Tuesday conversation: gun control.

Ok, it had to happen.  Six freaking days before Friendsmas.  But it’s on everybody’s mind, so let’s have it out.

Me?  I do not favor gun bans.  I’m all for reform of gun law that would strive to keep firearms in the hands of responsible citizens (and close loopholes like the gun show loophole that allow for irresponsible citizens to acquire guns).

I believe an armed populace is a necessary influence on its government.  But, again, the arms should be in the hands of responsible citizens trained in safety with a very, very low psychological likelihood of using guns maliciously.  The problem is that the people who tend to agree with me on the need of an armed populace as an influence on the government, also tend to be a bunch of John Wayne throwbacks who think letting gay people hold hands is tantamount to installing an oppressive dictatorship.

Take my parents.  They are both very smart people (between my parents and my brother, I am the intellectual black sheep of my immediate family, and have no problem saying so).  They are also as liberal as it gets.  They are both pro drug legalization, ardent supporters of gay rights, etc.  They are also gun owners.  My mother taught a mandatory hunter safety course for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (which my brother and I both attended).  She also used those guns to hunt game that fed our family for the sum of my youth (at a significant discount, and with greater health benefits, than store-bought meat).

My parents also have a conceal carry permit, and take a handgun when they go on trips to new areas.  My mother has actually been accosted and being able to draw her gun quickly ended the situation.

These are the people who should have firearms.  They’re out there, mixed in among the very loud people (generally from the South) who think any gun and every gun should be widely available, with significantly less regard for being certain that the person owning a gun will wield that power responsibly.  And believe me, I hate getting lumped in with those people every time I open my mouth about gun laws.

I’m very aware that guns can (and do) result in violent crimes and deaths that would not have occurred otherwise.  Guns can turn a bar fight into a homicide.  Improperly stored guns can result in a child coming across them.

But I’m not sure gun bans will solve those problems.  I’ve often said to anti-abortion people that laws prohibiting abortion will not stop abortion, they will only make it less safe.  I think the same about firearm bans.  Laws will work on law-abiding citizens, but not so much on law-breakers.  I think gun bans would 0nly consolidate the power of firearms into the hands of people who would use it immorally.

The issue, for me, is how to ensure that people like my folks are the ones getting guns, not felons, or people with a history of alcohol abuse, or people who are serious suicide risks, etc.  Access to guns can can make society better, just like nuclear power can make a society better.

So yes, stricter gun laws.  And we need to be talking about that.  But I am very, very wary of proposed gun bans.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • otocump

    “I believe an armed populace is a necessary influence on its government.”

    Why? How? How is a right to own all sorts of guns an influence on its government? The implied threat of insurrection in the face of corrupt government can be handled without the need of everyone being armed all the time. The same government that controls the largest military 8 times over on the face of our planet? Someone is going to have to convince those folks insurrection is needed, and having Joe and Jane Q Public armed isn’t going to change that.

    This might have been a factor when an armed rebellion was possible in the US was possible back in the 1800′s, but modern times? Its an implied threat of assassination at best. A very dirty, ugly ‘best’.

    • otocump

      Grammar…failure….NOOOOOOOOOOOO…but I think the idea gets across.

    • Drakk

      I don’t see a successful armed civilian insurrection against the government to be in any way a real possibility. The government has tanks and AC-130s. Your insurrection will fail instantly unless you have the support of at least some of the military.

      If you have (part of) the military fighting for insurrection, they’ll probably accomplish more than untrained civilians could ever hope to do. Being able to shoot is just one part of executing an armed takeover of a country, and not a large part unless you have decent strategic planners behind it.

      Please tell me if there’s something I’ve overlooked. I’m not American (or trained military) so maybe there is some context I’m missing.

  • Volizden

    In 2010 Handguns killed
    8 in Britain
    21 in Sweden
    34 in Switzerland
    42 in Germany
    48 in Japan
    52 in Canada (Cina I have no Idea why this is linking to you can’t remove it)
    58 in Israel
    10,728 in the US

    Someone tried posting that this means fewer people (pop) fewer killings but that is NOT what theses number tell us.
    Scaled from strictest gun laws to least strictest

    Britain Pop: 62,641,000 /8 shootings = 1 per 7,830,125 people (Strictest Laws)
    Japans pop:127,817,277 /48 shootings = 1 per 2,662,859 people
    German Pop: 81,726,000/42 shootings = 1 per 1,945,857 people
    Canada Pop: 34,482,779/52 shootings = 1 per 663,130 people
    Switzerland Pop 7,907,000/34 Shootings = 1 per 232,558 people
    Sweden pop: 9,453,000/ 21 Shootings = 1 per 450,142 people
    Israel Pop: 9,453,000/58 shootings = 1 per 162,982 people

    US Pop: 311,591,917 / 10,728 shooting = 1 PER 29,044 PEOPLE!!!! (Least Strict)

    What this list tells you is NOT that more people make for more shootings. Instead you will note that going from MOST strict Britain to least strict America the numbers dramatically decrease in numbers of people needed per shooting. Is that because American’s are particularly more volatile? Well that depends on who you ask, however most evidence suggests no. No, what we have here is hand guns are MORE available to the general population and combine that with shitty healthcare coverage, MOST especially for mental illnesses.

    Here is a video (Badly Titled) of test scenarios with a concealed gun holder in a class room scene when a shooter charges in. Now, keep in mind that this video is the first time this test has been recorded and reported by the media. This test HAS been done several times before through various age ranges and have always had pretty much the same out comes. But using younger participants and having a controlled enviroment (in the video) is totally in favor of the test subject, it still fails.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=8QjZY3WiO9s

    • Volizden

      PS I am a gun owner as well, From Pistols to Assault rifles, and I grew up in a conservative household, with parents that worked selling gun supplies in the gun show circuit. Buying and selling firearms at those same shows as well. Gun safety and training as mandatory in our house, and I have trained my oldest in gun safety as well. I still support Stricter gun laws and legislation and even bans on certain weapons.

