Join 3,425 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Bang, Bang, it's a free country
April 17, 2012 12:54 PM   Subscribe

The New Yorker: Battleground America; One nation, under the gun. Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. Gary Younge in the Guardian reports on the country's deadly attachment to firearms.
posted by adamvasco (133 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Didn't this just get deleted?
posted by blaneyphoto at 12:57 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh goody, I can post my comment that missed the deleted thread by like 5 seconds.

90 guns per 100 people

I feel I should point out that according to Small Arms Survey's own website (cited in the study) this number is not the number of registered firearms in the USA, but "Unregistered independent est. low unregistered". They don't appear to have been able to access the actual number of registered firearms in the USA, although they were able to source this info from many other countries.

downloadable pdfs here with a whole lot of fascinating information.
posted by elizardbits at 12:57 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry - that link should go here.
posted by blaneyphoto at 12:59 PM on April 17, 2012


this number is not the number of registered firearms in the USA, but "Unregistered independent est. low unregistered".

And in fact, if you follow the source for that PDFs number, it is a count of every gun manufactured since 1899.
posted by smackfu at 1:00 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Enough.
posted by datter at 1:00 PM on April 17, 2012


Yeah, I mean - it's fantastic research and all but the data is sorely misrepresented, which gets all the goats I have to be gotten.
posted by elizardbits at 1:01 PM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


"It's fascistic," he explains. "It's just like Hitler did. Discriminating against one ethnic group and claiming that they're the cause of everything that's wrong. It's what happened in Rwanda," intimating that white Americans, like Tutsis, could one day find themselves systematically slaughtered in their own land.

How do you even respond to that? What can you even say? I'm utterly stumped as to how one would bring a person who thinks these things towards reality.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:05 PM on April 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


The problem isn't guns so much as we live in a violent society, where even daily, common expressions contain veiled threats, hostile intentions, and a morbid preoccupation with injury and death. And since this thread doesn't add anything new to the conversation, I think it will soon be *executed / *nuked / *obliterated / *taken to the woodshed.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:08 PM on April 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


is the addition of a second, New Yorker article really going to save this from The Button?

Wait! If anything can save this thread it's The Nuuuuge:
“If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”
"Ted Nugent Stumps for Mitt Romney at NRA Convention: 'Chop their heads off in November.'"
posted by octobersurprise at 1:09 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's almost like they think another Civil War is about to break out, or something.
posted by jamjam at 1:13 PM on April 17, 2012


They always think another civil war is going to break out.

Christ.. if there is one word for America and how it makes me feel it is "Tired".



I'll make sure to check in with Ted in a year.

(self-favorite to remind myself)
posted by edgeways at 1:20 PM on April 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


How do you even respond to that? What can you even say? I'm utterly stumped as to how one would bring a person who thinks these things towards reality.

You can't. I'm persuaded, after having grown up in a household that was awaiting the End of the World via the Revelation of St. John, that apocalyptic thinking has much, much more to do with the psychological state of the thinker than it does with any sort of mooring in reality.

There are people who just aren't at peace unless they believe that the world is ending in some form or other. I often perceive it as a way of avoiding dealing with things they don't want to deal with. It is sad, and often personally damaging as well as being politically toxic.
posted by gauche at 1:23 PM on April 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


The problem isn't guns so much as we live in a violent society,

And yet the number of people who are done in annually by spoon-wielding maniacs remains puzzlingly low.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 1:23 PM on April 17, 2012 [23 favorites]


I really have no idea how groups like the NRA have any real power ... Or at the very least how they have any influence amount the elected Democrats. There is no way that under any circumstance one of their diehards would ever vote for a Democrat. So I am continually amazed that the Democrats continue to make concessions to them.

Sure they should be a force amount the varying degree's of the Right... but why do they have an influence on Left politics?

It's like the hard Right has completely forgotten about the concepts of compromise and negotiation... and yet the Left continues to act as if they are bargaining in good faith.
posted by cirhosis at 1:26 PM on April 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


And yet the number of people who are done in annually by spoon-wielding maniacs remains puzzlingly low.

Jesus! I'm working on it! Get off my back!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:26 PM on April 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


There is no way that under any circumstance one of their diehards would ever vote for a Democrat.

Actually, I know a few of them.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:27 PM on April 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


The sheer number of guns is a stupid metric to use for anything, because a lot of people who own guns own multiple guns not because they expect to utilize a dozen different guns in home defense or whatever, but because "gun nut" could in many cases be just as easily replaced with "gun nerd". I know a half dozen or so people who are, yes, libertarians with scary ideas about the way the world works, but that's why they own *a* gun. The reason they own seventeen guns is the same reason some people own seventeen pairs of shoes. It's a collection. This one is the same model that their dad had as a kid. This other one is the Smith and Wesson that Dirty Harry used. This one was their uncle's from World War II. Whatever.

Not that there can't be problems with the level of gun regulation around and certainly with the way a lot of Americans look at the world, but I'm not really scared of a guy with a dozen guns until he talks about shooting somebody. And then I'd be just as scared if he only had one.
posted by gracedissolved at 1:28 PM on April 17, 2012 [34 favorites]


And if it weren't for the fact that I think they've become increasingly corrupt, I'd probably be a member of the NRA myself.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:28 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


And yet the number of people who are done in annually by spoon-wielding maniacs remains puzzlingly low.

Jesus! I'm working on it! Get off my back!


I see you've played Knifey-Spoony before!
posted by Longtime Listener at 1:29 PM on April 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I saw on Colbert that when (ha!) Newt becomes president he will take the right to bear arms to the UN. Because having a gun should be a human right. That become part of the UN human rights declaration or whatever is about as probable as $2/gal gas in California and his moon base.
posted by birdherder at 1:29 PM on April 17, 2012


Certain groups believe that Obama is going to take their guns in his second term like other groups believe he's going to legalize marijuana.
posted by feloniousmonk at 1:29 PM on April 17, 2012 [16 favorites]


Not long ago I encountered, pinky-swear, a state legislator who said to me (or, rather, said in my presence since he wasn't actually talking to me) that he owned guns to protect him from the government. (The man was not, as far as I could tell, being ironic, facetious, or flip.) When the gentleman excused himself I said to my table-mate, "Now I want a gun to protect me from the people who think their guns will protect them from the government."
posted by octobersurprise at 1:30 PM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I really have no idea how groups like the NRA have any real power ... Or at the very least how they have any influence amount the elected Democrats.

Because the people in the NRA vote. A LOT. And they write letters and call their representatives. A LOT. They actually participate in the political process exhaustively and it works. Everyone else is too busy/can't be bothered/think someone else will take care of it.
posted by spicynuts at 1:34 PM on April 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


Octobersurprise: is there a reason you didn't give the gent a puzzled look and said, "I don't understand - aren't you a legislator, and thus part of the government?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:34 PM on April 17, 2012


It was for self-defense, you see...
posted by feloniousmonk at 1:36 PM on April 17, 2012


is there a reason you didn't give the gent a puzzled look and said, "I don't understand - aren't you a legislator, and thus part of the government?"

Fear that he might be carrying?
posted by octobersurprise at 1:37 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


^ TheWhiteSkull: Talk to Bodine.
posted by adamvasco at 1:37 PM on April 17, 2012


And yet the number of people who are done in annually by spoon-wielding maniacs remains puzzlingly low.

Low, to be sure, but it does happen.
posted by Naberius at 1:41 PM on April 17, 2012


“If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”

This must be the right-winger equivalent of the left-winger "I'm moving to Canada if Bush gets re-elected."
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:45 PM on April 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


What I don't get about the "protect me from the government" thing is it would seem that the people are way outgunned by the government. Even hick towns in the middle of nowhere have SWAT teams, heavy weaponry and assault vehicles. Fuck, Sheriff Joe in AZ has a real live tank. Bigger police forces have paramilitary level teams that can really fuck you up.

