Friday, January 4, 2013

Didn't expect Sam Harris to pack a pistol

As someone who gets annoyed by the popular assumption that having a secular world view means one has to hold generic left-wing views as well, I thoroughly enjoyed Sam Harris's recent piece on the gun control fervor and why he is a gun owner.

As an outspoken atheist author and critic of religion, Harris receives a considerable number of death threats, and some of them need to be taken seriously. That's why he spends an entire day training with a qualified instructor about once a month. This is news to me, but when other critics of radical Islam like Theo van Gogh are murdered in the street it seems like a reasonable precaution.

What is comforting is that Harris makes the same points people like me have been making - mass shootings are rare, assault "weapons" bans are useless symbolism and concealed weapons allow people to fight back. Dysfunctional views tend to be all over the place, but informed views converge.

This is my favorite part, where he makes the same point as the gun is civilization essay.

Like most gun owners, I understand the ethical importance of guns and cannot honestly wish for a world without them. I suspect that sentiment will shock many readers. Wouldn’t any decent person wish for a world without guns? In my view, only someone who doesn’t understand violence could wish for such a world. A world without guns is one in which the most aggressive men can do more or less anything they want. It is a world in which a man with a knife can rape and murder a woman in the presence of a dozen witnesses, and none will find the courage to intervene. There have been cases of prison guards (who generally do not carry guns) helplessly standing by as one of their own was stabbed to death by a lone prisoner armed with an improvised blade. The hesitation of bystanders in these situations makes perfect sense—and “diffusion of responsibility” has little to do with it. The fantasies of many martial artists aside, to go unarmed against a person with a knife is to put oneself in very real peril, regardless of one’s training. The same can be said of attacks involving multiple assailants. A world without guns is a world in which no man, not even a member of Seal Team Six, can reasonably expect to prevail over more than one determined attacker at a time. A world without guns, therefore, is one in which the advantages of youth, size, strength, aggression, and sheer numbers are almost always decisive. Who could be nostalgic for such a world?

Harris also says that limiting magazines to 10 rounds causes more frequent reloads and provide a slight help in mass shootings. I don't agree this would change much and he readily admits that this would require multiple people who happen to be in the right place to make a daring attack, but Harris is coming at this from his own perspective and I'm glad to see he really does think for himself.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure you would both agree that God didn't make men equal, Sam Colt did.

    As the saying goes. (or "God made man, but Sam Colt made them equal" the former phrasing seems more appropriate to you both.)