      • Ford Prefect

        Why do you need assault weapons? For what purpose?

  • http://somewhatabnormal.blogspot.com/ Robert Oerter

    “I believe an armed populace is a necessary influence on its government.”

    I’m wondering how you can possibly justify this. Our government has tanks, bombs, drones, and friggin jet planes, man – do you really think it makes any difference if everyone in the country has a handgun, or an AR-15, or whatever?

    And what about countries with very strict gun control? Do you think Britain, Japan, and Australia are prime examples of government oppression?

  • http://www.godlessteens.com/ Godless Teen

    People are too quick to say “guns don’t kill people, people kill people!”

    Yeah, with that logic, I could say “nukes don’t kill people, people kill people!” but I don’t see anybody fighting for the right to own a nuke…

    • pjmaertz

      I’ve never heard explicit calls for the right of private citizens to own nukes, but I have heard calls for private ownership of tanks and gunships. Only when I feel like punishing myself by listening to conservative talk radio though.

  • Mike

    “I believe an armed populace is a necessary influence on its government.”
    Based on what evidence? I’m not arguing against this point necessarily, but it was surprising to see this go unsupported by evidence, from a fellow skeptic. There’s no end of internet blather stating that “if we X then Y will happen.” Sure, seems plausible I guess, but how can we know?

    What do you think of arguments like “Japan has strict gun laws and they have next to no gun violence?”

    FWIW I’m on the fence about the gun issue. My gut feeling says that without access to medical and social assistance for the mentally ill, this kind of tragedy could occur regardless of access to guns. I haven’t done enough research to know if this hypothesis is justified.

  • Josh

    I agree that stricter gun laws are not the answer. In lieu (sp?) of spending a ridiculous amount of money on “cleaning up the streets,” why not put that money into education while addressing the problems of social inequality and mental health? It seems like those two factors would influence the frequency firearm related crimes more so than limiting the availability of guns. Granted, less accessibility of weapons would definitely lessen gun violence, but at the expense of the 2nd amendment.

    • Nate Frein

      Except that the second amendment clearly states the need for a “well regulated militia”. This could easily be interpreted favorably towards more regulation of guns and gun ownership.

      • eric

        I think any argument resting on the militia clause is dead in the water. Like it or not, SCOTUS has ruled the 2nd gives a right to individual ownership, not just a right that comes from being part of a well-regulated militia. I’m not arguing against regulation, just saying that invoking the ‘well-regulated militia’ language as a justification for a regulation is not likely to fly.

        • Nate Frein

          I wasn’t clear when I stated it, but my intent was to focus on the “well regulated” part.

          • eric

            What I’m saying is that the entire first 13 words of the amendment are now legally treated as preamble. That section is no longer treated as assigning powers or expressing limitations on the right. DC vs. Heller basically ended any idea that they are something more. No claim that you are regulating because the 2nd says a militia that is well-regulated is important is going to fly.
            There may be perfectly legitimate legal arguments for limitations and exceptions to the 2nd (just as there are perfectly legitimate legal exceptions to the 1st), but that argument isn’t going to be one of them. At least until Supreme Court position changes.

  • Ilaria

    As a European living in a country with very strict gun control, I find the average american to be quite obsessed with weapons. And I really don’t understand how an armed population could influence the government. “Act how you should or we’ll force you at gunpoint?” How is that supposed to work?
    Gun bans? Probably not.
    Extremely strict laws on gun possession and conceal carry? Absolutely.
    Working to change the kind of culture that makes so that people think they have a RIGHT to go around armed as if they were assaulting a fort? Yes. Yes. YES.
    From my point of view, it shouldn’t be normal to have people going around with a gun. I’d feel extremely unsafe if I knew that anyone around me could have a concealed weapon. Where I live, anyone with a gun in a public place would cause most people to call the police. Even if they are doing nothing with that gun.

  • Gareth

    “I believe an armed populace is a necessary influence on its government.”
    This would be the government currently fighting wars in Afgahnistan and Iraq?
    I can’t actually see why the government would be scared of citizens owning handguns and rifles… they have tanks, helicopters and nukes.

    But then, I’m a Brit, and statistically speaking (according to Volizden), pretty safe from my fellow citizens; since we banned guns after Dunblane, we haven’t had ANY mass shootings.

    I don’t understand the American reverence for the Second Amendment – the eighteenth brought in Prohibition, so you’ve proved that you can amend Amendments after it’s shown that they’re not needed any more. And remember, it was drafted by people that, if they were firearm masters, could get off 4 shots per minute. Not the ludicrous number you get now with pistols and assault weapons.

    • Val

      “But then, I’m a Brit, and statistically speaking (according to Volizden), pretty safe from my fellow citizens; since we banned guns after Dunblane, we haven’t had ANY mass shootings.”

      Cumbria?

      • Gareth

        “Cumbria”
        Good point. I could facetiously say that I meant no *school* shootings, but that would be sidestepping the issue (and also a lie… I’d actually forgotten about it).

        Bird legally owned both weapons, despite having apparently visited a hospital about his mental state. That, to me, is actually an argument for even tighter gun control.

        • Val

          Do you have any info on his mental state? I’ve only looked as far as the Wikipedia article (I know, Wikipedia is the diving board and not the pool) and the article that it pulls this particular bit of information from, but it says that there were “unconfirmed” reports that he sought help for his mental state, and that it was immediately before going on the rampage, meaning that, if true, we’re talking about him going to a hospital and saying “I’m having problems *right now*” and not necessarily him having any sort of mental condition that would have shown up in any sort of pre-gun licesning screening.

