If the government collapses, guns won't save you

This article is part of the
$100,000 Challenge Series

People often think they are enlightened even when they believe things that should have been left in the Dark Ages.

In this series, I will challenge conventional wisdom and explore some odd and unjustifiable beliefs that persist, offering $100,000 to the first person who can solve each challenge, proving me wrong. My opinions are bound to ruffle some feathers and make you think.

Now that even mainstream politicians and pundits admit that the United States government might collapse, many people have contemplated the resultant lack of security and what might fill that void. The most common answer is personal firearms.

Can guns save you? Yes, but not for long. They might extend your lifespan by a few days, or months if you are exceedingly lucky. Eventually, you will run smack-dab into an inescapable statistical reality: You won't be the only armed person on the planet. If you have food, water, shelter, and warmth, an endless number of folks without those essentials will be willing to end your life to take what you have. History has shown that even normal people sometimes resort to violence to get what they or their loved ones need to survive.

As a doctor, I know the prevalence of people who lack a conscience (sociopaths), and all it takes is one of them—or one desperate soccer mom who values the lives of her starving kids more than your life—to do what they need to survive. Sociopaths won't wait until their ribs are sticking out before they begin pulling a trigger (learn how to spot a sociopath). If you have food or a cute teenage daughter, more than a few people will be gunning for you.

We've been coddled since birth by living in a country in which food, water, medicine, healthcare, shelter, energy, and security were taken for granted and provided by “the system”—rarely by us individually. If the system breaks down when the economy collapses (which is very likely), its interdependent nature means the breakdown will be widespread and difficult to reverse. Thus, it isn't realistic to pin ones hopes of survival on products of technology, such as ammunition, which will eventually run out. What then?

I don't know anyone who lives in a well-fortified castle stocked with everything needed for a lifetime, so venturing outside will be mandatory.

Gun battles are inevitable, but the erroneous presumption is that defenders (perhaps you guarding your family, home, and property) will win every shootout. Actually, the converse is more likely true.

Attackers always have the element of surprise; thus they will shoot and kill people from a distance before the victims know they are under attack. Even if the attackers are kind enough to walk up and announce their intentions, how many duels do you think you'll win? Statistically, about half (50%, or 0.5). Now do a 0.5 to the y power calculation to roughly compute your odds of survival after “y” battles. After just two battles, you're more likely dead than alive. After five battles, you're almost certainly dead. If you live in a populated area, you could have five battles per hour.

Consequently, if guns are not a good post-collapse life insurance policy, what is? The same survival strategies that human civilization has honed over eons: cooperation and fair play—basically, the Golden Rule ethic of reciprocity—combined with a general realization that anyone breaking the rules will receive swift and sure justice.

Incidentally, I am not anti-gun; I am just cognizant of their limitations. Guns will be virtually worthless as self-defense tools if social order breaks down. Furthermore, killing or wounding others is not productive; injuries just increase the drain on limited resources, thus further exacerbating the net loss. Therefore, the personal and societal net effect of guns will be negative if they are used as a desperate substitute for police protection.

The $100,000 challenge: Factually demonstrate that guns could be effectively used by most people so they had a reasonable chance of living a normal lifespan despite the fact that in a post-collapse economy, people will either have what they need to survive (thus making them targets for those who wish to take it) or they might be one of the many people who cannot provide the survival essentials, so they predictably will try to forcibly take what they need.

The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

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