THEY'RE THE ONES HOLDING FLUFFY WHITE CATS AND SMIRKING IN A CHAIR BEFORE GUNNING DOWN A SCHOOL OBVIOUSLY
THEY'RE THE ONES HOLDING FLUFFY WHITE CATS AND SMIRKING IN A CHAIR BEFORE GUNNING DOWN A SCHOOL OBVIOUSLY
9/12: Shifted @ Mercer
9/24 - 28: Decibel Festival
10/3-5: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival
10/4: Ought @ BoH
10/5: The War on Drugs, Cass McCombs @ The Fillmore
10/18-19: Treasure Island Music Festival
Great opinion piece in the NYT last week. Just saw it today. The piece is full of logical reasoning supported by factual evidence, and so is unlikely to sway the drooling pro-gun set.
Why Gun ‘Control’ Is Not Enough
By JEFF MCMAHAN
In the wake of the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., and the resulting renewed debate on gun control in the United States, The Stone will publish a series of essays this week that examine the ethical, social and humanitarian implications of the use, possession and regulation of weapons. Other articles in the series can be found here.
Americans are finally beginning to have a serious discussion about guns. One argument we're hearing is the central pillar of the case for private gun ownership: that we are all safer when more individuals have guns because armed citizens deter crime and can defend themselves and others against it when deterrence fails. Those who don't have guns, it's said, are free riders on those who do, as the criminally disposed are less likely to engage in crime the more likely it is that their victim will be armed.
There's some sense to this argument, for even criminals don't like being shot. But the logic is faulty, and a close look at it leads to the conclusion that the United States should ban private gun ownership entirely, or almost entirely.
One would think that if widespread gun ownership had the robust deterrent effects that gun advocates claim it has, our country would be freer of crime than other developed societies. But it's not. When most citizens are armed, as they were in the Wild West, crime doesn't cease. Instead, criminals work to be better armed, more efficient in their use of guns ("quicker on the draw"), and readier to use them. When this happens, those who get guns may be safer than they would be without them, but those without them become progressively more vulnerable.
Gun advocates have a solution to this: the unarmed must arm themselves. But when more citizens get guns, further problems arise: people who would once have got in a fistfight instead shoot the person who provoked them; people are shot by mistake or by accident.
And with guns so plentiful, any lunatic or criminally disposed person who has a sudden and perhaps only temporary urge to kill people can simply help himself to the contents of Mom's gun cabinet. Perhaps most important, the more people there are who have guns, the less effective the police become. The power of the citizens and that of the police approach parity. The police cease to have even a near-monopoly on the use of force.
To many devotees of the Second Amendment, this is precisely the point. As former Congressman Jay Dickey, Republican of Arkansas, said in January 2011, "We have a right to bear arms because of the threat of government taking over the freedoms we have." The more people there are with guns, the less able the government is to control them. But if arming the citizenry limits the power of the government, it does so by limiting the power of its agents, such as the police. Domestic defense becomes more a matter of private self-help and vigilantism and less a matter of democratically-controlled, public law enforcement. Domestic security becomes increasingly "privatized."
There is, of course, a large element of fantasy in Dickey's claim. Individuals with handguns are no match for a modern army. It's also a delusion to suppose that the government in a liberal democracy such as the United States could become so tyrannical that armed insurrection, rather than democratic procedures, would be the best means of constraining it. This is not Syria; nor will it ever be. Shortly after Dickey made his comment, people in Egypt rose against a government that had suppressed their freedom in ways far more serious than requiring them to pay for health care. Although a tiny minority of Egyptians do own guns, the protesters would not have succeeded if those guns had been brought to Tahrir Square. If the assembled citizens had been brandishing Glocks in accordance with the script favored by Second Amendment fantasists, the old regime would almost certainly still be in power and many Egyptians who're now alive would be dead.
For the police to remain effective in a society in which most of those they must confront or arrest are armed, they must, like criminals, become better armed, more numerous, and readier to fire. But if they do that, guns won't have produced a net reduction in the power of the government but will only have generated enormous private and public expenditures, leaving the balance of power between armed citizens and the state as it was before, the unarmed conspicuously worse off, and everyone poorer except the gun industry. The alternative to maintaining the balance of power is to allow it to shift in favor of the armed citizenry and away from the police, again making unarmed citizens - including those who refuse on principle to contribute to the erosion of collective security by getting a gun - the greatest losers overall.
The logic is inexorable: as more private individuals acquire guns, the power of the police declines, personal security becomes more a matter of self-help, and the unarmed have an increasing incentive to get guns, until everyone is armed. When most citizens then have the ability to kill anyone in their vicinity in an instant, everyone is less secure than they would be if no one had guns other than the members of a democratically accountable police force.
The logic of private gun possession is thus similar to that of the nuclear arms race. When only one state gets nuclear weapons, it enhances its own security but reduces that of others, which have become more vulnerable. The other states then have an incentive to get nuclear weapons to try to restore their security. As more states get them, the incentives for others increase. If eventually all get them, the potential for catastrophe - whether through irrationality, misperception, or accident - is great. Each state's security is then much lower than it would be if none had nuclear weapons.
