This article describes an ideal methodology to end conflict on gun control, reduce taxes, and save lives. It includes a full description of the methodology, cost data, responses to 1300 objections gathered over the span of a year, and analysis of the results.
The gun lobby is currently in conflict with its own fiscal interests if it supports gun control, but gun violence now costs 17 times more than the entire gun manufacturing industry's revenue.
This utilitarian solution in no way challenges 2nd-amendment rights, but simultaneously, citizens who are shot to death have lost their own right to bear arms (see "The New 2nd-Amendment Loophole,"Yofiel, 2015). So the method described here to reduce gun violence actually defends the liberty of bearing arms against those whose liberty is otherwise far greater infringed, whose relatives often campaign to ban guns entirely. Meanwhile, America's gun deaths are far worse than any other nation in the civilized world. This is an insult to our national dignity. This chart compares America with other developed countries with no civil war in the last few generations, and it is only distantly approached by Israel:
Firearm Fatalities are Increasing
While firearm fatalities are thankfully trending downwards worldwide, in America they are still increasing overall. Due to general skepticism, I collected the data myself from the most reliable sources to provide this trend analysis A logarithmic plot of firearm fatalities shows murder and crime are decreasing at similar rates; but suicides, involuntary manslaughter, police homicides, and self-defense homicides are rising, with a total increase of ~1% a year. With current trends continuing as they are, total fatalities will be 35,191 in 2025 ("Trends in Causes of Firearm Fatalities,"Yofiel, 2015).
2. Utilitarian Approach
The process starts by stepping back and simply considering how to maximize liberty, and therefore happiness, from first principles. For this, we can draw on Jeremy Bentham's theory of utilitarianism, which takes as its fundamental axiom "It is the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people that is the measure of right and wrong" ("A Fragment of Government,"constitution.org facsimile, 1760). However Bentham's ideas didn't reach America until about a century later, mostly said to be when John Stuart Mill wrote "On Liberty" (constitution.org facsimile, 1859). Mill's ideas to maximize happiness by maximizing liberty had an immediate effect, particularly on attitudes toslavery (for a modern perspective, see "Utilitarianism and Slavery,"John Rawls, 1998) Just before the civil war. Mill wrote "Utilitarianism" (Utilitarian Resources facsimile, 1860), and its theories remain in the heart of American law to this day.
(2-1) MethodA simple way utilitarianism greatly increases overall happiness is by defining a way people can agree on losing a little bit of freedom, in exchange for a much greater measurable liberty for everyone, as the final result. For example, requiring people to drive on the same side of the road (with exceptions for moving into the oncoming lane when passing a slower vehicle) lets everyone reach a destination more quickly and safely. The utilitarian method is particularly effective when there is a definable numeric metric that correlates with an increase in happiness (which, in the example of traffic lanes and passing rules, is the resulting higher speed of safe traffic). Not including illegal guns and legal acts of self defense,the total taxpayer burden for gun violence was $111 billion. So there's definitely a metric to apply: reducing gun-violence cost, via the following steps:
- Some want guns and others don't.A third of American Households now own guns, averaging 8 guns each.
- Those who don't want guns have to pay for expenses arising from gun violence.
- That results in a net loss of liberty, because those who don't want guns are enslaved to the will of those that do. Those that do want guns could buy something else, but those who don't are forced to pay for the expenses of gun violence.
- Therefore, to maximize liberty, those who want guns pay for the expenses of gun violence, and everyone gets a tax credit from that revenue. The tax credit can be even be large enough that everyone can still have a gun AND save money. Then gun liberties are preserved, and people who don't want guns are not forced into paying for what they don't want,
- But at first, people who own guns are not so happy, because they are still paying more for guns, regardless that the tax credit pays for gun-violence tax too. So they want the gun-violence cost to go down, in order for gun cost to reduce.
- Now lawmakers have a reason to agree on reducing gun-violence cost, because there is no more fiscal conflict of interest. Everyone works together to make effective gun-control laws. In words of the traffic-law analogy above, everyone is now driving on the same side of the road, towards reducing gun violence.
- When gun-violence cost goes down, the gun-violence tax reduces and the tax credit increases, resulting in lower income taxes for everyone, AND cheaper guns as well (and by the way, less people are killed).
The ideal goal is that America has the same level of gun violence as other countries which have banned guns entirely, but still let the American people own firearms. For example, data indicates thatthe most effective step would be to fully prevent those with a known history of domestic violence and suicidal tendency from keeping handguns in the home. They could still keep rifles at home, and keep other guns in lockers at sporting ranges. But simply stopping domestic-violence offenders and those at risk of suicide from having handguns at home could halve gun violence. However, the existing battles are to prevent gun-control legislature entirely, when we could be working together, to permit people to have handguns outside the home.
With this utilitarian method, the conflicts of interest in enacting effective gun-control laws will end. The following table provides an indication of how gun fees could reduce income taxes, and would fall as violence falls (Based onSection 3, "Cost Data").
|Annual Cost||Tax Credit|
|Gun Violence Tax|
|Without Fee||$0||$0 (but gun violence costs $1,400|
per household in taxes)
after Deaths Halve
|With Fee, Ideal|
(Same Rate as in Japan)
With this example, the immediate average tax deduction is $700, whereas the average gun-violence fee is only $260. So right away, the typical household still saves $440, even if owning one gun. After halving gun violence, households with 8 guns would still save money. Taking insurance savings into account results in even better savings. Firearms instructors, for example, pay an ~$500/year for insurance (either via the NRA-sponsored program, or via others such as Joseph & Chiarello). But for private insurance, the market is now small and so the cost is higher. Even combining the lower instructor rates with the tax credit, the immediate result is less than current policies for up to 4 guns.
If the system is designed in a utilitarian way, it could theoretically reduce gun violence to the same level as in Japan, where guns are entirely banned, and where >10 gun deaths a year is considered a national disaster; but in the USA, people could still own guns. And America would no longer be in the world's pillory for its awful gun violence record.
