Thursday, January 10, 2013

Stray bullets are a thing

Safety devices sometimes cause people to act more recklessly.  For some people, this makes the safety device less safe overall.

I don't think this means we should ban motorcycle helmets.

But what about guns?  They're cited as everything from safety device to tyrant protection.  The latter is completely absurd (ask the Saudis about all their guns, but I suggest not questioning their local family of tyrants).  The former?  Maybe.  The statistics on crime all mixed.  Earlier I proposed running simulations on arming teachers as a way to get something more specific than generic crime.

But let's get back to the helmet.  If you drive your motorcycle recklessly because you think you're safe, am I harmed?  Well sure, I am harmed by the increase in recklessness if you cut me off and damage my bumper, but the fact that you get yourself killed is not a harm to me, ignoring psychic costs because those are potentially infinite and all-encompassing.

Now let's imagine that your recklessness is with a gun.  Shoot the bad guy?  Fine.  I'm not going to debate whether shooting someone who is stealing your wallet is okay (though if they're in your house, that's your house).  What about the misidentified person?  What about the strange thing that bullets don't hit a person and magically stop?  What about imperfect aim?

Notice how those all aren't your problem or the assailant's problem: they are the problem for everyone else.

Guns might help in a few specific situations.  They might cause harm in others.  These should be looked at altogether, rather than cherry-picking the one time when someone happened to be saved by one, or harmed by one.

3 comments:

Rowan Blaze said...

When I was a teenager, a nine-year-old girl was struck in the shoulder by a stray bullet while riding the train at Disneyland.

Matt Tee said...

A great analogy, it reminds me of an often quoted comment about seat belts. Nobody could depute that seat belts in cars have saved lives, but what may have been equally successful would be to fit a big sharp spike to the middle of the steering wheel instead.

Here I would say the UK by outlawing guns have taken the seat belt option. In contrast America by insisting on "the right to bare arms" has chosen the big sharp spike.

How's that working out for you?

Klepsacovic said...

@Rowan Blaze: That's terrible. I hope she was okay, since shoulder bullets aren't quite as harmless as in the movies.

@Matt Tee: That's a strong motivator to not crash! Or drive.

I don't know that banning guns (specific categories, perhaps) is an option. Our second amendment has been interpreted as allowing citizens to possess guns. I don't see a future court reversing that and even less likely to an amendment to remove or modify that amendment. Guns are here, so what we need to do is figure out what to do with that, how to treat them, and most importantly, how to treat each other.