I’m ’bout to get philosophical on your asses (all three of them.)
Should it ever be illegal to own something? Generally things are illegal because they violate rights. Killing is illegal because it violates someone’s right to life. Theft is illegal because it violates someone’s right to property, etc.
Does Ownership Violate Rights?
But how does owning anything violate anyone else’s rights? Ownership laws are intended to prevent rights violations. For example, gun ownership is made illegal not because there’s anything problematic about owning a gun in and of itself, but because you have to possess a gun to shoot someone with it.
Child pornography is illegal because a child has to be harmed to make it and because people think that owning child porn is likely to cause someone to hurt a child. It’s the gateway porn.
But shooting people (outside of war and self-defense, and adultery in Texas) is already illegal, and molesting children is already illegal. Why do we need laws outlawing gun ownership and child pornography ownership?
Cost vs. Benefit of Ownership Laws
Any law is an abridgment of freedom. The curtailing of freedom is the intended consequence. But every law also comes with unintended consequences. Most people accept that laws that protect rights are worth the freedom we give up and the unintended consequences to enact and enforce. But what about laws that don’t protect rights? What about laws that just criminalize actions that could, but might not, lead to actions that violate rights?
The major unintended consequence of ownership laws is how far-reaching their freedom curtailing is. When ownership laws are enacted, they seek to prohibit a certain kind of ownership with a fairly narrow intent of preventing a certain type of action.
But as the laws are applied, much more freedom is curtailed than intended.
For example, child pornography laws have been used, repeatedly, to prosecute minors for sending naked pictures of themselves to each other. Child pornography cases have been used to prosecute people whose computers have been infected with malware. Gun laws have been used to prosecute people for whom no other charges would stick. Gun laws have been also been used to justify raids of homes police shouldn’t have ever been in. Everywhere you look you can find cases where ownership laws curtain more freedoms than intended.
Not only that, but even well-applied gun laws keep law-abiding citizens from being able to protect themselves. And well-applied child pornography laws still punish speech.
A Better Way
What if owning guns and pornography and anything else you wanted to own were legal? What if all the resources that currently go into finding and prosecuting people who own the wrong things went into finding and prosecuting people who did the wrong things?
Maybe there’d be less random gun violence if law-abiding citizens and the lawless could be equally armed.
Maybe people who like to look at child pornography could do it openly, then parents could easily tell if any potential teacher or babysitter had a predeliction for pedophilia.
So why do we have possession laws when action laws should be enough?
The truth is, possession is an easy win for law enforcement. It’s much easier to catch someone with the wrong thing at the time than it is to prove that they did the wrong thing in the past. But to let law enforcement take the easy way out we’re giving up valuable freedoms. Not only that, but we’re allowing them to put resources that should be going into fighting rights-violations go to possession cases.
I’ve only given two examples, and both I think illustrate my point. But can anyone think of counterexamples, items that merely possessing cause rights violations? Or can anyone think of reasons why making something illegal to own would be worth the sacrifice of rights and resources?