Reasoning about Guns

I try to present facts and logic and solutions rather than just opinions.

Contact me If your facts and logic are convincing, I'll change my mind !

"There's no obvious answer, especially if you continually ignore the obvious answer."
-- Andy Zaltzman

I'm reasonably familiar with guns:

Private ownership of all guns should be banned.

More and more, I come to this principle: "People shouldn't be allowed to own things that let them kill other people easily." People aren't trustworthy. They do stupid or criminal or mistaken things. Sure, we can't get rid of all dangerous things (knives, cars). And we need guns for war or law-enforcement or in case of societal collapse. But in general, people shouldn't be allowed to have guns (or bio-weapons, or explosives).

People don't need a gun to:

People should be able to rent a gun for a short amount of time to:

No need to take the rental gun off the premises for the first two, and no need to rent a handgun or high-capacity weapon for the third one.

Yes, for the first years of a complete ban, law-abiding people would lose their guns and criminals would still have them. But over time, most guns will be removed from the country, and most criminals will lose their guns. With fewer opportunities to buy or steal guns, this will happen.

Changes in gun law and resulting changes in crime:

Is there an example of a modern country which has banned or greatly restricted guns and crime has gone UP ? Homicides have gone UP ? I don't think so, but I'm willing to be corrected.

It turns out there are a lot of variables here:

England had violent crime go up a bit for a time after banning handguns, but then it went down. But gun-crime has continued, probably because they banned only one class of guns. For example, mass killer in 2010 used shotgun and .22 rifle he owned legally. The situation is further complicated by laws being different in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland.
Wikipedia's "Gun politics in the United Kingdom - Impact of firearm legislation"'s "Gun Crime"

Australia had crime go up after a gun buyback, but it turns out the population increased significantly in that time, and the number of guns actually went up along with the population increase.
Andrew Leigh's "Tougher laws, gun buyback on target"

Zack Beauchamp's "A huge international study of gun control finds strong evidence that it actually works"
The Straight Dope's "Do gun buyback programs accomplish anything useful?"
Evan Defilippis' "Less Guns, Less Crime - Debunking the Self-Defense Myth"

From "The Simpsons":
Clerk: Sorry, the law requires a five-day waiting period. We've got to run a background check.

Homer: Five days ? But I'm mad now !

[the cashier pulls the gun away from him]

Homer: I'd kill you if I had my gun.

Clerk: Yeah, well, you don't.

If a total gun-ban is politically impossible, perhaps a ban on private ownership of all guns except shotguns would be possible ? Shotguns are good for home defense, but have limited range, limited fire-rate, and are hard to conceal. So if we have to leave some type of gun legal, the breech-load shotgun should be it.

The assault-weapons ban is a red herring, a cosmetic move that fixes little. A Glock pistol with a 15 or 17-round magazine is perfectly capable of being used for mass killing. Even a 6-shot revolver can be fired quickly and speed-reloaded.

Idea: Electroshock weapons:

Suppose we banned private ownership of firearms (guns), and allowed private ownership of Tasers instead ? Effective for home and personal defense, mostly non-lethal.

We could allow all types of Electroshock weapons, which would include stun-batons and handheld stunners as well as projectile weapons.

[I've read that Tasers and generic stun-guns/stun-batons don't work the same way: a Taser gives an initial jolt of 50KV but then drops down to 1200V for the main shock; other weapons presumably just give a one-high-voltage shock. Supposedly Taser actually disrupts muscle control, while others just give pain.
Yahoo! Answers item]

Sure, electroshock is not perfect. There have been deaths from it, and cases of torture using it. There have been cases where well-prepared criminals plucked out the barbs and kept going. The target could fall down and hit his head and die. Apparently it's easy to make shock-proof clothing. But it seems to work very well most of the time, and it would be FAR better than firearms. Far fewer mass killings, far fewer deaths and injuries, less range, far less danger to bystanders, can't use it for suicide.

Of course, you wouldn't want to have just a Taser when facing a criminal with a gun. The idea is that we ban guns and get them out of our society. So maybe you'll have a Taser while facing a criminal with a Taser.

Of course, a Taser doesn't have the physical stopping power of a gun. But on the other hand, you might be more likely to actually pull the trigger on the Taser, since the consequences (of being either right or wrong) are so much less with a Taser than with discharging a gun. And danger to bystanders is less. And danger if the criminal takes away your weapon is less.

We should regulate electroshock weapons as we do firearms today. Register them and require training. Felons and children and the insane not allowed to have them. Using one against a person must be reported to police. Use in a crime increases the penalty for the crime.

Of course this wouldn't stop all crime or violence; we'll always have crime and violence. But would you rather a criminal or drunk or crazy person had a Taser or a gun ?

We could do a "swap": all law-abiding citizens who own a firearm can turn it in and get an electroshock weapon in exchange.

