The Gun Control Post (Part 1 of 2)

I’ve got a lot to cover, so I’m breaking it down into two pieces. In the first piece (today), I’m going to focus on the way liberals and conservatives (speaking loosely) view this issue and view each other. In the second piece (Wednesday), I’m going to critique some of the most prominent policy proposals and then suggest my own. [Update: Part 2 is now live.]

Clash of Civilizations

Conspiracy theories, distrust, and demonization all flourish when you perceive your enemies to be truly alien. This is why the gun debate is divisive: it cuts along one of the deep fault lines between the cultural tribes of the American right and left. Before diving into the competing viewpoints, I want to take you on a quick tour of news stories that show just how deep and wide this chasm is.

For starters, consider the number of sheriffs and sheriff organizations that have pre-emptively stated that they will either not enforce new federal gun laws, or will even go so far as to arrest federal officials who attempt to enforce new laws. When I Googled “sheriff won’t enforce gun laws”, I got these stories from North Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, Colorado, Utah and Montana, and that was just the first seven results. The angry rhetoric from sheriffs, usually the top law official in a county, represents the extent of rural anger at perceived threats to their rights—and their way of life—from urban power centers.

Now consider the story about a New York state man who was stopped for a routine traffic violation and then arrested because he had 5 magazines for an AR-15 in his car. As far as I can tell he didn’t have an AR-15, or a weapon of any kind, and the magazines were not loaded. Despite this fact, he now faces five counts of criminal possession of a weapon. Here’s what a friend of mine on Facebook, who shared the story, had to say about it:

a sad, sobering thought – that this man will be going to prison for doing something I can do every day, in the free part of the US that I live in. I feel bad for those living in the locked down, police-state sections of our nation. So he owns 5 gun magazines (the part that holds the cartridges). Wow. I’ve carried 30 of the same type mags in my car, just going for a day of shooting out in the country. Him: years in prison. Me: a free man. If people start shooting back instead of being hauled off to prison, it will be sad but understandable.

In another story, this one from Oak Harbor, Washington, a young, disabled veteran named Lucas attended a town council meeting where he spoke in defense of second amendment rights. During his comments, he stated that he was a trained professional who carried a gun wherever he went so that he could protect those around him. After he concluded his comments, one of the council members asked if he was armed at the moment. The attorney for the city council said that Lucas didn’t have to answer, but he did anyway. He said that he was armed. The council man motioned to ban firearms from the meeting, and when the motion failed he picked up his papers and walked out of the meeting. The council’s attorney then pointed out that even if the motion had passed it wouldn’t have been enforceable because it’s illegal for local gun laws to supersede state laws in Washington, and then the mayor apologized to the veteran.

I did some research into the story to try and explain the strange behavior of the council man to propose an illegal law and then walk out of the meeting. It turns out that the context is that small towns in Washington recently lost a series of court cases that invalidated their individual anti-gun laws. In Oak Harbor the council opted to just ignore the unenforceable laws rather than formally repeal them, but that wasn’t enough for the gun rights crowd. As one man said (reported in the LA Times):

If you’re black and there’s a law saying you have to ride in the back of the bus, you’d be happy with somebody saying they’re not going to enforce it? It doesn’t pass the smell test.

Then there’s the case of a Florida man who was pulled because his van had expired stickers. While placing his wallet back in his pocket, he inadvertently revealed the concealed handgun he is licensed to carry. Despite showing no hostility or threat whatsoever, the officer responded by drawing his weapon, pointing it at the man, and screaming that he would shoot the man him “in the f***ing back.”

Florida has a specific law to prevent people who accidentally and briefly show their concealed gun from being prosecuted, but he was arrested and charged anyway. It took more than 2 weeks for the district attorney to drop the charges. I’ll contrast this with my own experience when I was pulled by a Hanover County sheriff in Virginia for the same reason: expired stickers. When the officer came to my window I calmly told him that I had a concealed carry permit and was carrying. He asked me where, and I told him. Then he said “OK” and that was the end of that topic. He let me off with a warning and told me to have a nice day. No drawn gun, no screaming, no threats, no arrest.

