Seventy years ago, the U.S. dropped an atom bomb on Hiroshima. It was the beginning of the end of World War II in the Pacific. While the world continues to debate the necessity of the resulting carnage, there’s no question that Russia’s subsequent development of the atomic bomb helped stave off any future world wars, thanks to the threat of mutually assured destruction. The question is . . .

does the same concept apply on the micro-level? A criminal with a gun knows/believes/hopes that he or she has the power to incapacitate their victim(s) if not destroy them. If a criminal knows that their victim(s) have an equal capability does that prevent them from attacking?

We can’t use concealed carry for this thought experiment. We can only ponder the role of open carry, where a criminal knows his or her victim(s) is armed.

On one hand, cops open carry and they get attacked. On the other hand, as a full-time gun blogger, I can count the number of  stories about open carriers assaulted by bad guys on one hand. The number of times two or more open carriers in the same place were attacked? Look ma, no hands!

Ban the bomb? No thanks. Ban open carry? No thanks. Your thoughts?

54 Responses to Question of the Day: Does the Atom Bomb Prove That Mutually Assured Destruction Works for Criminals?

  1. ” We can’t use concealed carry for this thought experiment.”
    Why the hell not?

    We didn’t go around telling the Soviets where all of our missiles were. We put them on submarines and hid them in the ocean. We had B-57s carrying bombs very near Soviet airspace 24/7. Sure, they could locate many of our missile silos but they didn’t find them all.

    Deterrence is based on the perception of risk. The Secret Service protects the President while keeping their guns concealed. Sometimes we know who they are, sometimes not. Beyond the black suits who are fairly visible, there are more agents blending in with the crowd. They don’t have to open carry to create a deterrent effect.

    • Agreed. See also, More Guns, Less Crime, by John Lott. His numbers, by and large, involve concealed carry permit holders, and concealed carriers.

      I think that open carry, in individual situations, is absolutely more of a deterrence than concealed carry. However, the more widespread that concealed carry becomes, the greater the overall risk to the criminal in a given area. They move to other areas (e.g. to other counties altogether) to reduce the risk of encountering a concealed carrier.

    • Well said. I believe that it is not the legal consequences that deters the worst crimes, but the risk factor for the criminal. Because police cannot be (nor should be) on every street corner, the criminal is likely not overly concerned with being caught. A shocking number of criminals who are caught never experience the full extent of legal penalties for what they have done. This leaves the only deterrent to be the risk the criminal will have to take when perpetrating their crime. Since the ordinary armed citizen will respond generally with the maximum force they have available, the risk to many criminals may be unreasonably high for the sort of crime they intend to commit. They might even go through the trouble of getting a job.

    • Disagree. The soviets may not have known where they were or at least where some were, but they still knew we had them. An attack on someone that is not open carrying a percentage chance of them being armed in the single digits, while an attack on an open carrier leaves the attacker with knowledge he is up against an armed adversary. I do however believe that gun ownership and concealed carry have a impact on crime.

    • We had B-57s carrying bombs very near Soviet airspace 24/7. I do not think the Martin Canberra Bomber was performing this mission very often, although it possibly could carry out a nuclear attack..

  2. I don’t think most criminals like or want a fair fight.

    Assuming not everyone is armed, and there are other prey available, the sensible choice would be to pick a target other than one which is definitely equipped to fight back.

    Let’s also not forget, even “silenced” guns aren’t very quiet. A lot of violent crime can take place because neither the victim nor the attacker are using loud tools. A gunshot from a bad guy will draw as much attention as one from a good guy.

    Consider whistles as an altetnative noisemaker for the good guy. It takes more to blow a whistle than to fire a gun. The whistle has to be in the exact right place (ie. in the mouth) and the victim has to be able to exhale forcefully enough to generate a loud sound. Lips and teeth are also not good for whistle retention if someone pulls the whistle straight back or pushes it forward. In short, a whistle is a relatively easy device to neutralize.

