Guns & More Deaths. What Now?

Guns & More Deaths. What Now? August 4, 2019

It’s never too soon.

So, it’s happened again. Not once, but twice. El Paso and Dayton with a whole host of casualties, all within 24 hours. I have written about this more times than I care to count, and this includes the inevitable inaction in the aftermaths. There are three options open to legislators in government: More gun legislation, complete paralysed inaction, or less gun legislation.

We can almost certainly be assured of nothing meaningful happening in terms on gun control as a result of these tragedies. It seems that the El Paso tragedy has further political ramifications in the shooter having a manifesto linking it to his disgust at immigration, posting his diatribe on 8chan, making it the third racism-fuelled mass shooting announced on 8chan in 5 months. The shooter was, it appears, inspired by shootings in Christchurch, NZ and Denmark. Although his racism supposedly predates Trump’s election, Beto O’Rourke has come out and declared that Trump’s racist rhetoric has fuelled such an event.

The gun control lobby will advocate for tighter controls whilst the gun rights advocates will argue that we need more good people with guns to counter these bad people with guns.

Things don’t change because the US is a hotbed for legalised corruption – lobbying – on a behemoth scale. The silver lining to that cloud is that the NRA (National Rifle Association) is financially struggling and has recently been embroiled in a legal case that has seen their TV channel shut down. Small victories. Let’s hope their bribery of predominantly Republican politicians also takes a hit

The simple fact of the matter is, as most sane people acknowledge, that the US is an outlier with regard to developed nations in terms of gun violence, and that more guns means more deaths. There have been over 250 mass shootings in the US this year (we are just in August now). Let me check the data for the UK. Let me see. Oh yes, there have been no mass shootings with deaths in the UK this year. Or since 2010. One this decade in the UK (or two if you include Moss Side with no deaths) versus 250 this year alone in the US.

If that’s not a stark and depressing stat, I don’t know what is.

As I have discussed before, the US is more violent across the board and has higher knife crime rates (before the gun rights commenters bring that into play) than the UK. The homicide rates are higher across the board but the stats seem to show that the higher homicide, injury and suicide rates are to some important causal degree underwritten by guns and gun violence.

I have already talked a great deal about rights being conceptual and existing in the minds of humans; they are not objective and are not innate to humans. We argue about rights precisely because of this. Though we write them down on pieces of paper, these lists can be changes and amended and they are only meaningful, in the sense of having tangible ramifications, when codified into law. In my writing on this, no gun rights activist (GRA) commenting here has shown this not to be the case (I have simplified this here for expediency).

The point is, we can change legislation; Americans can change legislation. This might be pragmatically difficult because the mindset in the US is so markedly different and gun culture is powerful and pervasive, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution is somehow sacred (though this I unwarranted, as shown).

But pragmatics stretch further than opinion and culture. There are just si many guns in circulation. Trying to control the horse after it has bolted is particularly hard and I haven’t got enough expertise in legislation to give a satisfactory answer for this.

Yet this doesn’t change the moral and jurisprudential basis for gun control.

For me, it comes down to consequences and stats. A gun rights advocate simply won’t change my mind by appealing to rights and pieces of paper – the arguments aren’t good enough and have little to no philosophical foundation when we get as deep as the ontology of abstract objects – i.e., what “rights” are actually made of, and whether they exist “out there”, outside of our minds.

In other words, what will convince me is evidence that exists to show that legislation for controlling or restricting gun availability in the US has a negative impact on gun violence and deaths; I just don’t think the evidence will ever show this. The GRA will argue that the right to be armed, based on some version of the right to self-defence, is more powerful (in some evaluation) than a (homicide) death, injury and suicide statistic. Is there an arbitrary line? At the moment, the right to self-defence is worth more than 40,000 lives a year. Literally, that’s the equation. I wonder whether there is any limit to its worth? What if that right was pitted against five billion deaths? Is the right to bear arms effectively priceless?

As previously mentioned in plenty of my other writing, I don’t have this right in the UK and I don’t miss it. I like my right not to have others around me have free access to guns…

Therefore, to reiterate, any legislation that reduces gun violence, deaths and injury, to me is good legislation, irrespective as to whether some GRAs think it would fundamentally infringe their rights.

The main pushback, as far as I am concerned, from GRAs is the balancing effect of genuine self-defence: where guns can be used to cause violence, death and injury, they can also genuinely be used to protect against such.

The problem is, if there were far fewer guns in circulation, then you wouldn’t need so many guns to protect.

Arguments about gun stats are convoluted and full of spin. You can have it out in the comment threads if you want; go for it. I know from personal experience here at ATP that GRAs will come here en masse, like a pack of salivating hyenas, and gang up so that “their side” will “win”. Whoop-de-doo. Pyrrhic victories don’t change philosophy and the fundamental stats.

How long must these tragedies go on for before GRAs admit change must happen? Arguably infinitely; that change is fundamentally opposed to their core principles.  The only change they would accept would be to relax the regulations to allow more good people with guns.

What now? Trump’s in charge. Probably nothing.

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