Americans who have a connection to the rural parts of the country view weapons as tools. They know how to handle them, they are used to seeing them, and when they see someone walk into a grocery store with a handgun on their hip they consider it normal, decent, civilized behavior. And, yes: there are plenty of places in the United States where people really do go grocery shopping or stop for gas with a holstered gun riding on their belt. But to a lot of Americans the idea of going about your day-to-day business while wearing a gun is horrifying, anti-social, and barbaric.

In recent years this chasm has grown larger, not smaller. Starting in the 1990s, gun rights advocates began an overwhelmingly successful campaign to overhaul concealed carry permit laws. In 1986 there was 1 unrestricted state (Vermont), 8 shall-issue states, 25 may-issue states, and 16 no-issue states. The term “shall-issue” means that a state will give every citizen who meets certain requirements a concealed carry permit, but in “may-issue” states it’s up to the discretion of law enforcement officials. In practice, this has usually meant that ordinary citizens without political connections can’t get a permit. On the extreme ends, unrestricted states don’t even require a permit to carry a concealed weapon, and no-issue states don’t allow any private citizens to carry concealed weapons. By 2011, there were 4 unrestricted states, 37 shall-issue states, 8 may-issue states, and Illinois remained the solitary hold-out no-issue state.

This represents a complete reversal of one of the most sensitive and emotional aspects of the conversation on guns and violence, but for some people it’s not enough. Groups like Virginia-based have gone beyond concealed carry to open-carry. Spurred by a belief that “a right unexercised is lost”, the open-carry movement has the specific goal of normalizing the practice of open carry in everyday life.

The movement made headlines early on in the first Obama administration when adherents began legally taking guns to political rallies. This led to one infamous incident in which MSNBC—anxious to continue their characterization of the open-carry elements of the Tea Party as racially motivated—carefully cropped footage of an African American man with an AR-15 slung over his shoulder to hide his race while the correspondents wondered “whether there are questions that this has a racial overtones… because there are white people showing up with guns”. Just to reiterate, the man with the white shirt and the rifle on his back was in fact Africa American, not white, and the video had been deliberately cropped by MSNBC to conceal that.

Despite the widespread publicity at the time (2009), NPR appeared very confused when a similar incident occurred just this month in Charlottesville:

Bob Girard got a shock when he stopped in the Kroger store on his way home from work: A 22-year-old man wearing a baseball cap and a blue jacket was strolling through the supermarket with a rifle slung from his shoulder.

“People saw the gun. It was pretty easy to spot. He wasn’t concealing it,” Girard says. “It was right out in the open, and he created a reaction in the store.”

Some customers bolted for the door. Others grabbed their cellphones and called 911. Lt. Ronnie Roberts, a 30-year veteran of the Charlottesville police force, says eight officers went to the scene, ordered the man to drop his gun and searched him.

Charlottesville, a liberal college-town nestled in rural western Virginia, is a perfect example of the frontier between the liberal/urban and conservative/rural tribes. They interviewed a police officer from within Charlottesville who said, “It alarmed us. It alarms law enforcement.” But in the same story they also talked to the chief of police of Albermarle County, which surrounds the college town, and he said “Unconcealed weapons have been permitted in rural parts of this state. That’s pretty common, to see somebody wearing a gun.”

NPR seemed equally disconcerted the following morning when covering a public service announcement from a Milwaukee sheriff informing citizens “you have a duty to protect yourself”. A Daily Kos commenter responded to NPR’s coverage saying:

I find it very disturbing that residents of certain areas could be visiting businesses in their community and find themselves in a situation where another customer is carrying a loaded gun.  Something should be done about this

Something should be done, in other words, about how the rural half of America goes about their daily lives.