    A gun, on the other hand, can be fired in any location where it can be held, more or less. And its report is not directly linked to its placent, orientation, or physical state of the wielder.

    Plus, blowing a whistle never stopped an attacker involuntarily. Guns have been known to do that from time to time.

    • hmmm, is that an idea for a new product? A small electronic whistle that mounts on the rail of your carry gun. Something that puts out a really loud, disorienting tone?

  3. I call today Atomic Bomb Appreciation Day. I probably owe my existence to the bomb. My father and three uncles were scheduled for the honor of invading Japan.

      • It wasn’t the second one either, they didn’t surrender until four days later. The soviets invaded Manchuria and I believe there was another massive fire-bombing run on Tokyo. So I guess the applicability to the original post is, it over till it’s over.

        • It wasn’t another fire bombing. The military just pretty much refused to surrender. They were prepared to sacrifice the whole of the population to preserve their “honor.” The Emperor was holding onto the idea that the Russians might help the Japanese negotiate better surrender terms. When the Russians declared war the Emperor knew there was no hope and forced the issue. Even then there was an attempt by the Japanese military to stop the Emperor from ordering a surrender. Fortunately it failed.

        • @Mike, according to Wiki there were sorties against Tokyo on the 8th, 10th and the very last day of the war. In fact, Sgt. Anthony J. Marchione, 19, was killed on the 18th when his reconnaissance plane was attacked.

          Here it is:
          “Negotiations appeared to be stalled, and on 14 August Spaatz received orders to resume the bombing campaign. Arnold requested the largest attack possible, and hoped that USASTAF could dispatch 1,000 aircraft against the Tokyo region and other locations in Japan. In fact, 828 B-29s escorted by 186 fighters (for a total of 1,014 aircraft) were dispatched; during the day precision raids were made against targets at Iwakuni, Osaka and Tokoyama and at night the cities of Kumagaya and Isesaki were firebombed.[249][250]”

    • My father and three uncles were scheduled for the honor of invading Japan.

      After my father and a few million of his friends polished off the Nazis on the Western front, his outfit was notified that they were shipping out to Okinawa to prep for the invasion. Then a few guys in two airplanes, plus a few million Russians in Manchuria, canceled his travel plans. So he went home and knocked up my mom.

    • Dad was scheduled to invade Kyushu for Operation Olympic on November 1st, 1945. He was thrilled when he heard the news of dropping the bomb on Hiroshima. It seems a lot of servicemen had a lot of faith that the bomb would end the war.

    • In 1944 my dad worked on uranium enrichment at Oak Ridge. In 1945 he was at Los Alamos purifying plutonium.

      Glad you made it.

  4. Put a finer point on it. Each of us is in a similar deadlock strangle hold with every other single individual on this planet, and any other we ever occupy. Anyone CAN do you harm, with or without warning. Anyone not pre-empting harm on themselves may spill that harm over to you, the same as their actions to prevent or interdict harm similarly spill over to you.
    NO ONE CAN PROTECT YOU ON THE INDIVIDUAL LEVEL, it is not only wrong, it is wrongful for them to claim it so.
    ““If we must do so, if we must grant that War originates and makes its form not from a final adjustment of the innumerable relations with which it is connected, but from some amongst them which happen to predominate, then it follows, as a matter of course, that it rests upon a play of possibilities, probabilities, good fortune and bad, in which rigorous logical deduction often gets lost, and in which it is in general a useless, inconvenient instrument for the head; then it also follows that War may be a thing which is sometimes War in a greater, sometimes in a lesser degree. All this, theory must admit, but it is its duty to give the foremost place to the absolute form of War, and to use that form as a general point of direction, that whoever wishes to learn something from theory, may accustom himself never to lose sight of it, to regard it as the natural measure of all his hopes and fears, in order to approach it where he can, or where he must. That a leading idea, which lies at the root of our thoughts and grounds come from totally different regions, is just as certain as that the painter can give this or that tone to his picture by the colouts with which he lays on his ground. Theory is indebted to the last Wars for being able to do this effectually now. Without these warning examples of the destructive force of the element set free, she might have talked herself hoarse to no purpose; no one would have believed possible what all have now lived to see realized. Would Prussia have ventured to penetrate into France in the year 1798 with 70,000 men, if she had foreseen that the reaction in case of failure would be so strong as to overthrow the old balance of power in Europe? Would Prussia, in 1806, have made War with 100,000 against France, if she had supposed that the first pistol shot would be a spark in the heart of the mine, which would blow it into the air?” (Carl von Clausewitz, On War, page 370-371). [TERMS, J.M. Thomas R., 2012, pg. 28-29]”

