A Few More Thoughts about Guns

In the wake of the Newton shooting, it seems like everyone is talking about guns, whether that be suggesting that we need better gun control laws or arguing against that idea. Here are a few thoughts I’ve been having as I watch these discussions play out:

1. Yes, People Kill People, But…

I have been hearing the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” argument a lot lately. And you know what? I grew up hearing it too. I grew up in a very pro-gun family, then kind where the kids go to NRA “youth shoots” and the family has an AK47 in the closet. But I don’t for the life of me understand this argument anymore, because the response is so simple: Sure, people kill people, but do you know what guns do? They make it really easy for people to kill people, and lots of them.

There was an attack on a primary school last week in China that was very similar to the Newton shooting, and you know what? Because the perpetrator only had a knife, no one died. I’m not trying to be little the pain of the parents of the 22 children who were wounded in the attack, but you know what? They’re still alive. I don’t know of any parent who wouldn’t rather have their child have a knife wound than be, you know, dead.

My point is that while people, and not guns, cause violence, guns are the grease on the wheel or the ice on the road. They increase the amount of destruction a person can cause, and the amount of people a person can kill, by several orders of magnitude. So say “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” all you want, but I really find nothing persuasive about that argument at all.

Am I in favor of banning guns? No. For one thing, some people use guns for things like hunting or protecting their farm animals from predators. For another thing, I am not an expert on the statistics and data regarding how gun control works and which sorts of requirements are the most effective in cutting down on the potential of violence. I do think we need to revive the assault weapons ban, and I think we ought to be able to make it so that a shooter like Adam Lanza only has the capacity to fire a limited number of shots before having to reload, a time when he would be vulnerable to being apprehended.

2. This Thing about the Second Amendment 

I know, I know, I grew up hearing “second amendment this” and “second amendment that.” But here’s the thing. The second amendment is actually a lot more complex than people think it is. I am not a constitutional scholar or a historian of the second amendment. I don’t have it all figured out. I do know enough to know, however, that the idea that the founding fathers passed the second amendment so that the people would be able to rise up against a future tyrannical government is only part of the story, and is highly misleading when set on its own.

For example, the founding fathers were generally very afraid of a standing army. They believed that a standing army resulted in tyranny, and that therefore having a standing army should be, if possible, avoided. Instead of a standing army, they decided that it would be best to rely on state and local militias, which could be called up in case of foreign threat or domestic insurrection. This is why the second amendment reads as follows:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

For a time, the United States did not have a standing army, relying instead on state and local militias. When Andrew Jackson called up state and local militias during the War of 1812, he was angered that many men came to him without weapons, and thus useless in his fight against the British and their allies, thus illustrating the reason the second amendment was penned. Over the years, though, things changed.

In the end, the second amendment is complicated, and I don’t claim to be an expert on it. What I do know, though, is that the simplistic way so many people treat it today is extremely ahistorical (ironic given how much most of those who trumpet the second amendment also claim to believe in the original intent of the Constitution). Rather than trying to understand its constitutional or historical context, we would rather throw it around like some sort of argument-winning dogma. It honestly reminds me of the way fundamentalists approach the Bible.

Today we have a standing army, and the National Guard serve as the twenty-first century equivalent of the late eighteenth-century state militias. Our nation and our needs are different than they were 250 years ago, and we shouldn’t pretend as though they aren’t. Given the existence of drones and nuclear weapons, what good would guns do in the case of “government tyranny”? I think it’s time to admit that our nation has changed since 1789 and that what might have worked best then doesn’t necessarily work best now, and I think it’s time to give up our cowboy dream of gun-toting loyal Americans barricading themselves in local armories and taking on the big bad federal government with an AK47 in each hand.

3. Guns: The Great Equalizer? 

Finally, I’ve heard people argue that our response to the Newton shooting should be more guns, not less. Why? Because if everyone is armed, then everyone can defend themselves and take down shooters. I found Sierra’s response on this issue thought provoking:

A question occurred to me as I proofread my last post about how my father’s violence and gun ownership gave him unnatural power in the household:

Why didn’t guns make me feel safer?

