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It’s not about numbers!

June 2, 2019

How many people in the US are killed with firearms every year? Of those, how many are suicides? How many are homicides? Of the homicides, how many are murder? How many are lawful self-defense? How many are committed by law enforcement? How many are committed by non-LEOs? How many are truly “accidents?” How many homicides are the result of, or are associated with, other criminal activity?

These are the things over which many gun control advocates and advocates of the right to keep and bear arms, argue. Allow me to suggest something you may not have considered. It may be something you find odd or even disturbing.

The numbers don’t matter.

Okay, that’s not quite true. There is a set of circumstances under which the numbers matter. In fact, under this set of circumstances they matter a great deal. If you believe liberty is properly subject to the calculus of social utility, then the numbers not only matter a great deal, they are, in the final analysis, the only thing that matters. This belief gets expressed in different ways.

  • “Does the right to keep and bear arms outweigh its cost?”
  • “What’s the benefit of the right to keep and bear arms?”
  • “Is the right worth this (insert number of choice)?”
  • “We need to balance the right with the cost.”

All of those are the same basic argument; liberty should carry water for social utility. People can (and people have) made the same argument regarding other rights. They all seek to make liberty subject to and dependent upon utility. Thus, depending on what the numbers actually are, people (real, individual people, not some conglomerate) are permitted to exercise a right without interference, or (again, depending on the numbers) with ever-increasing restrictions up to and including denial of the right. By the way, it is largely authoritarians and those who are accepting of authoritarianism who argue for this position.

On the other hand…

If you believe liberty is not properly subject to the calculus of social utility. If you believe liberty is both its own benefit and its own justification, then the numbers don’t matter. Try to understand. I’m not saying harm to people (again, real individuals, not some conglomerate) does not matter. It does matter and it matters a great deal. I’m saying that ultimately, at least in terms of what we have experienced here in the US (I try to avoid much commentary on other countries’ experiences), liberty* matters more.

It’s not really about numbers, then, is it? It’s about something far more basic, more fundamental. It’s about how we view liberty. It’s about how we view the relationship between people and government. It’s about how we view the relationships between individuals. It’s about freedom**.

*NOTE: Historically, the American definition of liberty can be expressed as “you can do whatever you want, up to the point that your actions infringe upon the rights of another.” I make this point because there is a tendency among some who see a need for (further) restrictions of liberty to argue that I and others want to be able to do whatever we want, even if it harms others. This is not only inaccurate, it is a lie. I don’t know about you, but I was taught, even as a child, that lying is bad.

**Why, then, would those who insist they are arguing about and for a fundamental right which is inherent in one’s being human, argue about numbers? Why would you tacitly accept a premise which is, by its very nature, opposed to the thing you seek to defend? Why cede such important territory to one’s opponents?

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6 Comments
  1. OldNFO permalink

    But to the left, it ALWAYS is the numbers, ‘you’ killed this many people with your ‘legal’ guns… As if they could magically make those go away, we’d have utopia. They never compare the number of gun deaths with the numbers of people killed by drunk drivers, doctors, or, God forbid, abortions. It’s selective ‘blindness’, and we let them get away with it.

    • No. To Left it’s always about their narrative, not numbers – though they’ll “mis-cite” numbers all day long to bolster their narrative.

  2. Hehe. But numbers are so useful and fun. One need only apply utility to the Black Question to play that game. After all, judged solely by numbers and utility, the Blacks by and large have no privilege of liberty since their use thereof since it was handed to them – soaked in the blood of 500K Whites – has not served society well at all. 😉

    And please! The above is just an example of applying utility and numbers – since there’s a direct and huge corrolary between Black liberty and firearm-involved deaths, especially actual homicides – to something near and dear to the gun grabbers.

    • It is absolutely essential, I think, that we (people in general) not allow ourselves to be blinded by the sheer weight of numbers. The search for what those numbers tell us, in context, can be tedious. It’s also overwhelmingly important.

      • OldNFO permalink

        Ah, the key word ‘search’… Most today will not, they want the 30 second sound bite, or the 200 word article. Research is for peons.

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