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Sam’s Riddle of the Gun Article
Posted: 03 January 2013 03:45 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Although Sam is generally correct, statistically speaking, about gun violence in the US, this article misses a few things. 

Sam only obliquely addresses mental illness and other issues, yet this is one area where the NRA is steadfast.  They don’t want any background checks on gun ownership.  This, I believe, is part of that paranoid fear that the jack-boots from the government will come for us, and only one’s stash of weapons (that the government doesn’t know about) prevents the rise of tyranny.  Felons and the mentally ill should not be allowed to obtain guns, and we should be doing background checks to prevent that.

Having guards in schools might help protect children, but what about the rest of us?  What about office buildings, Post offices, government buildings, parks, etc.  Children aren’t the only ones that suffer from such attacks.  Are we to have armed guards everywhere?  His suggestion that more armed citizens protecting each other seems like a fantasy, and there are are few data to support the efficacy of such an approach.  Rather, the opposite is true.  Societies with fewer guns suffer fewer violent deaths.

Comparing gun deaths to death by infections is hospitals is a specious argument.  Because gun deaths are less numerous, does that mean we should do nothing about them?  Yes, we need to address hospital cleanliness protocols too, but using that as an argument against gun control or diminishing its priority is misleading.  Similarly, noting increases in knife attacks in China is a distraction too.  While I would not want to be stabbed, I’d prefer to take my chances against a knife-wielder than a gun-wielder.  At the very least, if I can run faster than a person with a gun, I’m not in danger.

Saying that there are so many guns in circulation doesn’t mean that many can’t be taken out of circulation over time, so that can’t be used as a reason not to reduce availability.

While I agree with Sam that we are unlikely to be able to eliminate guns entirely, nor should we, I think there are a few steps that should be taken:

- Anyone wishing to own a gun should be subject to thorough background checks.
- Anyone wishing to own a gun must demonstrate that they have been trained to use (and store them) safely.
- Get rid of most non-violent incarcerations like drug and prostitution offenses, and increase penalties for violent offenses, especially those using guns.
- Close purchase loopholes like gun show purchases, that make it easy to avoid registration and checks.

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Posted: 03 January 2013 04:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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You state that you would close the ‘gun show loophole’.  Exactly how do you intend to do so?  Any sale at a gun show by a registered dealer is required to have a background check - the same as if the dealer sold the gun at their brick and mortar store.  In other words, if Bill’s Gun Store had a table at the gun show any guns sold by Bill’s Gun Store at the show or at the store would require a back ground check.  No loophole here!
The only firearms sold at gun shows that do NOT require a background check are private sales between individuals.
Now, it must be understood that the SCOTUS has already ruled that registration of firearms to individuals is unconstitutional.  Not only under the 2nd amendment, but also under the 5th.  (the SC found that forced registration would force a felon to admit a crime - possession of a weapon - and therefore, any attempt to associate serial numbers to individuals is unfairly targeted towards a single segment of the population (non-felons) rendering any type of federal registration unconstitutional.  You can forget the SC taking up any arguments against the 4th or 5th amendments)
So….knowing that you cannot register firearms, how exactly do you propose that private sales be subjected to background checks?

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Posted: 03 January 2013 04:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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tapio.mh - 03 January 2013 03:45 PM

Although Sam is generally correct, statistically speaking, about gun violence in the US, this article misses a few things. 

Having guards in schools might help protect children, but what about the rest of us?  What about office buildings, Post offices, government buildings, parks, etc.  Children aren’t the only ones that suffer from such attacks.  Are we to have armed guards everywhere?  His suggestion that more armed citizens protecting each other seems like a fantasy, and there are are few data to support the efficacy of such an approach.  Rather, the opposite is true.  Societies with fewer guns suffer fewer violent deaths.