After all, I was a pretty good shot. I knew how to load, unload and clean the guns properly. I knew where they were kept. My father had even instructed me on how to defend myself: Never point a gun at someone if you aren’t going to use it, he’d said, because that gave them the opportunity to get it away from you. Aim for the abdomen and shoot to kill, he’d said, unless you knew you could reliably hit the person in the leg. Even then, he’d warned, you never knew if your attacker had a gun, so crippling him might backfire.

So why didn’t it occur to me that my father’s guns could protect me from my father? After all, the NRA propaganda that saturated my youth said that handguns were equalizing forces in society. It didn’t matter if you were a tiny, skinny person or even a child – if you had a gun, you could defend yourself.

I don’t think that’s true anymore.

When someone initiates violence, you usually don’t get to prepare. Especially not the kinds of violence I would have faced as a young woman.

If my father had decided to attack me, I can imagine two possible scenarios: in the first, he would have premeditated the attack and come after me with a gun. In that case, I wouldn’t have time to grab one myself before he appeared and shot me. Game over. In the second scenario, he would fly into a rage and attack me with his bare hands. In that case, I’d have had to already load the gun and have it ready at my side – which he would have noticed, since he knew where the guns and ammo were kept. Keeping a loaded gun on hand in case he planned to attack me would be more likely to tip him off and incite a rage episode than protect me from one. Besides, if he discovered that I was keeping a loaded gun by my side, he could use that as evidence to discredit my own mental health.

In the abstract, sure, having a gun could make me safer. Being able to shoot does even out whatever physical disadvantage I could have against an attacker. But in the real world, it doesn’t work that way. In the real world, guns don’t equalize power; they give more power to those who already have it. In the real world, there are variables. There’s a lot of guesswork to defending yourself. And frequently, those who are most in danger of violence are the least able to use guns to their advantage,  because their attackers are already close to them, already familiar, already more likely to instigate gun violence and better able to rationalize using it.

Based on everything I was taught, my father’s guns should have been a source of self-defense and safety to me, even against his own violence. Instead, they were instruments of terror, reminders that he held my life in his hands. It didn’t occur to me that I could have used them to defend myself against him then; now, looking back, I still don’t think I could have. They didn’t equalize anything. Guns don’t defend the weak; they empower the powerful.

I still think the best thing I could have done for self-defense is what I eventually did: get the hell out of there.

Anyway, just a few thoughts. As always, I reserve the right to be wrong or change my mind. :-P And of course, feel free to offer your own thoughts!

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://ramblingsofsheldon.blogspot.com Sheldon

    I think this is a reasonable response, Libby Anne.

    I too think that a ban an automatic rifles and high capacity magazines isn’t too much to ask for.

    However though, I wonder if that’s the only place where it will stop, if even more extreme regulations would be put in place that would harm good, law abiding gun owners. Maybe I’m paranoid, I don’t know, it isn’t that I’m afraid of the government, but some people in the gun control crowd can be just as rabid (or even more so) than the most die hard NRA supporters.

    • luckyducky

      I keep hearing about this equivalency between the NRA crowd and the Brady Campaign crowd but I just don’t see it. Evidence?

      How is advocating for mandatory background checks and waiting periods rabid?
      How is advocating for safeties, gun safes, and safety training rabid?
      How is advocating for hand gun bans in communities plagued by violence with people being shot on a daily basis rabid?

      What make me angry is that pro-gun crowd wants me to live in communities flooded with guns. This is not about people keeping guns in their homes and taking them out hunting but having to contend all the time, everywhere with people with short tempers, big egos, and guns.

      I accept that as things stand, people have a certain right to own guns, a right that is more expansive than I would like. However, I don’t think that right is so expansive that the rest of us necessarily have to suffer the consequences we are and even be forced or arm myself (I am not exaggerating — some of the most extreme advocates want to see every “law abiding citizen” armed) and place my children in the care of people who are armed.