(2-1) Mandatory Insurance AlternativesThe above method would work equally well with a gun-violence tax per gun, or with mandatory gun insurance,as long as the cost goes down when violence reduces. A national registration, like that of cars, does provide other benefits. For example, registration would also permit DMV-style safety checks and tests to ensure knowledge of the law (see "American Delusions: Right to Murder,"Yofiel, 2015). It's been established gun buybacks decrease gun injuries. Many households may decide they don't eight guns, and sell them back for ~$250 each. So in theory, annual gun violence tax appears preferable to mandatory insurance.
On the other hand, in practice, mandatory insurance programs are easier to start locally, in specific districts where gun violence is particularly prevalent, as a precursor to a more comprehensive national requirement. So a number of such programs are already in process (seeChicago's Gun-Violence Tax,Seattle's Gun-Violence Tax, andLos Angeles Mandatory Insurance in "Gun-Violence Tax and Mandatory Insurance: Current Programs,"Yofiel, 2015).
The entire gun manufacturing industry's annual revenue is only $13 billion ("The Economics of Gun Control," Jeffrey Moore,Global Risk Insights, 19 December 2015). As shown below, the aggregate cost of violence is 17 times higher than that of the entire gun manufacturing industry, and the medical costs alone are triple the gun manufacturing industry's revenue.
(3-1) Total Cost of Gun ViolenceTed Miller, at thePacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), put together the most comprehensive data, projecting costs in 2012 from 30 years of research (under sponsorship of Mother Jones. See "True Cost of Gun Violence in America," May 2015).
It put total gun-violence cost at$229 billion, or ~$1400/household, annually. Within this aggregate cost from PIRE, there are many components, gathered and extrapolated from 30 years. Forbes magazine revealed a partial snapshot of this data in "How Guns and Violence Cost Every American $564 In 2010" (Abram Brown,Forbes Magazine, Jan 14 2103). This is a far larger estimate that I consider a weapons owner to bear, for reasons stated above. Mr. Brown wrote "You can see that the lion's share ($3.1 million) is quality-of-life costs. PIRE explains this is estimation of the pain, suffering and diminished livelihood of the injured people and their families. It does not account for anyone who may have merely witnessed the crime. Now, a look at a fatality's impact on the U.S. government: fatalities are far, far more expensive than a non-lethal injury. A firearm injury that included a trip to the hospital cost about $432,000 total and meant roughly $42,000 in government costs. By contrast, a murder would have racked up $5.1 million total and $582,000 in government expenses."
State-level data is rare. Nevada claims it has the most accurate medical cost data of any state at this time, reporting direct hospital costs of $40 million for gun violence in 2014 ("Gun-control advocacy group's report estimates costs of gun violence in Nevada," Wesley Juhl,Las Vegas Review-Journal, 19 December 2015). According toFBI spreadsheet data, Nevada applied for 116,735 gun licenses in 2014. Nevada is said to rank 10th in gun deaths per capita (see "Gun Deaths by State,"PoliticsThatWork, 10 October 2015). On average, one in 300 people who live in Nevada die from gunshot (using state data from thewikipedia for 2010, and multiplying by average life expectancy of 87.5).
Beyond that information, however, data is incredibly scant, so as yet it is not possible to provide a clear indication of relative costs depending on violence type. So far the only data I can find is the following table, from "The Cost of Gun Violence" (Children's Safety Network, 2012).
The PIRE data is not the maximum estimate. Some claimed the above numbers are exaggerations, so I searched for alternatives. Data from theNational Center for Biotechnology Information (Section 3-1c) indicates the societal cost per death is $8.9 million, assessed across 6 prior studies in 2011. With moderate estimates (32,000 deaths, 66% fatality on firearm incidents, 18,000 injuries costing 10% of deaths, adjusted 10% up for inflation since 2011, and reduced to the lower end of the taxpayer burden of 75%, as discussed below) the best alternate study I could find provided a much higher aggregate of $331 billion/year. So in this study, I use as basis the much lower figure of $228 billion/year, which I halve to account for possible overstatements, as described in the next section.
(3-2) Illegal GunsContrary to what most people believe, the vast majority of violent incidents are with legal guns. The confusion arises because of many reports that most guns used in street crimes are illegal. But despite the frequency of illegal guns in crime, the number of murders and injuries are still much lower than for legal guns. This is partly because there are far more incidents of domestic violence than street crime:
- The belowleft chart (from "11 Essential Facts about Guns and Mass Shootings in the United States,"Washington Post, 18 June 2015) shows that only 20% of mass shootings use illegal guns.
- Theright chart (from "Linking Legal Gun Ownership and the Proliferation of Illegal Guns,"the Sandy Hook Project, 10 January 2014) shows data on the estimated number of illegal guns. As shown inSection 3-5, "Household Gun count" a third of households own guns on average, indicating there are 30 illegal guns for every 100,000 gun owners.
More detailed data indicates only one in ten shootings are from gang violence, and only a fraction of those are with illegal guns. Suicides and domestic violence are much more significant:
Some continue to object that more regulation will cause a proliferation of illegal guns. But other nations which have already enacted stricter gun-control measures report even lower illegal gun usage, so the facts just don't bear out the claim.
- Japan, which banned guns entirely, has no problem with illegal firearms at all, which is the opposite of what one would expect from those who claim gun control will only cause more illegal guns ("How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths," Max Fisher,the Atlantic, 23 July 2012).
- Australia, one of the nations with the most strict gun laws, reports only 3% of all gun crime to be with illegal guns ("Fact check: Where do Australians get illegal guns?"ABC Fact Check, 25 May 2015).
Overseas data is actually more applicable to this study, as its proposal would remove conflict of interest for gun manufacturers and those profiting in the gun sales, thus enabling passage of effective gun control laws that make the percentage of illegal gun violence better than that of the 3% in Australia.
