President Obama wants gun control so badly that he is resorting to one of the dumbest arguments ever made, one that is usually trotted out when you know you're losing: "if there's even one life that can be saved":
President Obama on Wednesday formally proposed the most expansive gun-control policies in generations and initiated 23 separate executive actions aimed at curbing what he called "the epidemic of gun violence in this country."
While no legislation can prevent every tragedy, he said in announcing the proposals, "if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there's even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try."
The argument is absurd on many levels.
1. Assume he's talking about saving lives in the gross, not net. There are innumerable things we could ban that would save at least one life gross, such as: cars, airplanes, knives, shoveling snow, boxing, cell phones, swimming pools, coal mining, and drone attacks on suspected terrorists. Why doesn't the President offer to ban any of these? If it would save even one life then doesn't he have an obligation to try?
2. Would banning guns save lives, net? Well, that would be a tough argument to make and the President doesn't really try. Estimates vary, but the Easy Bake Gun Club counts news stories about defensive gun use and here are their entries for December, 2012. The Cato Institute has a defensive gun use map. Both of these resources are based on news reports, but the vast majority of times that a gun is used in self-defense it isn't actually fired and the use isn't reported to the police or media. No one can know for sure, but it seems overwhelmingly likely that guns save more lives than they cost.
3. What's the value of a human life? It's obviously not "infinite" because we make trade-offs all the time between money and lives. Would you borrow money to buy a $500,000 car that was 10% safer than your $25,000 car? Of course not. Do you even have working smoke detectors in your house? It's sad when someone dies in a fire or is shot by a gun, but those deaths don't necessarily mean that we have to change the system. All factors need to be weighed.
4. How about low-probability catastrophic events such as invasion, tyranny, or nuclear holocaust? Sure, these aren't likely to happen, but if they did then having guns in the hands of trained and loyal citizens would be very valuable. The authorities are always trying to get us to be prepared for disasters, and there are many circumstances in which a gun would be a useful tool for survival.