When Gun Deaths Are Good

With the relatively large number of high-profile cases of mass shootings, leftists are predictably calling for more gun control. When arguing for their position that it should be more difficult for morally upstanding people to build, purchase, keep, carry, and use guns to defend themselves from aggressors, they frequently refer to statistics concerning gun deaths. The implication is that every death caused by firearms is a tragedy, and that if infringing upon the right to keep and bear arms saves just one of those lives, then it is worth doing. While we could dismiss this reasoning by way of reductio ad absurdum by pointing out that it would also lead us to stop using automobiles, electricity, and any other invention which causes people to die on occasion, let us present a sharper defense by examining some cases in which gun deaths are good.

First, proponents of gun control like to point out that having a gun available to a person who is contemplating suicide increases the risk of a successful suicide attempt. The problem is that they assume without proof that this is a negative outcome. A person of sound mind has a strong instinct of self-preservation, and killing oneself is antithetical to this instinct, but there are factors which can override this instinct. One such factor is terminal illness. A person who has a rather short amount of time to live and will be in excruciating pain for the entirety of that time may decide that nonexistence (or going to whatever afterlife the person believes in) is better than existence as a terminally ill person. In such a case, a self-inflicted gunshot wound can act as a form of euthanasia compared to the protracted suffering which would otherwise lie ahead. (And because many governments still violate the sovereignty of their citizens over their own bodies by prohibiting physician-assisted suicide, this is a roundabout case of bad people with guns being defeated by a good person with a gun.) The tragedy in such a case is not the gun death, but the terminal illness behind the gun death.

Another factor can occur during an armed conflict. A person whose position is being overrun by enemy forces may commit suicide to avoid capture, interrogation, and torture at the hands of the enemy. Historically, many women did this to avoid becoming victims of war rape and many people with valuable knowledge did this to keep themselves from being tortured into divulging important information to the enemy. In such cases, a self-inflicted gun death can be the best of a multitude of bad options.

Still another factor is mental illness. A person whose brain does not function properly can come to believe that putting a bullet through one’s skull has some effect other than ending one’s life, or that self-preservation is not a worthwhile endeavor. While there are many cases in which intervention is needed and the death of the mentally ill person would be regrettable, there are some people who have a chronic and incurable mental condition. A strong desire to end one’s life in the absence of terminal illness or an impending worse fate is a mechanism of natural selection to eliminate organisms which are not sufficiently fit to reproduce and take care of the next generation.

Second, accidental gun deaths are a concern for gun control advocates. Whether by inept usage, improper repairs and maintenance, or failure to keep out of the hands of young children, guns sometimes kill people by accident. Some of these cases are best prevented by education of gun owners, but others are a mechanism of natural selection. The gun owner who handles his guns haphazardly or maintains them improperly can remove himself from the gene pool when the gun either shoots him or fails catastrophically in his hands. The gun owner who is a parent and fails to secure his guns around young children is less likely to get to be a grandparent, great-grandparent, and so on.

Third, guns may be used in self-defense against aggressors. When a criminal is killed in self-defense by a gun owner, there is one less threat for the surrounding community to worry about. A dead criminal is incapable of victimizing any more innocent people and requires no expenditure of funds by the state or private alternatives for arresting, transporting, trying, imprisoning, and rehabilitating the criminal. Although leftists frequently claim that firearm use in self-defense is rare (or even that owning a gun causes more danger to the owner than it eliminates), there is good reason to doubt empirical methods in cases involving counterfactuals as well as the particular methodologies of the studies in question. This is because it is impossible to count criminal cases which did not happen because the criminal was deterred by the sight of a firearm in the hands of the criminal’s target as well as to know what would have happened if victims of their own firearms had not been armed.

Fourth, guns may be used in battles between criminals. While this can kill innocent bystanders and should therefore be stopped whenever this is a concern, a quarrel in which criminals kill each other and no innocent bystanders are victimized is a win-win for morally upstanding people. If evil wishes to fight itself and this will not harm innocents, it is in the interest of good people to allow this to go forward and then deal with whoever survives. Notably, one side of such a conflict can be wearing costumes and claiming certain affiliations, which brings us to the fifth and final example.

Finally, guns may be used in self-defense against agents of the state. When government grows more oppressive than people are able or willing to tolerate, guns give people the means they need to remove that government from power. Even a single instance of government agents being killed can greatly reduce oppression, at least in the short term. A more sustained effort of decentralized, anti-political, guerrilla attacks have the potential to make being a government agent too dangerous of a employment prospect to be worthwhile, thus eliminating the state from the bottom up. While leftists tend to deride such a suggestion as pure fantasy, anyone who has bothered to seriously think through the possibility knows that it is not, including high-ranking United States military personnel.

To conclude, the arguments made by gun control advocates frequently use empiricism where rationalism is the correct method of knowing and commit numerous other logical fallacies. Deaths caused by firearms frequently serve a noble purpose and are no cause to restrict public access to guns or ammunition.

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