Today is another joint post by jmb275 and Hawkgrrrl.  This time, it’s a topic on which the two of us generally disagree:  guns.  Hawkgrrrl thinks most people who want guns are exactly the people who shouldn’t have them, and  jmb275 – well, loves his guns.  Read on to see what we think and to compare with what you think.

Hawkgrrrl:  I suppose most of my feeling stems from my dad having had a gun in the house when I was a kid, and me being freaked out by that.

jmb275:  Yeah, we’ve got lots of guns in the house.  I have 3, my dad has, oh, I dunno, 15 or so.  Of course they’re all either in gun safes or have locks on them.

Hawkgrrrl:  I think if you want to kill someone, you should have to do it the old fashioned way.  You need to get your hands dirty.  You should have to look a person in the eye, as the light slowly fades out.  Guns make it too neat and removed.  I could probably shoot someone with a gun, but I couldn’t, say, step on their neck until they died.  I think guns are why we got Hiroshima.  We get too removed from the killing, and it seems more like a strategy or a number – too high level to be accountable for it.
jmb275:  I actually think this is a very valid point.  Same thing holds for bombs, missiles, and more recently drones.  Here are a few counterpoints:
  1. At some point we have to realize that with the good comes the bad.  We wouldn’t have nuclear fusion without knowing how to make hydrogen bombs.  We wouldn’t have automated robotics without knowing how to build wartime drones.  We wouldn’t have explosive chemicals without knowing how to make guns.  All these things can be used for good or evil.  Many of the greatest things that save lives and promote peace are the same tools that kill and promote violence.
  2. Being removed from the killing has an upside in that we reduce our risk of being killed. (Though I would be much happier if we weren’t a warring species and didn’t have to have this conversation in the first place).
  3. Though you may dislike guns, in general, it’s all we have as citizens to protect ourselves from our gov’t.  I am one of those old school peeps who thinks that we ought to have some leverage over our ever-increasing gov’t.  If our right to gun ownership is taken away we become defenseless (though perhaps even with guns we are defenseless against our advanced professional military).
  4. I like my guns!!
Seriously, though, this is a very good point you bring up.  I have always felt that guns were not the problem, people are the problem.  Guns do make it easier to kill, but so does drain-o and fertilizer!
Hawkgrrrl:  Your point on #3 brings me to another reason I don’t like guns:  because paranoid nut jobs want them (present company excluded).  The fact that people still think they might need to rise up against the government to keep a domestic governmental intrustion at bay just sounds barking mad to me. 
jmb275:  Seems like a bit of a rash generalization. There are millions of gun enthusiasts who aren’t paranoid who want access to guns for hunting and recreation, and there are millions of paranoid nut jobs who don’t want to kill people. The population of the earth is increasing, and there are bound to be more (in quantity not percentage) nut jobs. I think the key to dealing with nut jobs is to address the nut jobs, not to take away everything from everyone with which they might hurt themselves or others.  
Hawkgrrrl:  In serious, though, the fact that people still think they might need to rise up against the government to keep a domestic governmental intrustion at bay just sounds barking mad to me.  It was a very prevalent attitude in the early years of this country, and it now seems quaint and out-of-touch to me.
jmb275:  This feels like a “we’re so enlightened now that we couldn’t possibly have an oppressive gov’t which we would have to overthrow.” I can’t help but wonder if the folks across the pond thought similarly in the late 1700’s. Given the past 100 years and the insane number of crazed governments who oppress, murder, and steal, this feels like the BEST argument to me. Look at the recent rash of oppressive governments overthrown at the hands of insurgents – and rightly so! Right now, at this very moment, there are oppressive regimes in China, Africa, South America, North Korea, etc. I’m not convinced that we’re really THAT much more enlightened (if we were, perhaps such nut jobs wouldn’t exist).  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not planning any hostile insurgency any time soon, but the people maintaining their right to own weapons as a THREAT against an oppressive regime is just good wisdom it seems to me.  Think about the converse where a gov’t has complete and total use of force against its people.
Hawkgrrrl:  I don’t see how US citizens having guns protects anyone in North Korea from governmental oppression.  Ideally, you would allow people IN oppressive regimes to have guns and people in peaceful democracies to not have guns.
jmb275:   Which oppressive regimes started out as oppressive regimes?  No oppressive regime is going to grant its citizens the right to defend themselves after the fact. That’s why it was an original right, and is worth protecting. It’s worth protecting because although we don’t need it right now, this minute, we don’t know what the future holds. Think of it as a small insurance policy against future threats. There’s certainly a difference between living in fear and wisely protecting oneself.
Now perhaps we’re thinking about this on too large a scale (since it’s not my federal gov’t that I fear breaking into my house). But consider police abuse. That’s a pretty big problem too (particularly in CA) and seems to be getting worse. When the gov’t cannot be trusted to act ethically, what is the recourse? I’m not saying shooting a policemen would be the answer, but the threat of a homeowner having a gun and protecting his family against an abusive police force is a reasonable disincentive to maintain.
Hawkgrrrl:  The constitution seemed to be designed, not to protect individual gun rights, but to protect the rights of states to form militias.  So it wasn’t about Zeke protecting his acre of scrub-land in Arkansas from tax collectors, but about keeping federal government small and more removed, providing more power to state government. 
jmb275:  Well, this is the great debate. Personally, I read it as an individual right to bear arms, and find it surprising so many see if otherwise.  “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.”  I don’t think “People” in this sentence means “States.” But I know there are plenty of smart constitutional scholars who land on both sides of this coin.
