one is strong evidence for the falsity of the other. There are many, many other, more likely situations in which you would be very sorry you had gun on you: a kid jumps out in the half light yelling "bang", you drop your holster while taking off your jacket, a guy knocks you down on the sidewalk and says "what are you going to do about it, faggot", your girlfriend text dumps you on the same day you lose your job, etc.

All these cases have a certain imaginative inaccessibility. You have to picture yourself making a mistake. That's not just less pleasant than imagining yourself saving the day, it's harder. If I try to imagine myself mistakenly shooting a kid I thought was an adult with a gun, I either imagine perceiving a kid or perceiving an adult. I don't really imagine the mistake as it's being made. Imagining the mistake requires going through a drawn out scene where I perceive an adult, then pull the trigger, then immediately perceive that it was a child, and feel the horror at what I've done. And even then, the scenario has the uncanny character of an adult transforming into a child, rather than what making a perceptual mistake is really like, where you find yourself attending more to different features of what you saw once you know you did wrong.

The imagining of the mistake, not just perceptual ones but losing self control or basic fumbling, lack the visceral element of realism compared to the hero scenario. So, the situations where you would wish youdidn't have a gun have to be thought of with much less aid from the imagination, which is a pretty big component how most people guide their actions. This lead people to largely discount those situations, overstating the incompatibility of 1 and 2.

Anti-guns-every-damn-place advocates are forced by this limitation to trying to take some of the power out of the hero scenario, which leads them to saying a lot of things that just aren't true.

8:27 PM  

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