I’ll be honest—guns scare me. Which they should, I guess, because they’re guns. Yet somehow, I ended up in Texas… where we have signs on restaurants that say things like “No firearms”. (Where I come from, that’s just understood as normal etiquette. No guns at the dinner table.)

But as much as I fear them, I’m still torn on the “gun debate” and can’t really come down on one side or the other. I see lots of good arguments for more control and more access.

What I’d like to see is some actual data. Are people with guns more or less safe than people without guns? Does fewer guns in the hands of responsible citizens mean outlaws run amok with firearms? Is a 3 day wait reasonable for a person legitimately fearing for their life? Should I really have to justify fearing for my life to defend myself? Are people in the US honestly concerned that if we are not armed, the government will take over our lives? Have concealed carriers ever really stopped someone on a shooting rampage? How many people are injured by guns vs how many people are protected? Why, in the US, do I need more ID to buy cold medicine and the morning after pill than I do to buy a weapon?

I just don’t know. I admit to kind of shrugging off the conversation since I probably drink too much to justify having something like a gun in my house. And, like I said, they scare me. But I think it’s a good conversation. I’d really like to have “a stance” and be able to back it up one day.

What are your thoughts on guns? Is there a stance that a good skeptic should take on them? Do you have guns? Like them? Love them? Hate them? Do citizens need more guns? Are the gun laws in your country fair? 

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.

Elyse

Elyse

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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Global Quickies: 2012.08.07

109 Comments

  1. Avatar of davew
    August 7, 2012 at 3:24 pm —

    I don’t trust that most people are capable of making consistently good life or death decisions at any time of the day or night regardless of how much of whatever they have consumed. I don’t trust myself this much. I understand there are lots of ways to hurt people but with a gun the decision can be made much more quickly with a much more devastating outcome. My own policy is I will not own a gun nor allow one into my house nor will I visit a house where guns are kept. This may sound inconvenient, but it has only come up once. I told a person who was invited to a party where the sole purpose was to drink lots of beer that he was welcome, but his gun wasn’t. The only reason I knew he had a gun was he had flashed it at another party the week before. He didn’t come and dropped out of the beer brewing club. So be it.

    This being said I think that we obsess about random gun violence way too much. I don’t see the reasonable restrictions on guns that many people have proposed saving all that many lives. Dropping the speed limit to 55 would save way more lives than banning assault weapons.

    • Avatar of turbomike
      August 7, 2012 at 5:17 pm —

      Really? An idiot flashed a gun at party? Good thing he left your group. If it was in one of my groups I would’ve stopped going. And I am an NRA member and shoot at a local gun club regularly.

      Even if you are a heavily trained shooter, with a good control of your alcohol consumption, a party is the last place to have a gun. The ability of even the best law enforcement or military people would be taxed to the limit to protect their friends in that type of a situation. Just too many people around to do more good than harm if someone came in shooting.

      • Avatar of Elyse
        August 7, 2012 at 5:24 pm —

        You know what kind of person whips out a gun at parties? The kind of person who inevitably shoots someone in the crotch at parties. I think “no guns while we get wasted” is a fair rule.

      • Avatar of davew
        August 7, 2012 at 7:05 pm —

        Really? An idiot flashed a gun at party? Good thing he left your group. If it was in one of my groups I would’ve stopped going. And I am an NRA member and shoot at a local gun club regularly.

        He was very much in favor of concealed carry. It He had military training and a permit and insisted on carrying his weapon everywhere it was legal. I’m strongly with Elyse on this one. Guns, booze, and crotches don’t mix.

        • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
          August 7, 2012 at 10:48 pm —

          I am very much in favor of concealed carry and I would have barred that jackass from my home.

    • Avatar of Mark Hall
      August 9, 2012 at 6:38 pm —

      Someone in a connected social circle (friend of a friend of a friend) insists on carrying EVERYWHERE. Restaurants. Other’s homes. Children’s birthday parties.

      This would likely bother me less if I hadn’t heard he’d been discharged from the Marines for fiddling about with his pistol and accidentally discharging. Twice.

  2. Avatar of Will
    August 7, 2012 at 3:27 pm —

    I hate guns and am also quite scared by them. My partner owns a gun and it freaks me out. He’s very nonchalant about it.

    Michael De Dora recently made an interesting post about guns over on Rationally Speaking. His post had some links to some statistics: gun homicide rate is 20 times higher in US than other Western nations; spree killings are on the rise; carrying a gun increases risk of being shot and killed.

    I also found this site, which has some interesting mixed results as far as correlations between gun bans and increased violence with guns. Which I would expect because I don’t think the issue is as easy as banning or restricting access. We live in a deeply violent culture that idolizes gun violence, and decreasing gun violence is something that is going to have to be approached from many different angles, including strict controls, gun education and safety training, changing the discourse and appeal of violent entertainment, and so on.

    There is no panacea for gun violence, unfortunately.

    • Avatar of donboc
      August 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm —

      The rate of gun homicides is way lower (factor of 20 or whatever) in other Western countries, but the rate of all homicides isn’t that much lower. In fact, in other Western countries, they tend to have far more murders per gun owned than in the States. What this suggests is that if someone wants to kill another person, he or she will often find a way to do it. If guns are readily available, he or she will probably use a gun. If guns aren’t readily available, he or she will find another way.

      That isn’t to say that gun ownership has no effect. Although, it’s interesting to note that if you make a scatter plot of murder rate vs. gun ownership rate for a bunch of different countries around the World, there’s basically no correlation at all, but what correlation there is is actually slightly negative (i.e., more gun ownership tends to correlate very slightly with LOWER murder rate). This of course doesn’t suggest that there’s any causal relation at all (and it’s a very heterogeneous mixture of countries). But if you’re looking for smoking gun evidence (pun intended) that guns lead to more murders, it doesn’t jump out at you from the statistics.

      My own predilection is to think that, on the margin, stronger gun laws and reduced ownership of handguns and assault weapons would lead to fewer murders, but it’s really hard to craft an evidence-based case for this claim.

      • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
        August 7, 2012 at 5:19 pm —

        “My own predilection is to think that, on the margin, stronger gun laws and reduced ownership of handguns and assault weapons would lead to fewer murders, but it’s really hard to craft an evidence-based case for this claim.”

        Handguns? Sure, magic wand waved and handguns go away, you’d see a reduction in gun crime. But “assault weapons”? One of the greatest bits of propaganda ever created. As I’ve said here elsewhere, all long guns combined (that’s shotguns, standard rifles, and so called assault weapons) are used to kill people less than bare hands and feet.

        • Avatar of donboc
          August 8, 2012 at 12:35 am —

          That doesn’t change the claim that, on the margin, fewer assault weapons would lead to fewer murders.

          You might think that the effect would be small, and it might be small (and it might not even exist at all). But your comment seems to argue that the effect would be small, which in no way contradicts the idea that on the margin there would be an effect.

          • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
            August 8, 2012 at 8:54 pm

            Again, the total number of gun murders committed with ALL long guns, including non-assault weapons like pump shotguns, breech loaders, as well as many different rifle types including the so-called assault weapon, come in at around 500 a year out of about 10,000. And it’s safe to say that some number bigger than zero of those assault weapon murders would have been committed with a different weapon had one not been available. So does it still makes sense to ban a legitimate sporting and self defense weapon owned to no negative effect by millions of people to maybe prevent a very very small number of murders?

      • Avatar of Elyse
        August 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm —

        Which means that guns also don’t protect us from anything, really. We’re not being murdered any less in the US because we can protect ourselves with guns.

      • Avatar of Will
        August 8, 2012 at 1:06 am —

        Considering you provided absolutely no citations, and this all seemed to run contrary to what I’d read/heard before, i took the liberty of doing a little digging on this. Let’s see what I dug up…

        the rate of all homicides isn’t that much lower.

        Doesn’t seem to be the case. According to this, the US has an overall homicide rate of about 6 per 100,000. Most of Europe and much of the Middle East is at or below 3/100,000. Canada is half (1.5 per 100,000), Luxembourg is 0.4. So there are many places that are developing or underdeveloped countries that have much lower rates than the United States. In other words, you’re wrong.

        in other Western countries, they tend to have far more murders per gun owned than in the States.

        Let’s see. According to this, there’s an estimated 270 million civilians in the United States own a firearm. That’s 90 guns per 100 people. We are the #1 ranked in the world for gun ownership (the second is Yemen, at 55/100).

        Let’s compare with some European countries:

        Switzerland, which comes in at #3 when ranked by gun ownership (46/100 people own a gun), has a 0.77/100,000 homicide by firearm rate. 57 (73%) homicides committed with firearm.

        Finland, #4 gun ownership, 45/100 people own a gun, has a 0.45/100,000 homicide by firearm rate. 24 (20%) homicides in Finland are by firearm.

        Sweden, #10 ownership with 32/100 gun ownership. 0.41/100,000 homicide by firearm rate, 37 (34%) homicides by firearm.

        Norway, #11, 32/100 gun ownership, 0.05/100,000 homicide by firearm rate, 2 (8%) homicides by firearm.

        And so on and so forth. Let’s look at the United States:

        #1 gun ownership, 90/100 people own a gun. 3/100,000 homicide by firearm. 9,146 (60%) homicides by firearm.

        So, yeah, I’m thinking you’re either making things up or you have a different way of doing math than I do.

        • Avatar of spellwight
          August 8, 2012 at 10:45 pm —

          I’m not understanding the those numbers. I don’t think it reflects the fact that one person likely owns many guns, instead leads you to believe each 90 of the 100 owns guns. If I asked 100 people I know, maybe 6-8 have guns in their home and only 1 might carry. And I live in Arizona.

          I don’t have (or want) a gun so I really have no idea what hoops you have to go through to carry one. The real problem seems to be keeping guns out of the hands of mentally imbalanced people. My son’s best friend has anger issues and a gun. Or at least he had one until the night he pulled it (loaded) and pointed it at my son’s face in an argument. That resolved okay and he got rid of the gun the next day, but who’s to say how it would have ended if it hadn’t been his best friend? Should some sort of psychological test be passed before you can legally own a gun?

  3. Avatar of tonysidaway
    August 7, 2012 at 3:37 pm —

    I’m British so I tend to view the gun control/gun freedom debate as an outsider. My society functions well without widespread gun ownership,so I can’t think of gun control as a vexing issue–it’s just something all societies do to a greater or lesser extent. Personally, I don’t want a gun, I don’t need one, and having neighbours or even policemen with guns would make me feel less safe.