If rising up against the government ever comes to pass, their little gun collection won't stand a chance.

So no, Obama won't take people's guns away. Your guns are safe. One could argue Holder's statement that the US can kill US citizens abroad suspected of being terrorists opens the door for the next phase would be killing suspected bad guys on US soil. In cases like that, it wouldn't be a beat cop knocking on your door, it would be just like what you see in Afghanistan: Professionals coming in hard and heavily armed, or done via remote control from far away. I'm not wearing that tin foil hat.
posted by birdherder at 1:45 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was for self-defense, you see...

Or self-offense, as it were:

The majority of gun-related deaths in the United States are suicides,[5] with 17,352 (55.6%) of the total 31,224 firearm-related deaths in 2007 due to suicide, while 12,632 (40.5%) were homicide deaths.

Wikipedia: Gun violence in the United States

Of course, self protection is itself a bit of a red herring:

Between 1987 and 1990, David McDowall found that guns were used in defense during a crime incident 64,615 times annually.[62] This equates to two times out of 1,000 incidents (0.2%) that occurred in this time frame.[62] For violent crimes (assault, robbery, and rape), guns were used 0.83% of the time in self-defense.[62] [...] During this same time period, 1987 and 1990, there were 46,319 gun homicides,[63] and the National Crime Victimization Survey estimates that 2,628,532 nonfatal crimes involving guns occurred.[62]
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:48 PM on April 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


If rising up against the government ever comes to pass, their little gun collection won't stand a chance.

Yes, the government will crush them like they crushed the Viet Cong.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:49 PM on April 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


That was supposed to be a joke about the legislator protecting himself from the government, but point taken nevertheless.
posted by feloniousmonk at 1:51 PM on April 17, 2012


From the New Yorker link: "Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest. Martin did not survive. Zimmerman was not charged. Outside Orlando, the story was not reported."

Perhaps not in New York, but it's been everywhere else. And the New Yorker article is dated April 23rd, so you'd assume it's up-to-date on current (and future!) events.
posted by bitmage at 1:53 PM on April 17, 2012


The reason they own seventeen guns is the same reason some people own seventeen pairs of shoes. It's a collection. This one is the same model that their dad had as a kid. This other one is the Smith and Wesson that Dirty Harry used. This one was their uncle's from World War II. Whatever.
posted by gracedissolved


This describes me pretty accurately.
posted by blaneyphoto at 1:54 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


If rising up against the government ever comes to pass, their little gun collection won't stand a chance.

Drones are really making this true, whereas before, honestly, there was always at least a plausible case for a guerilla war in the hills, or at least making things very difficult for the state via street fighting.

Actually, though, I suspect people aren't thinking of overthrowing the government as such; they're thinking of a coup - Arpaio's tanks and whatever aspect of the Pentagon comes over to the right against the remains of the government, with the convenient extra of shooting the lefties and the union members along with other unwanted non-government actors. That's what does occasionally creep me out.

We pretty much know from the Black Panthers that an armed left is a murdered left, particularly if you're a person of color.

My feeling is that this gun business is relevant purely at the daily life level - we'd all be better off with fewer guns because there'd be fewer accidents with them and fewer rage-induced shootings. The government, the military and other major political actors are unlikely to be dislodged with force at this particular political moment.

Allende should still have armed the people to prevent the coup, though. They were only dealing with tanks and guns and they had tremendous popular support. Not the same as drones and white phosphorus and all the shit governments can use on unruly citizens now.
posted by Frowner at 1:55 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, the government will crush them like they crushed the Viet Cong.

*Snort* as if Americans have 1/2 the fortitude and determination of the Viet Cong. Hell, take away the internal combustion engine, cable tv and cheap larger and you'd cripple 90% of any American "resistance".
posted by edgeways at 1:55 PM on April 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


The reason they own seventeen guns is the same reason some people own seventeen pairs of shoes. It's a collection.

Yes, but when someone steals your shoes because they weren't properly secured, they aren't likely to go out and use them in a violent crime.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:56 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Naberius,

That film completely misrepresented my oeuvre.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:59 PM on April 17, 2012


Because the people in the NRA vote. A LOT. And they write letters and call their representatives. A LOT. They actually participate in the political process exhaustively and it works. Everyone else is too busy/can't be bothered/think someone else will take care of it.

I get that... I really do understand that they vote, and they are vocal. So yes they are going to have an influence that goes beyond their actual proportion of the population.

That still doesn't give me any idea why Democrats continue to give them lip service at the very least. Obama could have passed a bunch of regulations on guns (not that it would have happened, but he theoretically could have tried) and could their reaction been any stronger? He did nothing against them and yet we have stuff like what Ted Nugent is saying where they think he's the worst thing that's happened to guns since metal detectors.

small_ruminant: I guess my experience is likely a little different... mine is with the gun types in Canada... a smaller group that is likely just a little more focused right ... because not a one of those would ever be able to choke down voting for a Liberal... forget about the NDP.

I guess in the end I just don't get it... isn't there a point where you just start ignoring the people who have made it clear that you can't win them over? At least for a time...
posted by cirhosis at 2:01 PM on April 17, 2012


*Snort* as if Americans have 1/2 the fortitude and determination of the Viet Cong. Hell, take away the internal combustion engine, cable tv and cheap larger and you'd cripple 90% of any American "resistance".

The Viet Cong were fighting against a colonial power - and not even the original colonial power, with whom some Vietnamese at least might be expected to feel a little kinship. They were fighting against an external power that had shown total disregard for internal Vietnamese political processes and had shown itself capable of incredible atrocities. They were fighting in a landscape that made things hard for the Americans. The Viet Cong were also the product of years of political organizing and mobilization in a politically polarized society.

This whole "lazy slacker Americans too weak to start a guerilla war against their own government" routine suggests that we are under exactly the same conditions as a colonized people in terms of what we suffer, the weapons and surveillance available to the government and the landscape in which we'd be fighting.... except for our pathetic failure of will.

More, it suggests that anyone who does not "throw off the oppressor" is just lazy. Plenty of colonial societies didn't fight like the Viet Cong - hell, plenty of Vietnamese didn't fight like the Viet Cong.
posted by Frowner at 2:03 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, but when someone steals your shoes because they weren't properly secured, they aren't likely to go out and use them in a violent crime.

"I am holding up your liquor store with a 1903 Springfield rifle. Please pass me the money while you admire my gorgeous antique."
posted by smackfu at 2:06 PM on April 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


*Snort* as if Americans have 1/2 the fortitude and determination of the Viet Cong.

The problem isn't fortitude and determination... well, it's not those things EXCLUSIVELY, anyway. The problem is that the American people have already been divided, and thus, conquered. If it came to open warfare, it'd be the Rush Is Right guys shooting at the Occupy guys. Nobody would even bother fighting the government; everybody'd be gunning for the half of their fellow citizens who they've identified as The Other Side.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 2:09 PM on April 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


"I am holding up your liquor store with a 1903 Springfield rifle. Please pass me the money while you admire my gorgeous antique."

"I am holding up your liquor store with an AKM. Give me your god damn money."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:12 PM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm holding up your liquor store with tongs. Give my your goddamn money.

posted by birdherder at 2:15 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile in Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer has a bill on her desk allowing guns in public buildings. You know places like public swimming pools, libraries, the DMV, etc. Unless the building has a metal detectors, armed guards, gun lockers, etc. Of course, none of those things were funded with the bill. Last year Brewer vetoed an earlier, dumber version of the bill.
posted by birdherder at 2:22 PM on April 17, 2012


Ever read an article, and be absolutely sure it will end up on the Blue? That's this article.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:24 PM on April 17, 2012


There is no way that under any circumstance one of their diehards would ever vote for a Democrat. So I am continually amazed that the Democrats continue to make concessions to them.