In all seriousness, do you go out much?  I went to an NFL game the other day, there were no less than 5 different law enforcement agencies wandering the stadium - armed.
I took the mass transit train to the game…you guessed it, armed police in the stations and on the trains.
There are armed cops and armed private security guards at the mall. 
I saw an armed private security guard at my local supermarket the other night.
Do you know that the Postal Service has their own police force…and yes, they are armed.
It has recently been widely reported that the private school BHO sends his children to has several armed guards.
The bank has armed private security.
Have you walked into a state or federal government building in the past 20 years?  Each and every one of them generally have at least 2 sheriff deputies (both armed), and a metal detector.
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We already have armed guards everywhere.
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I dont suggest citizens wander around protecting each other.  However, I am just that - a citizen.  I am NOT a subject.  I have a right and a responsibility to protect myself and my family - and if I am awesome, maybe you get lucky.
.
This subject is very similar to the prayer in schools debate.  Disallowing prayer in schools is never about YOUR kid.  Its always about restricting MY kid.  And as a wise man once said, as long as there are math tests, there will be prayer in schools.
As long as there are criminals, there will be a need for citizens to keep AND bear arms.

 

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Posted: 03 January 2013 05:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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SCOTUS is unlikely to reopen precedents, true, but it doesn’t mean they can’t.  It has happened before, and it may happen again with Roe.  What twisted logic.  A convicted felon can’t vote, but they can own guns?  We are truly screwed.  I suppose that applies to privacy rights of the mentally ill as well.  As for the Post Office, they may have their own police, but it hasn’t helped much has it?  Thus the term ‘going postal’.  As for protecting your family, great, I hope that works for you.  It didn’t work for the mother of the guy that just shot up the school.  She owned those guns, presumably for protection, and they were used against her and everyone else.  You simply conveniently ignore that societies with fewer guns in circulation and strong gun control suffer fewer violent episodes.  Whether that can be achieved here is perhaps a pipe dream, and I agree with Sam that the proposed measures are not going to do much.

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Posted: 03 January 2013 07:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Its not twisted logic at all.  It is illegal for a felon to possess a gun.  They cannot purchase, nor possess.
If you were to pass a law attempting to force all people possessing a gun to register the gun, then you have forced the felon to admit his crime - the illegal possession of a firearm.  This is explicitly protected under the 5th amendment.  Not the possession of the firearm, the right to not self incriminate.
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The SC will never tamper with the 5th amendment.

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Posted: 03 January 2013 07:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Ueeediot - 03 January 2013 07:35 PM

Its not twisted logic at all.  It is illegal for a felon to possess a gun.  They cannot purchase, nor possess.
If you were to pass a law attempting to force all people possessing a gun to register the gun, then you have forced the felon to admit his crime - the illegal possession of a firearm.


You do realize, I hope, that your argument presumes the sudden compliance of the felon. No one is forced to comply with the law unless they’re caught (which is the valid form of the joke that nothing is really illegal unless you’re caught). You suggesting a law would somehow force a particular behavior out of someone who is known to disregard the law. Implied is the idea that this felon doesn’t want to behave in the way the law demands, otherwise the law wouldn’t make any difference. So someone who doesn’t comply with the law will somehow be forced into behavior as a result of compliance with another law.

Does that really make sense to you?

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Posted: 03 January 2013 08:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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tapio.mh - 03 January 2013 03:45 PM

- Anyone wishing to own a gun should be subject to thorough background checks.
- Anyone wishing to own a gun must demonstrate that they have been trained to use (and store them) safely.
- Get rid of most non-violent incarcerations like drug and prostitution offenses, and increase penalties for violent offenses, especially those using guns.
- Close purchase loopholes like gun show purchases, that make it easy to avoid registration and checks.


Those are all pretty arguably good ideas. I’d say they are all good ideas under the proper circumstances. As I understand it the first two usually fall under the idea of licensure of ownership and/or of permission to carry. Those two are also very vulnerable to abuse (de-facto bans), and closing the gun show loophole requires adding cost to a program we’re already unwilling to adequately fund—ATF background checks, specifically, which is why we have the gun show “loophole” (I’d just call it the “gun show dodge” or something like that though). Not only are private, intra-state gun sales not subject to background checks (at least in most states, I think), but any background checks that get backlogged and aren’t completed in something like two or three days, are dropped—the sale can’t be prevented or held because the background check would require more time to complete once the legal deadline has passed. Both of those problems are addressable, but as I said the one requires more money for a program we’re already unwilling to fund, and the other requires voluntary compliance (until/unless a violator is caught).

