Two Different Kinds of Logic

By Cyberquill 07/21/20127 Comments

Several factors must conspire in order to maximize casualties during mass shootings like the most recent one at the Batman movie:

  1. Some crazy person must have a gun.
  2. That crazy person must be the only one that has a gun.

If the targets were armed as well, chances are the perpetrator would himself take a slug in the forehead before he could get off as many rounds as he had planned. But other than a bullet, who or what is supposed to stop a homicidal nut from firing into an unarmed crowd until he loses interest or runs out of ammo?

Ideally, of course, homicidal nuts shouldn’t have guns to begin with. How to prevent these people from obtaining firearms is the $64,000 question—to relax or tighten existing gun control legislation? Would it make a difference either way?

It continues to puzzle me that proponents of drug legalization tend to favor tougher gun control laws as if, every now and then, common sense demanded the arbitrary application of conflicting types of logic. So a person most likely to argue that drug laws are ineffective because (a) all Experience hath shewn these laws appear to neither curb the ubiquity of recreational drugs nor prevent anyone who wants to get fried from obtaining whatever substances they desire, and (b) banning drugs only drives the drug trade underground, thus giving rise to a black market and all its attendant problems, is most likely to turn this logic on its head when it comes to firearms, suddenly arguing that making it more difficult to procure guns legally will indeed curtail their prevalence and do so without spawning a black market in direct proportion to the decreased availability of guns via legal channels.

So which is it? Assuming there exists a strong demand for certain products—sadly, drugs as well as guns enjoy exceptional popularity; especially, I would hazard to conjecture, among the emotionally unstable—do tougher laws (a) work or (b) not work in terms of keeping these products out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them? By what mechanism exactly would tougher gun control laws reduce the availability of guns, given that even the most draconian anti-drug laws seemingly fail to combat the availability of drugs to any meaningful degree?

And why would tougher gun control laws not result in a corresponding uptick of illegal firearms flooding across U.S. borders—the very borders, incidentally, that those who favor drug legalization generally don’t wish to see policed as heavily as conservative opponents to drug legalization do?

Whether one deems tougher legislation effective or not, it makes little sense to apply two diametrically opposed kinds of logic depending on whether the product in question happens to be a Glock or vial of Cocaine.

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  • Richard

    You say this dichotomy is unjustified because there is no difference in kind between using drugs and using a gun.

    Yet an arguable case can be made in principle for legalising self-harm, far less so for harming others. The confusion arises from associating using drugs with self-harm and using a gun with harming others.

    The effectiveness of a law is a wider and more difficult question. Few, presumably, would argue that legalising theft would result in a reduction in the practice of taking and carrying away the goods of the owner without their consent so as permanently to deprive them.

    Responsibility for ones actions is yet another consideration.

    • Cyberquill

      Few may argue that legalizing theft would result in a reduction of theft, but many do, in fact, argue that the availability of drugs is unrelated to their legality, yet then these same people often also argue that the availability of firearms is very much related to how legal they are. Given these people’s dismissal of drug control laws as utterly ineffective, I’m simply curious as to the provenance of their confidence in the efficacy of gun control laws. 

      Although I don’t recall addressing the differences or similarities in kind between drugs and guns other than in terms of their availability, I do happen to consider the “self-harm only” argument  when it comes to intoxication a myth (unless, of course, the junkie lives on an island all by him- or herself). Intoxicated individuals present a hazard not only to themselves and their families (their children in particular), but, given the widespread presence of dangerous objects like weapons and motor vehicles that become infinitely more dangerous in the hands of the tripping and the plastered, to society at large; not to mention the additional health care costs imposed upon the system by self-destructive behaviors of any kind, which all of us will have to pay for in the end.

      • Ann Ominous

        You are then, of course, in full support of re-introducing prohibition, correct?

        • Cyberquill

          I’m neither in full nor empty support of anything. My point is simply that when it comes to the question of controlling or outlawing dangerous commodities, one should pick one kind of logic and stick with it: either that tighter regulation or all-out bans effectively reduce the damage such commodities  inflict upon society, or that such measures do not.  

          When it comes to intoxicating substances, for instance, what we have now is an oddly selective form of prohibition where one major recreational drug (alcohol) is conspicuously exempt. 

          So whichever way one may swing on the prohibition scale, prohibiting some killer substances but not others makes little sense.

          • Ann_Onymous

            Fair enough. Stated that way, your position does make more sense, but I would say that it also underscores the rebuttals, which are targeted not against that particular logic but against the logic of comparing smoking marijuana to the use of guns and of theft. In that regard, I agree with the rebuttals, and allow me to explain why.
            By default, both of these activities (theft and gun usage) require the infliction of harm on another individual (to clarify, the usage of guns in this discussion is solely in the context of that of homicidal maniacs), whereas the use of marijuana can, without question, be conducted in such a way that, at most, harms only the individual participant. There are most definitely instances in which this usage can harm others, and certainly an increase in social expenses carried by non-participants is unfair, but I would also say that illegalizing activities that don’t carry any potential negative impact or cost to society would leave us with very little to do.
            All that said, though, I do agree with you that such positions/opinions should carry a logical consistency and I, personally, am in fact opposed to both the criminilization of marijuana (and, more radically, pretty much all drugs, although I understand why many would not agree with me on that point), AND to gun control. In my case, though, my opposition is based entirely on the belief that neither of them can be imposed effectively, and I think that we have more than enough evidence of that on a daily basis than is needed for me to explain my position in that regard, as well as on the belief that since such “preventative” measures cannot be effective, all that is left to us is the imposition of harsher punitive measures when an individual does harm another individual by refusing to accept the personal responsibility that personal freedoms grant him or her. As an example, my take is that we legalize guns, but when an individual commits a crime with a gun, if found guilty that individual serves the maximum penalty with no chance of parole.
            Thanks for the clarification, for me, it made both your initial entry and this discussion for more interesting and worthwhile.

            • Cyberquill

              You’re welcome. All I’m saying is that the efficacy of control legislation of any kind ought to be the sole determining factor in assessing whether or they ought to be enacted, and that in making such assessment one shouldn’t be guided by personal feelings about the individual commodities at issue. 

              Sometimes I get the impression that people personally hate guns, therefore they consider gun control laws to be effective; but they personally don’t mind drugs—perhaps they even like to get stoned, smashed, and blasted themselves from time to time—and therefore they dismiss drug laws as ineffective

              Or vice versa. 

              So whether a person deems legislatively enacted availability restrictions of an item to be effective at  reducing the general availability of that item may, to a somewhat grotesque degree, depend on whether or not that person him- or herself would like to be able to acquire said item legally and without too much hassle. 

  • Testazyk

    I never looked at it that way before.  It gets more complicated all the time.

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