    • John Horstman

      This would be the government currently fighting wars in Afgahnistan and Iraq?
      I can’t actually see why the government would be scared of citizens owning handguns and rifles… they have tanks, helicopters and nukes.

      Wait, don’t Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate that an insurgent population armed with handguns and rifles actually could be a problem for a military armed with tanks, helicopters, and nukes? Combating insurgent groups is more like (or simply is) policing and less like direct military confrontation. Large, powerful weapons are good for destroying infrastructure but not so good for suppressing a revolution if one wants to preserve the buildings and other property in the territory an extant government controls. I think some of you are misidentifying the implied threat to a government that an armed populous poses. It’s the threat of assassinating politicians or of individuals and small groups resisting policing forces, not the ability to directly oppose a national army geared toward large-scale conflicts between nations.

      The relevant question is whether we think having a population that could assassinate those in power (or resist their policing agents) if they started jailing large numbers of people for behavior that doesn’t harm anyone or imprisoning and executing dissidents without any sort of trial or other public oversight. Should average citizens be able to shoot police officers who are attempting to arrest (or kill, especially if they have dark skin) them for breaking bad laws or (sometimes) for not breaking any laws at all? Should President Obama or General Martin Dempsey be subject to the same implicit threat of assassination to which they subject everyone else (drone strikes, black ops, etc.)? [NOTE: please do not assassinate the president or anyone else or shoot police officers who are attempting to arrest you, even if you think the answer to the previous questions is "yes".] The answers seem to generally depend on how comfortable one is with the present status quo regarding exercise of institutional power – especially through violence – and whether one thinks violent opposition to such power is appropriate, either now or in a hypothetical future.

      I’m somewhat ambivalent about various gun control measures (including and perhaps especially relatively uncontroversial measures like criminal background checks, as I think there are plenty of terrible laws on the books, and I think part of the point of allowing people to own guns is that they be able to directly resist institutional power systems like the legal system). Restricting access to guns will certainly mean fewer shootings, both small and large scale shootings. That’s good, as very few of the shootings that take place are actually justified in my mind. That said, expressions of violence like the Sandy Hook mass-shooting are a function of dysfunctional cultural discourses, particularly one that constructs violent behavior as an intrinsic part of masculinity (it’s not an accident that violent crimes, and especially these kinds of mass-shootings, are overwhelmingly perpetrated by men, nor is it a coincidence that men are much likelier to kill themselves using a gun than are women). Further gun control measures will help mitigate this problem, but without addressing the underlying cultural issues that motivate violence by any means, people who want to harm large numbers of people will likely still do so using other means. I’m not positive that reducing gun violence specifically is worth the trade-off, though I also think there’s an argument to be made that gun fetishization is part of a culture of masculine violence, and that restricting or banning guns will itself directly combat the cultural discourses motivating violence to some degree.

  • http://manojpontificates.blogspot.com/ Manoj Joseph

    “Access to guns can can make society better, just like nuclear power can make a society better.”
    This, I believe is an incorrect analogy. Try nuclear weapons and guns? Both have destructive capabilities, one vastly bigger. Both can act as deterrents.

    “I believe an armed populace is a necessary influence on its government.”
    Disagree. I do not see how the armed citizens in the US has influenced the government. We have moved long past that.

    “I think gun bans would 0nly consolidate the power of firearms into the hands of people who would use it immorally.”
    I think part of the problem comes from imagining giving up guns – all of them – cold turkey.
    I think a step by step approach where we start by giving up the semi-automatics and slowly move
    towards a situation of no guns *can* work.

    Criminals can and probably will have access to more powerful weapons than the general public.
    They already do. They probably will continue to at least in the near future.
    The solution is not trying to keep up with the criminals but to have better security forces and to make
    it more difficult for the criminals to get them.

    Thank you JT, for the discussion!

    • Val

      “I think a step by step approach where we start by giving up the semi-automatics and slowly move towards a situation of no guns *can* work.”
      Why would you *start* by giving up all semi-automatics? And would you include double-action revolvers in that category?

      • http://manojpontificates.blogspot.com/ Manoj Joseph

        I have never used a firearm nor am I familiar with the types. My point is that we do not have to ban everything in one go. We can disarm over a period of a few years with the most dangerous ones being given up first. The reason is to give our society time to adjust and I think it does need time to adjust. But I think it also needs to disarm itself.

        • Val

          Then without getting too technical, what would be your ideal of when the ban should stop? Meaning, when we’ve banned all the super-dangerous kinds of guns, what do you think should be left, ultimately.

          • http://manojpontificates.blogspot.com/ Manoj Joseph

            What would be your ideal of when the ban should stop?”
            When the general public has no guns.

      • http://manojpontificates.blogspot.com/ Manoj Joseph

        I have never used a firearm nor am I familiar with the types.

        My point is that we do not have to ban everything in one go. We can disarm over a period of a few years with the most dangerous ones being given up first. The reason is to give our society time to adjust and I think it does need time to adjust. But I think it also needs to disarm itself.

        • Val

          “When the general public has no guns.”
          So, all hunting except bow hunting would have to cease and people in Alaska and a few other states will just have to hope for the best when it comes to bear and moose attacks?

          • http://manojpontificates.blogspot.com/ Manoj Joseph

            “…people in Alaska and a few other states will just have to hope for the best when it comes to bear and moose attacks?”

            I went and read a bit about bears in Alaska and using guns for protection. Here is something I found.
            http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/are-guns-more-effective-pepper-spray-alaska-bear-attack?page=0,2
            “Does carrying a gun prevent or curtail attacks? The foremost authority on bear attacks, Dr. Stephen Herrero, believes that, while firearms may prove useful in some encounters, many people are safer without a gun. In “Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance,” Herrero compiled details on hundreds of incidents in North America that resulted in human death or injury. He believes firearms can embolden users, increasing the likelihood of provoking a bear attack. Firearms often wound bears, which may trigger or increase aggressive behavior. Ironically, many more people are injured or killed annually by accidentally shooting themselves or companions than are mauled by bears.”

