Re: Guns and Transhumans (Was:The End of Privacy ?)
Sat, 4 Jul 1998 16:07:21 EDT

We've had many discussions of guns here over the years, often associated with a strangely un-extropic national chest thumping, most especially as between folks in the U.S. and Europe (with the Antipodean growl a more recent new theme). In my view, it's an issue of liberty and rationality. By and large, extropians seek solutions to social problems that are premised on maximal individual liberty. On the other hand, extropians should be open to consider any rational proposal for addressing an issue such as social violence.

The context of gun ownership is obviously very, very different in the US and other parts of the world. Many non-Americans seem to begin their analysis of gun issues by looking at the existing "background" level of violence in the U.S. As I look at European societies (and Australia and New Zealand, for that matter), I see groups of people that are orders of magnitude more ethnically and culturally homogenous than what one finds in many areas of the U.S. In fact, one has to look very hard to find any other society in history that has been as culturally and ethnically heterogenous as the U.S. is now. That there is a relatively high level of violence among such a disparate grouping of people isn't surprising, especially one that, at least in principle, eschews central governmental control as much as possible and has had, at times, one of the most open immigration schemes of any society in history. Couple that with the extreme growth in numbers of young people (and hence, young men) that has characterized the last 30 years, and one could hardly come up with a better prescription for violence.

As was pointed out here recently, all forms of violence are decreasing in the U.S. The very obvious cause of this is the relative decline in the proportion of young men in the population. Regulation of gun ownership seems to have little to do with this, although the statistics showing a positive correlation between violence of all types and RESTRICTIONS on gun ownership in the U.S. appear to be fairly compelling. Every state that has instituted a "concealed carry" law has expereinced a greater than average drop in violent crime over the last ten years in the U.S.

As an American who travels abroad frequently, I do find some non-American attitudes toward gun ownership a little annoying at times. There is little chance that European countries will liberalize their gun laws any time soon, so I wonder at the vehemence with which some Europeans voice anti-gun sentiments. Why such strong sentiments? I wonder. And, as a matter of personal anecdote, I find that many of these strong sentiments are based on the grossest misconceptions of the quality of life in America: Just so the record is clear for folks who haven't been here, in most of the U.S. gun violence is non-existent. There are not shootings on every street corner and Hollywood movies and television shows are NOT an accurate depiction of life in the United States. There's certainly a firearm in far more than half of the houses on my quiet, multiethnic street, and I haven't heard a gunshot in my neighborhood in the eight years I've lived here. There also hasn't been a burglary and people often leave their houses unlocked.

[ here's some statistics on guns in the U.S.: ]

. . . getting over a little jet lag after flying home from the Mother Country on this Fourth of July . . .

	Greg Burch     <>----<>
	   Attorney  :::  Director, Extropy Institute  :::  Wilderness Guide   -or-
	           "Good ideas are not adopted automatically.  They must

	              be driven into practice with courageous impatience."