Gun control

Sure, let’s go ahead and play with fire. I trust my readers to be civil to one another in the comments.


I simply cannot. understand. the state of gun laws in this country, and the direction they’re headed in. That people think private gun ownership should be legal, yes; that people think civilians ought to be able to walk around with a semi-automatic rifle, no. That you should be able to go hunting, yes; that you should be able to carry a concealed handgun anywhere you like, no.

And yet our current progress is toward less regulation of guns, not more.

I’ve seen the usual pro-gun arguments, and very few of them make sense to me. Hunting! Do you need an AR-15 to kill a deer? Defending my home! How many lives have been saved by shooting the intruder, and how many have been lost due to those guns being put to another purpose? If only somebody in that theater had been armed, they could have stopped Holmes! It’s a nice fantasy, but do you really think one or more civilians shooting in a darkened, panic- and smoke-filled, chaotic room — against a guy in body armor — would have resulted in fewer deaths, rather than more?

I could go on. Even if we ban guns, criminals will still find ways to get them. So this means we shouldn’t try to regulate them, to keep an eye on who’s buying what, and to keep the really dangerous things out of the hands of people without black market connections? People will still kill each other, just with different weapons. Weapons that can’t easily take out their victims in mass quantities; I’d call that an improvement. You’re far more likely to die in a car accident than from a gunshot! True, and I’m also in favor of improving automobile safety, as well as regulating guns.

But treating those two as equivalent is nonsense. Cars serve an absolutely vital purpose in our society that has nothing to do with inflicting violence on others. If we banned motor vehicles, this entire house of cards we call a country would fall down. Furthermore, there’s a balance point between minimizing risk and the costs thereof, and it’s hard to decide where that should fall. Most people agree that making cars incapable of going over twenty miles an hour would be an unacceptable cost, no matter how many lives it would save. We make calculations like this all the time, even if we don’t like to admit it.

But right now, we’re saying — as a society — that this is an acceptable cost for gun rights. So are this, and this, and this. And a bunch of this, though I can’t find a list that just covers the United States. And we’re saying that minimizing that risk would cost more than we’re willing to pay. That waiting periods, background checks, mandatory training, prohibitions against carrying a concealed handgun in particular places, bans on weapons that serve no purpose but to slaughter large numbers of people at high speed — those would take away something so precious that it’s worth the lives of all those people.

We’ll ban costumes at movie theaters instead. Because we all know that guns don’t kill people; people wearing costumes do. (With guns.)

And yeah, yeah, Second Amendment! This post is a very rational assessment of that, and I agree with a lot of what it says (including the follow-up). Our private gun ownership laws, in their current condition, are not providing us with “a well regulated militia,” nor are they contributing to “the security of a free state.” Quite the opposite, I’d say.

Mind you, I do agree with the guns versus cars post that we’re doing a terrible job of promoting solutions. Those of us who favor gun control need to find new tactics, a way to change the conversation to one the NRA hasn’t already won. I don’t know how to do that — but I do know we need to actually talk about it, and not just mouth platitudes about tragedy and then go our way as if Aurora was no more preventable than an earthquake.

I do take comfort from the statistics that say gun violence has actually declined in recent decades, and so has gun ownership. That’s good to hear. But when smallpox deaths declined, we didn’t celebrate that and stop there; we went ahead and eradicated the disease completely. Do I think we can eradicate gun violence? Of course not. But we can do better, and should.

0 Responses to “Gun control”

  1. mindstalk

    Your last URL has an error.

    I’m neutral on gun control, leaning to be more favorable of it. So to play non-crazy devil’s advocate:

    * AIUI, in the language of the time “well-regulated militia” meant “the mass of able-bodied males, able to hit what they aim at”

    * AIUI, the substantive differences between hunting rifles and “assault rifles” like the AR-15 aren’t that great. The assault ones seem to be shorter — more portable, I suppose, an less accurate — and look more military. The hunting rifles are at least as deadly — meant for larger animals — and also come in semi-automatic form. Which is a lot different from automatic: one shot per trigger pull, without having to cock or rotate a chamber, vs. indefinite shots per pull a la machine guns; those are basically illegal.

    * Rifle shootings like this are unfortunate but also rare. I’d guess the mass of gun threats and deaths are with handguns. Of course, that’s also the form useful for imagined self-defense outside a home. The US isn’t so distinctive in long gun ownership, but is distinctive in handguns. A nuance that gets lost when people invoke how many guns Canada or Switzerland have.

    * “waiting periods, background checks, mandatory training” — none of which would have prevented this tragedy, AFAIK, or several others, and which have costs, in both inconvenience and actual money spent to implement them. What’s the lives saved per dollar? “minimizing that risk would cost more than we’re willing to pay” might actually be true; without numbers we can’t say one way or the other.

    * “How many lives have been saved by shooting the intruder, and how many have been lost due to those guns being put to another purpose? ” Good questions, but with unobvious answers. Crimes deterred by the brandishing or even anticipation (concealed carry) of a gun would also be relevant; you don’t need to shoot the gun to have a benefit.

    • Marie Brennan

      * AIUI, in the language of the time “well-regulated militia” meant “the mass of able-bodied males, able to hit what they aim at”

      Not quite, I think. I’ll defer to any Revolutionary War historians wandering around, but colonial militias were organized things, with regular practice, leadership, and oversight.

      * AIUI, the substantive differences between hunting rifles and “assault rifles” like the AR-15 aren’t that great. The assault ones seem to be shorter — more portable, I suppose, an less accurate — and look more military. The hunting rifles are at least as deadly — meant for larger animals — and also come in semi-automatic form. Which is a lot different from automatic: one shot per trigger pull, without having to cock or rotate a chamber, vs. indefinite shots per pull a la machine guns; those are basically illegal.

      I freely admit that I’m not well-versed in the mechanics of guns, so I defer to people with more knowledge on the subject. Though I do wonder why we need semi-automatic weapons — or at least semi-automatics with 100-round magazines.

      * Rifle shootings like this are unfortunate but also rare. I’d guess the mass of gun threats and deaths are with handguns.

      I do not see how either of these are an argument against regulation or oversight.

      * “waiting periods, background checks, mandatory training” — none of which would have prevented this tragedy, AFAIK, or several others

      But there are tragedies they would prevent. A waiting period means the person buying a gun to commit suicide or murder has more time to stop and reconsider; I believe it’s well-established on the suicide front that making somebody climb a fence to jump off a bridge will, in fact, deter some percentage of the people who would otherwise jump. A background check means we have a chance of noticing that the would-be purchaser has a history of criminal activity or mental illness. Mandatory training means promoting responsibility among gun owners — and while I will freely grant that there are many gun owners right now who are responsible, they aren’t the whole population. We require training to drive a car; I think owning a gun should require some, too.

      and which have costs, in both inconvenience and actual money spent to implement them. What’s the lives saved per dollar? “minimizing that risk would cost more than we’re willing to pay” might actually be true; without numbers we can’t say one way or the other.

      True — but that’s not the conversation we’re having in this country. Instead we’re arguing over whether preventing somebody from having the gun they want, when they want it, where they want it, is an inexcusable affront to their Second Amendment rights. I’d much prefer to talk about the logistics and costs of gun control . . . but the window of acceptable discourse has been pushed far enough to one side that that conversation is almost impossible to have.