  4. Avatar of Matt
    August 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm —

    Guns don’t scare me. Irresponsible people with guns scare me. I’ve always wanted a gun, just never got around to starting the process. I don’t want a carry permit; I just want to shoot at targets for stress relief. Also, there are some guns that I want as just a display piece because I think they look nice.

    • Avatar of snarp
      August 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm —

      You can rent one pretty cheap at the range.

      • Avatar of Matt
        August 7, 2012 at 9:01 pm —

        did not realize that, thanks. I also have family and friends that shoot, so right now its more a matter of finding time.

    • Avatar of turbomike
      August 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm —

      If you decide to get a gun, you should go through the carry permit class anyway. The training is well worth the money. I did it and I never carry a gun unless I’m out camping or hiking.

      It not only teaches you gun safety but also the consequences of your actions if you do decide to use your gun in a protective situation. It’s called the Castle Doctrine and every state has a difference stance on it.

      • Avatar of Matt
        August 7, 2012 at 9:02 pm —

        I’m fairly certain in my state I’d have to take a class anyway, i just don’t have an interest in a carry permit. Plus, the only way my wife would allow a gun in the house is sans ammo.

  5. Avatar of snarp
    August 7, 2012 at 3:39 pm —

    For public ownership of guns to make sense from a self defense standpoint, we would have to believe that widespread ownership of guns saves more lives than it costs. What seems to me to be the key data point for this is the homicide rate. If we’re looking at fully modern, industrialized democracies we find a murder rate of about one per hundred thousand inhabitants. Most of these countries also strictly control firearms. The United States has a homicide rate of about 4.6 per hundred thousand. This alone suggests that in general ready access to guns is costing more lives than it saves. The pro-gun folks will tell you that Brazil, for example, has strict gun laws and a murder rate through the roof, but that’s really comparing apples to oranges. Brazil is a world apart from the U.S. and Europe, which is why I’ve strictly defined my terms. The reality is that effective gun control almost certainly reduces access to firearms and reduces the homicide rate. While this would be difficult to apply to a country where there are already hundreds of millions of guns in circulation, we could at least start by closing the gun show loophole, tightening up background checks, banning high capacity magazines, and offering an ongoing buy back and destroy program for anyone who has guns they want to dispose of.

    I’m going to stop this comment here, as I realize that there are a lot of argument to address and I’m not going to try to break down every one at this level.

    • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
      August 7, 2012 at 4:16 pm —

      “For public ownership of guns to make sense from a self defense standpoint, we would have to believe that widespread ownership of guns saves more lives than it costs.”

      It’s hard to count lives saved since you are trying to count something that hasn’t happened. You have to go with the number of defensive gun uses, and that’s in dispute to put it mildly. You get the highest numbers, by controversial researchers like Lott, who put the number over three million per year, or at the low end, you get people citing the National Crime Victim Survey, which puts the number at around 100,000. So even at the lowest end estimate, more people use guns to defend themselves than are murdered by them, and almost as many than are both injured and killed.

      “What seems to me to be the key data point for this is the homicide rate. If we’re looking at fully modern, industrialized democracies we find a murder rate of about one per hundred thousand inhabitants. Most of these countries also strictly control firearms. The United States has a homicide rate of about 4.6 per hundred thousand. This alone suggests that in general ready access to guns is costing more lives than it saves.”

      How in the world can a single data point bring that conclusion? In fact, if that was true, we should have seen the U.S. homicide rate go up in the last twenty years. Gun laws have almost exclusively been loosened, particularly in the area of legal concealed carry. Yet gun murders have fallen through the floor (I don’t think that looser gun laws are responsible for that drop in crime).

      Fact is, even if we removed EVERY gun murder from the equation, the U.S. would still have a significantly higher murder rate than those other countries. We have more murders because we are more violent, guns or not.

      “Brazil is a world apart from the U.S. and Europe, which is why I’ve strictly defined my terms. The reality is that effective gun control almost certainly reduces access to firearms and reduces the homicide rate.”

      I would argue that a country like the U.K. is also a world apart. There are so many variables that grabbing at one seems foolish. They never had as many guns as us, never had the gun culture, never had violent crime as bad as ours, and on and on. As for the last line, there is ample research that agrees with it and lots that says the opposite.

      “we could at least start by closing the gun show loophole,”

      There is no such thing as a gun show loophole. It’s made up nonsense like “assault weapon,” a term used to scare people. Anyone at a gun show with a Federal Firearm License has to run his sales through the NICS system just like if they were at their brick and mortar location. Private sales are exempt from the check, but they are exempt everywhere, not just at gun shows.

      “tightening up background checks,”

      How? This is easy to say, but gets tricky when you actually have to do it. If you’ve never committed a crime and never been involuntarily committed, what else can we screen for?

      “banning high capacity magazines,”

      The vast majority of gun murders involve a number of shots less than the capacity of the gun. And what is the definition of high capacity?

      “and offering an ongoing buy back and destroy program for anyone who has guns they want to dispose of.”

      There is no evidence that these programs reduce crime. By definition, the people who are turning in those guns are the types of people least likely to commit crime. Taking guns that are not being used for crime out of circulation achieves nothing.

      • Avatar of snarp
        August 7, 2012 at 4:39 pm —

        There’s not doubt that there are a lot of confounding variables when we look at homicide rates. But the reason I think it’s important is that it gets at just how important guns really are to self defense. If people are using guns to defend their lives, then given our wide gun ownership, we should see a reduced homicide rate, not a higher one.

        Are there differences between the U.S. and Western European nations? Certainly, and I’ll acknowledge they play a role here, but we also certainly have far more in common with Western Europe and Canada than we do with Brazil.

        When I say the gun show loophole, I specifically mean that private sales without background checks are legal. They shouldn’t be. I’m sorry that my terminology was confusing, that’s what that term has always meant to me, and it is real as I meant it.

        What buy back programs can do is give people a reliable way to dispose of guns they don’t want without any chance that those guns will end up on the street. Do they reduce crime? Certainly not on their own, but we don’t know what role they would play as part of a long term strategy to reduce the number of guns in circulations, and they also have always been very limited and temporary programs. There’s no where near me to dispose of my guns that I no longer want, for example.

        How to tighten up background checks is certainly a problem, I don’t have the answer, but I think that one could be found if we tried.

        High capacity magazines is the easiest one for me, because it’s a no brainer. Sure, most murders don’t require them, but they do figure prominently in mass shootings, and there’s no other bloody reason for them. How do you define it? Six rounds should be more than sufficient for any legitimate purpose that isn’t so far out of statistical likelihood as to be absurd. But it’s not really a big deal how you define it. This can easily be worked out if people are willing to be honest with themselves about guns and what they’re for and actually work toward legislation that doesn’t hurt anyone’s remotely legitimate ability to own a gun and may reduce the likelihood of guns being used to commit ghastly crimes.

        I think we should look at what we’re trading off here. I’m willing to trade off private sales, magazines over six rounds, and fully expunged juvenile convictions, as well as a little money spent on buy backs that may or may not be effective for even the slightest chance that we’ll save one life. These are not things that significantly impinge on anyone’s rights, so I don’t think we have to look for an absolute, high payoff.

        • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
          August 7, 2012 at 4:57 pm —

          “High capacity magazines is the easiest one for me, because it’s a no brainer. Sure, most murders don’t require them, but they do figure prominently in mass shootings,”

          Mass shootings are a statistical blip in homicide rates. You could get rid of all of them and the murder rate wouldn’t change until you went a block or two to the right of the decimal point.

          “and there’s no other bloody reason for them.”

          You’re obviously not a recreational or sport shooter.

          “How do you define it? Six rounds should be more than sufficient for any legitimate purpose that isn’t so far out of statistical likelihood as to be absurd.”

          Holy crap! Six?! Are you aware that the vast majority of handguns made since, oh, 1900, hold more rounds than that? My carry piece is a tiny, single stack weapon designed for concealed carry, and it holds seven in the magazine.

          Also, if the likelihood of me needing more than six rounds is “so far out of statistical likelihood as to be absurd”, I have to ask why you don’t apply the same reasoning to things like high capacity magazines or mass shootings.

          • Avatar of snarp
            August 7, 2012 at 5:11 pm

            Sure, mass shootings are relatively rare. We still average two a year with a significant death toll. Those are real lives. They matter, even though they’re rare. And if the cost to save them is that you spend more of your range time reloading? I think that’s OK. I understand that you don’t. Obviously the statistics on gun self defense are bad enough, so we certainly don’t have any on the number of crazed PCP addicts who ordinary citizens have needed a large capacity magazine to put down, or gangs of more than six that have needed to be shot in self defense. Do you think the number is more than zero? More than the number of people killed with those guns?

    • Avatar of kagerato
      August 8, 2012 at 6:18 pm —

      What I find very interesting is that you don’t go looking for the commonalities between the United States and Brazil, with our similar murder rates. You simply assume we’re not alike.

      Here’s two things we have in common: (1) a long and brutal domestic history of racial conflict and animus, and (2) severe wealth inequality.

      Might these factors have some notable impact on the murder rate?

  6. Avatar of here_fishy
    August 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm —

    Can I respond with a question? I have an American friend who justified it the same way – they need to “defend themselves”. Against what? I’m Canadian – I honestly feel no need to defend myself against much at all. I literally can’t imagine needing to own a firearm unless it’s for hunting (animals). I lock my door. Sometimes. I do not live in fear of a crazed individual plowing through my front door with a rifle. I’m sure it happens once in a while, but is there really THAT MUCH VIOLENCE down there that people need to defend themselves? If so, that’s a sad state of affairs…

    • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
      August 7, 2012 at 4:22 pm —

      “I have an American friend who justified it the same way – they need to “defend themselves”. Against what?”

      Against violent criminals.

      “I’m Canadian – I honestly feel no need to defend myself against much at all.”

      Canada has a far lower crime rate. Aside from that, no one is saying you should carry a gun if you feel no need to.

      “I literally can’t imagine needing to own a firearm unless it’s for hunting (animals).”

      I can speak for myself and the attitudes of people I am acquainted with. Those who own guns for the self defense aspect do so not because they see murder as an ever present threat. They see them as a last resort tool to use in the unlikely event it is needed. That people defend themselves with guns is not in dispute. It happens every day.

      “I lock my door. Sometimes. I do not live in fear of a crazed individual plowing through my front door with a rifle. I’m sure it happens once in a while, but is there really THAT MUCH VIOLENCE down there that people need to defend themselves? If so, that’s a sad state of affairs…”

      I don’t think any of that will happen either. But I also don’t fear house fires, yet I have smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. I don’t fear car accidents but I wear my seat belt religiously.

