Thursday, January 15, 2015

Less Bad Is Worse

A few seemingly pro-gunowner groups have supported gunowner control laws, using the justification that the law was going to pass no matter what, but by supporting it they were able to enact changes that lessened its severity. It as inevitable but by supporting it they made a bad law less bad.

I disagree with damn near everything about this practice, and I openly question the motives and sincerity of folks who use such rationalizations, but let's look at the premise:

Law X would be bad, but it has enough support that it will likely pass. So support is given to Law X and some changes are made, transforming it from a severe law to a moderately bad one. Does this help overall?

By taking a severe law and injecting some measure of moderation into it then the immediate results is that it has less of a drastic impact in the short term, but in the long run it makes it harder to repeal. It is easier to convince a legislature to revisit and repeal a law that is a big change that negatively impacts people than it isif the law was only a moderate change. The same is true of court rulings, and most importantly convincing people to disobey such laws.

Let's say Law X would prohibit magazine with a capacity of more than 6 rounds. Due to the extreme nature of such a law it would not be difficult to persuade either a future legislature or a court that the measure goes too far by almost any standard, and encouraging non-compliance wouldn't be difficult. But if Law X were modified to prohibit magazines that held more than 15 rounds it would make compliance less onerous and consequently make it more difficult to convince a legislature or court of its burdensome nature.

In the short term it seems to help by lessening the damage done by a law, but in the long run it makes a law harder to repeal or have ruled unconstitutional. Further it makes intensifying the effects of a law by further additions over time more plausible. Law X prohibits 15 rounds today, but in 5 years it's reduced to 12, then 10, and finally after a decade or two it's down to the original 6 round limit. Going from unlimited to 6 in on swoop is pretty shocking. Going from unlimited to 15, then to 12, then to 10, then to 6 over the course of some years is less striking. People would gradually become accustomed to it and that would reduce pressure on the government to change such a law.

You know the old saying about gradually turning up the heat to boil a frog. Well imagine a pot full of frogs and when the heat is turned up too fast, some frogs yell to the chef "Hey! Turn it down or we'll jump out of the pot!". That is what the long term effect of "making a bad law less bad" is, and the folks who advocate it, no matter how well meaning, are in the long run hurting the very cause they claim to be aiding.

(Remember, appeasement is for chumps)

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