Monday, January 24, 2011

'I say we need more sociopaths, because they know how to deal with other sociopaths!'

I do not understand the logic [sic] that goes: "If someone in that Tucson crowd had been carrying a gun, a great tragedy could've been avoided."

That doesn't work for me on any level, and I offer in evidence the following bullet points, as it were.

First of all, let's not forget that there was someone carrying a gun that day: Jared Loughner. Instead of adding yet another gun to the mix, why not work on eliminating both guns? If I say I intend to come to your party with a hand grenade, is the solution really to threaten that you'll have another guest come at me with a hand grenade of his own? Or is it preferable to ensure that no one has hand grenades?

Second, assuming the correctness of this entry, Arizona already has some of the more laissez-faire gun laws in the U.S. ... including a right-to-carry statute that, as of last summer, permitted any citizen over age 21 to freely carry concealed weapons. The fact that none of those people (except, again, Loughner) happened to be in the vicinity of Rep. Giffords' Congress on the Corner underscores the hit-or-miss nature of that supposed remedy.

But suppose one or more armed citizens had been at the shopping center. Loughner's behavior in the days leading up to the attack suggests strongly that he expected to die that morning. Ergo, as far as deterrent effect, merely encountering armed resistance from another citizen probably wouldn't have thrown him off his game. For all we know, that was part of his plan: going out in a blaze of glory in some apocalyptic gun battle. So let's follow that hypothetical scenario through, then, shall we? We now have (at least) two citizens exchanging gunfire. Instead of a shooting, we have a shootout. In the middle of a shopping center, on a Saturday morning. And remember, the odds that some private citizen just happened to be a sniper-qualified marksman who could shoot with cool deliberation, under those conditions, thereby dispatching his target with one well-placed slug ... Let's just say those odds are small. The death toll could easily have gone up, not down. Almost certainly one or more of the people who rushed and then subdued Loughner would have been felled by errant bullets.

Yet we have Arizona legislators who want college students carrying guns, too. I said this before, after V-Tech, but I am not among those who are cheered by the prospect of a phalanx of armed binge-drinkers wandering America's college campuses, high on a potent cocktail of booze and testosterone. To quote my observation at the time, "How many chest-thumping incidents that are now settled with a push and a shove, or maybe a few inept college-boy punches, would be solved instead, and irrevocably, with a 9-millimeter?"*

Finally, can we please stop all this "2nd Amendment!!" nonsense? I don't think the Framers intended the Amendment to be interpreted as it has by the gun lobby. But even if I'm wrong
even if ol' Thomas and ol' James and ol' Ben hoped everyone would someday have his own personal .454 Casull magnum, or maybe a Gatling tuntimes change. The Framers also intended for their countrymen to own slaves; at minimum, they weren't sufficiently bothered by slavery to rule it out while crafting the Bill of Rights, which would've been the perfect time. Nor did they think women deserved the vote.

Laws exist to serve society, not the other way around.

* Again, I quote myself not because I think I'm brilliant, but because the quote is already written and says what I want to say.


Chad Hogg said...

If this story is accurate, there was another citizen with a firearm nearby, and he nearly made a bad situation much worse.

a/good/lysstener said...

I was nervous on campus as it was and let me tell you I would not feel better knowing the guys around me were armed! What a crazy idea.

Steve Salerno said...

A quick note to our gun-owning readers: I am not implying that gun owners are sociopaths! I myself have shot and owned guns in the past. I'm simply playing off the line of reasoning alluded to in the opening of this post. If the two arguments are not logically equivalent, they're certainly parallel.

RevRon's Rants said...

If the kid had detonated a pipe bomb and killed as many people as he did, perhaps the outcry demanding more comprehensive mental health services - and background checks - would have been more pragmatic, if less passionate. But those very real problems don't fan the flames like a demand for gun control does.

When I was a kid, I have no doubt that there were more guns per capita than there are now, yet we somehow didn't have the problems we're presently seeing. Every kid I knew had at least one gun, and every kid who drove a pickup had one proudly displayed in the back window, inevitably loaded. The big difference, I believe, is that we were raised to respect others, and having hunted, we knew first-hand the physical trauma a gun could cause. Seeing something actually die is a world different from a video game. Experiencing combat is even more of a reality check, and you won't see that many combat vets going on shooting sprees (despite the damaged vet stereotype).

As to whether an armed citizen could have averted at least a part of the tragedy in Tuscon, I think it quite possible. However, given the array of variables that could be added to the mix, I don't think anyone can accurately project that "what if" outcome, as any projection would be based more upon fears or fantasies than upon an objective evaluation.

The primary purpose of the 2nd Amendment was to ensure that the people could defend themselves against a government that had strayed from its democratic foundation. The muskets of the day were the assault rifles. I recognize that times have changed dramatically, and it is unthinkable for the citizens to possess weaponry equivalent to that of the military, yet I do believe that it is important for the populace to retain the right to keep & bear arms, if only for its humbling effect upon the most abhorrent aspirations of some legislators and would-be legislators.

