|I've just participated in another gun-control argument, which was the usual waste of time. The funny thing is, I don't care about gun-control. I have essentially no preference one way or the other about whether guns are legal, in current-day first-world English-speaking society. So why do I participate in the argument? Because the arguments people give really get on my tits. I try to tell them I'm not arguing against what they're saying, just with their argument, but no matter which side I'm arguing with they think I'm on the opposite side.|
The problem is that both sides argue like they're right. Here's a tip - if you're arguing in that argument like you're right then you're not fucking right. The only exception is if you're not arguing whether guns should be legal, but whether they must be, and you're in America, and you're making the Constitution argument. In that one instance, you are right. And not if you use the Constitution argument as a 'should' rather than a 'must'. Other than that, neither side is right, stop arguing like you are, it makes you look like a big jerk, both of you. Here's why.
What's Wrong With Pro-gun Arguments
Nearly every "I am right" argument that's in favour of legal guns can be easily extrapolated to be a reason to legalise privately owned suitcase nukes. Freedom? Guns don't kill people, people kill people? Right to bear arms? Not dangerous if you're not a criminal? An armed society is a polite society?
The only arguments I've seen that stand the 'nuke' test are those of home defence and personal defence, for which a nuke is clearly not appropriate. There is nothing outstandingly wrong with those arguments, they aren't wrong like the others, but neither are they right, for reasons I'll come to later. The other way to withstand the nuke test is to state that you are in favour of privately owned suitcase nukes. That's a flawed argument in that you're a fucking nutjob.
What's Wrong With Anti-gun Arguments
Nearly every "I am right" argument that's in favour of criminalising guns can be easily extrapolated to be a reason for criminalising cars. They are used in crimes? They kill people on purpose? They kill people by accident? Cars kill more people than guns do, and almost certainly would continue to do so even if guns were available over-the-counter as easily as cigarettes or alcohol. "But cars are also useful," you then counter-argue. So are guns, for home-defence or hunting. "But cars are more useful," you insist. Not for me they're not, I never go anywhere in a privately owned car.
"Guns are designed to kill and maim people" is another argument. Then do we also illegalise bows and arrows, swords and martial arts? You can withstand this counter-argument if you answer "yes", but then that's a flawed argument in that you're a fucking nutjob.
What Do These Flaws Have In Common?
Both sides argue with arguments that will show that they are right. For an argument to be right, it must hold true for all possible values. So if something should be banned because it's dangerous, everything that dangerous and beyond should be banned. If something dangerous should be legal to own because of freedom, everything dangerous should be legal to own because of freedom. What both sides all too frequently fail to understand is that it's a fucking grey area.
Guns shouldn't be banned because they're dangerous, they should be banned if they're too dangerous. "But," you think, "cars are more dangerous than guns." Yes, they are, but the value of "too dangerous" for cars is higher than the value of "too dangerous" for guns, because cars are much more functional than guns are. Not only does "too dangerous" vary by person, it varies by object as well. As I see it, for each individual an item's ideal legality is determined by a combination of its utility, its fun-factor, and its danger. For people who don't like guns, gun ownership has zero utility or fun factor (since they won't own one) and is a bit dangerous. For people who do like guns, gun ownership has (zero plus a large number multiplied by the very small probability of encountering a criminal while access to the gun is readily available) utility, a high fun factor and is a bit dangerous. When it's broken down like this you can easily see why there is no agreement. Both people recognise that legal gun ownership is a bit dangerous - that value probably doesn't vary much by person. What varies, instead, is the boundary value "too dangerous". (This has also covered the earlier 'home defence' argument - that's additional utility for people who like guns, but it's still no utility for those who don't.)
So, what determines the legality of these things? Approximately, it's the median value of public opinion. This is part of why both sides argue their cases so vehemently, if ineffectually. So let's say you, as a pro- or anti- gun person, want to try to convince some people away from the other side, to make what minimal difference this might eventually make to the position of that median-value "where the line is drawn" (or to prevent the other side from making their difference). How should you argue your case? Well, first things first, don't use any of those fucking 'absolute' arguments. You are not right. That's the most important thing in this argument, as in many others of politics. Grey areas are common, absolutes are not.
What you need to do, to convince people to change their minds, is alter their opinion of one of the motivators - change how fun they think guns are, change how much utility they think they have, or change how dangerous they think they are. Bad news for the anti-gun advocates - you'll have difficulty doing any of these. I can't think of one functional approach, short of getting a gun and shooting the pro-gun advocates' family members. For the pro-gun people there's the relatively easy approach of persuading people to go out target-shooting with you - if successful, you won't just be changing how fun they think guns are, you'll be changing how fun guns actually are, for them. Which then feeds back in to also potentially increase the utility rating. Another possible approach is to make mention of the utility that results even if you don't own a gun yourself - the populace being armed has the useful effect of making armed revolution against government oppression possible. I wouldn't put money on that argument getting you any ground though - the only people likely to be convinced by it are people who are already on the side of firearms.
There is one other factor which I haven't mentioned - the slippage of freedom in general. If people who don't like guns get them banned, maybe the people who don't like dogs will get those banned, and the people who don't like cars will get those banned, or archery equipment, or fencing swords. There's a live-and-let-live element there which might factor in to make people raise the bar on "too dangerous" if they're otherwise borderline. It's that which puts me very slightly more in the pro-gun camp than the anti-gun. That and Switzerland.
This has been a public service announcement. In summary, stop fucking arguing grey areas like they're black and white. Gun ownership is not universally good or bad. Taxes are not universally good or bad. Really stupid arguments packed full of catch-phrases everyone's already heard, however, are pretty bad. [19:42] [13 comments]