Pulling from the 2006 Cooperative Congressional Election Study because I happened to remember it had a question about the NRA, about 20% of people who said they were NRA members voted for Democrats in their House election. About 7% of respondents said they were members of the NRA.

So not many Democratic NRA voters, but not none. More to the point, the Democrats probably make pro-gun concessions because between 30 and 40% of Democrats live in homes with at least one gun (from 2011 Gallup data).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:28 PM on April 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Obey the Constitution. Exercise the "well regulated militia" clause.

You own a gun, you're de facto enrolled in the National Guard (or some form of such) with mandatory weekend training and serious PT and overnight camping trips and a required level of competence in marksmanship (e.g., something smaller than a barn door).

Problem, if not solved, is at least moderated.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:28 PM on April 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


You have to join the NRA to get access to most shooting ranges these days. I'm not a gun owner, but I've gone before. Most of them have questionnaires with stuff like "Are you a God-Fearing Republican or a Worthless Commie Liberal?" but hey, you can answer commie, because you've got a gun, right?
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:31 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


For the people worried about an armed revolution: We've done this already and not even 150 years ago. If it actually comes to that, it'll be bloody violent and scarring for just about everyone involved and no one will know where to fight or when. Its not like we can go North/South and line up near Gettysburg. We've got cities and the countryside and not a whole lot of middle ground. Given that the people on both sides of the political chasm aren't likely to fold up and meet in the middle, it would take something akin to a Sherman's March to the Sea in every state to put a lid on the other side.

Notice how I'm using 'other side' and not 'the government's side'. I'm fairly unconvinced that the current government/political middle-and-left would be capable of doing such a (purposefully violent and uncompromisingly brutal) thing on American soil these days. Although, maybe they'd surprise me.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:32 PM on April 17, 2012


This must be the right-winger equivalent of the left-winger "I'm moving to Canada if Bush gets re-elected."
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:45 PM on April 17


I actually did move to Canada after Bush was elected. Okay, it was also after Obama was elected and I'm a Canadian whose US Visa ran out...but it counts for something, doesn't it?

And I love my country and I want Canada to have stricter gun laws and long gun registration.
posted by jb at 2:33 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, the government will crush them like they crushed the Viet Cong

The Viet Cong were not fighting with small arms that that had been privately owned by individual citizens prior to the combat. They were well eqipped with Soviet and Chinese weaponry. If the Chinese choose to arm American citizens fighting against the government, I'm sure that they could do reasonably well, although it's hard to see how one gets to that scenario.
posted by yoink at 2:38 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


isn't there a point where you just start ignoring the people who have made it clear that you can't win them over?

There are two answers to that. First, no, because when you are the President of the United States then you are also president of the people who disagree with you and won'tbe won over. You cannot ignore them. Or at least, you should not. It's the job you signed up for.

But second, yes. Apart from that circumstance, there is more generally a point at which you can ignore the people you won't win over—or more to the point, you can ignore their pet issue. What you cannot do is give them ammunition (no pun intended). There's a difference between just ignoring a group, say by leaving gun laws at their status quo, versus actually whacking their hornet's nest with a stick, say by outlawing a number of guns that were legal to own last year. The group will use the former to raise money, but they'll use the latter to raise a lot of money and you will spend actual time talking about it.

The reason they own seventeen guns is the same reason some people own seventeen pairs of shoes. It's a collection. This one is the same model that their dad had as a kid. This other one is the Smith and Wesson that Dirty Harry used. This one was their uncle's from World War II. Whatever.

Yep. Also, guns are different. For one thing, not all pistols are manufactured to shoot with equal accuracy. It's a lot harder to bullseye ten rounds with a 9mm Smith & Wesson than it is with a .22 Ruger. One day you might want to practice your grouping with a 9mm, and the next day you might want to bullseye a sheet of quarter-sized circles with a specially engineered target pistol.

It might cost between $10–20 per hour to rent a firearm at a range, so it may be cost-effective for you to buy rather than rent if you're shooting different calibers. Guns tend to hold their resale value reasonably well, so even if you only plan to spend a few months shooting a particular gun, renting can be the more expensive option.
posted by cribcage at 2:39 PM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Certain groups believe that Obama is going to take their guns in his second term like other groups believe he's going to legalize marijuana.

Why not do both!
posted by braksandwich at 2:39 PM on April 17, 2012


I do think it's a pity that the racial aspects and the legal quirk of the Stand Your Ground law have so dominated the public debate over the Martin killing. In many ways the real cautionary tale in that particular clusterfuck is the way throwing a gun into the mix elevates minor misunderstandings to killings so easily. Take the gun off Zimmerman and everyone gets to go home to their own bed that night.
posted by yoink at 2:43 PM on April 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


America has always differed from other nations because of its early and continued
belief in Independence (which means the need to keep a gun) and Religion...where now we find religion becoming less and less important in European nations it remains very important here ...try running for office and announcing that you are an atheist....you can get out of military service in wartime by proclaiming that your religion makes you a pacifist but you can not if you say you are a pacifist but not religious.
posted by Postroad at 2:43 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


90 guns per 100 people in a country of 300+ million, with 85 fatal shootings per day and twice that number of woundings -- in short, the vast, vast majority of guns and gun owners aren't harming anyone. And it's worth noting that more than half of all gun deaths are suicides, a fact which is rarely included in op-eds like these.

Violence is the problem. Groups like Ceasefire are the model we should be following, because they're the ones getting results.

Also: the fact that we're still discussing wedge-issues like guns and gun control in culture-war terms only increases the divide which is keeping us from doing something about it. I hate the way the rhetoric around guns has changed since Obama was elected, almost entirely because he's a black Democrat and therefore the scary-other gun-control antichrist oh noes... but using the exact same breathless language about Teh Terrifying Gun People doesn't help. For once I'd like to see an op-ed about the vast majority of gun owners: people who have one or more guns at home, rarely do anything with them, and aren't particularly political about it one way or the other. Ooh, scary!

You own a gun, you're de facto enrolled in the National Guard (or some form of such) with mandatory weekend training and serious PT and overnight camping trips and a required level of competence in marksmanship (e.g., something smaller than a barn door).

I'd love to see universal service for every American -- it'd help solve the problems related to our massive standing army, too. We could do a lot worse than slashing it down to a minimal volunteer force of officers commanding Americans from all walks of life... just the way it used to be.
posted by vorfeed at 2:45 PM on April 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


cribcage: he group will use the former to raise money, but they'll use the latter to raise a lot of money and you will spend actual time talking about it.

This is a good point... and sounds good in theory. But I'm just not convinced that it actually plays out. As in I'm not sure that they could be more rabid about the issues.... At least the "leadership" already seems to try and portray Obama as the Anti-Christ. What are they going to do call him the superdooper Anti-Christ?

And you do have a good point that yes he is the president of all the US, not just the ones who voted for him. And I totally believe in compromise politics. I'm just feeling pretty worn out seeing the constant drift and crap where it always seems like only one side is compromising.

Finally I really do get that NRA membership isn't something that completely says "yes this person will always vote Republican" but courting the Leadership of the NRA seems to be a pretty damn useless thing. And that said... if a significant number of NRA members even agree on some of the simpler gun regulations, how the hell is it that the Leadership can enforce their No Regulations EVER apparent rule?
posted by cirhosis at 2:49 PM on April 17, 2012


A gun is not a weapon, Marge. It's a tool. Like a butcher knife, or a harpoon, or... uh, a... an alligator. You just need more education on the subject. Tell you what. You come with me to an NRA meeting, and if you still don't think guns are great, we can argue some more.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:57 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


And it's worth noting that more than half of all gun deaths are suicides, a fact which is rarely included in op-eds like these.

That makes them better?
posted by Artw at 3:12 PM on April 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


> how the hell is it that the Leadership can enforce their No Regulations EVER apparent rule

That's not right.

