Guns and Crime

At the risk of turning this into a new topic which is hounded to death on the blog, I found some more interesting comments about carrying guns in public – nothing new, they are just more recent ones on the More Guns, More Homicide post.

Previously I pointed out that, as a Brit, I found it odd that the desire to carry a gun while you go about your daily life is so strong in some Americans and that oddness remains. I still find it strange beyond belief that some one in a civilised western democracy can feel so “unsafe” they need to be armed when ever they are in public.

Now, this self defence argument for “packing heat” makes me wonder a bit more. For example, on the comments “ben” was asked the following question by SG (read original):

let me get this right Ben. Someone walks up to you in the street and sticks a knife in your face, says “gimme your wallet”, and you think you can draw your gun and threaten and/or shoot them before they stab you? Is this how the self-defence argument works? Or does it work by you pulling your gun before they pull the knife, i.e. shooting them if they look threatening?

While this seems like a reasonable method of explaining the self defence argument for carrying a gun the responses it drew included this from MarkP (“I’m an actuary, I own a gun but don’t carry it, and have no particular love for them”) (read original)

No, SG, he thinks if he pulls his gun, the knifewielder will see the gun and will flee. And he is substantially correct. People wield weapons mostly for bluff. If the knifewielder had wanted to just have a fight, he would have stabbed Ben without asking for the wallet.

The only thing funnier than paranoid gun nuts protecting their phallic symbols are gun-phobes revealing that they cannot think logically about guns for one second, and know nothing about the real world. I suggest this be alleviated by talking about “weapons” rather than guns, since guns are only the most effective weapons at killing, but certainly not the only ones. Just ask the people in Rwanda.

While on the surface this seems like a logical line of reasoning, it suffers from a logical fallacy, having said that his attempt to broaden the debate is worthwhile, but I suspect it is futile.

Now as I see it the fallacy is that he is assuming the gun wielder is not bluffing but the robber is. If the statement “people wield weapons mostly for bluff” is true, then it must also apply to the gun owner and therefore drawing the weapon does not carry any reason to assume the robber will run.
When the gun is drawn the situation escalates. The robber will suffer from an adrenaline rush and may well decide that running will result in being shot in the back and attacking the gun owner is the only option. On a purely technical point, if the knife wielder is close enough to be a real threat anyway, the hand gun is probably useless unless it is already drawn.

There is more though. Ben replied to the question with: (read original)

It works like this: If I thought my life was in danger, then I’d draw and shoot if necessary. If not, then he can have my wallet, car and any other inanimate object he likes.

It is an interesting conundrum he presents. Some one is threatening you with a knife and you may not consider your life was in danger? If there is no threat, he will surrender his objects but if there is a threat he will try to fight. Very unusual and difficult to imagine how it can work in practice.

There are a multitude of arguments for, and against, gun ownership. My personal thoughts about the escalation of violence may well suffer from the slippery slope fallacy but I doubt it. When one person is armed and the other isn’t deaths may occur. If both are armed deaths may still occur and may well be more likely. Is the belief the death may not be the victim sufficient grounds for people to carry guns? Would you rather be punched or shot as the result of an argument with another car driver? Would you carry a gun in case the other driver came up to you and started shouting? At what point would you draw the gun?

As soldiers are taught, once the weapon is brought into view the whole situation changes. If your opponent does not back down immediately you pretty much have to kill them. The more people carry guns, the more likely an otherwise heated situation will turn violent. Is this grounds for banning firearms in the US? I don’t think so, but then I don’t live there.

3 thoughts on “Guns and Crime

  1. Near the end, you said “The more people carry guns, the more likely an otherwise heated situation will turn violent.”

    Time has proven this assumption to be wrong. As of today, 48 out of 50 US States have concealed carry laws. The majority (39) are of the “shall issue” type, which means, if the state can’t find a legal reason to deny your permit, they must issue a permit to you, if you apply and fulfill all the criteria.

    In many of the states that have gone to shall issue permits, there was a cry from the anti-freedom crowd that there would be blood in the streets, hi-way road rage would look like Dodge City of the old west (a false image in it’s self) and that gun deaths would soar.

    NONE of that has happened. The average Concealed Carry permit holder is MORE law-abiding than the average citizen. We are less likely to resort to gun play. And when we do, we tend to be more accurate than the police. And we are much less likely to shoot the wrong person than the police.

    And FYI, Dodge City of the old west was more peaceful than present day Chicago.

  2. You have missed a lot of the point about my comments and your reply actually verifies it. If you carry a gun and are robbed, you will draw the gun – the situation escalates. If you are not carrying a gun, you can not draw one. This is not saying the gun carrying law abiding citizens are more likely to be criminals and saying that they are more accurate or less likely to shoot the wrong person is irrelevant.

    I have already discussed the slippery slope fallacy elsewhere so I will try to avoid it and I hope at no point did I imply that issuing permits to carry guns would result in the streets being covered in blood (etc). I am not suggesting the carrying of guns should be prohibited.

    The fact remains, that while lots of “normal” people who carry guns will be well disciplined and skilled handlers of the weapons, there will also be a statistical average distribution of deviants. But again, this was not my point.

    If you are carrying a gun, it is because you intend to escalate a violent situation. I doubt most people carry one simply to have something nice in their pocket while they get robbed.

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