Which is worse, being in the basement of a low-lying Nuclear Power Plant during a Tsunami, pulling the trigger on a gun you thought was empty and accidentally killing your 4 year old little sister, being hit by a German Satellite, or being eaten by a shark?
Before answering that question, I’d like to remind you that you need to go here and donate ten or twenty bucks to the Donors Choose program. Then, when you come back, you can read the rest of this post.
The answer: They’re all the same. In each case, you’re dead (or somebody’s dead). All of these are also very newsworthy, but had I included on this list driving your car into a ditch and rolling it, having a heart attack, or just fading away from respiratory failure (all three fatal in my thought experiment) they would be less newsworthy but you would still be just as dead.
Lately, I’ve been discussing the idea that there should be laws that require that gun owners keep their guns properly secured, and that these laws hold firearms owners responsible when the guns are acquired and used in a way that causes injury or fatality. For instance, when a teenager gets dad’s gun and accidentally shoots little sister (or self). There are several arguments against such laws. One is that such laws already exist, even if in a different form. That is a bad argument because they don’t or are not enforced, so any existing laws are ineffective. Laws can be written and implemented in different ways that more or less require their enforcement. Another argument is that it can’t be done. That is, of course, wrong. It can be done. Another argument is the particularistic scenario of innocence argument; Some contrived sequence of events by which a person really really locks up the gun really really good but somehow the gun ends up in the wrong person’s hand and … bam. That is no a valid counter argument because the same argument can be made against ALL laws. We have the system we have in part to account for real life. If such an unlikely scenario occurred, the courts would handle it properly, as long as the defendant was middle class and white. Like all laws.
One of the arguments that is often made is that something worse can happen. The fact is that very few teenagers are actually killed becuase of an accidental discharge of a gun that should have been locked up. But a LOT of teenagers are killed because of a purposeful discharge to cause a self inflicted wound, often using a gun that should have been locked up. So, if we include suicide, there are actually quite a few cases of guns that should have been locked up but were not. But still, more people die in car accidents and more teenagers are shot by each other in a criminal setting (gang fighting, etc.). Therefore, the argument goes, these guns-not-locked-up scenarios are not important.
And that argument, of course, is wrong. Because in the end, you’re still dead and somebody is still (at least partly) responsible.
The argument is a fallacy, because if it was true, we would be able to identify one problem and declare that that is the only problem and all other problems are not really problems (at least, until we solve the One Problem). Medical research on all forms of cancer should stop because heart disease kills more people. Airline safety is not important because relatively few people die in plane crashes. In fact, homicide should not really be illegal until we’ve solved this whole natural death problem.
The argument is a fallacy and we almost always hear it from people who have run out of other ways to argue their case.
Now, getting back for a moment to Donors Chooose. There are schools in the United States that need your help, because they are underfunded. A few dollars here and there can make a big difference, as exemplified by the projects I chose for you to consider for the Donors Choose campaign. But, the same amount of money donated to a school in the Southern Sudan could hire a teacher for a month or pay for life saving vaccines for 50 children or fund the construction of new and clean bathroom facilities. Or whatever. Therefore, you should not donate to Donors Choose, but rather, to the Sudan.
Maybe. But I don’t actually see you donating any money to schools in the Sudan at the moment, do I? Click here, dog. Just do it.