Tuesday, September 7, 2010

One more word on the Gun-registry. . . . .

Like many bloggers, I have written a number of things and received a number of irate comments (some too offensive to publish) from readers. The thrust of the comments, like the lion's share of conservative blogs, which oppose the gun registry have concentrated their focus on one basic argument, to wit; they claim that there is not enough evidence that the gun registry is adequately useful or effective in the reduction or control of gun violence. Now I have returned what is also a fairly simple argument which essentially runs that such controls on guns can only be seen, like most legal efforts, against the backdrop of a much wider campaign to control guns in society and the real effect of the gun registry is only meaningful if it is one part of an overall normative effort to gradually end gun violence. I have furthered this argument with the simple corollary demonstration that countries with greater level of gun registration and control have, overall, lower levels of gun violence. This is the type of argument made by sociologists like Jurgen Habermas, that laws are part of a normative, rather than a empirical discourse, and their effectiveness can seldom be demonstrated in isolation.

Anyway, the funny point of all of this is that while the anti-gun registry folks have been quite keen to talk about empirical data about effectiveness or lack thereof, I still have not heard a real argument concerning why, in a society where we register everything from cars to dogs, registering a machine, the primary function of which is to kill, is such a huge problem. What are these terrible hardships that these anonymous ranchers and farmers are suffering by being compelled to register guns? A few dollars? Having to fill in a form? You see, if lack of effectiveness were the only issue, it wouldn't be a problem. However, we are now being exposed to an ever increasing number of rather rabid gun owners who rant on about how terrible it is that they are being asked to register guns, what a hardship it is, how significant a violation of their human rights it is. Yet I have never heard a single, not one mind you, how this is so. Every time I have to reregister my car with the province, I think it is a big drag. But I can't ague that it is a terrible violation of my human rights, because it isn't and it would be entirely disingenuous for me to say that is was. Thus, since in the big picture the gun-registry is not that expensive to run I think even if it were only effective in avoiding one gun crime that it has paid for itself. And since I have heard no single argument why its existence is so terrible, I think it is pretty straightforward.


Ian said...

The default position in a "free" society should not be for the government to automatically be able to force you to do anything. All actions and laws of the state bear the burden of justification, not the other way around.

Should I force you to register your shoes? Or how about how many people of Jewish decent live in your house?

I'm no libertarian, but senseless laws for the sake of it are just that.

That being said, I think the sensible position is what Layton and the NDP have staked out - that is, "let's work together to take something that is a good idea in spirit, and work to fix it so that it addresses the various concerns and also makes it more effective." And at the same time, let anyone who's constituents feel strongly for or against it, voice their opinion. Your MP is your voice in Ottawa, they should never be whipped.

kirbycairo said...

Again Ian this fails entirely and dramatically. I can't kill anyone with my shoes, can you? A senseless law would be to compel people to do something such as registers their shoes. Your abstraction of "the burden of justification" is a blatantly moving target. I have met many educated people (a couple of sociology professors) that don't think the criminalization of murder is "justified." Many many more people don't believe income taxes are justified. Compelling the registering guns is justified based on the very simple fact that they can be used to kill, I think that is pretty simple. But either way, your argument fails to account for the manner in which compelling people to register guns is a terrible violation of human rights. I can understand that you think it doesn't adhere to a certain "burden of justification" but many vocal gun owners are making a much stronger claim than that - saying that their rights are being badly violated. I have yet to hear a single justification for this argument.

Nice try though.

Anonymous said...

In many ways a gun is like a car. In many ways not.

If you own a car, you don't have to register it. You can even drive it around on your own property. If you lock up your car, park it in your yard, and throw away the keys you need never register it again.

In these ways, a gun - under the gun registry - is not like a car.

If you need to drive your registered car across town, you can get in your car and go. If you want to move your registered firearm across town, you have to file a report with the police department.

Of course, it is easy for police to identify an unregistered car from its plates as it drives down the road. But discovering an unregistered firearm, well that's pretty hard.

Also, in spite of the fact that there are millions of legal guns in Canada, only a few dozen cause deaths. But car accidents account for many, many more deaths than firearms.

kirbycairo said...

Dear Anonymous - Though you failed to make your point clear I am pursuing that your argument here is that a motor-vehicle only needs to be registered when it becomes a 'social' object. That is to say there is no need to register a motor-vehicle until it leaves your land and begins to interact with society at large and thereby becomes a potential danger to others. This is indeed a fact. However, the comparison to firearms is specious and ineffective. This is because you operate a motor-vehicle from within it rather than without. You don't turn a motor-vehicle on, point it in a direction and then let it go. I promise that if motor-vehicles did operate this way society would demand that all such vehicles be registered whether you used them on the road or not. On the other hand, if you discharge a firearm from almost anywhere, it is a potential danger to others for several miles around. The farmer whose property abuts mine here in rural ottawa could discharge his long gun and kill my daughter by error. But if he owned an unregistered motor-vehicle and operated it normally there is no danger to me or my family. Ergo, your comparison simply is not meaningful. This does not, of course, settle the issue of registering long-guns, but it does establish that your comparison holds no water based upon the way in which the two objects are intended to function. In other words, because of the very nature of fire-arms they are inherently 'social' in nature in a way that most other objects are not.