You’ve probably heard the argument before. Criminals will always find ways to obtain guns. When the government enacts gun control it takes weapons away from the law-abiding, leaving them defenseless. Therefore, an increase in responsible gun ownership is an increase in societal security.
Now let’s assume for a moment that this argument is free of holes and fully supported by the majority of evidence. Using this same logic, I’m interested in how this thinking applies to the global stage. That is, how would this logic relate to the possession of nuclear weapons by states?
Would the same people who promote gun ownership proliferation also promote nuclear proliferation? What’s the difference?
Same as the gun lobby argument that determined “irresponsible” citizens (or criminals) will always be able to obtain weapons on the black market, determined “irresponsible” states will always be able to eventually obtain nuclear weapons capability, especially as humanity’s collective technological knowledge inevitably expands. For example, Pakistan and North Korea, both debatably “irresponsible” states, possess nuclear weapons. And Iran continues to advance in its pursuit, with some international analysts arguing that it’s inevitable the Persian power will eventually attain nuclear weapons capability in the long run (this of course assumes that the Shia theocracy will remain in power for the long run and/or that the ruling parties will continue to desire nuclear weaponry in the long run).
Thus, if “irresponsible,” dangerous states will inevitably possess nuclear weapons, would not the world be safer if more countries developed or possessed nuclear weapons? Wouldn’t the world be at optimal safety then if all “law-abiding” states possessed nuclear arsenals? Along similar logic, some political theorists conclude that the bipolar world of the Cold War was more stable than today’s world because of the nuclear-deterrence-orchestrated stalemate that existed.
But why stop at nuclear weapons? Why shouldn’t all states possess complete arsenals of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons? Would not humanity be at optimal security in this scenario?
I await the day gun proliferation advocates are asked similar questions by the media.
As for my own views, I reject the theory, for multiple reasons, that more weapons automatically result in more security. For instance, taking the deterrence aspect of the theory, deterrence only works on rational actors. A gun-wielding, delusional and/or ideological psychopath would no more be deterred by physical violence than a WMD-possessing ideologically suicidal state.
Furthermore, this view of humanity assumes that the foundations of our society are mainly based upon violence—that the only real type of power emanates from fear and death. But, being the Star Trek nerd I am, I agree with the Enterprise-D Captain Jean-Luc Picard on this matter when he stated “I have never subscribed to the idea that political power flows from the barrel of a gun.”