By Pavel Konoplenko
In the wake of the recent shooting in New York that left two firefighters dead and two wounded, people are once again having a conversation about guns, role of media, mental health, and the moral state of our society. This is a very complex and political issue that requires more than a simple blog post. I will, however, examine one point of contention that I hear cited – and challenged – often: More guns means less crime.
I have not read the book and haven’t personally researched or verified the studies that are presented. However, for purpose of this thought experiment, let us assume that this correlation is in fact true. (It’s also important to note that correlation does not mean causation, because we would then easily assume that nations without easy access to guns have skyrocketing crime rates and all the ills associated with crime.)
More guns means less crime. Sounds simple. Yet the simplest phrases can usually be the most complex. What is less crime? Is less crime necessarily a good thing? Depends on the definition of crime and our association with it. For instance, would I rather live in a nation with a lot of burglaries but no murder, or in a nation with a lot of murder but no burglaries? I don’t know.
Less crime sounds appealing, but under the context of nation where the entire populace is armed, it can quickly lose that appeal. In 1984, Oceania had no crime at all – with the exception of thought-crime. However, that dystopian society possesses little appeal when examined in a broader context.
I don’t know if I want to live in a society where everyone is armed. Self-defense isn’t considered a crime, but where’s the line between self-defense and unnecessary force? What’s the difference between shooting someone once under self-defense or shooting 5 times? After how many murders committed by one person in “self-defense” do we examine that person’s history and pattern of “self-defense” murders?
Maybe a society where everyone has a gun would be crime-free, but people would live with the inherent tension, fear, and stress that everyone they see can easily and efficiently kill. Is this oppression by lethal individuals worth having zero crime?
These are all important questions to ask during these debates, because no matter what course of action we take (that is if we take any action), it will inevitably lead to more questions down the line.
Are senseless murders the price we pay to defend that right? Where do security and rights meet? Does defense of private property warrant the same action as the defense of your body? Questions are easy to come up, it’s the answers that are hard.
Whatever answers we come up with, hopefully it leaves the world a better, safer place.