      * “How many lives have been saved by shooting the intruder, and how many have been lost due to those guns being put to another purpose? ” Good questions, but with unobvious answers. Crimes deterred by the brandishing or even anticipation (concealed carry) of a gun would also be relevant; you don’t need to shoot the gun to have a benefit.

      But they are the next thing to impossible to document. The best you can do is to argue from correlation: this place has widespread gun ownership and less home invasion, while that place has less gun ownership and more home invasion. mentions something of the sort below, but we can counter with places where there are lots of guns and lots of crime, so the entire thing ends up more or less unanswered.

      • mindstalk
        Militia seems a fluid term, referring both to the mass of males and to troops called from it in need.

        “A waiting period means the person buying a gun to commit suicide or murder has more time to stop and reconsider”

        So how many suicides or murders are done by people who just bought guns?

        Self-defense: measuring deterrence by anticipation would be hard, yeah. Defense by use of guns:
        Ranging from 15,000 times a year to 2.45 million times a year. The latter numbers sounds high, but the guy behind the lower number says “did not confine self-defense to attempted victimizations where physical attacks had already commenced” which seems like a flawed criticism; if someone makes threats, and my gun makes them go away, that should count for something even if they never hit me yet.

        Hmm, thought: one reason for resisting mild controls is that they don’t do much useful. They’ll annoy legal and responsible users, while being ignored by criminals — annoying a *lot* of people and spending a bunch of money for very little gain. Actually keeping guns out of the hands of criminals would probably take much more draconian controls, like banning handguns from being legally owned by non-police, which might well be socially justified, but would of course be politically harder.

      • houseboatonstyx

        Here’s a good article on the history of the term ‘militia’, and other US gun issues.

      • slashmarks

        I realize this argument is months old, but I’ve just been catching up on your journal and you said something here that really, really bothered me.

        Specifically, it’s the idea of background checks to catch mental illness in potential gun owners. This kind of thing is commonly cited, but the fact is, preventing anyone with a history of mental illness is actually about as bad as checking for middle eastern background, discrimination speaking.

        The mentally ill are a discriminated-against under class; it’s hard to argue with that.

        Furthermore, getting a history of mental illness doesn’t take much, particularly if you were a minor. Someone seeking counseling for, say, abuse will have a history of mental illness. Someone whose parents got them on ADHD meds for behavior issues will have a history of mental illness. Someone who was mildly depressed and self harmed when they were thirteen will have a history of mental illness. Another class of “mentally ill” who aren’t is anyone who’s undergone treatment for being transgender in the US. It’s extremely vague terminology.

        Even the disorders most people mean when they say mental illness — suicidal ideation/attempts or psychosis — are not justification for restricting someone’s access to weaponry. And that’s if you assume everyone with the diagnoses actually *has* the disorders — an extremely unlikely assumption. Not everyone who’s psychotic will ever be violent, or if they do become violent will ever shoot someone — in fact, psychotic patients, like all mental patients, are more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators of it.

        Not all depressed people have suicidal ideation, and not all who do would follow through, and not all of those who would would use a gun. A lot of the time, people who do try to kill themselves, in fact, are suffering from abuse or have in the past – and then you’re restricting people who have already been harmed and may still be at risk from a self defense method (whether it’s actually useful or not, it’s psychologically reassuring and socially common).

        Ultimately, having a “history of mental illness” makes one *less* likely to cause violent crime according to studies. Disregarding those, many people who have a history of mental illness either are totally recovered or never were ill in the first place, or are a type of ill that would not be risky with a gun, such as many OCD patients, people who hear distracting voices, people with panic attacks, etc.

        As a person with Psychotic Disorder NOS and Major Depressive Disorder, I already will have to worry about finding a therapist, making sure I can’t be committed against my will, finding a school willing to overlook my grade dip during the worst of my depression, whether the local hospital will consider not complying with, say, ECT or antipsychotics if recommended grounds for being ruled ‘non-compliant,’ and a lot of other stupid complications. I’d appreciate not having to consider gun laws as well if I ever decide I want or need to own a weapon for self defense or simply hunting.

  2. tchernabyelo

    Context: I’m a born-and-bred Brit now resident in the US (And this is going to be long so I’ll post in two parts).

    I therefore grew up in a nation that did not see gun ownership as a normal part of culture. I lived in rural parts of the UK and shotguns were not uncommon as part of “pest control” and minor hunting (pheasants, rabbits). I also, as it happened, learned how to shoot a rifle at school and have even been out on “live fire” exercises (yes, unbelievably, they did send a bunch of 15-year-old kids out with rifles that had real bullets in them, though we were only supposed to fire up in the air; presumably, the bullets were told not to come down again).

    Now, I live in a nation that was literally founded on the gun. It gained independence by armed insurrection followed by open warfare. It expanded by the simple means of shooting those who disagreed with its expansion. And America is pretty close to unique in all the world in that. Certainly it’s unique in terms of major world powers.

    America is the only major mation I know wherein, culturally, violence is not seen as a problem; it’s seen as the SOLUTION to problems.

    I live in the West. People out here hunt, and need to hunt (I know of families out here who didn’t have meat on the table, growing up, unless they went out and shot it). Gun ownership is perfectly reasonable for these people.

    And I’m not aware of anyone who is trying to take away that right. But that’s never how gun control is presented. The NRA, TEA party, and the like are very quick to spin the “threats” of gun control to a populace that’s always ready to believe those threats (one of the fascinating things about the US, as a momentary aside, is how ready it is to champion its form of government – dto the point of emanding, again at gunpoint, that other countries adopt it – while at the same time constantly decrying the dangers and perils of the government that it champions as a paragon of democracy).

    There are studies, incidentally, that show significant deterrence effects of gun ownership on crime – i.e. that there would be far higher instances of home invasion if the (would-be_ perpetrators weren;t worried that the inhabitants might be armed. I’ll also agree I’m somewhat sceptical about those studies, given just how rampant US crime is compared to other countries which do have strict gun ownership laws and therefore where an armed robber need have almost no fear of retaliation. But when we do look at gun crime statistics in the US, one conclusion that’s easy to draw is that availability of guns is NOT the only factor that’s at play. The US has horrendous levels of gun crime that are not replicated in other countries without rigid gun control laws.

    • mindstalk

      The US seems to be more violent, period. E.g. we have more homicides per capita due to knife stabblings than other countries have total. Which is an argument against “guns cause violence” though maybe an argument for “you shouldn’t let these people have guns”.

      But then, that’s not evenly distributed. Lots of the violence is urban criminal-on-criminal gang violence. Some is in the same areas, maybe not involving professional criminals, but people who live where police don’t go or aren’t trusted, and more primitive ways of keeping order are used; honor culture and ‘respect’ and reputation. Some is in the South, which also supports honor culture and settling scores oneself, even if the police are trusted more; Pinker said the higher rates of murder in the South weren’t from higher rates of muggings or home invasions but from higher rates of escalating fights among friends or acquaintances.

      • Marie Brennan

        Some of this devolves into chicken-or-egg arguments. How much is the U.S. a violent culture because we’ve allowed our populace to be (relatively) heavily armed? How much is urban violence fueled by the availability of guns, which makes police less willing to go in, which leaves matters up to the local residents to solve, etc etc? And that one is tied into issues of race and class and so on, which is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish Lovecraftian squid-things. Pulling any one tentacle out of the knot is an exercise in sanity-destroying frustration.