      • Avatar of here_fishy
        August 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm —

        “Those who own guns for the self defense aspect do so not because they see murder as an ever present threat.”

        That is a terrifyingly cynical view of the world, I think…

        “I don’t think any of that will happen either. But I also don’t fear house fires, yet I have smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. I don’t fear car accidents but I wear my seat belt religiously.”

        I do all of that too, but the difference is that I see the best defenses against crime to be a) police, and b) a strong social safety net that seeks to avert criminal behaviour in the first place (not necessarily in that order).

        If I were to own a gun, I’d be far, FAR more worried about accidentally shooting someone innocent, having it stolen, having it accessed by my children, etc..

        Does anyone what the stats are regarding how many people successfully defend themselves against crime versus how many people are injured by gun accidents?

        Regarding crime in general, I comfort myself against irrational fears of criminals descending on me in the same way that I comfort myself against bears – I work in the woods (yes, and I still don’t carry a firearm), and given the number of people who also work/play/travel in the wilderness (thousands) and the number of those people who are actually attacked by bears (very very few), odds are pretty damn low that I’m going to need to defend myself with lethal force.

        • Avatar of here_fishy
          August 7, 2012 at 5:43 pm —

          “Those who own guns for the self defense aspect do so not because they see murder as an ever present threat.”

          That is a terrifyingly cynical view of the world, I think… ”

          oops, I misread that part – ignore that. It WOULD be cynical to see murder as an ever present threat, but that’s not what you said :P

          • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
            August 7, 2012 at 6:09 pm

            Heh, no problem. Ignore the first part of my reply. :)

        • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
          August 7, 2012 at 6:08 pm —

          “That is a terrifyingly cynical view of the world, I think…”

          Huh? The fact that I think it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll be murdered is cynical?

          “I do all of that too, but the difference is that I see the best defenses against crime to be a) police,”

          Police are rarely able to be defensive. They are reactive, they are there after the crime has been committed.

          “b) a strong social safety net that seeks to avert criminal behaviour in the first place (not necessarily in that order).”

          I agree ten bazillion percent. The drug war, income inequality, education, employment, our horrid (lack of) social safety nets, and on and on and on. But those are complicated and don’t fit well into a thirty second ad. Showing a picture of a scary looking gun is easy.

          “If I were to own a gun, I’d be far, FAR more worried about accidentally shooting someone innocent, having it stolen, having it accessed by my children, etc..”

          Then you should not own one. That doesn’t change the fact that millions and millions of people own guns and never have any of that happen. It’s not hard to handle a gun safely. It’s not hard to secure a gun from children.

          “Does anyone what the stats are regarding how many people successfully defend themselves against crime versus how many people are injured by gun accidents?”

          As I said earlier, defensive gun use is a very hotly debated topic. But the lowest number you’ll see is 100,000 times per year (most estimates put the number over a million). Gun accidents represent a tiny number of the people killed annually by guns. For the last year available, 2009, the number of accidental gun deaths was 554. I don’t have accidental gun injury numbers handy.

          “Regarding crime in general, I comfort myself against irrational fears of criminals descending on me in the same way that I comfort myself against bears – I work in the woods (yes, and I still don’t carry a firearm), and given the number of people who also work/play/travel in the wilderness (thousands) and the number of those people who are actually attacked by bears (very very few), odds are pretty damn low that I’m going to need to defend myself with lethal force.”

          Do you take any precautions? Make sure you make noise so as not to startle a bear, etc.? Because that’s the sort of thing I do in normal life. The best ways to avoid being a crime victim are situational awareness, not doing things that scream out, “I’m an easier target.” Mostly it means being alert. I’ve just taken it one step further and carry a tool that I can use if everything else has failed (including running, hiding, etc.). No one is harmed and my life is barely affected.

        • Avatar of Boomer
          August 7, 2012 at 6:57 pm —

          I see the best defenses against crime to be a) police,

          Why would anyone expect protection from the police? If someone with violent intent invades my home while my wife is there alone she has only seconds to react. Compare this to the average police response time. Besides, courts have ruled the police have no obligation whatsoever to “protect” citizens. Sure, if they happen to see a crime in progress they’ll intervene (that’s why you can expect a speeding ticket if you drive too fast), but law enforcement personnel are free from liability should a citizen come to harm before they arrive on the scene. If you can’t rely on the police for protection who do you rely on?

          and b) a strong social safety net that seeks to avert criminal behaviour in the first place (not necessarily in that order).

          Until everyone has “enough” of whatever everyone needs not to feel the need to use violence against their fellow citizens to get it, and/or the police are obligated and able to respond quickly enough to protect all citizens at all times from the violence of their fellow citizens, it seems to me folks should have the right to protect themselves.

          While firearms may not be the only answer, they do provide what many consider the most effective means of self-protection for a weaker individual alone facing a larger individual or a group who intends violence. Indeed, firearms made it possible for black Americans who chose to obtain and use them to fight back against the racial violence which blights our nation’s history. Some have suggested Malcolm X’s willingness to fight back is one of the primary reasons for the successful passage of the Civil Rights Act.

          For those who pooh pooh the notion that only fanatics have anything to fear from their government as regards gun control, consider this: Many laws written under the banner of ‘gun control’ in the not-to-distant past were intended simply to keep guns out of the hands of black Americans. Even today, concealed carry permits in many jurisdictions remain at the discretion of the local Sheriff, and often there is no requirement for him/her to justify a denial. That means if your local Sheriff doesn’t like you, for whatever reason, you’re not getting a concealed carry permit. It was exactly this kind of law that allowed majority white communities in the deep south to make it harder for black Americans to legally obtain firearms. What criteria does your local Sheriff use?

          I say unless and until “society” provides a better answer, those who feel they need the protection only a firearm can provide–a judgement that should be made by the individual, not someone else–should have the right to own one.

          • Avatar of Boomer
            August 7, 2012 at 7:04 pm

            Curse you blockquote…

            What happened to preview and edit?

  7. Avatar of Kaloikagathoi
    August 7, 2012 at 3:43 pm —

    I agree with davew (I’m also slightly shocked to be saying such a thing! Perhaps we could be friends after all, as long as we didn’t talk about feminism at all…).
    I just can’t understand how the same people can be so blinkered and casual about road deaths, while getting seriously worried about gun ownership. 40,000 people in the US die in road deaths every year – at least, that was the number when I last checked.
    I guess I do understand the contradiction, I just don’t like it. People can’t condemn road deaths when they have made driving into such an integral part of their lives. It’s *really* tough to hold a principle when one knows one is violating it – much easier to change one’s principles. Whereas a far smaller proportion of the population owns guns, and they are mostly easily distinguished from the middle-class urban folk who decry gun deaths, so no problem with criticizing their cultural assumptions.

    • Avatar of snarp
      August 7, 2012 at 3:55 pm —

      I find it hard to argue against the gun to car comparison because I just find it utterly incomprehensible that that argument could possibly make sense to anyone. Cars are a ubiquitous means of transportation and the average American is in one probably thirty minutes of every day. There are more cars than people, and they are used constantly. Of course there are a lot of road deaths, and certainly people should get more serious about driving safely and using proper restraints, but these are accidents, and the numbers are high because of the incredibly high number of vehicle miles driven.

      Guns are made to kill. They have no other purpose. And handguns and assault rifles are made to kill people, with only a handful of handgun exceptions. While there are a lot of guns in circulation, a relatively small number of people own them, and one would hope that they were used rarely. The gun to car comparison is statistically and logically invalid as far as I’m concerned.

      • Avatar of davew
        August 7, 2012 at 4:11 pm —

        I find it hard to argue against the gun to car comparison because I just find it utterly incomprehensible that that argument could possibly make sense to anyone.

        I make it with gusto for two reasons. Firstly these can both be affected by public policy. Theoretically congress could pass a gun control law and they could lower the national speed limit to 55 again. Which of these two wildly unpopular ideas would save more lives? Secondly these are both a matter of personal choice.

        I really wish people would consider cars to be lethal weapons because they are. I agree that guns deaths are a mix of accidents and intention whereas car deaths are almost entirely accidents. If a negligent driver is a bigger threat to my family than a homicidal impulse, however, then I’m going to spend more time and resources trying to avoid the former.

        • Avatar of Kaloikagathoi
          August 7, 2012 at 6:05 pm —

          If the speed limit were reduced (and enforced, which is a bigger deal) in the high-pedestrian areas, that would probably result in fewer deaths too. Freeway speeds aren’t really that high given the absence of non-motorized vehicles and pedestrians, though the collisions on freeways are bound to kill more people per crash.

      • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
        August 7, 2012 at 4:27 pm —

        “Guns are made to kill. They have no other purpose.”

        That is false.

        “And handguns and assault rifles are made to kill people, with only a handful of handgun exceptions.”

        Again, false, and assault rifles are virtually never used in crime. You are probably referring to the more vague “assault weapons” which means scary looking guns that are not actual assault rifles. However, even those are used very infrequently. In fact, more people are murdered with bare hands than with all long guns, assault or otherwise.

        • Avatar of absinthia
          August 7, 2012 at 4:45 pm —

          “Guns are made to kill. They have no other purpose.”

          That is false.
          ———–

          Sorry, Canadian here, I don’t know much about guns. Assuming you statement that “that is false” refers to both sentences, “Guns are made to kill.” and “They have no other purpose.”

          Pardon my ignornace, but what are guns made for, then? What is their purpose?

          • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
            August 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm

            Sport shooting, skeet, trap, etc., and even guns that are “made for killing” are almost never used for that purpose. The AR platform is the most popular long gun in the country, a weapon based on the M-16, obviously a weapon designed to kill. Yet more people are beaten to death annually than are killed by all long guns.

            The user determines the purpose.

        • Avatar of snarp
          August 7, 2012 at 4:50 pm —

          Oh come one, you didn’t even try to actually refute the point. Tell me what they’re made for. Recreation? Fine, target shooting is fun, but that’s a secondary purpose, at best. What guns are designed and built to do is kill. There are a handful that are built more for target shooting than for killing, but not many. Let’s be clear, killing includes hunting. That’s why I specified killing of humans for handguns and assault rifles. I realize that gun advocates hate this word, because it’s been used for all sorts of things, but I while I mainly mean guns that are based on the design of fully automatic weapons and therefore easily converted to fully automatic weapons, which tend to use ammunition suited to killing people and have high capacity magazines, I’ll take any scary looking gun. They may rarely be used to kill people, but that’s still the purpose of their design. They are not the guns chosen by serious target shooters or hunters, because that’s not what they’re made for. They’re guns that are made to kill people, but which people also like just because they are scary looking and make them look tough and are fun to smash shit with. But that doesn’t change their basic purpose.