At the moment, banning handguns (even if you replace them with electroshock weapons) isn't constitutional. SCOTUS in Heller said that handguns are "arms" for the purposes of the Second Amendment. We'll have to work to get that changed; once public opinion has shifted enough, maybe SCOTUS will shift to follow.

Using an electroshock weapon should be a serious thing; it should have to be reported and investigated. Perhaps the weapons should have to make a loud noise, and puff a bit of marker-dye onto the hand, when fired.

Some say electroshock weapons could be used for torture. But that's also true of guns, knives, electricity, water, electric drills, lots of things.

A Taser is a one-shot weapon (only one projectile), but then you can press it against the target and apply more jolts of electricity. But they do make a multi-shot version: SlashGear article. I'm sure they could develop a higher-capacity version if there was demand; maybe they already have such a thing for police or military. I think contact electroshock weapons (such as batons) can be discharged multiple times.

One big drawback: Tasers are expensive, and reloading them is expensive. Some competition and higher volumes might fix this. Maybe someone could make cheap practice rounds (no wires). Taser M26C gun priced around $550; each cartridge costs about $30 to $40; there are other Taser models that cost a bit less or a lot more, and cartridge prices vary too. There seem to be no other suppliers of projectile e-guns or compatible cartridges; I guess Taser has all of the patents, and a monopoly.

Contact stun-guns are cheap: $15 to $35, but cheapest may not be very powerful, and I didn't see any that promise multiple stuns. Stun batons are priced around $30 to $60; also no promises on multiple stuns; most not sturdy enough to use as a club; on most, only tip gives shock.

A feature of contact e-weapons: you can "warning-fire" it, making a nasty-looking and nasty-sounding spark across the contacts. So you can use it to scare off an attacker without having to get close and shock them.

From Sandra Upson in IEEE Spectrum's "How a Taser Works" 12/2007:
The [Taser] guns also now release bits of identifying confetti with every shot, and the time and duration of each trigger pull is recorded in the gun's memory. According to Taser, its guns are now fired more than 620 times a day and have been used a total of more than 680,000 times worldwide.

Milestone Safety's "Stun Gun FAQ"
Wikipedia's "Taser"
DivaDefender's "Stun Guns vs Tasers"
IEEE Spectrum's "How a Taser Works"
The Straight Dope's "How dangerous are Tasers?"
Sarah Kershaw's "As Shocks Replace Police Bullets, Deaths Drop but Questions Arise"
Wake Forest studies on Taser injuries

The Constitution:

A lot of people say "the Founders were perfect, the Constitution is perfect, the Constitution guarantees private ownership of guns, so that settles it".

The Founders also believed in slavery, and no voting for women or Indians, didn't know or care about environmental issues or abortion, didn't say anything about privacy, authorized land and naval forces but not an air force, didn't put freedoms of speech and religion into the Constitution (they're in the later Bill of Rights), etc. Certainly they didn't believe blacks or Indians had a right to possess guns ! And the Founders weren't unanimous about anything, and fought each other politically before, during and after the Revolution. They also screwed up at writing the first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, and had to scrap it and create a new constitution.
Michael Che

And lots of things have changed since those days; the Constitution is just one component of the laws of this country, there is a long history of reinterpretation and modification of it, and even the Founders called their work the start of an "experiment".

Article VI, clause 2 in the Constitution, known as the Supremacy Clause, explicitly says that three things - the Constitution, federal laws, and treaties - together "shall be the supreme law of the land".

Comment by someone on a article:

It doesn't matter what the Constitution's exact text says because we interpret it through thousands of court cases. People don't seem to understand that everything from the banning of assault weapons to the rights of states in border disputes has been determined by the Supreme Court and lower courts, not by the exact text of the Constitution.

As a historian, it irks me that people hold up the Constitution and shout: "It says right here!" about something. When someone does that, they are immediately discredited in my mind as an ignorant waste of time and oxygen.

And a strict literal reading of the Constitution leads to unreasonable logic: "bear arms" would mean no limits at all. Machine guns, RPG's, dynamite, anthrax, mustard gas, car-bombs, cannon, nukes all are "arms". Are they all to be legal ? Why not ? And it doesn't say that "the People" can be taken to exclude criminals, the insane, and children. Strict literalism is wrong.

I'm not persuaded that the Constitution guarantees private ownership of guns. SCOTUS disagrees with me: SCOTUS in Heller said that handguns are "arms" for the purposes of the Second Amendment. We'll have to work to get that changed; once public opinion has shifted enough, maybe SCOTUS will shift to follow.

Garrett Epps' "Constitutional Myth #6"
Robert Parry's "The Real Rationale for the 2nd Amendment, That Right-Wingers Are Totally Ignorant About"

From NPR interview of Mike Seidman 3 Jan 2013:

> Why do you think the Constitution's become - or
> large parts of it - irrelevant ?