      I live in a city with a drug problem and call the police about once a month to report gun fire (the vast majority of the time it is just someone shooting into the air but there has been at least one person shot in my neighborhood in the last year). Once, I was walking down the street and and obviously mentally disturbed person got in my face and yelled at me that he was going to shoot me, apparently for looking at him, and he had his hand in his coat pocket pointing it at me like he had a gun in there. When I go visit my parents in their rural community and there are guns on hips, concealed and not concealed. Why? I have no idea, everyone knows everyone. Why do you need to strap on your side arm to go to the grocery store where you’ll to be spotted a $20 because you forgot your wallet and the closest you’ve come to a mugging is watching one on TV?

      • smrnda

        The reason is that people like that, the genuine gun nuts, are living in some kind of post-apocalyptic fantasy land. Against all evidence they believe themselves to be perpetually in danger, no matter how safe the neighborhood or what stats on violent crime you can produce. Perhaps the worst is that they don’t think of shooting someone as a dreadful but possible event, but as a chance at being a heroic gunslinger who saves the day. They imagine themselves as heroic guerrilla fighters against some New World Order in the very near future. People so full of irrational fears aren’t primarily dangerous (at least in my mind) because they have access to guns, but because their inability to do proper risk assessment is going to lead them to back absurd public policies.

      • luckyducky

        Smrnda, I agree. And if they were a vocal but powerless minority, I won’t waste energy on being angry about it, just sorry for people who live so needlessly in fear. But they are a vocal, influential, and, by virtue of their ability to kill rather thoughtlessly, powerful minority. The local county police chief — in one of the 20 largest US metropolitan areas — published an op-ed today advocating that schools as “gun free zones” be reconsidered and that teachers should have the option of being armed. His wife is a teacher and said she didn’t think it was a good idea and he deals with gun violence on a regular basis but he was convinced that arming people would result in fewer people getting shot.

        I was comforted by the fact that Gov. Snyder (Schneider?) of MI was going to reconsider signing the bill that had just been passed that allowed guns in the school in light of Friday (I haven’t heard what actually happened) but I hear, locally, just as much of the opposite and wonder if there would be enough pressure to pass similar legislation in my state *because* of Newtown because our state legislature is rather nuts.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Like who? I don’t know any of them. Most of the people I know who are most vocally and convincingly pro-gun control ARE gun owners. And I don’t really understand the “if it starts, where will it stop?” concern? It should be pretty obvious that are political system is not designed for radical “extreme” change but for gradual, incremental change (right now, it can barely manage that.) This idea of a little sensible gun control opening some kind of floodgate–it’s just not going to happen. Yeah, I think you’re paranoid.

    • thalwen

      I don’t get this “slippery slope” argument. We regulate things all the time. We’ve been regulating meat safety for decades and we haven’t banned meat. We regulate pretty much everything – building codes, toy safety, factory emissions output and yet we are still building things, kids have toys to buy and factories are making those toys – all with regulations to make sure these things are safe and aren’t doing more harm than good.
      Yet when it comes to guns, reasonable, non-rabid regulations – like closing the gun show loophole, limiting clip size and banning the kind of weapons one only needs in a warzone, is just a step away from banning all guns.

    • Don Gwinn

      Automatic weapons were effectively banned in 1934 by requiring that they be registered with the federal government by owners, who have ever since been required to pass months-long background investigations complete with fingerprinting and submit written permission from their local chief law enforcement officer. The price of the “tax stamp” required to possess, manufacture, or transfer such weapons was set at about 10 times the cost of the firearm itself (at the time.) Then, in 1968, the registry was closed to any automatic weapon that hadn’t been registered in years after 1934, and in 1986, it was closed altogether–it has been illegal to manufacture an automatic weapon for sale to anyone except manufacturers, law enforcement or military agencies since 1986.

      Some states, like my neighbors in Missouri, Kentucky and Indiana, make it possible to own automatic weapons IF you can find your way through all those federal hoops. Some, like my home here in Illinois, flatly prohibit them altogether.