          • Avatar of kagerato
            August 8, 2012 at 6:53 pm

            Fully automatic weapons are, actually, illegal to buy or sell in the United States to civilians. That includes those which have been converted from semi-automatic, which is a much more difficult process to do correctly than you’re giving credit for.

            Semi-automatic, by the way, covers the vast majority of guns used today. It’s merely a reference to the reloading mechanism, which replaces the bullet for each round. You still have to pull the trigger for each shot.

            Manual guns are rather rare. You may find some revolvers and shotguns that are still manual, but that’s about it. Needless to say, those types of weapons are not very common in gun murders (though moderately more common than full auto).

            To be consistent about arms control, you really do have to oppose essentially all weapons equally. It’s not meaningful to isolate rarely used weapons or just ban certain types. So long as the factors causing the violence aren’t eliminated, people will simply switch to other weapons with better availability.

      • Avatar of Kaloikagathoi
        August 7, 2012 at 5:55 pm —

        You illustrate my point quite well. You can’t even consider road deaths to be deaths like gun deaths are deaths, because you have decided that they are “accidents”, and therefore somehow shouldn’t count as people who are loved dying before their time. Even if you are right that car use, at the rate that is current in the US, is an essential part of life, this shouldn’t change your sadness at the carnage that results. But it does if you decide to classify some deaths as sadder than others.

        • Avatar of absinthia
          August 8, 2012 at 8:29 am —

          For me the analogy fails because cars are built primarily as transport devices. Yes, people are killed by them, but they’re not built to kill things, that’s a side effect of faulty users. Not saying that deaths by car accidents are less worthy of note. Saying the analogy is a fail. Be like trying to say, “We should also ban swimming then, because people drown!” Yeah, they do. And it’s sad. But not a good analogy.

      • Avatar of Kaloikagathoi
        August 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm —

        @snarp

        Also, while car use is now necessary in many situations because of the choices we, as a society, have made, it is still not necessary as often as cars are used. I know I’ve used a car when I could have used a bike, bus, or I could have walked, and that’s from someone who has tried to reduce car dependency. If all the people decrying gun ownership can say they try to use their cars as little as possible, then I might have more sympathy for their stance. As it is, I feel they are taking aim at an easy target that doesn’t require any self-sacrifice on their part.

  8. Avatar of cthandhs
    August 7, 2012 at 3:57 pm —

    I own a gun. I like to shoot at the range and I have an interest in historical firearms (though I am by no means a collector). I think the topic of ownership and legalization is complicated by several factors.

    1. Gun legislation makes NO sense. In CA, at least, gun laws are outdated and made by people who don’t understand guns, which makes them confusing and difficult to enforce. For example, there is a type of semi-automatic rifle that is entirely legal with a long stock and illegal with a short stock. Doesn’t matter that all of the killing people bits are exactly the same. Gun control is a good idea in principle, but we need evidence based regulations.

    2. There are too many guns in the U.S. to effectively regulate existing stock. The FBI estimates roughly 200 million privately owned firearms. “Successful” gun buyback programs net dozens to hundreds of guns. Even if all firearms sales and manufacturing halted tomorrow, there would still be too many guns to effectively locate and regulate.

    3. Firearms safty training is awful. I needed a *little* more ID to purchase my firearm than I do to get cold medicine, but not much. One form of regulation that I would be very in favor of is a more safty training required to purchase and renew licenses. It won’t have an effect on gun crimes, but it will reduce accidental injuries and death.

    4. We have a social problem. Look at T.V., movies, video games, etc. They all show that guns are “cool” and good-guys are in shootouts just as much as bad-guys. I don’t think our media is to blame, I think our art reflects our culture.

    I believe, in the end, we need to make an effort *as a culture* to move away from gun violence if we want to have any hope of changing our statistics. The guns are already there, it’s too late to get rid of them; criminals are going to use them. What we can change is how law-abiding society reacts to gun violence. We can change how we treat people who are careless around guns. We can change how we show guns in our media.

    BTW, when my gun is not at the range it is inoperable. I carry a cell phone for protection.

    • Avatar of davew
      August 7, 2012 at 4:13 pm —

      BTW, when my gun is not at the range it is inoperable. I carry a cell phone for protection.

      This made my day.

    • Avatar of snarp
      August 7, 2012 at 4:14 pm —

      1. Yes, some gun laws are poorly written, and this has been a huge boon to the pro-gun lobby, but what it has always meant to me is that we need more people who better understand guns writing laws, not that no laws can ever be useful. I would also point out that long stock versus short stock impact the ability to conceal a firearm, and therefore is not entirely senseless.

      2. This is certainly a problem, but it does not mean there’s no long term solution or that we have to give up. Simply stopping sales of certain kinds of firearms (mainly those that are easily concealed and those with large capacity magazine) and closing the gun show loophole would begin to reduce the supply of guns by attrition. More effective buy back programs could also be instituted (I’d also note that if the money offered was high enough, they’d be way more effective when the economy is down as it is now). This isn’t going to reduce the number of guns on the street very quickly, but I don’t think inaction is justified by the fact that it may be our grandchildren’s children who really see the benefits.

      3. Yes. I think we need more stringent training and licensing procedures. At the very least what is now required for a concealed carry permit should be required to purchase any hand gun. The very least. And the background check needs to be very thorough. No one who has ever (even as a juvenile) been convicted of any kind of violent crime nor anyone with serious mental diagnoses (I leave this to the psychiatric professionals to define) should be able to ever buy a firearm.

      4. Most of the world watches American movies and plays American video games, but for some reason most of the industrialized world doesn’t kill each other at nearly the rate we do. Yes, we may have a cultural problem, but it’s not just modern entertainment.

      • Avatar of cthandhs
        August 7, 2012 at 4:40 pm —

        1. I totally agree, I am pro-gun regulation. I think it would be a lot easier if we had sound, evidence based laws.

        2. I don’t suggest giving up, but this factor significantly increases the difficulty of enacting many kinds of proposed gun laws; and must be taken into account. For example, it would be impossible to outlaw gun ownership without a house-to-house search. Less restrictive gun regulations are also going to suffer from existing stock “in the wild”.

        3. I expect we agree here, concealed carry permits are basically impossible to get in CA, unless you’re friends with a County Sheriff.

        4. I think many of our movies and video games, etc. are a reflection of our cultural problem, not a cause of it. It’s the fact that we create this stuff that shows we have issues. (And of course, there are plenty of great shows and games that deal with gun violence in a realistic and sensible fashion, but those tend to be the exception).

    • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
      August 7, 2012 at 4:30 pm —

      “Firearms safty training is awful. I needed a *little* more ID to purchase my firearm than I do to get cold medicine, but not much. One form of regulation that I would be very in favor of is a more safty training required to purchase and renew licenses. It won’t have an effect on gun crimes, but it will reduce accidental injuries and death.”

      Reflexively this makes sense. Yet I am aware of one study at least (not by the NRA or other biased source) that found that safety training had no effect on accident rates. Aside from that, accidental deaths are, like gun crime, in free fall. They make the news because of their rarity, not because they are common.

      “We have a social problem. Look at T.V., movies, video games, etc. They all show that guns are “cool” and good-guys are in shootouts just as much as bad-guys. I don’t think our media is to blame, I think our art reflects our culture.”

      And yet gun crime has been plummeting for twenty years.

      • Avatar of cthandhs
        August 7, 2012 at 5:01 pm —

        Violent crime has been plummeting for 20 years, but gun violence has not dropped more than the overall rate of violent crime. Where crime is committed, guns are likely to be used.

        Violent crime is certainly much better than it used to be, but it’s still pretty bad. The U.S. is much more violent than most other advanced countries. That makes me think there’s a problem. I think the art that we create shows us that problem. Our movies commonly show a people being filled full of bullets to rousing, patriotic background music to millions of people across the nation, is that a sign of psychological health? If a 6 yr old was drawing pictures of piled corpses casually chewed to bloody rags by machine gun fire, I would be concerned. That’s what our culture makes, that’s our big export to the rest of the world. Reduction in crime or not, I see a cultural problem.

        • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
          August 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm —

          “Violent crime has been plummeting for 20 years, but gun violence has not dropped more than the overall rate of violent crime. Where crime is committed, guns are likely to be used.”

          I confess I’m not smart enough to parse that. What I know is that the gun homicide rate has been cut nearly in half. Over 15,000 people were murdered with guns annually not too long ago. That number is now less than 10,000 with a far larger population (still a horrible number obviously, but the reduction is dramatic).

          • Avatar of notfromvenus
            August 7, 2012 at 7:12 pm

            Not the person you’re replying to, but the rate of violent crime generally has dropped off quite a lot in the last decade or two. The reduction in gun violence could just because less people are committing crimes period.

  9. Avatar of techspoon
    August 7, 2012 at 4:02 pm —

    There is one huge difference between guns and cars: guns are designed specifically to kill animals or people, cars are not. Also, if all you want to talk about is death rates, that’s a weird argument to make–after all, heart disease is the number one killer in America (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1113569). By the logic of “but cars kill!” really should be “but we all commit suicide by not being healthy enough!” or something.

    I lost one of my best friends/roommates/classmates in the Virginia Tech shooting, so I’m totally biased. But I shudder when I hear people value the right to own something which is designed to kill over the rights of my friends and family to continue to be alive.

  10. Avatar of kagehi
    August 7, 2012 at 4:08 pm —

    Can I respond with a question? I have an American friend who justified it the same way – they need to “defend themselves”. Against what?

    Nothing rational. Basically there are three arguments:

    1. Against other people, who are armed, because everyone now has one. (Thankfully not yet)

    2. Against crazy people, cults, fascists, and others, that might march on you. (Which hardly means jack, because its those people that horde vast numbers of guns and ammo, not the people “protecting” themselves.)

    3. Against criminals, since, by US logic, despite being one of the biggest makers, not just buyers, of guns, significantly reducing the need, and thus the production, can’t impact whether the criminals get them… In reality, I tend to suspect that if it was hard to get them in the US for everyone, the number that actually made it into the US from outside instead would be significantly reduced too, since you would have to smuggle them in, and they are a lot harder to hide, in mass, than say.. drugs.

