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Friday, March 30, 2018

Ban high-capacity magic assault wands?

If Harry Potter had been unable to defend himself, the movie would have been a lot shorter

T his week many adults are writing intelligent, historically literate articles in defense of the historical right to bear arms. Of course, as we all know, history is just a bunch of stuff about dead people that only old people care about. So let's look at it from a different point of view: a children's story.

Stories are essentially what-if exercises. So, what if, say, Harry Potter had been unable to defend himself? The movie would have lasted about ten minutes and turned into a magical version of Gulag Archipelago. The One Who Must Not Be Named Because He Has No Nose And Never Needs A Kleenex would have wiped the snot out of that school and put everyone in chains. And Hermione would have called Harry a loser just before they were both eaten by a giant magical snake.

In the story, magic wands emit powerful bolts of energy that can destroy buildings. It's never really explained where all this energy comes from, but it's clear that if you don't have one, somebody who does can do terrible things and you have no defense.

Now, I'm not saying that Harry Potter was a pro-Second Amendment movie. As the British say, not a bit of it. The writer is merely saying that young people have an inner power and hidden flaws that they must discover and come to terms with, and that education is the only way to learn power and control. Harry is a messianic figure who has to die and be resurrected to save everyone. You could see it as a traditional, even religious narrative, but it also makes a case for ensuring a balance of power between the individual and the collective.

Power and education go together like ice cream and a cone. Without the cone you just have a mess on your hands. The students couldn't use their wands effectively without intensive mental training and discipline. There's a lesson there: magical power is scary to the kids because they can't control it. They don't yet have the self-discipline they need to use it safely.

Weapons are also scary because they're unfamiliar. Unlike in a city, in a rural environment a firearm is almost a necessity. The police may be literally hours away if they show up at all. Animals can get rabies and attack you without warning. The only way to deter criminals from attacking you is the possibility that you might turn them into newts.

It's the inverse of the tragedy of the commons: even if only a handful of people actually have a firearm, it gives the criminal or would-be dictator that extra moment of hesitation.

Where I lived, the one time I called the cops I found the deputy sheriff an hour later wandering around on the other side of the road a few hundred yards away, asking people if anyone knew where I lived. If it had been an emergency, I'd be dead now. The right to defend your life is something that transcends government. The cops aren't there to protect you. Their job is to give the survivors reassurance that some justice will be done so they don't band together and form a mob, which is to say a competing form of government. The primary function of government is to preserve its monopoly on power.

Maybe schools should teach the principles of safe shooting and self-defense. While they're at it, they could explain why we need the Bill of Rights. There are any number of examples: Cambodia, the American Civil War, or the Soviet Union. Even fictional ones will do.

In the movie, there were no demonstrators demanding that assault wands should be banned. In the end, Harry breaks his wand in half and throws the pieces into a canyon. But I bet the first thing he did afterwards was to pop into the local wand shop and buy some 7.62 × 51 mm wand ammo and a couple boxes of .380 magic ACP rounds to keep in his wand safe—just in case.

mar 30 2018, 4:38 am

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