    • Marie Brennan

      There are studies, incidentally, that show significant deterrence effects of gun ownership on crime

      As I say above, deterrence isn’t easy to prove. I will freely grant that the availability of guns isn’t the only factor; it is, however, a relevant one.

  3. tchernabyelo

    (Part two, and apologies if this is all hijacky – also, reposted as it hit the wrong part of the thread first time))

    All of which is not to say I don’t favour modifying the gun laws here in the US. As noted, you don’t need an AR-15 to hunt (hunting in the US is primarily stalk or hide hunting, not “la chasse”/”battue” as I saw brought up in a Twitter conversation recently. Indeed, many hunters out here use muzzle loaders, not even breech loaders. Fire rate is NOT the priority; accuracy is). And there is no reasonable rationale for the concept of the “fun gun”.

    Responsible gun ownership is the keystone to moving forward, but America is not a noticeably responsible society. I’d have no objection to all my neighbours owning guns if I knew they regularly went to the range (many certainly do; our local outdoor range is busy most weekends); if I knew they understood the laws and disciplines of gun ownership.

    But the fact that pretty much every rural roadside sign I see is peppered with the dents and holes of people practicing their marksmanship leads me to believe that a lot of people out here really aren’t responsible about gun use.

    The irony, then, is that I’d be a minority – a highly responsible gun owner.. but I’m not. I don’t have a gun, and I don’t have any particular desire for a gun. I don’t think I need it in the wilderness for “protection” (as some do); I don’t think I need it for “home defense”. And I’m yet to be convinced I need one to deal with my government taking away my fundamental liberties.

    Ultimately, those who most want to own guns are in all likelihood those who are least suitable to do so.

    My feeling is that there will be no progress in gun control until and unless there is a cultural change about guns in the US. ANd sadly, I don;t see that happening any time soon. In real life, who are our heroes? They’re the firefighter who puts his life on the line to save someones home. They’re the people who stand up when someone’s shooting and bar a door (happened in Auruora and Virginia Tech). They’re the police who have to deal with tripwires and explosive/chemical devices. Our real-life heroes are the people who save lives.

    But our heroes on the TV screen? In the movies? In computer games?

    They’re the ones with guns. They’re the ones for whom violence is a solution, not a problem.

    That’s an integral part of US culture – and a part of US culture it[s desperate to sell to the whole planet.

    If that doesn’t go away, gun control isn’t going to find enough traction to make a difference.

    So ultimately; yes. Columbine and Virginia Tech and Aurora?

    These are the prices that America pays for being what it is. And tragic though it finds those incidents, it does not (IMHO) have the will to change its culture.

    Until it does, it’s going to keep paying that price. Gun control or not.

    • mindstalk

      I note whimsically that Canadians seem prouder of supposedly having burned down the White House in 1812 than of being the terminal for the Underground Railroad. At least they celebrate it more.

      My impression is that most gun owners, especially long gun owners, are pretty responsible, with a whole safety culture the average urban gun-shy liberal doesn’t appreciate.

    • Marie Brennan

      Not hijacky at all. You’re right that this is a cultural issue as much as, or more than, it’s a legal one; in fact, that’s where I agree with the “guns versus cars” post. I never knew a time where drunk drivers were a comic figure instead of a scary one. But apparently we managed to change the general cultural view on that topic — so my question is, how do we do the same thing for guns?

      I have no idea. But the lack of willingness to discuss it is part of the problem, and that’s why I decided to post.

  4. dorianegray

    Even if we ban guns, criminals will still find ways to get them.

    Well, this is true, but I think irrelevant to the specific issue of people randomly shooting large crowds of strangers. Because people who randomly shoot large crowds of strangers seem generally not to be criminals, at least up to that point. (Terrorists are a different beast, IMO, from random shooters.)

    And speaking as a citizen and resident of a country with pretty strict gun laws, I can tell you that that kind of mass-murderous rampage just doesn’t happen here. (Gun crime is increasing, but it’s mostly criminals shooting each other over drugs or gang warfare.)

    If guns aren’t easily and legally available, people don’t choose that particular method of dealing with massive anger and frustration, because getting hold of the gun and the ammunition, particularly for an otherwise law-abiding person, is difficult to impossible. They find something easier and cheaper to do.

    • Marie Brennan

      Exactly. If James Holmes had only been able to purchase a shotgun or a handgun, fewer people would be dead and wounded. If he’d only been able to purchase a knife, the number would be smaller again. We are so far from instituting the latter situation that I’m not even particularly interested in debating the logistics and philosophy of that — but it distresses the hell out of me that our national conversation is so unwilling to even discuss making the former situation a reality.

      • dorianegray

        I’ve actually seen an argument that if guns weren’t easily available, the James Holmeses of the world would make home-made bombs and cause even more destruction, so having guns easy and legal is a good thing from that point of view.

        Which argument is so wrong-headed that I don’t even know where to start with the refutations.

        • Marie Brennan

          It’s true that he made bombs, too, and those could have hurt a lot of people. But that’s no argument for letting other dangers run free.

      • mindstalk

        Maybe I overrate shotguns, but firing a shotgun into a crowd seems like a great way to kill a bunch of people fast.

        I can think of other ways of killing a bunch of people in a theatre too, ways that legislation simply could not stop, but now I’m thinking I shouldn’t risk giving would-be killers ideas.

        • Marie Brennan

          I would think it depends on the range, the gun’s capacity, and whether you’ve sawed the barrel off. But my guess is that while you could still injure people in large numbers very quickly, lethality might drop — or else you remain lethal to individuals, but can’t take down as many in the same span of time.

          Again, I defer to people with better knowledge of guns.

        • alecaustin

          What said. Shotguns are good at spreading out a lot of pellets (metal or salt) over either a fairly focused or large area, depending on the barrel length. The larger the dispersion, the less likely any individual section of the blast is to be lethal. Also, wider dispersions limit the effectiveness of the weapon to point-blank range.

          There are many reasons the military, police forces, and organized crime tend to automatic and semi-automatic weapons rather than shotguns, but their effective range, relative accuracy, and crowd control ability (both in terms of suppressive fire and the ability to take down multiple targets) are highly relevant. Yes, the military also uses shotguns, but they typically fire hard slugs rather than shot, and are (again) only effective at close range.

          Firing a sawed-off into a crowd is very likely to result in several people being badly injured or killed, and then one or more people tackling the shooter and wrestling the weapon away from them as they try to reload.

  5. dungeonwriter

    My family’s big love for loose gun control was that my grandfather always believed, had the Jewish people been armed, they would have fought back against the Nazis and not gone like sheep to the slaughter, as the bible so elequently put it. My grandfather lost two sisters, a brother, his parents, four nieces, a nephew and his sweetheart in Auschwitz, so he has his reasons.

    And a lot of my beliefs is that if guns are made illegal, that will just feed the illegal gun market, but I’m wondering if there’s a solution that would involve tightening restrictions on more dangerous grade weapons, while allowing smaller grade guns for self protection?

