On Gun Legislation


Guns save lives – in the sense that if we all have guns, we would all be safe. Such is the logical fallacy: if we all have guns, there is less gun violence; along the same lines that if we all have a disease, there is less illness; if we are all right-wing, there are less fascists; if we all own a car, there are less traffic jams.

If you feel like you want to own a gun because you tend to feel safer, freer, less insecure, or just good in general, just say so, but do not pretend it has any beneficial use in civilised society.

If you want to save lives, you remove the things that cause deaths, you do not hand everyone a piece of the lethal problem. That is to say, if you are concerned about saving lives, and you find that alpha causes deaths, you do not hand everyone an alpha. Less guns in society equals less gun-related violence in society. This is a claim which is factually sound. Sometimes it is that easy.

If you need a gun to feel safe, you might just not live in the safest society in the world.

Now, as societies become more prosperous, equal, highly educated, liberal, et cetera, you will find that the need for every individual in that society to own a weapon slowly diminishes. We can observe this tendency in many modern societies today. It is important that we are aware that more often than not, proponents of the sale of arms on quite a large scale – people who also often tend to regard the last resort, i.e. self defence with a firearm, as some sort of a reasonable first response – are not very often individuals who were raised in these societies.

If you need a gun to feel free, you might just not be the most independent person in the world.

There are a number of societies which have – because of several socio-economic reasons like relatively high levels of general prosperity, equality, liberalism, education, et cetera – moved beyond the need for the possession of a firearm. As societies become more prosperous, happy, and secure, people tend to become less scared, insecure, and mistrusting of other people in society. You will also find that those societies have a lower rate of violent firearm-related crimes. This is not a coincidence.

If you need a gun to feel less insecure, you might just not have the strongest personality in the world.

Now, in another country, it may well be a legal right to own a gun. Again, that’s all very well. However, there is no reason to make the mistake of regarding this as a timeless universal human right that has been written in some cosmic rulebook; nor is there any reason to be so narrowly minded or misinformed to deny the fact there are more highly developed societies (highly developed, that is, for the reasons listed above) which function perfectly fine, arguably, perhaps even better, than the societies in which people generally feel the need to be armed when they appear in public.

If you need a gun to constantly re-establish your freedom, you either have very uncivilised neighbours, or you might just not live in the most libertarian society in the world.

The ironic thing is, there may well be societies in which it is indeed virtually suicidal to walk around in public unarmed. However, we shall always need to advocate changes in society that move towards better economic standards, less criminal activity, and higher standards of general human well-being instead only trying to ‘shoot’ our way out of problems. And at some stage, for reasons that have been already mentioned, this means introducing some kind of gun legislation. Any other conviction is nothing short of dogmatic.”

– Willem Etsenmaker

12 thoughts on “On Gun Legislation

  1. “Such is the logical fallacy: if we all have guns, there is less gun violence; along the same lines that if we all have a disease, there is less illness…”

    Not such a logical fallacy at all. In the case of disease, we often protect people from illness by vaccinating them with that same disease. It would be lovely if we could simply eradicate disease entirely, but biology doesn’t work like that. Instead we strengthen the potential host, give them the immune system they need to fight off infection.

  2. As much as that particular nuace is correct – and I think it is – it does not disprove the premise of what is being said in this particular argument at large.

  3. The premise of what you are saying however, contains multiple logical fallacies.

    “If you want to save lives, you remove the things that cause deaths, you do not hand everyone a piece of the lethal problem”

    Like cars? Cars are quite dangerous and yet rather then taking away cars in the name of safety, we recognized the value transportation has to humankind and have simply sought to make cars and roads less dangerous.

    “…there is no reason to make the mistake of regarding this as a timeless universal human right that has been written in some cosmic rulebook..”

    The right to protect and defend yourself, your family, and your stuff, really is a timeless, universal human right.

    I often think of all those kids murdered in Norway. The first people who responded were forced to sit there helplessly, watching people die, while awaiting somebody, anybody, authorized to have a gun and put a stop to it.

  4. “If you want to save lives, you remove the things that cause deaths, you do not hand everyone a piece of the lethal problem”
    This is not a logical fallacy. It is apt. Your car example may well fit into this structure as well. However, it is probably true to say that “… we recognized the value transportation has to humankind and have simply sought to make cars and roads less dangerous.” How does undermine the argument? Are you proposing to legalise everything whatever to consequences to society? Are you proposing to make guns – like cars – ‘less dangerous’? Please note I am not trying to be facetious or obstructive, I am afraid I simply do not see your point.

