We have a brand new social-media nerdcrush, and it’s for Jack Russell Weinstein, professor of philosophy and director of the Institute for Philosophy in Public Life at the University of North Dakota. He wrote a couple of blog posts about how, from a philosophical standpoint, people may want to respond to the presence of “open carry” advocates who come into a restaurant to show everyone how wonderful guns are. His answer? “It is rational to be afraid of someone with a weapon, especially if you know nothing about them.” And therefore, one appropriate response would be to remove yourself from the restaurant as quickly as possible, even without paying first, if necessary. Needless to say, he is not popular with the open carry crowd. And now he’s got a couple of videos, because philosophy is for everyone, even YouTube commenters.
So here’s his argument in nutshell form:
Now, please note that everything he says is invalidated by his reference to “high-powered automatic weapons.” Since he obviously doesn’t know the difference between “automatic” and “semi-automatic,” he loses the argument, automatically as it were. This is simple Gun Debate Logic, Mr. Professor. Even so, we can’t help but love Weinstein’s long-form argument as well:
The questions that concerns me [sic] now is how we bystanders should react when people come into a store with guns. There really is no legitimate way of determining intent. Even if the people with guns are carrying a sign claiming to be activists (which they do not do), they could be lying, just setting us all up for slaughter. And since there is no way to know what is on their minds, all we have are our instincts, but as we all should know, our instincts are often racist, classist, and frequently mistaken. So, what should we do?
My proposal is as follows: we should all leave. Immediately. Leave the food on the table in the restaurant. Leave the groceries in the cart, in the aisle. Stop talking or engaging in the exchange. Just leave, unceremoniously, and fast.
But here is the key part: don’t pay. Stopping to pay in the presence of a person with a gun means risking your and your loved ones’ lives; money shouldn’t trump this. It doesn’t matter if you ate the meal. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just received food from the deli counter that can’t be resold. It doesn’t matter if you just got a haircut. Leave. If the business loses money, so be it. They can make the activists pay.
Following this procedure has several advantages. First, it protects people. Second, it forces the businesses to really choose where their loyalties are. If the second amendment is as important as people claim, then people should be willing to pay for it. God knows, free speech is tremendously expensive. If it weren’t, I’d be reading this on ESPN during prime time, not posting this on Blogger.
Third, this proposal has the added advantage of taking the activists seriously. Most gun-rights activists describe a world of tremendous dangers. Guns, they repeatedly tell us, are the only thing between home invasion, rape, murder, and government intrusion. Okay, well if that’s true, then we bystanders should be equally afraid, and react instantaneously to keep away the chaos and the violence. We learned to be afraid from the gun-rights supporters. They have gotten everything they wanted.
Then again, there’s an instance of faulty subject-verb agreement, so how is he even allowed to have a job as a philosopher, huh?
We’re really glad we found out about Professor Weinstein. We also figure that he has about 20 minutes before all funding for his department gets cut.
Follow Doktor Zoom on Twitter. He likes philosophy the same way a cat likes housework. It’s interesting if an utter mystery.