Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My reply to a podcast about gun control

The podcats is here and it interviews Jeff McMahan.

Thank you for this excellent discussion and McMahan is probably my favorite contemporary ethicist but even though I do not consider myself a libertarian, I am skeptical of McMahan's anti-gun arguments.

Two considerations. 1. a pragmatic one. It is going to be down right impossible or very difficult to prohibit all guns. Let's keep in mind that the two shootings in the US that set off the debate recently are both due to someone stealing a gun from another person (in Sandyhook, the man stole the weapons from his mother who was the legal owner). Gun control would not have prevented these two mass shootings unless that involved taking guns from legally registered owners. Our constitution and our public and our political system will not allow it. So we are left with the option of limited gun control, not outright prohibition which would involve the taking away of guns from people who have legally bought them. But the overall empirical evidence here so far shows that gun control measures are not effective at reducing violent crime. In fact, when you look at large studies there is not even a correlation never mind a causal relationship between gun ownership and gun crimes. Even if it were show show some effect, it would have to be more than a little as this is a constitutional issue and thus the burden of proof is on the gun control advocates and that burden is set high.

2nd, the issue with many countries with substantially lower gun related crimes but also high gun ownership shows that the problem is likely deeper. I fully accept that US culture is far more violent than those other countries though I am an American and that this is the deeper reason and ought to be the target of violence reduction. It seems more practical (for the 1st consideration above) and more morally relevant to focus on this. It seems defeatist to say that we should focus on gun control as opposed to focusing on the deeper causes of gun violence, namely a violent culture that sees using guns as a way to solve problems.