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Gun Control Laws

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Catherine
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In light of the Virginia Tech Massacre, I've been thinking a lot about Gun Control laws, their usefulness, etcetera.

I don't find myself completely opposed to the idea of gun licenses, but I do find it frightening that there are a substantial amount of people who are 1) willing to blame guns for peoples' crimes and 2) willing to sacrifice their (and others') right to self-protection.

I recently got in an argument with my friend over the issue. When I said that such laws were unconsitutional, my friend replied, "i dont care whats constitutional...that was a different time....things change," I began to wonder, "Do people really think the Constitution such a shallow document," and "What, really, has changed?"

Anyway, here's the gist of the argument.

In defense of our right to own firearms:

[*] Where there is crime (i.e... everywhere, and always, with or without guns), people should have the right to defend themselves.

[*] A government/police force, even an uncorrupt, functioning, and efficient one, is NOT omniscient and omnipresent.

[*] Why, anyway, would we want to give a government or police force unchecked power against us? (Going back to why the founding Fathers wrote this right into the Constitution).

[*] No one is more responsible for your own safety/well-being than you are. No one CAN be more responsible.

[*] There is nothing immoral about a person protecting himself or herself. There is something immoral about preventing a person to do so.

My friend's/her roommates (when my friend could no longer argue) responses:

[*] Statistics in Europe show lower crime rates; Europe has strict gun control laws.

(My response: Correlation is not causality, therefore fallacious in ANY argument. That is not to mention that for every statistic, there is an opposite and equal statistic to refute it.)

[*] The U.S. was founded on the principle that the "militia" could be armed, not "random people."

(My response: This is actually untrue; the principle that a "militia", as opposed to citizens, could be armed was added in after 1900; furthermore, the idea of a militia is that it is made up of "random people.")

[*] Everyone else is incompetent. (My response: Prove it!)

What are everyone else's thoughts on gun control?

Edited by Catherine
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You have the positive argument properly articulated, per my cursory examination.

You're right about statistics. Not only have plenty of other statistics shown that gun control is disastrous, but there are other variables involved in other cultures. Look at Switzerland's ratio of gun ownership to gun crime versus the USA's. Very different societies and therefore they can't be compared directly.

I don't know where your friend got the idea that "the militia" rather than "random" people could be armed. I know the amendment is worded strangely but it goes like this:

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

It doesn't say the right of the militia to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. Is says the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Now, whenever you bring this up, you have to make it clear that it doesn't really matter what the constitution says in particular: the moral answer would remain the same. If they amended the constitution to say crazy things, then the constitution would be wrong.

As for your friend's third argument... so if we are surrounded by maniacs that means somehow that we should want to be unarmed?

Gun laws don't stop people from getting guns... they only slow them down a little. The only people who are stopped are those who completely abide by the law - i.e. us: the sane and the innocent. The biggest indictment against gun laws is that they don't really do anything besides disarm the most innocent, sane, and law-abiding while leaving the criminals and insane people armed.

The bottom line is: do you want only the bad guys to have guns?

Finally, there is one more elephant in the living room: who benefits the most from guns being out there? The physically small and weak do. If (somehow) there were no guns out there at all, the only means of self-defense would be brute physical force, which would put large male criminals at a massive advantage versus small female innocents.

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Through all the massacre details, I kept thinking "man, if just one of those students or faculty had a gun for their own protection, they could have probably taken the madman down." It is also worth mentioning that the campus had specifically banned weapon-carrying. Perfect grounds for rapists, muggers, and other assaults.

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Perfect grounds for rapists, muggers, and other assaults.
Yes, it explains why there are an average of 100 rapes, muggings and murders on campuses every day, and why you don't find any rapes, muggings and murders in people's homes where guns are much more common.
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As has been articulated by Robert Heinlein (though hopefully not elsewhere on this forum, as I haven't properly checked (sorry)), a well-armed society makes not only for a safe society, but a polite society - which is just one step beyond and better than safe.