    “The right to protect and defend yourself, your family, and your stuff, really is a timeless, universal human right.”
    This is a philosophical problem, because I do not think there are any universal human rights – there may well be human rights, but those rules are largely based on objective morality rooted in empirical findings about human well-being.
    Leaving that aside, consider the following: “Now, as societies become more prosperous, equal, highly educated, liberal, et cetera, you will find that the need for every individual in that society to own a weapon slowly diminishes. We can observe this tendency in many modern societies today. It is important that we are aware that more often than not, proponents of the sale of arms on quite a large scale – people who also often tend to regard the last resort, i.e. self defence with a firearm, as some sort of a reasonable first response – are not very often individuals who were raised in these societies.”
    I wonder how your claim compares to this part of the argument?

    “I often think of all those kids murdered in Norway.”
    What is this appeal to emotion about?
    “As societies become more prosperous, happy, and secure, people tend to become less scared, insecure, and mistrusting of other people in society. You will also find that those societies have a lower rate of violent firearm-related crimes. This is not a coincidence.”
    The United States has a high possession of firearms ratio, especially for a country which identifies itself as a western civilised democracy, how exactly are all those gun-lovin’ god-fearin’ patriots we always hear about preventing shootings? (The following may seem like an appeal to emotion as well, but I mean to bring up the following as an accompaniment to the previous question). What about the ridiculously high number of shootings at primary schools? What about all those high schools? What about all those colleges? What about the backstreets of all those metropolises? How dare people still bring up this old teary-eyed nonsense about guns in society (excluding law-enforcement) protecting people when the reality shows the opposite effect. Stop this dogmatism. It’s hurting people.

  5. “What is this appeal to emotion about?”

    The Norway story is actually not an appeal to emotion at all, but rather an appeal to logic and reason. Guns serve a valuable role in our society, they are a tool, like any other tool. Not having the proper tool at the right time, contributed to the tragedy in Norway.

  6. “Not having the proper tool at the right time, contributed to the tragedy in Norway.”
    The absence of the reality that a comparatively higher possession-of-firearm ratio realises higher homicide and violent crime ratios causes you to state exactly the opposite of what is sensible, moral and true.

  7. Let’s see, isn’t it Switzerland that has MANDATORY gun ownership? One of the highest per capita gun ownership countries in the world and not exactly a crime infested country. Then we can go down and visit Mexico where guns are banned, gun ownership forbidden, and they have atrocious problems with violence at the moment.

    So, I totally dispute this rather simplistic concept that higher gun ownership leads to higher homicide rates. In the US, one of the worst cities for homicide in the country is Chicago, also the city with one of the strongest anti gun policies. We can also go look at DC, the same situation, very anti-gun and yet very high rates of homicide.

  8. As so very often, you make some very interesting comments. Let’s look again at the following paragraphs:
    “… nor is there any reason to be so narrowly minded or misinformed to deny the fact there are more highly developed societies (highly developed, that is, for the reasons listed above) which function perfectly fine, arguably, perhaps even better, than the societies in which people generally feel the need to be armed when they appear in public.”

    And more importantly:
    “There are a number of societies which have – because of several socio-economic reasons like relatively high levels of general prosperity, equality, liberalism, education, et cetera – moved beyond the need for the possession of a firearm. As societies become more prosperous, happy, and secure, people tend to become less scared, insecure, and mistrusting of other people in society. You will also find that those societies have a lower rate of violent firearm-related crimes. This is not a coincidence.”

    First of all, – as you can clearly read in the citations listed above – I dispute the fact that higher gun ownership ratios are solely responsible for higher homicide rates as well.

    Now, having cleared that up, let’s take a look at the examples you cited: Switzerland and Mexico.

    Are you going to argue that the high gun ownership ratios in Switzerland are the most important – if not the only – factor conducive to its relatively low crime rates?[i] Or would you agree that the extreme prosperity of the Swiss and their politics of peace, security and neutrality are the main factors behind the success (as it were) of their society?