    • Marie Brennan

      Most people arguing for gun control aren’t arguing for an outright, across-the-board, no-exceptions BAN. They’re arguing for regulation and oversight. But the window on that keeps being pushed in more and more radical directions: if people are allowed handguns, the lobbyists push for them to be allowed to carry concealed. Once people are allowed to carry concealed, they push to overturn prohibitions against carrying in certain locations. Etc. Anything that in any way abridges the rights of gun owners gets treated as an unacceptable limitation.

      • dungeonwriter

        And that bothers me incredibly. We all have limits in our lives. I would love to be able to park in front of fire hydrants, but there’s a public safety concern. I agree people should have rights to bear arms, but all rights are abridged for safety.

        The lines are blurry, but I still have no idea how semi-automatics are tolerated by untrained civilians.

        Maybe one solution is more mandatory gun-training? That if you want a higher grade weapon, or want to carry concealed, you not longer have to register, you have to take classes and take tests and agree to serve certain duties?

        Like deputies to sheriffs? You could weed out a lot of people with paperwork.

        • Marie Brennan

          It’s worth noting that we do abridge certain things from the Bill of Rights, when it relates to public safety. To pick the classic example: your freedom of speech does not extend to shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

          And yes, I’d be in favor of licensing with registration, training, testing, etc. Some places, I believe, do have requirements like that. But there has been a steady push by the gun lobby to erode that wherever they can.

          • dungeonwriter

            And that is just wrong. With great power comes great responsibility and nothing should come free. I’m all for letting people extend their rights, but that has to come with extending their responsibilities.

            If someone wants more dangerous weapons, they should not mind being asked to prove they can handle them. It’s not like we’re talking away their toys, we’re just asking them to show they can handle it.

            The question becomes can tests weed out Holmes? What if it’s true and regular people can snap like that, without warning?

          • Marie Brennan

            It’s going to be quite a while before we know the answer on Holmes, because right now, the available information is almost nonexistent. (And, sadly, by the time it becomes available, most of the country will have forgotten about him and/or won’t care anymore.) And we will never make a safety system that prevents all guys like him — any more than we can make automotive safety that prevents all crashes, or national security that prevents all terrorism. I just hate the idea that, where guns are concerned, we’ve stopped trying.

        • mindstalk

          “The lines are blurry, but I still have no idea how semi-automatics are tolerated by untrained civilians. ”

          Because they’re used safely and conveniently by tens of millions of people while being used in only a small fraction of crimes?

          Wiki again:
          “In 2005, 75% of the 10,100 homicides committed using firearms in the United States were committed using handguns, compared to 4% with rifles, 5% with shotguns, and the rest with a type of firearm not specified”

          “Approximately 6,500 homicides were committed using handguns in 1999; since there were roughly 70 million handguns, the chance of any particular gun being used in a homicide is very low”

          “In 2004, 36.5% of Americans reported having a gun in their home and in 1997, 40% of Americans reported having a gun in their homes. At this time there were approximately 44 million gun owners in the United States. This means that 25 percent of all adults owned at least one firearm. These owners possessed 192 million firearms, of which 65 million were handguns.”

          • houseboatonstyx

            “The lines are blurry, but I still have no idea how semi-automatics are tolerated by untrained civilians. ”

            Because they’re used safely and conveniently by tens of millions of people while being used in only a small fraction of crimes?

            May I ask, used for what purposes? As for crimes, I doubt if semi-automatic guns are used much in jaywalking (though it’s an interesting thought). They do seem to be used in a high percentage of non-profit crimes where a large number of innocent people are killed during a very short time, with equipment legally and conveniently bought, by amateurs.

    • mindstalk

      And gun rights advocates like to say the first thing Nazis did was disarm conquered populations.

      OTOH, the Nazis invaded the USSR, not to mention everyone else like Balkan populations to disarm, so the idea that they’d be deterred by civilian guns seems a bit weak on consideration. Plus, AIUI, the Jews weren’t led away to slaughter; they were led away — with cooperation from their own leaders — to mystery camps that turned out to involve surprise slaughter. But how many armed Jews would shoot it out with the SS over forced relocation to camps, with a hope of survival?

      • Marie Brennan

        I’d prefer not to continue the Holocaust/WWII strand of this debate (at least not on my journal); it strikes me as being unlikely to go anywhere good.

        • dungeonwriter

          I apologize for bringing it up, I was trying to explain how I came to my own beliefs.

          • Marie Brennan

            No need; I don’t mind a mention of it. I just don’t want the conversation to derail in that direction, as it could very easily turn into victim-blaming and/or lots of other really negative things.

          • dungeonwriter

            Excellent, glad I didn’t offend. Talking to a favorite author is scary, you don’t want to embaress yourself in front of someone who you respect!

          • Marie Brennan

            Heh. No worries! That was just me deciding to head a potential conflagration off at the pass. It’s a very sensitive topic, and I didn’t want to find out whether it was a giant red button for anybody after the button had been stomped on.

    • icedrake

      But the Jews did resist. There were uprisings both in the ghettos and the camps, there were Jewish partisan groups. So first of all, weapons were acquired despite their general lack of availability. Second, the uprisings by and large were not successful in stopping the mass slaughter of the Jewish people. To me this says that the free availability of weapons in untrained hands couldn’t have kept Jews from being rounded up into camps by well-organized, heavily armed regular troops.

    • querldox

      Note that Germany never invaded Switzerland (admittedly, they had significant influence on the government and businesses there during WWII). That’s likely because if you invade Switzerland, you’ll have to take it house by house and then deal with significant guerilla action.

      Every Swiss male is required to do a few years of military service around age 20, with yearly refreshers until age 50. They’re also required to keep firearms and ammunition at home (when I lived there, my landlord showed me the closet with rifles, pistols, grenades, etc., asked if I knew how to use any of it. I replied no. He replied that I shouldn’t go into that closet, and I agreed). Recreational target shooting is popular.

      And they have very few armed crimes or shooting sprees, even compared per capita to the US.

      So it is possible to have a civilized, low incidence of gun crimes, society even when the number of guns in circulation per capita is higher than US standards. For whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to happen in the US.

  6. anghara

    What makes me see utterly red is the conflation of “we have to have responsible gun ownership” with “THEY’RE COMING TO TO TAKE THEM AWAY, AH-HA!” Frankly, if you are an irresponsible yobbo, the guns SHOULD be taken away. Your freaking Second Amendment rights stop where my right to life liberty and pursuit of happiness begins – you don’t get to shove your “rights” up my mose so long as they are being used to mow down innocents who just happen to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time – or worse, if you decide that your Second Amendment rights now suddenly extend to your being absolutely entitled to shoot somebody whose actions, ideas, or face you happen not to like.

    I am very much afraid that America is a lost cause on this, and it it only going to get worse, not better. But as long as you get people foaming at the mouth trying to convince others that “it woudl have been BETER if those people in that (dark, smoke-filled theatre) had guns to shoot back” – well – you can’t argue with insanity. There’s this idee fixe and nothing penetrates that.

    • Marie Brennan

      Except we’ve had idees fixes* before that we have managed to change. Yes, we still have a lunatic fringe in this country that thinks slavery wasn’t so bad — but the percentage is down by several orders of magnitude from what it was a hundred and fifty years ago. We’ve changed attitudes on race, gender, sexuality, and more. Have we solved any of those problems entirely? No. But I refuse to give up, on those matters or this one.

