Why can’t I have a nuclear weapon?

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

In the course of endeavoring for reasoned debate, I often find people who either do not understand the word reasonable, or simply can’t be bothered with reason. These days, they’re often referred to as internet trolls. People who love to use hyperbole, ad hominem attacks, and sometimes, just plain old personal insults to make their point.

In Internet Trollmaking the case for why the Armalite AR-15 should not be subject to some sort of ban, one of those folks asked me a question that was clearly born of hyperbole with the intent of destroying my arguments for why one should be allowed to own such a weapon. On the face of it, it’s actually a poignant question, but the tone of his asking it suggested he wasn’t interested in an answer; he felt the question was redundant, rhetorical, and had proved his point with no further dialogue needed.

The Armalite AR-15questions is often used by gun control zealots, and always given with the same smirky attitude that defines the fringe of any party who aren’t interested in debate, but merely getting you to agree with them. The question was this:

If you can have an AR-15 legally, why can’t you have a nuclear weapon?

After which, he snidely said, “yay, nukes for us all!” This of course being the point I knew he wasn’t interested in an answer.

When nuclear-missile-in-silo[1]he first asked the question, I realized I’ve heard this before, and if I truly believe in ultimate liberty, then why would I not support allowing citizens to own a nuclear weapon? Being someone who strives for consistency in my beliefs, how do I reconcile this question without violating my ideology of liberty?

I’ve made it clear that I am not an anarchist, I am a libertarian. A person who believes in limited government, not a total lack of it. For me, the roles of government are defined as people employed by the populace to protect our rights. In my opinion, anything the government does outside that realm is oppression. This responsibility of government I’ve enunciated is where his argument falls apart.

I personally own an AR-15, and have easily shot thousands of rounds through it at a shooting range and other safe environments. No one has ever died, nor even been hit by a bullet fired from my gun. As such, I can make an argument that I can own and use an AR-15 without being a harm to anyone by virtue of having done so repeatedly. The only person at risk is the guy who thinks my TV should be his TV and has no qualms about attempting to make it so.

However, while I am not a nuclear physicist, I am pretty comfortable in claiming that I could likely not detonate a nuclear weapon without likely threatening the rights to life, liberty, and/or property of another. So the line is pretty simple to me as to what weapons should be legal versus those that must be banned.Nuclear Detonation

If the weapon is one that can be used without harming others, you should have the right to own it—period. If however, that weapon or item is a danger to society with little to no ability to be used without harming someone, it must remain illegal as it is a threat to the rights of another. If you could own a piece of property so remote and isolated from the world that you could detonate an H-bomb on it without risking anyone’s life but your own, then frankly, I’d be OK with it.

So there you have it, a logical answer to a question many assume has no reasonable answer, and consistency in my beliefs about liberty are still in tact. Next question!

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Why can’t I have a nuclear weapon?”

  1. ” If you could own a piece of property so remote and isolated from the world that you could detonate an H-bomb on it without risking anyone’s life but your own, then frankly, I’d be OK with it.”

    That’s freedom in its most true sense. If you’re not hurting other people then bomb away.

    Personally, I think the free market would effectively protect people from doing stupid things with nukes. Even on your own land, why would you want to leave long term radiation to reduce the value of your property.

    Anyways, I wouldn’t be the guy that would be willing to sell a part that I know would be used in a nuclear bomb. When governments out of the way a bit, liability through every other means becomes a bigger issue.

  2. You have the right idea, but you’re forgetting some details. If the way we measure what should be allowed vs. what should be banned is how large the chance of endangering others’ rights to life, liberty, and property, then our rights become subjective. You could prove that doing anything gives a high enough chance of hurting another person, even walking, etc. Where’s the brink? By your logic, shouldn’t we ban drugs or alcohol since if one is intoxicated, the substance could cause him to murder someone, for example? The libertarian says no, because the crime in that case is not the intoxication, but the murder. We can’t focus on preemption- we deal with crimes if/when they happen.

    So accounting for this, the reason you can’t have a nuclear warhead is much, much simpler actually- it can’t be used in self-defense. The libertarian is against all forms of violence or coercion except those of self-defense. If the man you previously mentioned comes to take your TV, you would not use a bomb on him. You would use a gun. The only time a bomb would be needed for self-defense would be against a whole army of people, which in this case, yes, constitutionally, that is the government’s job to protect against.

    And you may have picked up on this argument of mine and think it sounds familiar, because often we hear the same things from modern liberals “why would you need a powerful machine gun (I don’t know the term for it) when you could defend yourself with a small one?” So yes, this issue, like everything to an extent, is also a bit subjective. But I think it is clear that a nuclear bomb is WAY out of the question of self defense against anyone except an entire army at least….So that clearly is past the brink. Yes, this brink is also a slippery slope, as is anything, but it’s a much less slippery slope than the “chance and preemption” approach, which could be used in almost any area of policy… That would forego a key libertarian principle (that of innocent until proven guilty) and allow the principle to be taken advantage of.