    4. The government. You know, the people that, if they pissed off the military enough that those people wouldn’t be a threat to the citizenry, wouldn’t last five minutes against the military, and which, if they have the military on their side, would have no problem, given that the sort of wacko crazy who took over would need to be someone worse than Bush was, would likely indiscriminately bomb whole cities. Or, at the very least, send large batches of troops, far better armed, with better supplies, and more ammo, to “suppress” rebellion. A military now well versed in urban warfare, how to detect/disable IEDs and combating precisely the sort of people that would actually be able to fight back against them.

    Oh, right, and almost forgot – attacking animals, since, you know, you have to defend yourself against those horrible deer, or people in orange vests, or camo, or.. Oh, sorry, the last few of those are “accidental”.

    Point being, none of the arguments really hold water. Worse, and statistics you get are going to be skewed by a **need** for every single case when a gun helped being evidence for, and the other X thousand that happened in the same year will be ignored, because it didn’t fit the narrative. This is one of those, “Its unethical to run the experiment, so we have to go by the numbers that happen normally.”, and there is literally no definition of “normal” you can use as a baseline. Is normal some place that everyone owns one, there are twice the number of deaths, but also twice the number of cases someone “prevented” a crime/death with a gun? Or, is “normal” the place where almost no one has one, and some hick from Texas shows up, to protest abortion, and shoots at an, obviously, unarmed doctor?

    If you believe in the first one, then an argument could be made that since no place in the US exists in a vacuum, the only way to protect yourself from all the people in those “normal” areas is to become as “normal” as they are. If you are in one of the gunless areas.. for some damn reason the rational argument seems to be a bit more the direct opposite, and keeping morons, that carry guns around, out sounds like a much better idea. The people in the middle, just have to, I don’t know.. duck, and hope the person driving by is from the gunless area?

  11. Avatar of kagehi
    August 7, 2012 at 4:09 pm —

    Sigh.. 4 arguments, and a caveat that in the case of #2, you are not hording guns to protect yourself from the other nuts in town, who are hording guns, to protect themselves from you.

  12. Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
    August 7, 2012 at 4:48 pm —

    I urge people to read this article at Harpers: http://harpers.org/archive/2012/07/hbc-90008724

    There’s no right wing paranoia, no NRA garbage.

    A few highlights:

    “Among the many ways America differs from other countries when it comes to guns is that when a mass shooting happens in the United States, it’s a gun story. How an obviously sick man could buy a gun; how terrible it is that guns are abundant; how we must ban particular types of guns that are especially dangerous….

    “Compare that to the coverage and conversation after Anders Behring Breivik murdered sixty-nine people on the island of Utøya in Norway, a year ago next Sunday. Nobody focused on the gun. I had a hard time learning from the news reports what type of gun he used. Nobody asked, “How did he get a gun?” That seemed strange, because it’s much harder to get a gun in Europe than it is here. But everybody, even the American media, seemed to understand that the heart of the Utøya massacre story was a tragically deranged man, not the rifle he fired. Instead of wringing their hands over the gun Breivik used, Norwegians saw the tragedy as the opening to a conversation about the rise of right-wing extremism in their country.”

    …and…

    “But by obsessing over inanimate pieces of metal, we avoid looking at what brings us more often than others to commit violent acts. Many liberal critics understand this when it comes to drug policy. The modern, sophisticated position is that demonizing chemicals is a reductive and ineffective way to address complicated social pathologies. When it comes to gun violence, though, the conversation often stops at the tool, because it is more comfortable to blame it than to examine ourselves.”

    • Avatar of snarp
      August 7, 2012 at 5:01 pm —

      I find it is almost impossible to have a grown up conversation about guns because of the emotions that seem to get churned up and the right wing paranoia. Thanks for reminding me of that, and that I get churned up and contribute to a less than grown up discussion as well. There’s no doubt that there are other issues involved in mass shootings, but I think that the frequency of these things in the United States must have at least something to do with the ready availability of all kinds of guns. I also think that our cultural obsession with violence is related to our obsession with guns. But there’s also a strong possibility that changing our laws regarding guns can have an impact on how we think about guns. That’s not the best reason to change our laws, but we have to recognize what guns are, what they’re for, and be honest about it.

      As far as laws go, I prefer to think of it in terms of trade offs and risks. What do we risk losing, and what do we stand to gain. I think there are a lot of laws that we can pass that may have only a small chance of a small reward, but would cost us nothing of import. I guess that’s the fundamental difference.

      • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
        August 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm —

        “I find it is almost impossible to have a grown up conversation about guns because of the emotions that seem to get churned up and the right wing paranoia.”

        Same here. I detest the NRA. And anyone that has spent a little bit of time in the gun subculture knows that it is loaded with some of the ugliest aspects of human nature (and I’m not even talking about criminals). However, the anti-gun side is often drenched in emotional appeals and out and out ignorance.

        So far, I think everyone here is doing fine as far as the tone of the conversation goes. :)

        “There’s no doubt that there are other issues involved in mass shootings, but I think that the frequency of these things in the United States must have at least something to do with the ready availability of all kinds of guns.”

        Interestingly, the worst mass murders in U.S. history weren’t committed with guns. Not counting 9/11, the worst killings have been done with bombs and fire. The most broken people will find a way, whether it’s a gun, fertilizer, or a match. If you’ve got someone who is in bad enough shape mentally, simply plowing a car into a crowd will do the job.

        • Avatar of turbomike
          August 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm —

          I’d like to think there are moderates in the NRA just like I used to be a moderate republican. I gave up on the republicans. I’m still trying with the NRA.

          • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
            August 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm

            Unfortunately, the NRA is pretty much a right-wing proxy organization. They are horrible fear mongers and they have no idea what harm they are doing to the “cause” with their garbage.

  13. Avatar of rempetis
    August 7, 2012 at 4:49 pm —

    I remember this recent story where 3 people with guns went into this store in the US to rob the place and then this old guy with a gun started shooting at them and made them leave the place. He was treated like a hero BUT i thought that the guy was a total idiot and super-lucky that his hero bs actions didn’t end up getting innocent people killed.

    Anyway, i was thinking recently of getting a gun here in Greece, i’m afraid that my country will go full mayhem sometime in the near future and i’ll need to protect myself and my loved ones.

  14. Avatar of James Pancoast
    August 7, 2012 at 5:11 pm —

    RE: the signs saying “no firearms”. I’m not sure about Texas, but at least in VA (and, I think, CO where I currently live) due to the concealed carry laws if the proprieter doesn’t want people carrying concealed in their establishment they have to put that sign up. Amusingly, every gun store I ever went to in VA (5 or so, probably, while I was living there) had that sign up.

    I lived in the country and grew up around guns. I learned to shoot from my Grandfather and he gave each of his male grandchildren a rifle. I still have mine. I never feared them, they are just inanimate objects, after all, but I treat them with the utmost respect and precaution. I’m much more worried about getting hit by a car while riding my bike or some other type of car accident.

    • Avatar of Elyse
      August 7, 2012 at 5:50 pm —

      My understanding is that the sign is more of a request and that if you have a concealed carry permit, you have the right to carry anywhere… including private establishments that don’t want your guns there.

      • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
        August 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm —

        Yeah, that’s a state by state thing. In some states, the sign carries the force of law (like here in Ohio). In others, it’s as you said, a request. On the off chance that the proprietor finds out you are carrying, he can ask you to leave and if you refuse, you can be charged with trespassing; it’s not a gun offense.

      • Avatar of turbomike
        August 8, 2012 at 7:33 am —

        Even in gun happy AZ, the sign is not a request. It is their legal right to refuse firearms in their business.

  15. Avatar of Rei Malebario
    August 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm —

    Well, let’s look at other first world countries where you can’t easily buy a gun “to defend yourself with”. Are they for the most part plagued by outlaws with guns terrorizing honest (but tragically gunless) people? Apparently not.

    In other (first world) countries with lots of guns, these aren’t generally justified as “for self-defense” but are for hunting. Or, in the case of Switzerland, for shooting hypothetical foreign invaders.

    Not for defending yourself against the Unidentified Black Man, which I understand to be the default assailant in all of the United States.

    As far as I’m concerned, if somebody wants to own a gun, that’s as good a reason I can think of to make absolutely sure they don’t have one.

    • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
      August 7, 2012 at 5:30 pm —

      And with this post, my earlier comment about the tone here being so good is rendered false.

  16. Avatar of Corey Feldman
    August 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm —

    I accept that gun ownership is a second amendment right. But it should be unrestricted. But that doesn’t mean access shouldn’t be controlled to type and timing etc… Every study I have ever seen shows that owning a gun increases your chance on being killed so I am personally against owning one. But I see that as a personal choice to a point. Yes you have the right to bear arms, but you don’t have the right to keep a nuke in your house. But if you want to go out and shoot Bambi’s mother for food, its really none of my business.

  17. Avatar of Corey Feldman
    August 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm —

    Should be restricted – that is

  18. Avatar of The Duchess
    August 7, 2012 at 5:43 pm —

    I’m here in the US as well, and I admit I’m really torn on the debate. I believe gun control should be stronger, with more stringent background checks and mandatory safety classes, and a much more reasonable political debate than “from my cold dead hands”. But I also like guns. I love going out to the range with my father and target shooting. As well, I have considered carrying for self-defense is specific situations.

    For example, one thing I love is hiking up in the mountains; one thing I hate is hiking with other people, they talk too much, so usually it’s just me and the dog. A couple times now I have been approached, in the middle of National Forest wilderness, by chaps making inappropriate sexual comments, and that scares the hell out of me. Both times my dog scared them off, but dogs are not allowed in the National Park; guns are. So if I ever want to go hiking in the National Park (which I do) I would probably take a handgun with me. But I haven’t yet because one: I only own a .22 rifle at the moment and two: It’s still a debatable issue. Sure guns are good for self-defense in that situation, but, unlike a dog, once you pull the trigger it can’t be recalled (and if you pull out a gun in self-defense, you have to be willing to use it).

    In conclusion to my rambling, I think the argument for self-defense is justifiable, but not in every situation (sadly I doubt most people will come to an agreement about what situations are justifiable).

  19. Avatar of Improbable Joe
    August 7, 2012 at 6:06 pm —

    GUN GUN GUN GUN GUUUUUUUN!

    I’m not remotely torn on the issue. I love shooting guns, I hate that I have one for self-defense, I’m all for legal ownership of guns, and I’m REALLY in favor of more regulation. Especially but not limited to more training, regular demonstrations of physical/mental capacity, etc. And since the NRA has all that money and all that desire to see everyone armed, they can pay for all of those tests at government-run facilities.

  20. Avatar of davehodg
    August 7, 2012 at 6:11 pm —

    The fact you are even asking this shows how broken your country is. The rest of the world seems to get by fine without guns.

