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Ayn Rand on Gun Control

650 posts in this topic

From Ayn Rand Answers: the Best of Her Q&A, edited by Robert Mayhew © 2005 by The Estate of Ayn Rand.

Q: What is your opinion of gun control laws?

A: I do not know enough about it to have an opinion, except to say that it is not of primary importance. Forbidding guns or registering them is not going to stop criminals from having them; nor is it a great threat to the private, non-criminal citizen if he has to register the fact that he has a gun. It is not an important issue, unless you're ready to begin a private uprising right now, which isn't very practical. [Ford Hall Forum, 1971]

Q: What's your attitude toward gun control?

A: It is a complex, technical issue in the philosophy of law. Handguns are instruments for killing people -- they are not carried for hunting animals -- and you have no right to kill people. You do have the right to self-defense, however. I don't know how the issue is going to be resolved to protect you without giving you the privilege to kill people at whim.

[Ford Hall Forum, 1973]

Well, that was 30 years ago. Here we are in the future. Let's consider it.

in her famous scenario from "The Nature of Government" a man suspects his neighbor of stealing his wallet and each calls their private security force. Clearly, Rand intended that the victim call the police. If he suspects his neighbor, he can say why. The police will investigate. If, based on the evidence, they find reason to carry the case further to prosecution, they will do so. Otherwise, they will continue their investigation. Nothing gives the victim the right to act on his own to recover his property. Thus, apparently, we surrender our right to self-defense, except in the most immediate of circumstances.

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You can personally continue to investigate. Happens all the time. You can hire a PI. You can act in a delimited way to recover your property too--very delimited. A DA, not the police, carries the case forward through a grand jury to any prosecution. Sometimes, if you are robbed, the police will file a report--but not investigate. If you act extra-legally, that's another matter. There may then be a conflict between your rights legally speaking but not morally or the converse. It's legal to shot rustlers at work dead in Nevada. The morality is questionable. Etc.

The key is the right to self defense is not the right to initiate physical force.

--Brant

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Extemporaneous answers to questions shouldn’t be regarded as part of the Ayn Rand corpus, still they’re worth considering.

So, for what it’s worth, what struck me in the first quote (as edited by Mayhew) was Ayn Rand’s remark about private uprisings – uprising as in armed mass uprising. She isn’t against the idea of such an uprising.

Since a militia is an organized uprising, this suggests (though it could be argued it doesn’t quite follow) that she isn’t against the idea of militias.

This is in contrast to Leonard Peikoff, who years ago denounced militias in the strongest terms. He not only denounced bad militias, but all militias, the very idea of a militia. See the long indented quote in

Peikoff on Waco and Militias

about a third of the way down. See also footnote 13.

Regarding gun registration, in some countries which had gun registration it was eventually used to make gun confiscation easy. The worry is that gun registration is a prelude to gun confiscation. (A country with too many stupid, malevolent people just doesn't work.)

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Here is a question: When Dagny shot the guard for not being able to make up his mind, did her gun have a silencer?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Rand seemed to have a fair degree of discomfort in addressing narrlow legal issues head on, thus the references one sees in her writings to "that is subject for the legal philosophers to address", or words to that effect.

I am surprised by Rand's answers above. The issues above do not seem very complicated.

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Here is a question: When Dagny shot the guard for not being able to make up his mind, did her gun have a silencer?

Ba'al Chatzaf

Yes--or the other guards would have been alerted. Note, silencers on revolvers do not work, except in the movies or on TV. You need a semi-automatic pistol.

--Brant

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Rand seemed to have a fair degree of discomfort in addressing narrlow legal issues head on, thus the references one sees in her writings to "that is subject for the legal philosophers to address", or words to that effect.

I am surprised by Rand's answers above. The issues above do not seem very complicated.

Rand attended a lecture on law given by Henry Mark Holzer over 40 years ago. She had 3 x 5 cards on which to take notes. I remember a card, not her writing on it. I sent Holzer a written question which made people laugh when he read it, somewhat to his discomfort, and the audience liked it and Rand laughed and applauded. I can't reconstruct the question and its context well enough to repeat it here, although I once did years ago on an Internet forum if not this one. I once attended a FHF in which the subject was Apollo and Dionysus and she had the audience in stitches and when it was published in The Objectivist I annotated it for those points. I think I wrote about it on the old Atlantis with other examples of her humor which were in those days still somewhat fresh in my mind. I guess that's lost now. However, at that lecture when she related the published story about those at Woodstock passing a slice of watermelon to each other with bites taken out, the audience just laughed and laughed. It was probably the biggest laugh she ever got.