Here's an NRA-backed bill that modified the NICS program to expand the information available to the FBI when running background checks for gun purchases. Here's the VPC's response. (They don't like it) Here's one (out of many) RKBA-activist's response. (He doesn't like it either)

The NRA isn't going to make everyone happy - not die-hard supporters, not the general populace, and pretty much never the slew of opponents. They also aren't elected officials, and membership dues aren't charitable donations. There's nothing that stops the NRA from doing whatever it wants to as an organization so long as the members keep paying dues.
posted by timfinnie at 3:16 PM on April 17, 2012


And it's worth noting that more than half of all gun deaths are suicides, a fact which is rarely included in op-eds like these.

That makes them better?


That makes them rather disingenuous to include in an op-ed which is about violence toward others.
posted by vorfeed at 3:24 PM on April 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's almost like they think another Civil War is about to break out, or something.

These are the spawn of those who started the first one.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:26 PM on April 17, 2012


If the Chinese choose to arm American citizens fighting against the government, I'm sure that they could do reasonably well, although it's hard to see how one gets to that scenario.

Hard to see, yes, but also very, very awesome. I would eat my way through a jumbo popcorn just during the red band trailer for that movie.
posted by The Bellman at 3:30 PM on April 17, 2012


Yes, the government will crush them like they crushed the Viet Cong.

Er, maybe more like Ruby Ridge?
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:32 PM on April 17, 2012


I do think it's a pity that the racial aspects and the legal quirk of the Stand Your Ground law have so dominated the public debate over the Martin killing. In many ways the real cautionary tale in that particular clusterfuck is the way throwing a gun into the mix elevates minor misunderstandings to killings so easily. Take the gun off Zimmerman and everyone gets to go home to their own bed that night

We don't know that. It seems that the evidence does point to Martin physically attacking Zimmerman, maybe he had murder on his mind, or at least a severe beating, and it is possible Martin saw his actions as self defense. None of us know, and a beating from a healthy adolescent male (either to or from Martin to or from Zimmerman) is no joke, and can result in serious injury and/or death (although not nearly as likely as getting shot will result in that).

To make a point actually related to the post however, guns are not registered in the US, and it is actually illegal to do so. No one really knows how many guns are in the US and i would say that most people who own guns are not real keen on letting others know they have guns. And they sure aren't going to respond to some telephone survey or man on the street honestly. I wouldn't. Letting it be know you have them is how guns get stolen, that is how the government will know where to go to get them (I don't stay up nights worrying about it, but the point is valid whether or not it is likely). Furthermore gun registration schemes are pretty useless. Law abiding citizens are the only ones who are going to voluntarily register them and those aren't the people you need to worry about. AT WORST law abiding citizens with guns may use them in isolated incidents in unjustified self defense. While tragic and horrible, these events are not a threat to society or rule of law that armed criminals are. And the mentally unstable, the criminals and the true revolutionaries are not going to register the guns anyway.

The talk of prohibition or such of guns seems equally short sighted for the same reasons. All it does is leave the law abiding at the mercy of the non law abiding without a means of defense that is guaranteed effective. If we could magically remove all guns from society it would not solve this problem-I am pretty sure the violence problem was way worse before the advent of firearms. In that case it is the weak who are at the dubious mercy of the strong. History has a lot to say about that mercy also.

And a lot of societies with far more restrictive access to guns have much higher suicide rates-take a long at both in Japan. Guns don't cause suicides. Tall buildings, enclosed garages, pills and razor blades are pretty effective tools for that also.

The US has a violence problem that is made aggravated on a lot of levels by class divides that also have a lot in common with visible traits like race, by glorification of violence as a desirable manly trait in popular media, and probably a lot more stuff that I am forgetting. Saying that getting rid of guns will get rid of violence is just displaying an ignorance of history and human nature.
posted by bartonlong at 3:36 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Er, maybe more like Ruby Ridge?

That'll take care of the women, children, and dogs... What about the men?
posted by entropicamericana at 3:36 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


That makes them rather disingenuous to include in an op-ed which is about violence toward others.

Yeah, no. I am not seeing vulnerable people having the means to catestrophic self harm in easy reach as a problem to be dismissed. To spin it it as some kind of "gotcha", that's just creepy.
posted by Artw at 3:36 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I am holding up your liquor store with a 1903 Springfield rifle. Please pass me the money while you admire my gorgeous antique."

Say, is that a .45-70 trap-door carbine? Sure is a beauty. I had one like that once, but someone stole it. Here's your money. Have a good day!
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:37 PM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


That'll take care of the women, children, and dogs... What about the men?

Waco? Or at least the Civil War?
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:38 PM on April 17, 2012


Hard to see, yes, but also very, very awesome. I would eat my way through a jumbo popcorn just during the red band trailer for that movie

The Chinese government should fund the making of that movie just for shits and giggles. A rag-tag bunch of American heroes fighting the evil repressive forces of the gubmint--and all thanks to the largesse of good 'ol Beijing. Wolverines Guangdong Southern Tigers!
posted by yoink at 3:39 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


guns are not registered in the US, and it is actually illegal to do so

This is not accurate. Federal law requires no registration, that is true. However, some states do. California requires registration of handguns and grandfathered "assault rifles", but not shotguns or currently-legal-to-buy rifles (which includes "CA legal" "assault rifles").

Yes, but when someone steals your shoes because they weren't properly secured

Well, thats why people should properly secure them. I certainly do.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:40 PM on April 17, 2012


Yeah, no. I am not seeing vulnerable people having the means to catestrophic self harm in easy reach as a problem to be dismissed. To spin it it as some kind of "gotcha", that's just creepy.

I'm not saying we should "dismiss" the problem. In fact, I'm complaining because no one even addressed it, allowing everyone reading the article to assume that it was only about involuntary gun deaths. When suicides actually amount to over half the total deaths, silently and consistently not-discussing them is a problem.
posted by vorfeed at 3:49 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


We don't know that. It seems that the evidence does point to Martin physically attacking Zimmerman, maybe he had murder on his mind, or at least a severe beating, and it is possible Martin saw his actions as self defense. None of us know, and a beating from a healthy adolescent male (either to or from Martin to or from Zimmerman) is no joke, and can result in serious injury and/or death

Yes, it can. And someone can kill you with a spoon, too. But it's incredibly rare. Guns are really, really good at killing people. That's what they were made to do, and they do it remarkably well. You can kill someone with your bare hands, but you really have to try (or be incredibly unlucky). In 2005 there were 892 deaths from weaponless fights. There were over 10,000 involving guns. And think of how many thousands more weaponless altercations there must be every day than altercations involving a gun. No betting person would risk money on a fatality occuring in a weaponless encounter between Martin and Zimmerman. Throw the gun into the mix, though, and we enter a different and far more lethal world.
posted by yoink at 3:50 PM on April 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


> California requires registration of handguns and grandfathered "assault rifles"

They'll take my HP metal-powder 3D deskjet when they pry it from my cole daid fingers. I love living in the future.
posted by jfuller at 3:51 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Furthermore gun registration schemes are pretty useless. Law abiding citizens are the only ones who are going to voluntarily register them and those aren't the people you need to worry about.

I don't know how many times I can disagree with this argument and it's like. There have been many studies (RCMP 2010) that disagree with this very bad assumption that I'm sick and tired of it. And yet it's the very argument that was used to make the Long Gun registry in Canada the joke that it is today. I've heard endless arguments about how it's a total waste of tax payer money that won't do a thing to curb gun violence. And I agree it's been a total waste of money... but only because of obstructionist politics and wrongheaded arguments like this.

I know people who own guns. I'm friends with them, and I think they are good people. And no it doesn't particularly bother me that they own guns. And I know some of their friends... who I'm maybe am not quite as comfortable with them owning guns. But they do all respect their guns and they do keep them safely. Some of that safety is because they knew they might get inspected somehow... And some of it just was simply that they were educated on the safety and ultimately agreed with it.