[ Edited: 03 January 2013 08:14 PM by SkepticX]
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Posted: 04 January 2013 06:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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SkepticX - 03 January 2013 07:54 PM
Ueeediot - 03 January 2013 07:35 PM

Its not twisted logic at all.  It is illegal for a felon to possess a gun.  They cannot purchase, nor possess.
If you were to pass a law attempting to force all people possessing a gun to register the gun, then you have forced the felon to admit his crime - the illegal possession of a firearm.


You do realize, I hope, that your argument presumes the sudden compliance of the felon. No one is forced to comply with the law unless they’re caught (which is the valid form of the joke that nothing is really illegal unless you’re caught). You suggesting a law would somehow force a particular behavior out of someone who is known to disregard the law. Implied is the idea that this felon doesn’t want to behave in the way the law demands, otherwise the law wouldn’t make any difference. So someone who doesn’t comply with the law will somehow be forced into behavior as a result of compliance with another law.

Does that really make sense to you?

I understand your position and I very much agree with your premise that any law you write may be ignored, at will, by those who wish to engage in the behavior.  See prostitution, drugs, robbery, etc.  This is the reason the law has consequences and not just rules.  This has also been my point against many suggested ‘new’ gun laws.  You cannot legislate morality.  This is why, by definition, gun registration schemes are aimed purely at one segment of population - the law abiding.  This is also why these schemes are so absurdly dangerous.
However, this position is not my argument.  This is the position of the SC.  The SC, in fact, does not presume the sudden compliance of the felon - which is the entire reason they based their decision that this is unconstitutional.  They presumed felons would not be able to comply with the law without self incriminating, thereby violating their 5th amendment rights.  You are not forced to comply with any law and there are penalties for those who do not, but you must be able to comply and have made the decision to do otherwise.  Now, one might argue that only the felon who could be prosecuted would have any recourse to use this defense.  Now, doesnt that make sense!?!

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Posted: 04 January 2013 08:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Ueeediot - 04 January 2013 06:42 PM

However, this position is not my argument.  This is the position of the SC.  The SC, in fact, does not presume the sudden compliance of the felon - which is the entire reason they based their decision that this is unconstitutional.  They presumed felons would not be able to comply with the law without self incriminating, thereby violating their 5th amendment rights.  You are not forced to comply with any law and there are penalties for those who do not, but you must be able to comply and have made the decision to do otherwise.  Now, one might argue that only the felon who could be prosecuted would have any recourse to use this defense.  Now, doesnt that make sense!?!


How would that be different than, say, requiring vehicle registration in order to drive legally if you stole the car you’re driving?

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Posted: 04 January 2013 09:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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As a gun owner and user I agree with much of what he says and both sides should read this, however I have to agree with one of the posters that I think he glazed over and downplayed, a bit, the part about mass shootings not being really relevant to the debate. But in this case we are talking specifically about a classroom full of children. All the statistics in the world aren’t going to make me feel better about that. His explanation may show why statistically Newtown was not something to worry about in relation to the gun debate but, again, I think there is more to it than what he allows.

Think about it! A room full of little children were shot! This does have emotional weight on our collective conscience and conscious well beyond it’s statistical relevance in comparison to all the other more numerous individual shooting by gangs or home defenders or any other kind of violence gun or otherwise. Little kids! What causes this? Is our stance on guns like that painting of the hand that draws itself? Does violence beget violence, or rather our fascination with defense, protection, guns, etc., beget violence? It’s worth discussing.

At some point we really do have to try the whole “turn the other cheek” and forget the “eye for an eye”; otherwise we are on a course for individual arms race. Yet, I know, no one really wants to go first. Me neither.

Until then I agree we have to educate, train, promote, and, most importantly, REGULATE around the use of guns. “That which we ignore gets stronger, that which we look at disappears”, so let’s really look at it. Yes, prohibition did not get rid of people wanting to drink, but that doesn’t mean we sell everyone a distiller who wants one? The left yells, rightly, at the right for trying to ignore family planning and birth control, yet they want too frequently to ban/ignore guns in a similar way. The right pushes for unfettered use of guns by individual Americans but then screams for going after Iran and countries who want Nukes. Both sides have some inconsistencies to address.

