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Reasonable Security and Asymmetric Threats February 5, 2009

Posted by federalist in RKBA, Transportation.

I see the “cell phone gun” Email is circulating again, encouraging Americans to acquiesce in government’s efforts to disarm them in “sensitive” places like airplanes and schools.  I am not phased:  A disguised device that can launch four subsonic .22 caliber bullets?  That doesn’t scare me any more than a homicidal man wielding a few sharp pens.

And it certainly doesn’t justify the indiscriminate harassment and disarmament of the public at “security checkpoints.”  Excluding areas where the government has disarmed people (e.g., schools), no shooting rampage in the United States has produced casualties greater than those that have been produced by homicidal individuals wielding knives or cars in other incidents.  Clearly, when anyone can be armed, firearms, knives, and other traditional (megawatt class) weapons do not pose an asymmetric threat.

In another discussion I explained what I mean by asymmetric weapons:


[A]n individual with a truck bomb is asymmetric: Your next door neighbor could surreptitiously build and detonate one, and … conceivably get away with it.  And even if he were connected to the crime how can you hold one man to account for the wanton murder of hundreds?  There is no way to deter, defend against, punish, or seek redress from an average guy who snaps and has ready means to commit a truck bombing.

Contrast this with firearms: Yes, psychopaths arm themselves and launch shooting sprees.  But individuals can and do deter and defend against such acts by arming themselves with guns.  In the worst case a gunman kills a few people before being stopped, which is not out of proportion to the punishment that can be meted out to him.


The only threats worth screening for in public places are the asymmetric ones: chemical weapons and explosives.  Current countermeasures for these are alarmingly weak.

If government stopped gate-raping airline passengers looking for knives and guns they could devote more resources to catching the truly asymmetric threats.  After all, if citizens weren’t deprived of their fundamental right of self defense when they board a commercial aircraft then any goons who tried to make trouble would expect to be promptly shot by any number of fellow passengers carrying concealed firearms.  But if somebody sneaks a bomb onto a plane and detonates it in the air there is no way to prevent the death of everyone on board.


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