    Does the safety of the Swiss hinge on their near-collective gun ownership in any way at all? In which case, how do the Dutch, Swedes and Luxembourgians manage? Please note the difference in gun legislation between these countries, and take note that whenever a society is prosperous, equal, free, liberal, educated, et cetera, guns do not make a noticeable difference for the good. Why? Because, in such societies, these items have become unnecessary and more of a potential safety risk than a tool necessary for survival. Compare the poor economics, comparatively wretched poverty, and unstable politics of the other example you cited: Mexico. And feel free to also explain to me how guns are conducive to safety in that country.

    To sum up, you fill find that mass gun ownership does not make a beans worth of difference for the good in prosperous countries, potentially, rather the opposite; and arguably only worsens situations in less prosperous and developed societies.

    As for your Chicago reference, or any other place in the world which has a problem with violence – gun related or otherwise – please consider the previous paragraphs, and the following citation:
    “The ironic thing is, there may well be societies in which it is indeed virtually suicidal to walk around in public unarmed. However, we shall always need to advocate changes in society that move towards better economic standards, less criminal activity, and higher standards of general human well-being instead only trying to ‘shoot’ our way out of problems.”


    [i] Having said that, Switzerland has over double the amount of people behind bars than its neighbour Germany – relatively speaking of course. So I would not get too enthusiastic about the relatively low crime rates of the Swiss, but I take your point – let’s leave it at that.

  9. “Does the safety of the Swiss hinge on their near-collective gun ownership in any way at all?”

    Apparently their leadership believes so, hence mandatory military service and mandatory gun ownership. For the good of all, for the safety of the country.

    Economics do play a role in creating peace and less crime, however, even that does not tell the whole story. The US has a great deal of prosperity and yet we are crime ridden. Ironically our guns don’t deliver us a statistically higher percentage of homicide, but rather suicide. Gun suicides far outweigh our gun homicides. If one wanted to apply logic, one could declare that gun ownership and prosperity seem to cause an increase in suicide. There may indeed be elements of truth in there, but to suggest that banning both guns and prosperity as a solution to reduce suicide rates, would be silly. There is as much cognitive dissonance in that statement as there is in suggesting that banning guns would be effective in reducing homicide.

  10. “Apparently their leadership believes so, …”
    Whether some people ‘believe’ something is neither here nor there. Always.

    Before we start focussing in on again another specific country with its own particulars, I would like to simplify this discussion by asking you: in conclusion, what do you think – in simple terms – is wrong with the argument I published?

  11. I think the argument you published is based on erroneous information which has led to conclusions which contain logical fallacies. The ideas you have put forth are driven more by a desire to promote a belief system that conforms with what you would like to believe about the world and human nature, rather than the way people really are. That’s not a negative judgment, it’s something we all tend to do at times.

  12. If there is any erroneous information in the original publication, you have not stated any facts which conclusively prove this accusation.

    If there are any logical fallacies in the original publication, you have not stated any counterarguments which could not be refuted.

    If you think I am driven by dogma, you have missed the fact that the arguments I have published are factual and my explanations verifiably based in reality.[i]

    If you think that you are not driven by any sort of dogma, you just might be under a misapprehension. Correct me if I am wrong, but I feel you cannot and will not believe anything else than something along the lines of “guns are good”; whereas I can quite honestly say that even though I personally do not care for guns, I would not mind people having them if it meant we would all live in safer society, but it doesn’t – nothing you have written proves otherwise.

    If I have made an erroneous statement about society or, as you say, “the way people really are” – you have not pointed it out.

    Finally, if you are right in general, believe it or not, I would love to be convinced by you. If I am wrong, I would love to be proven wrong. Truth helps everyone.

    PS Speaking of which, could I get a source for the following statement?
    “… our guns don’t deliver us a statistically higher percentage of homicide …”


    [i] I am most saddened by the fact that you feel I am trying to promote a ‘belief’ in something. Now, I know, looking at the argument that we have had that I am not in any real danger of not seeing the other side of the argument, nor do I feel I have been lacking nuance in this discussion. In fact, I rather feel you have been quite dogmatic at times, grasping at straws and providing a number of feeble examples. Also, it is my opinion, if you were to read some of the paragraphs I have published in the original post – especially the final paragraph – I do not see how you can accuse me of a lack of nuance.

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