That said, I see no need for the super high capacity magazines such as the shooter had. Even in combat conditions, they would render the weapon sufficiently unwieldy as to outweigh any benefit. IMO, they serve only as would-be penis extensions.

RevRon's Rants said...

Additionally, how would you suggest going about eliminating those guns? The only people who would be prevented from getting weapons would be those who obey the law in the first place. Which would ultimately please the criminal element no end, since they'd know their prospective victims would be unable to defend themselves.

People who depend upon the police to defend them are being pretty naive. Even if police response time was under 5 minutes, how many would be willing to spend that amount of "quality time" with an assailant. And how many 30-round magazines do you think the Tuscon shooter could have emptied before the police showed up. Thankfully, he was obviously not particularly skilled; had he been so skilled, the guys who ended up tackling him would have never gotten the chance. So many "what if" questions hanging in the air. So many quick answers... but we like quick answers, don't we?

roger o'keefe said...

Your very neat "logical" analysis overlooks the practical fact that there are already millions of guns in circulation. Many of those are illegal. You're not realistically going to be able to take those off the street, so if you implement hard and fast laws that prevent everyone else from obtaining guns legally, what you have done in the end is leave the lawful population defenseless!

Steve Salerno said...

Ron and Roger: I cannot dispute the points you make regarding practical considerations. Those are tough issues. But look...nobody ever said running a workable democracy was easy, right? We tried prohibition (then gave up on it), and we fought a war to ban slavery. Sometimes we have to undertake difficult, even "impossible"-seeming challenges. But you don't just look the other way because something is daunting, do you?

Steve Salerno said...

Maybe the answer is to do something to the bullets?

Any ideas?

RevRon's Rants said...

To use your own example, Steve, we tried prohibition, which attempted - unsuccessfully - to deny the populace the right to have something they had for generations. We see how well that worked, but now you recommend trying it again? The fact that violent crime rates dropped in every state where concealed or open carry laws were passed should tell us something.

Why use such a "messy" - not to mention, divisive - solution when there are more effective solutions available? Beef up laws against the use of weapons in the commission of crimes. Incorporate diagnoses of mental deficiency into national databases that are searched during background checks. Make penalties for possession of stolen firearms or possession by felons harsh enough to discourage even criminals. And include graphic representation of gunshot wound victims in mandatory firearms safety classes. I remember being shown a film titled "Mechanized Death" - graphic footage of car wreck victims - in junior high. Ghoulish as hell (enhanced by our sick gym coaches selling red snow cones immediately afterward), but it made us think twice about driving recklessly.

We have a definite problem, but it is one that will not be solved by emotional knee-jerk reactions. We need to do something that will work, not something that will create more problems than it solves.

RevRon's Rants said...

Bullets?! Following that logic, perhaps we could redesign spoons in order to fight obesity? :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Sometimes I go off the deep end and muse about extreme/Draconian solutions. I lived in Indiana during a period of sprawl, when many formerly rural towns were becoming bedroom communities of Indianapolis, which meant that urban annoyances like stoplights were being installed hither and yon. The hither-and-yon-ites didn't care for that very much, and we experienced a pandemic of drivers simply running red lights. There were a number of horrific accidents, some involving kids near school zones. My half-serious proposal--which, to my amazement, the local newspaper actually printed--was to install robotized, laser-sighted rifles on the stoplights that would simply kill motorists who went through the intersection. Due process my ass!

(See? I'm not always against guns.)

In this instance, I was thinking of maybe putting x-amount of booby-trapped bullets into circulation that would explode upon firing, thus destroying the weapon and maiming the shooter. So anybody picking up a gun might have a functioning bullet...or he might not. You'd never know till you fired it. Which might discourage people.

No good? ;)

RevRon's Rants said...

Let's play what if... Say Connie & I were guests visiting your home. In the middle of the night, someone crashes through the front door and comes bounding up the stairs toward the bedrooms. Knowing that I'm armed, would you be comforted by the knowledge that the bullet(s) in my .357 might just explode, maiming me rather than stopping the home invader?

For that matter, upon hearing the door crash in, would you be wishing that I weren't armed, and willing to wait for the police?

Bottom line is that for all you know, I might be an irresponsible guy with a gun. The guy(s) running up the stairs however...

Steve Salerno said...

Ron: First of all, I was being sort of whimsical--just playing "what if?" with no particular concessions made to common sense. As an exercise, I often like to let my mind wander over the most outrageous possibilities, and then see how close I can get them to reality by modifying them or toning them down. I find it helpful. After all, if we're only allowed to consider what everyone else regards as "reasonable"...nothing changes.

I agree (again) that these are very tough issues. I do think we need an answer. And I also think there are elements of the problem that you yourself are not considering in your hypothetical. The availability of guns certainly makes the burglar or home-intruder bolder...wouldn't you agree? If burglars couldn't get their hands on guns, would they be as likely to break into people's houses in the wee hours in the first place?