  21. Avatar of Zoltan
    August 7, 2012 at 6:39 pm —

    There’s a lot of text here – a goodly number of comments, and most of them pretty lengthy. Here’s my two cents.

    I live in Toronto, Canada – less than a week before the CO shooting we had a similar (but smaller) incident in Toronto. A block party in a community housing development got out of control and a couple of jackasses started shooting at each other. Two young people (one young teenage girl, one young man in his early 20s) were killed and about a dozen more were wounded. Not surprisingly, a lot of people made comparisons between this event and the CO shooting.

    One thing that stuck out to me, though – many pro-gun USians noted that if someone else in the theatre had been packing, they perhaps could have taken out Holmes as soon as he started. Which is to say, more guns might have made the situation better. In Canada, though, we pretty much always say that there never should have been the first guns to begin with. Which is to say, fewer guns would have made the situation better.

    I’m fairly anti-gun, but I’ll admit that this is largely due to personal/emotional reasons. And this here’s a skeptical forum where we’re all good thinkers and should stick to statistics and facts, and back them up where we can.

    I’ve read (but can’t link you to the paper) that the majority of guns used in crimes are not from someone buying one and then using it, but from guns stolen from homes (can anyone verify/disprove that?) of civilians (as opposed to cop guns, etc.). That tells me that there are lots of gun owners who aren’t storing their weapons properly.

    While I’m not a big fan of it being easy for anyone (pretty much) to own a gun, I believe it’s crucial that if you do own one, it’s stored properly.

    There are a few pro-gun people on this forum. I have some questions for them (or anyone else):

    - how would you feel about limits on the number of guns a person can own? Is it reasonable to allow a single person to be able to equip and army?

    - how would you feel about ruling that guns that are for “sport” shooting having a requirement of being stored at the range? You can own an uzi if you want to, but since you can only shoot it at the range, it would have to be stored there.

    - how would you feel about gun owners being charged if their improperly-stored weapon is stolen and then used in a crime. For example, if Joe Smith stores his gun in the glove-box in his car, and then his car is stolen and the thief uses the gun to kill someone, is Joe Smith partially responsible as he didn’t store the gun properly?

    We have pretty decent gun laws in Ontario, but while it’s so much easier to buy a gun in the US and while the border remains fairly open, there’s almost no point in having gun laws in Canada at all.

    • Avatar of OffCenter Mass
      August 7, 2012 at 10:35 pm —

      “how would you feel about limits on the number of guns a person can own?”

      I’d oppose it, for several reasons.

      1 – I’d need solid evidence that those who legally own more than “X” firearms pose more of a threat to society than those who own less than “X”. I suspect you would find the opposite.

      2 – Those using firearms for illegal purposes will ignore the law, meaning the only people you are controlling are those who already intend to act within the law.

      “how would you feel about ruling that guns that are for sport shooting having a requirement of being stored at the range?”

      Why am I confined to the range for my sport shooting? If I own a hundred acres, can’t I enjoy sport shooting on my own land?

      I support safe transport laws. I do not support having to rely on the whims of the “not in my back yard” folks to be able to enjoy a lawful activity.

      “how would you feel about gun owners being charged if their improperly-stored weapon is stolen and then used in a crime.”

      As with Funnypants, what makes guns specific here? If you steal my car and use it in a bank robbery, am I liable? Perhaps I am, and perhaps we already have a court system which someone could use to try and establish that fact and penalize me. No new law needed.

      • Avatar of absinthia
        August 8, 2012 at 8:40 am —

        Your second point is pretty much why I’m a fence sitter on the issue. If someone wants a gun to use criminally, he’ll get one. Period. The black market in any country will supply the demand.

        Gun control *might* cut down on the number of accidental shootings, but education might be a better option.

        I am more annoyed by many of the illogical arguments made by pro-gun people (ie, the “cars kill people and we don’t talk about banning cars!” is one of my particular pet peeves) than I am by gun owners who like the shiny and love things that go boom.

  22. Avatar of scribe999
    August 7, 2012 at 6:42 pm —

    This is not me being frivolous, but Chris Rock made a joke once that stuck with me…we don’t need gun control. We need bullet control. Make like each bullet cost $5,000.

    Obviously that would be an oversimplification, but there is something to the idea that maybe the shooting experience, not so much the ownership, is too inexpensive.

    • Avatar of Improbable Joe
      August 7, 2012 at 7:01 pm —

      The issue I see is that no one should ever carry a gun for self-defense without lots and lots of practice, and maybe not even then. Making ammunition prohibitively expensive means no practice for most people. I guess you could limit private ownership of ammo along with cheap ammo at the range, plus lower-capacity magazines and such.

      • Avatar of scribe999
        August 7, 2012 at 8:29 pm —

        What about less lethal ammunition for target practice? Sure, a rubber bullet can still be dangerous or deadly but less so…& I’m sure they can still cut through a paper target.

        • Avatar of Improbable Joe
          August 7, 2012 at 10:46 pm —

          I think once you decide on “target range ammo” the specifics don’t matter. Let people use real ammo for practice, simply because it will behave the same way as what they will shoot in a real-world situation. You just mark the casings and make sure they turn in the same number of spent and marked casings as they bought live rounds, and you’re good to go.

  23. Avatar of notfromvenus
    August 7, 2012 at 7:25 pm —

    I’m sort of in the middle on the gun issue – I think people should be able to own handguns or rifles, but with regulations and background checks.

    That being said, having a background check is halfway pointless if someone can just drive 200 miles and fill up their car with guns from a state with laxer laws. I think if we had a more constistent approach throughout the country we’d have less problems.

  24. Avatar of James Fox
    August 7, 2012 at 8:13 pm —

    I first decided to have a gun at home when I was involved with removing the children of some crack dealers in the early 1990’s. I was strongly encouraged to do so by a detective I worked with when one of the dealers made some threats against me when he was being interviewed by law enforcement. I couldn’t afford a gun at the time so I borrowed one from a friend who was and still is a local judge and someone I knew to have a very large and interesting gun collection. I later bought a gun from a local retired sheriff and I’ve had a concealed carry permit for over 20 years. I rarely carry but when I go camping in remote areas of parks like Glacier or Yellowstone or in remote areas of the Cascade’s, or bear country, I always carry. Also I ride in the back country with my wife and friends and I’d say well over half of all the back country trail riders I know carry including some who open carry. I’m often in places where there is no cell catch and law enforcement can be many hours away even if you could contact them; and these are activities I love and would not do if I could not be armed. And anyone who rides many miles away from any road is an irresponsible horse owner IMO if they do not have a gun of sufficient caliber to put down an injured horse if it becomes necessary.

    When it comes to gun control it would be great if there was a way to know who was potentially dangerous and who was not. Then again past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior so I think we do the best we can when a criminal background check is done as well as a mental health commitment check. Clearly this is not perfect, but given the number of guns in circulation and the gun culture within the US, I don’t think there is much more that can be done except to make sure what should be done is always done. Also I’d like to see some way a mental health provider who becomes concerned about the violent, delusional, or paranoid state of a patient could contact law enforcement to advise them of their concern so law enforcement can check to see if there has been any recent gun purchases or if any happen in the near future.

  25. Avatar of rinchan
    August 7, 2012 at 8:28 pm —

    Anecdote time?

    I live in a city with a fairly high homocide rate. It’s mostly gang violence in the inner city. Sometimes it’s with guns, sometimes knives, sometimes it being beaten to death. A few times we hear about vehicular homocide. My city has many racial problems and a lot of “bad” neighborhoods. It feels like things are set up to not even give those people a chance to get out of their situation. If there is a problem at a store or a band, the police will immediately go to the nearest African American.

    I done some volunteering with inner city kids, and it seems like their top priority is survival. People who do not live in those neighborhoods are often rude to those that do and refer to them as “those people” and will automatically assume that anyone from those neighborhoods is dangerous.

    I do not live near any of the neighborhoods so I don’t have to worry about my life. It’s also rare to experience a break in where I live. I often wonder if the reason the US has a high homocide rate is being due to racial and class disparities. I’ve never taken a sociology class on this so I can’t really back it up.

    A city over from me, there is a lot of farm land. Many of those people own guns and I have a friend from that area. After the shootings and talk about cracking down on gun laws, my friend told me that most of his co workers went out and but tons and tons of more ammo, some spending thousands of dollars.

    My brother in law bought a gun for the sole reason that in case the US government collaspes and his family needs food. I wonder how many have done the same or how bloody things would be if such an event did occur.

    • Avatar of rinchan
      August 7, 2012 at 8:29 pm —

      To make more sense of my last paragraph, I live in a place that is bizaarly conservative. I wouldn’t be surprised if most people where I lived owned a gun or wanted to own a gun.

    • Avatar of kagerato
      August 8, 2012 at 7:44 pm —

      “I often wonder if the reason the US has a high homocide rate is being due to racial and class disparities. ”

      No need to wonder. Hostility along racial lines and wealth inequality are almost certainly linked to violence. Compare the violent crime rate in nations like Japan and Sweden, both of which have little racial tension (due to almost extreme homogeneity) and low income inequality to the United States and Brazil which score high on each.

      There are certainly sociological studies you can look at about this if you’re curious. Try simply entering “sociology studies wealth inequality and violence” into google sometime. Replace wealth with race or racial tensions for some more.

      This doesn’t mean that you will completely eliminate violence if you solve all the race and class problems in your society, but the clear trend is that it reduces violence massively.

  26. Avatar of OffCenter Mass
    August 7, 2012 at 8:40 pm —

    Long-time lurker, first-time poster. I think it’s important to look at this from a number of skeptical, rational angles.

    The problem is that the data is really hard to interpret. States and nations report and classify crimes differently, making normalized comparisons difficult. There is an overall drop in crime, and especially violent crime, so it’s hard to isolate whether armed citizens have any impact.

    My own personal interpretation of the data is that they aren’t making it any worse. And, as a nation, the US seems to value having an armed populace. Many of us may disagree with that, but it’s there.

    Often this discussion starts up in the wake of high-impact emotional events, and those are the wrong times to have this discussion. There is zero rational gain to come from banning “high capacity magazines.” Their impact on the world is statistically zero. There is zero rational gain to come from banning “assault weapons.” Their contribution to the murder count is insignificant.

    We have a mental health problem, we don’t have a high-capacity magazine problem. Let’s attack the real issue.

