A Calm and Rational Debate About Gun control? No way!
My dear friend Kerry Bailey posted this on his Facebook a few days ago, in response to the “discussion” going on since the horrific Sandy Hook elementary school shooting:
This is the only thing I’m going to say about those who are engaging in the “gun debate” right now. I’ve lived half my life in Kentucky and experienced first-hand the hunting culture there, but I’ve lived the other half in Los Angeles where guns are mostly used to shoot other people. I think the biggest problem that the opposing sides in this debate have is a lack of empathy with the other side’s point of view. The anti-gun people should concede that some guns are useful (for food and sport) and the pro-gun people should admit that we really don’t need semi-automatic weapons available to every wack job on the street. This “they’re taking our guns!!” vs. “Get rid of all the guns!!” mentality isn’t getting us anywhere.
Most responses were in agreement, except one guy whose first line was “Leave my second amendment alone!” I thought he was joking, but he basically turned out to be exactly the kind of guy Kerry was talking about being annoyed with. That dude kept posting similar things for a while. But then there was Bill*. I was so enamoured with Bill’s ability to argue his side without getting insane about it, that I wanted to share it with the world**. What follows after the break is my discussion with him quoted verbatim*** with no further comment. I would love to hear your opinions on this, but please: Extend Bill the same courtesy he did me and be respectful and rational.
In response to this discussion, and because I’m so smart, I came up with a witty, clever slogan that isn’t stupid at all: Be a debater, not a debaser!
WARNING: It’s really long! Like, longer than my essay about Doctor Who.
Hey Kerry. I’ll take up the anti-gun control argument but I’d first add that I’d like to see a world without guns in it and that I think nearly all gun owners would turn in their guns if they thought it would bring back those children. As a father of two I can’t imagine that type of loss.
The problem I have with more restrictive laws is I don’t know what law they could pass that would stop something like that from happening. I’m sincerely open to other ways of looking at this so if something I write is inaccurate or not the full story I’d be grateful to hear it another way.
In the past ten years I’ve seen less freedom of speech (riot police at peace marches, “free speech zones”), less freedom of movement (TSA patting down 5 year olds at the airport), less right to trial (NDAA making it ok to imprison US citizens indefinitely without trial), less right to privacy (warrantless wiretaps).. now less gun rights? all on the promise it will make us safer.
From what I’ve read the Second Amendment is not about Bambi and burglars. The second item on the Bill of Rights is not a constitutional guarantee so that we may enjoy a recreational activity(hunting). It is about being sure that if this government becomes tyrannical the people could take their country back from those in power. “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”
I like what Jesse Ventura says on this issue. For those that think he is a loon here is a gift. For those with an open mind I think he has interesting perspective on this issue.
Your point is well made, though I will respond with this: in the case of the most recent shooting and quite a few others, yes. More restrictive gun laws would have stopped it happening or at the very least lowered the numbers. In quite a few cases, shootings are carried out by people who would get military grade weapons from, for example, their parents’ closets. If that kind of weaponry was not available in their households, that must have changes things, no?
Sadly, we can’t make shootings stop altogether unless we get rid of ALL guns. The shooting in my home country of Norway in 2011, for example, was carried out with illegally acquired guns. But those kinds of shootings are extremely rare, and it’s the first time anything like that has happened in Norway.
Overthrow a tyrannical government? What happened in the Arab Spring? Most countries there managed to free themselves with no guns. The government is not frightened by guns, it’s frightened by a people making a stand together.
Thanks Magnus. I appreciate the thoughtful response. Through all this I can’t help feeling that it would be better to be wrong ( I might be ). I appreciate that folks like you are out there pushing for a better way.
The Arab Spring is a powerful example. I don’t have answer for it directly. I’d wonder if Egypt needed a gun ban to be successful? Why is Syria going so badly? Could peaceful occupation work here in the USA?
There are several historic examples of mass murder by governments after they disarm their citizens and murder rates (by other means) seem to increase in nations after gun bans at the same rate as they did before them. (examples below)
In the case of trying to prevent mass murder at schools and public venues – I didn’t remember or know the scale of the incident in Norway. Jesus. Was there any armed resistance? What were gun laws in Norway during this?
In the United States the average number of people shot in a mass shooting event when the shooter is stopped by law enforcement: 14. The average number of people shot in a mass shooting event when the shooter is stopped by civilians: 2.5. The reason for this is that armed civilians are there when it started.