I know this sounds (and probably is) very unrealistic, but I would much rather a situation where both the guy who breaks in and myself have to duke it out with fists, or even two-by-fours, then have a situation where a pitched gun battle occurs outside my bedroom. I hate to sound like a bleeding-heart, but you know, every day in the paper I read about some 18-year-old who did something he shouldn't have done and got shot for his efforts. Was the store owner or homeowner legally entitled to shoot the kid? Yes. But would it have been better, in the long run, if there were no guns involved at all, and everybody lived to see a (possible) better day?


RevRon's Rants said...

Problem with such whimsical "solutions" is that there will always be some who would take them seriously and try to implement them.

"If burglars couldn't get their hands on guns, would they be as likely to break into people's houses..."

And if grasshoppers carried .45s, would mockingbirds still screw with them? If you can suggest even a reasonably realistic means of taking weapons away from the criminal element, I'd be open to it.

On the other hand, I'd still be unwilling to relinquish my guns. While I'd definitely regret the choices someone had made which led them to breaking into my home, my compassion for them wouldn't rise to the level of wanting them to have a "sporting chance" in a confrontation with me. I was always up for a fight when I was younger; nowadays, protecting myself and those I care about is much higher on my priority list than is showing compassion to someone who wishes to do me harm. I'd choose to put the person down as efficiently as possible; my martial arts training would likely suffice, but a double-tap from my .357 would be better. I would feel deep regret (as I have in the past), but at least I'd still be around to feel that regret. Other factors are secondary.

Bottom line for me at least is that I have no delusions about (or desires for) being some kind of Rambo. I hardly qualify as a "gun nut," and find much of the furor on both sides of the argument to be laughable.

Every shooting brings calls for "gun control," despite the fact that such control has repeatedly proved unworkable and even detrimental to the desired results. The politicians who scream for gun control know that it's unworkable and unwinnable; their posturing merely solidifies their standing with their base. By the same token, every call for "gun control" gives groups like the NRA a big membership boost. They love the controversy, despite how much they argue against it. And in those few instances where specific weapons have been banned, they remained available, but the prices (and the profit margins for gun dealers) skyrocketed. They cried all the way to the bank.

And despite all the posturing, most of the people involved were benefited by the controversy. I wouldn't look for the "problem" to be "solved" anytime soon.

namowal said...

Just wanted to second everything RevRon and Roger have said. I found Ron's first comment to be particularly well-written and astute.

Steve brings up an interesting question about whether or not the difficulty of eliminating guns should have any bearing on whether or not we ought to ban guns. On most issues, I would say that what is right is right and it shouldn't matter how difficult it is to implement the right decision. Gun laws seem a bit different to me because the very fact that you can't eliminate guns is one fact in favor of making sure that guns are available for self defense.

(For the record, I don't think banning guns is the (morally) right thing to do anyway.)

a/good/lysstener said...

But it's so defeatist to think that way! It's a little like saying there are too many criminals out there, so let's just give up and make crime legal now.

RevRon's Rants said...

Alyssa, what you consider to be defeatist is actually just being pragmatic. If you can suggest a viable means for eliminating criminals' possession of firearms, I'd love to hear it. Be advised, however, that it hasn't worked anywhere else in the world. Also, bear in mind that in Switzerland, where every adult is issued a machine gun to keep in their homes, the violent crime rate is infinitesimally lower than ours.

I remember hearing a report on NPR years ago about a study of the shootings in a supposedly notoriously violent area of our country in the late 1800s. Apparently, there were only a couple of actual shootouts in the 10-year period being studied. The researchers were understandably surprised at what they found, until they actually looked at the scenario. Their summary: If you walk into a place with qa gun on your hip, you might tend to feel pretty cocky. But if everyone else in the place is also armed, you become quite measured in your behavior. Makes sense to me.

a/good/lysstener said...

Ron, though I don't have your obvious grasp of data, you can't make cross-cultural comparison like that. I'm sure guns could be just as available in England but they aren't because of cultural reasons. It's not part of who they are as a society. And aren't the Swiss the ones who throughout history maintained neutrality? Again from a cultural stand point, they're probably just not a warlike people. If everybody in this country had a machine gun, you'd have so many bodies piling up that the unemployment crisis would immediately get solved. Half the people would get killed and the other half could go to work for the coroner's office. >-)

I still say we shouldn't run away from the problem just because its huge. You really think solving the gun problem is more complicated than slavery and the civil rights movement, as Steve implies?

Steve Salerno said...

Alyssa: Re the machine guns...that's pretty funny.

RevRon's Rants said...

Alyssa, I know a number of people who (legally) possess fully automatic weapons, and not one of them has been a participant in the kind of slaughter you describe. The scenario you describe is based in fear/fantasy, rather than actual events or circumstance.