    Elyse asks a few specific questions. One of them is whether civilian shooters have ever stopped a mass shooting. Putting aside my opinion that we shouldn’t decide policy on the basis of mass shooting, the answer is yes. I can’t vouch for this guy’s research (or his politics!) (http://dailyanarchist.com/2012/07/31/auditing-shooting-rampage-statistics/) but he’s done some informal analysis of 30 mass shootings that ended by forceful confrontation, and found half were stopped by police, half by normal citizens (and only 1/3 of the citizen responses were armed).

    So, yes, civilians can stop mass shootings, but heroic action seems more statistically important than being armed.

  27. Avatar of weatherwax
    August 7, 2012 at 9:25 pm —

    I like target shooting. I own several firearms, mostly historical (antique or modern replicas).

    I didn’t have one when a group of young uns beat me too a pulp in the park. ‘Cause I was there. And I live in a good neighborhood in a good city (San Diego). The police knew who they were, but they all swore they weren’t there. No one was even arrested, much less convicted.

    I didn’t have one with me when I was a victim of strongarm robbery. If I have one when someone tries again, yes, I would be willing to shoot them. So what if I only have $5 in my wallet? It’s mine and you’ve no right to terrorize me for it.

    I’m afraid I have to make this a post and run, ’cause I’m too busy to go digging for studies, but I have become very skeptical of statistics from other developed countries. There appear to me to be under reporting issues (especially in poor neighborhoods), and differences in classification. Example, if I take a baseball bat to a soccer match (sorry, football match), and I slam you over the head with it, have I commited murder? Or assault with an offensive weapon?

    • Avatar of weatherwax
      August 7, 2012 at 9:29 pm —

      Also, I’m all for good regulations, but that only gets you so far. When I was in England a few years ago the news was full of stories of the gun problem they were having amoung gang members. Firearms had been illegal for the common people for years, and it’s an island, but the criminals were still able to get firearms.

      (I say illegal for the common people. As in most places the wealthy can still have them).

  28. Avatar of MikeC
    August 7, 2012 at 9:29 pm —

    Well, I own guns. And have a concealed carry permit. I don’t carry with any regularity because I rarely feel the need, but I like having the option available considering how long it takes to get one (you have to find an open class and take it, then wait – usually month or two – for the application to be processed; 2-3 months total). So it’s not something that you can get spur of the moment if you need it.

    Gun control is a complex subject. I feel like a lot of people own guns who really shouldn’t. But a lot of people drive who really shouldn’t… a lot of people have kids who really shouldn’t, etc… And I’ll admit that it has crossed my mind that one of the best arguments for carrying a gun for self defense is all of the other idiots carrying guns who are looking for an excuse to kill someone (George Zimmerman, etc).

    There are plenty of examples of CHL holders stopping violent crimes. You just don’t see it come up on mass shootings because it’s a matter of being in the right (wrong?) place at the right time. I don’t feel like googling stats but I imagine that <5% of the US population has a CHL, and I know from experience that a great many CHL holders don't carry normally. OTOH there are solid stats that owning a gun increases risks for suicide or being involved in an accidental shooting. Bottom line is that too many people don't respect guns and are lazy about storing or securing them. IMO, basic firearm safety & usage should be a mandatory course for high school graduation, but both sides oppose that, so it'll never happen.

    Anyway, rambling post… I don't see any particular reason to fear guns. I've given basic shooting lessons to several people including a few women and without fail they all visibly enjoyed the experience (or were good at faking it). I'd be curious to know if Elyse has ever actually had a chance to shoot a real gun?

    • Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
      August 7, 2012 at 11:12 pm —

      “There are plenty of examples of CHL holders stopping violent crimes. You just don’t see it come up on mass shootings because it’s a matter of being in the right (wrong?) place at the right time.”

      And because you can’t report something that didn’t happen. “A massacre of 15 people was avoided today…” Doesn’t really work.

      “I don’t feel like googling stats but I imagine that <5% of the US population has a CHL,"

      It's about 2.5% by the most recent conservative estimate I've seen. About eight million. If you remove those who aren't age eligible, obviously the percentage goes up a good bit. And that also doesn't count the people who live in "Constitutional carry" states, that is, states that require no permit to carry.

      "and I know from experience that a great many CHL holders don't carry normally."

      That's my experience too, and if my memory is correct, there was a survey of Florida carriers that confirmed it. Something like 25% said they carried regularly.

      "OTOH there are solid stats that owning a gun increases risks…. for being involved in an accidental shooting."

      Owning a car increases the risks of being in a car accident. Of course owning a gun increases that risk; the presence of a gun is a prerequisite for a gun accident.

  29. Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
    August 7, 2012 at 9:50 pm —

    “There are a few pro-gun people on this forum. I have some questions for them (or anyone else):

    - how would you feel about limits on the number of guns a person can own? Is it reasonable to allow a single person to be able to equip and army?”

    Hyperbole aside, who determines how many is too many, and what criterion are used to come to that number? I’m not even a “gun nut”, I only own one gun, yet my wish list of guns I’d like to have for their aesthetic/fun value is over ten. I don’t have statistics to cite, but I’d bet a lot of money that people who own lots of guns tend to be hobbyists, sport shooters, collectors, etc. In other words, people who are very unlikely to be criminals.

    “- how would you feel about ruling that guns that are for “sport” shooting having a requirement of being stored at the range? You can own an uzi if you want to, but since you can only shoot it at the range, it would have to be stored there.”

    Again, who determines what makes a gun a sport gun? There is a growing shooting sport called 3 Gun. You have to run various target courses with each of the major gun types: pistol, shotgun, and rifle/carbine. The AR-15 is by far the most popular gun for the rifle/carbine portion, yet it’s considered a deadly nun and baby-killing assault weapon. Besides, I can already own an Uzi at home. The automatic ones are just ridiculously expensive and a pain in the ass to get. Not to mention that not a single legally owned fully automatic Uzi has been used in a crime in the U.S.

    “- how would you feel about gun owners being charged if their improperly-stored weapon is stolen and then used in a crime. For example, if Joe Smith stores his gun in the glove-box in his car, and then his car is stolen and the thief uses the gun to kill someone, is Joe Smith partially responsible as he didn’t store the gun properly?”

    Is this going to be extended to every inanimate object that is stolen and used in a crime? If not, why? Who determines what “proper storage” is? If I can’t afford a gun safe/lock box of a certain quality, am I barred from owning a gun?

  30. Avatar of OffCenter Mass
    August 7, 2012 at 10:45 pm —

    Just a couple extra comments on things that people have said in comments, to line up with Elyse’s original question, about forming a conscious opinion on these issues which is framed by rationalism and skepticism. I share my reasoning here because I had similar moments of analysis for myself, and wanted to keep it out of political prejudice or emotional impulses.

    Elyse: We’re not being murdered any less in the US because we can protect ourselves with guns.

    Maybe not as a national whole, but I wonder if the licensed CCW holders (Concealed Carry Weapon – many states require additional training and/or legal hoops to carry concealed) are victimized as often. Also, this citation (http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp#21) suggests that fear that a victim might be armed factors into criminals’ choice of victims. So it’s worth thinking about the possibility that a population may be safer from victimization if it is known to have a higher proportion of lawful firearms owners.

    snarp: Six rounds should be more than sufficient for any legitimate purpose that isn’t so far out of statistical likelihood as to be absurd.

    Then why don’t police only carry six rounds? Yes, I understand that police are more statistically likely to be involved in an active shooting incident than a normal citizen is, but since we’ve already shown that magazine size has no statistically significant criminal use, all we are doing by banning large magazines is trying to make ourselves feel better, which we know is irrational and so should be out of the equation if we’re here to talk what I think we’re hear to talk about.

    here_fishy: I do not live in fear of a crazed individual plowing through my front door with a rifle.

    I find it interesting when people talk about fear. Most gun owners I know are not afraid, they are prepared. If you have a smoke alarm and a fire extinguisher on every floor, are you afraid of fire, or just prepared for it? It’s not about fear. On the other hand, those that push for disarming the populace seem to be afraid — afraid to trust their fellow citizens to be responsibly armed. Why the firearms owners get called the fearful ones isn’t something I get.

    Boomer: If you can’t rely on the police for protection who do you rely on?

    Exactly. I know I only get one shot at this little merry-go-round-ride. In the end, it is only myself who is responsible for making the most of it. Knowing that “usually, the cops get there in time” is fine … but in the amount of times when they don’t, the penalty for failure is potentially infinite. Once infinite penalties come into the picture, expected value gets a bit wonky.

    Mr. Funnypants: The AR platform is the most popular long gun in the country, a weapon based on the M-16, obviously a weapon designed to kill.

    Actually, stepping back a bit, the M-16 was based off the AR-15, not vice-versa. But, yes, I see your point.

    snarp: They are not the guns chosen by serious target shooters or hunters, because that’s not what they’re made for.

    I am not sure I agree with you. The AR platform is increasingly used for competitive centerfire rifle shooting, is the platform of choice for three-gun competition, and is increasingly used in hunting. Sporting firearms have always lagged a bit behind the firearms used in the military, but the technology and even look and feel has always trended in that direction.

    Corey Feldman: Every study I have ever seen shows that owning a gun increases your chance on being killed

    Correlation is not causation, as I am sure we all know :). The people who are more likely to be killed are probably also the people who are more likely to seek firearms for defensive reasons. Correcting for that is difficult, but, yes, it makes sense that if you correct for everything else and take two totally distinct populations with no other risk factors, the households with certain objects (swimming pools, firearms, BBQ grills on their decks, whatever) will have higher rate of accidents than those without those objects. I have my doubts on how large of a factor it is, though.

  31. Avatar of cleardale
    August 7, 2012 at 10:58 pm —

    Long time lurker, first time commenting.

    As another CA resident I can attest to the ridiculous, illogical CA gun laws. They are not based in any kind of logic or reason. These are the laws on what types of guns you can own. Getting an ID to buy guns on the other hand is fairly easy though. I have lived in Illinois, California, and Louisiana. LA had the easiest laws, but neither CA or IL were by any means difficult. This is just for ownership not concealed carry which is a whole different bird. I have no problem with background checks, safety training/testing, registration, and to some degree waiting periods. In general I am pro guns, but under restrictions and I would like those restrictions to make sense not be built on made up terms, like the “assault weapon” ban.

    All that aside, a question about the guns versus cars thing. Why for all the years there was a national speed limit of 55 mph where cars able to go faster than 55? Why don’t states mandate governors on vehicles to not let them go over the speed limit, and have inspections? I don’t believe there are any states where you can go faster than 75 mph legally, and yet almost all cars can go faster than that, why do we allow that?

  32. Avatar of Grand Lunar
    August 7, 2012 at 11:43 pm —

    I (currently) live in Arizona and consider the stance on guns held here to be nutty.

