You Can Be Anti-Gun Without Being Pro-Gun Control

A few months back I got into a heated and horrible discussion with a number of gun-rights proponents. My essential argument was as follows: gun-rights advocates must admit that accidental child-deaths come along with gun ownership, and that practically speaking, there is very little way to prevent these deaths so long as guns are prevalent. As I predicted, those who support gun rights squealed and squirmed in response, because the previous statement is factually correct.

But one part of the response was puzzling: I was consistently treated as if the statement under dispute logically implied a support for gun control. It doesn’t. In fact, though I am as anti-gun as it’s possible to be (I believe everyone who owns a gun should throw it into the sea), I do not have a position on gun control. This is because I recognize that advocacy of gun control is not mere opposition to guns, it is necessarily also support for the expansion of the criminal justice system. One cannot advocate new kinds of criminalization without also enacting new punishments. And since I am generally harshly critical of the excesses of criminal prosecutions, I am necessarily skeptical of making a new thing illegal. Because I have seen many poor defendants indicted on unreasonable gun charges, I fear handing new power to prosecutors through a strict gun control regime.

And yet that also doesn’t soften my postion on guns. I detest guns. It simply means that my own preferred method of reducing the number of guns in the world is to slowly change the gun culture by treating guns as the morbid sickness that they are, and heavily stigmatizing their ownership. Unless you believe that the only route to solving social problems is the use of state power to pass a law banning the problem, then being anti-gun does not in any way necessarily entail being in favor of some particular form of gun control.

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