All of these stories hammer home a couple of central points. First: the laws regarding guns have changed fundamentally in just the past couple of decades and continue to be staggeringly diverse from place to place. Second: underlying these legal fault lines are opposing cultural views of guns that have almost nothing in common.

Fundamentally Divergent Views

To conservatives, guns are powerful symbols of American heritage, tools of self-reliance, and also sources of entertainment and bonding with friends and family.  To liberals, guns are a scary vestige of a less-civilized era and a necessary evil at best. As a consequence, the two sides have entirely different paradigms when it comes to questions of gun control.

The Liberal Vision – Public Health

The basic liberal argument comes from public health policy. Guns kill people. The solution, therefore, is to get rid of guns. Although violent crime rates and accidental gun death rates are at historically low levels and falling, the public health perspective remains a reasonable one. The presence of a gun in a household significantly increases the risk of suicide especially. Furthermore, while there is no evidence that gun regulation laws to date have impacted violent crime rates, a massive reduction in the availability of guns would obviously lead to lower murder rates since it’s harder to kill people with knives and swords than with guns. This does happen, however, and it’s not a joke. Just days ago in England, a 16-year old boy was attacked by a street gang armed with knives and yes, swords. Bystanders say “he screamed for his life” as he was fatally stabbed.

When conservatives say that liberals want to seize all guns, they are ridiculed, but it is the logical end of a view of gun control as a public health problem. I’ve been derided as a conspiracy theory nut for suggesting that some Democrats might want to ban and confiscate all guns, but this is exactly what Senator Feinstein (author of the newest assault weapons bill) has publicly stated she would like to do. Speaking on 60 Minutes in 1995 (after the first ban was passed), she said “If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them . . . Mr. and Mrs. America, turn ’em all in, I would have done it”.

This sentiment is echoed again at the Daily Kos, where a writer says plainly:

The only way we can truly be safe and prevent further gun violence is to ban civilian ownership of all guns. That means everything. No pistols, no revolvers, no semiautomatic or automatic rifles. No bolt action. No breaking actions or falling blocks. Nothing. This is the only thing that we can possibly do to keep our children safe from both mass murder and common street violence.

How will this be accomplished?

The very first thing we need is national registry. We need to know where the guns are, and who has them.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not saying that there’s a conspiracy afoot. The liberals who want to ban guns are not being quiet about it. There’s no secret cabal. They are quite happy to have their plans out there in the open. And so when I meet a liberal who says that he or she doesn’t want to ban guns, I don’t assume they are lying. I think they are being sincere. But, fundamentally, I don’t think that it’s a stable proposition. Once you adopt the public health paradigm for dealing with guns, a total ban (or something very close to it) combined with mass confiscation is the only reasonable stopping-point. It doesn’t really matter what gun control proponents intend, the logic–once you adopt this position–is inescapable.

Talking about the tradition of sportsman or hunters is not a legitimate compromise position, either. Once the only remaining rationale for guns is based on peripheral lifestyle choice—as opposed to civil rights—there’s basically nothing left. This is a major reason why I’m not impressed by liberals who say that of course they don’t want a gun-ban because they “shoot all the time” or “grew up around guns”. That’s the Second Amendment version of trying to tell me that some of your best friends are black.

This is not to say that there are no laws that can be enacted to improve the situation we currently live in, and I will discuss those tomorrow, but with a few exceptions the kinds of laws being bandied about on Facebook or in Congress are so fundamentally flawed that they serve only as gratuitously empty symbols. (Conservatives are hardly any more honest about the issue and–again–we’ll get into the details of the policy on Wednesday.)

The Conservative Vision – Civil Liberty and Duty

Conservatives do not look at the gun control issue from a public health standpoint, but from the standpoint of rights. Whenever liberals patronizingly talk about the importance of guns to hunters, they only highlight their disconnect with the people with whom they are claiming to empathize. While it’s true that conservatives are generally fond of hunting, that doesn’t mean that they think the Second Amendment is about nutrition.

