The Fallacy of “Need”

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately on the arguments flying back and forth with respect to the latest round of gun control proposals. DiFi and others of her detestable ilk constantly ask the question, “Why does anyone need 100-round magazines and military-style weapons?” Truth be told, that can be a tough one for the average non-gun owner and I will discuss my thoughts on that topic in particular in a later essay. But the fact is, the whole question of need misses a basic point . . .

The point isn’t that we need any of these things, but rather we live in a society where the freedom to want them is permitted and protected. To relay a story, the other day my wife came down to the basement while I was cleaning my .300 Win Mag Precision scoped rifle.  For a non-gun person like her, this extremely large, all black weapon sporting an over sized muzzle brake and scope can appear a bit ominous.

“Why do you need something like that?” she asked. I turned to her and told her that she asked the wrong question. I certainly don’t “need” a gun like this. I’m not a police or military sniper which are two of the main reasons why a person would NEED such a gun (at nearly 20 lbs., it’s no hunting rifle). Instead, I told her that it’s simply something that I wanted because it lets me do what I enjoy (long distance target shooting). She then quickly arrived at the realization that she didn’t really need the $1,000 espresso machine she bought a couple of months earlier and the conversation pretty much ended there.  This incidentally is one of the reasons I married her – she can figure these sorts of things out on her own.

My point here is that regardless of what we are talking about (semi-auto rifles, large capacity rifle magazines, etc.) we can’t let those who would like nothing more than to disarm us box us into the “need” corner. Truth is, in many cases, we don’t really need some of these things (note that I did not mention large capacity pistol mags — we do need these for personal defense).

The fact is that we live in a country where we have the freedom to pursue our wants and we shouldn’t have to justify those wants to anyone else. If we let the discourse focus on the question of “need” we will have a much higher hill to climb with our fellow citizens than if we frame the question in terms of wants. Everyone can understand the concept of “want” and most people will admit that they likely want or have something that would be difficult to justify to someone who does not share that particular interest.

It’s important to remember the slogan of the Communist State popularized by Karl Marx  “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”  If we only allow ourselves to have what we truly need, then we live in a much sadder world. Today, those in power wish to take our guns from us. If, as a society, we allow this to happen, then tomorrow, what will they try to take next?

One quick note – as you comment, please try not to focus on giving reasons why we need certain specific gear. Hold those thoughts for my next post which will dwell on that concept in detail. Instead, consider the main point of this essay – it is not a question of need, but one of want and the freedom we have to pursue those wants.

62 Responses to The Fallacy of “Need”

  1. avatarCarl says:

    The Founding Fathers of the United States of America did not NEED to be free of the King’s tyranny. They WANTED it.

    • avatarCrabs says:

      I would consider rephrasing this, as otherwise it is likely to be construed as hyperbolic and the meaning ignored in favour of addressing the hyperbole. They may not have needed independence from the crown, but they desired it. To label it tyranny is likely to bring arguments against the assertion that the crown was tyrannical, rather than address the core point of the comment.

  2. avatarWm. Kim Sherman says:

    Good point. I didn’t need to buy a 65″ plasma TV (back when a 65″ plasma was cool), yet I bought it anyway. I could’ve gotten a 32″ tv. I don’t need a Mustang car… I could’ve gotten a nice Hyundai for less… But I love that Mustang.

    • avatarDaniel Silverman says:

      Agreed my 2010 with pony package, is the bomb!

      To that end this is well timed, so a big thank you to Jim.
      Did anyone notice that Piers Morgan focused right away on the idea of need when he couldn’t with the 2nd amendment argument?
      He circled back around to it Shapiro to try and make him look nuts, but Shapiro did the best he could to deflect saying something like Obama is a Nazi tyrant yada, yada, yada…

      • avatarAccur81 says:

        Got rid of my V8 Mustang to get an Infiniti which would hold a car seat. Very sad. I will fix that oversight in a few years. And I’ll get a Harley.

        But first, I have a credit card bills that I *need* to pay.

  3. avatarAlphaGeek says:

    Turning this into a want-versus-need debate makes it baldly obvious that, when it comes to firearms ownership, the law of the land has been reversed:

    We (firearms owners) are now being presumed guilty until proven innocent.

    Which is impossible, and that’s why our system of justice is predicated on the bedrock of innocent-until-proven-guilty.

