Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Gun Control Talk Leads to Gun Sales Argument

For a while there was a cultural/political ritual that went like this: a public museum would decide to have an exhibition on something like the history of porn or blasphemy in the arts, a group would object, and the response would be a) censorship! and b) don’t you realize you idiot that you’re only drawing more attention to the art you object to? In short, the gist of the counter-argument was that whatever outrage we can conjure up should be accepted in silence.

The same argument is now being trotted out in support of the second amendment in reaction to calls for stricter gun control. The Progressive argument for gun control is leading to increased NRA membership and gun sales. As in the earlier battle of the arts, I don’t find this line of argument particularly convincing.

In the first place, the criteria of practicality is misplaced. On a simple cost-benefit analysis this blog, like most things I do, is a huge waste of time. We all, well most of us, know that in arguing with friends we aren’t going to change anyone’s mind and we may very well make them angry. We do it anyway, because in truth most of us have opinions and we so no reason why we shouldn’t express them.

But if we accept practicality as THE criteria the argument still mostly falls apart on the dimension of time. We start running and get all sore and miserable so that we’ll get in shape and feel better on some future day. In business, first are the cash outflows, later—we hope—the cash inflows. We object to Piss Christ in order to gather followers with an eye to the next exhibition. Jonah Goldberg put the matter rather well in response to the same argument at the start of the Iraq War, part 2:

“If my backyard is festooned with hornet nests, I will likely be safer from a sting on any given day if I do nothing than I will be on the day or days I begin destroying them. Since when is any large, important, task required to show positive results at every stage?”

That, I say, is a good point.
Mind you, none of the above should be taken as taking the side of gun control or still less for gun confiscation. To my mind the second amendment defenders have the better of the argument. But I have an impractical need to object to an argument I find mostly irrelevant.

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