This isn’t to say that the Constitution provides an unambiguous explanation of the basis for the Second Amendment. It doesn’t.  Nor were the Founders anything like unanimous about this issue (or any other). Despite this, however, there was a consensus among many of the leading Founders. In addition to Thomas Jefferson (the perennial revolutionary), Washington and Madison also spoke eloquently on the role of an armed populace. The argument breaks down into basically two components.

First, every human being has a natural right to individual self-defense. Practically speaking, this means you have a right to be armed with the kinds of weapons you are likely to face. In our world, this means that as long as criminals can reasonably be expected to be able to acquire firearms, citizens have a right to have firearms that are at least as effective as what they might face.

Secondly, an armed populace is an important element of a communal self-defense. This functions both against potential invaders—not that there are any looming on the horizon these days—but also against internal dangers. A well-armed populace is an integral part of the elaborate system of checks on centralized government power that protects our communities from oppression.

This does not mean that civilians ought to have firepower equal to or greater than the standing army. As far as I know, the Founders never intended for their citizens to own and maintain canons or mortars in their private homes, and the idea that a group of private citizens could field a credible military opposition to the combined might of the United States military in any conventional sense has only grown less realistic since the Revolution.

The objective is not to help citizens succeed in a violent confrontation with the state. It’s to avoid violent confrontations with the state. Authority tends to corrupt, and it is in the nature of all government officials to protect themselves at the expense of ordinary citizens. This is why most of the worst government abuses come from an initial mistake that is then compounded by an abuse of power to cover up the incident and protect those in power. The function of an armed citizenry is to raise the stakes significantly such that government cannot easily and quietly trample liberties. It must do so publicly and violently, and this makes it dramatically more expensive politically. (This is the expensive lesson that was not learned at Ruby Ridge but was finally driven home during the Waco siege.)

This article is already going to be very long, so I’m not going to provide a bunch of quotes here. I will include only one, and it’s quite modern:

By calling attention to ‘a well regulated militia’, the ‘security’ of the nation, and the right of each citizen ‘to keep and bear arms’, our founding fathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy. Although it is extremely unlikely that the fears of governmental tyranny which gave rise to the Second Amendment will ever be a major danger to our nation, the Amendment still remains an important declaration of our basic civilian-military relationships, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason, I believe the Second Amendment will always be important. (John F. Kennedy, 1960)

This right comes with a cost. The crime statistics are very debatable. Liberals will tell you that guns are used to kill good guys far more often than bad guys, and that is definitely true. But it is also misleading, because a gun can save your life without killing anyone else. If someone tries to kill you or your family and you use a gun to scare them off or wound but not kill them, then your gun has saved at least one life, but no one has died. That doesn’t show up in the statistics. So yeah: guns will kill more good guys than bad guys, but the relevant question is do they save more good guys than would be saved if they were illegal? That’s impossible to know and very, very difficult to estimate. But the suicide stats are pretty solid: keeping a gun in the home increases your risk of suicide because it allows you to quickly and effectively take your life in ways that you simply can’t without a firearm. Finding a building to jump off of, making a noose, swallowing a bunch of pills: all of these require more time and effort or allow for a reconsideration after the fact. A bullet to the head does neither.

But that’s the public health perspective and, while part of the equation, it’s not the full story. Conservatives believe that in the long run an armed populace preserves our rights and therefore benefits us all greatly and that the appropriate question is how to best regulate this right so that it remains vibrant and strong while doing the least possible harm. This isn’t a unique question. It’s the same question we ask of all our civil liberties.

Next time…

In this post I talked about the different paradigms used by conservatives and liberals for approaching gun regulation. I think it’s clear that my sympathies lie with conservatives, although I do not believe it is fair or accurate to demonize the liberal position as being about lust for power or a repudiation of American values. The public health perspective is reasonable and ought to be a legitimate part of the debate, and care for our children and our neighbors is even more essential to the American ethos than guns.