That brings us back to trying to craft a law that a psychopath would follow. I don’t think there is such a law. Pre-ban 30 round magazines were legally sold and used during the last assault weapons ban. Any caliber round including .223 will devastate a childs body, so short of banning all guns and all ammo I question that the trade off on our freedoms would makes us safer.
I see politicians playing policy games with our childrens lives. The only proven way I’ve seen to slow down a mass murderer is to have armed resistance. Here is an example:
Jeanne Assam was a former cop that protected a church from a mass murderer. She seems to struggle with this topic as well. Was on CNN a week or so ago.
Mass murders by governments:
In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 – 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 – 1953, over 30 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and either exterminated, or died miserable deaths in slave labor camps also called gulags.
Germany established gun control in 1938. From 1939 – 1945, a total of 13 million Jews, and others, who were unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 – 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. Their death toll eventually rose to 60 million.
Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 – 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 – 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 – 1977, 1 million educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
Thank you, that’s a very rational response. Thanks to your response, I can now see more where at least some pro-gun people come from. I think Assam has a very clear and good point in that interview: She was a highly trained officer from an aggressive unit with a LOT of experience in gun fights. It’s too much to ask of the average citizen (or a teacher, or a priest, etc) to be able and willing to handle firearms with the kind of determination and skill Assam is able to.
In the link to Australias violent crime rate, it’s not actually murder that’s gone up. The rate that has gone up is Assault. Murder has gone DOWN if you look at the homicide statistics, and is also such a tiny minority of the violent crime you can’t actually see the line for it on that collected graph of violent crimes. It doesn’t specify weapons in either case so it’s impossible to tell how many of them are gun crimes.
In Norway, guns are fairly heavily regulated. You have to take a course of a few hours and register the gun. You can’t buy ammunition without a gun license, either. Here’s a full explanation of the gun laws in Norway.
In Norway, the gun crime rate was in 2009 0.19 deaths from gun crime per 100.000 citizens. Compare that to the US’ 3.97 in ’99-2000. There were 9 gun murders in Norway in 2009, 1 case of manslaughter and 100 gun suicides.
Breivik, the only mass-murdering shooter Norway has EVER seen, did obtain his weapons and ammunition legally. Since then, there has been a lot of political debate about making restrictions tougher.
In Dunblane in Scotland, there was a shooting in 1996 with a death toll of 16 children and 1 adult. As a direct result of that shooting, handguns were effectively banned from civilian ownership in all of the UK, and no such incident has taken place since.
The gun murders in the UK per 100K? 0.03 in 2009. 18 deaths, which is double the amount of Norway, a country with half the population of London alone. Their general murder rate is something like 50 times higher than Norway, so it’s not a question of the UK being generally less violent.
I’m curious to see numbers of how many of the gunmen stopped by civilians were stopped by civilians with firearms and how many were stopped by overpowering them in some other way. I’d also like to see how many were stopped by police, how many by civilians and how many killed themselves or stopped by their own accord. The numbers you cite don’t have a lot of meaning without those numbers.
On the governments that perpetrated homicides after first restricting guns, there are a few red lines running through: None of these have happened in highly televised circumstances. Part of what made the uprising in the Arab world so powerful was the incredible wealth of images, video and eyewitness accounts arriving everywhere in the world literally as it was happening. It’s much harder now, for a tyrannical regime, to get rid of such problems. Also, these are all countries which already had a history for violence and unrest. Germany? Seriously? That turned into the second world war! China later had a cultural revolution in the late 1960s.
And here’s something: One of the most powerful images ever of civil disobedience came in 1989, after the crackdown on Tienanmen square: Tank Man. He stopped a column of tanks! With what? A handgun? A semi-automatic? No. Just himself. He climbed ONTO the tank, talked to the people in it, went OFF the tank and stood in front of it again. The tank never ran him down. Do you think they would have thought twice about it if he’d run up to the tank with an assault rifle? He would have been smooshed all over the pavement in a matter of seconds. As much as a tyrannical regime wants to oppress its people, it also needs to keep some semblance of face outwith its borders. It’s lose-lose when your people rises peacefully against you: Either you attack and risk being invaded by the entire rest of the world, or you do nothing and watch as the people, emboldened by your lack of action, rise even further until you have no choice but to stand down. There is nothing as terrifying to a tyrannical regime as a peaceful, united people.
Think also of the significance of this: Most of the Arab countries have very heavy gun ownership, but it was in the countries where arms were laid down that the government was overthrown quickly.
