What exactly is utility?

“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” — Janis Joplin

Today’s post will be a little more brief than most. One of the concepts we mentioned yesterday was the concept of utility. It seems that I might have skipped a few steps when making assumptions on the issue of gun control. The primary step came in the assumption that everyone understood the concept of utility.

In its simplest terms, utility refers to what a product or device is most known or used for. It is the one factor that often gets overlooked in situations like the ones in Colorado and Georgia. The utility of the gun is something completely different than the utility of any other item.

One of the conservative’s favorite arguments is that just about anything could be converted into a weapon. Sure, we’ve all played “Clue”. If you haven’t played it you’ve seen the movie. A hammer, wrench, or rope can be used as a weapon. They can also be used as a hammer, wrench, or rope. When you look at those items the first thing that comes to mind is a tool. That’s utility.

Utility is simply the thing that a particular item is known for doing. We discussed fertilizer yesterday. Fertilizer is a lawn tool that can be used to make homemade explosives. Any number of items can be used for nefarious deeds if given the proper training and imagination. So, we literally can go nuts if we try to regulate every possible bad intention with every last potentially dangerous item. The question is whether danger is a part of the primary utility.

This brings us to assault weapons. One of the favorite tricks on the right is to get into a semantic argument over how we define an assault weapon. I will fully acknowledge that I am not a munitions expert. So, my definition might not be the most accurate. This is one of those deals where we know it when we see it. Certainly, an AR-15 qualifies for the simple reason that assault is part of the name. However, the tricks of the trade is to get into a long-winded argument over the definition until we finally all just give up.

This is a question of utility. What is the item’s primary purpose? In terms of the standard rifle, handgun, or shotgun you could assert that the primary purpose is self-protection, hunting, or target shooting. I personally do not own a gun and will not allow one in my house. I probably have never put my foot down on any other issue.

Statistics show that you more than thirty times more likely to see someone in your home injured or killed from a gunshot then to use that gun to ward off an intruder. However, that kind of information goes to outcomes and not to utility. Millions own smaller firearms or rifles for self-protection and do so safely. So, the utility is still relatively positive.

Assault weapons are designed to kill a bunch of people and to do so in a short period of time. They are weapons of war. In that arena they have a positive utility. They have no positive utility in civilian life. There are few if any scenarios where I can envision a need to kill that many people in order to protect yourself. Maybe if you are a mafia boss you could use that sort of thing, but you would be admitting to some sort of criminal activity on the outset.

Someone that owns one is not doing it to hunt. They aren’t doing it to target shoot. They may say they are doing it to protect themselves, but that’s not really the reason. They are doing it either to intimidate others or they want to kill multiple people. Maybe it’s just a sick fantasy that they want to indulge in their perverted imaginations. Maybe that kind of weaponry gives them a release on those feelings. This is particularly true for those that live in open carry states.

The downside is that you end up with situations like Jacob Rittenhouse. He was the teen that carried an AR-15 and ended up killing four people. We opened that debate up this past summer and people argued that he acted in self-defense. The counterargument to that is simple. What’s the utility of an AR-15? Having such a tool gives one the illusion of self-control. That event shows the danger of what can happen when fantasy and reality meet.

So, the question of regulation is a fairly simple one. What is the utility of the item? Is it primarily used for legal activities or is it primarily used for illegal activities? Some may be both and therefore require some regulation. Some might be primarily good or primarily bad. It’s really a simple question and in the case of assault weapons a pretty easy answer.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for thefantatasyfix.com. You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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