Background: Some people like guns. They argue that guns can be used to deter or prevent crime. Some people don’t like guns. They argue that making guns widely-available makes it easier for people to be killed.

Assumption: Using a fast-acting tranquilizer, we can build a device that can be shot at a person to make them quickly go unconscious.

Proposal: We replace all guns with this thing. (Also assume that we can do this.)

Analysis: This would seem to protect all the good effects of guns (criminals can be prevented from committing crimes) without most of their bad effects (it’s a lot harder to kill people).

Let’s look at a variety of scenarios. There are some that the proposal makes better:

A child or bad guy manages to get ahold of a gun and starts shooting it wildly. Before: people die. After: people are knocked out for a while.

Someone tries to commit a crime. Before: the criminal either gets wounded or runs away. After: you tranq the criminal and call the police to pick him up.

Someone, because of a temporary loss of judgement, tries to commit suicide. Before: they blow their brains out. After: they have to find some other way. (Let’s assume that if we think well-reasoned suicide is good, reasoned-suiciders can find another way to do it.)

So here’s my question: Are there scenarios where adopting the proposal would make things worse? What are they? (Email me.)

posted October 02, 2003 09:07 PM (Politics) #


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Aaron Swartz (