In summary, the illegal gun challenge to gun control is a hyped urban myth, and after looking at the data claimed to support it, the evidence actually demonstrates an inverse correlation between the claimed amounts of illegal guns in crime, and gun violence costs, for some strange reason. Perhaps it's because criminals actually avoid firing their illegal guns, because of fear they are unreliable or don't work properly. Who knows. But for more concise answers on illegal guns other such urban myths, please see "Six Snowballs Thrown in the Gun-Control Debate" (Adam Gopnik,New Yorker, 9 December 2015).
Even so, so many gun activists continued to complain to me that illegal usage would be unfair to them,I allow a wildly generous 50% incident rate for illegal guns, 5x-100x more than current data, and deduct that from the quoted annual gun insurance of $260/gun annually, That is,all taxpayers still pay for half of all gun violence in the provided numbers, which is 5-10 times higher than data require, and well below the 1% rate of non-compliance found in Australia after it enacted tougher gun-control laws (in the above "ABC fact-check" article). As such a wild overestimate was included here by overwhelming demand from gun activists, it was totally superfluous to perform any deeper analysis of PIRE's subcomponents.
(3-3) Taxpayer BurdenThe National Research Council reported that public sources paid 85% of medical costs for American gun-violence victims ("Social and Economic Costs of Violence,"National Center for Biotechnology Information, 25 October 2011). Here is some more detailed information:
- Theleft chartfrom "The Hospital Costs of Firearm Assaults" (Urban Institute, 13 September 2013) shows what CDC data there is on sources of payment for hospitalization. Public federal and state taxes definitely pay at least 52%. Private health insurance pays at least 16%. Of the 'self-pay' and 'unknown portions,' there is no data on how much was actually paid by health or other insurance. So it is fair to say that federal taxes, state taxes, and higher insurance premiums pay three quarters of hospital costs.
- Theright chart shows comparative legal costs from six studies for homicide compared to other crimes (from "The Cost of Crime to Society: New Crime-Specific Estimates for Policy and Program Evaluation,"National Center for Biotechnology Information, 1 April 2011). There being no other guide as to what fraction of these costs are born by the public, this study projects the same proportions as for medical costs.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has more specific information, but due to a 1999 senate restriction on the CDC researching gun-related injuries, it doesn't have much more specific data than shown here. In particular, the only year for which fiscal data on gun-related injuries is tabulated to this level of detail is 2010. But this information detail is available publicly. You may verify the following tables by performing your own database queries athttp://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars.
The sum,$43.9 billion/year for medical costs of gun violence, does not include all medical-related disability payments. The American Health Association (AHA) has reported taxpayers pay an additional $1.3 billion for lifetime support of gun victims ("The Public Health Cost of Gun Violence," Cara Tabachnick,the Crime Report, 4 November 2013). But being ≤1% of the aggregate data, that addition is not included in these estimates.
In summary, the CDC data shows that direct hospital costs are about 10% of the total medical costs, all of the rest of which are paid by taxpayers in disability and health insurance premiums. And in this methodology. health-insurance companies would be able to collect from the gun-violence tax, or gun insurance, to reduce health insurance premiums for everyone; but the amount is unknown. So from the available data, it's then very conservative to state that the public expense for gun violence is 95% of the aggregate cost.
(3-4) Justified Acts of Self DefenseWhile some believe half of all deaths are from acts of self defense, in fact it is only about 1%. Also, of attempted acts of self defense, over a third are people shooting home residents by mistake (Guns are More Dangerous to Owners than Criminals,"Yofiel, February 2016).
The percentage of justified self-defense homicides in the most recent year available, 2014, was 0.7% ("Trends in Causes of Firearm Fatalities,"Yofiel, February 2016). However, this number does not include an additional 1.3% fatalities caused by police protective actions. This report therefore uses 2.6% for the proportion of justifiable homicides in self defense, to incorporate both categories and include a margin factor.
(3-5) Household Gun CountAbout a third of households own guns, with an average of 8 guns each.
- Theleft chart from "11 Essential Facts about Guns and Mass Shootings in the United States" (Washington Post, 18 June 2015) was the first fact repeatedly challenged as distorted data from the libertarian press. On checking, a report funded by the National Science Foundation corroborated the finding independently ("Number of households with guns on the decline, study shows,"CBS News, 10 March 2015).
- Theright chart shows 2015 data that each gun-owning household now has 8 guns, from "The average gun owner now owns 8 guns, double what it used to be" (Washington Post, 21 October 2015).
- In 2004, a Gallup poll, "Americans and Guns: Danger or Defense?" stated 31% of gun owners have only one gun, and 29% have five or more guns.
- A recent survey of 4,000 adults found that one third of Americans reported owning a gun ("Gun ownership and social gun culture,"Journal of Injury Prevention, May 2015).
While one might imagine the number purchased each year would be easy to determine, the frequency that gun purchases are declined by the NICS is not revealed for reasons of national security, and there is significant variation in the estimates. But the number is definitely increasing, according to FBI data from "What Background Checks Data Reveals About Gun Ownership in America" (Governing, 20 May 2015).
The total number of guns in America is also not well known. CNN made a conservative estimate of 270 million ("Death and guns in the USA: The story in six graphs," 3 October 2015), but some suggest more than 350 million. Part of the reason for the variation is that it's not known how many of the guns in America still fire safely, as a well-cared-for weapon can last a hundred years or more, but neglected guns can fail very quickly.
This study therefore uses the household data for the estimates.
(3-6) Resulting Annual Cost/GunWith 2% inflation since the PIRE report in mid 20102, it is demonstrable that anaverage annual gun violence fee of $260/gun would totally defend the civil liberty of gun ownership, as follows:
$229 billion /* aggregate cost of gun violence */
/ 320 million /* 2015 population */
* 2 /* average 2 in household (actually 2.6) */
* 50% /* half weapons are legal (actually 0.3%-20%) */
* 3 /* third of households own guns(actually 32%) */
/ 8 /* average of 8 guns each (actually 8.1) */
* 95% /* percentage born by public (actually >99%) */
+ 5% /* inflation since 2012 study (2%/year) */
- 2.6% /* justified cases of self defense */
= $260/GUN /* annual average to completely cover cost */
This deduction is based on all available data, does not exaggerate or inflate, but rather provides plenty of allowance for possible bias.
