Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The good professor cheers on Texas Governor Rick Perry's proposal to allow Texans to take their concealed handguns anywhere, saying "If it saves just one life, it's worth it!".

The problem with this 'if it saves a life' approach is that it turns the discussion away from whether carrying a concealed weapon is a Constitutional right into an analysis of the net costs/benefits to society of allowing gun owners to carry their weapons anywhere they want.

Constitutional rights don't have to be justified as being a 'net positive' to society. For example, as abortion is now a Constitutional right, women have the right to an abortion and without abortion supporters having to accumulate statistics to show that society is better off allowing abortion than by banning it.

The same holds true with other Constitutional rights: women, blacks, and 18 year olds don't have to show that America is better off because they can vote, they get to vote even if society were (by some strange analysis) worse off for it.

Of course, the Supreme Court often bases its decisions on what the public feels about a given issue. Their decision to ban the execution of minors was based in part on what the Court held to be public sentiment, as was (I believe) their decision to overturn Texas's anti-sodomy laws.

Given this, it is perhaps understandable that gun rights' supporters would try to portray gun ownership as having a net positive effect on society. The problem is, as goes the old joke, once gun rights' supporters start focusing on whether something is good rather than whether something is a right, then they've conceded the terms of the debate to the opposition. And I can't think of anything the anti-gun folks would like better than to have a debate on whether banning guns would be a good thing to do, rather than something the Constitution prohibits. After all, as was done with global warming, it isn't that hard to marshall scientific 'consensus' on behalf of the liberal view...