    I was angered when I saw that gun rights activists crying out for more gun freedom after the shooting in Tuscon. I thought “Are these people INSANE?!”
    These thoughts surfaced again after the incident in Colorado.

    It angers me that it’s seemingly easier to obtain a gun than it is to earn a driver’s liscense (from my viewpoint, anyway, as I had to retake both of my tests before I earned mine).

    At the very least, potential gun owners should have a safety course, similar to how you have to have tests before earning a driver’s liscense.

    I feel the Second Ammendment has been twisted far beyond it’s original intent, which was to have a ready militia (AFAIK).
    Do the people that cry for fewer gun laws really have this in mind? Do they really think, for example, that allowing guns on college grounds is in line with having a militia?
    I thought that was what the National Guard was for anyway.

    Incidently, I am a veteran, though I only handled a gun as part of my security watch on a RHIB (I was an engineer by training, BTW).

    The safety lessons I learned there ought to be standard for ALL potential gun owners to learn.
    I don’t recall her name, but I do remember a politician that pointed her gun at a news reported in jest. Try that at the firing range, and you’d be tackled to the ground in seconds. To me, the action by that politician serves as an example of requiring, at the very least, safety courses.

    Okay, I’m done ranting.

  33. Avatar of ihatemusic
    August 8, 2012 at 2:22 am —

    I never understood the “we need to protect ourselvessss” argument. I don’t give every country an atom bomb just so they can protect themselves against other countries that got one.

    And personally, I believe owning and carrying a gun just increases false safety.

  34. Avatar of James K
    August 8, 2012 at 3:37 am —

    What I’d like to see is some actual data. Are people with guns more or less safe than people without guns? Does fewer guns in the hands of responsible citizens mean outlaws run amok with firearms?

    This is a really hard question to answer. I have a background in statistics, so I know how I would go about answering a question like this, but it’s not easy.

    The first thing that most people try to do is just compare gun ownership with murder rate sin different countries. But real life is not a controlled experiment and there are too many confounding variables for this to be a productive approach. For example a cultural predisposition to violence might result in more guns and more violence, without the guns actually being the cause of the violence.

    The other problem is Endogeneity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endogeneity). This is a situation where your independent and explanatory variables have a causal effect on each other. For instance if gun ownership affects crime rates but people’s desire to own or control guns is itself caused by crime rates, you have a serious problem. No matter how well you try to control for confounds, standard statistical techniques won’t work. The only solution is instrumental variables analysis, which is basically finding a situation where gun ownership varies for reasons you can be sure have nothing to with crime rates (called an instrument), and then analyse that situation and hope your result can be generalised.

    I don’t know how many studies there are out there that have used a method like this, instrumental variable analysis is as much to do with luck as skill, if no good instrument is available there’s nothing you can do.

  35. Avatar of Al Johnston
    August 8, 2012 at 8:07 am —

    Steven Pinker’s The BetterAngels of Our Nature is quite interesting on this.

    From his figures it seems that the prime determinator of homicide rate is the effectiveness of the State. Non-state tribal societies have very high rates, weak and chaotic states, high rates and long established first world states very low homicide rates.

    The US is something of an outlier, with a rate about 4x that of its first world peers.

    There is no simple solution, but a big part of US gun culture is consciously against the power of the State; accepting Hobbes’ Leviathan does seem to lead to safer lives for the rest of us.

    • Avatar of kagerato
      August 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm —

      That is a good point, and the third major factor I did not mention in my posts above. Culture, especially the attitudes held towards the state and police forces, surely has some effect on rates on violence. Belief in a very competent state creates both a deterrence effect on criminals and lessens any tendencies towards vigilantism and desire to seek weapons for self-defense.

      I’d be very surprised if there is any country in the world with (1) low to modest inter-group tensions, (2) low wealth inequality, and (3) a powerful and effective state, which also has a high rate of violence.

  36. Avatar of Elyse
    August 8, 2012 at 8:54 am —

    I just wanted to jump in and say that I’m really proud of this conversation being thoughtful and respectful.

    Also, I haven’t jumped in much because I have little to add while being fascinated by it all. I’m still sitting on the fence, but I’m less shrugging and more like “oooh! aaah!”

    They should make gun-talking an Olympic event.

  37. Avatar of Will
    August 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm —

    Interesting news segment that hits on a lot of the points being made on this thread:
    http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/08/08/are-we-more-violent-than-ever-before/

  38. Avatar of greenstone123
    August 8, 2012 at 7:29 pm —

    My thoughts on guns are they are useful tools. I would hope a good skeptic would consider all viewpoints as to gun ownership and the various reasons a person would own a gun. To the question, do citizens need more guns, are they giving them away somewhere? I think the gun laws are fair enough. If a person commits a crime with a gun, weapon or otherwise they should be tried. I would hope that a gun user would be well versed in gun safety and use of their tool. To the repeated comments about gun owners should receive adequate training, I say there is certainly no right answer for that. What is enough training for one person is not enough for the next. Just because a person has a class doesn’t mean they are ready for hunting or carry concealed. I would hope that a class would be a jumping point to learning more about their choice in guns. We had gun safety right in middle school. It was a part of gym class.

  39. Avatar of Mr. Funnypants
    August 8, 2012 at 8:41 pm —

    Kagerato-
    “Fully automatic weapons are, actually, illegal to buy or sell in the United States to civilians.”

    That is not true. You have to pay a $200 tax stamp, do a bunch of paperwork, get a local LEO to sign off on it, and months later you’ll have your gun. No new weapons are being sold because the machine gun registry was closed some time ago. This has succeeded only in making fully automatic weapons incredibly expensive. But with the exception of a few states, machine guns are legal.

    “Manual guns are rather rare. You may find some revolvers and shotguns that are still manual, but that’s about it. Needless to say, those types of weapons are not very common in gun murders (though moderately more common than full auto).”

    Long guns of all types represent a tiny percentage of all gun murders. Machine guns are a tiny percentage of that tiny percentage. So they are far more than moderately more common than full auto.

    “So long as the factors causing the violence aren’t eliminated, people will simply switch to other weapons with better availability.”

    Yep.

    • Avatar of kagerato
      August 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm —

      Yeah, I was speaking of new weapons there. Naturally, there are some in existence, and there’s no restriction on selling those that were introduced legally.

      Concern about fully automatic weapons is always a little odd, because they’re not really that useful off the battlefield. They tend to be heavier, less accurate, and harder to conceal. Further, to make full use of them you have to carry a lot of addition ammo. Typically you can fire an entire magazine in just a few seconds. This is clearly more useful in a firefight on a battlefield, where you need rapid suppressive fire to cause the enemy to take cover. Or if you need to attack targets that are armored. Neither of those applies to the context of the gun violence we’re discussing here.

      It seems relatively clear that if someone really wants to cause mass havoc they’ll attempt to use some form of explosive for it. If we’re concerned about the highest casualty incidents, that would be the optimal focus point.

  40. Avatar of Zoltan
    August 9, 2012 at 4:18 pm —

    A couple of people have commented to my questions – notably, my last one:

    “- how would you feel about gun owners being charged if their improperly-stored weapon is stolen and then used in a crime. For example, if Joe Smith stores his gun in the glove-box in his car, and then his car is stolen and the thief uses the gun to kill someone, is Joe Smith partially responsible as he didn’t store the gun properly?”

    Mr. Funnypants was on of the people who answered; he said:

    “Is this going to be extended to every inanimate object that is stolen and used in a crime? If not, why? Who determines what “proper storage” is? If I can’t afford a gun safe/lock box of a certain quality, am I barred from owning a gun?”

    There’s a couple of questions here, all important. Let’s take them in order:

    “Is this going to be extended to every inanimate object that is stolen and used in a crime? If not, why?”

    Some objects are inherently more dangerous than others. For example, while you can kill someone with a lamp, it’s not as straightforward as with a gun. In the recent CO shooting, 12 were killed and 58 were injured – you just can’t do that with a lamp. Or even with a car (without a lot of planning, anyway). I’m hard-pressed to think of any object in any average house that has the potential to kill as many people as quickly as a gun. A bomb? There are plenty of restrictions on explosives in the US, and no-one seems to complain that they can’t own landmines.

    We’re not talking about objects used in a crime, we’re talking about objects used in a murder. And yes, there are knives and axes and all sorts of stuff in the average US household that can be deadly, but guns are in a deadly class all by themselves. That’s why there should (possibly) be a restriction on guns, and only guns.

    “Who determines what “proper storage” is?”

    Someone already has – there are gun storage laws in place in the province of Ontario. Someone’s (presumably) done some homework.

    “If I can’t afford a gun safe/lock box of a certain quality, am I barred from owning a gun?”

    Yep. Just like you’re barred from operating a car if you can’t afford the car insurance, in case you have an accident. Think of the cost of a proper gun storage locker as the cost of the insurance against someone breaking into your house or car and stealing it.

    • Avatar of absinthia
      August 9, 2012 at 9:25 pm —

      Zoltan, forgive me, I don’t have anything of value to add at this point, but would like to say.. given a choice between shooting a target and blowing up things with explosives… Boom! Fireball! Boom! But admittedly finding a place to safely blow things up without damage to people and property is problematic for it to be any kind of legal hobby. :D

  41. Avatar of autotroph
    August 11, 2012 at 10:55 pm —

    I know I’m late to this party, but I have to say one thing that I think is important: safety isn’t the only factor at play.

    I won’t say it doesn’t matter if guns make people safer or not. Real data on this would be helpful in refining what regulations need to exist, of course. But even if guns don’t make people safer, they still have utility.

    By way of analogy, consider motorcycles. Motorcycles don’t make anybody safer – they are incredibly dangerous machines, and no one needs one instead of (say) a car. But they have utility — they not only function as transportation (even though not the safest), but also give the riders a great deal of joy. The riders trade some risk to themselves and others for that utility. As a result, we regulate their safety and licensure, but don’t deny access to anyone unless they have an obvious “defect” (in the legal sense: past history, disability that prevents safe operation, court sanction, etc.).

    I see guns the same way. They’re incredibly dangerous machines, and no one really needs one in the modern world. But they have utility, both as tools (for hunting, defense [not even against humans - many friends carry in the wilderness], etc.) and as sport. I’m all for safety regulations that include denying access to people who have some “defect” that precludes them from safely using a gun, but banning them outright seems silly.

    For the record, I own a motorcycle, but not a gun. I get lots of joy out of my cycle, but would not personally get enough utility out of a firearm to make it worth the risk.

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