Finally, I think that "solving the gun problem" to diminish violence is as viable as "solving the spoon problem" to diminish obesity. I can readily attest to the fact that if someone wishes to do another harm, they will manage. Eliminating one tool of choice won't decrease the number of violent acts; it will merely bring about the use of another tool. What should reasonably be done is to address the behaviors and their underlying causes, rather than the manifestations of the behaviors. I've used the analogy previously of the preferred treatment for syphilis, prior to the introduction of penicillin. Chancres (the external symptoms of the disease) were cauterized, while the disease went untreated. Ultimately, the disease progressed to the point of killing the patient, despite the effort to curb the symptoms. I feel that the "solutions" you seem to prefer are very much akin to the treatments in the analogy.

Frankly, I think we need to realize that this is a dramatically different problem than was slavery or racial discrimination. Both of those were morally wrong behaviors, whereas I would challenge anyone who claimed that owning firearms was morally wrong. I'm certainly not suggesting that we run away from the problem, only that we address it logically and efficiently, rather than emotionally. To try to fix the problem, while at the same time ignoring well-documented information about human behavior and previous efforts makes as much sense as demanding that we figure out a means of tossing pure potassium into a body of water without experiencing the resultant explosion. Saying "we ought to" just doesn't effectively negate human nature or historical evidence, any more than it would negate a chemical reaction.

RevRon's Rants said...

BTW, Alyssa, guns aren't the rarity in England that many people think. Handguns, yes, but there are at least a couple of million legally licensed and owned shotguns, not surprising given the English tradition of wildfowl hunting and clay bird competition.

The English laws covering the ownership of firearms are among the strictest in the free world. If you recall, our society was founded upon the notion that individual freedom is preferable to strict governmental control. Even as the problems we face grow increasingly complex, that fundamental notion remains. Our challenge is to resolve our problems without abandoning the basic precepts upon which our country was founded. A big challenge, yes. But one well worth facing, IMO.

Anonymous said...

You're right RevRon Rants, I know lots of fat people who have killed dozens of other innocent people with their spoons.

Steve Salerno said...

I still think that if you have something in your society that is a major net-minus, you should try to do away with it. Guns, to me, fall into that category. And remember, this is from someone who has massively enjoyed shooting everything from a .22 target pistol to a .458 Weatherby. Hell, I carried a Sako .30-06 to work with me every day for maybe five years. I felt, at the time, that I needed it. But why did I need it? Because I was surrounded by a certain element in my sales territory who were armed to the teeth and sought to kill whites. If they didn't have guns, I wouldn't need mine, either. Hell, in the 10 years I worked in some of the roughest areas of New York, I inflicted my most severe damage with a three-foot carpenter's level.

How many people use guns to hunt for their food? (Yes, I know that some people eat what they kill, but that's not what I'm talking about. Other than bank robbers, how many people rely on guns in order to eat?) What do guns do for you other than provide an (oft-illusory) sense of safety--and a certain macho jolt? (Women can be macho, too.) Who needs a gun, other than cops?

I hear people make comparisons to cars--"cars kill people, too"--but come on. The basic and most common function of a car is not to KILL PEOPLE. Killing, OTOH, is in the very bloodlines (NPI) of guns; it is why they were invented: to kill people more efficiently.

Steve Salerno said...

Sorry, I meant .458 Winchester. For some reason I wrote Weatherby, thinking of their .460 model.

Dimension Skipper said...

I hate to do it, but blogger is forcing my hand once again, so...

Part 1:

An attempt* to inject some statistical data (if not actual facts) into the discussion... More Guns, Fewer Murders? ...Which actually briefly summarizes and links to their older (March 6, 2008), more detailed item on the same topic: Are violent crimes more or less common in areas where handgun ownership is higher? Frank Lautenberg says U.S. has 9,500 gun murders a year, compared to 200 or less in other nations

Both essentially say there has yet to be proven any sort of cause and effect relationship. It's possible more guns lead to more violence, but it's also possible that more violence leads to more guns. It almost seems like a chicken/egg question except that I think it's safe to say human against human violence definitely predates guns. But the whole gun thing added into the picture definitely seems as if it might have a certain feedback loop escalation quality going for it.

As for myself I don't really have a strong opinion one way or the other (except to be against indiscriminate killing and general mayhem) because I tend to see the pros and cons of both sides (within reason). I am not a sportsman or gun hobbyist. I am not a gun owner/advocate and I am pretty sure I will never be. What I don't know about guns is, well, pretty much everything. However, I do know gun owners and enthusiasts and I do not consider any of them (an admittedly limited sampling) to be a potential danger in the slightest.

A few things come to my mind re the issue in general:

1. I believe there are serious differences to be considered between heavily populated urban areas vs. rural settings where general hunting and/or animal control may be more feasible and necessary. Those differences may very well be strongly cultural-based too. However, I highly doubt that there can ever be any sort of geographical or population-based gun control enacted or enforced. (Plus I may even be wrong in my basic belief as cited, but I at least recognize that my belief is merely my opinion, not fact.)

2. I think it's important to factor in, but keep entirely separate, both intentional homicides and accidental deaths by gun. And to be honest, I have no idea whether one is much more prevalent than the other.