On Wednesday, I’ll continue this discussion with a post focusing on the policies–legal and voluntary–that can and cannot help allevaite gun violence in our nation.

20 thoughts on “The Gun Control Post (Part 1 of 2)”

  1. I await your next post, though I can say that the departments of the Sheriff around the country are not obligated to enforce federal executive orders according to a SCOTUS case from 1997. I can’t remember the name of the case or I’d provide it.

    I’d also like to say, this is probably the best reason from a liberal standpoint that I’ve heard for banning guns. So far, everything else I’ve heard is misinformed or ignorant. I don’t mean that in an insulting way, some people prefer ignorance and I was once one of them.

  2. Chris-

    (Just to be clear: you’re referring to a correlation between guns and gun crime, right?) I’m not impressed with the correlation between guns and gun crime because you can easily find an equal and opposite correlation between gun-restritions and murder rates. Does the fact that Chicago has probably the most draconian anti-gun laws in the nation and the highest murder rate prove that gun-restrictions cause murder? Or that people react to high murder rates by clamping down on guns?

    Rather that get lost in a maze of contradictory studies, I’m sticking with the high-level stuff. Murder rates in the US are down precipitously over the last couple of decades, which is the time period covering the expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban and the drastic liberalization of concealed-carry on a nation-wide basis. I don’t think this proves that more gun = less crime (although you can find studies to back that one up, too), but I’m prety comfortable saying it means there’s no rational basis for a belief that fresh restrictions will have a significant impact on crime. They won’t.

  3. Joel-

    I can say that the departments of the Sheriff around the country are not obligated to enforce federal executive orders according to a SCOTUS case from 1997. I can’t remember the name of the case or I’d provide it.

    Yeah, I wasn’t commenting on the legality or rationality of the stance. Just citing it as an example of how extreme things are getting out there. It’s disconcerting to me to watch.

    I’d also like to say, this is probably the best reason from a liberal standpoint that I’ve heard for banning guns.

    So, you’re saying that I did a good job of expressing the liberal viewpoint? I hope so. I know I’m not unbiased–I have my opinions–but I do want to be fair. By the way, I thought this was a pretty good piece on the issue as well (similar to mine in many ways):

    And this take-down of it (from Salon), pretty much epitomizes what I’m saying about liberals who view gun-control as purely a public health issue:

    It’s a pretty nasty piece, and full of some serious dishonesty, so I don’t want to hold it up as an example of liberal thought (and thereby insult liberals). I just want to highlight two phrases: “more guns = more gun homicides” and, even more starkly, “the simple truth that guns cause death”. This is the public health paradigm. Liberals see guns as being essentially in the same category as asbestos or lead, a dangerous public health threat that needs to be eliminated.

  4. I’m interested in compiling data that would give argument to both sides. Is there a link between the 1994 laws and the drop in handgun deaths? Looks like it, however, there was also a sharp dropoff of handgun manufacture starting in 94 as well, but was it the laws that caused the drop in demand therefore the drop manufacture? As far as Chicago goes –

    What I’m getting at is: is there a correlation between market saturation of firearms and firearm homicides vs homicides overall? Locality gun laws are irrelevant here, if the market is flooded, there’s going to be more accessibility on the black market, therefore, more guns in the localities, even those with highly restrictive laws.

    Did the drop in market saturation also contribute to overall homicide drops?

  5. The problem is that “market saturation” is not an independent variable. Just as cities like DC and Chicago might pass strict gun laws in response to higher gun crime (thus creating a positive statistical correlation between gun-control laws and murder rates), citizens may very well go out and buy a lot more guns in response to higher murder rates.

    There’s no realistic way to control for these kinds of factors, which is why the correlation is so unconvincing even if you find it.