Well, I had hoped to avoid this conversation a bit longer and let the dust settle more but it seems it is time in earnest to dive in.

We have to find a way through this and guns are just one part of a much bigger conversation. I hope we are up to the task.

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Posted: 04 January 2013 10:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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It’s not clear why the author feels outraged by the political influence of the NRA. The only clue from the post I can glean is the frustration that similarly strong lobbies do not exist for science, safe food, and lead paint but that’s hardly the fault of the NRA. I’m not a member of the NRA but have no issue with their advocacy work and the amount of vitriol directed towards that organization seems bizarre and misdirected.

I applaud the author for sharing his thoughts and doing so in a rational, thoughtful, and informative manner. If the so-called “national debate” on gun control and gun violence could be approached with the same level of seriousness we might actually find helpful solutions that could serve to limit horrific events like Newtown and Aurora.

For anyone interested in a thorough breakdown on gun control arguments, I strongly recommend Larry Correia’s piece at this link:
http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/an-opinion-on-gun-control/  There are very few people as experienced or well-informed on firearms in my opinion.

On a final note, I cannot agree more with the notion that it is time to end the war on drugs. I’m convinced the positive aspects of ending it greatly outweigh the downside.

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Posted: 08 January 2013 04:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Americans will support expensive programs to increase their security. They spent $750 billion dollars to attack Iraq – a country that had only a tenuous, at best, connection to the deaths of 3000 americans on 9/11. $150 billion to buy back the glut of guns would be cheap in comparison and save many more lives. But is it politically possible? Yes it is. It may not happen overnight, but reasonable gun control can come to be in the USA. Banning all guns wouldn’t fly and wouldn’t make sense, but sensible restrictions on what type of guns can be owned paired with real and thorough background checks for ALL firearm purchases is compatible with the 2nd amendment. Laws governing the safe storage and transportation of firearms are also required. Mandatory safety training would help too.


It might be hard, but being hard is not a good argument for not trying to make the world a better place.


As for comparing assault and murders, I’d much prefer to be punched in the nose than shot.


While it is not irrational to prepare for low probability events for most people in the modern west owning a firearm will not make you safer. As Sam is a person who receives credible death threats regularly I can see that he can rationally expect that owning fire arms (with the correct training, and ongoing practice in their use) will in fact make him and his family safer. For myself, and everyone I personally know having a firearm would make us less safe. Where I live home invasion are rare and generally only happen to people involved in the drug trade. I’d make myself safer making the roof of my home meteorite proof than buying a firearm.


Women in abusive relationships who pull out a gun who don’t shoot and kill their husband/boyfriend can expect to be killed or seriously harmed then and there. There is no abused women scenario where keeping a pistol on her hip would make her safer. If things are that bad it is time to leave. If things are that bad and the woman hasn’t left then adding gun to mix will only make it worse.


Swimming pools. If you are keeping your fears aligned with the facts then you should support gun control. Not banning guns, but reasonable and prudent gun control. Guns should only be owned for hunting and target practise. If you think you need a gun to be safe (and you are not someone like Sam facing real death threats) then you have miscalculated the danger you face from strangers.


Steve the bully: why isn’t he in jail? Assault like that will get you 5 to 10 years where I live. There are bars, not many, where people like Steve hang out. People like that are a real problem, but can generally be avoided. If you don’t know how to fight – don’t get in fights. Withdraw. Even if you do know how to fight don’t let these types get close to you.  If they are close enough to strike they are too close for your safety. Having a gun wouldn’t help much as in both stories Steve struck first and there would not have been an opportunity for the defender to draw a weapon.


People wanting more good advice on self-defence can get good advice from Sam’s essay “The truth About violence”  http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-truth-about-violence


Teach your children to yell “FIRE” – NOT HELP, and go for the eyes if someone grabs them.

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Posted: 08 January 2013 06:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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arussell - 08 January 2013 04:46 PM

If you think you need a gun to be safe (and you are not someone like Sam facing real death threats) then you have miscalculated the danger you face from strangers.