3. Ideally, if I had my way all guns and ammo would instantly and spontaneously (though innocuously) vaporize from the face of the Earth. Practically, though, I don't see any possible way to shove the guns back in the armory and lock the gate.

4. I found this bit from the Politifact item to be very interesting... "The U.S. also has a far higher rate of murders committed with knives, but I doubt that cutlery ownership is any higher in the U.S. than in Japan, Germany, and the U.K.," said Gary Kleck, a criminologist at Florida State University. "America is more violent than other nations in ways unrelated to guns and for reasons having nothing to do with the rate of gun ownership."

5. Perhaps Shakespeare said it best: "The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our guns but in ourselves..." :-)

Dimension Skipper said...

All I had left was my asterisked footnote, but I still wanted to include it, so...

Part 2:

* No offense intended toward anyone here in this thread... I simply find this discussion (in general) to be one of those frustratingly repetitive issues where folks go round and round, citing opinions and "facts," some of which may actually be facts, but others of which turn out to be nothing more than mistakes / misremembering / misinterpretation at best, downright lies and propaganda at worst. Often people's beliefs can, over time through personal experience and circumstances, solidify so much that they become "facts" and then usually those people will simply not be swayed.

Steve Salerno said...

DimSkip, I always feel remiss in thanking you adequately for the helpful context and other factual anchors you provide amid these roiling seas of opinion, but I'll simply say again here: Thank you. Although data don't tell the whole story (in part b/c of the sort of chicken/egg paradoxes to which you allude), they probably tell more of the story than ideology or pure speculation. And if nothing else they're a "staging area" for further, more focused debate.

Steve Salerno said...

I must add, however, that if we're going to be "practical" (i.e. rather than ideological), we can't just dismiss the cultural component you reference in your Shakespearean paraphrase. Maybe the fault isn't in the guns, but if the people are warlike, they must be denied the means to act upon those inclinations.

Ironically, isn't that the very reasoning we use in trying to prevent Iran and N. Korea from making nukes--while we reserve the right to own such catastrophic weapons ourselves?

roger o'keefe said...

Steve, I see it the other way: No matter what the numbers show, gun ownership is a basic American right and must be preserved as such. There are times when ideology trumps numbers, no matter what those numbers show. To go back to your earlier comments about slavery, it was wrong even when it was par for the course. And private gun ownership is right even if some percentage of the people misuse them.

Verif word: lndmines!

RevRon's Rants said...

"if the people are warlike, they must be denied the means to act upon those inclinations"

Even if such an action were possible, we'd just cauterizing those chancres, Steve. Better that we should address the factors that make us so hostile. We won't completely eliminate those, either, but at least we'd be addressing the problem itself, rather than a symptom. Perhaps spending as much money on mental health as we do on petroleum company subsidies would be a good start...

We as a culture are probably more prone to violence than are many of our old-world counterparts, perhaps in no small part because the very core of our society was built upon forcibly taking what the founders believed to be rightfully theirs. That mentality is echoed and perpetuated in political discourse on a daily basis, so it's no wonder it is reinforced.

Look; I own several guns, am well-trained and experienced in their use, and at pretty much any given time that it is legally permissible, I am armed. Yet I pose absolutely no threat to anyone, save perhaps for someone who poses a genuine threat. The "solution" being put forth would disarm many more people like me than it would criminals. It would be about as effective in reducing crime as reducing the number of police on the street, and I don't think anyone would recommend that. And no, I'm not a law enforcement officer (though I'd wager I am more proficient with weapons than most of them). Disarming the millions of people who would do no harm in an attempt to disarm the very small percentage of criminals who would comply with a firearms ban just makes no logical sense to me.

Dimension Skipper said...

Yet another complicating factor in this issue (and many, many others) is the saturation coverage by various media. Perhaps what we sometimes have to remind ourselves is that certain things get top headline media coverage not only because they are so awful in some way, but also very rare. In a city of one million people if one person gets shot that day, what's the lead story on all the local evening newscasts? So 999,999 other people were not shot, but that's not news.

There are so many instances of folks and organizations "raising awareness" of this issue or that issue (and often with very good intent and reason), usually specific illnesses with an eye toward prevention and treatment. The trouble with gun violence is that the news raises our awareness (and fear), but I don't know that there is much (if any) positive gain from that awareness being raised.

Still, I think that a look at the statistics and how American statistics may differ from those of other similarly developed nations does tend to point out a problem to some degree. Within the framework of our culture and laws, though, I'm not sure what, if anything, can be done about it.

As RevRon says, "Our challenge is to resolve our problems without abandoning the basic precepts upon which our country was founded."

The thing is, though (and quite obviously), there are mechanisms in place to do this and that have been enacted before. They're called amendments to the constitution (or conversely repealing of amendments). Ron, you seem to be saying (and perhaps I'm reading between the lines) that gun control is essentially wrong because it violates the constitution (and therefore the precepts our country was founded upon). But what if something happened (God forbid) that caused an overwhelming surge in sentiment toward a general gun ban and the consitution was so revised? Would you then defend the sacredness of the consitution and turn in your guns willingly? (Since as a dutiful American you'd be bound by the constitution to do the honorable thing.)