Well, I think the basic point is this. This is our country. We live here. We have a right to have the kind of country we want. We wouldn't want France or Great Britain or, for that matter, the United Nations telling us what kind of country to have. And we shouldn't let a small group of people - who lived over 250 years ago and who knew nothing about our current situation, and who didn't even represent a majority of the Americans then, tell us what kind of country we have. That's a decision for us. We have a right to make it for ourselves.

... There are many things that we ought to hold on to in the Constitution. There are important things. But we ought to hold on to them because we think they're right, not because somebody who's been dead for 250 years ago thought they were right.


[Amending is too difficult, and we should ignore specified procedure for amending.] It just doesn't make any sense, I don't think, to have a document that is as important as the Constitution, as entrenched as it is, given the fact that the world changes. The people who wrote the Constitution lived in a small rural country, huddled along the Eastern Seaboard, a large part of which was financed by slave labor. They believed - many of them believed that it was OK to own other human beings. Almost all of them believed that women should have no role in public affairs. Almost all of them believed people without property should have no role in public affairs. Why on earth would anybody think that their decisions ought to bind us now?


> The Constitution, you say, has saddled us
> with a dysfunctional political system and kept us
> from debating the merits of divisive issues. How so?

[Take the health care debate.] So where I work, here's the way an argument about health care goes: A says, gee whiz, the president's health care proposal's terrific. B says, but it's unconstitutional. A says, no, it's not. The framers would've liked this. A says, are you kidding? Look at what James Madison said. And before you know it, we're off and running on a completely irrelevant conversation about what people thought 250 years ago, instead of about what we should be talking about, which is the merits of health care. Now, don't get me wrong. This is what I do for a living [law professor]. So I enjoy doing it. And I, maybe boastfully, I think I'm pretty good at it. But I don't think it's a particularly good way of talking about whether, for example, Obamacare is good for the nation or not.

To make matters worse, Constitutional discourse tends to raise the temperature of the argument, so that instead of my saying, you know what, you and I just disagree about what the economic effect of Obamacare is going to be, somebody says, you're disobeying our basic commitments which make us Americans. And that kind of debate is just not helpful. We need to engage with each other instead of calling each other names.


[From a caller:]
> We should make sure we keep the preamble,
> because that really tells why the Constitution
> was written in the first place and what it's
> purpose really is.

I do agree completely. So the Constitution is supposed to be a unifying document. And one thing I think we can all agree on, are the great goals that are stated in the preamble. And one of the things about preserving and respecting the preamble is that it gives us a vocabulary where we can talk about how we ought to fill in the blanks. Those are goals that all Americans can and should share, to provide for a more perfect union, if you will. And the Constitution serves its best function when it provides us with a framework for debate and doesn't try to dictate to us outcomes that we may or may not approve of.

My opinion:

I think we can ban guns without having to amend the Constitution. When public opinion demands something strongly enough, the govt finds a way to do it, regardless of what the Constitution says.

For example, after 9/11, public said "do WHATEVER it takes to kill terrorists". Govt said "we're going to spy and search without warrants, imprison without trial, torture people, assassinate people (even Americans)". Those things all are un-Constitutional. So what happened ? They whipped up legal opinions they liked, created the "enemy combatant" category, declared permanent state of war, C-in-C can do anything he wants in time of war, keep prisoners outside USA, render prisoners to other countries for torture, use drone-strikes, etc. Congress and courts and public went along. They got it done despite the Constitution.

If public demanded a gun-ban strongly enough, govt could get it done. Without amending the Constitution. SCOTUS would rediscover those words "a well regulated militia" and hang a decision on them.

And see court decisions such as those in Mark Joseph Stern's "Appeals Court: No Second Amendment Right to Carry Concealed Firearms Outside the Home"

Warren Burger on Second Amendment

From Bernard Schwartz's "The American Heritage History of the Law in America" (1974):

... By the end of the Revolutionary period, the American legal system had evolved its principal legal institutions. Laws were enacted by elected legislatures, administered by elected Executives, and enforced by an elaborate system of courts. The legal framework was established by written constitutions, and the means of making or amending them had been settled. To be sure, many of these institutions (especially the Executive) were rudimentary compared to their present-day counterparts. But the striking thing is the extent to which they had already developed by the time the nation began its independent existence. The far-reaching changes that have occurred in American law during the last two centuries have been not so much changes in the institutions that make and enforce laws as in the issues with which they have been concerned and the substantive law (that part of the law which defines one's legal rights and obligations, as contrasted with procedural law, which defines the procedure followed in cases) that has developed to deal with those issues.