If guns were not only fully legal, but everyone carried them, so much would be lended to the personal dignity of individuals in society. If we all have the power to give and take lives, none of us will act rashly or treat our own lives lightly.

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If guns were not only fully legal, but everyone carried them, so much would be lended to the personal dignity of individuals in society. If we all have the power to give and take lives, none of us will act rashly or treat our own lives lightly.

Interestingly enough, I carry a gun visible all the time at work and people are frequently quite impolite (or worse) to me.

Edited by RationalBiker
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If guns were not only fully legal, but everyone carried them, so much would be lended to the personal dignity of individuals in society. If we all have the power to give and take lives, none of us will act rashly or treat our own lives lightly.
I'm curious to know, in your life how often have you felt personally threatened, where you would consider taking the life of another to stop the threat? I remember when I was in junior high, there was a bully who used to hassle me, though I didn't think he was ever going to actually kill me (or, really, even hit me), and it wouldn't have entered my mind to kill him. But maybe things have changed in our society and I'm just lucky that nobody has killed me or threatened me yet. It is true that I've detected an increase in rudeness by drivers, and maybe if I did implement my plan to have front-mounted bazookas on my car, people would start being more polite to me (if hey don't kill me first). I'm just curious to know how frequently people here -- at least those who aren't armed constantly -- really do feel threatened or insulted by others. Except in certain African capital cities late at night, I haven't felt threatened with violence since junior high. And I don't have any dignity issues. Is that unusual, in your experience?
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Interestingly enough, I carry a gun visible all the time at work and people are frequently quite impolite (or worse) to me.

Yeah, I was going to point that out - that such was probably the case. Of course, it is common knowledge that the police are closely restricted by all kinds of rules and restrictions and may not be able to act as quickly in self-defense as a regular citizen would. But who knows - some people are just completely heedless of their own lives. All the more reason to be able to defend oneself.

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[*] A government/police force, even an uncorrupt, functioning, and efficient one, is NOT omniscient and omnipresent.

Not only is it not omniscent and omnipresent, but under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, it has no affirmative obligation to protect you from private actors. Here is a summary from the relevant case:

A State's failure to protect an individual against private violence generally does not constitute a violation of the Due Process Clause, because the Clause imposes no duty on the State to provide members of the general public with adequate protective services. The Clause is phrased as a limitation on the State's power to act, not as a guarantee of certain minimal levels of safety and security; while it forbids the State itself to deprive individuals of life, liberty, and property without due process of law, its language cannot fairly be read to impose an affirmative obligation on the State to ensure that those interests do not come to harm through other means.
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I'm just curious to know how frequently people here -- at least those who aren't armed constantly -- really do feel threatened or insulted by others. Except in certain African capital cities late at night, I haven't felt threatened with violence since junior high.
I have had similar experience, in that I haven't felt physically threatened even enough to consider punching someone...ever. In fact, my subconscious default is to expect no violent encounters with others. Worst case scenario would be getting mugged, and even then I expect to talk some sense into the guy.
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I don't know where your friend got the idea that "the militia" rather than "random" people could be armed. I know the amendment is worded strangely but it goes like this:

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

It doesn't say the right of the militia to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. Is says the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Actually, the way it is framed (using cause-effect) it does appear that the amendment sought to address the specific question of guns required for a militia. This appears to be one of those subtle problems that comes from listing specific rights. I imagine that the founders did not think to list the right to bear arms for hunting, the right to bear arms to kill coyotes, and the right to bear arms to shoot bandits, for the same reason they did not include the right to eat food and the right to till the soil. It probably seemed too obvious. That's to say, the right to bear arms as we understand it today was intended to be covered by the 10th amendment, not the second.

Despite the 10th amendment protection, a government may try to restrict the ownership of arms that might be over and above the typically legitimate uses. The second amendment steps in here and puts in a word for militias as long as they are well-regulated. Joseph Story says that the founders wanted to have a system that makes use of a well-regulated militia, so as to reduce the number of "regulars". A large regular standing army was considered a potential violator of citizen's rights. The right to bear arms -- in the context of the second amendment -- is clearly reasoned on the basis of needing a militia.