(3-7) Fee VariationsFee variations would result in a higher base cost to privilege a deserving minority. These would be better answered by insurance companies, who have more understanding of how to do that. Here I just address the issues in general.
(3-7a) Firearm TypeRifle owners legitimately ask if rifle owners should have to carry less of the cost of gun violence. As long guns account for only ~4% or homicides, it's legitimate to consider that different classes of weapons have a different violence fee.
- Theleft chart shows handgun sales are increasing more than other weapons (from "Going after the wrong guns: It's handguns, not assault rifles, that endanger U.S. Opinion,"Star Ledger, 31 March 2013), which is relevant to other discussion below.
- Theright chart is drawn from older FBI national data ("Weapon of Choice in Homicides (Murders),"Gunstats, 2011) and has a link to the FBI data files, so you can verify it for yourself. See alsoSection 3-2, "Illegal Guns."
To assess different fees on different types of guns properly, the amount of violence for each gun type would have to be combined with the number of each firearm type now available, to generate the correct proportional amount.
(3-7b) Income ScalingA few dozen responders were extremely vocal that a gun violence fee would deny them the right to own a gun. In fact, the way the fees and tax reductions are set up above, the average cost of owning one gun is actually lower. However, a flat fee is regressive, so the complaint is reasonable. But there is a complication. Currently, all data indicates that gun violence is much more likely for lower-income owners. So it is not as simple as just scaling the fee to income directly. The exact calculus for determining the appropriate income scaling is too complex for this article's scope. Whatever the actual case as to the scaling, lawmakers must ensure that no one is more deprived in being able to buy a gun than they are now, and if necessary, for example, allow tax deductions on loans for the transition period of the first year until a tax credit is available.
(3-7c) Multiple GunsI finally received a question about reducing rate for multiple guns on 27 December. While I have very much wanted to answer this question, there are no data whatsoever on the number of guns owned by those committing gun violence. With such data, it would be possible to adjust the spread so that those owning more guns would pay slightly less for each additional one. Please see the section "Calls for More Research" in "Gun-Violence Tax and Mandatory Insurance: Current Programs,"Yofiel, December 2015).
(3-7d) LocalityAfter the first 1,100 responses, several requested variation by locality. But there is a problem. In response to Los Angeles' city's first proposal for gun insurance (see "Los Angeles' Mandatory Insurance" in "Gun-Violence Tax and Mandatory Insurance: Current Programs,"Yofiel, December 2015), the first public comment was "I guess I'm going to Burbank from now on." So now the entire county is looking at mandatory insurance. Hence, while there is much data on regional variation, it is beyond the scope of this analysis.
4. Responses to 1,300 Objections
While drafting this article, I listened to about 3,000 objections, 1,300 of which had actual material content, with responses as in the following table. With respect to the possibility of attaining this ideal solution, the language and method of the objection is summarized below this table, clearly indicating the utilitarian approach could only be implemented by force of the majority, and as such, tax credits are unlikely to be included, although taxes and mandatory insurance is likely to increase.
|Complaint||Approx. Frequency||Yofiel's Reply|
|I've a right to have a gun no matter what||650||"The New 2nd Amendment Loophole" and "Gun Rights, Natural Rights, and the Declaration of Independence"|
|Gun violence cost is too low to consider||400||Section 3-1, Total cost of gun violence|
|The 2nd Amendment entitles me to kill someone merely for breaking and entering||350||"American Delusions: Right to Murder"|
|Most violence is with illegal guns||200||Section 3-2, Illegal guns|
|Suicide doesn't count||100||"Firearms and Suicide"|
|My right to kill intruders is inviolate. I will instantly kill regardless of age, sex or threat, and I will never acknowledge the validity of anything you say otherwise||65||"American Delusions: Right to Murder"|
|I will never pay taxes for my rights||60||Section 4-3, You can't tax a right|
|I'm too poor, this denies me my rights||32||Section 3-7b, Flat fees are regressive|
|Most violence is justified self defense||30||Section 3-4, Justified acts of self defense and "Guns are More Dangerous to Owners than Criminals"|
|Everyone should pay for gun violence||30||Section 4-5, It's unfair to gun owners|
|They'd just kill with other weapons||25||Section 4-7, Attackers will use other weapons|
|Regulation would just result in more illegal guns||20||Section 3-2, Illegal guns|
|No gun regulation ever works||15||Section 4-8, Regulation doesn't work|
|All taxes and laws restricting me are evil||15||Section 4-1, Taxes are wrong|
|You data are inadequate/biased||10||"Gun-Violence Tax and Mandatory Insurance: Current Programs," section "Calls for More Data"|
|Violence is decreasing anyway||10||"Trends in Causes of Firearm Fatalities"|
|Same argument applies to everything else||5||Section 4-6, Utilitarianism can't be applied|
|Your premises/justifications are flawed||5||Section 4-5, Your premises are wrong|
|I have a shotgun, no one uses shotguns in crimes||3||Section 3-7a, Flat fees are regressive|
|People in high-crime areas should pay more||2||Section 3-7d, Flat fees are regressive|
|The criminal pays everything anyway||2||Section 3-3, Taxpayer burden|
|We should just sue the gun manufacturers||1||Good idea|
|I should get a discount for multiple guns||1||Section 3-7, Flat fees are regressive|
(4-1) Taxes are WrongFor those stating this and equivalent, I replied I would be more than glad to hear your argument with reference to all the following, or equivalent:
- "The Gorgias" and "The Republic," Plato (380 BC)
- "On Politics,"Aristotle (350 BCE)
- "City of God,"Augustine (400 AD)
- "The Leviathan,"Thomas Hobbes (1668)
- "Essay on Human Understanding: on Power (Book 2, Chapter 21),"John Locke (1689)
- "Second Treatise of Government,"John Locke (1689-1763)
- "Spirit of Law,"Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu (1748)
- "An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation,"Jeremy Bentham (1781)
- "On Liberty,"John Stuart Mill (1859)
- "Utilitarianism,"John Stuart Mill (1863)
- "Politics,"Ralph Waldo Emerson (1844)
- "Das Capital: Critique of Political Economy,"Karl Marx (1883)
- "The Elements of Politics,"Henry Sidgwick (1891)
- "Ethical Theory: the problems of normative and critical ethics,"Richard Brandt (1959)
- "Capitalism and Freedom,"Milton Friedman (1962)
- "A Theory of Justice,"John Rawls (1971-1999)
- "Anarchy, State, and Utopia,"Robert Nozick (1974)
- "Ethical Theory and Utilitarianism,"R. M. Hare (1976)
This topic now has its own article. Please see "Gun Rights, Natural Rights, and the Declaration of Independence" (Yofiel January 2016).