            Let me say that I am not an expert here and I am unable to judge what the best approach is for people living in bear country is. (I am sure for every pro ban article, there is an pro gun article that may be cited.)

            I have camped in Sierra National Forest (CA) and not having a gun was not a problem. Yes, the bears there were not Grizzlies.

            While I am sure there will be some cases where guns are needed (security forces obviously), the case for the general population to have one is vastly overstated. I am at the same time willing to climb down from my “no-guns-whatsoever” utopia for something that is more reasonable.

  • Nate Frein

    So, saw an interesting op-ed piece here.

    The fascinating part for me was the armed man at the town meeting. No one argued with him. No one engaged him. Yes, it’s anecdotal, but then most of the arguments here so far have been anecdotal.

    The concept that “an armed society is a polite society” may be true, but if it is true, it’s because everyone is tip-toeing around because they don’t want to set the nitroglycerin off. It’s like being polite and nice and soft-voiced to your abusive father (or mother) because you know there’s a storm brewing and you don’t want to be the spark that sets him off.

    Simply put, a universally armed society is not a society conducive to the loud, obnoxiously vocal criticism of outdated ideas that has become the forefront of all good social change in the United States. Bringing guns to a word fight ends the word fight.

    I feel that many moderate gun owners are falling into the trap of moderate theists. Lanza’s mother was a prepper. She had an extreme supply of guns and ammo set aside for some contingency she had no real hope of being able to fight. In the end, it was these (legal) guns which were used to slaughter children.

    • typecaster

      “The concept that “an armed society is a polite society” may be true”.
      It depends a lot on the underlying social contract. I remember reading a diary by a guy living in 1880′s Tombstone, AZ, who felt perfectly safe there despite widespread ownership of guns and dynamite (remember, it was a mining town.) The shoot-’em-ups that made the news were comparatively rare, limited to those directly involved, and widely deplored. When the US Army rode into town to “restore order” after the OK Corral dustup, the wildest thing going on in town was a church social.
      On the other hand, if there isn’t a strong, commonly held social contract, the situation winds up looking a lot more like Beirut. Arms, present or not, aren’t the deciding factor.
      From what I’ve observed over the last few decades, the US doesn’t have a strong social contract any more. Way too much social division, hate talk, and outright eliminationism. Pity. It was a nice place when I was growing up.

      Well, nicer than it’s since become.

      • http://umlud.blogspot.com Umlud

        I think you’re making a huge assumption that the lack of violence in the tiny-ass town of Tombstone in the 1880s can be transferable to cities of today. I doubt that people in Tombstone would have much interest, need, or even desire to speak out with socially contrary positions, call a person’s belief system into question, or even act privately in a manner that was considered taboo at the time. Why? Because there was – like in many small groups – social enforcement of norms.

        In other words, I doubt that Tombstone (or even slightly bigger small towns in America) would be a very good analogy for the types of society and social openness that many of us live in today. So… nice try, but your analogy sucks.

        • eric

          I think he’s making a huge assumption that there was a lack of violence in Tombstone, AZ, just because firsthand accounts said a citizen felt safe. Per capita killings were probably much higher. Per captita murders may not have been as high, but that’s because most killings would probably not have been considered “murder.” Sort of like FL today, if you drew your gun because you perceived a threat, it was self defense.

    • Rovin’ Rockhound

      I was just about to post a link to that op-ed.
      I teach at a university in the US that recently started allowing students to carry concealed weapons. We cannot ask our students to reveal that they are carrying a weapon. We cannot even nicely suggest, pretty please, that they do not bring guns to our classes or offices.
      I am small, young, and female, and students fairly regularly try to intimidate me into doing things like changing their grades. I used to stand my ground and, of course, not do it. Since the change, many of us admit to dumbing down classes and becoming much less strict because of fear. Will one of them shoot me if I give them a bad grade? Probably not, but the likelihood is much higher now that they might have guns.

  • Keith Erick Fix

    JT, our laws include a mechanism for firearms control within the US constitution and supported by state constitutions: the militia. In Arkansas, the text is as follows.

    “1. Persons liable to military duty.
    The militia shall consist of all able-bodied male persons, residents of the State, between the ages
    of eighteen and forty-five years; except such as may be exempted by the laws of the United
    States, or this State; and shall be organized, officered, armed and equipped and trained in such
    manner as may be provided by law.”

    Exempt those not fit for milita, then organize, officer, arm, and equip the rest. One might reasonably provide tax exemptions for those privately equipped.

    For those who are female, males over age 45, or for those men not fit to carry firearms, or, alternately, men fit to carry firearms, but not fit to serve in the milita, the Arkansas constitution has provision for volunteer companies as follows.

    “2. Volunteer companies.
    Volunteer Companies of Infantry, Cavalry or Artillery may be formed in such manner and with
    such restrictions as may be provided by law.”

    Other states have similar provisions. It seems to me we have the outline of a mechanism for firearms control; we need only apply it in practice to the entire population.

  • http://social-context.org James F

    In this instance, JT, your bias hat is showing. Of course you would think an armed populace is a deterrent to government action since your parents are well-behaved and educated gun owners. However, all available evidence does point to the opposite of that idea. Just look at the statistics provided by previous commenters.

    When they playing field was equal in terms of tools for conducting war, then sure, having the right to own firearms was certainly understandable; especially in light of the fact that the British had previously taken that right away from the colonists. However, in today’s modern theater of war, the likelihood that any government would give any fucks about their well-armed populace when their military can send in a tiny remote-controlled drone and wipe out a city block is nil.

    The right-wing conservatives have had the last 60 years with this experiment of individual gun ownership rights and I’m not the only one who thinks it has failed. (See a recent New Yorker article titled “So you think you know the second amendment?”