As for me, I happen to be among those who wonder what the founding fathers would think if they could see the world today as opposed to how it was in the 18th century. I would like to think that a significant number would reconsider a thing or too and that they would not be remiss in doing so. Time marches on and circumstances change.

Plus, count me among those who think that this should not necessarily be interpreted such that anyone anywhere should be allowed to carry a concealed handgun in general public (even if current interpretations and laws permit it). But that brings us back to that open armory door showing us only an empty room... Is it just simply too late to do anything effective? The pessimist in me tends to think so.

Dimension Skipper said...

Ironically, isn't that the very reasoning we use in trying to prevent Iran and N. Korea from making nukes--while we reserve the right to own such catastrophic weapons ourselves?—Steve Salerno

And even more ironically what nation is the only one ever to have used such a weapon on another nation? Twice!*

This is why, on some level, I have no issue whatsoever with other countries (or leaders/citizens of them) having concerns about US telling THEM they should not have such weapons.

* Granted, different era, different circumstances, but the numerical fact is clear.

See how things so easily proliferate... we go from discussing individuals carrying guns to nations wielding WMDs. But the analogy is the same, I think, and it still comes back to some sort of feedback loop. An incident leads to fear which leads to a response which leads to more fear, more escalating responses. He has a gun, so I need a gun. They have nuclear weapons, so we need nuclear weapons.

While some fear is natural and justified, often it is exaggerated (again, simply by intense media coverage) beyond all due proportion. The trick becomes how to interrupt the feedback loop. The larger the population (and maybe even just pockets of the population), the harder it becomes to gain control of that fear. All it takes is one or two isolated incidents and we're back on the road to escalation.

Going completely out to left field look at what happened with the whole vaccine/autism scare for a while there. And though any link has now been thoroughly disproven (and hopefully that is that) there are still those who will believe otherwise from here on out. Such is the power of fear.

josh said...

i really don't understand you american's obsession with guns. I don't own one, nor does anyone I know. Our police don't even carry them(although they keep one in their car in some cases).
What really confuses me is the insistence that having a gun is a form of 'defense'. It reminds me of your country's other odd concept of the 'pre-emptive strike'.
If someone comes at you with a knife or similar and you hold up a bit of wood or whatever to block them, that's defense. If, in the same situation, your response is to just up and kill them(and ask questions later), that's no longer defense. not only are your appointing yourself judge, jury and executioner, but you're giving them no chance to explain themselves or defend themselves in any way. Should it really cost someone their life, just because they made the choice to rob you of your big-screen TV?
Even if it should(it shouldn't), is that your choice to make?

Dimension Skipper said...

Steve, I see it the other way: No matter what the numbers show, gun ownership is a basic American right and must be preserved as such.—Roger

No matter what the numbers show???

OK, fine, whatever... But the issue for me then becomes one of how to prevent THAT right from infringing upon some other so-called American rights as put forth in another historically significant document, the "...certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The fact that the person who killed me can later be held accountable and maybe even put to death frankly just doesn't do much for me in that post-life scenario.

When your right (even potentially) infringes upon or trumps my right, I tend to start taking exception.

As Steve points out there is a huge difference between cars (or airliners for that matter) which have a specific commonly accepted beneficial purpose vs. guns, whose very design and purpose is for the express act of ending life (animals or people) and have only gotten much more efficient at that purpose over the years. (Even most knives are much more versatile for non-lethal purposes.) I'm sorry, but I can't just blindly accept that owning a gun (and presumably the ammunition too) is a basic right of any and all Americans, and certainly not guns capable of being concealed and carried on one's person as they say.

Heck, I admit I get just a little uncomfortable when hunting season rolls around every year and I see trucks parked along the side of the local main highways indicating the presence of armed "gangs" somewhere nearby. All it takes is one careless moment, one instance of poor judgment, maybe even just a sudden sneeze at the wrong time and...

namowal said...

I'm truly enjoying the variety of well-thought-out (where are the hyphens supposed to go?) perspectives that have been presented in the comments. (well, except anon's inability to interpret an analogy.)

It's interesting that we're all providing answers to slightly different questions. Is it morally OK to own guns? Should it be legal to own guns? What does the 2nd amendment protect specifically? How does violence correlate with gun ownership?

The reason we're even asking these questions right now is because of another question: What does the Tuscon shooting tell us about guns and their legal status?

The only answer I can give is 'nothing'. Psychopaths who want to commit violence will always find a way to do so even without guns. I don't believe it's appropriate to let a truly extraordinary (in the most literal sense) event dictate legislation.

RevRon's Rants said...

