“The ability to inflict evil, or harm, on other people in huge numbers has grown exponentially.”

Unfortunately this is not a problem that we can wish away.

In a opinion worth reading, philosopher Firmin DeBrabander writes:

(in her book The Human Condition, philosopher Hannah Arendt) offers two points that are salient to our thinking about guns: for one, they insert a hierarchy of some kind, but fundamental nonetheless, and thereby undermine equality. But furthermore, guns pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name — that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.

This becomes clear if only you pry a little more deeply into the N.R.A.’s logic behind an armed society. An armed society is polite, by their thinking, precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening. The suggestion is that guns liberally interspersed throughout society would cause us all to walk gingerly — not make any sudden, unexpected moves — and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.

Nassim Taleb chimes in with his thoughts:

I cannot possibly buy the argument that people need weapons in case the government fails them and democracy breaks down. If the narrative were true, someone over the past 5 years would have taken arms to express frustration with the banking establishment hijacking the political system for self-enrichment –one of the greatest iniquities ever, ever — and other similar lobbyists, instead of using weapons against schoolchildren and college students. The reason we have arms is gun lobby, period.

To repeat the argument against the long peace, a weirdo with a knife can’t go far. Just as I don’t want to be in a plane with an armed gumnan on board, I don’t want weirdos with guns in civil society. Via Negativa: gun control is perhaps one of the very few things the government should do.

Taleb’s argument reminds me of Warren Buffett’s:

you know, thousands of years ago we had psychotics and we had religious fanatics and we had megalomaniacs. But about the most they could do was throw a stone at somebody if they wished evil on them.

Today, since 1945, the ability to inflict evil, or harm, on other people in huge numbers has grown exponentially. And right now there’s the knowledge around to use nuclear material. And we’ve got to hope that the wrong people don’t get their hands on it.

I’ll end with the words of Thomas Jefferson on the progress of the human mind:

I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

Still curious? Read The Media’s Coverage of School Shootings.