The history of American substantive law has seen an almost complete transformation in principles, rules, and doctrines. The very subjects of the law today are radically different from the curriculum prevailing at the founding of the Republic. Consider the subjects studied by those seeking to enter the legal profession in 1787. ... feudal property, evidence, bills, maritime law, equity, pleas of the Crown (criminal law), wills, uses, tenures, law merchant, civil and Chancery practice. ...

... Most of the important modern law school subjects had not even begun to develop at the time of independence. This was true even of the staples of present-day legal education: torts (civil wrongs), constitutional law, administrative law, international law, trusts, corporations, labor law, trade regulation, taxation, and conflict of laws.


... Americans too often forget that the rule of law draws only limited strength from judicial guaranties; it must have roots far deeper than a formal fundamental document and decisions of the judges enforcing it. Our public law depends for its efficacy on popular acceptance of its basic presuppositions. Acceptance, rather than formal legal machinery, is the decisive force in the law's implementation. ...


The period before the Civil War appears today as the Golden Age of American Law. Those were the years that followed the classical era of constitution making, when the basic political and legal institutions of the nation had been fixed. Now the details of the marriage between English common law and the people and conditions of the new country had to be worked out. It was a period of remarkable legal development ...

... the job was done by receiving the [English] common law and reshaping it into a law for America. The basic starting points were retained from English history; but new principles were constantly adopted from American life, molding and reshaping the common law. ...

... For the better part of a century, the growing point of American law was case law (law made by decisions of judges, rather than by legislative acts) ...

... the job of the American courts was a creative one, far more than the mechanical reception of common law principles. American judges recast the common law into an American mold. In doing so, they performed a legislative role in its broadest sense. Rarely articulated considerations were the secret root from which the law drew its life. These were, of course, considerations of what was advantageous for the community. The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent philosophical and political theories, intuitions of what best served the public interest, even the prejudices that the judges shared with their fellow men - all had at least as much to do with the American version of the common law as the analytical jurisprudence the judges professed to be applying. The principles and rules developed were the result of the judges' view of public policy ...

Imagined Constitution

The USA should stop exporting weapons, too. They just spread death around the world, and often come back to hurt the national interest of the USA (for example, the USA armed the Afghans, who became the Taliban and Al Qaeda). I know the French and others would take up the arms-exporting slack, but then we could start pressuring them to stop exporting too (at least to individuals), and we'd have some credibility in the argument.

Some people seem to feel so threatened by the outside world that they have to have dogs and alarm systems and guns, and they still feel under siege in their own home. Maybe I'd feel that way if I'd been raped or my spouse had been murdered, or if I lived in a place dominated by gangs. But I think it's more effective to take guns away from citizens and criminals, and make the police work better. I fear all the wacko, aggressive, drunk or just confused citizens out there with major firepower at their fingertips. Mistakes, suicides, accidents, child-access, theft are much more prevalent and likely than successful defense with gun. [But someone told me New Hampshire, I think, has unrestricted concealed-carrying, and there aren't bloodbaths there. I'll have to research that. (Turns out he's wrong; like many other states, in NH open-carry is unrestricted but concealed-carry requires a permit.)]

Conflict and crime will always be with us. But it would be better if fights involved fists or knives instead of guns or bombs. Less chance of death, to those fighting and to bystanders.

From Nicholas Kristof's "Smart Guns Save Lives. So Where Are They?":
About 20 children and teenagers are shot daily in the United States, according to a study by the journal Pediatrics.

Indeed, more preschool-age children (about 80 a year) are killed by guns each year than police officers are killed by guns (about 50), according to the F.B.I. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other countries:

Other countries seem to get by without a gun in every house; why can't we ? Australia, England, Japan, etc.

USA is quite different from other countries in this area:
Kevin Quealy and Margot Sanger-Katz's "Compare These Gun Death Rates: The U.S. Is in a Different World"
Walter Hickey's "This Chart Proves There Is Something Profoundly Wrong With How The US Handles Guns"
Ryu Spaeth's "The Connecticut school massacre: How the world sees us"
Data in NY Times's "On Guns, America Stands Out"
NationMaster compare stats of any two countries

Here's something interesting: UK has very high rates of "violent crime", higher than USA: James Slack's "The most violent country in Europe: Britain is also worse than South Africa and U.S.".

But UK has 1/4 the rate of "intentional homicide" (by any means) of USA: Wikipedia's "List of countries by intentional homicide rate".

I wonder if the difference is: gun ownership ?