And I have a friend who was totally convinced that the registry was just there so that when the Liberals took over again they would know where to come to get his guns... and wow did I never ever understand his arguments along those lines. First and foremost who the hell was going to do the confiscating? Half the local Police are members of his gun club for pete's sake.
posted by cirhosis at 4:03 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Guns are really, really good at killing people.

Oh please. Looking at WISQARS for just 2009 (assault w/ firearm vs homicide w/ firearm) it looks like 20% of the people shot died. That's pretty high, but doesn't rise to "really, really good." Going for unintentional shooting deaths vs unintentional shooting injuries in the same year, it's 2% fatalities. Again, not seeing "really, really good".

The whole thing with unarmed fights is just a sideways dodge on actually looking at how lethal a gunshot is.
posted by timfinnie at 4:07 PM on April 17, 2012


Not too many gun owners in the thread. I'm one, so I guess I'll contribute.

I grew up in a very gun filled household. My dad was Marines and Army when he was young, but the main contribution that made was that he was a very good shot and knew how to take care of guns. The main reason we had guns is that we lived in frontier Alaska where you hunt to eat and you'd damn well better have a couple of good rifles for bear defense. The rifles saw use on that account at least a dozen times when I was growing up. And we killed and ate a deer every two weeks: there were seven of us. Pistols were useful too: believe it or not, when you fish halibut commercially from a small boat, you shoot them in the head before you land them.

Like most people who really grew up with guns in that kind of an environment, I have a healthy respect for and indeed fear of guns. You're taught to be very very paranoid about guns, truly treat them as if they are always loaded even when you know they are not, and so on.

I'm a pretty rational person, and very far left politically. And I know that statistically speaking guns are far more likely to cause their owners a tragedy than help them out. So why do I own a gun? (Several if you count a couple of deer rifles I keep at my parents' ranch, not with me in the city).

Well, there's basically no logic to it, is the answer.

1) Guns are very very fun. Accurate shooting is a very difficult skill, and also an impressive, bragworthy skill when you've mastered it. And taking my Glock to a gun range and blowing through a hundred rounds is a pretty entertaining way to spend 25 or 30 bucks. Not to mention drunken parties with exploding targets on new years even back in the home country.

2) For a lot of people, including, I kind of hate to admit, myself, there is a vague, tugging sense that we shouldn't entirely concede the monopoly of force or violence to the state. Obama, our supposedly liberal, rule of law president, after all enthusiastically endorses extrajudicial executions of American citizens. The feds are deploying drones against American citizens.

Logically of course, I know that a) we're probably just having a bad couple of decades for the rule of law in this country, and things are going to get better eventually, and b) if we really are headed toward a fascist state, most of my fellow citizens will enthusiastically follow along, and trained armies always beat a few disgruntled armed citizens. Getting a foreign passport would be better insurance than the Glock, or the AR-15s certain people I know have buried in the back yard.

Despite the fact that I logically know all this, I'm keeping the gun, thank you very much.

When I was younger, I had an NRA membership, one of probably not very many California Green Party members of the NRA. The NRA and Wayne LaPierre in particular have long since alienated people like me, with their thinly disguised racism and their stupid fearmongering about the gummint wanting to take our guns away. The gummint doesn't want our guns, and the NRA basically exists on the windbaggery of people like LaPierre pretending there is a threat.
posted by jackbrown at 4:29 PM on April 17, 2012 [17 favorites]


Okay, timfinnie, now run the same numbers for fists and compare.
posted by darksasami at 4:30 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


And someone can kill you with a spoon, too. But it's incredibly rare.

OK, COME ON! I said I'm WORKING ON IT!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:42 PM on April 17, 2012


I did want to chime back in and say I just read Ted Nugents speech, and while I have my problems with the Obama Administration (and at this point I think most people do) I really, REALLY don't like or want to be associated with that kind of crap. I don't want that kind of rhetoric associated with gun owners and I bet NRA issues some kind of statement soon distancing themselves from it.

While i don't dismiss firearms usefulness in defending oneself from an overreaching government I don't think we are anywhere near that level of oppression (or really any oppression in this country on a widespread level). However, I would probably feel different on a local scale if some agency decided a no knock raid was the right way to search my house. The point of armed populace with ready access to and familiarity with firearms is that it takes a lot of force and most likely significant causalities on the oppressors part to enact seriously objectionable policies. Say like the holocaust.

And most of the truly oppressive regimes of the world really, really limit private access to firearms (of course some of the non oppressive regimes do also so it isn't a true sign of oppression by any means) for this reason. I don't think it is a leap to believe that the holocaust might have had a different outcome if the Jews had access to firearms, or at least fewer Nazi's(I know that the history isn't that simple but still...). And a great deal of the gun control laws in this country are based on keeping the guns out of the hands of the blacks during the reconstruction era and later the civil rights era (and not just the south, almost all of California's current gun laws are a response to law abiding protests of the black panthers).
posted by bartonlong at 4:56 PM on April 17, 2012


One trouble with compromise politics is that you can end up with weird results. For example, take Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, you don't petition the state for a gun license; you apply at your local police department. To a significant degree, the decision rests with your police chief. As a result, procedures vary in different towns. In one town, it may be sufficient to submit your paperwork and pass the background checks. In another town, you might be asked to come in for a brief interview. I've read reports that several towns require you to submit letters of reference. Another town reportedly requires a letter from your primary-care physician. The City of Boston requires that you pass a marksmanship test with a handgun (even if you want to buy a rifle).

I think most people would agree this isn't ideal. For instance, we can argue about whether or not you should be required to submit a letter from your primary-care physician, but I think we can agree that the answer shouldn't vary for two neighbors living on different sides of a town line (in the same state). It certainly shouldn't vary this wildly.

Another example of ineffective compromise is that Massachusetts requires gun-license applicants to pass a Basic Firearms Safety Course. That sounds perfectly reasonable, but when you look deeper it looks less compelling. You can take this course from different schools, trainers, etc. Some of them are day-long classes (7 hours), and others can be completed in an evening. Some require live-fire shooting, others use firearm simulators, and still others are given in your living room.

It is a good idea to regulate guns. It is, in my opinion, a bad idea for regulations to vary so widely. All things being equal except location, it's entirely possible that Martin can buy one gun in Centerville, MA while his sister Rachel can buy the same gun with a larger capacity in Greensborough, VT and his brother Tom can't even get a license two miles away in Boxton, MA. Law should strive for consistency and logic—and in the case of gun laws, I think there are a lot of failures in those regards.

Guns are really, really good at killing people.

Better than spoons obviously, but actually you might be surprised at how ineffective handguns are at killing people. There is a huge difference there between handguns and rifles, both in terms of accuracy and what happens upon impact.
posted by cribcage at 5:02 PM on April 17, 2012


Another balanced post on firearms, that is a surprise

---

And if it weren't for the fact that I think they've become increasingly corrupt, I'd probably be a member of the NRA myself.

That's why you join the Gun Owners of America instead.

---

What I don't get about the "protect me from the government" thing is it would seem that the people are way outgunned by the government. Even hick towns in the middle of nowhere have SWAT teams, heavy weaponry and assault vehicles. Fuck, Sheriff Joe in AZ has a real live tank. Bigger police forces have paramilitary level teams that can really fuck you up.

If rising up against the government ever comes to pass, their little gun collection won't stand a chance.


Perhaps so, but governments intent on reducing their populations tend to go ahead and pass gun control laws anyway.

Link (1/2 way down).

On a related note, some minorities have seen value in gun ownership when they suspect that their government will be slow or unwilling to defend them.

Deacons of Defense

T.R.M. Howard, Armed Self-Defense and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (pdf)
posted by BigSky at 5:26 PM on April 17, 2012


And someone can kill you with a spoon, too. But it's incredibly rare.

OK, COME ON! I said I'm WORKING ON IT!