      With all due respect, you’re holding people out as obstructionists because they don’t support a ban that’s already law and wouldn’t have any effect on any weapon used at Newtown. It’s a fact-free point of view.

      Libby Anne pointed out that the history and legalities around the 2nd Amendment are complex, and that it’s a mistake to over-simplify them, but this is over-simplification. The assertion that the founders feared standing armies, but now we have a standing army, therefore the 2nd Amendment is invalidated, doesn’t hold water in any legal sense. The assertion that the National Guard is simply today’s militia is a gross oversimplification and way out of date, too–the National Guard was purposely separated from the militia from the beginning. The National Guard was created as the “Organized Militia” and the same statute explicitly states that the citizenry at large is to be considered the “Unorganized Militia.”

      That barely scratches the surface, but maybe you get the idea–it’s a complex subject, and if you try to reduce it to “you gun nuts had better figure out a way to solve this problem by waiving your rights pretty soon.”

      • smrnda

        It seems that the reason for the right to bear arms (if I’m parsing the second amendment correctly) is based on the idea that a well regulated militia is relevant to the question of security. I am no longer sure that militias are relevant, nor do I think there’s any good way to distinguish between the existence of a ‘well regulated militia’ and ‘lots of people who all own guns but are not well-regulated or coordinated in any way.’

        My problem with the discussion is that everybody goes in with “the constitution says.” so what? Imagine we’re drafting a new set of rules and make appeals for how to regulate guns based on what can be said for or against. Appealing to the 2nd amendment is just avoiding addressing the issue where things are looked at on their own merit, not based on tradition.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        “The assertion that the founders feared standing armies, but now we have a standing army, therefore the 2nd Amendment is invalidated, doesn’t hold water in any legal sense.”

        Very true, which is perhaps why she didn’t say that: “In the end, the second amendment is complicated, and I don’t claim to be an expert on it. What I do know, though, is that the simplistic way so many people treat it today is extremely ahistorical (ironic given how much most of those who trumpet the second amendment also claim to believe in the original intent of the Constitution). Rather than trying to understand its constitutional or historical context, we would rather throw it around like some sort of argument-winning dogma.”

        Please tell me where in that statement you’re seeing “The second amendment is invalidated.”

      • luckyducky

        I think that you are being a little intentionally obtuse here. For people who don’t know guns the difference between an automatic and semiautomatic is not important. Yes, there is a difference but for non-gun people you can generally divide guns up into 3 categories —
        (1) Big, scary, military-style rifles — these many be automatic or semi-automatic, it doesn’t really matter because the only purpose for these firearms it to kill a lot of people
        (2) Handgun – may possibly be further subdivided but the basic gist is that they are handheld
        (3) Hunter firearms – rifle, shotgun, doesn’t really matter. It is clear this for going out into the woods and getting dinner.
        This isn’t a bad way to think about guns for the purposes of crafting legislation because you start with what the purpose of the gun is or at least what its apparent purpose is and work backward. It makes it pretty difficult to justify Joe Schmoe being able to buy anything in category 1.

        And as far as being complicated, I agree that the 2nd amendment isn’t clear but the whole part of “well regulated militia” does, by my reading, preclude the “preppers” and other anti-government types who seek to amass fire power not in order to be prepared to defend/rebuilt American democracy from despots (yeah, they say this but they often have a pretty sketchy understanding of basic concepts like “majority rule”) but protect themselves as the expense of the community. That is clearly not what the 2nd amendment is about.

        I recent saw a friend post on fb how she read we were supposed to call 911 and pray and how she wasn’t going to do that, she had a God-given and constitutional right to defend herself and she was going to keep her gun no matter what because the police are worthless. Of course, this was right after one of those cheesy cross and rainbow posts about Jesus being her savior – I kid you not.

  • Anat

    Make bullets hard to acquire. Allow people to get only a few per year or whatever time-frame.