  6. There is that approach yes, but it’s not very convincing to someone looking at these particular data. What’s interesting on the Crime in the US link is the drop after 94 of black homicides. Unfortunately stereotypical, but probably not far off – I think it’s safe to assume that the people that make up that particular statistic are inner-city gang types / below poverty level. If market saturation is high, then availability to that set of people is high. Just on production numbers, market saturation fell after 94. I did already say that locality restrictions are pointless in this case.

  7. There is that approach yes, but it’s not very convincing to someone looking at these particular data.

    I see that as a bug, not a feature. With the immense wealth of data available, not to mention some very strong personalities on both sides of the political fight staking their repuation on their respective theories and studies, it’s just not that hard to fixate on some aspect or other in the giant ocean of data and say “This explains it.”

    My persperctive is that I’ve been down a few rabbit holes on this issue. I got really into the work of John Lott a while ago, and it was very, very convincing. And then I saw it get punched full of holes. Meanwhile, I’ve seen the same thing happen on the other side. For example, there are bogus studies that claim that guns are more likely to be used in crime than defense based on a ratio of murder victims to justifiable homicide victims. That’s insane because it refuses to count any instance where a person used a gun in self defense without killing someone: maybe they shot and missed. Maybe they shot and wounded. Maybe they drew but didn’t fire.

    The point is just that I’ve seen so many academic-level studies from both sides go up in smoke on careful inspection. So, like I said, I am sticking very firmly with “no causal link” until I see something really, really conclusive.

    I want to give you due credit for proposing a legit hypothetical model that could perhaps, in theory, be subjected to rigorous satistical tests. But until I see the rigorous statistical test, it’s just another interesting theory.

    In any case, I just think there are way too many other factors going on to jump straight from market saturation to crime rates. What about broader measures of gun control? (Not just Chicago, but the entire state of Illinois is one of the most draconian anti-gun states in the nation.) What about local economic conditions? What about police policies (e.g. New York’s broken window theory)? What about the political warfare of rival drug gangs and all the complex international webs involved in that? With so many really promising candidates to choose from, I don’t understand the motivation to pick just one correlation and feel confident that it reveals anything.

  8. Well, yes, on the bug/feature comment. But the point is, how do you present the data convincing them in the other direction? Likely, the majority of the country can’t understand the statistical reasoning you’re using, nor are they willing to. What I’m asking for is help digging up data for other major variables that may have directly contributed to the falloff after 94. What’s to say that another implementation like that wouldn’t have the same effect again?

  9. A point my mother made (I haven’t yet read the two pieces you posted) about guns being a public health issue was something that I can relate to and know a fair bit about. She pointed out that suicide and murder are symptoms of a larger problem.

    Having been in a medical system where their only recourse is to treat the symptom and hope that the problem goes away I can assure you it doesn’t always work. There are many situations out there (medical or otherwise) where it does, but not every case.

    The question here becomes, if I treat the symptoms of suicide and murder via guns with restriction on guns what are the side effects of that treatment. Just as the side effects of medication I was on were multi faceted, so are the side effects of restrictive gun laws.

    The difficulty here is that we don’t know for certain what (all) the problems are, just how they are manifesting in society. Now I can get on my moral soap box and start preaching about quite a few things that are wrong with society and how there ‘can’ be a correlation drawn between those particular problems and violence/murder/suicide but I’ll refrain from that since it’s a long speech filled with lots of moral/ethical issues that also tend to cut along political lines.

    I’m okay with the point that guns are a public health issue. If that’s the standpoint someone wants to take atleast they have something other than ‘scary’ or ‘not needed for hunting’ or some of those other idiotic things people say when talking about something they neither understand or know about. In fact, I’d love to talk to someone who feels specifically that way about guns because we could probably have a meaningful conversation.

    I can provide personal evidence that not only do doctors differ on how to treat symptoms, but I can provide personal evidence that unconventional means of treatment sometimes work best. In my case, unconventional treatment that isn’t covered by our health insurance has done more for me in less than a year than several years of multiple medication as well as physical therapy and shots have done.