    What disarmament advocates are trying to do to us is morally and legally equivalent to presuming all drivers to be habitual DUI offenders, and forcing an entire class of citizens to prove their innocence at their own expense in order to hang on to some fraction of their rights.

  4. avatarmisterturbo says:

    I have 4 cars. Do I need 4 cars, no. To some people having 4 cars seems ridiculous. What can I say I really like cars.

  5. avatarBill F says:

    When people ask me why anyone would need more than 10 rounds etc, etc, I ask them why they need a car that is capable of going more than 65 mph when 65 is the speed limit. Or why they need a car at all, since public transportation is available. And why they need 200 TV channels or a computer that can hold tractor-trailer loads of data. No one really wants to be limited to what they can own on a “needs” basis. In reality we need very little. If people want to be told they can own only what they need, perhaps they’d be happier in, say, North Korea. Or a monastery.

  6. avatarShire-man says:

    Sounds like I dont need the rifle. I need the freedom to buy the rifle. For without that freedom what sort of life am I living?

    • avatarjwm says:

      Exactly. I don’t want or need a long range precision rifle. Couldn’t use it on the ranges I have available to me anyway. I don’t want and have never wanted an “ebr”.

      But I will go to the limit for my, and my fellow gunnies, right to buy these things.

  7. avatarMike in NC says:

    You are right to point out the quote from Marx. “Need” is one of the favorite levers of control for marxists with the caveat that defining “need” is done by the central authority, not by the individual.

    • avatarIng says:

      Exactly. Who gets to define need? That’s the $64,000 question.

      “Need” isn’t a limit, it’s a minimum threshold.

      This is why I’m actually okay with the idea of higher taxes for people who have more money. A progressive tax doesn’t limit how much any given person can earn on the basis that no one needs that much money — in principle, it helps ensure that people who are at or below the need threshold don’t pay a cost they can’t bear.

      Similarly, if need is a minimum threshold instead of a limit, there could be a “gun tax” on high-end items (or even, heaven forfend, on “evil” features)…as long as the tax gets redirected to help people who couldn’t otherwise afford the minimum. Your evil black rifle purchase could be helping some poor non-gun owner get a basic carry pistol to protect herself or a poor family upgrade their home protection tool from grandpa’s crappy old .410 single shot to a Mossberg 500. See, socialism can do good things. :)

      • avatarAccur81 says:

        Rich people move to avoid taxes. Examples: CA, NY, and my parents moving out of their mansion in the east side of Milwaukee to avoid the taxes.

  8. avatarGA Koenig says:

    Are we really so on the back foot that we are resorting to philosophical rhetoric about want versus need?

    I can give you a list of reasons why AR-15s in the hands of solid citizens is a good and necessary thing for society. That we are debasing to want v need and tyrannical government protection nonsense is pathetic.

    • avatarAccur81 says:

      Tyrannical government was responsible for approximately 260 million deaths from 1900-2000. Included in that number are mass murders from Nazi Germany, USSR, Japanese Imperialism, PRC, and North Korea. Also, the birth of our nation was in direct response to government oppression. As, Government employee, I can tell you first hand that there are times when a populace has legitimate concerns about their government.

  9. avatartjlarson2k says:

    All that stuff aside, the fact of the matter is, bad guys and crazy people aren’t going away anytime soon and they are the problem.

    • avatark4R-15 says:

      Precisely! Why is it so difficult for the American public to understand that it is impossible to legislate morality?

  10. avatarJOE MATAFOME says:

    I don’t need a most of the “stuff” I have, and I also don’t have to explain why I own any of this “stuff” to anyone. I’ll buy what I want, when I want and these MORONS can “SEVERAL REALLY NASTY COMMENTS DELETED”.

  11. avatarJc says:

    I always answer this question with a question. “Are you comfortable letting government determine ‘need’?”

    No one ‘needs’ a car. Public transportation is adequate. No one needs a house, government housing satisfies shelter…

  12. avatarJack says:

    The problem with focusing on “want” rather than “need” is that the anti-gun crowd then says that public safety is more important than allowing people to own the toys that they want. And then, in their minds, it’s case closed.

    Just food for thought. I agree completely that law-abiding people should be able to own whatever guns they want without having to justify it. But it still feels like a losing battle with people who simply believe that guns are evil and that the people who collect them are subhuman.