  • LeftWingFox

    Again, joining the chorus that an armed populace is not necessarily a free populace.

    Partly there’s a power issue: those in power and favoured by the government are more likely to be able to afford guns and use them with impunity. The lynch mob is the face of the gun, not the civil libertarian forcing down Jim Crow at gunpoint.

    Democratic government is also intended to change without violence: battles are fought at the polls, not with weapons. You don’t have to overthrow the King, you can elect another president. To that end, violence against the state is never seen as legitimate: the assasinationof JFK or the attempted assasination of Ronald Regan, the murder of abortion providers, the US Civil War… these were not legitimate means of changing policy. It is only when a revolution succeeds that the legitimacy is retroactively justified.

    • John Horstman

      Well, you’d have to believe we have a democratic government for your point to stand. Were that true, gay people would have full civil rights across the country and marijuana would be legal. Copyright law would have been drastically reformed in the interests of artists and consumers, not in the interests of immortal corporate ‘rights holders’. Quality of legal representation and influence on public policy wouldn’t be determined by wealth. We have a plutocracy.

      • Brad1990

        As far as I’m aware, you guys in the US have free elections to elect your political representatives, yes? Then you live in a Democracy. I agree with your points, but the fact we are not happy with every aspect of the current state of affairs does not mean it isn’t a Democracy. This is the same argument I get over here from the Right Wingers just because immigration is slightly up on last year and there’s been no referendum on the issue (seriously, this is a common argument and it does my nut in). It’s not perfect, but we are still damn lucky to live in a Democracy, there’s no need to pretend you have less rights than you do just because the system isn’t perfect.

        A Plutocracy is a system whereby the wealthy hold all the power. Think pre-revolution France and the Aristocracy. It does not mean a system where the wealthy have undue influence on the Democratically elected leaders, which unfortunately is what we, particularly you guys, have. It’s still a Democracy, it’s just not perfect. We can make it better, but for now it’s the best we have.

  • indradawn

    Jews in the Warsaw ghettos put up a surprisingly strong armed resistance against the Germans during an attempted removal/extermination plan Hitler’s forces expected would be quick and easy. While ultimately the Germans took Warsaw and killed or captured most of the Jews there, many others were able to escape with their lives because they were able to fend off their attackers for weeks through the use of (in this case) underground and homemade weaponry. So the idea that armed citizens are defenseless against military might isn’t exactly based in fact.

    The left tends to characterize those responsible gun owners (the majority of whom support common-sense regulation and legislation, despite one very powerful lobbyist group in Washington) as “gun nuts” and as a freethoughtblogs blogger (whom I will never read again) put it, wishing for “piles of dead kindergartners.” This kind of ad hominem bullshit does nothing to advance a real conversation or allow for the possibility that there are responsible, law-abiding gun owners who love their children, who might have some legitimate, nuanced arguments to make as to how gun ownership in the US should henceforth be handled. Not every gun owner is a murderous crazy, and I get really tired of that kind of unhelpful dialogue.

  • smrnda

    I think it’s a mistake to assume that the narrative on citizens owning guns is always ‘freedom loving citizens with guns stand up to oppressive government.’ It’s possible, but it’s also possible that private citizens might stockpile weapons with the aim of oppressing other private citizens. Look at how ‘stand your ground’ laws work – racist white people who see themselves as the saviors of ‘real America’ terrorize the minority population. Paranoid religious nuts who think the evil New World Order and reign of the anti_Christ is around the corner stockpiling guns, and look at their secular, gay rights supporting neighbors as foot soldiers of Satan in the end times battle between good and evil. People with guns who have nutty ideas are pretty dangerous.

    And on tyranny, other nations have much more restrictive gun laws, and none of them have become totalitarian states; in fact, a case can be made that some of them are freer than the USA. If there’s anything subverting a free, democratic society it’s corporate money in politics (not something that you can exactly shoot at), theocrats who curry favor with politicians and an unjust legal system that unfairly targets minorities; it doesn’t take much for a disgruntled brown-skinned loner to be dubbed a security threat, and being Black is grounds enough for a stop-and-frisk in many areas. When I look at what’s oppressing people, I really don’t see any way guns would improve things.

    The other problem is, statistically, violence is down. Some people who are ideologically committed to the idea of decline (the whole myth of the Fall) and of a past golden age don’t want to believe that we’re actually safer now than in the past. If there was a time when the average citizen needed a gun, it was a long time ago.

    • John Horstman

      And on tyranny, other nations have much more restrictive gun laws, and none of them have become totalitarian states; in fact, a case can be made that some of them are freer than the USA.

      Agreed, though Israel – cited above with the lowest rate of gun violence among the examples given – is an authoritarian police state that, somewhat ironically given its formation in response to the Holocaust, operates the world’s largest prison camp.

      • Anat

        Read again: Of the countries mentioned Israel is second only to the US.

  • Charlie

    Gun ownership was very high in Iraq under Saddam. That didn’t seem to be a check on him.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/chatterbox/2003/04/iraq_and_the_nra_reader_response.html

  • debbie

    Here is my question, so many on this site, with great gusto support the first amendment. If our forefathers were intelligent and insightful to include this in the constitution , how is it that they were not as intelligent and insightful to include the second amendment without stipulations. Please don’t say they did not know that one day there would be automatic weapons in the hands of citizens. Their premise for this had to have been as carefully thought out as the one for separation of church and state. So if they were wise in one they had to be just as wise in the other. It looks like people want to pick and choose the parts of the constitution they agree with but disagree with the founding fathers on the ones they don’t like. Same folks that wrote one wrote the other. At some point in time there could have also been a change to the 1st amendment but no one on this site would ever believe that was the right thing to do. So if you are going to alter one, allow room to alter the other.

