Austin American-Statesman columnist writes one of the most reasonable analyses of the tension between the right to keep and bear arms and the interest of society to protect its members. It is well worth a read.
Herman begins by repeating the oft heard mantra that doing something about guns would be worthwhile “even if it saved only one life.” He then points out the obvious that such standard is not a driving force in societal decisions. In the real world there are, there must be, acceptable levels of death. The main example is the carnage wreaked by driving while intoxicated. Even though it’s a recognized problem, and serious one at that, we do not ban, or even seriously restrict, the use of automobiles. We do restrict somewhat the sale and use of alcoholic beverages, legally forbidding their possession by minors, etc., and prescribing increasingly serious punishments for those caught driving under the influence. Banning intoxicating liquors has been tried – and met abject failure. In seeking to minimize misuse, the focus should be on the users, not the object or the substance.
The writer points out there is one way that recent examples of misuse of firearms has been different. Virginia Tech, Aurora, and Sandy Hook all involved numerous lives lost in one fell episode. Herman asks what would happen if all DWI related deaths reported last year occurred in one place on one day? There would be a hue and cry to ban alcohol by quite a few who have the public’s ear, despite the overwhelming majority of people who use alcoholic beverages responsibly. The notorious, if not widespread, misuse of liquor was the principal driving force of Prohibition, and was a key goal of the Progressive movement of a century ago.
Herman concludes with a point that all, or nearly so, of us at least tacitly accept. “What if all of the tobacco related deaths occurred on one day? What if all of the coronary-related deaths attributable to junk food and bad diets occurred on one day? What if we did everything we could that would save one life? What would happen is that we would have a society in which we would not want to live?” Which is precisely what would make the life most precious to each of us not worth living.
For Ken Herman’s column see http://www.statesman.com/news/news/opinion/herman-guns-rights-and-acceptable-levels-of-death/nTjhX/