ArmedWithReason's "Debunking the 'Guns Don't Kill People, People Kill People' Myth"

Canada has much stricter gun laws than USA, widespread gun ownership, and few massacres: CTVNews article

Gun homicides and gun ownership listed by country
UK homicide and crime rates over last century
Wikipedia's "Gun politics"

Something I said:
USA has a much higher homicide rate than all other major Western countries; in the list, the nearest country is Canada, which has homicide rate 1/3 of USA's rate. Most other major countries have rates 1/4 to 1/6th of USA's rate.
Wikipedia's "List of countries by intentional homicide rate"

I don't see any reason to think we have 4x to 6x the rate of videogame-playing in USA, or 4x to 6x the rate of mental illness, or 4x to 6x the rate of violent movies or something. What we DO have is 3x to 6x the gun ownership rate of other major countries: Wikipedia's "Number of guns per capita by country".

In reaction to a US citizen saying "you foreigners should shut up about guns; you have no right to participate in the USA gun debate":
USA has a much higher homicide rate than all other major Western countries; most other major countries have rates 1/4 to 1/6th of USA's rate.

So, on the gun issue, USA is the stupid kid on the block. We need to learn from anyone we can; we need suggestions from any place we can get them. We need to hear from people in other countries who are doing things better than we are.

You can always find some other country with a higher homicide rate than USA; some gun-guys say "Russia has a higher homicide rate than USA". Okay, is that something for us to be proud of ? USA rate is quite a bit worse than those of Canada, Australia, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, etc. But we can name one or two big countries who are worse, so that makes it okay ?

John Cassidy's "Blame the Gun Laws, Not Judd Apatow"
The Onion's "'No Way To Prevent This', Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens"

Is there such a thing as "gun addiction" ?
Steven Kotler's "Addicted To Bang: The Neuroscience of the Gun"
BruinKid's "Bill Maher goes after Open Carry 'ammosexuals'"

Regulation and insurance:

From a blog post: "we have loads of regulation for cars, objects that are not designed to kill. Just common sense would dictate, that objects that are designed to easily kill anyone with the flick of a finger should be regulated a lot more than cars. E.g. license, tests, registration, mandatory insurance."

From comment by Chad Brick on a Slate article:
Here is my solution for gun control: force owners to insure their guns, and require the insurance be in hand before the gun is transferred to their ownership. Said insurance must include unlimited liability for any violence committed with the gun, and extend five years into the future if the gun is "stolen".
My response:
Excellent idea, Chad ! Just as we require training and licensing and insurance to drive a car, require it for gun ownership.

I wonder: what is the situation with homeowner's insurance today ? Do any companies ask you "will there be a gun on the property ?" when you apply for insurance for your house ?

Jacob Weisberg's "Beating Guns the Bloomberg Way"
If guns were as regulated as cars
Guns and cars
Gun vs Abortion
If gun transactions were like abortion
The Simpsons on regulation
Requiring ID

Why guns should stay legal:
Dave Gilson's "10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down"
Evan DeFilippis and Devin Hughes' "5 arguments against gun control - and why they are all wrong"
Evan DeFilippis' "Debunking the Five Most Important Myths About Gun Control"
Frederic Lemieux's "Six things every American should know about gun violence"

Arming everyone would deter crime:

From "Freakonomics" by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (on Amazon - paid link):
... The economist John R. Lott Jr. is the main champion of this idea. ... Lott let himself become a lightning rod for gun controversy. He exacerbated his trouble by creating a pseudonym [to go online and praise himself.] ... Then there was the troubling allegation that Lott actually invented some of the survey data that support his more-guns/less-crime theory. Regardless of whether the data were faked, Lott's admittedly intriguing hypothesis doesn't seem to be true. When other scholars have tried to replicate his results, they found that right-to-carry laws simply don't bring down crime.

Switzerland and Israel are not examples of arming everyone to get less crime:
Janet Rosenbaum's "A League of Our Own"
Janet Rosenbaum's "Gun utopias? Firearm access and ownership in Israel and Switzerland" (but some glaring errors, such as "Permit holders may own only one handgun for 6 months", which is not true)
Ezra Klein's "Mythbusting: Israel and Switzerland are not gun-toting utopias"
Matthew Kalman's "Israelis shoot down NRA's claim that the Jewish State uses more weapons to keep schools safe"
BBC's "'Three dead' in Swiss shooting" (gives some overview info)
Emma Jane Kirby's "Switzerland guns: Living with firearms the Swiss way"'s "Four dead in factory shooting" (gives some overview info)
But then there's this:
Helena Bachmann's "The Swiss Difference: A Gun Culture That Works"

Mark Follman's "Do Armed Civilians Stop Mass Shooters? Actually, No."
Andrew Wertz's "Combat veterans shoot down the NRA: 'Good guy with a gun' is based on a 'fantasy world'"

Dahlia Lithwick and Mark P. McKenna's "More Guns, More Fear, More Killings"

Greg Hampikian's "When May I Shoot a Student?"
Andy Borowitz's "A Letter from Kim Jong-Un"

Give every kid a stick

From Paul D. Thacker's "Gun Myths Die Hard":
Probably the single most common myth is that easy access to a loaded firearm - in the home, for example - decreases your risk of a violent death. At the population level, the opposite is true. Evidence finds that access to a firearm increases one's risk of being killed by a firearm. That's a very well-supported statement these days.