    • otocump

      I’m not sure what exactly you’re trying to say. Amendments have been repealed before and can be again if the social and political landscape is correct…so…what? There is, nor should be, anything sacred about the constitution or any amendments. They’ll remain in force because, until shown otherwise, their good ideas. Same good ideas should stand up on their own merits, not any ‘test of time’. The time for the 2nd amendment to be a blanket coverage of private gun ownership is fast becoming old and outdated.
      I’m not suggesting remove all firearms whatsoever, but no more blanket coverage or use of this excuse.

    • http://improbablejoe.blogspot.com Improbable Joe

      That doesn’t make any sense, at all. Dead people 200+ years ago were easily wise/decent in some ways and stupid/evil in others. Look how many slave owners there were working on founding the country! Further, the 1st Amendment HAS changed over the years, based on judicial interpretation. The Constitution isn’t some perfect carved in stone document immune from change to meet the needs of changing society.

      You’re presenting an outrageously wrong view based on fundamentally broken reasoning and ignorance of history.

    • eric

      Their premise for this had to have been as carefully thought out as the one for separation of church and state. So if they were wise in one they had to be just as wise in the other.

      What? That’s silly. They clearly overestimated the importance of some rights and underestimated others. That’s why we have a 1st amendment with six clauses, all of which are so important they could easily be a stand-alone right (drastic underestimation of importance), yet we also have a 3rd amendment that has been basically irrelevant for, well, since it was passed (dramatic overestimation).

    • Brad1990

      “If our forefathers were intelligent and insightful to include this in the constitution , how is it that they were not as intelligent and insightful to include the second amendment without stipulations. Please don’t say they did not know that one day there would be automatic weapons in the hands of citizens. Their premise for this had to have been as carefully thought out as the one for separation of church and state. So if they were wise in one they had to be just as wise in the other.”

      Why? Just because they made one very insightful, forward thinking decision doesn’t mean all of their decisions were as excellent. The one doesn’t necessarily follow from the other.

  • Kyle

    As a Canadian, I always found America’s gun culture to be simultaneously fascinating and frightening.

    I think starting with some limitations on automatic weapons would make sense. Can anyone explain why its a good idea for civilians to have easy access bushmasters and other assault rifles? These are weapons of war designed to quickly kill fellow humans. I believe they should be left in military (or at least, extremely well trained and well vetted) hands.

    I somehow doubt that the authors of the 2nd amendment intended that (almost) any American should have access to weapons which could cause so much damage to so many people so quickly. It is time to update the laws in light of modern advancements.

    • Val

      “I think starting with some limitations on automatic weapons would make sense. ”
      National Firearms Act did that, in 1934.

      “Can anyone explain why its a good idea for civilians to have easy access bushmasters and other assault rifles?”
      FYI, Bushmaster is a brand name, but I know what you’re getting at.

      “These are weapons of war designed to quickly kill fellow humans. I believe they should be left in military (or at least, extremely well trained and well vetted) hands.”
      You can say that about just about any gun, but okay.

      “I somehow doubt that the authors of the 2nd amendment intended that (almost) any American should have access to weapons which could cause so much damage to so many people so quickly. It is time to update the laws in light of modern advancements.”
      It’s not possible to tell for sure what they would think, but the laws can be, have been, and will continue to be reconsidered and updated as time marches on.

      • debbie

        I agree it is impossible to know what they would think. For instance, there were cannons when this was written but they did not make it against the law to own one. These would have been considered a weapon of war. Perhaps they didn’t think anyone would want to own one. Is there anywhere in history that it talks about a private citizen during that day owning a cannon? Have to look that one up. At the time this weapon could cause mass destruction. So that is my question you worded it much better. As we are willing to consider and update many of the amendments why does the one on church and state stir so many to such a staunch upholding of the letter of the law willing to sue schools, churches, anyone that violates that law. But when the folks that want to stand by the letter of the law on the second amendment, those who want to change it presume the forefathers could not have meant exactly what they wrote without any interference from the government that it should be upheld to the letter, which is the right to keep and bear arms period, just as separation of church and state should be upheld because that is what they wrote period

        • http://improbablejoe.blogspot.com Improbable Joe

          So you want everyone to belong to a militia? Or are dishonestly cherry-picking while falsely accusing others of doing so?

          • debbie

            Supreme Court ruling says it means that individuals have the right not just the militia. The amendment even says people not just militia. So not falsely accusing stating the facts. The supreme court agreed with them on this one just as they have on separation of church and state. So if we accept one ruling why do we not accept this one as well.

        • eric

          I think they meant strict separation. And they meant personal arms bearing. I think the first is more relevant today and the second is less relevant today. How hard is that to understand? This “both or neither” spiel you’re spouting makes absolutely no sense. I bet you’re also hypocritical about it, in that you do not defend the 3rd as strongly as you defend the 2nd.

      • Kyle

        Thanks for the response Val. If it wasn’t already obvious, I will make it clear that I know little of the details of America’s gun laws. I happily accept corrections if my statements are off base.

        When I stated “I think starting with some limitations on automatic weapons would make sense. ” I meant it in the context of new gun control laws that may take shape as a result of the many recent mass shootings. Perhaps I should have stated ‘I think additional limitations on access automatic weapons would make sense.’

        I also said “These are weapons of war designed to quickly kill fellow humans. I believe they should be left in military (or at least, extremely well trained and well vetted) hands.” Val responded that “You can say that about just about any gun, but okay.” The point I am trying to make here is that you are not likely to be using an assault rifle when hunting deer or grouse. Obviously all guns are designed to kill living things, but assault rifles are for killing people. Not the kind of thing that almost anyone should be able to get their hands on (from my perspective).

        Furthermore, it seems to me that if this statement applies to almost any gun, that in itself should be great cause for concern about the current state of gun access.