    From an article about gun control in the UK

    After a couple of horrible mass shootings in Britain, handguns and automatic weapons have been effectively banned. It is possible to own shotguns, and rifles if you can demonstrate to the police that you have a good reason to own one, such as target shooting at a gun club, or deer stalking, say. The firearms-ownership rules are onerous, involving hours of paperwork. You must provide a referee who has to answer nosy questions about the applicant’s mental state, home life (including family or domestic tensions) and their attitude towards guns. In addition to criminal-record checks, the police talk to applicants’ family doctors and ask about any histories of alcohol or drug abuse or personality disorders.

    Vitally, it is also very hard to get hold of ammunition. Just before leaving Britain in the summer, I had lunch with a member of parliament whose constituency is plagued with gang violence and drug gangs. She told me of a shooting, and how it had not led to a death, because the gang had had to make its own bullets, which did not work well, and how this was very common, according to her local police commander. Even hardened criminals willing to pay for a handgun in Britain are often getting only an illegally modified starter’s pistol turned into a single-shot weapon.

    And, to be crude, having few guns does mean that few people get shot. In 2008-2009, there were 39 fatal injuries from crimes involving firearms in England and Wales, with a population about one sixth the size of America’s. In America, there were 12,000 gun-related homicides in 2008.

    • jose

      I don’t have a problem with anything in the first paragraph but making cartridges expensive harms people differently depending on income. Workers have as much a right as CEOs and other wealthy people to practice a sport like target shooting.

      • OurSally

        Yeah, they can’t afford dressage horses either, or bobsleighs, that really wrecks their lives

      • jose

        OurSally,
        First, those are not analogous. Bobsleighs and horses are necessarily, implicitly expensive because of the maintenance, travel costs, etc. Cartridges are not expensive by nature, you want to make them expensive by law so that only the rich have realistic access to them.

        Second, gun control works and responsible people can still practice regardless of their income in countries other than the US. If your solution is to restrict such activities as target practice or hunting for the top 1% instead of for responsible people like gun control laws that have been proven to work in other countries do, then we just have different priorities.

      • thalwen

        No, limiting bullet access and clip size isn’t just about giving guns to the rich, it is preventing spree killings like the one that just happened. A small clip means the shooter has to reload, reach for another weapon which gives time for them to be disarmed which is what happened in several cases where the gunman was taken down or disarmed while reloading. Unless you are in the military, there is no reason to have a 30 round clip, including for sport. So yes, I am perfectly happy if some “sportsmen” are burdened if it saves lives.

      • jose

        Agree on clip size, nothing to do with what was being said really.

      • Anat

        Do you really need high-quality ammunition for target practice? Use improvised ones for practice, keep the expensive kind for self-defense or any other use where killing the target is the intent.

  • Ashton

    “I am not an expert on the statistics and data regarding how gun control works and which sorts of requirements are the most effective in cutting down on the potential of violence.”
    I’m not either, but I am very interested in the evidence regarding just about anything. I frequently spout off stats on random things when people start talking about them. I don’t have any regarding guns on the tip of my tongue, but I’d certainly read articles on the subject and double check their sources. I have a hard time believing that people who are against gun regulation give a shit about what the evidence is on safety issues and on whether or not gun ownership protects against intruders or tyranny.

    Hey, here’s one stat that just popped into my head (I don’t have the source handy – if you know of evidence to the contrary I would love to hear it so please share) – a gun in your home is more likely to kill someone living in that home than it ever is to be used against an intruder. My grandfather actually almost shot my mom when she came in quite late (2-3am?) and he wasn’t expecting her until morning. My grandfather knew a lot about guns and while he did keep them locked up, he was still very unsafe with them.

    • Merbie

      This is an older study that someone else sent to me (I haven’t had time to search for any stats myself), but I would guess more recent stats would be similar. The study seems to back up what you are saying.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/9715182/

  • smrnda

    My problem with guns is this – the guy whose stockpiling guns to feel safe seems oblivious that him and his cache of weapons makes me feel rather unsafe. Listening to people who own guns, who often have an exaggerated, paranoid fear of highly unlikely violence, or an irrational fear of a coming social collapse (or the coming reign of the anti_Christ) makes me feel a lot less safe since these people don’t just have crazy ideas, but guns. No reason why an armed populace can’t be on the wrong side.

