One technique used by philosophers to evaluate an assertion is the search for counterexamples. If, for example, one encounters an individual who believes that all Labrador Retriever dogs are black, it is sufficient to show that this is not the case simply by producing the counterexample of a yellow Lab. The use of counterexamples can become vastly more complex, but you get the idea.
The reason I bring this up is that I think that Mark Kleiman, who posts at The Reality-Based Community Blog, has suggested the elements of an excellent counterexample that would demonstrate that the case for both unrestricted open and/or concealed-carry gun laws and extended “stand your ground” laws, which basically consists of one or another variant of “good guys with guns nullify bad guys with guns,” doesn’t stand up to close examination. This issue is especially relevant since it references anti-regulation legislation of the type that our Missouri GOP-controlled legislature wants to cram down our throats come the September legislative session wherein they hope to override Governor Nixon’s veto of SB656.
Kleiman’s starting point is a recent incident where a few “White Lives Matter” demonstrators gathered outside Houston’s NAACP headquarters to protest whatever gets white bile flowing. According to reports, members of the group were waving confederate flags and flourishing their – legal in Texas – firearms. Kleiman asks the following questions:
- Is it appropriate to come armed to a political demonstration?
- Would it be appropriate for counter-demonstrators also to come armed?
- When two groups of armed demonstrators confront one another and start shouting and shoving, and someone opens fire, how could a jury possibly find, beyond reasonable doubt, that whoever fired first was not in reasonable fear of his life from the actions of the armed people on the other side? Texas is “stand-your-ground” as well as “open-carry,” so there is no legal obligation on either side to back off.
- If the demonstration happened during business hours, would it be appropriate for NAACP staff to come armed?
- If one of them were to kill an armed Confederate, and testified that he saw the Confederate going for his gun and felt in reasonable fear of his life, how could a jury convict? Conversely, if one of the Confederates were to kill an armed NAACP staffer and gave the same testimony, how could a jury convict?
In order to show that this example is one-size-fits-all, Kleiman then asks us to imagine the same situation and ask the same questions except with anti-Trump demonstrators at a Trump rally. The unavoidable conclusion: maybe it’s not a really good idea to have lots of folks – of any ideological persuasion or varying degrees of goodness – running around fully armed and emboldened by stand-your-ground to shoot when “provoked.”
Kleiman’s musings suggest that when one considers the complicated nature of the real world, the good guys with guns argument might be a little too simplistic to use as a basis for policy, even if it had any specific situational applicability – which is another issue altogether. It certainly does not address all the pitfalls in the situation described by Kleiman and I bet that in a very short time anyone one of us could come up with lots more counterexamples that show the failure of the good guys with guns argument to address reality.