Maybe this will help. Sometimes you just need an assist from Alan Rickman.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:51 PM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Guns are incredibly pervasive in the United States. They're everywhere. I started reading this thread with the mindset of gunowners as them, they, the other guys, when I suddenly remembered that I'm a gunowner. My grandfather passed away last year, and in his will he certainly didn't have much, but he had a modest rifle and shotgun collection, and at least one of those got willed over to me. I might take it out to a rifle range and kill a couple watermelons one of these days, but otherwise I'll just let the thing sit around--I have yet to even look at the thing at this point. But, yeah, I have to be marked down as a gun owner now.
posted by zardoz at 7:01 PM on April 17, 2012


Perhaps so, but governments intent on reducing their populations tend to go ahead and pass gun control laws anyway.

Also, governments not intent on reducing their populations pass gun control laws. This is not because gun threaten their tyrannic rule. It is because guns need to be regulated due to the fact that they are extremely dangerous.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 7:11 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


But, yeah, I have to be marked down as a gun owner now.
posted by zardoz


Well, you don't HAVE to be - you could get rid of it easily (sell it, turn it in, etc) but you illustrate a situation that many gun owners are in. Not everyone who owns a firearm (or a dozen) is a lunatic with a destructive agenda like so many anti-gun folks would have everyone believe.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:15 PM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


We don't know that. It seems that the evidence does point to Martin physically attacking Zimmerman, maybe he had murder on his mind, or at least a severe beating, and it is possible Martin saw his actions as self defense. None of us know, and a beating from a healthy adolescent male (either to or from Martin to or from Zimmerman) is no joke, and can result in serious injury and/or death

In the gun safety class I went through recently The instructor (an ex-marine) would not shut up about how if you choose to carry a weapon you now have a much higher responsibility to avoid confrontation and unpredictable situations. Which is the exact opposite of "i feel safe getting out of my car and checking out this allegedly sketchy situation because I'm packing".

Guns do make any situation where they're present more dangerous. If Zimmerman wasn't carrying, he probably would have stayed in the car that night. If Trayvon had actually been a bad guy, there's a better than good chance he could have Taken Zimmerman's gun and killed him with it.

(also there's evidence that that they fought, no evidence of who "attacked" the other)
posted by billyfleetwood at 7:16 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was home recently in America for the first time in a year and a half. It's sheer madness that this is even debatable topic, with school sheetings seemingly weekly. Utter madness.
posted by Hickeystudio at 5:17 AM on April 18, 2012


Why is it in these discussion, the "government" is always the all-powerful party from whom we may wish to defend ourselves, but can't? Last I checked, the bankers were the real problem.
posted by Goofyy at 5:19 AM on April 18, 2012


Oh please. Looking at WISQARS for just 2009 (assault w/ firearm vs homicide w/ firearm) it looks like 20% of the people shot died. That's pretty high, but doesn't rise to "really, really good." Going for unintentional shooting deaths vs unintentional shooting injuries in the same year, it's 2% fatalities. Again, not seeing "really, really good".

Compared to pretty much anything else we use for the job, guns are incredibly effective killing machines. Only 5% of all suicide attempts in the US involve guns. 90% of these attempts are successful. That makes suicide by gun account for more than half of the total suicide deaths in the US each year. Just think how fantastically more efficient a machine for killing that makes guns than every other method people seize on for the job.

If you want someone dead, the gun is far and away the tool of choice for the job. There really isn't a close second. The fact that even guns don't approach perfect lethality in no way diminishes their remarkable superiority as killing machines to every other readily available tool.
posted by yoink at 7:34 AM on April 18, 2012


Knife in the gut.
posted by smackfu at 7:37 AM on April 18, 2012


2) For a lot of people, including, I kind of hate to admit, myself, there is a vague, tugging sense that we shouldn't entirely concede the monopoly of force or violence to the state. Obama, our supposedly liberal, rule of law president, after all enthusiastically endorses extrajudicial executions of American citizens. The feds are deploying drones against American citizens.

This. I'm a pacifist that doesn't think we've fought a truly just war since the Civil War, but history is so full of golden ages that devolve into chaos that I can't deny the logic behind the 2nd Amendment. It doesn't exist to make hunters happy, or so we can commit vigilante justice, or even so we can defend ourselves from home invasion. It's there for when all the other items in the Bill of Rights become truly meaningless. Anyone who thinks we'll never need to forcibly regain democratic control of the government isn't thinking beyond their own life experiences. We almost certainly won't have a revolution in our lifetimes, but you can't say what the country will look like in 100 years. Once you cede your right to firearm ownership, you're not getting them back. Especially not when you need them.

The problem is, we might only need the 2nd Amendment every few hundred years, and in the meantime we have to live with the fact that there are a LOT of guns out there. So we need to do what we can to limit their impact without messing with the intent of gun rights. Gun owners shouldn't be kept in any government registry because it obviously makes those people easy pickings in some hypothetical worst case scenario. But it seems reasonable that the type of guns we buy should be limited to small caliber semi-automatic firearms and there should be background checks for mental illness. Soften sentencing for non-violent crimes, but anyone who commits a crime with a firearm should be treated just like a murderer and go to jail for a very long time. Make it the law that guns need to be locked up and unloaded indoors and only taken from a locked case when you're at a range or hunting. Get rid of concealed carry laws. Start teaching firearm safety in public schools. When gun crimes start popping up in some city, the feds should be swooping in to fix the problem with social programs and money to get people out of poverty. Basically, refocus every bit of legislation and education around the idea that these things only exist as an "in case of emergency, join your local militia" tool.

Good luck with that. In the meantime, fear your neighbors.
posted by pjaust at 7:47 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


tldr; Considering there are so many guns, isn't it a good sign that there are so little gun deaths? I am talking about the gun to gun death ratio.
posted by amazingstill at 7:54 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Considering there are so many guns, isn't it a good sign that there are so little gun deaths? I am talking about the gun to gun death ratio.

In a simlar vein, considering there are so many psychopaths, but so few people killed by those psychopaths, I guess that we can just let the psychopaths all out of jail.

....Come on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:16 AM on April 18, 2012


Knife in the gut.

It's hard to get really good statistics on this, but even the notoriously pro-gun criminologist Gary Kleck suggests that fatalities from knife attacks occur at about one fifth the rate of fatalities from gun attacks--and that knives are the second most lethal option available. So, again, that makes the gun five times more lethal than the best available alternative tool for killing someone.

Again, take guns out of the equation and the probability of lethality drops enormously. Anyone claiming otherwise is either deluding themselves or deliberately trying to delude others.
posted by yoink at 8:51 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure there are many helpful analogies in this context. Comparing guns to people, ill or well, definitely isn't one. I also think it's pretty hard to quantify, "If you want to kill a person, what's the most effective way to do it?" Poison, explosive, head injury...I don't know, but that strikes me as a far more imaginative and complicated calculus, as well as a topic that would veer pretty fast into distasteful territory.

Get rid of concealed carry laws.

I'm not sure if this means that people shouldn't be allowed to carry guns, or that people shouldn't be able to carry guns concealed. Either way, if there are people reading who aren't familiar with this: In every jurisdiction I'm familiar with (which isn't all of them), the ability to carry a gun "concealed" is not a special privilege above-and-beyond what's known as "open carry," or having a gun visibly on your belt the way a police officer does. Rather, "concealed" is a limitation on how you are permitted to carry. In Massachusetts for instance, your options as a civilian are to carry a gun fully concealed, or not to carry at all.
posted by cribcage at 9:05 AM on April 18, 2012


As a European, I find it slightly mindboggling that people can walk around with sidearms, concealed or otherwise. In the past wild west days I can just about understand it; however we are now in 2012 and the whole gun ownership mess in the USA seems completely illogical and out of control; while people bicker about the weasel words writted a a couple of hundred years ago. I mean what the fuck does anyone need an AK 47 or assault rifle for except to assault someone. Sheriffs who own tanks? Do you people really and seriously think that this should be conceived as normal and civilized behaviour?
posted by adamvasco at 9:47 AM on April 18, 2012


It seems that the evidence does point to Martin physically attacking Zimmerman, maybe he had murder on his mind,

Yeah I'm sure it was the unarmed kid walking home from the store with candy for his brother who had murder on his mind and not the armed vigilante with a history of domestic violence, assaulting police, and being fired as a security guard because he had a hair-trigger temper.