    • avatarJ- says:

      In a free society you should not have to justify the need for a firearm (or mag) to be allowed to possess it, because there will always be people who will dismiss your justifications. It should be assumed that in a free society you have to right to buy the firearms you can afford and they are the ones to have to demonstrate a need to restrict your rights. Its time we in the gun community stop trying to justify our desire to own these wepons and respond with “Civilians should be allowed to own assault rifles and high cap mags because they free citizens with constitutionally protected right to own firearms that shall not be infringed.”

  13. avatarS.CROCK says:

    a 30 round mag is a need.

  14. avatarGov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    Aside from a studio apartment and a hot plate, what do we need? Everything else should be shared with the proletariat.

    You don’t NEED that .300 Win. Mag, yet. The way this country is going though, you might find it useful in the future.

    • avatarAvid Reader says:

      “Aside from a studio apartment and a hot plate, what do we need? Everything else should be shared with the proletariat.”

      Took the words right out of my mouth. This is the same bunch that would be happy to have all of us stacked in East German style apartment blocks and only using public transportation. Who needs more than 400 square feet per person? Who needs a single family suburban home? It just makes for a larger carbon footprint, and encourages our evil, consumerist society.

      As Ralph says, it’s not about the guns, it’s about control.

      • avatarGov. William J. Le Petomane says:

        Our needs are relatively small compared to our wants. Firearms are kind of unique in that you only want them until you need them. And if you don’t own the one you need it will be too late when you realize you need it.

      • avatarBill A. Walters says:

        “This is the same bunch that would be happy to have all of us stacked in East German style apartment blocks and only using public transportation.”

        The opportunity that is lost from believing this phrase is pretty large.

        We are all Americans, we all have core beliefs that bind us to one another, for this reason we have a common ground that is useable for gaining support for this right of ours to be protected.

        I understand the anger that causes a phrase like this; I too am pretty upset, but saying this creates a distorted view of the opposition; an opposition we must understand in order to defeat.

        Remember that when you think of the other half of America. They are not too different from you, and that similarity (not the differences) we possess are what allow us to bring enough support to our side that will ensure the protection of our rights.

        Otherwise good argument.

        Be well,

        Bill A. Walters

  15. avatarSteve says:

    The existence of the right is the only reason I need to exercise it.

  16. avatarWLCE says:

    congratulations in bringing up a pet peeve of mine.

    “needs” was formed during this era’s generation of entitled, self-centered little statists…

  17. avatarTexanHawk says:

    I was asked by a co-worker a few days ago why anyone would “need” an AR-15 and 30 round magazines.

    “Sir, the fact that you think I need to justify the type of weapon I chose to own to defend my family and property means you don’t understand the 2nd Ammendment in the slightest and thus I am inclined to not discuss this with you at all. However, since I’m just naive enough to think I might influence you, I ask you a question in return: Why do police departments increasingly arm themselves with AR-15s and 30 round magazine? To STOP BAD GUYS. I agree with their assessment and will use the same tool to do the same.”

  18. avatarGreg Camp says:

    To be fully human, I need to have freedom to exercise all of my rights as I see fit.

  19. avatarPatrick says:

    I appreciate the moral reasons against the state disarming us, that we shouldn’t have to justify “needs”. However, there are practical reasons to avoid the taking of, I guess in this case, scary black guns. It’s good to be familiar with the utilitarian reasons in addition to the moral.

    First, in the process of trying to remove scary black unneeded guns from society, they are threatening violence. If people resist (stupid or not) the state will not back down. They will continue to escalate the situation until they have the weapon, risking/ending lives in the process, all because that gun (owner) MIGHT risk/end a life at some point in the future.

    Second, if the gun has features that make it good for assaults and “spraying” bullets at people, it’s probably also better for defense. If it’s good in war, it can be good in some smaller confrontations. The gun is “needed” because it’s better. Since anyone can get/make weapons/explosives for offense, any gun that could conceivably have defensive advantages should be readily available.

  20. avatarLance says:

    We need 15rds plus mags like the woman had in Georgia shot a bad guy 6 time never killed him and he was alone if there where 3+ bad guys she be doomed (thankfully it wasn’t the case). ARs and 30rd mags have a place check brightbart news a boy used a AR to save his baby sis and home from 2 bad guys, that’s the facts.

  21. avatarMatt says:

    It is the Bill of RIGHTS not the Bill of NEEDS.

  22. avatarSDFreeman says:

    I want all my God-given rights back, I also need them to remain free from the Government and safe from criminals.

  23. avatarEd says:

    Big picture.

    Why do you need free speech? Why do you need freedom of religion? Why do you need due process? Why do you need any freedom from tyrants? Surely if you just keep your mouth shut and do what you’re told the king will be happy to let you live, work, and pay taxes. None of these liberties have any biological necessity.

    Liberty is not a hobby.

  24. avatarJAS says:

    Their main argument; the need question… My answer: This is not about needs, this is about rights. It is my natural and inalienable right to own an AR15 If I so choose. Our forefathers answered that question for me and wrote it into law.”

  25. avatartdiinva says:

    I don’t own a semiauto because I don’t want one. If I wanted one I would go and get an M-1 Garand because I want to own a part of history. Plus if the SHTF and it turns out I need one I am going to out gun all you guys with your plastic rifles firing a puny 223 round.

    I don’t need my bolt action hunting rifles because I can always go to Safeway. But if the SHTF I can always go get me some meat.

    I do feel I need one pistol for protection but I don’t need the 5 that are in the house. But if the SHTF in my house I might find having 20 rounds of 45, 28 rounds of 9mm and 10 rounds of 22lr ready to go real handy if a bunch thugs comes calling

  26. avatartjb says:

    You ‘need’ food, water, shelter and air. Beyond that it’s all ‘ want’. I can tell you I certainly don’ t need someone telling me I don’ t need something I want. Especially if they define my lack of need by some sociopaths inability to handle the possession of that item responsibly. Do I ‘need’ a 30 mag to kill a deer? Maybe not… but nobody said I was killing a deer with it, nor is it your ‘need’ to define or even know what I have it for. If I have a 30 round magazine so I can shoot 6 x 5 round groups at the range without reloading (or 10 x 3 round groups), or I use it to level my table in the kitchen with a short leg, or it does in fact take 30 tries to kill a deer… why is it a ‘need’ for someone else to define if that’s acceptable or not? The bottom line is I don’ t have to ‘need’ something to own it and if you think I do then you better be preaching to me with a glass of water, a sandwich, and a cardboard box as your only worldly possessions.

  27. avatarKR says:

    The burden should be on those that want to ban to prove that it would achieve any reduction in violent crime rate, reduction in deaths/injuries in a single incident, or have any other measurable benefit. There’s no shortage of elites and pundits saying bans are needed, but they never bother to explain why or how the bans will achieve a positive result. They just assume that because guns are bad, guns cause crime, etc., that any measure that restricts guns will of course be a Good Thing. We have to challenge that “narrative” and force them to confront the truth that the data simply does not exist to support their assumptions.

  28. avatarSoccerchainsaw says:

    I want it hoping that I will never need it.

    As individuals, few of us will ever truly need an AR15 with multiple 30 round magazines. However, our communities and our country needs us to have them whether they understand that need or not.

  29. avatarGoodoldfriend says:

    I need freedom. I need to feel safe. I no longer want to bring a knife to a gun fight.

  30. avatardaveR says:

    Kudos. I’m very glad to read this here.

    “Need” is a rhetorical rabbit hole where debates go to be lost.

    The sooner we gun owners and recreational shooters stop defending the views of the minority among us who defend the “need” of guns, we’ll actually start to have a chance and convincing non-shooters that gun sports can be fun and rewarding in themselves.

  31. avatarDerryM says:

    Random thoughts:
    Just think, if Humankind had been genetically programmed to pursue only what it “needed”, we would still be sitting around naked poking in the ground for roots and in old rotted logs for tasty grubs.

    Try telling the Progressive Socialist what he/she “needs” and “doesn’t need” and they will squeal like a stuck Pig.

    If I could get rid of what I don’t need that someone else gave me as “gifts”, it would be like getting a whole new room addition to my house. If I got rid of everything I bought for myself that I don’t need, it would be like getting a whole second house…Oh, and Piers Morgan would be deported after being tarred and feathered.

  32. avatarAzimuth says:

    A want, a need, it makes no difference either way. We have the Constitutional right to want it or need it simply because we choose to. How about, I might need it someday? Or better yet, the common sense fallback position of “It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.” As I see it, nobody,…especially the elected nobody’s in Washington, have any right to demand we answer them as though there was a right and wrong answer. Maybe we should ask Frau Feinstein “Do you want women to be defenseless against rapists and sexual predators, or do you need women to be defenseless against rapists and sexual predators?” Drop it in her lap. “So, how many bullets(chances) do women need to defend themselves, 10,….more….less? Please, if you will, tell the mothers of America how many bullets they’re allowed to have in one magazine to protect their children? How many bullets would you want in your magazine?” I’m guessing it’s probably more than 10.

    A video of her sputtering aimlessly trying to answer those questions would be epic.

  33. avatarJBS says:

    Those who question someone else’s “need” have missed an essential lesson on how the world works. The person who spends the money determines need. All else is commentary.

  34. avatarPhilTrig says:

    Why do we need fast cars? If congress passed a law that mechanically limits all cars to 25mph, it would save tens of thousands of lives. Why do we need swimming pools? If congress passed a law that outlawed swimming pools, we would save several thousand lives.

  35. avatarNavyVet73 says:

    Do Obama and certain others need 11 armed guards at the school their kids attend? If so, why? And if other people’s kids don’t, why not?

  36. avatarjester says:

    I’m probably off track but my question to someone that asks why I need them is, as a perfectly sane, 20+ years retired soldier, with ZERO criminal history, why can’t I have whatever weapon and/or accessories I want? Who are they to dictate what I do or don’t need? To me they are the ones that need to justify why I can’t have them!

  37. avatarJesse says:

    Why does anyone need a car that can go 120mph when the speed limit is at most 75mph in this country.

    Why does anyone need a truck if they don’t work in a profession where they haul things? Hell why does anyone need a car at all?

    Why does anyone need more than one pair of shoes?

    Why does anyone need a 70″ tv?

    Why does anyone need cigarettes or cigars? Or alcohol? I mean no one needs alcohol right?

    Freedom is no one telling you you can only have what you need.

  38. avatarBHirsh says:

    I disagree with your discrimination between the “need” for hi-cap rifle magazines and pistol magazines.

    The purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to maintain the people’s ability to confront government aggression in parity viz small arms. I own my handguns primarily for personal self-defense, but I own my .223 rifle to have an arm suitable for SHTF use if martial law is declared. You can call it “Katrina Syndrome”, but I choose to call it “THE First Principle of the Union”. While I enjoy shooting, it is not my hobby. It was part of a former professional lifestyle. I have that long gun specifically to greet either marauders or jackboots at my door, if that eventuality ever happens.

    So, while I generally agree that the Constitution contains a Bill of Rights as opposed to a Bill of Needs, I disagree that we don’t “need” ass-kicking semi-auto rifles. Quite the contrary – indeed WE DO.

  39. avatarJohnH says:

    I don’t have all the good words for this, but a “needs” based argument about any right is an attempt to deflect the conversation from the nature of rights into a conversation about privledges. Anyone trying to answer the question of “need” through a retorical comparision to the “need” of other objects comes away looking like a fool. The reason for this is quite simple… most all of us use automobiles and can readily percieve the “need” for them, even when the dangers of using them adversly impact the lives of many in our communities. Conversely, not all of us have firearms, and certainly not all of us who do have them for the same reasons. Consider those who own and use competive long guns, who may even have handguns but do not carry a firearm for self defense. Carry that even farther to someone who has never even used a firearm at a target ragne, much less used one as a means of self defense and it becomes clear that “need” is not the point of the discussion, but rather a wedge to fracture the fissures that exist between gun owners, by requiring a logical for illogical thinking.

    The correct approach is to shift “need” to “use” and then the purpose of the firearms becomes apparent. Police do not have AR-15′s in thier patrol cars because they need one, but because of what the use of one brings to a fight. Just as the magazine feed semi-automatic pistol replaced the revolver because of it’s superior attributes, the superior attributes a magazine fed semi automatic rifle offers in a self defense situation are why we want to use one.

    “Need” is a red herring thrown out to cause someone to stumble over trying to come up with a logical explanation for someone who is not logical. Do any of us here really think that any answer which could be given would be satiisfactory to someone who is not looking for the “why” of firearms ownership but the means of limiting if not eliminating such ownership. So let us instead give them the hard truth, it is not a question of need, or desire, it is to serve a specific purpose(s)

  40. avatarPhil Roe says:

    The second amendment is in our constitution’s bill of RIGHTS . . . it is NOT the “bill of needs.” End of discussion.

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