Megan McArdle has a series of posts (this appears to be the last of them) about the folks bringing guns to protests or the president’s appearances. Her view – its idiotic, folks who do it are acting like jerks, but there’s nothing wrong with it.
I have a few guns. I can’t see any particular reason to take them out and about, making a public display of carrying them around. The only reason to take them to some sort of a protest situation where there are two sides arguing with each other is to intimidate other people. As Megan herself points out, “other people aren’t going to pick fights with the guy with the gun. ” In fact, people are going to be less likely to even argue with him or make eye contact. After all, he just might be a lunatic.
Now, when you point something like this out, invariably someone responds that the Swiss and the Israelis are always walking around armed to the teeth, and those tend to be societies where you don’t see folks shooting each other in the streets. I can’t speak for the Swiss – I know nothing about them other than that they make pretty good chocolate. I do tend to have an impression that their neutrality policy amounts to a “I got mine, the rest of you can get beaten to a pulp for all I care” philosophy, but whether that’s accurate or not, I can’t say.
As to the Israelis, I do know something about them. The reason Israelis don’t think twice about their fellow citizens walking around with assault rifles is because the alternative is worse. The likelihood of getting blown to bits by a suicide bomber in Israel is higher than the likelihood of being shot by a deranged fellow Israeli. Furthermore, the more armed Israelis there are, the lower the probability that you will be the victim of a suicide-bomber.
Over here, it seems the dynamic is a bit different. The likelihood that some Joe Citizen walking down the street heavily armed is going to stop the next Timothy McVeigh is much lower than the odds that some Joe Citizen walking down the street heavily armed is on his way to lighting up a McDonalds or ventilating some nursing students. And let’s be realistic- if given a chance, that Joe Citizen walking down the street heavily armed is more likely to be the kind of guy who would sympathize with or help the next Timothy McVeigh if given a chance rather than shoot him.
Now, I’d hate for someone to think that I’m a Timothy McVeigh sympathizer. I’ll be leaving my guns at home.