    The belief that the possession of guns prevents tyranny doesn’t seem very valid. Plenty of free nations have highly restrictive gun laws, and I don’t think our freedom is threatened in a way that can really be countered with bullets. No government would be dumb enough to oppress in a way that would hinge on an unarmed populace.

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      “My problem with guns is this – the guy whose stockpiling guns to feel safe seems oblivious that him and his cache of weapons makes me feel rather unsafe.”

      I highly doubt he cares. Way too many people seem to have an attitude of “I don’t care if it hurts other people as long as I get what I want.”

      • smrnda

        True, the same way that when there’s a shooting like this, some gun-loving ‘real American’ has to lecture us about how occasional murder sprees or dead minority teenagers are just the price we need to pay for his right to stockpile weapons which the rest of us don’t care about.

  • Christine

    I was reading a pro-gun piece on a recent attempted mall shooting spree. Someone with a concealed carry permit apparently got their weapon out & scared the shooter (who killed himself) before more than two of the shoppers were killed. They were complaining that gun control proponents were ignoring this story. As a Canadian (i.e. someone who lives in a country where guns are regulated, and where a 2-death mall shooting is big news) I find the idea of that as a success story to be a wonderful argument against arming everyone.

    Oh, and the whole argument about gun ownership rates in Israel and Switzerland? It’s completely invalid for arguing that civilian ownership of guns is safe – those countries have mandatory military service. (I think they also have a lower guns to people ratio than the US, but I’m wondering if the numbers are collected oddly to result in that).

    • Anat

      Re: Israel: I’m guessing the stats are for privately owned firearms. In addition to those, in the past soldiers on duty (whether in the standing army or reserves) often brought their service weapons home while on leave. Also, it used to be possible to loan a gun for a specific activity such as accompanying overnight wilderness trips. Recently the military has been limiting the carrying of service guns by soldiers on leave in attempt to reduce suicides. This policy is reported to be successful in this goal. (The claim is that there was no ‘compensatory’ increase in suicide while on base, apparently most of the weekend suicides were done on impulse rather than after planning.) I would guess it also reduces gun theft.

      Another thing about Israel is that there are many public places where one is not allowed to bring guns. It is common to get wanded and have one’s bag searched prior to entering a mall, movie theater, etc.

    • OurSally

      The Swiss have military service and stay in the reserve for the rest of their lives. They are obliged to keep uniform and weapons at home, in reach and in working order. They have regular training exercises.

      “The Swiss do not have an army, the Swiss are an army.”

      • Christine

        I can’t believe I missed that – the Swiss model is probably more like what the American 2nd amendment is supposed to ensure.

    • Twist

      I remember reading something shortly after the shooting in Aurora, where a pro-gun person was suggesting that if the other people in the cinema had had guns as well the shooter would have been stopped before killing so many people. Ignoring how victim-blamey that sounds, it’s ridiculous. A dark smoke filled room full of panicked, largely untrained armed people, all of them shooting at anyone else they saw with a gun, and apparently it wouldn’t have been as bad. Yeah right. Some gun nut said something similar about the students following the VTech massacre, as if students should going to their classes armed is somehow a better solution than not letting severely disturbed people buy shitloads of weaponry and ammunition without so much as a background check. Unbelievable.

  • Sarah

    I cannot find anybody I agree with more on any topic as you. My mom is a close second. Everybody is so quick to take “sides” with political and moral issues and I cannot relate. Please don’t ever stop writing!

  • DoctorD

    The person with a gun in a public space instantly becomes judge, jury, and executioner. They get to decide who lives and who dies.
    Who granted them that right? No one. What Solomonic wisdom might they posses that assures they act in the public good? None.
    In a free society this can’t be right.

  • Michael Brandt

    I question that reducing the size of available magazines will do much to slow down a killer. Changing a magazine if you don’t intend to retain the empty one can be quite rapid. Regulations on assault weapon (which doesn’t have any real definition by the way) and magazines holding over 10 rounds is far from a panacea, though I suppose it could be part of greater reform.