--Brant

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A good article on this issue from Capitalism magazine:

Gun Control and The Right to Self-defense

Adam Mossoff

As stated, the gun control debate should be addressed as a debate over man's rights. A man's right to own a gun is based on his right to self-defense.

Given the prior acceptance of an individual's right to his life and his corollary right to self-defense, the conclusion that weapons should be privately owned follows logically.

Given the principle of self-defense as the moral sanction of owning weapons, one can now distinguish between two general types of weapons: (i) those capable of very limited destruction, and (ii) those capable of mass destruction.

As such, weapons of mass destruction do not meet the requirements for self-defense.

Beyond the modicum of gun control that would naturally exist to keep weapons of mass destruction out of private hands, I do not believe that there even would be consideration of the massive regulations and restrictions we are now faced with today.

But would questions of waiting periods, national registration, or background checks arise in a rational society?... It is the function of the government to define the legal conditions for when self-defense can be invoked as a sanction of the private use of force, as well as to ensure that weapons are not obtained by criminals. In this vein, I think both registration and background checks would be legitimate laws in a rational, free society

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A good article on this issue from Capitalism magazine:

Gun Control and The Right to Self-defense

Adam Mossoff

As stated, the gun control debate should be addressed as a debate over man's rights. A man's right to own a gun is based on his right to self-defense.

Given the prior acceptance of an individual's right to his life and his corollary right to self-defense, the conclusion that weapons should be privately owned follows logically.

Given the principle of self-defense as the moral sanction of owning weapons, one can now distinguish between two general types of weapons: (i) those capable of very limited destruction, and (ii) those capable of mass destruction.

As such, weapons of mass destruction do not meet the requirements for self-defense.

Beyond the modicum of gun control that would naturally exist to keep weapons of mass destruction out of private hands, I do not believe that there even would be consideration of the massive regulations and restrictions we are now faced with today.

But would questions of waiting periods, national registration, or background checks arise in a rational society?... It is the function of the government to define the legal conditions for when self-defense can be invoked as a sanction of the private use of force, as well as to ensure that weapons are not obtained by criminals. In this vein, I think both registration and background checks would be legitimate laws in a rational, free society

This needs a little explication on what is a weapon of "mass destruction." Self defense, after-all, would logically and morally encompass spilling "the blood of tyrants." Regardless, if you have the right to self defense you have the right to defend yourself with something. I suggest minimally a snub-nosed double-action .38 Special, especially for the ladies--with hollow point ammo. Pull the trigger several times in quick succession aiming for center mass. (Don't neglect going to class, guys and gals.) As for registration? No. Registration leads to confiscation. Background checks? The nuts and professional criminals get to arm themselves anyway, so, no.

--Brant

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From Ayn Rand Answers: the Best of Her Q&A, edited by Robert Mayhew © 2005 by The Estate of Ayn Rand.

Q: What is your opinion of gun control laws?

A: I do not know enough about it to have an opinion, except to say that it is not of primary importance. Forbidding guns or registering them is not going to stop criminals from having them; nor is it a great threat to the private, non-criminal citizen if he has to register the fact that he has a gun. It is not an important issue, unless you're ready to begin a private uprising right now, which isn't very practical. [Ford Hall Forum, 1971]

Q: What's your attitude toward gun control?

A: .... Handguns are instruments for killing people -- they are not carried for hunting animals -- and you have no right to kill people. You do have the right to self-defense, however. I don't know how the issue is going to be resolved to protect you without giving you the privilege to kill people at whim.

[Ford Hall Forum, 1973]

Well, that was 30 years ago. Here we are in the future. Let's consider it. .....

Nothing gives the victim the right to act on his own to recover his property. Thus, apparently, we surrender our right to self-defense, except in the most immediate of circumstances.

Well reasoned Michael, and Amen Ayn.

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As for registration? No. Registration leads to confiscation. Background checks? The nuts and professional criminals get to arm themselves anyway, so, no.

--Brant

“Registration leads to confiscation.” In other words: A legitimate government control could lead to an illegimate government power-grab. When is this not the case? Any law can be abused. Laws defining property rights could open the door to government confiscation of property. So what? We are speaking theoretically about a government which respects and protects rights.

