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Liberal Iranian
Liberal as in Liberty and Freedom. Iranian as in Cyrus and Ferdowsi.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Guns For or Against Safety?
The horrible massacre at Virginia Tech yesterday morning brings (or will bring) to the fore again the debate over guns. But maybe this reflexive reaction to the news is too shallow to capture the reality of situations like this.

On the two sides of the debate sit two rather simple representative propositions. On the anti-gun side, it is that "guns kill, and kill only." On the pro-gun side, it is that "outlawing guns leaves them with the outlaws." Each and every time an incident like the VTech or the Columbine massacre occurs the anti-gun people turns up its voice, and the pro-gun crowd rebut. According to The Economist
Similar atrocities have happened in countries with much stricter laws--at Dunblane in Scotland in 1996 and in Erfurt, in Germany, in 2002. But such events, elsewhere, lead to the laws being tightened even further. Inevitably individuals set on committing violence find some way to act, but with such effective tools as automatic pistols available to do so quickly and efficiently, the toll may be higher.
On the first thought the anti-gun argument is very weak. Guns don't just kill, they can also injur or threaten to injur or kill, which are all different in their consequences for the parties involved. They are, in short, a means of self-defence or attack, depending on the use the owner puts them in. So could be knives and there are knives that are designed for that purpose alone. Once we settle that, it is simply against personal freedoms of people to take away their means of self-defense. So on this first analysis the pro-gun crowd wins.

But there is a catch. Self-defence granted, we can still argue that carrying guns for this purpose in the community falls under the category of security. Security is a public good and that is why we need a state-run police. So, if carrying guns endangers the safety of the individuals in the community, we are justified in enforcing some restrictions as a way of minimising the total danger to the lives of the individuals (and no more). This is perhaps the non-emotional gist of the anti-gun argument and the pro-gun proposition is its negation.

This question is an empirical one: Does it or does it not endanger the security of the individuals to be free to carry guns unrestricted? It could and must be answered with sound reasoning (not the Michael Moore style) and adequate data. Is there such an answer?

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