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Posts Tagged ‘Gun Control’

Regarding my previous thoughts on gun control, a reader writes,

Wow, do you ever miss the point. Put simply, drunk people do stupid things – and have bad aim! Picture the escalation of your average bar fight with guns instead of glasses and bar stools. They’re redesigning bar glasses to be less likely to shatter. How do you redesign the gun to be less lethal? And who would pay for that?!

Also, as one of many people who has worked in a restaurant with areas designated “smoking” and “non-smoking” – not everyone has a reasonable choice to make to avoid the smoke. Despite the significant decrease in tips, I chose to avoid working in the smoking section (not all places would even allow an employee to make that choice). I also, however, didn’t have a rent to pay at the time. Smoke travels easily inside a building. There were days I felt nauseated by the smoke. If the alternative is unemployment, it isn’t a reasonable option.

The objection is that I have missed the point because the reasoning for such a ban is that people have a higher propensity to do stupid things while drunk. Such an objection indicates to me that the reader entirely missed my original point.

Different people have different preferences, different tolerances for risk. There do exist bar owners and clienteles who prefer that patrons are able to carry a concealed weapon, or at least, do not mind it enough to to forgo patronizing the establishment. A blanket ban needlessly constrains those individuals.

Why constrain patrons in a uniform way? There are people who can be responsible with a firearm in a place that serves alcohol. Maybe they don’t drink, maybe they have one or two drinks, or maybe they get very drunk but are still responsible with a firearm. The point is that classically liberal philosophy explicitly condemns probabilistic models of policing to preemptively constrain people, as if they are irresponsible. Should we use racial profiling? Does the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” mean nothing? Thanks to the Second Amendment, by default a person can have a firearm on a public sidewalk. It is borderline arbitrary to remove that liberty when that person walks five feet into a bar or restaurant, provided the owner of the establishment allows it.

The state does not possess the knowledge to determine who is responsible with a firearm around alcohol, and who is not. The state does not have the knowledge to determine who prefers private environments where people are allowed to carry a concealed weapons. One aspect of the jurisprudence for the Second Amendment is to decentralize power. The state complements such decentralization of power with an additional mechanism, property rights.

Redesigning bar glasses to be less likely to shatter is an extreme absurdity. We already have penalties for assault and battery in the law. Why take measures to increase the cost to bar owners and patrons? Why punish, by making them pay more, the majority of drinkers who avoid violence? It’s hard to conceive of an individual owner who believes that suffering the cost of replacing types of glasses is profit-maximizing behavior. So this is a new regulation? If it is, it’s an absurd bureaucratic grab for power.

What is a “reasonable choice to make to avoid the smoke?” Who decides? Some people value the work highly enough to endure the secondhand smoke; some people wouldn’t. Appealing to “reasonable choices” for employees when advocating for a smoking band is a fallacious abuse of language. A smoking ban only reduces choices. The reader has fallaciously conflated incentive and coercion. Brandon Berg explains the difference well. The poor aren’t having their options limited by a restaurant offering a position in a smoke-filled environment; their options are limited by being poor. The option to work in a smokey restaurant expands their choices.

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Earlier this week my friend Ethan pressed me about what I thought about gun control measures. The state of Virginia was considering a proposal which would lift the blanket ban on concealed carry in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

Modern progressives have a completely illiberal sentiment towards state authority on the issue of firearms. It completely clashes with their liberal sentiment towards state authority on other issues. This inconsistency means that modern progressives are wrong either about either CCTV used for public monitoring, or gun control measures, or both. Which one is it? They are wrong in their support of state gun control measures.

Getting rid of both state CCTV to monitor public places and the security theater of the TSA have traditionally been issues of civil liberties for modern progressives. It’s a sentiment I agree with, because the foundation rests on the idea that in a liberal society, we mustn’t use probabilistic models of policing for criminal law. In deciding how to restrict the behavior of otherwise free citizens, we should not weigh probabilities, which have some degree of intrinsic arbitrariness and subjectivity of the people designated as authorities. To the extent that criminal law should exist at all, it should exist only be for harms that people commit; crimes should be crimes because an offender commits some harm. An action should not be designated a crime to prevent some harm that could be caused by unrelated deliberate future action. Is concealed carry unrelated to gun violence? Having a gun is logically necessary for future gun violence, but not logically sufficient.

In a liberal society, just as we should privatize airport security and refuse to treat free citizens as suspicious criminals by preemptively watching them on CCTV, so too should we refuse to criminalize ownership of a tool.

Handguns are a tool for coercion, injuring, and killing. In a liberal society, citizens contract out police and governments to provide some level of protection against unjust aggression from other individuals. Police are not omnipresent though, nor would we want them to be. Who watches the watchmen? Just because we have the police as one tool to protect against unjust aggression and enforce consequences for it, there is not a legitimate reason for a government to restrict substitutes for such protection. In a liberal society we should not punish people for propensities to cause harm; we should punish people for harm.

I don’t see a blanket ban on concealed carry in places that serve alcohol as particularly necessary. As with any private establishment, property owners who do not feel comfortable with having concealed weapons on the premises could form their own local rules, and advertise the status as such. The same logic applies to smoking in restaurants and bars. This is an issue best resolved by property rights.

Incidentally, Lance Armstrong once campaigned for smoking bans in restaurants on the grounds that smoking was fine if individuals wanted to accept the harmful consequences of smoking for themselves, but that a ban in restaurants was necessary because secondhand smoke imposed costs on other people. So, he completely missed the point. The issue is resolved by property rights. If people don’t want to patronize a restaurant because of cigarette smoke, no one is forcing them to do so. It’s just nonsensical to say that person A, by smoking, is imposing a cost on person B, when person B has voluntarily chosen to enter a situation.

Anyway, as a practical matter, I actually prefer that more people carry firearms, so long as they’re comfortable doing so, and have the proper training. It is intuitively obvious that any potential criminal in any particular location would be more deterred from trying to use a firearm to commit a crime if they could not determine who, if anyone, would have the relatively equal power to stop them. Isn’t an area where everyone is known to be unarmed a more attractive target for a criminal?

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