Re: public safety laws (Re: guns (Re: Cell phones of death!))

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From: Jeff Bone (
Date: Wed Dec 20 2000 - 15:18:56 PST

Matt Jensen wrote:

> No, most gun control laws *are* about public safety. Regardless of their
> effectiveness, they are intended to reduce crime, reduce accidents, and
> reduce the level of violence that can stem from heated moments.

Sure, that's the *intent.* Let's look at the effect: gun control laws
actually *increase* crime; they don't prevent criminals from obtaining guns
through illegal channels, they merely increase the hassle on the part of
law-abiding citizens who want to obtain guns for whatever reason. Oh, and
they increase waste of tax dollars through increased bureaucratic overhead.
Do they reduce accidents? Only if they prevent someone from obtaining a gun
through lawful channels which might subsequently have been involved in an
accident, and that's not a safe assumption. As for reducing the violence in
crimes of passion, well, personally I'd rather risk a .22 gunshot wound in the
shoulder rather than having an enraged ex-lover chop my wanky off with a steak
knife while I sleep. More to the point: which is more violent, a single
gunshot wound which might or might not prove fatal or your typical "she just
went nuts, stabbed him 147 times" type of crime? I'm not even sure the
question is meaningful, but the latter is at least much more gruesome.

When I was in high school, my girlfriend's little brother (age 13, IIRC) was
killed in an accidental shooting when he and a buddy were playing with the
buddy's dad's handgun. So I'll grant you, gun *safety* is very, very
important. If I remember my factoids correctly, you're something like 10x
more likely to be killed by gunshot if you own a gun than if you don't. Those
two things --- personal experience and cold statistics --- are enough for me
to make my decision: I don't currently own a gun. OTOH, like *EVERYTHING
ELSE,* there's just no point in trying to regulate the supply side of the
equation. Where there's demand, there will be suppliers willing --- legally
or illegally --- to fill it. Gun control laws serve no purpose. What we need
are MUCH, MUCH stricter penalties and tort for cases like my ex's brother;
IMO, the owner of the gun in question should've been tried for negligent

> If you don't have any laws protecting public safety, everything has to be
> argued in tort cases after the damage is done.

And this is bad because... why? Make the punishment stiff enough and you'll
incent self-regulation. Responsibility up front, penalties in the rear (yuk
yuk) --- not paternalistic law.

> Every time there's an
> incident, both sides will rehash the same arguments, call the same expert
> scientific witnesses, waste a lot of money. And little will have been
> done to prevent future incidents.

Again, not necessarily --- or even likely --- true. Serious penalties and
potential liability serve to disincent socially undesirable behavior in most
cases. In those cases where this fails, it's unlikely that any law can
prophylactically prevent unfortunate events.

> Name some public safety laws you're in favor of.


> How about food
> inspection of poultry factories to reduce salmonella outbreaks?

Nope, I just think the penalties should be so onerous as to incent
self-inspection on the part of poultry producers. Put more directly: if I
raise chickens, and I could face hard time in the slam if somebody gets sick
eating one of my birds, you better believe that I'm going to inspect those
things. And I'm going to pass that extra cost along to the consumer, and part
of that's going to go to pay 3rd-party chicken inspectors, etc. etc. A
virtuous cycle, with better / cleaner production environments, higher quality
food, more (and competitive) employment, new businesses, etc. OTOH, with
regulation in the name of "public health" we get ineffective inspections,
publically funded, that cost much more than they would if there were a
competitive market, and the net result is that most chicken in your grocer's
meat counter has salmonella anyway.

> Then,
> tell me why your rule of thumb shouldn't apply:

Well, you're jumping to the conclusion that I, being a reasonable person,
would agree with your assumption. I don't, and I think that's a reasonable
response, too --- indeed, more reasonable than assuming laws can
prophylactically prevent anything at all.

> E.g., 'Stop the coercive tyranny against poultry factory owners. If you
> get sick or your son dies, you can always take the factory owners to
> court.'

Sounds reasonable to me.


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