Guns and terrorism

by Henry Farrell on July 8, 2005

David Kopel mounts a “questionable defence”: of the changes in gun law that “Silvio Berlosconi” is trying to bring through in Italy. Kopel likes the new law, which by his account allows people to shoot down burglars, even if the burglars don’t present any immediate threat. For him, this is superior to the current law, which requires that defence be “proportional” to aggression (Kopel provides us with a couple of abstract hypotheticals of how the proportionality test might be misapplied, but doesn’t tell us whether these hypotheticals reflect decisions taken by actual Italian courts; I strongly suspect that they don’t). Still, the truly distasteful part of the post is his closing line:

bq. Given Italy’s status as a prime target of al Qaeda, further reform of Italian laws, to enable decent people to protect themselves against sudden attacks, would be eminently sensible.

What exactly would laws of this kind do to stop the kinds of attacks that al Qaeda operatives actually mount in real-world Europe, as opposed to the abstract Europe which exists in the mind of American policy wonks with too much time on their hands? How precisely are they likely to deter terrorists who put bombs with timers on trains? This seems to me to be a rather bizarre and entirely gratuitous effort by Kopel to make his argument attractive by linking it to a current tragedy and future threat to which gun use law is more or less irrelevant.