“Nuts and criminals can get around the law.” Again, this is generally true of any law. Nuts and criminals can potentially find a way to get around just about any rule society tries to impose. Persons motivated by legitimate self-defense will not be harmed by such a law, so the important question to ask is: Would this control be likely to reduce the number of innocent people killed by wingnuts and psychopaths? The answer seems to be yes. Maybe not that many innocent lives would be saved, but if there is no harm done, why not save as many as possible?

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As for registration? No. Registration leads to confiscation. Background checks? The nuts and professional criminals get to arm themselves anyway, so, no.

--Brant

“Registration leads to confiscation.” In other words: A legitimate government control could lead to an illegimate government power-grab. When is this not the case? Any law can be abused. Laws defining property rights could open the door to government confiscation of property. So what? We are speaking theoretically about a government which respects and protects rights.

“Nuts and criminals can get around the law.” Again, this is generally true of any law. Nuts and criminals can potentially find a way to get around just about any rule society tries to impose. Persons motivated by legitimate self-defense will not be harmed by such a law, so the important question to ask is: Would this control be likely to reduce the number of innocent people killed by wingnuts and psychopaths? The answer seems to be yes. Maybe not that many innocent lives would be saved, but if there is no harm done, why not save as many as possible?

After Katrina the corrupt New Orleans police went around illegally confiscating guns. How did they know where to go? I suspect they had registration lists. The time to address these theorecticals is before things go to hell or the government dog goes rabid.

--Brant

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Dennis:

This is an interview with John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime. This is just one valuable aspect to the individual's absolute right to possess any tool.

"Lott: Murder rates decline when either more women or more men carry concealed handguns, but a gun represents a much larger change in a woman's ability to defend herself than it does for a man. An additional woman carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for women by about 3 to 4 times more than an additional man carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for men."

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/493636.html

Here is his blog spot:

http://johnrlott.blogspot.com/

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Dennis:

This is an interview with John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime. This is just one valuable aspect to the individual's absolute right to possess any tool.

"Lott: Murder rates decline when either more women or more men carry concealed handguns, but a gun represents a much larger change in a woman's ability to defend herself than it does for a man. An additional woman carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for women by about 3 to 4 times more than an additional man carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for men."

http://www.press.uch...ago/493636.html

Here is his blog spot:

http://johnrlott.blogspot.com/

Dennis:

This is an interview with John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime. This is just one valuable aspect to the individual's absolute right to possess any tool.

"Lott: Murder rates decline when either more women or more men carry concealed handguns, but a gun represents a much larger change in a woman's ability to defend herself than it does for a man. An additional woman carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for women by about 3 to 4 times more than an additional man carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for men."

http://www.press.uch...ago/493636.html

Here is his blog spot:

http://johnrlott.blogspot.com/

I can't imagine where he got that vague example of the statisticians' art. How about accidental shooting deaths?Manslaughter , maiming, etc

Where is this taking place? Everywhere in the world? Everywhere in the US? Among 10 people in Detroit?

As to the woman statistic, who buys guns and why? If a woman is afraid a man will kill her, she may buy a gun and therefore not get murdered. That doesn't guarantee that he won't.

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I can't imagine where he got that vague example of the statisticians' art. How about accidental shooting deaths?Manslaughter , maiming, etc

Where is this taking place? Everywhere in the world? Everywhere in the US? Among 10 people in Detroit?

As to the woman statistic, who buys guns and why? If a woman is afraid a man will kill her, she may buy a gun and therefore not get murdered. That doesn't guarantee that he won't.

Carol:

John Lott's research has compiled the numbers from all US counties. He has compared the numbers of all incidents before and after concealed gun/carry permits and the results are clear that an increase in an armed citizenry directly results in a decrease in rapes, assaults and other violent crimes.

Additionally, there is no demonstrable commensurate increase in "accidental deaths" by guns.

It is that simple.

Adam

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murder.gif

More Guns, Less Murder

X Axis -Murder Rate per 100,000 population

Y Axis - Years before / after Conceal Carry Shall Issue Law

This graph was very powerful because of the precipitous drop that it reflects: rape.gif

More Guns, Slightly Less Rape

X - Rapes per 100,000 population

Y - Years since Conceal Carry Shall Issue

Crime rate drop much less than for Murder

http://polyticks.com/polyticks/beararms/liars/moreguns.htm

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I can't imagine where he got that vague example of the statisticians' art. How about accidental shooting deaths?Manslaughter , maiming, etc

Where is this taking place? Everywhere in the world? Everywhere in the US? Among 10 people in Detroit?

