Self-Defense Is a Weird Argument for Owning a Gun

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In this dialogue between Ta-Nehisi Coates (take away all the guns!) and Jeffrey Goldberg (give everybody a gun!), much of the argument hinges on this hypothetical:

let me ask the Augustinian question: Let’s say you’re in the mall with me, or another friend, and a psychopathic shooter is approaching us, AR-15 in hand. In this situation, my life is at stake, as well as yours. I’ll ask the question again: Would you want a gun in hand to help keep us alive, and to keep the strangers around you — each one a human being created in the image of God (I know you lean atheist, but you get my point) — alive as well?

We’ll get to the other questions later, but this is important: In the situation I just described above, would you rather have a gun, or rather not?

I know NRA types think that when you say ‘I would rather have a gun’ in this scenario, they’ve won the argument. But I don’t think they actually know what argument they’re making.

It’s a bit like someone asking you ‘If you were to stumble upon a black cobra, would you rather have a mongoose with you, or not?’

I would like to have a mongoose with me in that situation (and many others, obviously). But what is that an argument for? That I should own a mongoose? That everyone should?

Personally, I would rather live in a society that minimizes black cobra attacks than one where I am required to take care of a vicious rodent to survive. Just seems more efficient that way.

I can’t think of other political arguments where  an extreme, once-per-lifetime scenario is used to justify everyday behavior. ‘If an air conditioning unit fell out of a sixth-floor window and was hurtling toward you, would you rather have a steel parasol, or not?’ 

If I was in the mall and a dude was marching toward me with an AK-47, sure, I might want one of my own. But so what? If he was driving toward me in a tank, I might want one of my own. If he was flying toward me in an F-16 I’d probably want one of those too. These scenarios all equally irrelevant. The real question is, do I want a lethal object in my home, in my bedroom, on my hip every single day on the off chance that such a situation might occur?

We’re all used to this argument in America because the NRA talks loud and carries a big stick. But the ‘more guns’ people aren’t interested in keeping you safe, they just want to feed the cobras.

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7 Comments

Filed under America, Serious

7 responses to “Self-Defense Is a Weird Argument for Owning a Gun

  1. Thank you for this commentary. Got my brain going. I may re-blog.

    I do not think they just want to feed the cobras. I think they do feel as though if they don’t win then they will have the cobras taken as well as theirs and they didn’t do anything wrong. The argument is really, “Do you understand where I come from?” They just want to be heard and have their rights. They feel the need to defend themselves against those who would blame their ideals or beliefs. They are human and somehow are being treated as they are responsible.
    I don’t walk around all day with a cell phone. I disconnected mine two years ago, payed the cancellation fee, and walked away, but when I tell this to people they begin the same questioning. What would you do if your car broke down? Wouldn’t you want one then? They feel threatened that somehow my ideal is threatening theirs.

    I understand that some people feel the need to have the things with them that may be needed just in case of an emergency, but really the argument is about defending ones right to have a belief or ideals without them coming into question.

  2. Pingback: The curiosity is still there under all the rubble of adulthood | encompassingchaos

  3. Reblogged this on The Dad Poet and commented:
    I stumbled across Rottin’ in Denmark today during a rare trip to the Freshly Pressed section of my WordPress reader. The deeper I dug into his posts the more I enjoyed his writing, admired his tone and identified with his values. This part in particular is sheer brilliance. T
    “I know NRA types think that when you say ‘I would rather have a gun’ in this scenario, they’ve won the argument. But I don’t think they actually know what argument they’re making.

    It’s a bit like someone asking you ’If you were to stumble upon a black cobra, would you rather have a mongoose with you, or not?’

    I would like to have a mongoose with me in that situation (and many others, obviously). But what is that an argument for? That I should own a mongoose? That everyone should?

    Personally, I would rather live in a society that minimizes black cobra attacks than one where I am required to take care of a vicious rodent to survive. Just seems more efficient that way.”

    hank you, sir for putting into words what I was thinking better than I knew how. I am now a fan.

  4. Pingback: Self-Defense Is a Weird Argument for Owning a Gun (Reblogged from Rottin’ in Denmark) | The Dad Poet

  5. Well, the edited version of the reblog, with corrections is now up on my blog. Let me just say I am enjoying reading your posts. And thank you for this one in particular today. This was perfect and needed.

  6. Do we choose to live in the worst possibilities or create the best. Do we find new ways to create a Peaceable society? We say it’s not possible, but we do believe it’s possible to create a fearful society. Will I live in fear? No. I choose Peace. Guns are simple, and I think, stupid answers to very complex questions. We’re not excited about doing the hard work. Too bad for us. ‘Way too bad for our children.

  7. Just opened a new email and found this King quote: “There are all too many people who, in some great period of social change, fail to achieve the new mental outlooks that the new situation demands. There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution.”
    —Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,”

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