      *My apologies to French speakers if I pluralized that incorrectly.

    • mindstalk

      Thing is, there actually are people who say it’d be a good thing to take all the guns away. The slippery slope in this case is well populated.

      Hmm, sort of like adverse selection, and lemon cars. From the gun-rights POV there might be more and less reasonable gun control advocates, but they can’t tell who’s sincere vs. who’s going to push for even more controls given a chance, so just as buyers avoid paying high prices for a car that might be a lemon, they avoid cooperating with any gun control advocates. You’d need to send some costly signal — like being a gun owner, maybe — to reassure them.

      Indicating that you assume everyone with a gun is at significant risk of gunning down a crowd, or shooting someone they don’t like, is probably not the way to do it.

      • Marie Brennan

        but they can’t tell who’s sincere vs. who’s going to push for even more controls given a chance

        We’ve got a pretty well-documented pattern of the slope being slippery in the opposite direction, too. Gun rights activists push for the freedom to carry concealed firearms in more and more places: national parks, kindergartens, bars, etc.

        I agree that the way gun control activists have approached the topic isn’t very well-chosen, though — as evidenced by its lack of success.

      • anghara

        No, not everyone with a gun is “at significant risk” of doing the things you say above. But responsible gun ownership is just that – RESPONSIBLE. If you have to have a licence and an actual test of proficiency to obtain same in order to drive a car (which, shall we agree, has quite a bit of potential of being used as a weapon as well as a gun – just drive at full speed into a crowd and see what happens, or, hell, just mow down some poor pedestrian, solo, and see what happens) then WHY cannot the same be true of a gun? Why can’t we have a gun licence which has teeth; a gun licence without which it is impossible to legally obtain a gun; a gradation of gun licences – just like you have to have a special licence to drive an 18-wheeler rig or a bus as opposed to a passenger family station wagon, you have to have a special licence to fire anything over and above a handgun (and training is, yes, IMPLIED – and you will be tested – and if you don’t pass the test then sorry you just don’t get to have your mitts on that AK 47, period); re-testing at five-year or hell even ten-year periods to make sure that the gun owner is still responsible enough to know how to handle and operate said gun and can still show that they have precise knowledge at all times of the gun’s whereabouts and provenance? WHY? Because everyone “has the right” to own a gun? That’s nuts!

        • mindstalk

          Technical note: you don’t need a license to drive a car, you need one to drive a car on public roads. Private property is fair game.

          What you describe sounds fair in the abstract. But the vast majority of gun owners *are* responsible. Something like a third of the country owns guns; deaths are like a percent of a percent of that number. And the tests you talk about wouldn’t stop planned shootings like this one, by people with no prior record. Nor would they stop shootings of passion. And gang shootings are often by people who already have criminal records and can’t legally have guns, but get them anyway.

          So you’re talking about annoying 100 million people, at some non trivial public cost — all that testing and licensing isn’t free — to stop almost nothing in the way of crime.

          Might cut the rate of accidental shootings significantly, I don’t know. Wikipedia says “There were 52,447 deliberate and 23,237 accidental non-fatal gunshot injuries in the United States during 2000.” But then, lots of people are already responsible and lock their guns and such; you’d have to show reason to believe that your regime would actually cause significant change in behavior, vs. an incremental improvement.

          • anghara

            Technical note: you don’t need a license to drive a car, you need one to drive a car on public roads. Private property is fair game.

            Fine. Then, if you’re going to postulate this equivalency, you make “private property” fair game – i.e. have a gun, but KEEP IT IN YOUR PRIVATE PROPERTY. The minute you tote it out into a public space, as the equivalent of a public road, you need to have and to be able to show a licence, otherwise you get fined and/or arrested.

            Seriously, that’s a massive strawman. Most people who drive cars do so on public roads – that’s the basic idea, you are using the vehicle as transport and that means that you have to get from HERE to THERE and that means using public transportation routes. But we are talking about cars here, and a car’s primary purpose is to act as that transportation vehicle. A gun’s primary purpose is what? EXACTLY? To shoot something. It sernves no other benign purpose at all. *At ALL*. So a private citizen should have cause to take a gun out into a public space… why, exactly?

          • tchernabyelo

            Well, hunting is a huge example of the use of guns in public spaces. There are regulations about not firing across, or within a certain distance of, a recognised road or trail or (I think) watercourse.

            I have seen people ignore those regulations – saw a guy sitting right beside a road, with a target taped to a tree, just popping off round after round.

            Many gun owners are responsible. Many are not – again, go look at pretty much any roadsign in the rural west and you will see it has been used as target practice.

          • lokifan

            Er, why is it unfair to responsible gun owners for them to have to prove they’re responsible? People have to prove they can drive, or that they have good credit. I’m British, so I’m sure on some level I just don’t get this idea of gun ownership as a right – most forms of guns are illegal here, and I strongly suspect that’s why London has a horrible knife crime problem instead of a gun problem.

            But seriously, I don’t think annoying people and costing money is too high a price. Among other things, people being able to get to guns easily without prior ownership is definitely a factor in deaths and crimes. Gun control is not necessarily about people who would own guns anyway, I think, it’s also about the opportunity of getting hold of one quickly if you want it.

          • mindstalk

            “What you describe sounds fair in the abstract”. It’s unfair in the specific if requiring the proof doesn’t accomplish much worthwhile. I didn’t make any appeals to gun ownership as a right, just cost effectiveness.

            “I don’t think annoying people and costing money is too high a price”

            Doesn’t that depend on the price and the benefit? If, in an extreme case, you spend $10 billion — $100 per gun owner — getting people to prove they’re responsible, but you don’t save any lives thereby, hasn’t that been a total waste of time and money?

            Okay, how about saving 10 lives? Is $1 billion per life saved a sensible use of money, when you could use that same money to save 2000 lives or more?

            For $10 billion/year, you’d need to reduce US deaths by 1000 just to break even in statistical terms, and it still wouldn’t be the best use of public money (since you can do a lot better than just breaking even.)

  7. mindstalk

    Scale note:
    The homicide rate for modern ‘civilized’ countries is down around 1 in 100,000. 0.35 for Japan, 0.8 for a lot of Western Europe, 1.2 for Australia or UK, 1.6 for Canada. US is 4.8, world is 7.9

    So, say we got down to the 0.7 of Spain and Norway. With our population, that would still be more than 2100 homicides a year. Probably a base rate of humans snapping — I wonder how much of that is domestic violence. If we somehow became Japan, that’d still be over 1000 homicides/year.

    What’s our averaged death rate from rampage shooters? I’d guess well under 10/year.

    • Marie Brennan

      163 a year, actually. And that number has risen slightly over the last thirty years.

      • mindstalk

        Huh! I guess most of those incidents don’t make national headlines, or don’t make my radar. Hmm, there was a sniper incident in Bloomington in the past couple of years, though I don’t remember how many if any died.

        “But the total number of people dying in attacks that claimed four or more victims has climbed from an average of 161 a year in the 1980s to 163 between 2006 and 2008, according to FBI statistics.”

        Given what must be erratic numbers, talking about a climb from 161 to 163 seems poor statistics. And that’s total deaths, so the per capita rate has gone down a fair bit. 227 million people in 1980, around 310 million today. Total homicides have dropped in absolute numbers, so they’re down even more per capita, but the shootings are as well.