  5. If you read the psychology of killing this question is already answered. Also there are two things to point out

    1. The reason the U.S. has only used WMD in WWII is because Eisenhower reject the suggestion to use them. There was no threat of WMD retaliation so the chiefs of staff were strongly in favor.

    2. Kennedy’s brother had to explain what mutually assured destruction was to the Russians. The Russians involved in the Cuban middle crisis didn’t

  6. I would pose the question differently…

    Do the Libbies think that if we just get rid of all of our nukes, the rest of the world will follow suit and we’ll all be MORE SAFE and live happily ever after? …just as they are implying will happen with guns?

    If we just ‘get rid’ of all those evil guns, will the criminals all follow suit and we’ll all live happily ever after?

    • I don’t know how old you are, Joe, but back in the days of the cold war, there were plenty of liberals calling for unilateral disarmament (we, the US, should destroy all of our missiles, even if the Soviets don’t).

      Same kind of stupid, different generation.

      • Yeah, old enough to remember. It’s almost exactly the same argument they are making on guns. I would be interested to hear how they answer both questions side by side.

  7. Mutually assured destruction through equalizing arms/technology is a democratic and egalitarian peacekeeping mechanism that far predates atomic weapons. This is a case of the small scale generalizing up rather than the other way around.

    • This equalization works so long as the desire to survive is mostly equally valued or the opponents think they are evenly matched. When one side values the attack more than survival the balance of terror fails. Mike Brown decided he wanted a piece of Darrin Wilson enough to rush a .40 cal Glock. I guess we will get to find out what the Iranian leaders value in a few years.

  8. Of course.

    People need to understand that the decision to commit crime is based on a cost-benefit analysis with imperfect information. Laws don’t prevent crime by making it illegal, they do that by raising the risk involved to such a degree that most are deterred, but some others still feel that the payoff, whether it’s money, valuables, or just the thrill is worth what seems to them a low chance of getting caught. Similarly, armed good guys and neutrals raise the risk of crime, which is not to say that it won’t happen against them, but don’t we have a buttload of stats demonstrating that an armed society has much lower general violent crime than an unarmed one?

    • But general violence doesn’t count! A 400% greater chance of being raped or assaulted is a small price to pay for giving up the legal and physical means to defend yourself.

  9. No. If MAD has worked, and I think it’s still too early to determine if it has, then it worked because of the surety of that “Assured” part. The Soviets, the Chinese, whoever, can be absolutely positive that a nuclear strike from another nuclear party is both possible and completely devastating.
    Even if you are openly well armed, a criminal meaning you harm can’t truly count on the surety of their destruction. As such, some are willing to roll the dice.

    • “can’t truly count on the surety of their destruction”

      Unless you’re armed with a 1911 in .45 ACP.