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One point that is not raised (or rarely heard) is that 38 states are now "shall issue" states, a change in state regs. that began nationally in the early nineties. This means that the "shall issue" state must show cause to refuse a citizen (who meets certain qualifications) a concealed pistols license. Cause to refuse would be a criminal record, mental illness etc. The result of this change is that in the last 15 years, hundreds of thousands of CPL's have been issued, and tens of thousands of citizens in the US are walking the streets armed (my experience is that most CPL holders don't carry all the time).

Sooo, if access to guns equals more crime, why has the crime rate been dropping while more people are going around armed in public?

Where are the news reports about "the gun fight at the OK Corral" carnage the anti's used to squeal about?

"Why would someone need to carry a gun" is a question I hear occasionally from people when the subject of CPLs comes up - the implication is that a CPL holder must live in constant fear of being harmed. My usual response is to ask the person if they have fire insurance on their home (if they own one), then I ask if they around in constant fear that their house will burn down.

I don't feel constantly threatened, but the students at VT probably didn't either.

I hear the same faulty logic sometimes from people in the motorcycling community. "I don't bother with all that stuff (safety gear) because I don't plan on crashing" - yes, I have actually heard this line of reasoning come out of peoples mouths. :thumbsup:

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Sooo, if access to guns equals more crime, why has the crime rate been dropping while more people are going around armed in public?

People tend to ignore the statisics that prove theirs wrong. Once again, I'm not endorsing statistics, I am just saying there are statistics that show a correlation between guns and lower crime (see this webpage for numbers and citations). In other words, if they want their number battle, they can have it - because what is good in theory is almost always good in practice.

I'm just curious to know how frequently people here -- at least those who aren't armed constantly -- really do feel threatened or insulted by others. Except in certain African capital cities late at night, I haven't felt threatened with violence since junior high. And I don't have any dignity issues. Is that unusual, in your experience?

I confess that I have never been in a situation where I would have used a gun (not that I really have a choice, since I don't carry one). That said, I have been in situations where having one would have made me much more comfortable, knowing that I could have protected myself, rather than waiting the situation through. A prime example would be this: at around 9pm at night, I drove to my friends' house and was followed. My friend lives less than 15 minutes away by car - probably closer to ten. The person actually parked a few cars behind me, but I kept my lights on and stayed in the car (while phoning my friend so she could have her mom watch through the window or something). I stayed in the car for a few minutes, and the person eventually pulled out and drove away. I wouldn't have used a gun on them for just that, but I at least would've felt comfortable with getting out of my car and walking to my friend's door.

I am otherwise not a presumptuous person; I generally am safe around people I know, and violence is always a last resort. I'm not saying we should all have our guns ready, just saying yes, I have been in instances where having a means of protecting myself would have made me feel safer.

Edited by Catherine
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I'm curious to know, in your life how often have you felt personally threatened, where you would consider taking the life of another to stop the threat?

I have been in several circumstances where I would have liked to have a gun on me. Hopefully I would not have needed to end a persons life, but as a deterrent it would have saved me some pain and trouble. As it turns out, I got through without "needing" but the question is a little unfair since anyone who truly did need a gun to defend themselves would no longer be with us.

A lot of the likelihood of this sort of problem is going to be determined by the neighborhood you live in and the people around you.

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A lot of the likelihood of this sort of problem is going to be determined by the neighborhood you live in and the people around you.

Right. There is a lot of crime in this country, and if everybody had a gun, it would likely decrease quite a bit. It's kind of like Cold War deterrence - mutually assured destruction.

As it is not, only the bad guys all carry guns, leaving the good guys defenseless.

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The right to bear arms -- in the context of the second amendment -- is clearly reasoned on the basis of needing a militia.

Yes, and that is a flaw. But the point is that it does not say the militia has a right to bear arms - it says the people retain that right.

Also, bear in mind that "well regulated" means "well equipped," not "strictly controlled."

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... - it says the people retain that right.

Also, bear in mind that "well regulated" means "well equipped," not "strictly controlled."