        So there’s more room for improvement than I thought. OTOH, I’m not sure getting the improvement would be at all easy; if you make AR-15s go away, there’s still hunting rifles. If you make semi-automatic rifles go away, there’s ordinary rifles, and shotguns. “These are well-planned crimes”; minor obstacles to killing lots of people can be worked around.

        • Marie Brennan

          I agree that the “climb” is less supportable; I should have noted that.

          “These are well-planned crimes”; minor obstacles to killing lots of people can be worked around.

          But does that make it not worth our while to put obstacles in their path? The more work they have to go to, the more chance there is that they’ll reconsider, or that we’ll catch them before it becomes a tragedy.

          You and I agree that there’s a cost to those obstacles, and maybe it would ultimately prove to be more than we really want to pay. (Exhibit A: our terrorism prevention efforts, which are a very pointed contrast in what happens when you pour vast amounts of money and a metric crap-ton of social cost into ineffective safety measures.) But we don’t know what those numbers would be, because we mostly haven’t even been trying to pursue that goal.

  8. kizmet_42

    I haven’t read all the comments, so forgive me if I’ve missed this. What’s your source for the dropping gun-ownership claim?

    • Marie Brennan

      The link earlier in that sentence; it discusses both topics. I’ll change the link code to make that clearer.

    • mindstalk

      “In 2004, 36.5% of Americans reported having a gun in their home and in 1997, 40% of Americans reported having a gun in their homes. At this time there were approximately 44 million gun owners in the United States. This means that 25 percent of all adults owned at least one firearm. These owners possessed 192 million firearms, of which 65 million were handguns.[60] The number of American homes reporting have a gun in their homes is down from 46% as reported in 1989.[61] Philip J. Cook suggests that increased numbers of female-headed households may be a factor in declining household ownership figures”

  9. mindstalk

    Doing the math

    Use a high value for American live, $10 million. Then the 160 “mass shooting” deaths a year ‘costs’ $1.6 billion. You can readily justify spending up to that to prevent such deaths… if you can prevent them all, not just reduce them a bit. Reduction justifies less spending. Say 100 million gun owners. Spread evenly, that’d justify up to $16 of costs imposed on them, or maybe 45 minutes of inconvenience, per year — or less, because there’s also the administrative costs of whatever program you create. If you target just owners of semi-auto rifles, or of “assault” such rifles, you can boost that somewhat, I don’t know how much.

    I suspect the most sensible thing to do would be to put a $30/year tax on such guns, and use the money to save lives in other ways, like vaccines or traffic safety.

    For overall gun homicides, that’s 15,000, or a cost of $150 billion. Accidental deaths could add a bit to that; I wouldn’t count suicides, believing most suicides could find other means. (Lack of guns sure doesn’t stop Japanese suicide.) $1500 per gun owner! A lot of room to play with, there.

    OTOH, let’s look at another aspect of the car comparison: the risk of killing someone with a car is roughly even distributed. Some humps with young and old people, and SUV owners, and of course drunk drivers, but everyone driving on public roads is at some real risk of hitting someone, with even more evenly distributed risk of being hit by someone. So evenly distributed training costs or mandatory safety features makes a lot of sense.

    OTOH, the gun homicide distribution isn’t very even at all. Maybe half the guns are handguns, but most of the gun crimes are with handguns. And also in cities. Targeting rural rifle and shotgun owners to reduce urban handgun crime seems like a poor bet and use of resources.

    We’ve got the complaint above about rural roadside signs being used for target practice, as a sign of irresponsibility, but how many deaths does that actually have anything to do with?

    There is that unspecified accident rate, which might have more to do with long guns. And $1500 is a lot of value one could use to justify testing and training with. OTOH you’re probably not abolishing such deaths. If you can plausibly accomplish 10% reduction, that’d be $150 per gun owner. Still buys you a few hours of testing or instruction time; this actually sounds like a potentially plausible program.

    I didn’t expect that conclusion when I started typing. Math is good!

    • mindstalk

      Re: Doing the math


      Per use, or per hour used, guns are probably a lot deadlier than cars. But comparing deaths per gun owner or per car owner, they seem about the same, maybe even a slight safety edge to guns. And that’s with universal testing of drivers but no testing of gun owners. (Though there is federal background check if you buy from a dealer.)

      That (no testing) could mean there’s unharvested low-hanging fruit we could pick by putting in minimal testing. Or it (comparable safety) could mean people aren’t idiots and non-criminal gun culture is effective and thus it’s already as good as it can easily get.

      Oh, accident data: says 554 accidental firearm deaths in 2009. Surprisingly low. But that’s the ceiling on how many accidental deaths you can prevent by additional measures.

      • princessmei

        Re: Doing the math

        At the risk of stirring up something controversial in someone else’s live journal I would like to propose that there are over 75,000 alcohol related deaths every year and the CDC lists alcohol abuse as the third leading cause of preventable death in the US.

        2009 National Statistics

        10,839 car fatalities were a result of alcohol (32% of all traffic deaths)

        An additional 254,000 suffered injuries due to an alcohol related accident

        Drunk drivers kill someone approximately every 48 minutes

        So by your math, at $10 million per person that’s just under 110 billion dollars. We could tax every single American citizen who ever buys alcohol an extra ‘community safety’ tax on every ounce of alcohol they purchase to help reduce the number of alcohol related deaths in the US.

        Now some people might argue that they consume alcohol but have never once caused an accident while under the influence so they shouldn’t have to pay that tax.

        Well, my husband owns a gun, and has never once shot anyone.

        What happened in Aurora was a tragedy and I am so sorry for all the people involved. But I don’t think adding a gun tax will stop the sale of illegal guns, or gun crimes or keep mentally ill people from committing violence.

        In the same way I don’t think adding a tax to alcohol will keep people from driving under the influence and killing people.

        • mindstalk

          Re: Doing the math

          Actually, by standard economic logic a tax on alcohol to account for its negative social effects is perfectly good policy. (And those effects probably include a lot of the homicides, too! And injuries and other accidents.) Of course, we already tend to tax alcohol heavily, AIUI, while not using the revenue specifically to offset the harms it causes; then again money is fungible so the latter doesn’t matter *too* much.

          If something like pollution or guns or alcohol or tobacco have harmful effects but would be too problematic to ban, or have actual benefits, then taxing them equal to the harms and using that to offset the harms is good economics. The fact that you can’t identify anyone “stopped” from shooting or DUI is irrelevant.

    • kizmet_42

      How do you propose collecting said tax?

      • mindstalk

        Uh, $30 tax on semi-auto rifles at the point of manufacture, first sale or import? Collecting a new tax has its own admin costs, especially for what looks like a federal sales tax, but this seems like a pretty minor objection.

        *checks* There’s a federal cigarette tax, so we already have such excise taxes. So really, a very minor objection indeed.

        • kizmet_42

          It’s not an objection, just curiosity.

          160 mass shooting deaths per year? Do you have any evidence that so many have happened?

          How do you claim $10MM per person for a value of life?

          You suggested a $30 per year tax. You’re now saying a one-time tax at time of purchase, which significantly decreases the revenues raised to the point that it may be a net loss to the government, thus your contention that this would pay for research is not practical. Don’t you think that a new federal should at least be revenue-neutral?

