Should We Get Rid of Guns?
You will not be surprised to learn that my answer is no, but what I’d like to discuss in this week’s column is an argument by an eminent philosopher that we should. Robert Hanna is an authority on Kant (Objectivist readers will already see trouble ahead), and in an article published online this month, “Gun Crazy: A Moral Argument for Gun Abolitionism,” he calls for the repeal of the Second Amendment.
He presents his argument for gun abolitionism in two versions, short and long, and oddly the key premises of the short argument are ones that most readers of the Mises page will accept: “1. Coercion is forcing people to do things, by using violence or the threat of violence. 2. Coercion is always rationally unjustified and immoral, because it treats people as instruments and mere things, and directly violates their human dignity.”
You might wonder, “How could you possibly derive support for gun abolitionism from these premises? Hanna has restated the nonaggression principle, and isn’t the right to self-defense, including the right to own guns, an implication of that principle?” If you ask this question, you have failed to notice something, and the fault is not yours. Hanna’s second premise differs crucially from the nonaggression principle, in a way that is so implausible it’s easy to overlook. Unlike the NAP, the second premise does not say that coercion is unjustified, except in response to aggression, or, better phrased, that use of force or threat of force to resist aggression isn’t coercion at all. It says that coercion is always wrong, and this includes the use or threat of violence to repel force initiated against you. From this premise, the argument proceeds apace: the main purpose of guns is coercion and guns are involved in an enormous
Article from Mises Wire