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Guns and Responsibility

The issue of gun control seems particularly prone to fuzzy thinking and ill-fitting analogies. Although I generally believe that the solution to gun violence is ethical, not regulatory, and that every freedom we trade for security is a step toward tyranny, I will concede there may be valid arguments for reasonable gun control. I rarely hear them, however.

In August of 2001 a Signe Wilkinson cartoon in the San Jose Mercury News supported the proposition that gun manufacturers should be held liable for gun violence. It made a great emotional appeal, but its logic was flawed, and I felt compelled to point that out.

The letter was submitted to the Mercury News, but not published.

7 August 2001

The Signe Wilkinson cartoon accompanying your editorial on gun manufacturer liability makes a nice straw-man for your argument, but willfully ignores the most fundamental aspect of gun violence — or, for that matter, of any violence — and illustrates the flaw in much of the rhetoric on gun control.

Given the choices presented for villain — “He made the gun“, “He marketed the gun“, “He sold the gun“, and “The gun” — one might reasonably conclude that not holding the gun industry responsible means holding no one responsible. But the choices presented were inadequate and incomplete. If you want to know who is responsible, and upon whom we should focus our outrage and effort, point to the villain missing from Ms. Wilkinsons’s cartoon: “He fired the gun“.

© Copyright 2001, 2005, Augustus P. Lowell

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