          You suggest a tax a point of manufacture – essentially a value-added tax? That won’t affect the purchasers except in the overall price they pay – the VAT doesn’t touch them directly.

          First sale presumes no resales. I don’t know about your local gun stores, but the one I walked by today said it takes guns in trade. Are those guns exempt from this tax?

          Taxes on imports are effectively tariffs and I don’t know that the US government would care to have a reciprocal tariff on our exports.

          The mechanism for collecting excise taxes on cigarettes is essentially collected at purchase, not annually, therefore, it’s not comparable. The closest thing might be like a car license, but plenty of people opt to not renew because of non-use of the vehicle, therefore it too is not a method of tax collection that would support your desire for funding research.

          How do you propose dealing with guns that are inherited, gifts or collected? Historical collections?

          Ok, I am objecting. Debate Coach mode just clicked on. Ignore me if you wish. 😀

          • mindstalk

            Mass shootings: Bryn gave the link earlier.

            $10M value of life: I gave the links earlier. plus a wikipedia one. They actually tend to $7M; I deliberately went high to make the gun control case more favorable. Standard move in conservative order of magnitude/botec analysis.

            tax: You got me there; I forgot the annual bit. You’d have to license the guns or owners, and charge annually, or have a bigger one-time tax, like $300/gun.

            “That won’t affect the purchasers except in the overall price they pay – the VAT doesn’t touch them directly.”

            Uhh… what’s your objection? There’s no need to transfer money directly from gun purchaser to the government, higher overall price is fine. In general it doesn’t really matter whether you tax buyer or seller, it’ll get shifted around based on relative elasticity of supply and demand anyway, so you should just tax whoever’s cheapest to collect from. The point here is to tax guns. Or was to tax guns; maybe license would be better.

            “funding research”: I wasn’t funding research, I was funding actually giving vaccines to children (US doesn’t have universal health care), or traffic safety measures.

            And if people don’t renew their license, or get rid of their gun, that’s fine. The idea is that the guns have some implicit cost to society, so you tax them based on that cost. Either people pay the tax, and you use that to offset the cost, or they get rid of the gun, in which you’ve gotten rid of the cost. Standard Pigouvian tax.

          • kizmet_42

            I must thank you – I’ve never heard of Pigouvian taxes and it’s something I’ll find very useful this year in our debate topic. Thank you!

            Too late to continue, but much food for thought… ooh, that sounds like one of those fake blog postings asking you to click on a link for malware or something evil. Better quit while I’m ahead.

            Thanks again!

          • houseboatonstyx

            Yes, it would be uncollectable.

    • icedrake

      I feel that your analysis doesn’t address a number of important considerations.

      First of all, consider the primary purpose of these causes of injury. Automobiles and, from farther downthread, alcohol, all have a primary purpose: Transportation and entertainment/pleasure, respectively. Guns also have a primary purpose: The causation of physical harm. Car accident deaths are an undesirable side-effect, much like alcohol-related accidents or diseases. There is no way a firearm manufacturer can ever get away with claiming “oh, I didn’t expect my customers to ever shoot the darned thing!”

      Edit: Huh, apparently ctrl-enter automatically posts the comment. Who knew?


      You also don’t consider the proportion of all suicides that involved firearms. When I looked up the figures (2001 was the most recent year available at the time), suicides involving firearms accounted for a massive share of all suicides. They’re also by and large the only tool available to a person trying to kill themselves designed with the express purpose of making it easy to kill oneself. Hunting knives are about the only exception, and the number of those used to kill oneself is vanishingly small.

      Finally, consider that the ready availability of legally acquired firearms also means a massive, impossible to secure, source of illegal ones. Firearms are stolen a lot. Severely restricting the sale of firearms (for example, requiring proof that you own a gun safe before you’re allowed to purchase a gun), or legislating civil or criminal penalties for a gun owner who can’t demonstrate due care in securing his or her weapon might help to stem that source.

      • mindstalk

        1) Yes, but shoot what? Shooting animals and targets are perfectly legitimate and plausible. In fact, with on the order of 100 million guns and less than 100,000 people shot a year, we can say 90% if not 99% of guns never injure anyone in their lifetime.

        2) Japan has approximately no guns and a higher suicide rate than we do; guns can be a convenient suicide tool but are clearly not needed. And stopping suicide by removing the means of it is not my top social priority.

        3) That sort of cost you propose imposing on gun owners is exactly the sort of thing I’m weighing against the possible benefits.

        • icedrake

          1) Target shooting isn’t the primary function of a gun; you can shoot targets with a paintball. Nor is hunting the primary purpose of a 9mm pistol. I don’t see this as a viable defence of firearms as a whole unless you’re prepared to narrow the argument down to only weapons that can be used for hunting. 100-round drums don’t qualify.

          2) Comparing suicide rates across cultures is a pointless exercise; you can’t ever control for the myriad other factors that influence the metric. Even ignoring social considerations, Japan has been in a recession for the better part of 20 years — that might have some small effect on the society’s outlook on life.

          I’m not really sure how to interpret your “stopping suicide” comment. It strikes me as functionally equivalent to saying, “preventing car accident deaths is not my top social priority.”

          3) I understood your discussion of “cost” to focus on purely financial considerations. My apologies if that is not correct.

          But here’s the main thing: I feel that gun ownership must demonstrate a societal and individual benefit before it is permitted. I don’t believe such a benefit has been conclusively demonstrated on a societal level.

  10. Anonymous

    At the risk of being obvious, I should point out that the symbolic value of guns far exceeds the actual practical value of guns for people on both sides of the debate.

    On the one hand, people in favor of gun control are more likely to be urban, and probably have a mental archetype of “gun” which is a handgun, and an archetypal use case which involves crime. When these people think of “gun control”, it seems like an obvious good idea.

    On the other hand, people against gun control are more likely to be rural or suburban, and have a mental archetype of “gun” which is a hunting rifle, and an archetypal use case which involves a weekend out in the woods with your buddies. These people are obviously defensive about the possibility that this could be taken away.

    Then add in the fact that gun ownership enters into an entire complex of cultural signifiers, and the case for gun control starts to sound like an attempt to regulate away the cultural identity of a whole segment of the population. The result of this is, as someone mentioned above, gun owners don’t trust gun-control advocates. Sure, they may be asking for reasonable controls now, but where will they go after that? First they come for our automatic rifles, then they come for our handguns, then for our hunting rifles, then…

    IOWs the gun-control crowd is unlikely to get very far so long as their cause is perceived as part of an elitist, urban agenda which is opposed to the entire ethos of people who are likely to own guns. Good luck getting your gun control arguments out of that cultural tarball.

    FWIW, I think that prudence is on the side of moderate gun control, but the Constitution is on the side of the gun-rights crowd. The history of interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is actually fairly complicated, but the general trend (with this right as with others) has been towards a more expansive interpretation of the right, as the recent Heller ruling demonstrates.

    • Marie Brennan

      Well, and that lack of trust goes the other way: the push for ever-more-permissive gun laws is steady, and alarming to those of us who think concealed carry in a bar is a really bad idea.

      But I agree that there’s a fundamental breakdown in communication that needs to be resolved before any kind of effort at control will succeed.