Also, considering the tank for a moment: What good will your handguns and assault rifles do when faced with drone strikes, tanks, artillery, pain rays, fighter jets and bomber planes? Are you going to sell those at Wal Mart too? Or are you going to rush their fighter jets with automatic rifles? Even if you had a gatling gun, you’d be pavement slush in a second, and no one could say they did something wrong, because you ATTACKED them. In my mind, the only way to successfully overthrow a truly tyrannical regime today is to protest peacefully.
Wow, that was long, but I wanted to make sure I return your respect by actually going in and doing some research, which I never do in internet discussions normally.
PS: Would it be okay for you if I publish our discussion on my blog? The only reason I ask is because you’ve been such an admirable proponent of your side of this and I think it’s worthy of sharing the words and links exchanged.
After that massive bit, I just want to add that I’m not proposing a ban on guns or anything of the sort. Just an incremental increase in restrictions on gun ownership to see if maybe it would have a positive effect.
Well I had made a couple mistakes in that last post. You should know before any of this goes to prime time on your blog that I am lifting much of this from other writers (be great if you can use my first name only). I’m going to spend a few moments now tracking down some of things I’ve quoted and fact checking them.
Australia: Got that homicide rate wrong. It was the assault and sexual assault rates that have increased 34% since the ban. Was looking at the wrong line and didn’t read the notes at the bottom of the page. Not sure that is a big one in the win category for gun bans. While gun homicides dropped from 298 to 262 from 1997 to 2009 (-36) the overall homicides in the country went from 428 to 224 (-204). (source). One ray of sunshine is that no mass shootings occurred since the ban.
Statistic about mass shootings had the wrong conclusion. In only one case was a civilian armed. Many simply tackled the gunman. It is worth noting that the 1 armed civilian Mark Wilson didn’t shoot any bystanders and hit the gunman several times. The author says he drew fire until the police arrived. Mark was fatally wounded during the incident. [link]
While you might say that you don’t need to be armed to fight mass murderers you have to admit it doesn’t seem to hurt. Additionally to your argument about civilians not having the frame of mind to fight off mass murderers doesn’t resonate with me. We’ve seen folks have the frame of mind to tackle gunman, put their own bodies in the way of bullets to protect loved ones, assess their background for innocent people (example). I don’t think having a handgun would make them any less effective. I’d argue it would give them a fighting chance.
Additionally the head of the NRA spoke a few weeks ago and encouraged former law enforcement, national guard and other police and combat trained individuals take up the job of protecting our schools. Why not? Can we agree that it would be more effective than passing a partial gun law and forcing more registrations?
Mass murders by governments after gun bans original source:
Tankman at Tienanmen Square was very brave. From what I’ve read though he was executed after that incident. I agree that peaceful protest can be effective and lead to great things but I also think the 2nd amendment makes it less comfortable and obvious to those in power that our government will not be co opted without a fuss.
The idea that internet would keep something like this from happening now isn’t ringing true in Syria (60,000 dead) and here in the US we may not have that protection for much longer.
The whole idea that 2nd amendment won’t work without citizen owned tanks, rayguns and apache helicopters is a fun narrative but it assumes members of the armed forces would agree with bombing hometown usa, rolling over their cousin in a tank and wouldn’t join an uprising.
Seems a little paranoid but who would have thought they’d pass the NDAA [for fiscal year 2012].
Oh, I wouldn’t use your name at all. 🙂
I don’t know what numbers you’re looking at, because [they] don’t match the site you linked (which is the same I used for the other countries). Total gun deaths ’97-’09: 428 – 231. Total gun homicides: 79 – 30. Total homicides by any method: 298 – 262. So gun homicides went down by 49 and all homicides by 36. My point still stands.
The fact is we don’t know for certain what happened to Tank Man. Some sources believe he was executed. Some believe he’s now in hiding. Whether he did get executed or not doesn’t change my original point: They couldn’t be seen to mow down a defenseless man. For one thing: The tank operators wouldn’t do it of their own accord (though, sadly, in some cases, that wouldn’t be true) and for the other: Public relations disaster.
Civilians stopping mass murderers:
I didn’t say it wouldn’t be easier to put down a gunman with a gun than with your bare hands. I was just inquiring about the numbers, and they match up with my expectations. Most of the time, when you hear about a gunman being overpowered, it’s not through firing at the gunman. The problem with starting a firefight is that a lot of people expect a person to go down after one shot, which might be true if you’re an expert shot or incredibly lucky, but often that’s not the case. Like the situation with the civilian you mention. He shot the gunman several times but still managed to be fatally wounded in the process. I’m glad he managed to stop him, but this is one situation in so, so many shootings in the US where the guns used were legally obtained by people who wouldn’t necessarily have the means or connections to get firearms illegally. That’s conjecture on my part, but look at the numbers: 4 shootings in the US THIS YEAR ALONE. 3/4 of the guns were obtained legally, several of the legal guns being assault rifles and Semiautomatic handguns. (Source) Does this seem right to you?