DimSkip - To answer your question: if the government today saw fit to eliminate the fundamental safeguards the founders put in place expressly to prevent that government from becoming a dictatorship, would I comply with the government's demand that I relinquish my guns? My answer is no, and I would qualify that answer by acknowledging having taken an oath to protect that Constitution "against all enemies, both foreign and domestic." IMO, refusing to comply with the demand would be an act in defense of the Constitution. The point, however, is moot, because anyone intelligent enough to actually get elected to higher office realizes that actually pushing a comprehensive ban on firearms would be political suicide.

And before anyone says that the government would never take up arms against its citizens, go back and read about the Bonus Army. Or do some actual research on the events at Ruby Ridge. Even the events in Waco were highly questionable. Not from the perspective of some grand conspiracy theory; merely from the perspective of bureaucrats making wrong decisions that are way above their pay grades. But their victims are just as dead.

Steve Salerno said...

Hmmm. "2nd-Amendment remedies"?

RevRon's Rants said...

No, Steve. I'm not condoning or suggesting violent resistance, much less threatening it. Just an unwillingness to comply with something that I believe could pose a threat to the ideals upon which our system of government is based (and which the founders apparently believed, as well).

Steve Salerno said...

But you're saying that you get to make that call, if I understand you correctly, right? About what's out of conformity with those founding "ideals"?

I still say you sound like you're channeling Michele Bachmann. ;)

Dimension Skipper said...

DimSkip - To answer your question: if the government today saw fit to eliminate the fundamental safeguards the founders put in place expressly to prevent that government from becoming a dictatorship, would I comply with the government's demand that I relinquish my guns?—RevRon

Ah, but that's not exactly the question I posed, is it? I think perhaps you're strategically re-framing the question so you can give the answer you want to give. As I tried to point out, the mechanism for changing the constitution was put in place by the same revered founding fathers who (allegedly) were so all-fired intent on personal weapon possession, and yes, for the reason(s) you state, I'll stipulate that...

However, I was talking about (in purely theoretical terms, mind you, I realize it would never happen) if for whatever reason the government saw fit to ban guns (leaving aside the question of enforcement) and that process cleared all the hurdles to enactment and was backed by some sort of general concensus or popular opinion, would you comply? My scenario was not one of dictatorial power or based on a momentary whim. All other things being equal as to the state of the country and the laws herein, if constitutional procedure were followed to the letter, would you comply? That would hardly be a dictatorship under those circumstances, would it? (Granted you could argue it might make us more susceptible to that, but I don't know that that's quite the same thing.) We'd still be electing a president every 4 years, congressmen every 2/6 years. So how would that be a dictatorship?

Your answer sounds sort of analogous to a friend of mine when we had a discussion around the time of the last presidential election. I mentioned that I was an independent (not registered to either party) and that I've voted both ways (or even a third way) on numerous occasions, often on the same ballot. My friend said that he too was unregistered to a political party and that he votes for the person he feels will do the best job. So I then asked him if he'd ever (EVER!) voted for a republican in his life. His answer?... "Well, no." But hey, he's "independent."

So you claim to revere the constitution and the ideals of the founding fathers inherent in it... but apparently if push came to shove and that consitution were changed by appropriate procedure, you would choose your guns over the constitution then, based solely on your own individual interpretation?

Which is fine, really, especially as we're still in hypothetical realms here. I just want to try to be clear on what I was asking and what you're answering.

I guess also maybe I'm just trying to make the point that the consitution has always been open to some interpretation and alteration, yet still overall remains within the spirit of the ideals of the founding fathers so long as all due process is followed... The theory being that the due process itself, both for consitutional alterations and day-to-day government in general, safeguards against momentary whims and usurping of power by one (or few).

All that being said, I think that really the right to take up arms against the government is one that doesn't need to be in the consitution at all. Because (and keep in mind I'm only talking about present-day America here) if the government is really that bad and the people are so overwhelmingly against it, well the leaders probably seized power illegally (or underhandedly through deception, but please let's skip the eternal hanging chad discussion) anyway and the people (or a not insignificant percentage) are probably going to try to overthrow it anyway... They're not going to first look to the consitution to see if it's OK to do so. And hey, if the criminals will always be able to get guns, then who's to say the imaginary government topplers couldn't also?

Dimension Skipper said...

I'm not sure I expressed myself well in the prior comment I just submitted, but I was up against the dreaded 4096 character limit again and so I trimmed enough to get under and submit. It will do for now.

All I will add is that even in the case of constitutional alteration that was later reconsidered, that too was handled within the proper procedural framework of the same revered constitution. Prohibition was tried (seemed like a good idea at the time) and then later repealed when practice and enforcement turned out to be different/harder than expected.

I'm not an expert on the constitution and will never claim to be, but all I'm trying to say is in other words the constitutional procedure worked even in the one case where it kind of sort of didn't. (I'm probably oversimplifying as I'm also not an expert on prohibition or even history in general.)

Odd irrelevant footnote: For whatever reason it seems like I often drop the first 't' out of constitution when I type. I don't know why. It's not a difficult word to spell, but I had to correct it 3-4 times just in this short comment. I think it's possibly more an issue of lack of digital dexterity at the keyboard.

