Guns are objectively cool. End of article.
But assuming our standards for logic are a little higher, let’s proceed. It’s easy to conflate situation A “Do we want to confer the right to own guns in today’s world” (No. Wtf. Just. No.) with situation B “Do we want to take away the right to own guns in today’s world” (…not that simple). Guns are a charged topic. It’s difficult to ignore the pictures of candles and flowers on the graves of schoolchildren and listen to both sides. So I’ll think of guns as cars instead.
Cars are objectively cool. We grew up playing with them. We’ve always dreamed of turning 18 so we can own them. They’re also dangerous. Some psycho can use it as a weapon and ram me with it. That scares me. Maybe that’s what makes them cool. But mostly they’re useful. Too useful. Sure we can get some centralized agency to provide transport, but it’s clunky, inefficient, smelly, and only available at certain designated spots. I’d like my own car. Also, most people aren’t psychos. So on the whole, it’s better to allow us to have cars and control the psychos. It’ll entail a cost of appointing a monopolistic state to regulate the ownership of cars, and given the large marginal utility we’re happy to allow this entity to come into existence as long as it doesn’t get too big. We decide to call this ‘government’. We created background checks and licenses. With this came a large bureaucratic structure to regulate and oversee these checks and balances, we call them the DMV, prison, and policemen.
Many people aren’t psychos in general, but they get drunk and become psychos involuntarily. We created laws against drunk driving. Many people are well meaning but just plain incompetent. We created driving tests, traffic rules, traffic cops, tickets, speeding laws, radar guns, and special courts. This government is getting larger and larger, it makes us uncomfortable, but we’re really loving this whole driving thing. Not all of us, of course. Cars are expensive, and most of our unnatural deaths are because of our own cars. Meanwhile public transport gets better and better, there’s an increasing number of us who’d rather just put our faith in buses and do away with cars. We’re happy to let the car-owners have their cars, we’d rather live in a society that allows us to have our individual preferences, and not ban something just because we don’t like it for ourselves.
The market for cars starts experiencing adverse selection. Non-psychos disproportionately use public transport, cars just aren’t worth it for them. Psychos disproportionately want their own cars. The balance starts to shift, the % of car-owners who are psychos starts to grow. Our regulating agency needs to get proportionally bigger and bigger to prevent the psychos from getting cars, punishing the ones who use them and controlling the ones who sell them. The agency starts to smell blood. Its existence now secured, it would rather have less work than more, less accountability than more. Every time a psycho crashes his car, the agency starts deflecting blame on cars rather than its failure to control the psychos. It asks for more power still, wanting to take away our cars and growing even further as a monopoly that provides us with all our transport needs.
Those of us who like cars are incensed that it’s deflecting the blame, punishing us non-psychos by taking away our cars, sneakily growing its power and control over us, and then forcing us to use its monopolistic transport service. Those of us who don’t like cars are split down the middle. On the one hand, there are the idealists among us who love the ban. We believe that the agency is benevolent, that once the cars are gone there will be no need for it being so big, that we can do away with all the money we spend on propping up the DMV, vehicle courts, radar guns, policemen. If cars are illegal, then no non-psychos have them, all car-owners are psychos and the task of the regulating agency is 100 times easier, needing that much fewer resources funneled from us. We’ve always only grudgingly agreed to pay for this agency for a service we don’t use. We’ve enjoyed none of the benefits of owning a car, proportionately suffered the costs of the agency, and disproportionately suffered the costs of being victims of car-psychos.
On the other hand, there are the realists among us who tend to agree with the car-lovers. As Ben Franklin said, those who would sacrifice essential liberty for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. We know this agency is never going to give up its power. We know the focus of car-tragedies need to be on the agency’s incompetence, its failure at doing the one thing we grudgingly accepted its existence for. If the choice was to ban cars and the agency both now that we don’t need it any more without cars, that might be fine but that’s not the choice. We need cars, so we can’t ban the technology and its production, after all the central agency needs them to provide us with our public transport. If we don’t go after the sources, it’s going to trickle down to the pychos and we’re going to need the agency to exist. The cat is out of the bag. Obviously we don’t believe we need cars, we don’t like them ourselves. Only a moron would suggest that we need cars in case the agency turns against us. But this isn’t about whether cars make sense (Situation A), it’s about whether the agency will stop with cars.
The agency starts to pit us against each other, because car-lovers, car-hating idealists and car-hating realists all actually agree that the agency shouldn’t have too much control. That’s bad for the agency. So it creates just two camps. Car-lovers who love cars and hate car-haters. Car-haters who hate cars and hate car-lovers. The agency is now the wise trustworthy monkey seeking to mediate two cats fighting over a stick of butter, biting off a little from one half to make it more equal, then biting off a little from the other half, until all the butter is gone, and the two cats are left wondering why they would trust a monkey, why they would continue to trust it after the first two bites, and why they even like butter in the first place.
They’ve succeeded. Liberals are begging the government to become larger. Conservatives are blindly talking about small government without realizing the ridiculous contradiction in that — society has become so large and complex such that a world without guns would actually entail a much smaller government than one with. If it’s about protection, then all the money the government would save on regulation can be spent on providing airtight protection against psychos who now have all the guns. If it’s about pleasure, remember guns are objectively cool, then we head over to the gun-range, more realistic paintball arena, and hunger-games simulator to have at it, without needing to actually own one and increase society’s risk of killing a person, or god forbid even worse, killing an animal.
The great hoax of democracy is that governments offer us binary choices and make us fight it out, when it’s really just an opening offer that brings us to the negotiating table with our counter proposal.