There are two other particularly important examples, I think. First, people believe that firearm death is primarily a crime problem. Suicides with guns are more common than homicides, by far. Second, everyone thinks that criminal firearm violence is a mental health problem - that it's people with mental illness who are shooting people. In reality, a history of violence, alcohol abuse, and even age and sex are more important factors.

Rachel Nuwer's "What if all guns disappeared ?"

Typical debating tactics by gun-guys:
  1. Deny that there is a problem. [When that is refuted:]

  2. Propose unworkable solutions. [When that is refuted:]

  3. Deny that a ban would work. [When that is refuted:]

  4. Deny that a ban could be enacted. [When that is refuted, go back to (1).]

Some people conflate these three things, often deliberately:
  1. Would a gun-ban work ?

    I think if we passed a ban it would take decades, maybe even 50 years, to work most guns out of private hands. Law-abiding people would turn in or sell back their guns. Manufacturing and sales and gun-shows would stop. As police arrested criminals, guns would be confiscated and destroyed. As gun-nuts were ratted out by ex-wives, or died, or got caught brandishing guns, their weapons would be confiscated. It would take a long time. And high-end criminals will always be willing to pay for guns. We won't get 100% of them out of society.

    But it COULD be done ! If something is the right thing to do, we should do it, even if it is hard to do and takes a long time.

  2. Is a gun-ban the right thing to do ?

    This mostly comes down to:

    • Would it stop massacres and other gun-violence ?

      Other countries (Australia, Japan) have seen good results from bans or restrictions; Britain had a partial ban and mixed results.

    • Would it leave us at the mercy of criminals ?

      Odds are that you won't be near your gun when you need it, or that your gun will be safely locked in a cabinet and with a trigger-lock on it when you need it, or that you're safer just giving a robber your money and letting the police arrest them later (maybe). Odds are even higher that you'll kill some innocent person, or someone will commit suicide with your gun, or that it will be stolen.

    • Would it leave us defenceless against a tyrannical government ?

      Other countries that have banned or greatly restricted gun ownership haven't fallen into tyranny. Private guns didn't prevent USA government from taking away some of our rights after 9/11. And I don't see how private guns would protect us if the government (including military, DHS, FBI, police) turned against us.
      Tom Tomorrow on tyranny

  3. Could a gun-ban ever be enacted in USA ?

    I don't know if banning private ownership of guns will ever get enacted. Maybe as we have more and more massacres, the tide of public opinion will slowly turn. Suppose we get to the place where every town has had a massacre in the last 20 years or so. Would that be enough to change public opinion ?

How can people AFFORD all of these guns ?

Apparently plenty of poor people or households own guns: Mary Dooe's "Behind the Data: Gun ownership and income".

Heard a show about some declining city (maybe Detroit). They interviewed some father of 2 and asked him how he "protected" his kids from drugs, and he said "we have 35 guns in the house" (missing the point of the question, IMO).

I don't know what kind of guns, but say average of $300 to buy each gun (see Firearms Price Guide; that $300 easily could be higher). That's $10,500 worth of guns. Add ammo, maybe another $1000 ? I hope they're being stored safely, which means more money for locked cabinets or something. Sales tax, permits, storage cases, cleaning kits. Might add up to $13K ?

I assume most guns are depreciating assets. Wear and tear and rust, ammo deteriorates, you have to expend ammo to keep in practice, manufacturers are pouring plenty of new guns onto the market. [Some people say no, guns don't depreciate much. Why not ?]

Suppose that $13K had been put in the bank instead, to earn interest and serve as the start of a college fund or something ?

[Response from many people: many of their guns are inherited, so they didn't have to buy them. (But those guns still tie up a pool of money that could be used for something else. And tie it up in way that risks theft.) And a couple more responses: "Different guns have specialized uses. Owning 7 would be entirely reasonable IMHO." and "Having 10 guns doesn't even require someone to be a rabid collector. It's just scratching the surface. Very easy to do."]

By raw numbers in USA (about 1 gun per capita, about 35 to 40% of households have at least one gun, average household is about 2.55 people, 2.55/0.375 = 6.8), does that mean households with guns have an average of 7 guns per household ? And do they divide into households with 1-2 guns, and those with 30-50 guns ? How many of each ?

From yrrosimyarin on reddit:

I think there are three kinds of gun owners:

1) People who own one pistol for personal protection. They may or may not have a CCW permit, but probably don't actually use it that often. The gun is really more of a symbol and a talisman in their minds - they think it means they can protect themselves. They may be right, but it will likely be because of the threat of the gun, rather than their skill with it.