The thing is, those of us who are at least somewhat familiar with guns (formally trained and extensively experienced or otherwise) know that’s nonsense. It’s a touch of truth used as a foothold to presume with reckless abandon. The problem is most people who come up with equations like that are dramatically overestimating the threat of guns owned by the vast majority of people (the very people they’re usually arguing need to be prevented from getting guns), and they’re also almost invariably all but dismissing the reality of the security threats that are actually out there.

Here’s the Real Issue:
The Truth About Violence

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Posted: 26 January 2013 06:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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Ueeediot - 03 January 2013 04:32 PM

You state that you would close the ‘gun show loophole’.  Exactly how do you intend to do so?  ... The only firearms sold at gun shows that do NOT require a background check are private sales between individuals….
So….knowing that you cannot register firearms, how exactly do you propose that private sales be subjected to background checks?

Require any individual who intends to sell to another individual check whether that individual is permitted to buy.

I think it would be relatively easy:  this could be accomplished by making the database public (an internet site, so anyone with a smart phone has no excuse for not doing the check), or by requiring firearms dealers to run a background check for any individual seller who requests the service (this could be a free service, maximizing compliance, or require some service fee, helping to fund the system). Further, a reward could be offered for turning in anyone who fails the background check who is trying to buy a gun. If more than one such report counted as probable cause for a warrant, that could be very effective keeping guns away from criminals.

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Posted: 26 January 2013 07:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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tapio.mh - 03 January 2013 03:45 PM

Comparing gun deaths to death by infections is hospitals is a specious argument.  Because gun deaths are less numerous, does that mean we should do nothing about them?

It’s about economics: figuring out how to best allocate scarce resources. If the government can save more lives for X dollars focusing on hospital infections or heart disease or diabetes or car safety than on gun deaths, then its rational for the government to allocate the funds in that manner. Sam actually made the opposite argument: that the government might be justified in not strictly following the rational allocation of resources due the “unusual degree of terror and grief” associated with gun violence.

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Posted: 26 January 2013 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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arussell - 08 January 2013 04:46 PM

Swimming pools. If you are keeping your fears aligned with the facts then you should support gun control. Not banning guns, but reasonable and prudent gun control. Guns should only be owned for hunting and target practice. If you think you need a gun to be safe (and you are not someone like Sam facing real death threats) then you have miscalculated the danger you face from strangers.

I disagree that owning guns for self defense is a miscalculation. Risk analysis that I have seen uses the following terminology: “threat”: refers to the probability of a given danger occurring, “vulnerability” refers to the potential damage from that danger, and “risk” refers to the expected or average amount of damage from a given danger, and is computer by threat x vulnerability.

 

You didn’t really lay out an argument, so I assume you meant something along the lines of “the threat from someone attacking you, breaking into your house, etc. is very small. The threat due to firearms accidents is also small, but if it is larger than the previous threat, owning a gun is irrational. Even if the probability of an accident is less than the probability of an attack, the probability of an attack is so small that you should worry about other things.”

 

First, as Sam pointed out, the threat of a firearms accident can be changed by one’s own behavior. A responsible gun owner can use gun safes and make sure everyone living in the home knows firearms safety (like “there is no such thing as an unloaded gun, so never point one at someone unless you want them dead”, or “remove the magazine and clear the chamber before cleaning or putting away a gun”, or “this is the safety, this position is safety on, this is safety off”). Or an irresponsible gun owner can leave loaded guns out in the open or play with them while drinking or point them at people for “fun”. The vulnerability includes the possibility of death, serious injury, minor injury, or jail time without injuries, and is also variable based on safety training: someone who consciously avoids pointing a gun at others is unlikely to kill anyone even if they fire accidentally. The overall risk can be maintained at a very low level.

 

Second, the threat of being attacked on the street is somewhat controllable by what street one chooses to walk on, but the threat of a home invasion cannot be controlled by the individual living in the home. And as Sam also pointed out, the vulnerability includes the possibility of death and worse. However, gun ownership lowers the vulnerability to such an attack, and is the only real way to control the risk of such a situation.

 

So, in conclusion, while the threat may be low probability, an individual may still consider the risk to be unacceptably high, and by choosing to own a gun and act in a responsible manner, lower their risk of attack and accidents to a level they find acceptable.

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