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I think there was a part in Atlas Shrugged about guns and brute force, but I'm not sure how Rand felt about guns in general.

asked Dec 24 '11 at 00:10

Collin1's gravatar image


edited Dec 26 '11 at 13:26

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Weapons are amoral in that a weapon is not capable of making a moral decision. The weapon user makes a moral decision every time he/she chooses to use or to not use the weapon.

The second amendment exists in the milieu of the entire Constitution and, more specifically, in that group of amendments that are intended to insure specific freedoms for US citizens. It is difficult to say that any one or more of these freedoms is more or less important than the others. However, if I were intent on subjugating a populace, I would first work to limit freedoms of speech, assembly, property, habeas corpus, press, religion, and other interpersonal communications. Once the populace is "properly" subservient, removing their personal weapons should be fairly easy.

answered Dec 24 '11 at 09:27

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ethwc ♦

It would be interesting to revisit this topic in light of the multiple gun killings that have recently occurred. It seems like unbalanced people with easy access to guns and ammo have a simple and easy way to kill many people in the USA with very little effort. Given that we are in a stressed time, the prevalence of this kind of violence is increasing (Batman killings, Empire State Building this morning to name but a few). Is there another side to this issue for Objectivists or is there no limit to the arming of a populace? Bazookas OK? Missiles?

(Aug 24 '12 at 10:24) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

There is definitely a limit. This is one way in which Objectivism differs from Libertarianism.

I don't believe Rand spoke much on gun control. I think she certainly would have recognized the right to private ownership of hunting rifles. I think she certainly would not have claimed that there was any right to unlicensed private ownership of nuclear weapons.

It is important to remember while considering the in-between cases, that the right to life is the source of all rights.

(Aug 24 '12 at 11:40) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I think this quote from Rand properly sums up how she felt about this. She was asked "What is your attitude toward gun control?" and responded:

"It’s a complex, technical issue in the philosophy of law. Handguns are instruments for killing people–they are not carried for hunting animals–and you have no right to kill people. You do have the right to self-defense, however. I don’t know how the issue is to be resolved to protect you without giving you the privilege to kill people at whim."

I largely agree with this although I think the technical issues have somewhat evolved since then.

(Aug 24 '12 at 11:48) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Specifically, I would say that the right to buy hand guns for self-defense in the home is an important right. Permission to carry a concealed weapon should be licensed by the state. Certainly denied to those convicted of violent felonies and those with known problems with mental illness. Certainly allowed to bounty hunters and private security guards and the like. In between those two, I don't know, but I'd lean toward allowing it.

(Aug 24 '12 at 12:00) anthony anthony's gravatar image

As for so-called "assault weapons", I think they should mostly be restricted to sale/use/possession in conjunction with police and/or military use. But you have to be careful not to draw the line to the point where you are restricting legitimate use in hunting or protection from wild animals.

One argument which I strongly disagree with is that of "it doesn't matter why I need it - it's just my right".

(Aug 24 '12 at 12:03) anthony anthony's gravatar image

To the extent any of this violates the second amendment, I'm not suggesting that the second amendment be ignored. If necessary it should be modified first. But I believe current precedent is that the second amendment does not prohibit state restrictions.

(Aug 24 '12 at 12:12) anthony anthony's gravatar image

In an attempt to close this question, I'd like to say that ALL citizens must be given the right to firearms to defend themselves. As a society, we have to trust the individual to do the right thing, and we'll punish those who break the law. We won't punish everyone by outlawing guns. That would be saying that NOBODY could be trusted to do the right thing. That mentality says that people are generally immoral, and if they can't be trusted with one thing (guns), they can't be trusted at all.

(Aug 24 '12 at 14:04) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image

We don't have to trust people to do the right thing, and we don't have to feel that people are generally immoral to prohibit them from owning machine guns just because they feel like it.

(Aug 24 '12 at 14:16) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Can you elaborate on that?

(Aug 24 '12 at 14:25) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image

I think my elaboration was in the preceding messages.

(Aug 24 '12 at 14:27) anthony anthony's gravatar image

If my neighbor starts stockpiling weapons, and when questioned about his reason replies "none of your business", I'm going to be worried about that person, not because I think people are generally immoral, but because the person's behavior is abnormal.