    1. Hi Laura, thanks for the comment.

      In your argument, you think of a weapon only as a means for self defense, where as I merely think of it as a piece of property I have a right to own for whatever purpose I deem necessary so long as I don’t infringe on the rights of another.

      For instance, I like to go target shooting, but rarely if ever will I shoot someone in self defense.

      Plus, I think of myself as a constitutional libertarian, in that I like the U.S. Constitution as a great guiding principle for limited government.

      It specifically says the right to bear arms, not the right defend yourself. Defense is never even mentioned. This is because they felt you should own a gun for whatever reason you so desire. Which may or may not include self defense, but also for rebelling against an oppressive government, hunting, or in my case target shooting. They left it very ambiguous by design.

  3. I’m not a libertarian. It seems to me that some laws (like the prohibition of extremely dangerous substances) are reasonable based on the probability of damage being done. Probabilities aren’t as satisfying as absolute rights, but ignoring probabilities is foolhardy. I expect that — inasmuch as you would like to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of private citizens — you agree.

    You wrote, “If however, that weapon or item is a danger to society with little to no ability to be used without harming someone, it must remain illegal as it is a threat to the rights of another.” From an absolutist perspective, I think the weak point in this argument is “little to no ability to be used without harming someone.” I agree there would be little or no use for a person to use nuclear weapons for personal self defense or target practice. However, assume that a private citizen would like to purchase a large quantity of weapons-grade plutonium for personal research — or simply as an investment opportunity. Assume the amount in question is enough to destroy a huge city. From a strict libertarian perspective, could a case be made to prevent the purchase?

  4. Hi,

    I think individuals should be able to own nuclear weapons. But security measures would be so drastic that only a large structure would be able to do so. So if you want a nuclear weapon, first get a degree, gather a team of top scientists, security guards, a place in a desert, contact an expert corporation that will come every month check if everything is fine… Libertarianism is not the absence of laws. Single individuals could NOT own nuclear weapons, just as a single individual could never run an Ebola lab or an airline company single-handedly…

  5. “I personally own an AR-15, and have easily shot thousands of rounds through it at a shooting range and other safe environments. No one has ever died, nor even been hit by a bullet fired from my gun. As such, I can make an argument that I can own and use an AR-15 without being a harm to anyone by virtue of having done so repeatedly.”

    Because you, knowing the qualities of an AR-15, chose to use it in a responsible way.

    “However, while I am not a nuclear physicist, I am pretty comfortable in claiming that I could likely not detonate a nuclear weapon without likely threatening the rights to life, liberty, and/or property of another.”

    And here I’d say you’re wrong. The fundamental issue with your argument is that it presupposes the use of a nuclear weapon in some fashion that’d end up killing people. Yet the US has done plenty of nuclear weapons tests without harming anyone (and at least one that has, but then that’s a point about underestimating the force of the explosion (and any argument over that amounts to banning all explosives, guns, etc for misuse or potential miscalculation)). When you get down to it, nuclear weapons are fundamentally just really big explosives with a radiation risk. Well, we’ve already got people who use really big explosives for mining. The reason they wouldn’t likely use nukes is the radiation risk, but a long-term mining operation could potentially use nukes in such a fashion. Same with leveling mountains for long-term construction projects.

    Yes, those might be conceived as fanciful ideas, but the real point is that there’s a practical use for nukes that don’t involve killing and it’s in the same realm as already used by other explosives. Meanwhile, landmines, tanks, and nuclear warheads really do have only one intended use: killing people. So, nukes in general shouldn’t be banned but plenty of the tools of war should be. Or they should be granted to the people to use.

    PS – Fun fact, but the Geneva convention bans the use of tear gas against enemy troops under the same logic of banning mustard gas. Yet governments regular use tear gas on their own people (through police). Just goes to show you that the rules of war are different and perhaps we really should acknowledge that perhaps it’s not so clear cut to pretend that an armed militia is the way to go or that it could stand up to a standing army (or that we shouldn’t have a standing army).

  6. You are injection a personal bias into the concept of a weapons perceived usefulness and or its scope of possible danger. You can fire modern personal weaponry in distances exceeding a mile, by your supposed logic we should only be allowed to fire a weapon in the center of a one mile radius so it’s potential for harm is limited in scope to only our private property.

    There is no way of defining a safe and or useful category of weaponry by any means that isn’t arbitrary therefore no weapon should be limited by it’s potential for harm or its radius of effect.

Drop some genius on me here.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s