Roderick Long argues that gun control is wrong because most gun owners are law-abiding, and restricting their liberty is therefore unjust. Similarly, most Muslims are peaceful; hence restricting travel from certain countries is unjust.

Now Long is mistaken in holding that the Trump travel ban applies to Muslims; in fact, it applies to all citizens of Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iran, Yemen, and Somalia, irrespective of religion.

But we are philosophers, so who cares about empirical facts? Very well then, I agree that both gun ownership and travel are human rights. From that point of view, the two cases are identical.

But there is also a difference, and Long’s case is incomplete. The pro-gun advocates argue, correctly in my view, that guns control will increase violent crime by greatly encouraging criminals who will be emboldened by their realization of the people’s defenselessness. It will bring about results opposite those the gun haters want to achieve.

Yet those who favor Muslim immigration do not propose, in an analogous move, that allowing it will make the natives more secure. It is fully admitted by everyone that the dangers of living in America will increase as a result of such immigration.

The rights-based argument works to establish the parity between guns and immigration.

The consequentialist argument highlights the difference between them.

As a result, the pro-gun case is on a more solid footing than the pro-immigration case.

But of course, there is even more to it than that. Open borders is not a rational policy in a world marked by cheap transportation and great disparities in the standard of living. Open the borders, and within a month, 100 million of the world’s poorest will arrive to the US. The disruption will be enormous; the impoverishment of the natives, certain; the reign of chaos will truly be upon us. This move undercuts the rights-based argument.

Or, if Long insists that the rights of no individual foreigner are affected by these considerations, it at the very least strengthens the utilitarian argument. Here’s how.

Assume with me that preventing mass migrations through managed borders is a desirable policy. Then immigration will have to be limited, even severely so. But with half the world to choose from, why pick people from Libya, Sudan, etc.? Why not carefully let in only the best and brightest? Why not prefer Christians to Muslims? Or educated people to barbarians? Or wealthy people and businessmen to paupers?

Now perhaps there are some good pickings to be had in those miserable countries, too. Why single out them explicitly to reject everyone in them? Well, the utilitarian argument now comes into play. The dangers of making a mistake by letting in a terrorist outweigh, in Trump’s judgment, the utility of possibly finding a useful immigrant who would be competitive with all the other contenders. The rights argument is defeated at the outset, and the utilitarian argument is inconclusive. Trump is therefore entitled to his opinion and policy.


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