    Personally, I’d much rather see a much more restrictive process to purchase a gun. I don’t see why driving a car requires a license, but owning and firing a gun does not. This would also allow for the government to mandate and regulate training, as well as require appropriate background checks. If everyone who owned a gun was both educated on how to safely use their weapons, for hunting or self-defense, and how to safely store and prevent others from gaining access to their guns, surely that’s a better system than we have now.

    I’d also like to leave a link to an article I find extremely relevant. It’s from a police officer speaking about how fire fighters have managed to make sensible precautions against horrible events like a school fire, but somehow, we as a society have never managed to make suitable precautions against a school shooting. http://www.policeone.com/active-shooter/articles/2058168-Active-shooters-in-schools-The-enemy-is-denial/

    • Rosie

      I’ve been thinking along these lines also. I have to jump through all kinds of hoops to own and drive a vehicle, and that tool is not intended for killing. It’s also a whole lot more necessary for earning a living than a gun is. I didn’t have to jump through any regulatory hoops to purchase a gun or ammunition for it; the hunter-safety course I took is only required if I want a hunting license. I think something is wrong with that picture.

  • Carys Birch

    I’m not at all surprised to see the comparison between gun advocates’ reading of the Second Amendment and fundamentalists’ reading of the Bible. It’s really just the way a certain personality type interacts with authoritative texts. For a large subset of people (including a lot of fundamentalists) the Constitution is practically scripture. I know a number of people who would probably say it was divinely inspired.

  • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

    Coming from a country where even the police are NOT routinely armed, my mind is constantly boggled by these events and the related debates.
    I learnt to shoot on a range when I was a teenager. It was an interesting experience. I have no desire to own a firearm though, but if I lived in a rural area that might change – for hunting and pest control purposes.
    Getting a licence to own a firearm here is quite a process. Thats not to say illegal firearms dont exist, but they are certainly not something I ever worry about. Deaths by shooting here are more likely to be hunting accidents. (And we are a country that consistently ranks among the least tyrannical / corrupt)
    Then again, with only 4 million people, any death by violence makes the news, and deaths of more than 4 people at a time by anything other than motor vehicle accident or natural disaster is very rare.

  • Ibis3

    As an outsider, I’m constantly amazed at how the “moderate” American position on this issue is “Yes, we need widespread access to guns for the average person, but we need to put laws in place to restrict very disturbed people from being able to purchase them, oh, and limit weapons that fire more than 10 rounds without having to be reloaded.”
    That’s *not* moderate. Moderate would be a ban on all personally owned handguns. Target shooters could join clubs with weapons kept on site for practising. Rifles would be available only to licensed people who require them e.g. in rural areas for hunting or protecting livestock, following a thorough background check including a history of alcoholism and domestic violence. Those rifles would be able to fire maybe five rounds before having to reload. A licensed person should only be allowed to have two guns at a time. What more is needed if one is being completely rational and the guns available to civilians are only for legitimate purposes?

    • J-Rex

      Unfortunately, it is a moderate proposal when the opinions range everywhere from: “All guns should be banned” to “Everyone should carry guns, assault weapons should be allowed, and registration and training are not necessary.”
      The problem is, even any attempt to talk about new restrictions is met with fierce fighting from the NRA. Suggesting any sort of mental health check is preposterous. Suggesting that personally owned handguns be banned would be the end of ‘Murica as we know it. It’s a bit ridiculous.

  • Sam

    One thing to add about the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” argument; killing (or wounding) is their PURPOSE. That’s what they’re for! They are for killing animals, killing people, or practicing to kill animals or people. Other weapons, like an ax, a chainsaw, or a knife have other practical purposes. When a gun kills a person, it is doing what it was made for. This argument, while I understand the intent (the onus is on the individual who commits the crime), ignores this fact.

    Furthermore, for people wanting to protect law-abiding gun owners……well look at Nancy Lanza, a law-abiding gun owner. Why not protect her?