Also, the evidence doesn't point to Martin attacking Zimmerman. Not the 911 call, not the witness accounts, not Martin's phone records, not Zimmerman's claimed injuries that were invisible 20 minutes later.

Great post.
posted by a_girl_irl at 10:24 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the past wild west days I can just about understand it

Although, of course, no one really did that back in those days. Most of the famous frontier towns of the Wild West (Tombstone, Dodge etc.) actually forbade the carrying of firearms. Visitors to town had to check their guns with the sheriff and pick them up again on their way out of town.
posted by yoink at 10:24 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just don't travel between towns with your gold and no firearm...
posted by smackfu at 10:30 AM on April 18, 2012


As a European, I find it slightly mindboggling that people can walk around with sidearms

And there are plenty of Americans who find it equally mindboggling that you'd allow your government to tell you you can't own/carry firearms.
posted by blaneyphoto at 11:06 AM on April 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I mean what the fuck does anyone need an AK 47 or assault rifle for except to assault someone. ... Do you people really and seriously think that this should be conceived as normal and civilized behaviour?

Do I think that owning an AK-47 is "civilized behavior"? Sure. Why not?

I can't recite offhand which versions of AK-type rifles are legal to own in Massachusetts, but I know some are, like the WASR-10. If you're a history buff and you enjoy collecting firearms, then I would think the storied history of the AK-47 design would have an obvious appeal. The same logic holds if you're a hobby shooter: If you are really into rifles, then I would think it'd be a no-brainer that you'd want to own and shoot an AK-47.

Marksmanship and gun-collecting strike me as perfectly legitimate hobbies. Now, obviously walking around in public with an assault rifle is not a brilliant idea, and that's why we don't allow people to do it. But just owning one, and firing it under regulated circumstances (i.e., not in public)? No, I don't see anything inherently uncivilized about that. It's an impressive piece of machinery that has been a key piece of our recent history as a civilization. I can totally understand why somebody might want to own one.
posted by cribcage at 11:06 AM on April 18, 2012


And there are plenty of Americans who find it equally mindboggling that you'd allow your government to tell you you can't own/carry firearms.

"Allow your government to..." What a bizarre feature of the American political imagination that phrasing highlights. In a democracy, we don't "allow our governments" to do X or Y--we do X or Y by means of our governments. "Government" doesn't want or not want people to privately own guns. The people collectively decide whether they want to have that right and they enforce their decision through their government.

I'm perpetually amazed at this American mindset that "the government" is some alien body within the state that we're desperately trying to keep from taking over our lives.
posted by yoink at 11:16 AM on April 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


in a democracy, WE are the government. We are the ones electing the people making the decisions.

and in the best democracies, we have robust rights and freedoms and a strong and independent (and non-political) judiciary which can protect us against the stupid things we sometimes like to do to each other, like discriminate against each other.

as for guns stopping the holocaust... how is the proliferation of small arms doing for the prevention of genocides in sub-Saharan Africa?
posted by jb at 11:43 AM on April 18, 2012


Just don't travel between towns with your gold and no firearm...

This is why we have banks! Er, nevermind.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:46 AM on April 18, 2012


and in the best democracies, we have robust rights and freedoms and a strong and independent (and non-political) judiciary which can protect us against the stupid things we sometimes like to do to each other, like discriminate against each other.

as for guns stopping the holocaust... how is the proliferation of small arms doing for the prevention of genocides in sub-Saharan Africa
?

To tackle the second point, I don't think the populations being killed in Sudan and Congo have access to firearms, and due to poverty have very limited option in acquiring them. The governments tightly control the type and amount of firearms being available to the populace in most countries and, in general, the more repressive the regime the more tightly that access is limited, and basically unavailable to minority groups. Blacks in the Jim Crow south had a similar problem and a LOT of the gun control laws in this country have their origins in that ideology. Political power, of a sort, DOES grow from the barrel of a gun. This is not limited to guns really, before their invention the access and knowledge of weapons and their craft was limited to the nobility or at least the political in group of the time and place. Denying a group of individuals weapons (of any sort) is almost always a sure sign of oppression.

To tackle the first point, in a functional democracy, or at least a representative republic governed by the rule of law (which is what the common use of democracy has come to mean) an armed populace is not really necessary. However times can change and what was once a democracy can turn into something much uglier. Such as the transition from the Wiemar Republic to the Nazi regime. And as pjaust mentioned once the civilian population gives up its firearms it doesn't get them back when they might actually be useful, even if the usefulness is limited to taking some of the jack booted thugs with you. *NOTE* I am not saying the US or Europe is any where close or even heading toward such conditions where armed revolt is justified, but I do maintain that it is possible for any country to go in that direction *NOTE*. And not all of Europe has given up their guns, The swiss still maintain a militia system where every adult male (and maybe females, i am not sure on that) is REQUIRED to keep a military firearm and ammunition at home. I own one of the guns used by the Swiss army during WWII and it is as fine a firearms as I have seen from that era and under the buttplate was a tag from the man who carried it. I treasure such an item as an example of the tradition of a citizen soldier. I also believe that the Finns own a lot of guns. The guns aren't the problem. The gun doesn't make you violent. And just removing the guns doesn't cure the violence, it just changes the venue. But it is so much easier to blame something concrete like guns, or drugs, or than to actually solve the problem of violence, or addiction, or whatever the flaws of human beings are.
posted by bartonlong at 12:16 PM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Though it may pale in comparison to America's 88.8 registered weapons per hundred people, the rate of gun ownership in Europe is higher than one might imagine. In Switzerland there are 45.7 guns per hundred people; in Finland, 45.3; France's 31.2 is a little higher than Germany's 30.3. The U.K., which banned most gun ownership after two massacres, has a rate of 6.2 registered guns per 100 people."

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1885130,00.html#ixzz1sQ58trBY
posted by 200burritos at 12:24 PM on April 18, 2012


And there are plenty of Americans who find it equally mindboggling that you'd allow your government to tell you you can't own/carry firearms.

Some of us Americans are mindboggled that the government can tell us what plants we can't grow (marijuana, opium poppies, various mushrooms, etc) or what we can't do with the fruit afterwards in our own home (distilleries).
posted by small_ruminant at 2:27 PM on April 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


small_ruminant, I've always felt that the Drug War is very similar to strong gun control -- it's the exact same impulse ("we don't like Something... so let's have ourselves a War On Something!") The letters the ATF recently sent to gun shops telling them not to sell to medical marijuana patients are a great example of both, actually.
posted by vorfeed at 2:48 PM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, in both cases the United States has a relatively long history of regulation, so it's hard to understand why anybody would be mindboggled by either one.
posted by cribcage at 3:09 PM on April 18, 2012


in a democracy, WE are the government. We are the ones electing the people making the decisions.
posted by jb

In theory, that first statement is true, but hardly in practice. We're forced by what our political system had devolved into to make a choice among the lesser of two (usually) evils. There is virtually nobody in public office who reasonably represents my ideas and interests or those of my wide network of friends.
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:12 PM on April 18, 2012


"Allow your government to..." What a bizarre feature of the American political imagination that phrasing highlights. In a democracy, we don't "allow our governments" to do X or Y--we do X or Y by means of our governments. "Government" doesn't want or not want people to privately own guns. The people collectively decide whether they want to have that right and they enforce their decision through their government.