2) People who have maybe 3 guns - a .22, a shotgun, and a pistol of some kind. They shoot recreationally on occasion, but don't really practice. They'll also maybe hunt a rabbit or a deer one a year. The guns are a tool and occasional sport.

3) People who are seriously into guns, and have as many as they have managed to squeeze into their budget recently. These are the guys who treat it as a serious hobby, and have guns for every sort of sport, self defense, or hunting they do. They actually go to the range to practice, not just dink around.

Gun culture used to be all #2 and #3. As the population has gone more urban, it has increasingly added more of type #1 -- you don't need a .22 to shoot a rabid raccoon with, but you might want a snub .38 to scare off a mugger.

From Josh Fielder on Facebook 1/2013:

So, here's my two cents (which will end up being closer to $1.50 I'm sure) and I'm sure I will regret posting this later, due to the "friends" I will lose while exercising my First Amendment, but here goes.

Instead of posting a meme with a picture and a falsely attributed quote or a made up statistic, I've spent my time researching the gun violence/gun control debate. And I'd like to talk about some of the pervasive themes I've seen lately.

First off, Hitler did not say "In order to conquer a country, you must first disarm its citizens." In fact, Hitler made it his position to enable guns to be obtained more easily.

Secondly, the presidents, and I mean ALL of them, and their families, receive death threats on a daily basis. President Obama did not enact the regulations that REQUIRE Secret Service protection for him and his family. If you believe your children are as much of a target as the president's children, then you have a self inflated idea of your position in this world.

Thirdly, there is NO law or bill being considered that would allow anyone to come marching into your home to take your legally obtained and legally owned firearms. There are possible laws that are being explored that would require more responsibility on the part of the gun owner or person purchasing a gun (i.e. pass a background check even if buying a gun from a gun show dealer). If you buy a car from a dealer it must be registered (a record of the transfer is documented). If you buy a car from a private citizen, it must be registered. If you buy a gun from a dealer, there is a record of that sale and it is registered. So how is it illogical to require the same for private sales of firearms?

Fourth, there are not more people being killed with baseball bats than guns. If you disagree with that because you saw a picture stating otherwise on the internet, then I would like to offer you the chance to buy some oceanfront property in Arizona and I'll throw in the Brooklyn Bridge for free. There is no magical solution for solving the problem of gun violence. THAT is what we need to solve.

We don't ban cars that are used in DUI related deaths, but we do enact regulations regarding blood alcohol limits, prosecute people who enable a drunk driver to operate a vehicle after serving them, promote a DUI campaign raising awareness and educating drivers on the dangers of driving while intoxicated. All of which has reduced DUI related fatalities by over 40% in a decade.

The media is not hiding other gun related stories because they want to sensationalize the problem, they are simply unable to cover every gun death story because there would be an average of 80 of them each day. So they concentrate (unfortunately) on the massacres which I think we can all agree, happen all too often.

I find the fact that more children are killed in the US by guns than in the entire Middle East region, very disturbing.

I find it disturbing that the NRA blames the rise in violent shootings on video games and then comes out with its own shooting video game (categorized for children as young as 4 years of age) less than a month after Newtown.

I find it disturbing that other countries spend in excess of twice as much as the US on violent video games and have a small fraction of the amount of gun related deaths/injuries.

I find it disturbing that instead of looking for a solution to a problem like Newtown, there are people wasting their time and energy by trying to turn it into a conspiracy theory.

I find it disturbing that guns are the third largest killer of children ages 5-14 in the US.

I find it disturbing that a child in America is 12 times more likely to be killed with a gun than the rest of the "developed" world.

I find it disturbing that there are more guns privately owned in America than the next SEVENTEEN countries combined.

I find it disturbing that all of these statistics are not discussed but fake statistics about a baseball bat death rate are plastered everywhere.

I find it disturbing that some people believe that the ONLY answer to this problem is more guns.

Banning all firearms is NOT the answer, which is exactly why it's not being proposed. This country has enacted laws that didn't work before, so they've been revised, repealed, reformed, etc. It's ludicrous to think that as a society, we evolve, but the laws governing us cannot? The NRA states that the assault weapons ban didn't work the first time. Well, you know what they say, "If at first you don't succeed, f*%k it.".

If armed guards are the only answer to ending school shootings, then explain the VT shooting. Virginia Tech had an entire police department complete with a SWAT unit. Explain Columbine, which had an armed officer on staff. When discussing an end to gun violence in schools, there should be NOTHING left off the table.

Ronald Reagan, a huge gun proponent and signor of the Brady Bill, wrote to Congress in 1994 asking them to propose legislation limiting or stopping altogether the manufacture of guns classified as assault weapons. And anyone saying "assault weapon" is a made up term should remember that every word in every language is, in fact, made up.