  • Hilary

    My overridding thoughts on this is that even if congress does manage to ban all assalt guns and most ammo, which I think would be great, what would we do with all the guns and ammo already out and about? If every sale of assult guns and 90% of all ammo was stopped tomorrow, what would we do about that stuff that people already own? Buy it back from them? Retroactively make their ownership illegal, with say a 6 month grace period for people to turn their legally purchesed stuff in to a police station? Even if nothing else is ever sold, there is probably enough weapons out now to have a school/mall/where massacre on schedual one per month for the next ten years.

    If gun owners refuse to give up military grade assult weapons voluntarily, will ATF people try and take them by force or arrests? That would unleash quite a social shit storm considering what those type of people already think of government and a hostile gov’t take over.

    Hilary

    • Caravelle

      It’s true that the guns already in circulation would be a huge issue, but guns are still selling very well – they’ve been selling more and more over the past four years; apparently the FBI got over 16 million requests for background checks in 2011 (up from 11 million in 2007). Cutting down on that wouldn’t solve the problem but it certainly cannot hurt.

      Speaking of buybacks however, here’s another case study of gun control in another country, namely Australia :
      http://jeffsachs.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Australia-Gun-Law-Reforms.pdf
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/08/02/did-gun-control-work-in-australia/

      Basically after a gun massacre Australia put in place extensive gun control laws, including a mandatory buyback program of something like one-fifth of the guns in circulation, and they saw huge decreases in gun violence and suicides that were related to how fast the buyback was put in place in different states, and those drops in gun violence and weren’t offset by rises in non-gun-violence.

  • wanderer

    I agree with many of the comments here. I’m horrified at the thought that people want me… a person with no beef with anyone… to have to carry a gun just because I want to feel “safe”. I don’t want to shoot anyone, I don’t want to harm anyone. Thus far in my life I can’t think of any situation I’ve been in, in which I’ve needed to shoot someone, had I had a gun. Guns aren’t protection, they are a tool of ATTACK. My point is… just because I have a gun doesn’t stop you from shooting me. I can’t believe people really just want more bullets to be flying around, like that’s a good solution??

  • Twist

    “I wonder if that’s the only place where it will stop, if even more extreme regulations would be put in place that would harm good, law abiding gun owners.”

    So what? So maybe this isn’t where it will stop. Maybe it will be made illegal in the US to own a gun unless you’re military, police, or have some kind of special license for hunting. Why is this some big tragedy? Guns exist for one reason. To shoot things. If those things are living, chances are being shot will change that. So there are law abiding gun owners? Well they don’t need to own a fucking assult rifle, however law abiding they may be. They don’t need to be able to walk into a shop and walk out the same day with a gun and enough ammo to take down an entire classroom. They don’t need to own guns full stop, unless they enjoy shooting animals (another thing I think is rather fucked up, but won’t go into here).

    I live in Britain and aside from a few licensed gun owners (hunters and farmers, mostly) guns are illegal. Yes, we still have them. Mostly in the hands of professional criminals, and they do kill people. But in the last 25 years, we’ve had three large scale gun massacres (all carried out with legally owned weapons, and my opinion on this is nowhere near professional or anything, but I’d hazard a guess that the kind of person likely to go and shoot up a school isn’t the kind of person likely to have contacts in the criminal underworld), Hungerford in 1987, Dunblane in 1996 and Cumbria in 2010. In the same time period, the US has had 4o+. Even taking into account population sizes (approx 315 million to approx 63 million) the US has outdone us quite spectacularly. I can’t believe anyone can honestly argue that the fact that over here you can’t just walk into a shop and walk out with a gun, without so much as a background check, or phychiatric assessment, license, training, anything, has nothing to do with that.

    And the argument I’ve seen some make, that gun crime will always exist regarless of legislation, is as ridiculous as saying that cancer will always exist, so let’s not bother funding radiotherapy centres.

    Anyone who prioritises their right to own lethal weapons over their children’s right to feel safe at school needs to seriously reexamine themselves, in my opinion.

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