RevRon's Rants said...

We each not only "get" to make that call; we are *required* by our commitment to the country's well-being to do so. It's the same reason that jury nullification can lead a jury to declare a verdict that seems inconsistent with the letter of the law, in order to maintain the spirit.

If that makes me Bat-shit crazy, so be it. I've seen the damage the "sane" folks can do.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron: I basically gotta go with DimSkip on this one. To say that "each of us" is entitled to decide when the government has gotten out of hand is to very eloquently and rationally make much the same case guys like the Unibomber and even Jared Loughner made in far scarier terms. I mean, sure, any one of us can channel crazed anchorman Howard Beale and thunder that we're "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore." But don't expect to do so on legal or constitutional grounds.

Steve Salerno said...

oops: UnAbomber.

Anonymous said...

RevRon sounds like an anarchist in constitutionalist's clothing.

RevRon's Rants said...

DimSkip & Steve - The bottom line is that before our government acted upon a comprehensive gun ban, it would first have to be subverted into something unrecognizable to the founders. Yes, there have been attempts to subvert the spirit of the Constitution, even while staying within the letter of the law. The most significant of those attempts have failed, in no small part because it became obvious that the people would no longer stand for them.

Given that, asking whether I would defy the government if it took such action is a lot like asking me if, given the ability to fly, would I continue to drive a car. Neither one is going to happen, so the question is rendered moot, beyond fantasy projections of ideologically-based scenarios.

And anon, I am certainly not an anarchist; I do, however, reject the notion that the basic principles of our government are as malleable as some might suggest. The details are subject to cultural changes, but rationalizing dilution and even abandonment of the principles is, IMO, contrary to the vision that has made the country great.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, I'm not willing to destroy in the name of ideological purity. You should know me better than that by now. If the country I served opted to "go gentle into that good night," I would likely do the same, since there would be little left that I would deem worthy of defense. However, if the metamorphosis occurred on the back of violent aggression directed at the populace, I do not believe that the populace would - or should - stand for it. Neither would I. I would defend myself, those I love, and the ideals that guide me.

Had the Bonus Army incident not occurred at a time when so much of the country was devastated and desperate - not to mention uninformed about the events - I suspect that a widespread uprising would have resulted. Were such an incident to occur nowadays, the response would be more than a mere footnote that somehow got overlooked in most history textbooks.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron: Well then, since you talk about the government being "subverted," let me just ask you a question point-blank (so to speak): If somehow a legislative consensus were reached that resulted in the banning of private ownership of guns, and if that ban were upheld as constitutional (or if the Constitution itself were amended), are you saying you'd refuse to give up your guns, and even possibly take arms against this new interpretation?

Anonymous said...

I get very nervous when people with guns start talking about their unwillingness to recognize the legitimacy of gov't under certain conditions that THEY define. I don't think I'm the only one.

RevRon's Rants said...

I'll answer your point blank question with one I've asked before, which I believe to be equally pertinent: if grasshoppers carried .45s,...

I do not believe that such legislation could ever be passed, given the relative stability of the political ramifications of the issue, not to mention the founders' having seen fit to directly address it. So my answer is that if grasshoppers carried .45s, I might feel compelled to take up arms.

Secondly, if you recall, when a particularly unhinged commenter once claimed that I had threatened him, and I made very clear the fact that I never issue threats, period. That certainly applies to the government as well as individuals.

RevRon's Rants said...

Anon, some people get nervous when they are unaware of the context of a discussion, much less, the nature of a contributor. And some simply use fear as a tool for communicating disagreement. Heck... look how many folks were "afraid" of electing a "Muslim" President. :-)

roger o'keefe said...

Steve, I don't think the question you pose to my "good buddy" Ron is a fair one. Because in order for the circumstances to occur that you describe, in essence America would have stopped being America, and there probably would have been some sort of insurrection long before. So your question is devious, and I'll use something like one of your patented off the wall analogies here. It's like asking a black person, "What would you do if the majority voted to pass a law that made it legal for cops to beat up and torture little black kids on sight?" If the majority ever did vote that way, the country and its ideals would have been lost. You could not expect blacks or anyone else to stand meekly by and let that happen.

Elizabeth said...

Steve, see John Horgan's A modest proposal for curbing homicides: socialism from Scientific American, January 2011.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: Will do. Thank you.

RevRon's Rants said...

I couldn't help laughing as I read Horgan's Modest Proposal, Elizabeth. I'm tempted to post a link on the hunting forum in which I used to participate. The sound of heads exploding would be deafening, 'cuz most of the forum's members think there are only 2 things worse than gun control: socialism and Obama. It owuld be the testosterone-infused equivalent of that other "modest proposal." Swift would, I'm certain, be proud to see his work carried on.

On a serious note, it should come as no surprise that where economic disparity is most pronounced, so will be the frequency of violent acts.

Elizabeth said...

The sound of heads exploding would be deafening

Then you should post it just for that reason, Ron. ;)