(4-3) You can't Tax a RightWhen people started telling me gun rights can't be regulated or taxed, I merely replied "try not drinking water, then, because if guns can't be regulated, you certainly don't have a right to water." Then I received many complaints that guns are a guaranteed right, unlike water. To that I have a few serious words, which are an abbreviation of that described under the issue of constitutionality.
I chose water as my humorous response because water rights are a main example of how Locke's social contract not only works, but also provided grounds for the American revolution ("Treatises of Government,"John Locke, facsimile, 1689).
Water, Locke argued, was a necessity to life, which he refers to as LAW OF NATURE, or NATURAL LAW. No one person should be able to control access to water, and therefore it is a natural right. Water should be public property, thus defining limits on private property in a free society. For the provision of natural rights by a public authority, a government has authority to collect taxes, within a system he called the 'SOCIAL CONTRACT. If a government does not provide water and other natural rights to its citizens, the rulers lose the natural authority to govern:
Locke believed thatnatural rights were inalienable, and..The Lockean concept of the social contract was invoked in the United States Declaration of Independence.
("Social Contract,"Wikipedia, 2015).
British violations of this social contract included not supplying water to the people. That was the complaint behind the Boston Tea Party: "We are sending you this to put in your teacups, and we can't even get a glass of water." Or, as Jefferson saw it, the social contract was the validation of authority upholding America declaring independence:
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which theLaws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator withcertain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
("Declaration of Independence,"facsimile and transcript, 1776).
So the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence invokes Locke's concept of NATURAL LAW, and the social contract which it declares is that the American government has the power to collect taxes--specifically, by Locke's example, to supply water, and generally, to uphold the natural rights of its citizens to life, first and foremost; and then to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are of higher order than the ancillary bill of rights later added, and "the right to bear arms to form a well-regulated militia" is one of the few rights which is limited by a specific statement of purpose (as noted in "Regarding that pesky 'well regulated Militia' in the 2nd amendment, what exactly did it mean?"Thom Hartman, 5 April 2013).
In the modern world, water is still considered of higher order than any constitutional right. Now it is called a human right. When Roosevelt formed the United Nations, upholding human rights was defined as its primary charter ("Universal Declaration of Human Rights,"United Nations, 1948), in response to the Nazi atrocities that no one ever wants to see again.
So drinking water is indeed a right, and that the government collects taxes for it. I was just a little surprised I had to say this much to people who seem so confident they understand what rights they have, and for what they pay taxes. So yes, if you didn't know, you are paying taxes for your rights, including water. Refusing to accept gun regulation is much the same as refusing to paying taxes for dams and waterways because you have your own well.
Some objected, at great length, that constitutional rights are legal rights for everyone, whereas natural rights are not legal, so they don't count. I asked a number of them, "So people in prison have a legal right to guns?" To which they laughed and said, of course not. So then I asked, "if they are deprived of guns, which you say are legal rights to everyone, then why are they still entitled to water?" To which one person did eventually reply, "Because of the 8th amendment,." So I asked, "Why are there no cases of food and water deprivation under court action due to the 8th amendment, and does that mean people who are not American citizens are not entitled to water and food when in American prisons?" For which further discussion belongs not here, but in "Gun Rights, Natural Rights, and the Declaration of Independence" (Yofiel, January 2016).
In summary then, as governments have authority to collect taxes to pay for human rights, which are of a higher order, then certainly governments have authority to protect life by controlling access to guns. To deny the truth of that is to deny the basis on which the United States had authority to define its own constitution in the first place.
(4-4) The Premises are WrongIn response toSection 2-1, "Method" five tried to object to some steps as false premises. But in fact this is a process to reduce the cost of violence and death for everyone, not a set of premises. The utilitarian premise was in thefirst sentence, and thejustification, as noted above, is described in "The New 2nd Amendment Loophole" (Yofiel, 2015). Since widely sharing this article, a Seattle judge dismissed the NRA lawsuit to prevent gun violence tax (see "Gun-Violence Tax and Mandatory Insurance: Current Programs,"Yofiel, December 2015). So this justification is not lightly dismissed.
On deeper reflection, the critics of this perspective agreed with the following. The real complaint is that utilitarian processes sometimes burden an individual or minority unfairly. That is actually a frequently noted problem for utilitarian methods (see the article noted above for a concise explanation, "Three theories of Justice" (J.W. Gray,Ethical Realism, 26 April 2011). However it is not usually considered a valid complaint when the method ultimately results in a much greater increase of well being for the individual or minority initially burdened too, as well as the well being of all. And that is the case for this proposal.
(4-5) It's Unfair to Gun OwnersWhile gun-violence tax, as I propose it, is ultimately not unfair (as the end result will be lower taxes for gun owners too) the utilitarian method does pose a temporary extra tax on guns. Over time, the concordance of efforts to reduce gun-violence taxes by those who profit from the sale of guns will remove the burden, whereas now, the continual fight to stop any infringement on gun sales simply exacerbates the schism between the two sides.
