Really enjoyed this on-line conversation between Jeffrey Goldberg, author of the recent article, “The case for more guns and more gun control” and fellow Atlantic blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates (TNC). Not surprisingly, I thought TNC got the better of the exchange. Goldberg kept on asking whether TNC would want to be armed or not if there was a crazed killer about, but TNC adeptly argued that this is not the question we should be discussing (i.e., it’s just as misleading as always trying to put torture in the ticking time-bomb scenario). I especially liked this exchange where he put the scenario into the cost-benefit of what it means to carry a gun on a regular basis:
It is not enough to have a gun, anymore than it’s enough to have a baby. It’s a responsibility. I would have to orient myself to that fact. I’d have to be trained and I would have to, with some regularity, keep up my shooting skills. I would have to think about the weight I carried on my hip and think about how people might respond to me should they happen to notice. I would have to think about the cops and how I would interact with them, should we come into contact. I’d have to think about my own anger issues and remember that I can never be an position where I have a rage black-out. What I am saying is, if I were gun-owner, I would feel it to be really important that I be a responsible gun-owner, just like, when our kids were born, we both felt the need to be responsible parents. The difference is I like “living” as a parent. I accept the responsibility and rewards of parenting. I don’t really want the responsibilities and rewards of gun-ownership. I guess I’d rather work on my swimming. And I think, given the concentration of guns in a smaller and smaller number of hands, there’s some evidence that society agrees…
[JG] … We’ll get to the other questions later, but this is important: In the situation I just described above, would you rather have a gun, or rather not?
TNC: The crucial difference is that I don’t accept the premise. In other words, if I have “have a gun” in that situation, other things are then also true of my life. In other words, there is no “me” as I am right now that would have a gun. That “me” would spend a good amount time being responsible for his weapon.It’s not so much a situation that, if I were with you and we were facing down a crazy dude, I wouldn’t want to have a gun. It’s that I’ve already made choices that guarantee that I couldn’t have one. It just isn’t possible, given my life choices. I’d much rather work toward a world where the psychotic shooter is actually a psychotic knifer, or a psychotic clubber [emphasis mine]…
I guess my point is, I have a hard time with a construction of violence that begins and ends in the moment of violent confrontation. My belief is that an intelligent self-defense begins long before that dude with the AR-15 in hand appears. If we’re down to me licking off shots, then we are truly lost. And I say that as a dude with a huge poster of Malcolm X on his wall.
Goldberg certainly makes about the best case I’ve heard for more guns as he’s not at all an NRA gun-nut. He’s trying to look at things pragmatically– including America’s current legal regime and gun culture– and come to the conclusion that the best solution is not only more gun control, but also more guns. It’s not entirely unreasonable. That said, I do think the argument that this is really not the kind of society that we want to live i
n and really is more compelling.