      • houseboatonstyx

        I’m not sure this breakdown can be resolved on any general issue. There really is a cultural gap between the rural demographic and the urban demographic. (Both sides are unreasonable imo; and both use it as a political football, if you can use a gap as a football).

        What might be possible, is to focus on the narrow intersection between acquisition of impractical amounts of weaponry and body armor — and the mental/emotional profile of the killers such as Holmes and the Norweigian island camp killer Breivik.

        Even Loughner and the Virginia Tech shooter easily (legally?) acquired guns they had no legitimate use for, and both had been identified as mental/emotional risks; tighter enforcement of existing regulations might have prevented these tragedies, iirc.

        Hm, there is one possible resolution between the two demographics. I see pro-gun advocates complaining that we don’t need more laws, just better enforcement of existing laws.

  11. Anonymous

    OT: banned?

    /houseboatonstyx here/

    Why am I banned from your LJ? This can happen by accident; I hope I haven’t actually offended.

    I came in to agree with you about guns, btw.

    • Marie Brennan

      Re: OT: banned?

      Huh — I have no idea how that happened. It certainly wasn’t deliberate on my part, nor through any fault of your own. My apologies!

      Anyway, I dug through LJ’s back end until I found the place to unban people. You should be in the clear now.

      • houseboatonstyx

        Re: OT: banned?

        Thanks, I’m relieved.

        Actually my own LJ once banned some innocuous person without my knowledge, who as far as I could recall had never attempted to comment there before. As best I and others could speculate, here’s how it might have happened. Sometimes when I’m moving the cursor around, as it passes over a userpic or username, a box pops up giving several options, one of which is “Ban user”. Some accidental pressure on the mouse button might do that.

  12. icedrake

    When I was a fair bit younger and a lot trollier, I wrote an essay on the topic. Most of the links — most significantly the ones linking to the statistics — have succumbed to bit rot, so you’ll have to take my word for it that I haven’t made the numbers up out of whole cloth, but it’s still (well, in my opinion) not a bad essay 🙂

  13. d_c_m

    Well of course I’ll lend my 2 cents. 🙂

    I grew-up with guns. My father hunted and shot and was a minor gunsmith. So when people started attacking guns and gun ownership, why yes I felt attacked.


    See it’s not the inanimate object that is causing the problem. Thus when you attack people who own inanimate objects and tell them that they are wrong and “shouldn’t need an AR-15 to hunt” well, really? Who are you to tell me what I need/want? There are lots of law-abiding, peaceful gun owners and attacking them and denying them access to their hobby is well, not going to work. Not only is bigoted and uninformed on your part, these many gun owners are not causing problems or trouble or hurting you. So why attack them and tell them their needs aren’t real? Hmm…

    This also makes me wonder about the “culture wars” and bigotry in our country. See, I’m a big time liberal and I hang out with big time liberals. And what really interests me about big time liberals is how bigoted and hateful we can get when discussing guns because they are owned by those “rednecks”. So we end up demonizing people we don’t like. Sound familiar? *sigh*

    As for gun violence why stop there? Why is gun violence so much a focal point? Why not violence in general? Last I heard, according to the FBI, more people die per year by fists and feet than by guns. Should we ban those too?

    Alas, if gun control actually worked, I would be all for it. It doesn’t, so I’m not.

    So, I am back to my usual statement on gun control: We cannot blame guns for the problems of the human heart.

    How do we solve the human heart problem? Well that’s another post. 🙂

    • mindstalk

      “according to the FBI, more people die per year by fists and feet than by guns.”
      2009 homicides due to guns: 11,493
      2009 homicides, all causes: 16,799

      So in fact 68% of homicides are by gun.
      (Also 1.7/100,000 Americans were killed by non-gun means, which is in fact higher than the total homicide rate of most civilized countries.)

      If you care about suicides, that’s another 18,000 killed by guns.

      “Alas, if gun control actually worked, I would be all for it. It doesn’t, so I’m not.”

      What kind of gun control, working in what way? Localities in the US banning guns doesn’t work, since you can just go to a looser state and bring guns back in your car. Nationwide bans on guns do make guns and ammo vanish from stores and thus make them much harder to get, and nations with gun control don’t have big gun problems. The US isn’t an island… but Canada’s not a big gun source, and Mexico’s illegal guns come largely from us in the first place. (Thus the Mexican drug war floats on US dollars and is fought with US guns…)

      Replace ‘gun’ with ‘handgun’ or ‘semi-auto gun’ to taste. If the only civilian guns in the US were manual-action rifles and shotguns, you’d still be fine for hunting and home defense, yes? But crime, sprees, and gang war would all be massively curbed.

      • d_c_m

        Hmm… Thank you for sharing. However, well I don’t know if banning guns will keep it out of the hands of criminals and stop gang war sprees. (I really don’t like those, BTW.)

        • mindstalk

          Works in other countries. Why not us?

          Obviously it’d be hard to make the supply of illegal guns go away overnight. Though limiting ammo sales would probably put a crimp in things. But as guns (or a type of guns) wore out and got confiscated by police, or turned in for cash, the supply would go down. And smuggling guns in from overseas or stealing police supplies is harder than going down to Walmart.

        • Marie Brennan

          It’s worth remembering that “gun control” =/= “banning all guns” — even if that’s the rhetoric from some people. There’s a wide range of options: taxation, licensing, training, testing, banning some kinds of guns but not others, etc. And while those measures would not completely end criminal gun violence/gang wars/etc., they would likely have some effect, and would also reduce other kinds of gun death: suicides, accidental shootings, etc. Some of those deaths would be replaced by other means, but not all. It is possible to save lives. The questions — the questions we can’t answer anywhere near concretely enough — are how many, what it would cost us (economically, socially, etc) to save those lives, and whether we’re willing to make those sacrifices.

          • d_c_m

            Excellent! After all of the lovely thinking these discussions have brought up I now wish would be pondered by the public. First: Why do the majority of gun owners never commit crimes? What about them, their training and upbringing, keeps them from being criminals. Second: I would really love to see firearms education in our country work like drivers ed. No you don’t have to own a gun ever. However after a few hours of training you will know how to be safe with a firearm and that I think would be immensely useful. 🙂

  14. Anonymous

    I don’t have links for these statistics available; they’re in my library, which is still in storage here while I finish arranging housing, etc. But:

    (1) The leading (not majority, but most-prevalent) cause of firearm-related injury is accidental discharge. My sources do not go far enough into that to distinguish between firearm-related injury and firearm-related death… but a quick review of any newspaper outside major US metropolitan areas should convince you that this is at least a significant issue.

    (2) The leading — and probably majority — cause of death and serious injury in intentional firearms discharge incidents (yes, it’s a mouthful, but don’t blame me for governmentese) is euphemistically described as “improper target acquisition.” That ranges from thinking that a hunter is a deer to thinking that soon-to-be-canonized neighbor kid A is spawn-of-the-devil gangbanger neighbor kid B; it also includes failing to note and account for “collateral damage,” such as correctly identifying one’s target as gangbanger neighbor kid B… and missing, instead hitting six-year-old neighbor kid C who was playing on the porch that happened to be behind neighbor kid B.

    What these two items mean for the gun control/restriction/whatever debate is up to you. I do not, however, think they can be ignored.

  15. livejournal

    thoughts on gun control

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