Ladd Everitt seems to be pretty proud of his performance here:
I am not really impressed, to be honest. For those of you who don’t want to listen to Ladd debate for ten minutes, Everitt’s main assertion seems to be that imperfect enforceability and imperfect deterrence don’t mean the laws are not worthwhile. Our folks note, quite correctly, that laws barring people from carrying guns accomplish nothing, because the likelihood a murderer will be deterred by a sign or law against carrying the gun is vanishingly small. Everitt contends that the same thing could be said for the law on murder itself, so by our logic, we shouldn’t have laws against murder.
The problem Ladd has here is that he hasn’t really spend much time thinking about the law. While I think he brings up a good point, his mistake is to assume that the primary purpose for laws punishing murder is deterrence. I contend that it is not. When people form governments, we surrender certain natural rights to it, and retain others. One right we surrender is the right of retribution. In a natural states, if you come over to my house and kill my brother, I have a natural right to seek retribution for your depriving a loved on of his life. It is difficult, in a civilized society, to allow for individual punishment of crime. So we surrender retribution to the state, who formalizes the process, and ensures justice is served. The primary purpose of laws against murder is not so much that it will deter someone intent on committing it, so much as offers the living a sense that justice was served. If the state fails to be effective as this function, you risk a break down of law and order, and a reliance of vigilantism.
But this is not to say that laws against murder don’t also have deterrent effect. One has to examine how this deterrent effect works, however. Generally speaking, unless you’re scrupulously careful, if you murder someone, you are much more likely than not going to be caught and brought to justice. About 70% of murder cases are solved in the US. This qualifies as a fairly powerful deterrent. I would wager this probably does help keep the murder rate down significantly.
Serving justice can’t possibly be a justification for preventing someone from carrying a firearm, because there is no victim of the crime who will be seeking it. It’s fair to judge a law against the practice solely on its deterrent effect, which is not also true for murder. The problem for Ladd is that the likelihood of being caught with a concealed weapon is infinitesimally small unless you do some kind of screening in the place where carry is prohibited. I’ve been carrying for a decade, and I’ve never been stopped by law enforcement who noticed. Sure, a law prohibiting carrying concealed weapons will have a deterrent effect; it will deter people who are generally law abiding and don’t intend to commit crimes. It will not deter someone who is intending to use that firearm to commit more serious crimes that do have victims that will require justice served. It certainly won’t deter someone who is mentally deranged.
So if the law has a relatively zero change of deterring someone, other than someone who is not intent on committing a crime of violence, why is it incorrect to question whether this is a worthwhile law? What Ladd Everitt defends has a deterrent effect on one intending violence, either through criminal inclinations or madness, that is so vanishingly small is to be logically of no use to society. I think he’s wrong to so quickly dismiss this fact, and to make poor analogies to laws against murder.