But let's consider properly the ethical claim of unfairness. The only problem some raised with comparing gun rights to water rights (as in the previousSection 4-2, "You can't Tax a Right") is that everyone needs water, but people may choose whether to buy a gun. So it is clear that the costs of building dams and waterways should be part of everyone's taxes. How much of the gun violence cost of owning a gun should be shouldered by those who choose not to own a gun?
The argument presented here in "The New 2nd Amendment Loophole" (Yofiel, December 2015) is that those who own guns kill other people, thus depriving other people of the right to bear arms. Those who further object to the fairness of this argument usually state, first, that their guns also protect other people. "Because I make America safer," two stated in virtually the same words, "you should be paying me." So according to gun owners, we should be shoulderingall the cost of gun violence for the privilege of being protected by them.
Let's put aside the fact that such claims are made on falsified data ("9 Ridiculous Things in That BuzzFeed Post About Stopping Mass Shootings,"Mother Jones, 18 September 2013), and put aside the fact that guns are more dangerous to owners than criminals ("Guns are More Dangerous to Owners than Criminals,"Yofiel, February 2016). Let's first try to understand the ethics of this. If a classroom bully beats up other bullies, should everyone give candy to the bully, and be grateful, instead of expelling the bully? Or, let's state the formal attitude to such defense of self armament in the name of protecting others:
"Vigilantism generally refers to a group activity performed by private individuals that use violence or the threat of violence to enforce values in absence of effective state intervention. Vigilantism is provoked to deal with deviant acts that may or may not be criminal butis conducted primarily to offer economic or moral satisfaction to members of the vigilante group of the social class that sponsors the activity."
("Encyclopedia of Criminal Justice Ethics,"Bruce Arrigo, 2014).
This article's perspective is purely practical, so the relevant point here is that the group is advocating vigilantism for its own economic gain, through rewards or the fiscal benefits of fame. Gun owners therefore still should pay for the cost of gun violence, and then it would be even more in its own interest to reduce violence. But even if that is unacceptable, then whatever the case on the ethics of such mafia-style justification, vigilantism does not undercut the immense expense of gun violence to all, and the current solution, of all taxpayers paying the burden equally, has done nothing to improve the situation. It is in the interests of those wanting vigilante justice to have more violence, so that they can profit from stopping it, if only as far as to stop gun owners from paying gun violence tax.
This was the incentive for presenting a utilitarian solution, because there appears no other way to reduce the future costs. If someone can present a better system for ensuring that gun profiteers cooperate with reducing gun violence, then I will be more than glad to hear it, because however unfair it is to gun owners to pay a per-gun tax, even with tax credits, there are yet still far many more who do not own guns. And those who do not own guns feel it even more unfair to them. Not the least of those are the ones who are shot to death.
(4-6) Utilitarianism can't be AppliedSome responded thatSection 2-1, "Method" applies to cigarettes, alcohol, and everything else, so it can't be applied to gun violence, because the same argument could be used for everything. And actually, philosophically, that's a good point. When you buy alcohol, cigarettes, and gasoline, enormous taxes are imposed because of problems with safety of the commodities. For cars you MUST have mandatory insurance and registration (home insurance is also mandatory if you have a house loan), and the cost of all that insurance is set byother people's damage, injury and death, even if you have perfect records. The same should apply for guns, considering the cost figures provided here, but there's a prevalent nihilism towards anything approaching civil responsibility. Part of this is because the gun lobby is currently make its most profit from selling more guns to people already have many, so now there's a decreasing number of increasingly hostile maniacs, who are hording weapons designed only to kill people, are expressly vocal about it. Maybe with this tax change and reduced violence, people will not have such a negative attitude to guns. Many people who don't currently have guns will think about buying a gun with the gun-violence tax credit, and as a consequence, the marketing will change to a less aggressive group, from which the gun manufacturing industry stands to make much more money than it is now.
Utilitarianism's perspective is to provide a method to solve problems, as stated at the beginning of this article. There is an irresolvable conflict over gun control, and this method solves it by creating an environment where there will be consensus. John Stuart Mill himself did not believe that utilitarianism should be used to invent laws unless there's a benefit. And it's certainly possible that the same method could apply to other problems in new ways, the conflict over how best to reduce gun violence is the focus here.
(4-7) Aggressors will use other Weapons"Guns are more dangerous to owners than to criminals" (Yofiel, Febrauary 2016) finds that death is more likely to result from a gun than other weapon in 9 out of 10 cases. CDC data inSection 3-1, "Total Cost of Gun Violence" shows that non-fatal violence is well under a tenth of the cost of fatal violence. Therefore it is straightforward to deduce thatuse of another weapon besides a gun in violence reduces cost by 99%.That is so far within the variation of data error in available research that the extra cost of violence with other weapons is too negligible to consider as an additional cost in this study.
(4-8) Regulation Doesn't WorkThe belief that gun-control laws do not reduce violence is, at best, contentious. The following scattergraph from "The Striking Relationship between Gun Safety Laws and Firearm Deaths" (the Atlantic, 7 March 2013) shows the correlation between gun incidents and the gun control laws in different states. States in the highest quartile of legislative strength (scores of ≥9) had a lower overall firearm and suicide fatality rate than those in the lowest quartile (scores of ≤2).
Also it is disputed whether tougher gun regulation works in other countries, despite much evidence otherwise (see the links on other countries inSection 3-2, "Illegal Guns").
Because of the complexity of this data, it is easy for each side to draw opposing conclusions about the effectiveness of existing gun control laws in this country. If gun violence cost is born by gun owners, it would be interesting how opinions change, and what new effective legislation would emerge.
5. Analysis of Responses
While gathering responses in the past year, I tried to be objective and support both sides, even with the ubiquitous scathing abuse accompanying their remarks. But gun activists were unanimously so eager to pick a fight, they even scorned me when I was arguing on their side. Despite repeated attempts to explain the benign social contract underlying the constitution, not only did the concept of a fear-free society remain beyond their conceptual grasp, but moreover, the very foundation of individual rights was repeatedly ridiculed, defaming the deepest fabric of our national unity with an ignorant and apathetic arrogance. After calling the natural rights in the declaration of independence 'bovine scatology' or similar, they then have the absolute gall to talk as if civil rights were explicitly designed with the apparent single intent to assure they are permitted to kill.