I'm perpetually amazed at this American mindset that "the government" is some alien body within the state that we're desperately trying to keep from taking over our lives.


"Bizarre" or not, it has deep roots. The country's revolutionary leaders had a cynical view of both the institution of government and the types who are oh so eager to tell the rest of us how it's done. The natural desire of the powerful to secure their position and increase their reach will result in most of them being disinterested if not opposed to individual liberty. By comparison, this complete identification of democratic government and "us" seems simplistic and naive.

Some quotes from James Madison:

"Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."

"All men having power ought to be mistrusted."

"The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty. A people armed and free forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition and is a bulwark for the nation against foreign invasion and domestic oppression. Americans need never fear their government because of the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation."

"A government that does not trust it's law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms is itself unworthy of trust."
posted by BigSky at 4:05 PM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, in both cases the United States has a relatively long history of regulation, so it's hard to understand why anybody would be mindboggled by either one.

The modern Drug War is only as old as Nixon. Drugs like marijuana and opium were not significantly prohibited until the 1910s/20s, at around the same time as alcohol prohibition, and even that (and the arms-regulation laws which accompanied it) isn't such a long time ago... not in a country founded in 1776.

At any rate, I find the Drug War mindboggling because it's clearly a massive waste -- so clearly so that the government's own investigatory commission warned them not to criminalize marijuana back in 1972. The fact that they went and did it anyway doesn't make criminalization any less problematic.
posted by vorfeed at 4:32 PM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


As for strong gun control, that's mindboggling because it involves banning an object which can be found in 1/3 of American households, all over the deleterious effects of less than 0.1% of said objects. In a lot of ways it makes less sense than the Drug War, because drugs were never as pervasive nor enjoyed such popular support. It's simply not going to happen without a serious sea-change in the American perspective on guns... and such a change would make gun bans largely unnecessary, anyway.

Gun bans are the wrong political tool for the job, so much so that the mere (and largely non-existent) threat of them has made reasonable efforts to regulate guns and/or reduce gun violence unpopular, if not politically infeasible. If that's not mindboggling, I don't know what is -- at this point it's the political equivalent of trying to reduce the harm of hornet's nests by hitting them with sticks.
posted by vorfeed at 4:58 PM on April 18, 2012


in a democracy, WE are the government.

In theory, yes. In practice, I observe that people still go to jail for smoking marijuana.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:17 PM on April 18, 2012


In theory, yes. In practice, I observe that people still go to jail for smoking marijuana.

Public polling on the legalization of Marijuana has only very recently seen a slight majority in favor of the measure. And that majority is overwhelmingly composed of young people who don't vote in anything like the numbers that older people (who remain strongly opposed to legalization) do. Nonetheless, we all see the writing on the wall for Marijuana prohibition, don't we? And why will the dreaded loco weed be legalized? Not because "the government" changed its mind arbitrarily on the subject but because we, the people, changed our minds--and we will, eventually, change the laws by means of the government we elect.
posted by yoink at 5:45 PM on April 18, 2012


A government that does not trust it's law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms is itself unworthy of trust

Where did Madison say that?
posted by yoink at 5:46 PM on April 18, 2012


Where did Madison say that?

Good question. I see the quote sometimes attributed to the Federalist Papers, but no specific citation, most of the times there's no attribution at all.
posted by BigSky at 7:24 PM on April 18, 2012


The proliferation of small arms in sub-Saharan Africa does feed violence there. Or so say the security experts I have met.
posted by jb at 8:06 PM on April 18, 2012


Just because a man made a political statement which was popular and relevent at the time does not mean it's correct in this present day and age. This mindset is part of the problem.
posted by adamvasco at 11:40 PM on April 18, 2012


Just because a man made a political statement which was popular and relevent at the time does not mean it's correct in this present day and age.
posted by adamvasco


That quote from Madison couldn't possibly be more correct and relevant than it is today.
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:22 PM on April 19, 2012


That quote from Madison couldn't possibly be more correct and relevant than it is today.

What about the part where he doesn't seem to have said it?
posted by yoink at 4:28 PM on April 19, 2012


What about the part where he doesn't seem to have said it?
posted by yoink


Does it matter who "said" it? Hell, attribute it to me if you like. I'll scream it at the top of my lungs, if that'll help. Point is, the statement is a good one.
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:10 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does it matter who "said" it?

If the question is "what did the Founding Fathers have to say on this topic?" then, yes, it matters enormously.

If you're assessing it simply as a proposition of political science then, no, it doesn't. Of course, if that is the frame of reference you do rather have the problem that there is essentially zero historical correlation between governmental trustworthiness and freedom of access to firearms. So as a general political rule of thumb, it's worthless.
posted by yoink at 5:53 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Iraq under Saddam Hussein had an enormously high rate of private gun ownership. Didn't seem to keep them free from oppression.
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:07 PM on April 19, 2012


So as a general political rule of thumb, it's worthless.

Yeah... not really, but you can believe that if you'd like to.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:20 PM on April 19, 2012


Yeah... not really, but you can believe that if you'd like to.

Thank you for your permission. And yes, I will continue to believe it until such time as someone marshals a convincing case that untrustworthy governments typically ban or restrict the private ownership of guns while trustyworthy governments typically do not. Given that every gun nut's favorite case of tyrannical government restricting access to guns is the Nazis, and that that turns out to be almost entirely a myth (the Nazis weakened gun control laws that predated their installation in power, and private gun ownership was widespread and generally encouraged by the regime--except, of course, for Jews), I'm not expecting that to happen any time soon.
posted by yoink at 6:50 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


and that that turns out to be almost entirely a myth (the Nazis weakened gun control laws

After reading the link you provided and a wikipedia entry on it, I think this actually serves to point out the danger of weapon registration and the dangers of government controlling who has access to firearms. Of course the nazi party wanted their members/youth to have access to firearms, it helped them to learn firearms at an early age to make better soldiers and as tools to oppress the underlings. I notice they restricted them to all the 'enemies of the state' and such and people who were not considered politically reliable. Gun control is almost always merely an extension of government control of the populace, or at least the enemies of the current in power group.

This is also a really, really powerful argument about how much danger an armed, hostile populace can be to a regime. If small arms weren't a danger to those in power (again, not saying it is time for revolution or anything, just arguing a point)why would they care if private citizens, of any kind, had them?
posted by bartonlong at 8:12 PM on April 19, 2012


This is also a really, really powerful argument about how much danger an armed, hostile populace can be to a regime. If small arms weren't a danger to those in power (again, not saying it is time for revolution or anything, just arguing a point)why would they care if private citizens, of any kind, had them?

They wanted to humiliate Jews and other enemies of the state so they chose to mark them as disqualified from the normal rights and priveleges of the state. Anyone who thinks that the Holocaust would have been prevented or the Nazi government seriously inconvenienced in any way had Jews been allowed to purchase firearms is indulging in an absurd fantasy.

So no, the fact that the Nazis refused the right to own weapons to the Jews is no more a sign that they feared the "danger" presented by armed Jews than the fact that they refused Jews the right to own other property was a sign that they genuinely feared that Jews controlled the German economy.
posted by yoink at 9:03 PM on April 19, 2012


I forgot to add a question for you: does the fact that private gun ownership was far more widespread and faced far fewer legal restrictions for the vast majority of the population in Nazi Germany than in contemporary Britain prove that the Nazi government was more "trustworthy" than the modern British government? If your answer to that question is "no" what becomes of your original thesis?
posted by yoink at 9:06 PM on April 19, 2012


I'd like to know how "unworthy of trust" becomes a question of varying levels of trustworthiness. Maybe I don't understand the word "unworthy" as well as one might expect.
posted by timfinnie at 8:15 PM on April 20, 2012


« Older "No forensic background, no problem."...  |  TED Talk:"Drew Curtis: How I B... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments