Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Instrumentalist Theory of Gun Control

I have been re-reading passages from Jeff Snyder's A Nation of Cowards and was struck again by the power of this writer's ability to get to the heart of matters. He starts of the book with an exposition of what he calls the "Instrumental Theory of Gun Control" and then very precisely shows the self contradictory nature of this argument.  Besides being self contradictory, the instrumental theory often criminalizes behaviors that are not in themselves criminal in order to prevent another type of crime.  So for instance, possession of guns defined as so called "assault weapons" is banned, even though such possession is in and of itself not criminal, in order to prevent mass shootings from occurring.  In so doing, legislators ban millions of people from possessing such weapons, while only a very few are prevented from carrying out their crimes.  Moreover, the millions so prevented resent the law, because they know the statistics, and respect for the law decreases. 

Most gun control proponents make statements, depending on the latest excuse for blood dancing in the news, like the following:

"Guns are killing our children daily on the streets of (name a city). We must get guns off the streets."

Or it might be the discredited theory offered by Kellerman : "A gun in the home is 43 times more likely to be used for a suicide,accidental gunshot death or a criminal homicide than to kill a criminal intruder is self defense. We must keep guns out of the wrong hands, and that means (name the latest gun control target such as universal background checks, or closing the gun show "loophole" or an assault weapon ban)."

As I say, they vary, but most follow a similar logic. Notice that it is the gun that seems to just jump up and start shooting on its own. It is as if the gun were given animating powers and a mind of its own. It is the gun that commits the suicide, or accidentally kills innocents, or criminally commits homicide, and it is the gun that refuses to kill the criminal intruder.  How perverse these instruments must be.  In framing the argument in this manner, gun grabbers absolve the criminal, and instead blame the tool that he used. But, as Snyder writes:

"We now arrive at the critical paradox of instrumentalism. In its gun control variation, its end point is to pass a law eliminating, or restriction access to the gun; that way lies salvation. But the act of passing and complying with a law, and the very notion of law itself, assumes that men are free, that is have the capacity to conform their behavior to a self-given rule of conduct. Instrumentalism thus leads always to the contradiction that men whose conduct is supposed determined by the power exercised by extremal factors (in this case the presence of the gun), and so who are not free and therefore cannot be responsible for the events which befall them (in this case experiencing a homicide in the home), propose to exercise a freedom they supposedly do not have by legislating to themselves a rule that, if adhered to (that is by exercising a capacity for responsibility they supposedly do not have), will free them from consequences just posited as beyond their control."

Well, if the instrumental theory of gun control has such flaws, then why make them?  Why subject yourself to such rhetorical abuse?  And why concentrate on gun violence to the exclusion of knife violence, blunt force trauma, beatings, or strangulation?  Is being shot with a gun somehow worse than these other ways of killing?  Would a woman being raped feel better about the fact if she were stabbed rather than being shot with a gun?  I think the reason for the language used, and the reason for the concentration on gun violence to the exclusion of all other violence is because of hate.  As Kurt Schlicter noted in a recent column entitled Dems Shoot Themselves in the Foot again on Guns published 05/13/1013 in

This isn’t about dead children. If saving kids was their real motivation, liberals would have long ago allowed the police to end the daily slaughter in Democrat-owned war zones like Chicago, Detroit and Washington, D.C. No, this campaign is driven by elitist hatred for regular Americans who refuse to bend to their will, who defiantly live life on their own terms, and who stubbornly resist accepting the moral supremacy of the urban liberals who would rule them.

They want to show us who is boss, to put us in our place, to take away the proud symbols of – and the tools that protect – our independence for one reason and one reason only. They want to show that they can. They want to demonstrate that what rights we have come not from our maker but from them, to be granted or withdrawn as they please.

President Obama and his family go about their daily lives surrounded by the Secret Service, the Praetorian Guard of the White House, as do Vice President Biden. Michael Bloomberg has his armed police escort that even follows him to anti-gun overseas vacation spots. Senator Feinstein has a permit to carry her concealed handgun. Obviously these Progressives think their own hides are worth saving, but they also obviously have contempt for the lives of ordinary Americans. In a government that is working properly as the servant of the People, such a thing would be unheard of.  In a government that considers its citizens as such, instead of subjects to be taxed and squeezed while they are useful, then tossed away as soon as they are not, the opinions of the people would be considered in all things undertaken by the government.  Instead, we have unpopular programs foisted on us against our will, while the politicians who voted for these laws claim not to know what's in them.  And nobody is worried about being voted out of office.

Perhaps its true then, that we have become a nation of cowards.

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