Does this mean I am saying we should draw the line there and have the government step in? No, I do feel that this is, as Rand put it, "a complex, technical issue in the philosophy of law". But the idea that I shouldn't worry about such odd and unexplained behavior unless and until the bullet leaves the barrel, is one with which I cannot agree.

(Aug 24 '12 at 14:32) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Thanks Anthony. I liked your thinking here.

(Aug 24 '12 at 14:37) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

You're welcome. I'd like to add to my previous comment that if my neighbor, instead of "none of your business", says "I'm opening up a gun store", that would both allay my fears and indicate that he has a right to proceed. Even if I called the police to report the behavior and they said "he has a permit to stockpile weapons" without giving me the details as to why, this would still somewhat allay my fears and indicate that he has a right to proceed (even moreso in the case of a an Objectivist government).

(Aug 24 '12 at 14:41) anthony anthony's gravatar image

You and I are saying the same thing. He has the right to stockpile as many weapons as he wants...because we are trusting him to do the right thing first. But until he does something wrong, then he will lose his right and suffer the consequences. Even if his reasoning for collecting weapons is ambiguous, he can still do what he wants. Additionally, for those who ask about RPGs and explosives, I'll say that the companies that manufacture those products will choose not to sell it to the general population and reserve it for the military.

(Aug 24 '12 at 14:53) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image

If you know anything about arms makers Collin1, I believe you'll be surprised that they almost always adopt a posture of "once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down, it's not my department" (apologies to Tom Lehrer). In short, I think there are always arms makers who just want to sell their Harpoon missiles, bazookas etc. and make a nice buck.

(Aug 24 '12 at 15:46) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

I really don't think we're saying the same thing.

And I don't think companies that manufacture RPGs and explosives would voluntarily choose not to sell it to the general population. In fact, I think it is abundantly clear that many such companies will sell anything they legally can sell to anyone willing to pay for it.

RPGs are, and should be, illegal to buy or sell without a permit. And I'm not talking about a "shall issue" permit. I'm talking about a permit whose issue is restricted to those with a specific need, almost certainly a police or military related one.

(Aug 24 '12 at 15:52) anthony anthony's gravatar image

If the arms manufacturers don't care about to whom they sell their products, I wouldn't buy from them. That mentality is irresponsible, and it leaves it open for possible treason to occur. A decision like mine made by everyone else would drive them out of business. And if they don't care where the rockets come down...I'm pretty sure they would if it landed straight through their own front door. This same idea applies directly to the MPAA rating movies. They determine what kind of audience is most suitable for a film.

(Aug 25 '12 at 00:15) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image

It's easy to design the law if you make the assumption that everyone is going to behave perfectly morally. A decision like yours made by everyone else, would mean we don't need any laws at all.

This sounds like exactly that Libertarian argument which I was referring to in my first comment. This forum is about Objectivism, and Objectivism rejects Libertarianism.

(Aug 25 '12 at 07:22) anthony anthony's gravatar image

If companies that manufacture the products would all choose to only deal with people who had undergone background checks and were using the weapons for a military purpose (and, of course, I mean the military of the good guys), and if any companies doing otherwise would be boycotted by all purchasers, then what's the harm in having a law which requires them to do so? They're just going to do it voluntarily anyway.

Of course, this is a pie in the sky mentality. We shouldn't trust everybody to do the right thing, just like we shouldn't fear that nobody will do the right thing.

(Aug 25 '12 at 07:26) anthony anthony's gravatar image

In this pie-in-the-sky world, the military would be the only customer of RPGs. So they would work closely with all the RPG manufacturers and sellers.

If a new seller popped up, which they didn't know about, that seller would necessarily be marketing to someone other than them, so that seller would necessarily be choosing to sell to someone other than them, and if they made a sale, that buyer would necessarily be choosing to deal with a company willing to sell to non-military (military of the good guys, anyway). So your pie-in-the-sky view of the world would necessarily be broken.

(Aug 25 '12 at 07:32) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Since this question is still open, I wanted to add that Ayn Rand viewed the government as an institution with a 'monopoly on the use of physical force'. I think that if you extrapolate her comment you could reach a valid conclusion that the government may control firearms via laws and courts. This supports anthony's comment which mentions that gun control is a technical issue to be handled by the philosophy of law.

(Jul 19 '13 at 16:10) empiric ♦ empiric's gravatar image
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Asked: Dec 24 '11 at 00:10

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Last updated: Jul 19 '13 at 16:10