        Knowing that the laws have been, can be, and will (likely) be changed is certainly reassuring as it leaves some possibility for change. I won’t be holding my breath though… I would like to think that there is some reasonable line that can be drawn around responsible gun ownership while severely restricting access to the most destructive of guns. Time will tell I suppose.

    • John Horstman

      Can anyone explain why its a good idea for civilians to have easy access bushmasters and other assault rifles? These are weapons of war designed to quickly kill fellow humans. I believe they should be left in military (or at least, extremely well trained and well vetted) hands.

      That line of reasoning presupposes that the military and police forces are actually operating in the interests of the people collectively. I don’t think this is the case; I’d go so far as to say that this is not the case more than it is the case. I’m still ambivalent about gun ownership and control.

      • Kyle

        I’m not sure access to any number of guns is going to help you much if the American military comes after you.

      • Ford Prefect

        You don’t think the military and police forces are operating in the citizens collective interest. Huh. I believe a citation(s) is needed here.

        • Brad1990

          I want to upvote this.

  • Bill Krueger

    Well said, thank you.

    Bill

  • http://www.ziztur.com Christopher Stephens

    Those were pretty much my thoughts; reasonable gun control to make sure that guns are registered, that responsible, law-abiding people own guns, and can own and operate them responsibly, but not outright bans.

    Only two arguments for broader gun bans give me pause, not that they completely convince me; firstly, I had once seen studies that pepper spray was more effective than firearms at self-defense (frustratingly, I can’t seem to find any solid evidence one way or the other right now), and are of course non-lethal.

    Secondly, I once actually talked to some people of color from a poorer neighborhood, and their take on the issue was unanimous; the “responsible, law-abiding citizens” from a poorer neighborhood flat-out can’t afford a gun, much less upkeep and training with it. To poorer folks, a gun can very much be a luxury. Conversely, it’s the criminals that can afford a gun. Plus, owning a gun makes you more of a target if people know about it, not less. A gun is very tempting to a criminal.

  • Laen

    As a gun owner and vet I am for responsible ownership of guns. I have no problem with national registries, safety classes, license’s and limiting the availability of certain types of guns.

    That being said, a major part of the problem about the discussion around guns right now is people who do not know anything about guns making claims on what should or shouldn’t be allowed. People make assumptions about guns by what looks dangerous, what sounds dangerous, and use terms that have no set or real meaning. Assault weapons is one. One thing that used to define assault weapons was a bayonet lug. If you think a certain weapon is too dangerous to allow, for example the AR-15′s, then whether it has a bayonet lug or not is a ridiculous and pointless thing to worry about. Hence when the law was passed with that caveat, guns that were identical in every important way were made without the lugs so as to avoid the restriction.

    I am willing to have the discussion, I except that the current laws don’t work, and I want to change the current situation. But when the people putting for the ideas for the new laws do not know what they are talking about, it makes it hard to have a constructive discussion.

    • Ford Prefect

      Ok. Let’s do it your way. I’m pretty sure that everyone here who is using the term “assault weapons” is not talking about some esoteric definition that refers to bayonet lugs. We may not be experts but I think even lay people understand that a rifle with an automatic action, a high rate of fire and large capacity magazines or clips is an efficient human killer. So that’s what we’re talking about, it you still want to have a constructive discussion.

      • Ford Prefect

        If, not it.

      • Laen

        You may be pretty sure bayonet lugs are an esoteric definition, but it was part of the Brady bill, and has been used in states to define assault weapons. Making virtually identical weapons illegal or legal based on that lug. I didn’t make it up as a straw man I was pointing out flaws in the way legislation has been handled.

        Now then the actual discussion. So automatic action or semi automatic action?

        Fully automatic weapons are extremely limited and have virtually never been used in crimes, legal ones that is, and already have extra restrictions on owning and purchasing them. I suppose we could address those laws, but the legal ones are virtually unheard of in crime so I’m not sure it’s an issue. I think this is probably a separate issue, but if it matters a lot to you I’m open to suggestion.

        Semi automatic is the weapon that was used, which also includes probably half of all rifles, almost all pistols, and a decent chunk of shotguns. Semi automatic is as fast as you can pull the trigger so I’m not sure how you could address rate of fire in any way although I’m willing to listen if you have one. Revolvers are semi-automatic depending on who defines it. Probably a quarter or third of all hunting shotguns are semi-automatic and any rifle that isn’t a bolt or lever action is semi automatic. I would be against, and I doubt anyone could ever get passed, a ban of all semi-automatic weapons. I’m not sure what legal or technical way you can just limit them.

        Large capacity has nothing to do with the specific weapon and only magazine capacity. California has a 10 round max capacity and I see no problem with that personally. Magazine size is the easiest way to limit rate of fire anyway. I would be fine with elimination of magazines over 10 rounds.

        Efficient human killer…this is a problem any weapon that can be used on an animal larger than say a rabbit is going to be good at killing humans. Deer/bear/moose/whatever rifles are far more powerful than the AR-15′s that everyone wants to ban. A 12 gauge shotgun with slugs, common in the midwest for deer hunting, has the same issue.

        So I’m willing to go with federal license, federal registration, safety/training classes similar to driving where you have to update it every 2-3 years, and magazine size limits. Those are just the common changes I have heard and agree with. I’m not sure what else specifically you have in mind, but am willing to listen to ideas.

  • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    A nuclear-armed world is a polite world.
    Nukes don’t kill cities, countries with nukes kill cities.
    If a every country has nuclear weapons, people would think twice before invading neighbors.
    It’s already too late to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, so everyone should have nuclear weapons.
    The occasional school shooting nuked city is a small price to pay for freedom.

