Open Source Defense

How to be “Mathematically Pro-Gun” Without Mentioning “Rights”

BJ Campbell
May 13, 2019   |   5 minute read

The problem with “rights based” arguments, quite honestly, is they go nowhere, because of what government is. Government, at its root, is an exchange of some amount of liberty for some amount of security. It’s a grand bargain. Some governments take more of your liberty, and grant you more security in exchange. Some take more and grant you less security. Some leave you more liberty and grant you less security. Some leave you with a lot of both. And every argument about every government policy can, at its root, be boiled down to an exchange of some amount of liberty for some amount of security. That’s what a law is.

Think about stop lights.

Were it not for the government, I would have the liberty to drive right ass through that annoying stoplight. I yield that liberty, and a bunch of other people yield similar liberties, and in return I have less of a chance that some lady in a Buick is going to cream me in the intersection. This is a trade I’m willing to make, and it’s unfortunately just dumb luck that I did, in fact, get creamed and hospitalized when I was 18 by a lady in a Buick who didn’t know the stoplight rules.

So there’s a (Liberty) <> (Security) continuum, like a line graph, on which everyone falls. Different people fall at different places on this line graph, owing to nothing more than their own personality traits, which are probably inherited genetically, and probably have some biological basis.


Further, different people might fall on different spots of the graph depending on the specific policy being discussed, or the overall topic, or such, which usually goes back to how they were indoctrinated as kids. This is the path that gun arguments almost always take, when they focus on rights. Two interlocutors spend an hour arguing until both are blue in the face, and it ends with someone yelling “BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS” while another yells “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED,” and they both come to the very unprofound realization that they are simply on different spots of that graph. There is no further common ground to be had. And the freakoutery engine spins again, the media makes their traffic money from their click-bait article, and things in the country continue to become more unpleasant.

This underlying understanding, of trading liberty for security, rides just under the surface of every argument about government policy. But in some cases, it’s a false argument, because the liberty you’d be trading wouldn’t get you any more security anyway. Which means it’s dumb to even bring up ‘rights’ at all. Guns, in my opinion, are a prime example of one of these spaces. That’s why I get frustrated to no end when people fall into the trap of arguing about gun rights. Not only is arguing about gun rights destined to be unfruitful, It’s not actually necessary at all. I’ll show you.

One: Get them to clearly define the problem.

Is the problem “murders?” If so, we’re smack in a decade long lull in murders, the likes of which we have only seen once in the last century of the United States. We are as safe from murder today as we have ever been, realistically speaking.

Is the problem “gun deaths?” If so, then gun deaths are two thirds suicides, and seven eights of those are men, which means the gun death’s problem is actually nothing more than a men’s health problem, and should be treated as such.

Is the problem “mass shooters?” If so, why? They’re fabulously rare. You’re more likely to get killed by an errant lightning strike. “School shooters” are even more rare.

Is the problem “AR-15s?” If so, why? Rifles of all kinds are responsible for less than 1% of gun deaths, so “getting rid of them” (somehow) won’t address any significant issue.

Two: Get them to show how their solution will solve the problem they identify.

You want to ban AR-15s to stop school shootings? No school shooter is sitting around in his basement thinking, “you know, I’d like to commit mass murder today, but since I only have this Glock 19 I guess I’ll just play Mario Kart.” And in fact, magically evaporating (somehow) all AR-15s would probably just funnel school shooters into more effective weapons. Like pistols.

You want to run a gun buyback? Why? There’s no bivariate correlation between gun ownership rate and gun homicide rate. There is a weak multivariate correlation, but we already have so many guns here that you’d be buying $61 million worth of guns per single life saved. Probably fewer, because you’d just be getting the trash guns nobody wants anymore, or the guns in grandma’s attic, none of which were going to be used in a murder anyway. You wouldn’t get any criminal’s guns. To get us down to a gun ownership level where scarcity of guns actually matters, you’d need to go whole hog, and get us down to UK levels of ownership. We could buy eight moon bases for that cost, presuming everyone would give their guns up, which they won’t.

You want to use the army to seize the guns? You do realize, don’t you, that they might refuse? Authoritarian gun seizure is probably the most likely policy to spark a second civil war, and the game theory on that, no matter who sparks it, no matter how it plays, ends with the red tribe winning. Unsurprisingly, because they have the guns.

The vast majority of “common sense” gun reforms don’t prevent any crime at all, and are only being brewed up as a way to make gun ownership more of a pain in the rear. For any of these other policy suggestions, just ask your interlocutor how many people they think the policy will save. Any objective analysis is probably zero or near it.

And so on.

Purely by focusing on clearly defining the problem, tying that problem to reality, and then asking them to explain how their policy would solve that problem, every gun control proposal I’ve seen from the anti-gun collective falls completely flat. None of them work.

You don’t need to talk about “rights” at all. Just use math.

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