Sunday, January 31, 2016

Response to Mr. Christopher Brown on Gun Control

By Walter E. Block, Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics

I thank Mr. Brown for once again entering the lists, and continuing our debate on gun control which appears here, here, here and here. I deduce that this member of the Loyola community, as am I, is an avid supporter of “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill, who makes a scintillating case in favor of the debate format in shedding light on problems that confront us. (Too bad that most members of the Loyola faculty do not join Christopher Brown and me in this; I have offered to debate them on a whole host of issues, and have found virtually no takers; the only honorable exceptions who are still at Loyola are Roger White Interim Dean, College of Social Science and political science professor and law school professor Bill Quigley).

Let me compliment Mr. Brown on one other point; he has been responsive to one of my previous objections to his arguments. To wit, he accused me in a previous contribution to this debate of advocating that untrained Loyola professors, staff and students be allowed to carry firearms on campus. In his most recent missive, he kindly acknowledges that this was an error on his part. He states: “I concede that Dr. Block did not advocate that completely untrained people carry guns on campus.”

However, in his most recent essay, he ignores all of my other salient points. Let me mention some of them, briefly, and invite Mr. Brown to respond to them in his next article, if he chooses to continue this very interesting debate:

1. Gun free zones oppress only law-abiding individuals; criminals will still bring pistols to these areas.

2. Some 92% of mass shootings have taken place in gun free zones. Why is it that no mass murders of this sort have taken place on pistol ranges, in gun clubs, in police stations, gun shows, etc., where the return of fire would be very likely?

3. Suppose Mr. Brown was teaching a course here at Loyola with 40 students in it, whereupon some evil person came through the door and started spraying bullets. Which would he prefer? That neither he nor any student shot back at the murderer, or that he and half the class started returning fire? Under which scenario would fewer innocent persons be killed?

4. Suppose it were widely known that both faculty member Brown, plus half the students enrolled in his course were packing heat. Will this not lower the likelihood that the shooter would burst into the classroom trying to murder innocent people?

5. Is it not hypocritical on the part of Loyola University to announce itself as a gun free zone and yet allow campus cops to go armed? Would we really be safer if none of these policemen were allowed to carry guns?

6. “Take back the night” efforts are a snare and a delusion. Rapists and molesters only laugh at them. So-called feminists supposedly favor equality for women. Yet, the revolver is the great equalizer. At one fell swoop, it makes even a small weak female the physical equal of an armed Arnold Schwarzenegger or a Mike Tyson, let alone an unarmed one.

7. Would the Jews who lived in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and early 1940s have been better or worse off in terms of the chances of survival if many of them had broken Hitler’s very strict gun control laws? Note, I am not asking for any guarantees, here. It is entirely possible that every single one of them who perished would have met the same horrendous fate under this hypothetical scenario. But, would it have been less likely? The point here is that these weapons protect us not only against private criminals, but also with regard to totalitarian governments.

Speaking of hypotheticals, instead of responding to points such as those above, Christopher Brown supplies his readership with a whole host of irrelevancies. Yes, of course people would be better trained if they did not limit themselves to paper targets. But proper preparation also includes shooting (blanks) at people. Go watch one of the Dirty Harry movies on this matter. Yes, accidents occur, even on the part of “well-trained professionals.” So what? Does this mean that the campus community should be sitting targets? It cannot be denied that innocent students and faculty might mistakenly shoot each other instead of, or in addition to, a terrorist. Again, does this imply we would be safer completely disarmed? Hardly. Indeed, “friendly fire” is a flaw in an imperfect world. This occurs in the military too. But Brown’s implication that we therefore ought not to have soldiers, armies, etc., simply does not follow. Of course, pistols are a last not a first resort. Whoever denied this? I never, ever, not even once, suggested a policy of “arming all citizens.” Why not stop attributing to me arguments I did not make? You will only have to apologize for them later on. Who do you think you are, the New York Times? Or Father Wildes, S.J.? Yes, mentally-ill people with rifles are indeed scary. But actual mass shooters are mostly evil, not disturbed, since they have the good sense to avoid places harboring people likely to return fire at them. Thank God (so to speak) for the NRA’s support of the second amendment. Many liberals fear the presidency of a Donald Trump. Suppose, since Christopher Brown is so fond of hypotheticals, The Donald were elected and not only wanted to round up Mexicans and Muslims, but also put them into concentration camps. And not only that. Posit that he added to this list of his blacks, LBGTs and other groups favored of the left. Would the second amendment and an armed citizenry make this more or less likely. (I do not for a moment this is at all likely; I am merely following Mr. Brown down the path of irrelevant hypotheticals and trying to get into the moccasins of our friends the self-styled progressives).

This just in, as I write: “Texas will be one of eight states to allow the carrying of concealed weapons on public college campuses, joining Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.” Anyone want to bet about the incidence of mass shootings on public college campuses in these states? Would that Loyola would follow this sensible lead.

Mr. Brown writes as if those who oppose his views are callous; they know full well that with fewer guns, there would be less killing. And, yet, they reject this humanitarian initiative.  If this were an all or none choice there might be some merit in the argument. Surely, if each and every last firearm on earth simply vanished, we would be less able to murder each other. Sticks and stones and knives and chains and baseball bats and picks and shovels are far less efficient (we pass over the fact that without such weaponry, we would be at the mercy of marauding animals). But this is not at all the choice that faces us. Rather, gun control will reduce the incidence of gun ownership of the law-abiding, alright, but will do nothing, or next to nothing regarding the criminal element. This conclusion is ineluctable. Hoodlums do not obey the law. With Mr. Brown’s views incorporated into the legal system, honest people will be in far greater danger from the uncivilized. San Bernardino, California, and Paris, France, have strict gun control laws. Only a left liberal progressive could believe this legislation made them safer.

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