  10. Something on the homicide by weapon chart I linked to that stands out to me – other methods do not sway significantly, while handgun homicides rose and fell drastically. If people felt the need to go out a murderin’, why was the only tool used (by comparison) a handgun? Why didn’t bludgeoning and stabbing follow a similar trend instead of a gradual drop off? “Other methods” sees a slight rise, but if we ran the numbers against each other, it’d likely be insignificant.

  11. For Chris,

    I looked at the data for the last 5 years available (2007 to 2011 inclusive) of homicides according to the FBI website (look up FBI, homicide) and the good news is that it’s trending downwards by 3% per year give or take a little. I know I should link it but I am apparently to short sighted to bookmark the locations for when I reference them.

    The sad news is that handguns account for about 70% of all fire arm related homicides. It’s also one of the reasons the gun ban bill to me is sheer idiocy.

  12. Framing the issue historically, the high commands of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan ruled out an assault on and invasion of the mainland USA early on because of our high citizen gun ownership rate. One Japanese General was quoted as saying “there would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.” Compare that to how well Switzerland, where assault rifle training and ownership is compulsory, has avoided being invaded and being entangled in international conflicts and contrast it to how greatly the people of China and the USSR suffered under invading forces. How many lives on all sides have been saved here by citizen firearms without them ever having to be fired in anger? There is no way to really know, but it is another angle on this to consider. I prefer the Swiss model. Call me old fashioned, but I am perfectly happy with my Remington 870 goose gun, M1 Garand and 1911 .45. Thank you for the intelligent post on this topic. I am really tired of all the BS out there.

  13. Thanks for weighing in, CFJ. I think you’ll like the second half of this post as well. I think it’s even more hard-hitting.I’m nearly finished with it, and it will be posted on Wednesday.

    Also, I love the quote about “a rifle behind every blade of grass”, and I think it’s absolutely an accurate reflection of the danger of a well-armed citizenry, but I checked it before using it in this post and unfortunately there’s no historical evidence that it’s a real quote.

    Oh, and I’ve only fired an M1 Garand, but I instantly fell in love. The fellow who let me shoot it is a Vietnam Vet, and when I asked if he’d fired an AR-15 he said “I don’t shoot plastic guns.” When I handled and fired his beautifully restored M1, I could see why. It’s a thing of beauty.

    Alas… one day…

  14. Nathaniel, those articles you posted: The first one atleast attempts to have a dialogue and when I go to the second one it seems more like a derisive attack on the first article with little or no backup.

    “Americans are far more likely to die at the hands of a–usually–white, gun-totting maniac than they are to be murdered by an Islamic terrorist” backed up with zero references to bring his point home. I couldn’t finish it.

    I do agree with one point that the second article makes, that “the only reliable way for one person to stop a man with a knife is to shoot him.” is a false statement. I would agree however if it said the only reliably safe way for one person to stop a man with a knife is to shoot him. I know I’m splitting hairs there but I don’t like misleading statements.

    I am okay with Ian Murphy’s snarky response, but the name calling, quoting of facts that have no reference and are known to be misleading statements are all over his piece. I couldn’t read the whole thing through, it was awful and completely detracts from the conversation that Sam Harris is atleast trying to have.

    Again, someone attempting to address only the symptom, not the problem. Yes you can look to England as an example of less gun violence. I’ve also read that if someone invades your home they have as much of a right to be there as you do and you can’t defend your property though I don’t know if that’s true.

    I do remember reading an account from a guy who lives in Cambodia where guns are illegal, and from what he says Sam Harris has that part right. Make all guns illegal and you’ll have what is happening in Cambodia very quickly.

  15. Yes a good Garand is a thing of beauty. Knowing that you can smack a guy with the butt stock of the rifle and not worry about it falling apart or shattering is a comfort.

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