Ron Paul says, of the public debate following the most recent shooting in a school in the USA:

Many Americans believe that if we simply pass the right laws, future horrors like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting can be prevented.  But this impulse ignores the self evident truth that criminals don’t obey laws.

But they don’t believe that, do they?

There’s a tendency, everywhere, to think that people who disagree with us are idiots. Comment threads on blogs mean I can’t deny some are, whatever the politics. But in the main they’re not. If they haven’t mixed with people who have other ideas, they can have unexamined opinions, but most people of an opposing view are reasonably rational about it. And that’s true whatever your politics are.

Nobody thinks that making guns illegal will mean every criminal meekly hands in their weapons. Gun control advocates think that reducing the availability of legal firearms will reduce the availability of illegal ones, that it will more or less eliminate very public mass murders – which do seem to be carried out with legally-held weapons.

There’s also an aesthetic. Some people viscerally detest the thought of people having guns. It presents a landscape they find appalling. That means it isn’t rational. Equally, other people pose with assault rifles and go to the shooting range, hunt, wear cammo clothing. That’s equally visceral and equally not rational.

Neither is irrational, they’re just not born of reason.

From what I can see, there’s a very irregular pattern in the world of gun ownership against factors of suicide, murder, other crime. This post isn’t about that evidence. As it happens, I tend towards thinking people should be able to own handguns, rifles and shotguns, but not assault rifles or ground-to-air missiles. But this isn’t a religious view, I’m open to persuasion.

This post is about not assuming, or pretending, that people who disagree with you are idiots. Because it gets in the way. We should want the best outcome, however that’s achieved.

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4 thoughts on “A Libertarian’s mistake

  1. What is the difference between a “rifle” and an “assault rife”? From my understanding the differences are cosmetic. It all boils down to how the gun looks. A lot of op-eds have focused on so-called “military style” semi-automatic weapons, but most pistols are semi-auto these days as are many rifles, including hunting rifles. For example, is this a hunting rifle or assault rifle? It is semi-auto:
    http://www.benelliusa.com/rifles/benelli-r1-rifle.php

    How about this one? Also semi-auto:
    http://www.remington.com/products/firearms/centerfire/model-r-15/model-r-15-predator-carbine-cs.aspx

    The second one looks more “military” in style but the first one fires larger bullets ( .338 magnum vs. .223).

    Which is the deadlier weapon?

  2. Good to read your observation that “assuming … that people who disagree with you are idiots … gets in the way.”: it does get in the way, but I would want to go further than that; the problem is that this introduces an element into the process which can’t be scientifically defined, although I hesitate to call it morality, for obvious reasons. It is something I know I have been subject to, and I am making a conscious effort to eliminate it [a bit like forcing back down a rising urge to vomit, although there is no intentional correlation in the analogy]. It’s not easy to defend to the death someone else’s right to express a view to which we are vehemently opposed, but the alternative seems to be remaining mired in our current [and entrenched] partisan and sectarian mentality.

    I would like to see a world where no weapons whatever are required; again, I hesitate to use the descriptive term ‘offensive’, because a ‘defensive’ weapon can obviously be as destructive as an offensive one; hunting for food is another matter, and not insignificant, but it incorporates different considerations; attaining the universal will to do away with weapons outside this scenario is not easily achieved, but I believe it can be, and understanding and tolerance of differing viewpoints without personal derogation & insult has to be an essential prerequisite. As ever, education [in the broadest possible sense] has to be the key.

  3. Hi Jon, I don’t think we’re going to see a world without weapons. I’m also dubious that education necessarily makes other people agree with a given viewpoint.

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