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Posted by: TEEBONE ®

08/26/2019, 11:44:29

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Gun Rights Don’t Depend on Statistics | Tim Hsiao

Tim Hsiao
8-10 minutes

It’s nice when statistics are on your side. When it comes to guns, I think the best statistical evidence shows that guns are, in fact, a force for good. But what if that wasn’t the case? What if it turned out that the statistics showed that permissive gun ownership actually does more harm than good?

Nothing of significance would follow. As valuable as they are, statistics aren’t all that matters. Nor are they even the most important thing we should take into account when making public policy decisions—especially decisions that involve natural rights.

Problems With the Utilitarian Model

When statistics are invoked in public policy discussions, it is almost always done as part of a cost-benefit analysis. This involves taking a given policy and weighing its positives and negatives. If there are more positives than negatives, then it’s implied that adopting the policy is a good idea. If there are more negatives than positives, then it’s implied that adopting the policy is a bad idea.

Seems simple enough, right?

Many think that all of our decisions about the policies we adopt should follow this model. The technical term for this way of thinking is utilitarianism. The virtue of utilitarianism is that it’s a pretty easy, natural, and straightforward way of making decisions. While it does sometimes require familiarity with the relevant data and research methods (which means we have to frequently trust the “experts”), the underlying principle is intuitive: it’s about the numbers.

So just because something “makes sense” from a numbers perspective does not mean that it is morally permissible.

As intuitive as it may sound, there are many things that just cannot be reduced to just a numbers game. For example, suppose that enslaving an innocent minority of the population into forced labor would yield more good effects than bad effects. Since the numbers check out, would that make involuntary slavery justifiable in this situation? Of course not. The innocent minority’s right to autonomy is more important than any gain in social utility.

Here’s another famous example: Suppose the only way to save five dying people would be for a transplant surgeon to kill an innocent person and distribute his organs among the five. Assuming that the numbers would yield a net “positive” result, would it be justifiable for him to do that? Again, absolutely not. The innocent person’s right to life resists the appeal to the “greater good.”

So just because something “makes sense” from a numbers perspective does not mean that it is morally permissible.

Now, whenever I bring up these examples in the classroom, one response I inevitably get is that these scenarios are “dumb” because they “would never happen!” Maybe they won’t, but that misses the point completely. What these examples show is that there are certain things that are more important than cost-benefit analyses. The extreme nature of these scenarios just serves to make them appear more evident.

Rights Trump Utility

Where am I going with all this? Well, the takeaway from these examples is that natural rights are not things that depend on the balance of social utility, nor can they be overridden simply because there is a greater good at stake.

To see why, ask yourself this question: Why do you have the right to life? Is it because of what you can contribute to society? No. Your right to life isn’t dependent on your ability to perform to a certain level or produce social utility. You don’t work to “earn” the right to life, nor is it given to you based on merit. Rather, it is a natural right that everyone has simply by virtue of having a human nature.

Morality is fundamentally about living well, but that is impossible if the interests of the individual can be smothered by the interests of others.

Morality is fundamentally about living well, but that is impossible if the interests of the individual can be smothered by the interests of others. For that reason, rights exist as shields that protect the goods we need in order to flourish as we should. They impose obligations on others to respect them. By their very nature, rights are bulwarks against utility.

The Rights to Life, Self-Defense, and Arms Are a Package Deal

Let’s pivot back to the right to life. The right to life is our most fundamental right. It is the right on which all other rights depend. Rights to bodily autonomy, free speech, and other goods are meaningless if the person attached to these rights is dead. Maybe some rights can yield to sufficiently weighty concerns, but the right to life does not seem to be one of those rights.

We also saw earlier that the right to life isn’t dependent on whether respecting your life would yield the best set of consequences. It is absolute and unrelenting, even if it would be more beneficial to violate it. It would be wrong for a surgeon to override your right to life in order to harvest your organs to save five people, even if in doing so he produces a more beneficial outcome overall. It would be wrong for me to deliberately push an innocent man in front of a speeding train even if that man’s death resulted in ten lives being saved.

So, the right to life has fundamental weight that cannot be overridden or defeated by any other right or social utility. But the same must also be true of the right of self-defense: Since the goal of self-defense is to protect life, the right of self-defense must extend to all cases that the right to life extends to. Hence, the right of self-defense must have equivalent strength and scope to the right to life. Indeed, since the right of self-defense is just part of the right to life, it must share in its strength.

Are there any other related rights that also share in the strength of the right to life? Yes. Note that the right of self-defense is the right to forcefully repel a threat against one’s self. But I cannot use force to repel an attack without using some means of force, whether it be a stick, baseball bat, or even just my arms and legs. Exercising self-defense requires that I do something, but in order to do something, I must first possess some means of doing so. So if I possess the right of self-defense, I must also possess the right to some means of defense.

Since the right to life includes the right to self-defense, which includes the right to bear arms, the right to life must include the right to bear arms.

This is just another way of saying that I must possess the right to bear arms as a necessary component of the right of self-defense. Since the right to life includes the right to self-defense, which includes the right to bear arms, the right to life must include the right to bear arms.

Hence, the right to bear arms is ultimately a natural extension of the right to life. The rights to life, self-defense, and arms are a package deal. If you have one, you have all of them. If you lack one, you lack all of them. They all possess equal strength and scope.

Self-Defense and Gun Ownership

The connection to gun ownership should be obvious: Guns are accessible, effective, and proportionate means of self-defense. The right to own a gun is therefore simply an extension of the right to life.

While the right to own a gun is not itself a natural right (after all, guns are things that we invented), its role in safeguarding our most fundamental natural right means that it shares in its strength and scope. Since the right to life is utility-resistant, so is the right to own a gun.

Even if permissive gun ownership increased average crime rates, it would not weaken the right one bit.

Therein lies the basis for gun ownership: It is about the right of each individual to have a reasonable means of fending off a deadly threat (whether it be against a criminal or a rogue government). Whatever effects guns have on average safety or average crime rates (whether positive or negative) is secondary. Even if permissive gun ownership increased average crime, it would not weaken the right one bit.

Again, I think the best statistical evidence shows that guns are, in fact, a force for good. Moreover, there is a sense in which statistics do play an important part in arguing for gun rights. There’s also admittedly a degree of simplicity or convenience in just trotting out the numbers versus an extended discourse on the nature of rights.

All that being said, the ultimate foundation for gun rights is not, has never been, and cannot ever be statistics. We can use statistics to strengthen our case for gun rights, but they cannot be the pillar on which it all rests.





LIBERTY HAS NO EXPIRATION DATE

Democrats wouldn't buy a clue if it was government subsidized.





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