A common argument for gun control advocates is that if we reduced the number of guns through gun control legislation it would also reduce the amount of gun violence. They point to countries like England and Australia as examples of where this has worked.
Putting aside the Second Amendment, as well as Switzerland, which has a high gun ownership rate but little crime or gun violence, I see a few problems with this line of thinking:
1. That the only type of violence is gun violence. Of all the logical fallacies, this is the worst. The assumption is that a murder where a gun is involved is worse than a murder where the killer uses a tire iron. For the morally sound individual, the only difference is the tool employed to commit the murder. You can suffocate someone with a pillow. Serial killer Gary Ridgeway used suspenders to strangle his victims – never a gun.
2. Prohibition doesn’t work. It didn’t work with alcohol. It didn’t work with marijuana. It doesn’t work with any narcotic. If people want something, they will get it. The alleged purpose of gun control laws are to keep guns away from criminals – also coincidentally, the group of individuals in society who aren’t concerned about following laws.
This leads to thinking that if guns were removed, people would not kill each other.
I’m not sure how one comes to this conclusion, but it exists. Fortunately, examples abound where this has proven false.
Recently in China, a gang went on a rampage and killed dozens of people and wounded hundreds. All of them had knives, no guns.
The questions to ask: Would the victims had been better off if they were allowed to carry guns? Would the gang have had second thoughts if there was a strong possibility of attacking an armed person?
Even if banning guns reduced gun violence, what’s the point if that violence is replaced by other types of violence? Is a society better off if it has no gun violence but has a high murder rate, or if instead of shooting up schools students came in wielding machetes and axes?
I always go back to a short passage I found in David Gelernter’s 1939: the Lost World of the Fair, in which he describes a New York City where caches of dynamite were left unsecured and unlocked. The author mentions this as an example of the social norms that existed which everyone, criminal or not, obeyed.
If people want violence to stop, this is where to start.
I also go back to the American West. Forget everything you’ve heard or seen in Hollywood movies. In reality, the Wild West was rather tame. A combination of exaggerated newspaper accounts, melodramatic dime novels, and Hollywood mythos helped create the false impressions we have today.
The most violent year Dodge City ever had was five homicides, and it was considered one of the most violent cities. The reason there were few murders: Everyone had guns, which meant you were less inclined to threaten someone, knowing they would be able to defend themselves. Law enforcement was also swift and merciless. You didn’t steal, cheat or murder and expect to prosper for long.
In a libertarian society, this is how it should be. People should be allowed to defend themselves however they desire, as long as it does not interfere with another people’s rights. If those people in China had been given that freedom, they would have been able to defend themselves against their attackers. Instead, they died defenseless and helpless.