As to the woman statistic, who buys guns and why? If a woman is afraid a man will kill her, she may buy a gun and therefore not get murdered. That doesn't guarantee that he won't.

Carol:

John Lott's research has compiled the numbers from all US counties. He has compared the numbers of all incidents before and after concealed gun/carry permits and the results are clear that an increase in an armed citizenry directly results in a decrease in rapes, assaults and other violent crimes.

Additionally, there is no demonstrable commensurate increase in "accidental deaths" by guns.

It is that simple.

Adam

How long are the before and after periods?

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Here is John Stossel's article from Real Clear Politics July 23, 2010:

June 23, 2010

More Guns Means Less Crime

By John Stossel

You know what the mainstream media think about guns and our freedom to carry them.

Pierre Thomas of ABC: "When someone gets angry or when they snap, they are going to be able to have access to weapons."

Chris Matthews of MSNBC: "I wonder if in a free society violence is always going to be a part of it if guns are available."

Keith Olbermann, who usually can't be topped for absurdity: "Organizations like the NRA ... are trying to increase deaths by gun in this country."

"Trying to?" Well, I admit that I bought that nonsense for years. Living in Manhattan, working at ABC, everyone agreed that guns are evil. And that the NRA is evil. (Now that the NRA has agreed to a sleazy deal with congressional Democrats on political speech censorship, maybe some of its leaders are evil, but that's for another column.)

Now I know that I was totally wrong about guns. Now I know that more guns means -- hold onto your seat -- less crime.

How can that be, when guns kill almost 30,000 Americans a year? Because while we hear about the murders and accidents, we don't often hear about the crimes stopped because would-be victims showed a gun and scared criminals away. Those thwarted crimes and lives saved usually aren't reported to police (sometimes for fear the gun will be confiscated), and when they are reported, the media tend to ignore them. No bang, no news.

This state of affairs produces a distorted public impression of guns. If you only hear about the crimes and accidents, and never about lives saved, you might think gun ownership is folly.

But, hey, if guns save lives, it logically follows that gun laws cost lives.

Suzanna Hupp and her parents were having lunch at Luby's cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, when a man began shooting diners with his handgun, even stopping to reload. Suzanna's parents were two of the 23 people killed. (Twenty more were wounded.)

Suzanna owned a handgun, but because Texas law at the time did not permit her to carry it with her, she left it in her car. She's confident that she could have stopped the shooting spree if she had her gun. (Texas has since changed its law.)

Today, 40 states issue permits to competent, law-abiding adults to carry concealed handguns (Vermont and Alaska have the most libertarian approach: no permit needed. Arizona is about to join that exclusive club.) Every time a carry law was debated, anti-gun activists predicted outbreaks of gun violence after fender-benders, card games and domestic quarrels.

What happened?

John Lott, in "More Guns, Less Crime," explains that crime fell by 10 percent in the year after the laws were passed. A reason for the drop in crime may have been that criminals suddenly worried that their next victim might be armed. Indeed, criminals in states with high civilian gun ownership were the most worried about encountering armed victims.

In Canada and Britain, both with tough gun-control laws, almost half of all burglaries occur when residents are home. But in the United States, where many households contain guns, only 13 percent of burglaries happen when someone_s at home.

Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in the Heller case that Washington, D.C.'s ban on handgun ownership was unconstitutional. District politicians then loosened the law but still have so many restrictions that there are no gun shops in the city and just 800 people have received permits. Nevertheless, contrary to the mayor's prediction, robbery and other violent crime are down.

Because Heller applied only to Washington, that case was not the big one. McDonald v. Chicago is the big one, and the Supreme Court is expected to rule on that next week. Otis McDonald is a 76-year-old man who lives in a dangerous neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. He wants to buy a handgun, but Chicago forbids it.

If the Supremes say McDonald has that right, then restrictive gun laws will fall throughout America.

Despite my earlier bias, I now understand that striking down those laws will probably save lives.

Copyright 2010, Creators Syndicate Inc.

Page Printed from: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2010/06/23/guns_save_lives_106057.html at January 18, 2012 - 03:04:05 PM PST

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How long are the before and after periods?

Y Axis - Years before / after Conceal Carry Shall Issue Law

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How long are the before and after periods?

Y Axis - Years before / after Conceal Carry Shall Issue Law

How long are the before and after periods?

Y Axis - Years before / after Conceal Carry Shall Issue Law

Thanks. I still don't see any link to Lott's original research study, not that I could interpret it if I did. The peer review criticism I only got the index, but that was impressive.