Gun advocates and criminals are allies in demanding that guns remain in private hands. They differ in how they want them distributed. Criminals want guns for themselves but not for their potential victims. Others want them for themselves but not for criminals. But while gun control can do a little to restrict access to guns by potential criminals, it can't do much when guns are to be found in every other household. Either criminals and non-criminals will have them or neither will. Gun advocates prefer for both rather than neither to have them.
But, as with nuclear weapons, we would all be safer if no one had guns - or, rather, no one other than trained and legally constrained police officers. Domestic defense would then be conducted the way we conduct national defense. We no longer accept, as the authors of the now obsolete Second Amendment did, that "a well-regulated militia" is "necessary to the security of a free state." Rather than leaving national defense to citizens' militias, we now, for a variety of compelling reasons, cede the right of national defense to certain state-authorized professional institutions: the Army, Navy, and so on. We rightly trust these forces to protect us from external threats and not to become instruments of domestic repression. We could have the same trust in a police force designed to protect us from domestic threats.
A prohibition of private ownership would not mean that no one could shoot guns. Guns for target shooting could be rented under security arrangements at the range. And there's perhaps scope for debate about private possession of single chamber shotguns for hunting.
Gun advocates will object that a prohibition of private gun ownership is an impossibility in the United States. But this is not an objection they can press in good faith, for the only reason that a legal prohibition could be impossible in a democratic state is that a majority oppose it. If gun advocates ceased to oppose it, a prohibition would be possible.
They will next argue that even if there were a legal prohibition, it could not be enforced with anything approaching complete effectiveness. This is true. As long as some people somewhere have guns, some people here can get them. Similarly, the legal prohibition of murder cannot eliminate murder. But the prohibition of murder is more effective than a policy of "murder control" would be.
Guns are not like alcohol and drugs, both of which we have tried unsuccessfully to prohibit. Many people have an intense desire for alcohol or drugs that is independent of what other people may do. But the need for a gun for self-defense depends on whether other people have them and how effective the protection and deterrence provided by the state are. Thus, in other Western countries in which there are fewer guns, there are correspondingly fewer instances in which people need guns for effective self-defense.
Gun advocates sometimes argue that a prohibition would violate individuals' rights of self-defense. Imposing a ban on guns, they argue, would be tantamount to taking a person's gun from her just as someone is about to kill her. But this is a defective analogy. Although a prohibition would deprive people of one effective means of self-defense, it would also ensure that there would be far fewer occasions on which a gun would be necessary or even useful for self-defense. For guns would be forbidden not just to those who would use them for defense but also to those who would use them for aggression. Guns are only one means of self-defense and self-defense is only one means of achieving security against attack. It is the right to security against attack that is fundamental. A policy that unavoidably deprives a person of one means of self-defense but on balance substantially reduces her vulnerability to attack is therefore respectful of the more fundamental right from which the right of self-defense is derived.
In other Western countries, per capita homicide rates, as well as rates of violent crime involving guns, are a fraction of what they are in the United States. The possible explanations of this are limited. Gun advocates claim it has nothing to do with our permissive gun laws or our customs and practices involving guns. If they are right, should we conclude that Americans are simply inherently more violent, more disposed to mental derangement, and less moral than people in other Western countries? If you resist that conclusion, you have little choice but to accept that our easy access to all manner of firearms is a large part of the explanation of why we kill each at a much higher rate than our counterparts elsewhere. Gun advocates must search their consciences to determine whether they really want to share responsibility for the perpetuation of policies that make our country the homicide capitol of the developed world.
I completely agree with that article. I would love to hear responses from some of the cogent people who have argued that restrictions on guns would not be effective or would not even be logical (looking at John and Ivy.)
Mistakes and accidents are worth talking about. It is a reasonable argument that more guns will mean more mistakes and more accidents. Arming teachers or posting armed security guards in schools (for example) will lead to students, teachers and security guards getting shot by security guards, teachers and students (there have got to be numbers on accidents by police, military, at shooting ranges and hunting accidents).Originally Posted by JEFF MCMAHAN
Pushing for a police state is not a reasonable line to take. That is, transitioning from talking about the power of the police to talking about the government taking away our freedoms is monumentally stupid.Originally Posted by JEFF MCMAHAN
The Satyagraha/Twitter argument (in the article but better expounded upon on this board) is reasonable; that is the sea change that is not understood or accepted by many gun rights advocates. Clearly presenting the backing theories, anecdotes and explanations will be useful.Originally Posted by JEFF MCMAHAN
That said the "brandishing Glocks" in "Tahrir Square" bit is an absurd straw-man.