If you're basing these two things on a reading of the constitution as opposed to other documents from the 1770's, we can agree to disagree. Edited by softwareNerd
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Yes, and that is a flaw. But the point is that it does not say the militia has a right to bear arms - it says the people retain that right.

Also, bear in mind that "well regulated" means "well equipped," not "strictly controlled."

It's been quite a while since I read the federalist papers(if that's even where it was), but didn't Madison explain that the people generally were in fact, the militia and that it's purpose and chief value was to stand as a deterrent to a standing army which they saw as the primary threat to a free state. Without immoral laws to enforce or interference in foreign affairs to deal with, a well armed populace would be sufficient to repel invaders and a permanent standing army would be not only unnecessary but also undesirable.

That's the rough version of the argument as I remember it. If anyone can reference it, I would be appreciative.

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Right. There is a lot of crime in this country, and if everybody had a gun, it would likely decrease quite a bit. It's kind of like Cold War deterrence - mutually assured destruction.

I said this in the "massacre" thread, but I think it bears repeating here.

I think it's a mistake to argue this point based on the impact one thinks it would have on crime (because really the future impact is unknowable). Rather, there is a principle involved in which rational men should be afforded the opportunity to reasonable personal defense regardless of whether crime rates would go up or down. The government's restriction (regarding firearm ownership) on the lives of rational men based on the actions of a very small minority of criminals and/or mental persons is an affront to that principle.

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It's been quite a while since I read the federalist papers(if that's even where it was), but didn't Madison explain that the people generally were in fact, the militia and that it's purpose and chief value was to stand as a deterrent to a standing army which they saw as the primary threat to a free state. Without immoral laws to enforce or interference in foreign affairs to deal with, a well armed populace would be sufficient to repel invaders and a permanent standing army would be not only unnecessary but also undesirable.

That's the rough version of the argument as I remember it. If anyone can reference it, I would be appreciative.

Depending on who you ask, the militia was either the male populace generally, or the specific folks who were a part of the actual state militias, which were kind of similar to the national guard. Either way, the wording of the amendment states that it is the right of the people - militia or not - to keep and bear arms; presumably because they might at any time be needed to act in the national defense. Now of course this is only one justification, not the sole one. Founders understood that just because they didn't provide an exhaustive list of reasons doesn't mean that the listed one was the sole justification. But modern interpreters don't understand this. Frankly, I think the wording is flawed because of that implication, even if the implication is not true.

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Yes, it explains why there are an average of 100 rapes, muggings and murders on campuses every day, and why you don't find any rapes, muggings and murders in people's homes where guns are much more common.

Actually quite a bit of rape and murder occurs in the home. Women, in particular, are much more likely to be killed by an acquaintance or intimate than a stranger.

Although I don't support gun control, I think the storngest consequentialist argument in its favor is that guns increase homicide in domestic violence situations.

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I think it's a mistake to argue this point based on the impact one thinks it would have on crime (because really the future impact is unknowable). Rather, there is a principle involved in which rational men should be afforded the opportunity to reasonable personal defense regardless of whether crime rates would go up or down. The government's restriction (regarding firearm ownership) on the lives of rational men based on the actions of a very small minority of criminals and/or mental persons is an affront to that principle.

Right - I agree. Thinking about how loosening gun controls might affect society is fun, though. :thumbsup:

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Actually quite a bit of rape and murder occurs in the home. Women, in particular, are much more likely to be killed by an acquaintance or intimate than a stranger.

David was, I think, well aware of this and was being funny about it or something. It's his style.

Anyhow, this just shows how empty statistics are - and how inapplicable to your personal context they can be. Just because, statistically speaking, many people are murdered by their spouse or family does that mean that YOU should fear your spouse more than strangers? No, of course not.

The only lesson to be taken from this is: Ladies... DON'T DATE WEIRDOS. If he's setting off alarm bells, don't, to borrow a phrase from Ayn Rand, make the mistake of thinking, as many people do: "Oh, nobody could possibly mean this."

*ahem*

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