The Null Device

Infrastructure vs. the Right to Bear Arms

The problems of maintaining infrastructure in a country where carrying guns is considered a fundamental, God-given right: Google have had to invest in building expensive cable tunnels to an Oregon data centre after their fibre links kept getting shot down by idiots exercising their rights, by means of shooting at the white ceramic targets that have been conveniently placed for their benefit on overhead lines:
"Every November when hunting season starts invariably we know that the fibre will be shot down, so much so that we are now building an underground path [for it]."
Google aren't by any means the only target of this kind of destructive stupidity: every New Year's Day and Fourth of July, US utility companies find themselves having to replace transformers which had been shot by idiots wanting to see cool sparks, and owners of roof-mounted antennas in rural parts of the US have a choice between to providing and maintaining alternative targets for trigger-happy passers-by, or having their (expensive) antennas get it. Still, that's the price one pays for liberty.

Of course, it may well be that the vast majority of hunters are responsible and law-abiding and never vandalise private property in this way, but that's irrelevant. As long as there's a minority, even a tiny one, of belligerent assholes who just like fucking shit up, and another minority of mostly responsible people who do dumb things from time to time after sinking a few Buds, and there's no way of taking these individuals' guns away if they misbehave because firearm ownership is an inalienable human right, the onus is going to be on data centres to bury their cables, property owners to provide targets for these assholes to shoot at, and electricity companies to keep replacing prematurely perforated transformers (and passing the cost on to the consumer).

There are 6 comments on "Infrastructure vs. the Right to Bear Arms":

Posted by: Chris Wed Sep 22 15:25:27 2010

I mostly agree, but I feel like this is partially disingenuous reasoning. I'm sure you noticed the mention of people throwing chains and bricks into power lines and transformers. Don't hooligans and other miscreants cause damage to cars, windows, or anything in sight when riled up and/or drunk? Stupid people are rampant. Limiting access to firearms doesn't cure that problem. However, I completely agree that "taking these individuals' guns away if they misbehave" is an excellent idea; and this does happen. If hunters in the US misbehave(including simply not having the correct license, regardless of actual behavior), game wardens can confiscate their guns and other equipment. If people are convicted of felonies, they're no longer allowed to carry firearms at all. I'd argue that we should spend more time arresting these idiots, instead of nonviolent pot smokers. Weapon ownership in the US is recognized as a fundamental HUMAN right. But it's hardly inalienable, given the many restrictions placed on it.

Posted by: acb Wed Sep 22 21:49:32 2010

The problem is it's hard to catch those being idiotic with their guns, which means that the law is difficult to enforce.

As for the rationale for carrying guns being a human right, it seems a bit archaic. In the 18th century, when the US constitution was drafted, it was meant to serve as a check against tyrannical governments (push the people too far and they may march on the Whitehouse with their muskets and overthrow you). In this age, weapons in private hands would barely be an inconvenience to a tyrant with the US military and law enforcement apparatus at their disposal. So all that's left is the freedom to shoot stuff more conveniently than they can in Europe or elsewhere, and the costs of that freedom.

Posted by: Chris Thu Sep 23 14:16:06 2010

It is definitely difficult to catch them, which is why I made my somewhat snarky comment about arresting these guys instead of wasting time on people smoking pot. Police ought to more worried about our infrastructure than whether some McDonalds fry cook is getting high.

You're absolutely right that modern warfare is well past the level where untrained people with hunting weapons would be able to actually take over a country. But an armed citizenry, in full revolt, would be a nightmare of a guerrilla warfare situation for a military based in that same country.

Furthermore, the reason for personal weapons ownership has evolved more towards self-defense. Every person has a fundamental right to defend themselves. Firearms are simply an effective means of doing so.

Posted by: acb Thu Sep 23 16:27:16 2010

Of course, the flip side of that is that the criminals are also likely to be packing heat. Not that that doesn't happen in places where guns are restricted (though there it is less common), but situations are more likely to escalate when each side has a reason to expect the other to be armed. And then there is the increased suicide rate (guns do make such a decision a lot more convenient to carry out), and domestic accidents (people mistaking family members for burglars), and the fact that disputes are more likely to end in fatality or serious injury when guns are available. (Shooting someone dead in a fit of rage is a lot easier than bludgeoning them to death.)

Posted by: Chris Fri Sep 24 14:40:12 2010

Criminals will arm themselves, regardless of laws. With private ownership, people have the ability to defend themselves, and the criminals have a deterrent against attacking.

Access to high buildings or bridges make committing suicide fairly simple as well. This has nothing to do with firearms, and everything to do with social support networks.

Accidents do happen, and are terrible. But they're more rare than accidentally killing a family member with a car.

I believe disputes are far less likely to escalate when firearms are present. Also, fatal shootings are less likely and fatal bludgeoning are more likely than most people assume.

Obviously we're coming from two widely varied viewpoints here, and we've wandered pretty far from my original point. How about we get I just buy you a beer next time I'm in England, and we can hash it over then?

Posted by: acb Fri Sep 24 22:46:15 2010

Sounds good to me!