The talk of the arms race affecting the police is also reasonable and important. This is a good selling point and, I think, clearly made here.Originally Posted by JEFF MCMAHAN
Unfortunately he goes on:
Comparing guns to nuclear weapons is not helpful. Find something reasonable and neutral to use to illustrate your point. Though really in this point the illustration was already made; the nuclear weapons bit was just tacked on for emotional effect.Originally Posted by JEFF MCMAHAN
Comparing guns to murder is fucking hateful and not at all helpful. Again, this illustration did not need to be made. These discussions can be very heated and this sort of purposely inflammatory rhetoric makes them worse.Originally Posted by JEFF MCMAHAN
Some talk on why we should completely trust the military and police would be helpful. Specific plans to keep them controlled and accountable even though they will be the only ones with guns would be helpful.Originally Posted by JEFF MCMAHAN
Possible exceptions for only "shotguns for hunting" seems very limited and short-sighted. Hunting in most states is tightly controlled and incredibly important for controlling game populations and predators. Maybe one could propose that rifles and such could be checked out (similar to the shooting range idea discussed) to those that acquire hunting permits or something but hunting cannot be dismissed with some half-assed line about debating.Originally Posted by JEFF MCMAHAN
And growing up even though we were not that far outside of Detroit we lost chickens to foxes. I would not want to run, work or live on an animal farm without pistols, rifles and shotguns around to protect the livestock, especially if there was no hunting going on due to these bans.
it needs to be acknowledged that while I agree that eventually this would hold mostly true it would take time and in that interim we, as law-abiding citizens, would be less safe. You can deny the existence of such instances but you will be wrong, you can talk about their rarity but that will not matter to those that are attacked. You can talk about tasers and pepper spray (you should) but they only do so much. There will be casualties and that must be acknowledged and accepted. One can talk about reduced numbers or something like that but the way this article goes about it comes across as dishonest. Plus admitting that we're talking about people and lives rather than statistics and probabilities will make things like the accidental deaths numbers more real.Originally Posted by JEFF MCMAHAN
Also there are rattlesnakes, coyotes, bobcats and plenty of other animals (I am only naming ones I* have seen myself) that I would not want to encounter in the wild without a pistol on me (or in my party).
* I did not include bears on that list because no pistol would make me feel more safe seeing a bear.
Last edited by jackstraw94086; 12-26-2012 at 08:14 PM.
All the talk about criminals and guns is a diversion. Everyone on all sides seems to agree that the true criminals will still manage to get guns (although if we're all honest we'd accept that fewer criminals would have them if for no other reason than they'd be way more expensive).
If everyone had guns we would be FAR more likely to be shot by someone other than these real criminals. It's them we're trying to keep the guns less available to. These debates don't start when a criminal shoots someone. They always start when a child shoots someone, or when someone who didn't seem like a criminal went and shot far far more people than any particular criminal ever has.
These 2nd amendment thumpers have this deluded fantasy in their heads about confronting and killing armed assailants. Maybe even preventing a bank or gas station robbery. They refuse to accept the greater probability of themselves or their loved ones being shot because they have that gun.
Last edited by jackstraw94086; 12-26-2012 at 08:17 PM.
John, thank you for exactly what I'd hoped for: a coherent, logical dissecting of the article. I agree with most everything you said, although I do understand the strawman arguments that he makes, coming from a similar place of frustration. I have contemplated the effectiveness of something like a rental system recently, and I agree that, while it would be effective in the majority of situations, for rural populations that do face threats to their livelihood in the form of cattle and other livestock, guns are an important tool in preserving their lifestyle. I think that Germany's approach is a sound one: if you can show a manifest need to retain a firearm (you work in a position that will face threats, such as a security guard, driver of an armored vehicle or a rancher protecting livestock) then you can receive a permit to carry a firearm. Otherwise, you can rent one for shooting practice, hunting or other such diversions.
And I do agree that there will be an unfortunately violent transitional period when these sorts of laws eventually do come into place (I say eventually because I truly believe that, whether it's 5 years or 100, we will eventually move in this direction.) Is that worth the long term safety that such a transition would eventually bring about? Not to the people killed, and that would truly and greatly affect me. I hate the idea of anyone being killed, senselessly or not, because that's one less person that gets to experience life, gets to cut me off in traffic and infuriate me, gets to meet someone and make them smile or get angry or have any effect on them at all.
In summation, thank you for a cogent response John. I feel more informed having read your post.
Did you offer them tea?
If you're trying to be a jackass (or are just venting rage) insult and belittle people. If you're trying to win arguments you cheat and manipulate with selective data and emotional appeals. But if you're trying to change minds act reasonable and treat people with respect.
I like how we're holding up Egypt as an example of a successful bloodless revolution. They just got a different leader the people don't want in place five months later. Now they're protesting again. Maybe somebody should give those fucking dipshits some goddamn guns.
Once the orders are given to confiscate all firearms, how are we going to implement it? Honor system, door to door searches, selective at random searches?
"why are you so annoying" TheKlein25
...giving an answer.
Just give up the guns people and let the U.S. govt do the child and baby killing abroad. Nobody in this country seems to care or take note when its a foreign child killed then our military rationalize it by saying their parents should've kept them out of a war zone.
"Oh this uncertainty is taking me over"
people with large gun collections eventually die and leave their collections to friends or family members. many of them have no interest in the collection and buyback programs are a nice way for them to turn them in "no questions asked" in exchange for something that might actually need.
the buyback programs don't even need to be done at the federal or state levels. some of them are funded privately, some are funded by donations and some are funded by charity fund raisers by local police departments.
then I guess it's a good thing that the ultimate goal isn't the complete eradication of personal firearm ownership.