It does not make sense to me that the more widely distributed a tool is, the less it will be used, but I know many true things do not make sense on the surface. If fewer people have been shot or killed where guns are unregulated, than where they are regulated, I am willing to be convinced by evidence.

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Thanks. I still don't see any link to Lott's original research study, not that I could interpret it if I did. The peer review criticism I only got the index, but that was impressive.

It does not make sense to me that the more widely distributed a tool is, the less it will be used, but I know many true things do not make sense on the surface. If fewer people have been shot or killed where guns are unregulated, than where they are regulated, I am willing to be convinced by evidence.

Carol:

Lott's research is in his book by that title. There is a third edition out now.

This is how the original book, which I have and have read was described:

Does allowing people to own or carry guns deter violent crime? Or does it simply cause more citizens to harm each other? Directly challenging common perceptions about gun control, legal scholar John Lott presents the most rigorously comprehensive data analysis ever done on crime statistics and right-to-carry laws. This timely and provocative work comes to the startling conclusion: more guns mean less crime. In this paperback edition, Lott has expanded the research through 1996, incorporating new data available from states that passed right-to-carry and other gun laws since the book's publication as well as new city-level statistics.

http://www.amazon.co...g/dp/0226493636

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Thanks. I still don't see any link to Lott's original research study, not that I could interpret it if I did. The peer review criticism I only got the index, but that was impressive.

It does not make sense to me that the more widely distributed a tool is, the less it will be used, but I know many true things do not make sense on the surface. If fewer people have been shot or killed where guns are unregulated, than where they are regulated, I am willing to be convinced by evidence.

Carol:

Lott's research is in his book by that title. There is a third edition out now.

This is how the original book, which I have and have read was described:

Does allowing people to own or carry guns deter violent crime? Or does it simply cause more citizens to harm each other? Directly challenging common perceptions about gun control, legal scholar John Lott presents the most rigorously comprehensive data analysis ever done on crime statistics and right-to-carry laws. This timely and provocative work comes to the startling conclusion: more guns mean less crime. In this paperback edition, Lott has expanded the research through 1996, incorporating new data available from states that passed right-to-carry and other gun laws since the book's publication as well as new city-level statistics.

http://www.amazon.co...g/dp/0226493636

Well, I actually looked up Lott on Wiki, and you know how I hate to look things up. I had to turn over on my other side. Anyway, I only found 2 things before the Wiki page was taken over by a huge ad asking me to think about the world without it, and I couldn't get rid of the ad, so I thought the world without it would not be so bad.

1. Lott's study was of thirty-one states (31) before and after.

2. In his photo Lott looks like a young Jack Ruby.

There is a John Lott who is a gun dealer in Texas, I guess there is some connection.

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Dennis:

This is an interview with John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime. This is just one valuable aspect to the individual's absolute right to possess any tool.

"Lott: Murder rates decline when either more women or more men carry concealed handguns, but a gun represents a much larger change in a woman's ability to defend herself than it does for a man. An additional woman carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for women by about 3 to 4 times more than an additional man carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for men."

Adam,

Adam Mosoff’s article does not address the topic of carrying a concealed weapon and I didn't bring this up in my earlier post. I am not opposed to carrying concealed weapons. Mosoff's article also includes this statement:

Any restriction of our access to and use of firearms, even such seemingly innocuous acts as national waiting periods, only provide precedent for the further curtailment of our rights in the years to come. This is why I believe that any attempt to expand gun control in the U.S. today must be fought at every step of the way.

In contrast, a rational society is a completely different context with respect to gun control.

He sets very different parameters for a rational world as opposed to whatever the %$#@!!# it is we find ourselves living in today.

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He sets very different parameters for a rational world as opposed to whatever the %$#@!!# it is we find ourselves living in today.

Dennis:

You will get no disagreement on that point.

The facts of reality is that the thug will always be able to be well armed. There has never been a way, even in Hitler's Germany and Stalinist Russia to completely repress the possession of weapons.

I know the Jewish Freedom fighters in Warsaw wished that they had not been so passive in keeping the few pieces of ordinance that they had.

What I do know is that I have lived in communities that are well armed and they were safer, saner and freer than the "gun free" neighborhoods that I have been in.

This is an extremely emotional argument with lots of poor pieces of testimonial evidence.

Lott's approach is quite convincing.

Adam

Post Script: We missed your insight on last weekends football games. The S.F./New Orleans game was one of the best playoff games I have ever been privy to watching. Riveting game.

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