And yes, criminals don't typically obey laws, but we still have them. Can you use that logic to say there should be none at all? No.

Let me be clear, I am NOT anti gun. I have nothing against guns or responsible gun owners. I served proudly in the military, I worked in armed security, I've hunted, and enjoy target shooting since I was a kid. And I'm sure most gun enthusiasts are the same way. However, this issue should be discussed logically and rationally, and all I see are comments and pictures that are anything but rational and for the most part, are just viral, inflammatory, unresearched, vitriol.

The president enacted 23 executive actions today, of which only 2 have anything to do with limiting the availability of a category of gun or a magazine capacity. The remaining 21 deal with aspects regarding background checks, school safety and mental health system requirements and deficiencies. Will it be a perfect solution? No. Will it help? We'll see. Is it better than doing nothing? Definitely. If we keep using the statement, "It's too soon to talk about it." after each tragedy, pretty soon, we'll never talk about it.

OK, so maybe it ended up closer to $2.00 instead of 2 cents. So sue me.

Paraphrased from Freakonomics "How to Think About Guns" 2/2013:

From Hope Reese's "What Liberals Need to Understand About 'Gun Guys'":

The people who buy most of the guns are middle-aged white men who have not finished college. That demographic has been particularly screwed in this society in the past 30 years. They are losing ground economically, they are losing ground culturally, but in this country, to talk about your circumstances as part of a class is forbidden. So these guys have no vocabulary for discussing what has happened to them. All they know is, they're pissed.

The only people giving them a voice is the NRA, who comes along whispering in their ears, "The liberals want to take away your guns." The gun is the one thing that makes these guys feel vital and useful and powerful and capable. ...


> What do you think Democrats should know about the average gun guy?

I think they should know how much self-esteem gun guys derive from their guns, how patriotic they feel. ...

From windsostrange on reddit:
I'm afraid of a gun even when it's not involved in a crime, even when it will never be involved in a crime, even when it's in responsible hands. I don't like what it does to the person holding it. I don't like what it does to the community holding them.

Yes, they make it easier to kill people. Even if not a single death were gun-related, though, you would still have a community of people walking around with the ability to very easily kill everyone around them. Some call that maintaining a peace. I believe it runs counter to a legal system, to a democracy, to give individuals the ability to try and sentence others with the push of a button.

From someone on reddit 2/2018:
Here's a TL;DR from Max Fisher and Josh Keller's "What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer":

Well, this sucks. Supreme Court has ruled that handguns can't be banned. No one has a solution for the violence. None of the proposed or politically possible changes to the law will be effective. The Freakonomics podcast above carefully explained why the whole situation is hopeless, we just have to live with it. What is galling is that other countries are much better than USA in this area. But I guess we've just painted ourselves into a corner.

Ezra Klein's "Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States"
Kevin Gray's "U.S. Gun Ownership & Gun Death Data"
Tiffany O'Callaghan's "What Do We Know About Gun Violence?"
Justin Peters' "Does a Fatal Shooting Really Cost More than $5 Million?"

Brian Palmer's "Why Is the NRA So Powerful?"
Wendi Petit's "NRA Membership Numbers Are Not Slight Exaggerated - They're Outright Lies"
Devin Hughes and Evan DeFilippis' "The NRA's Favorite Gun 'Academic' Is A Fraud"'s take on Gun Owners
Various politicians on guns
You're afraid we'll take your guns

The Onion's "NRA Sets 1,000 Killed In School Shooting As Amount It Would Take For Them To Reconsider Much Of Anything"
The Onion's "When Will These Senseless Gun Debates Come To An End?"
Andy Borowitz's "N.R.A. Defends Right to Own Politicians"
Andy Borowitz's "Study: Americans Safe from Gun Violence Except in Schools, Malls, Airports, Movie Theatres, Workplaces, Streets, Own Homes"
Tom Tomorrow's "Gun Talk"
Voter impersonation

We've been here before, and I guess we're going to be here again:

By the way, it is in Russia's interest to manipulate the US population into owning lots of guns and using them. The gun issue divides us, includes lots of anti-government sentiment, and guns do lots of damage in our country. Widespread gun possession puts police on a hair-trigger and leads to more police violence and distrust of the police. So part of Russia's push to weaken USA may include encouraging pro-gun sentiment and division over guns.

Joel Mathis's "Guns are destroying community in America"

"When I held that gun in my hand, I felt a surge of power ... like God must feel when he's holding a gun."
-- Homer Simpson

"You know, if I wanted to pick out one thing that best exemplifies our country's peculiar relationship with guns, it's that the phrase 'minor shooting incident' exists."
-- Jon Stewart, on reports that the Navy Yard shooter was previously involved in minor shooting incidents

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