  10. Robert is asking about the 1 on 1 type scenario in the here and now. Bad guy thinking of doing bad things surveys the situation and is confronted with good guy with equal or better force. Odds are, unless said bad guy is otherwise out of his wits, bad guy will most likely pick another target or wait until said good guy leaves the scene. I would imagine the very same thing would happen if said bad guy happened upon his chosen scene of crime and there, by his bad luck, a LEO was present. But what I really think is much more important, is, how is the macro working out? Are there sufficient concealed carriers, in those states where ones natural, civil, and Constitutionally protected rights are not abridged, to become a social deterrent? And what is the tipping point to when that occurs. It seems the best estimate of permitees is around 12.5 million and a certain portion of those do not carry at all times, and of course, not all of those who are carrying are out and about at the same time. So when, if at all, is the other side presented with sufficient odds of being perforated that overall crime is measurably reduced? And, if we take the thought to the farthest end, if all good guys were armed at all times, would we actually be safer than we are now?

  11. “On one hand, cops open carry and they get attacked” – Mostly by criminals trying to get away from an impending arrest. Look at how seldom police stations are attacked, because it is almost certain to fail and will instantly result in death. Even though police stations have everything a budding crook could possibly want, with an evidence room full of money, guns and drugs…

  12. We don’t carry guns to deter crime. Deterrence doesn’t work. I worked in a prison full of guys that knew the outcome of a life of crime and jumped in anyway.

    We carry guns for when the bad guy targets us.

    I don’t worry too much about random street muggers. I’m a large, ugly individual with a look that suggests only the serious need apply.

    What I, and every person out there, should worry about is that random looney that’s so far gone mentally or messed up so badly on drugs that they have no rational judgement. Cross paths with a joker or lanza and killing them is the only real option.

    And for the record. It would not hurt my feelings to see all nukes everywhere scrapped.

    • Respectfully,
      the fact that we have prisons full of felons only shows that deterrence doesn’t ALWAYS work on ALL would-be criminals. It is not evidence that deterrence never works.

      Further, the thought of a life in prison is probably not much of a deterrent for someone who doesn’t see life outside the walls as a better option. Interviews of prisoners lead us to believe that they aren’t afraid of the police and they aren’t afraid of prison. But they are afraid of catching lead from their victims, where that possibility exists.

    • If you want to see what a world without nuclear weapons looks like just watch some videos of what Japan and Germany looked like in 1945.

  13. I think the cost / benefit equation is different when contemplating nuclear war verses contemplating a one-on-one gun fight, and the two aren’t really comparable.

    Most politicians care at least something for their people and their way of life. Nuclear war threatens the extinction of your entire society, not just your own life. The nuclear warhead delivery systems are still better than the countermeasures, so you have to assume some will get through. Nobody walks away unscathed from a nuclear exchange.

    In a gun fight, it’s just you and one other person (that’s the ideal, anyway). You can believe that you are better than the other guy, and you may even be right. There is a chance you will get away unscathed. Of course if you’re smart you won’t opt for a stand-up fight. You ambush your target and shoot them before they can respond. I don’t see criminals fighting honorably if everybody is armed. Just look at gang bangers. They are much more likely to be armed than the general society because they fear violence from other gang bangers. They commit ambush killings and drive-by shootings against each other all the time. In short, the criminals already know how to deal with armed targets.

    EDIT: I fully support constitutional carry, but I don’t hold out much hope for deterrence. We should carry because we may need to defend ourselves and be mentally ready to face that reality. We should not start thinking of guns as a talisman that will ward off criminal attacks.

  14. No. If you posture against a gangbanger like its mutually assured destruction if he comes after you, that’s a challenge to his bravado (manhood-dizzle if ya kno wat I meen) and he’s gonna take the challenge because anything else is weakness.

  15. As long as the destruction is “assured”, definitely. Criminal does not equate to knowingly suicidal. Even when the criminal has strong knowledge the victim is armed, he may decide to bet against the assuredness of it all, if the potential reward is large enough.