Hawkgrrrl:  I was wondering if your views have changed at all due to the Tuscon shooting?  For me it clarifies my specific objections. I feel there should be some better waiting period and psych evaluation.
jmb275:  About the shooting in Tuscon. It is, of course, a tragedy. But responsibility for that tragedy lies with that individual. That gun did not shoot her, he did. Why would we then not seek to find solutions for the person and those like him rather than fighting over whether or not we should tighten the clamp on the tool? My position on guns has always been that we ought to teach people about them, how to use them, how not to use them. This would reduce the number of accidents, as well as impress the power associated with them in the minds of individuals. I do think some gun control is necessary, but much like the drug war, I think it is aimed poorly and implemented horribly. Making it harder for law-abiding citizens to get guns does not solve the problem we have (I think that’s clear to everyone). Personally, I think we need to focus more on mental health, education, and the gun black market (most of which does not originate within the US).
Hawkgrrrl:  Not directly related, but IMO citizens don’t need any form of automatic weapons. Hunting and even small firearms I could agree to with the proper background checks and waiting period.
jmb275:  You’re right they don’t NEED them? Does anyone NEED them? Why don’t we get rid of all of them? I would most definitely support that. But alas, Uncle Sam seems to think he needs them to “protect” us (aka seek out enemies on foreign soil).  
Hawkgrrrl:  The other thing I might caveat is that gun owners should be responsible for any crimes committed using their guns, including if their gun is stolen due to the owner’s negligence.
jmb275:  Absolutely not! I have to draw the line when we consider prosecuting someone for something they didn’t do. It’s fair that they hold SOME of the responsibility, but not all. Otherwise, we better start holding Oppenheim accountable for the a-bomb, Browning for all crimes committed with their guns, all pharmaceutical companies for prescription abuse, etc. etc. etc. As soon as you start holding people accountable for acts they didn’t commit, you’ve opened a floodgate of potential ills.
Hawkgrrrl:  Well, not charging the gun owner with murder if a murder is committed, but serious consequences.  Here’s what I suggest.   A manslaughter charge if the owner’s gun is used in either a homocide or suicide. Criminal facilitation charge if used in assault or armed robbery.  I would also say that anyone charged in a gun-related offense is no longer eligible for a gun permit. I know my stance is not very libertarian, but people don’t slaughter a crowd of innocents with their bare hands.
jmb275:  I’m torn on this issue. I would probably agree with you in the end due to the gravity of the crime. But it’s not clear to me that someone who didn’t actually DO anything should be locked away when there are plenty of people roaming free who ought to be locked away. Negligence is a tricky business, and sometimes I think we’re a little too quick to hang people for mistakes in the name of negligence. If most of us were held to the same standards we expect from others, we’d all be put away!
Hawkgrrrl:  The million dollar question then is how would you determine if someone was fit to have a gun?  What controls would you put in place to keep the risks low?
jmb275:  I think requiring a waiting period is reasonable. I also think requiring training would be great. Currently that is NOT a requirement (it is for CCWs though). That seems like the simplest oversight in my book. Make people wait, check their background, but don’t require them to actually learn how to use a gun safely. Ridiculous!  At the end of the day, when faced with security or liberty (and I think the issue ultimately boils down to this), I think humanity is better off with liberty. I know that implies some people will die unfairly, and there will be incidents like at Tuscon. I would sincerely hope that if one of my relatives was shot in this manner that I would still be able to see the value of liberty in this context.
Hawkgrrrl:  I still don’t think there’s a very reasonable solution on how to keep the mentally ill from having guns in this country.  Depending on the illness, we almost force them to fend for themselves on the street…The homeless are just another byproduct of the same issue – we haven’t got a good method for dealing with, diagnosing, or handling the mentally ill as a society.  Our desire for individual freedom puts people at risk from the actions of those who are mentally ill. 
jmb275:  If you want to keep the mentally ill from having guns, help the mentally ill. Provide easy access to therapy, make prescription drugs more affordable, create watch groups, etc.  I think we need to look at the causes of this problem rather than only trying to address the symptoms – and I think most of these things are symptoms. Why are people mentally ill? Some of it is genetic, some of it environment. For the environmental causes, I think we again resort to religion and preaching (to me this is religion’s primary function in this world). Encouraging strong families (especially good strong fathers) is paramount to fixing mental illness IMHO. As for the genetic part, there is little that can be done to fix the cause, so we have to address the symptoms.
Hawkgrrrl:  Is it appropriate to force someone to get help? Or to force them into hospitalization just to prevent actions they might commit?  Probably not.  Yet they also probably aren’t fully responsible for their actions.  It’s a catch-22.
jmb275:  Yeah, this is a tough one. It probably is justified in some cases. I would err on the side of individual rights, but there are certainly times when its clear someone is a threat. In this case, yes, I think we are obligated to deal with them using force if necessary.
Here are a few key points of our discussion:
  • Gun rights can be a protection from governmental oppression and police oppression.
  • There’s legitimate disagreement over the original intent of gun rights (individual rights vs. states’ rights to form militias).
  • Gun limitations we can agree on:  waiting periods, gun handling training required, and criminal prosecution for crimes committed with one’s gun due to negligence on the owner’s part.
  • To prevent gun crimes like Tuscon, we need to deal with the mentally ill much better than we do today.

What are your thoughts about this discussion?  Any points you agree or disagree with?  Discuss.