The gun lovers exultantly exploit fragments of derived constitutional rules, parroted out of context, neither with a notion of the concept of justice itself, nor considering why the rules exist at all beyond their own convenience.
More specifically, the response patterns fell in the following categories:
(5-1) Direct Insultabout 70% of the responses were insults. Of those, about half were only insults, and the other half were statements to justify the insults, and about half of each of those groups insulted me without reading the article at all, almost always pretending they had. I learned to ask if they knew the author's name. The usual response was, "You're a f---ing moron, how could I know who the sh_t wrote it?" My name is on all the articles, so it was quite obvious they didn't know how to scroll through headings. or look at the table of contents, let alone read with comprehension. I use my real name in forums too, but they rarely figured out I had written these articles myself.
(5-2) The Statistics are WrongAbout 10% were experts in scrolling to the first statistic and then telling me it was wrong, without reading any of my analysis of it. On the bright side, only about half of these people insulted me until later. I did have to repeat what I had already written in many patient text messages, for each of them, over many hours. I avoided stating when statistics were actuallynot liberal ones, because that just made them angry. After I validated my data for the first statistic beyond their ability to criticize it further, they simply jumped right away to telling me what was wrong with the article's second statistic, neither acknowledging their own error or my correctness. As such, actual debate on the validity of any statistics within the forum of American public opinion is totally and completely futile.
Gun lovers don't care about truth at all. They simply state ANY fact obstructing their right to kill is biased. They ignore the purpose of law. If one proves one fact they state is wrong, they simply produce another objection, as if one had proven nothing.
(5-3) I Am Right Because I Say SoAbout 10% asserted that I knew nothing at all about what I was saying, and then told me the truth which they knew to be true, usually ending with another insult as to my stupidity for good measure. I would ask their prior education, experience, what involvement they had in the gun industry, and what political philosophy books they had read. Of those 130 people, 4 stated they had a college degree. The other 126 simply stated they knew the truth, I was wrong, they didn't need to say anything else to prove it; that college is for imbeciles, and there is no need to read books to learn anything either, followed by another insult as to my arrogance and pomposity. After about 50 times, I started to notice how much they all follow exactly that pattern, for some reason again beyond my understanding. The sequence is (1) I am right, (2) You are wrong because I say so, (3) I don't need to prove anything (4) college is for imbeciles, (5) Books are useless, and (6) insult. Their diatribes never once answered my question as to their involvement in the gun industry. Whatever the reason for the uniformity of sequence, I account the overall behavior with the Dunning and Kruger Effect:
"The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than it really is...For a given skill, incompetent people will fail to recognize their own lack of skill, fail to recognize the extent of their inadequacy, (and) fail to recognize genuine skill in others...."
("Dunning & Kruger Effect,"Wikipedia, 2016)
(5-4) Massive Paranoid MisinterpretationThe remaining 10% said that tax credits are just too expensive for people to afford, and taxes are high enough already. So finally I understood the Libertarian death threats mentioned earlier. Apparently, gun lovers who can actually read, rather than just hurl insults or scroll to numbers and say they are wrong, often think 'tax credit' means 'paying more taxes,' rather than 'paying less taxes.' And that's not all. The 2nd-amendment people said they won't relinquish to my natural-rights justification to keep guns, however much I argue for it. About a dozen said they would shoot me first, before they would let my drivel (which supports their gun rights) cause their guns to be confiscated.
(5-5) Desire, Intent, and Justification to KillOver four months I canvassed various groups asking 'Would you kill someone merely for breaking and entering?"
Of 500 gun lovers specifically surveyed on this topic, all said the 2nd amendment gave them a right to use a gun. As I partially explained in "Gun Rights, Natural Rights, and the Declaration of Independence," the justification for self defense is better defended on grounds of natural rights. However, this new perspective was met with the same extreme hostility. 50% simply stated that the 2nd amendment gives them a right to kill, but none of them asked could state the complete amendment, nor explain how a right to own weapons means they have a right to kill strangers, simply refusing to answer anything beyond that. Moreover, 10% argued extensively, ignoring all information to the contrary, that they have a right to murder, even children, simply for breaking and entering ("American Delusions: the Right to Murder,"Yofiel, May 2015).
Of the 500 directly asked, 250 stated the 2nd amendment directly entitles them to kill, totally ignoring any fact otherwise. This gross and horrifying delusion is only one illustration of the widespread and blatant indifference to truth. A further 10% argued extensively, sometimes for many hours, for shooting a suspected intruder immediately, twisting obscure legal cases into justifications with psychopathic conviction, dismissing any contrary evidence of higher importance as irrelevant, and ignoring any concerns whether it should matter if they shoot a child or relative.
While discussing in open forums, side participants often chipped in with remarks like "if you don't kill you are a coward," urging each other to manic rage (discussed in "If there Must be Bloodshed,"Yofiel, November 2015).
(5-6) Death Threats and IntimidationWhile sharing ideas on ways to reduce taxes, Libertarians were particularly aggressive. After the second death threat for my evil wish to reduce taxes, an extremely malevolent cohort, sporting monikers of skulls, machine guns covered in blood, and satanic symbols. gloatingly gathered a posse of a dozen to hunt me down and do me physical harm in the name of righteous freedom. Even I am still surprised by it, and I am the one they were planning to mutilate.
After the third libertarian forum banned me, rather than them, I tried finding some interest from 2nd-Amendment groups. While a few passively liked the shared articles, all actual comments were extremely hostile to my defense of the rights to bear arms. I received 25 threats that I would personally be shot if anyone took their guns away. After indicating to each that nothing I said would cause them to lose their guns, and in fact my tax credit system was designed to reduce costs to everyone, one of the several dozen did apologize for the threat, providing a total conviction rate that I did deserve to be killed or mutilated, for wishing to reduce taxes, of 98%.