  16. Right now I carry concealed, come January 1, will open carry for the sole reason is recovering from partial hip replacement due to thinning bones. I want anyone who sees me on a walk around the neighborhood to know I’m armed, not a good prospect for easy prey.
    Will they conclude there are maybe other guns in my home and good target for thieft ? Maybe but I home carry and rarely both people in our household gone for very long and have a large male Golden Retriever, who does a really good imiataion of Cujo. He has delivery people tossing packages, not marked fragile, up on front porch.
    It’s certainly not a guarantee but in life only two things guranteed are death and taxes.

  17. All through the animal kingdom there is an abundance of evidence to show predators will pass by even the appearance of a threat to make their kill.
    Animals will use mimicry to present a threat to predators where none exists, camouflage to hid from predators and though I know it will probably lead to some ninny call for fauna disarmament some animals even have weapons they carry openly and concealed.
    It works. If it didn’t work evolution wouldn’t have chosen it or god wouldn’t have made it.
    A gun on your hip is quills on your ass. The predator will go eat a couple of chipmunks rather than tangle with a porcupine.

  18. Does mutually assured destruction apply on the micro-level?

    It does almost universally. The only time it does not is when the attacker no longer cares whether they survive — such as when they want to die (suicide), are spaced out on drugs, or become so enraged that they don’t care if they live.

    There is a huge caveat here. Mutually assured destruction only applies if a tentative attacker believes there is a substantial risk of their own ruin should they attack. If they decide that they are virtually guaranteed to successfully incapacitate an openly armed person without any harm to themselves, they will go for it.

    What does this mean? Whether we are openly armed or carrying concealed, we are in grave danger if an attacker nonchalantly stabs, clubs, garrotes, or shoots us from behind. The only viable defense for such tactics is to operate in groups of four or more. Unfortunately, we will pretty much never have three armed family members or friends with us whenever we go out in public.

  19. It only works if the bad actor gives a crap about his wife, family, friends, nation, etc. if actor is a loser with nothing to lose, and If overpowering motivation is allah and his 70 hot virgins he gets to spend eternity raping, I’d say a nuke is no deterrent. If Muslim fanatics could get their hands on one today, they would use it, regardless if they were assured we would respond in-kind. I wish no harm on the Muslim, but if he seeks mass destruction of Americans and our friends, just because we are Americans, they need to be crushed before nuke or bio-weapon is obtained.

  20. Mutually Assured Destruction only works when all involved want to live.
    If say, your attacker sincerely believed that when you both die, he would be in paradise with a bunch of virgins and you would not….

  21. I was an EMT for 6 years, and I agree that when you are dealing with a person who’s reality is altered they are less likely to back down from a fight. Most of my “section 12’s” (hi, you’re coming with me and no you don’t have a choice in the matter.) went well, although a few wandered into unpleasant places. Few of these had police available and they didn’t like to get involved, i didn’t mind much. On a personal level, I rarely get into fights. I am a fairly large individual who always looks grouchy so that combined with the “stupid people-places-activities” thing mostly has me covered. Dad taught me to fight fairly, if you get to go home you fought fairly. The “nuke option” has always been my go to for fights as a deterrent. In probably 10 fights only one has been a one on one, but few people are willing to continue when their friend, or two, or three, has just been beaten to a pulp with whatever solid object is handy. Going to an extreme works if it isn’t constantly used, if it becomes common then it becomes the new normal and accepted. As for risk/reward, it’s a constantly shifting evaluation that can lead to some pretty odd solutions. I can always find an option c to an a or b question, i assume that others are capable of it as well. Might I humbly suggest keeping alert for such things.

  22. Most criminals and crazies attack soft targets of which a much better chance of success. MAD will not work with the Aloha Snackbar crows, but they will go after targets of which they can do maximum damage before they meet the 72 virgin pigs in hell.

  23. As a political science researcher, the consensus is that, yes, it works exactly in the same way, with the slight difference that at a micro level variance is higher (a hot-headed officer will be restrained by the system, more efficiently than a hot-headed criminal) but risk is lower (if restraints are broken, the officer can end human civilization, the criminal will kill a perso).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *