Gun laws in the United States

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Gun laws in the United States

Post by C-Fan » 26 Jul 2012 09:08

I've never seen this topic debated on modified. Curious to see the various opinions from both Americans, and non-Americans. What are your views on gun laws in the United States?

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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by Allan » 26 Jul 2012 10:04

I just started to try write a proper response to this, but I failed. This is such a multifaceted issue!

In general, I'd have to say that I support very strict gun control measures, both on people who want to buy guns, and the manufacturers that make them. I think the gun controls laws in the USA are ridiculously loose and desperately need reforming.

That being said, the other side has some salient points that deserve consideration.

That's about as much as I can say without writing a formal essay (which I don't have the time/desire to do).

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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by sen » 26 Jul 2012 11:13

I'm in the same situation as Allan. I'm not a political person at all so I don't get into the law stuff too much (any), but seeing stuff like what happened in Auorra(sp?) makes me sick. I had a pretty lengthy discussion with my guildmates about this. The ones I was speaking to are VERY pro guns. They are ex military and I'm pretty sure they carry at all times. They think that if people had been aloud to carry guns in the theater the gunman would have been gunned down before anyone got hurt. I call BS on that and figure that by the time the movie goers had gotten the gun man they would also have injured or killed more innocent people themselves in the cross fire.

I don't have a solution that we as humans can implement. I do know that I don't much like guns.

Why can't we all just get along?

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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by C-Fan » 26 Jul 2012 12:48

This is indeed a multifaceted issue, and I intentionally left things vague, since I wanted the conversation to take whatever turns people cared to discuss.

The Aurora shootings occurred about 20 minutes from where I live, so I've been thinking a lot about gun laws and guns in the US. A few scattered thoughts:

1. It sounds like the gunman in Aurora was insane, much like the gunman who shot Congresswoman Giffords and a bunch of other people last year (side note: my folks live in Tucson and had volunteered for Giffords, so when that massacre happened it also got me thinking about guns). Should guns be illegal, because insane people can use them to kill large amounts of people? I think the answer clearly is no. An insane person with a car can kill a bunch of people too, and nobody would argue that cars should be illegal based on that. That said, the US has done a decent job of creating driving safety laws that make it less likely for people to die in cars. You need to pass a driving exam to get a license. You can be pulled over and issued fines and tickets if you drive unsafely. Intersections are being designed to decrease the likelihood of fatal crashes. Cars are legal, but US society has imposed laws which make it less likely for people to die from them. In the last 10 years in the US, there have been multiple instances of insane individuals legally buying assault rifles and tons of ammo, and going on rampages. Would it be so horrible if we had gun laws which checked to see if potential gun buyers have mental problems? I read that in Canada, in order to purchase a gun you need to have 2 people vouch for you. While that might not be a huge hurdle, it might slow somebody down, especially if they're a crazy loner. Whether or not people are in favor of guns, I think it's reasonable to have stricter gun laws than what we currently have. If we assume there is a right to own a gun in the US (which I'll discuss later), that still does not mean that we can't have better laws to protect the public. Just because I have the freedom to fly a plane in the US, doesn't mean there shouldn't be laws to make sure pilots have training and are sane.

2. Not all guns are the same. A hunting rifle, a shotgun, a handgun, and an assault rifle are all different. Just because somebody is opposed to making machine guns easily available, does not necessarily make them anti-gun. I feel a lot of the discussion happening now tries to paint people as totally antigun, or as gun wielding maniacs. I don't think this advances the discussion. What differentiates the types of guns I mentioned above, are both the purpose they serve, and the amount of damage they do. The first three guns I listed all can be used for purposes that gun advocates often claim. You can hunt with a hunting rifle, you can protect your house with a shotgun/handgun, and you can protect yourself on the street with a handgun. Ignoring any arguments about how those three types of guns can still lead to accidental deaths and/or crime, I think most reasonable people would concede that these types of guns can be used for sane purposes (hunting, protection). Assault rifles on the other hand, are specifically made so you can kill a lot of people in a hurry. You don't hunt with them, you don't carry them on the street for protection, and you don't need them to defend your house. The only other argument I've heard for why the populace might need assault rifles, is to defend ourselves from the government. That's bordering on crazy militia talk though, so I'm dismissing that argument. The point I'm getting at here though, is that even if you think guns should be legal, I find it hard to justify why assault rifles and machine guns should be legal. On a related note:

3. I've lived in Japan and Spain, two countries where it's much harder to obtain guns. In Japan its near impossible, while in Spain it's hard. I'm pretty sure you can't buy machine guns in Spain. Anyway, when I lived in those countries, I can remember instances when a crazy person went on a killing rampage. The difference between those rampages, and the ones I can recall in the US, is in the amount of people who died. In the Tucson shooting, the guy's rampage ended when he was tackled...as he was reloading. When somebody has a weapon that can fire 100 bullets without stopping, more people die than when that person has a weapon with less firepower. Considering my argument in 2, that assault rifles serve no purpose other than to kill people, banning machine guns would have the effect of making gun rampages less deadly. I think they'd still happen, but fewer people would die.

4. My final thought, is related to the question of "rights." Very often, discussions on guns devolve into people arguing that there is a Constitutional right to owning a gun. While there are compelling arguments that the 2nd amendment only really applied to creating militias, instead of owning guns, let's for the sake of argument assume the 2nd amendment means: "Americans have the right to own guns." Assuming this interpretation, I have the following questions:

a. Using point 1 as reference, if there was a Constitutional right that said: "Americans have the right to drive cars," would that preclude society from making laws to define the limits of car ownership and car use? In other words, even if there is a right to own a gun in America, can the government make laws regulating who can buy guns, what kinds of guns are legal, or how they can be bought? There are many rights in the Constitution, and most of them are bounded by laws which nobody considers tyrannical. What makes guns different?

b. If something is laid out in the Constitution, does that mean it is just? Does that mean it is unchangeable? Is it out of the realm of possibility that the founding fathers may have gotten something wrong? What about prohibition? What about the stuff in the Constitution regarding slavery? The Constitution clearly got a lot of things right (freedom of speech, trial by jury, etc.), but by no means is it an infallible document.

c. Assuming the Constitution is infallible and the founding fathers meant that Americans should be able to own guns, is there any way to know how they felt about assault rifles? Back when the constitution was written, I don't think any guns existed which fired more than one shot at a time before having to be reloaded. If the Constitution writers had known that guns would evolve to the point where a single gunman could kill 20+ people in a matter of seconds without reloading, would they have considered that kind of weapon the same as a musket? Would that have changed how they approached this issue?

d. The concept of a "right" is a powerful one. When we say somebody has the right to something, that implies it is something more intrinsic than a privilege. You can deny somebody a privilege, but to deny somebody a right almost seems like a moral wrong. But if gun ownership is an intrinsic human right, then does that mean that the people of Canada/Japan/Spain/etc. are all oppressed? Why is gun ownership a right, but car ownership isn't? Do Americans have rights that citizens of other countries do not? Or is the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution nothing more than a law, that happens to be included in a section of a document that lays out actual rights?

I don't have answers for all of these questions, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the issue.

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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by Muffinman » 26 Jul 2012 15:47

C-Fan wrote:An insane person with a car can kill a bunch of people too, and nobody would argue that cars should be illegal based on that
C-Fan wrote:What makes guns different?
They're meant for killing (whether humans or animals). Is there anything else for which guns can be used?
C-Fan wrote:You can hunt with a hunting rifle, you can protect your house with a shotgun/handgun, and you can protect yourself on the street with a handgun
The hunting one is a bit more complicated but I don't understand the rationale behind the other two. Isn't that just like nuclear deterrence? Protect your house with a baseball bat or a knife. Remove guns altogether -- the criminal won't have one which removes the necessity for the home owner to have one. Why does anybody need a gun?
C-Fan wrote:If something is laid out in the Constitution, does that mean it is just?
Good point.
C-Fan wrote:But if gun ownership is an intrinsic human right, then does that mean that the people of Canada/Japan/Spain/etc. are all oppressed?
Good point.

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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by Jeremy » 27 Jul 2012 04:57

In Australia we had about 2 decades where we averaged almost 1 mass shooting (with 4 or more people killed) a year, cumulating in the 1996 massacre in my state where 35 people were killed. The government of the time banned all high powered semi automatic and automatic guns. That's the last time we've had a mass shooting. A few years later there was an attempted mass shooting with pistols (2 people were killed, and others wounded), and so restrictions on pistols are much tougher too, and there hasn't been an attempted mass pistol shooting either.

I would say that if the US doesn't significantly tighten gun laws, it is inevitable that another mass shooting of a similar scale to the most recent shooting will occur in the next few years, and they will keep happening every few years for the indefinite future. There will always be crazy people in the world, and countries that make it relatively easy for those people to get their hands on tools that allow them to quickly slaughter a large number of people will find that occurring.

What surprises me about the US though, is that the majority of people presumably don't own assault weapons, and yet it's politically difficult to ban them. There must be a large number of people who don't own assault weapons but support people's right to own them. That seems either short sighted or amazingly optimistic.

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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by Allan » 29 Jul 2012 15:39

Jeremy wrote:There must be a large number of people who don't own assault weapons but support people's right to own them.
They're called the NRA, and they're amazing lobbyists.

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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by Allan » 29 Jul 2012 15:41

Double post:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4wzohCdrxU[/youtube]

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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by Sporatical_Distractions » 30 Jul 2012 07:34

Muffinman wrote:They're meant for killing (whether humans or animals). Is there anything else for which guns can be used?
Sport shooting is huge in Montana whether it be skeet or fixed target.

edit: I was going to weigh in on this topic but don't feel like getting emotional. I am very pro-gun as long as proper training/handling is followed to a T, which would leave no injuries or human fatalities (with exception to military and non-fatal shots during home invasion).
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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by Sporatical_Distractions » 30 Jul 2012 07:38

Even though Montanans are generally born and raised around guns, I do think that my state could tighten up gun laws though. Montana has some of the loosest gun laws in the U.S. and possibly the World.
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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by Pasquar » 01 Aug 2012 07:59

C-Fan wrote:My final thought, is related to the question of "rights." Very often, discussions on guns devolve into people arguing that there is a Constitutional right to owning a gun. While there are compelling arguments that the 2nd amendment only really applied to creating militias, instead of owning guns, let's for the sake of argument assume the 2nd amendment means: "Americans have the right to own guns."
I don't really have the time (literally, as I use a public library for my internet source which only gives me some hours a day) for a lengthy response but I was and remain very intrigued by this. I have always been anti-gun on an ideological front, I just feel deep at my core that firearms, going up the chain to more deadly assault weapons used solely to kill other humans, are evil and one of the biggest mistakes of human progress. This has always been difficult to argue, given that our 2nd Amendment is (or more accurately, as you mentioned, has been construed to mean) the "right to own a gun". This construal separates the original intent of the Amendment, which is the freedom to creating militias to combat whatever powers that be.

My immediate thought here, as I have recently read "The New Jim Crow" by Michele Alexander is the depletion of the 4th Amendment, which originally served to protect us in the face of authorities administering unwarranted search and seizures which were commonplace during British rule. In both cases, the actual historical basis of why these Amendments were put in place seems lost and in one case (the 2nd Amendment) it serves the purpose of giving us a "right" to own and operate a firearm and in the other (4th Amendment) serves to find ways around our original Constitutional right to not have our selves or property unreasonably searched based on (largely racist) assumptions. Again, I would love to explain this in more depth, but I'm kind of in a time crunch.

Also:
AllanHaggett wrote:
Jeremy wrote:There must be a large number of people who don't own assault weapons but support people's right to own them.
They're called the NRA, and they're amazing lobbyists.
My thoughts EXACTLY.
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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by BainbridgeShred » 11 Aug 2012 17:33

Semi-Auto and Automatic weapons should be banned altogether. Hand guns should be up to the state.
4. My final thought, is related to the question of "rights." Very often, discussions on guns devolve into people arguing that there is a Constitutional right to owning a gun. While there are compelling arguments that the 2nd amendment only really applied to creating militias, instead of owning guns, let's for the sake of argument assume the 2nd amendment means: "Americans have the right to own guns." Assuming this interpretation, I have the following questions:

George Washington is quoted as saying that he didn't expect the constitution to last more than 20 years. I'm not sure any of the founders expected it to last 200+

Besides the hot-button issues, their are a lot of ways the constitution could be better amended as far as pure legislative design is considering,
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Re: Gun laws in the United States

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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by Jeremy » 02 Jan 2013 18:55

This is a very challenging article about gun control in the US;

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the- ... of-the-gun

I think I have to accept some of the points, especially the incredibly low probability of anybody being involved in a mass shooting, and I think the practical point about how difficult removing guns from the US is. I have a few misgivings, but I guess Sam's actual suggestion of what should happen (significant training required before gaining a licence) is something I can see being a potential solution too.

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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by Pasquar » 07 Jan 2013 10:38

I found that article very difficult as well. Though I think he makes some good points, some others I think are very lacking.

I do agree that though I am a definite idealist and would love to have a utopia without guns, that will never, ever happen and thus we must work with what we are given, so disarming our population is a pipe-dream. I also fear that with the emphasis remaining on civilian gun violence underscores the underlying monopoly of force that is afforded police, national guard, SWAT, military, etc.

What I disagree with in this article is how he tries to use statistics to minimize the impact of gun violence, specifically regarding mass shootings. I think the argument that 20 6-7 year olds and 6 adults killed being only a fraction of a percent of the 55 million kids in school that day is not evidence of a lack of a problem, rather I feel like that would be an insult to any of the families affected by this event. Mass shootings ARE a problem and just because overall violent crime has gone down 4% in the past 5 years does not nullify that. MotherJones has a great explainer of mass shootings since 1982 here: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/201 ... otings-map

A trend you will see, other than that 3/4 of the guns were obtained legally (pointing out bigger issues with gun accessibility) is that overwhelmingly, the murderers are white males. This is something I don't see discussed much in mainstream discourse, but it saddens me that I KNOW if the trend had been anything else; say black men, or asian women, or Arabs, there would be an uproar and SWIFT action. Hugo Schwyzer makes an interesting case in "Why Most Mass Murderers are Privileged White Men": http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-p ... -white-men Basically, one of the takeaways is that White men are the one racial/gender group that we simply aren't allowed to discriminate against or make any connections with, because that would be racist and sexist :roll:

This evidence goes in conjunction with the sprawl of gun ownership to the suburbs and countryside. This is NOT to undermine the continuing gun violence that is not mass shootings (as Harris points out). The problem I think we agree with is that there is definitely something wrong with the way Americans handle guns (http://www.businessinsider.com/shooting ... ws-2012-12).

I agree with Harris that there should be much stricter regulations on ownership: screening across the board, no gun-show loopholes, training, etc. But I also think there is a lot that we don't look at (race, gender, privilege) and a lot of preventative measures we don't take, such as making access to mental health services commonplace so that mentally ill people have a better chance of getting help than ending up with a gun in their hand.

I meant for this to be brief... apologies :oops:
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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by Jeremy » 07 Jan 2013 15:40

The claim about white males is so bizarre I had to test it.

I used this map as my reference point (since I assume it's unbiased and the wikipedia lists mass shootings by type);

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-07-25/m ... 90/4153612

On that map there are 22 shootings involving 24 shooters. 17 are white, 5 Asian, and 2 Black (to be very generalised). That sounds like a white bias but hear are the percentages compared with the total population percentages; White - 70.8% of shooters, 72.4% of the population. Asian 20.8% of shooters, 4.8% of the population. Black 8.3% of shooters, 12.6% of population.

So Whites are slightly less likely to be mass shooters than their portion in the population, Asians are 4 times more likely to be a mass shooter, and Blacks are less likely.

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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by Jeremy » 07 Jan 2013 15:56

Although a greater point is that 223 million white people, 38 million black people, and 14 million Asians haven't committed mass murder, or halve those numbers for the number of men not committing murder. To put that in percentage terms, roughly 0.000015% of white males are mass murders, while 99.9999848 are not. So to say that there is a problem with white males, or any demographic is a massive failure.

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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by Pasquar » 08 Jan 2013 10:18

I don't really find that source to be comprehensive as it makes no effort to define "mass shootings", it merely states and maps them. I could not find what criteria they were using as "mass shootings".

The MotherJones article I linked in my post clearly defines what fit the criteria for a "mass shooting" (such as using the FBI to clarify that a mass shooting ends in the deaths of at least four people excluding the shooter). With this definition, MJ counts 53 mass shootings in the span of 1990-2012 whereas ABC only counts 22. I find the ABC source lacking, for example, because simply in this past year (2012) when there were 7 "mass shootings" (under their definition), your ABC map only shows 5. It excludes Andrew Engeldinger from Minneapolis who killed 5 and Wade Michael Page of the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin who killed 6.

Not sure how you reasoned on this map other than "since you assume it's unbiased".
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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by Jeremy » 08 Jan 2013 16:43

Actually the MJ article you provided gives us these details;

"Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass shootings* across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. Twenty-five of these mass shootings have occurred since 2006, and 7 of them have taken place in 2012. We've mapped them below, including details on the shooters' identities, the types of weapons they used, and the number of victims they injured and killed."

"Forty four of the killers were white males."

" killings were carried out by a lone shooter. (Except in the case of the Columbine massacre and the Westside Middle School killings, both of which involved two shooters.)"

So there were 64 shooters in 62 shootings, of which 44 were white males. 44/64 = 0.6875 - which is very close to my figure from ABC of 70.8, and even lower than the national average of white people in society.

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Re: Gun laws in the United States

Post by Pasquar » 13 Jan 2013 11:03

Point taken
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