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.