  • Ford Prefect

    As to the discussion. I included automatic weapons just to be inclusive. Correct me if I am wrong but there are ways to convert semi-automatic weapons to full automatic ones that are fairly easily obtainable via the web. That’s what I was referring to as efficient people killers. Sure, any large caliber rifle is extremely lethal but I was specifically thinking of ones with a high rate of fire. I am from the Midwest and am a deer hunter. IMO a semi-automatic is not a hunting weapon. Any large caliber rifle, while capable of bringing down anything, would not be optimal in the hands of a maniac trying to kill as many people as possible quickly. I’m not in any way advocating a total ban on guns, but for the life of me I can not understand why anyone would need any weapon that is capable of killing at the rate of the AR-15 that Lanza used.

  • Laen

    It is not easy to convert weapons to fully automatic. Most require metal working skills and equipment in addition to the specific knowledge on how to convert them. Converting makes it sound easy when in reality to do it every one that I have seen requires manufacturing a new trigger assembly for the weapon. If someone could show a weapon manufactured in a specific way so as to make it easier to convert then I would be willing to look at that weapon for sure. Though I’m not sure how we could prove it.

    Are you saying all semi-automatic weapons should be illegal? Even revolvers are technically semi-automatics. That law will never pass and I wouldn’t support it either.

    Rate of fire is brought up a lot. The rate of fire of all semi-automatic rifles, and pistols for that matter, are effectively identical. As fast as the trigger can be pulled. An M1 has the same effective rate of fire as any AR-15 style weapon. The limiter is changing magazines, hence my support for a 10 round magazine limit.

  • Ford Prefect

    Ok. Granted that it’s really hard to convert a semi to full auto you said that you would be open to “federal license, federal registration, safety/training classes similar to driving where you have to update it every 2-3 years, and magazine size limits.” Based on the recent history of proposed gun legislation do you think that any/all of those ideas are achievable? IMO a total ban is neither called for nor practical. It just seems logical to me that if Lanza had not weaponry readily available more kids would be with their families now.

    • Laen

      Part of the issue is grandstanding and part is the terms people use. I promise when people, who don’t know what they are talking about, throw around words that have dubious or questionable meaning the NRA runs to it’s members and says they are coming for all of your guns. Think in scientific terms, assault weapons is not a useful or specific term. High rate of fire isn’t a useful phrase. It’s like when creationists abuse micro evolution versus macro evolution.

      A decent analogy would be if sports cars were considered dangerous. How would you limit the danger of sports cars? Is it engine size, horsepower, gearing, horsepower to weight ratio? You couldn’t just go by the term sports car. The technical details are what truly matter when it comes to limiting the danger from guns when there is just no way to get rid of them all.

      Things I would focus on where I thing progress could be made.

      High capacity magazines, limit them to 10 rounds.
      Maybe try for the magazines that need a tool to release them, a kind of fixed magazine, that limits quick magazine changes. A California thing, although this would be harder to get.
      Federal registration of all guns.
      Federal license to own guns.
      Testing and training to get the license.
      All transactions must be tracked by the registration system, business or person to person.

      Honestly in the Lanza case I’m not sure what could be done. This is based on the information I have read so far of course so it might change. His mother wouldn’t have any reason to not be able to own guns from what I have read. He killed her and as her son I imagine it would be difficult to limit his access to them at that point. The odds of her son not knowing a safe combination or where a key was hidden seems small. Even the smart trigger/palm reader ideas that I have read wouldn’t have worked as she took her children shooting so they would most likely be on the system to use them. A better health care system might have helped her to recognize that her son was becoming a danger…maybe.

  • Soren

    We have strict weapon laws in Denmark, until recently carrying a knife more than 6 cm long gave a 7 day prison sentence.

    But people have guns.

    If you have a hunting license you can buy and own hunting rifles, which are to be kept under lock and key.

    Members of a shooting club can own marksman rifles, hunting rifles and marksmans guns, which are to be kept under lock and key.

    People who are members of the home guard (I guess its like the national guard), receive military training, and as long as they are active members of the home guard, they keep guns and ammo at home, under lock and key.

    Som home guard members keep belt fed machine guns, anti air or anti tank munitions etc. I don’t know the details, but the kinds of wapons and ammo varies with the general threat situation.

    So everyone in Denmark in principle has a right to own guns, if they fall into one or more of the categories mentioned above.

    Noone can own a gun or knif simply for protection. The police has a monopoly of being armed.

    So when I think about gun control in the US, I don’t imagine banning weapons outright.

    Start by putting restrictions on weapons. No one needs a desert eagle, or an assault rifle for protection, hunting or marksmanship, so just ban the suckers, except for people who are in a category that needs that kind of firepower.

    Let licensed hunters own hunting weapons, and if you must let people own small caliber hand guns, with low carrying capacity for self protection.

    You don’t need a 30 shot assault rifle for protection, a small caliber gun carrying at most 5-10 shot should be more than enough.

  • Brad1990

    I see absolutely no reason for any member of the public to own an assault rifle or any other automatic weapon. Hunting rifles and shotguns, fine, and I can just about stomach the conceal-carry for self defence argument in favour of handguns. And I really do mean just. But what earthly justification can there possibly be for any civilian owning Assault Rifles or Sub-machine guns? There just isn’t one. These are instruments of war, their express purpose for existing is to kill people. SO what other reason could there be for owning one? Semi autos only, and stricter checks for potential owners, and for God sake, GUN CABINETS! Lock them up, where your murderous and unlicensed offspring can’t reach the damn things!

  • Compuholic

    Lets look at it this way. Lets say the the reason for people to carry arms is to defend themselves against the government. As one commenter already states: 10.000 people are killed in the US every year by firearms. Lets say that the people need to defend themselves against an opressive government once every 100 years.

    That makes 1.000.000 dead people on average before the laws are utilized in the intended way. Even an oppressive government has to work hard to pull off such numbers.

  • Pingback: Changed my mind on a gun control argument.


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