I was forced into accepting that a rational approach to seek consensus through an inquiry of reason was not going to be politically successful. Gun lovers continually seized on anything simple enough to be within grasp of one-sided minds, twisting it to their own selfish benefit, without any consideration whatsoever for others' lives.
Not One of the 3,000 Objections
In Arguments over an Entire Year
Said Even One Kind or Supportive Word
for the Dead.
This study described an ideal method to reduce gun-violence cost, gathering data, and responses to it from 1,300 gun advocates, over a span of a year. First, it can be stated without doubt that the 132 million American households pay an average of at least $500/year, and probably more than $700/year, in taxes and medical insurance for gun-violence cost. To provide these numbers, I reiterate, I have removed all components from cost data which are not paid for by taxes or medical insurance, and there is no other cost data available, due to restrictions imposed on government research by NRA-sponsored legislation to prevent bias against guns. With regard to the other data in numerical deductions, there were also many complaints of bias.
Even after all stated above, I continued to receive numerous statements from gun supporters, particularly the NRA, blaming most gun deaths on crime by gangs, citing if anything 'FBI data' as proof without any actual reference to the data proving the claim.
"If you want to stop violent crime, and I know you do, take violent criminals off the street. Prosecute them under the current federal gun laws, and make sure they don't get to their next crime scene. That's the way to save lives....If you have had enough of the dishonest debate,if you're sick and tired of politicians blaming you and your guns for their failure, demand truth and justice. Stand and fight with the NRA."Wayne LaPierre repeatedly blames gangs and criminals for gun violence, saying "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." I heard so many accusations of deliberate falsification, I went to the FBI databases and figured it all out for myself ("Trends in Causes of Firearm Fatalities,"Yofiel, February 2016). Four out of five deaths are people killing people themselves, or in anger killing people they know. Less than 1 in 17 are by the so-called 'bad guys' Less than 1 in 50 are by good guys, even including the police. And as for the suicides and involuntary acts, the bad guy killing them would appear to be LaPierre, who only blocks efforts to save their lives. If he truly demands truth and justice, then he is guilty first of perjury, and second for the injustice to those gun victims he causes himself by obstructing their protection.
(Wayne LaPierre, "How to Stop violent Crime,"NRA News, undated)
Totally opposite to NRA claims, most homicides are people killing others they know, and the majority of those cases are domestic violence in the home itself ("Guns are More Dangerous to Owners than Criminals,"Yofiel, February 2016). The same article cites scientific studies proving the following facts. There are many more accidents to gun owners' own children than justified cases of self defense. Less than 1 in 30 of all homicides are justified acts of self defense, and in four out of ten cases, people who are defending themselves shoot a child, a relative, or even themselves by mistake. Also, the presence of a gun in a home at least doubles the risk of homicide to a resident in the home. The presence of a gun locker or other safety measures does not reduce the likelihood of homicide. Additionally, two thirds of gun deaths are people shooting themselves. The gun lovers said suicides aren't guns' fault, so I have to add, suicide attempts are 30 times more likely in the presence of a gun, and 10 times more likely to be successful with a gun than by other methods ("Suicide and Firearms,"Yofiel, February 2016).
All these facts were regarded with particular disdain by those desiring to promote gun proliferation. Not one of the 1,300 defending inviolate rights to kill, in arguments over an entire year, said even one considerate word for the dead. On the contrary, the most vocal 15% stated all people who were killed unequivocally deserve to die, even blaming accidental deaths on some vapid concept of necessary error, and dispassionately asserting all suicide victims should die without intervention anyway. They are sociopathic, and many are genuinely psychopathic, totally unable to understand their psychosis. The majority of their claims are directly false and without grounds, without any ameliorative qualities. None of those presented with any information proving their arguments wrong made any concession to the fact, simply proceeding to another objection without acknowledging any flaw in their minds. However, those are only the people driving public opinion by the force of their vehemence. The majority is totally oblivious to facts, believing all evidence and responsibility for death only applies to others, despite the increased risk to the lives of themselves and their families which the best impartial evidence indicates they create by keeping firearms in their own homes.
I am forced to conclude too many Americans who get guns are just too angry, too stupid, too dangerous, or too insane to trust with firearms. Out of the 1,300 choosing to advocate gun rights to me, the abrogation of social responsibility was exclusively predominant for 1,292 of them (99.38%).
As for the utilitarian solution itself that I offered, it was only really understood by 2 responders (0.15%). None of the other respondents were interested in understanding Benthamism, but merely in saying I was wrong in every way imaginable. Many were incapable of accepting that tax credits really does mean lower taxes, and of those, three dozen actually used threats of physical harm and death in attempts to intimidate me from further work on reducing gun violence.
Much as I desired to create consensus through dialog, all the evidence indicates efficacy in gun-violence reduction can only be coerced. Both sides of the debate manipulate and distort statistics without any interest in truth, but the gun advocates only do so to promote the case for more killing, and to promote more gun sales, without any real consideration whatsoever of the superseding value of human life in ethics, morals, law and the Lockean social contract under which this nation was formed. Gun lobbyists moreover exhibit no interest whatsoever in changing public opinion on the value of human life, but simply monger fear, hatred and blame of others for the deaths they cause, challenging every single effort to stop homicide, suicide and injury out of nothing but fiscal self interest.
As the existing policy of the NRA and other gun lobbyist groups is to fight almost every single gun-control regulation, causing lives to be unnecessarily lost, it is only a matter of time before some class-action suit puts these lobbyists out of business ("Sue the NRA and its Lobbyists,"Yofiel, January 2016). Meanwhile, the only possible way to create effective gun-control policies is to circumvent the gross abrogation of social responsibility and by forcing policy, ideally with the utilitarian method described here by law, and until such ideal can be realized, by as much as can be achieved (via gun-violence taxes, mandatory insurance, and restrictions on sales) against the wishes of a vociferously pathological minority.