Costs and Benefits

How do you stop terrorists?

There are lots of ways.  Those opposed to gun control in the US are using the Nice terror attack to argue that gun control advocates are missing the point – the tool doesn’t matter, but rather the intent.  Even without guns, people will still kill other people.  But the desire to try and keep people from killing others is a good one.  The question becomes how far do you take it?  Do you ban guns?  Certain kinds of guns?  Certain levels of ammunition?  While perhaps an important discussion, it doesn’t solve the issue of people killing other people because they don’t need guns to do that.  Can we stop them if they’re using another tool?

Turns out, probably.  But how comfortable are you with what is necessary to do that?

Are you comfortable with your local or state or national government installing devices that blind, deafen, raise the temperature of a person’s skin, or otherwise disrupt what a person is doing, on the off chance that someone is going to be in range of one of those devices and doing something they shouldn’t?  Are you comfortable with someone being able to stop your car from driving by pressing a button?

Safety has costs.  Not just tax dollars, but costs in terms of personal autonomy, personal peace of mind.  There are ways of stopping people, but to be effective they have to be installed and operational and ready to use with the flick of a switch.  They might be installed with the intention of only being used against terrorists or other violent threats to the population, but they could always be utilized against the population.

Not happy with the protest that has gathered at an inopportune time?  Well, we could disperse them without hurting anybody.  Want to encourage people to avoid a certain area of town?  Well, we could make it really uncomfortable for people to be in that area.  If we’re uncomfortable with someone turning every-day items into weapons, should we be comfortable with actually installing weapons on our streets and buildings and other places?

 

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