I wasn’t saying that people are unwilling to put themselves at risk to save others. I said it’s too much to ask them to shoot and murder another human being to do it. Like you say, they jump in front of bullets and they tackle the gunmen. That’s a far cry from actually pointing a gun at someone and shooting them dead. Again, if they DID shoot the gunman, would he even be dead right away (or at all) or might he turn and kill the person shooting him and then carry on?
Even in a country like the US, where guns are so readily available, guns in the hands of civilians seem to cause more death than they prevent.
I’ll grant you that Syria is an outlier in my point about peaceful protests. The people were under siege for months before they took up arms against the government. However, of the reported 60K deaths, nearly half of them are the armed forces, not the opposition. And still, the battle rages on. How effective is this weaponised uprising? People still keep dying, which is what we’re trying to avoid, no?
No. No, we can’t agree on that. I would not send my child (if I had one) to a school patrolled by gunmen I have no clue who are. To me, that creates a culture of fear. It communicates to children and adults alike that there really is reason to fear going to a place of learning. Aside from bullying, there isn’t. There is reason to fear gunmen, but that can happen in any street at any place for any reason. So how do you stop gunmen? Do you patrol every street all the time?
I’m confused here, because aren’t you supporting my argument here by saying that the members of the armed forced wouldn’t WANT to attack the American people? If they wouldn’t want to “roll over their cousins with a tank” why would they do so if their cousins were unarmed? I’m saying that bringing guns escalates a conflict.
Hypothetical situation: You have 200 000 protesters and 5000 members of the armed forces surrounding them, keeping them in check. If the protesters turn out to have guns and start firing at the armed forces, would it not be safe to assume they’d be MORE likely to shoot at the protesters than if the protesters sit in a group peacefully? Would it not be safe to assume that the armed forces would be more likely to join the protesters if they’re not being attacked?
Joe Lieberman has, as the article says, tried this before. There have been numerous attempts at restricting the internet in America, and they’ve all been scuttled. The Net Neutrality fight in 2009 springs to mind. The people will fight tooth and nail to keep their web open and secure, and I have severe doubts that Lieberman will get anywhere with this new cyber espionage bill.
The indefinite detention part of the NDAA for 2012 is controversial and worrying, yes. Luckily, there’s considerable backlash on that and it is facing legal challenges.
It seems to me after reading and watching all this, that the pro-gun folk believe that they may find themselves in some Stallone-type situation, and they want the option to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights and blow all the bad guys away.
I think the pro-gun/ anti-gun discussion is a discussion not really about guns but a war between the cynics and the positivists. The cynics believe that the government can and will destroy their people if their people don’t have the means to defend themselves, and if the government doesn’t try to kill you the Other People will. The positivists believe that if we all just lay down our arms we’ll all be fine and live in a peaceful, free-loving community of pacifists who care for each other. Most people, of course, exist in the vast area between those two extremes. I’m a cautious optimist with cynical tendencies. Brian strikes me as my counterpart on the other side of the fence.
Glad you keep checking my numbers. Gun homicide dropping at the same rate of total murders is something. Perhaps 37 souls may have been saved by this ban and no mass shootings. It is a tempting idea. I’ll concede that this makes a complete ban seem like a possible solution to mass murders. Imagine if it could have saved those children.
So what if we don’t get a complete ban?
Already ⅓ of US schools have armed guards. Is there a culture of fear in these schools? When you see a police officer on the street do you become fearful?
I don’t think it is necessary for there to be gunfire in order for 2nd ammendment to give rulers pause. Rambo? I quoted Thomas Jefferson in my first post.
“Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
–Thomas Jefferson, quoting Cesare Beccaria in On Crimes and Punishment (1764).
And that’s the point at which we ended the discussion. Man, I’m so glad Bill exists to at least slightly balance out this guy:
* Not his real name
** I asked for his permission, but seeing as how it was a discussion on a public Facebook status, I was under no obligation to.
*** I streamlined the links and removed a bit where I pressed enter by mistake and had to start a new post, but that’s it.