Sam Harris Gun FAQ: A Friendly Rebuttal

131

Sam Harris responded in his blog’s FAQs to my last piece on guns.  Both are linked at the bottom of this piece. 

I begin my rebuttal as I began my last response to Sam Harris. I commend him as someone I admire. I also begin here as I ended my last piece, extending a hand in hopes of reaching agreed conclusions through reasoned discussion. This spirit is appropriate in a community of reason, and also because it best honors the memory of the many who have died through gun violence in America, even since we last exchanged essays on this topic. I expect to continue to agree with him over 90% of the time. 


That said, Sam Harris does not offer persuasive evidence to contradict my original assertions about this horribly bloody issue.  I share Mr. Harris’ perspective that ethical conduct can spring from a scientific view, and I welcome his application of that view to the field of gun killing in America even as we disagree.

First, as to gun violence against women, I wrote originally: “Firearm assaults on female family members, and intimate acquaintances are approximately twelve times more likely to result in death than are assaults using other weapons. Two-thirds of women killed by spouses are killed with guns. This is not some minor secondary issue.”

Sam Harris does not refute this data. Instead he asserts: a) domestic violence can happen without guns; and b) fire-arm trained women can, one hopes, better defend themselves. I agree completely (anyone would), but these statements are not relevant to the assertion at issue: “firearm assaults on female family members, and intimate acquaintances are approximately twelve times_more likely to result in death than are assaults using other weapons. Two-thirds of women killed by spouses are killed by guns.” 

Sadly, a hell of a lot of women are killed with guns, vastly more than by the other methods to which Mr. Harris points. As I asserted in my original piece, handguns are very convenient when the urge to kill strikes, as it often does, with lightning speed, enabled with superior efficiency.

The vast majority of gun-owners are not maniacs. The vast majority are not planning on shooting their girlfriends, wives, or partners. It is sometimes months later, however, in a fit of anger, that the convenience of gun killing presents itself, often in a matter of seconds. These are the facts of life. 

The many thousands of new gun buyers after the Connecticut massacre deem themselves to be just as responsible as gun enthusiast Sam Harris. Most are — but take a step back. Forget anecdotal self-praise or the responsibility of particular gun owners and face the bell curve.  As the Harvard School of Public Health found, “guns in the home are used more often to frighten intimates than to thwart crime.”

Sam Harris’s anecdotal assertion about females in his own family being gun-trained does not extrapolate to the world of large numbers. 

Think about it. The NRA and Sam Harris say that more guns is the answer. Okay. Play this out in terms of the highly trained women gun owners that Sam Harris suggests as an ideal. Part One (more guns) is already happening. There’s been a dramatic jump in gun purchases since the Connecticut massacre. Massacres are good for the gun sales. 

However, Sam Harris’s proposal for a nation of highly-trained female gun experts (Part Two) is not something that will come to pass with any ease. In the practical realities of this world, in order to counteract the flood of even more guns in the random hands of jealous boyfriends and drunk bar-fighters, the government will, under the Sam Harris proposal, have no choice but to step in and mandate gun ownership by the selected group, and then force training upon them.

How, as Sam Harris suggests, do women in the US suddenly become seriously trained gun experts who carry loaded guns when on the street — and, like Sam Harris, keep costly guns at the ready in multiple rooms to guard against all points of entry? Who would pay for this unprecedented federal gun distribution program? 

Remember that, as Sam Harris states, urban people, thus urban poor women disproportionately, face this danger. A gun safety class, marksmanship, emergency response, two or three guns — all for just one low-income woman? It will be required to do this for millions — if Sam Harris’s concept is to work at all. These low-income women who can’t afford the guns and training themselves must get government subsidies to the tune of four figures – each. 

You may say that Sam Harris proposes no such thing, but then how is his plan going to be effective? Is there any other possible way?  Are women going to volunteer for this training based on a blog entry that says it’s a good idea?  

Another pragmatic consideration: what about the low-income women most in danger? Surely we are not leaving them out. So, yes, the only way this gun-expert woman concept is to work is with a massive government gun subsidy – immediately. 

In reality, no can guarantee that the guns provided to all these women (in addition to costly expert training) would not result in more deaths through rage than justifiable self-defense, whether by action of the woman herself grabbing the gun — or by an enraged intimate. (just as current statistics overwhelmingly document).

Sam Harris states that it would be a very difficult political fight to remove handguns from American society. I agree completely! Indeed this will be a difficult fight, though one that has been successful – and very effective in saving lives – in many other nations. But if you want to talk about political impossibility, try the guns-for-all-women mandate (along with the training and gun purchase costs, to which this proposal inevitably commits America). It is a Gun “Welfare” program. It is never going to happen and it would (sorry) backfire if it did. 

And please don’t say women can simply “volunteer” to buy guns (more than one each per Mr. Harris) and pay to get trained using them. The pep rally approach to arming women is a fantasy. Middle and low-income women can’t afford the guns and training that Sam Harris has.

What way is there to counteract the woman-killing numbers (twelve times higher, remember?) without a massive and probably unconstitutional federal mandate?  The protection of women with more guns argument doesn’t withstand practical scrutiny.  Perhaps Mr. Harris and I could agree to a concept where getting a gun is treated more rigorously than getting a car, and government mandated safety training and psychological screening are required before purchase.  Most would view even this as a huge tax. And it would do nothing to address the women, particularly low-income women, who live in an ocean of guns, but simply choose, or cannot afford, to buy guns and get properly trained. 

The domestic violence issue has not been addressed at all, but even if it were, we face the overall problem supported by data: more guns in the population, more death in the population. 

To his credit, Sam Harris does not deny (as so many NRA advocates do) that America gets a lot higher percentage of people killed with guns than other nations.  His primary opposition to handgun removal is that it is politically impossible in 2013. 

I already responded to that as follows in my earlier piece: 

“In 1955 it would be entirely reasonable to conclude that a civil rights bill was not going to pass – not in 1955. Opponents falsely claimed that a civil rights law was unconstitutional in 1955.  I suppose civil rights organizers and sympathetic politicians could have dusted their hands and had cocktails instead. Because sound policy may not become law today says nothing about whether a movement can be built to address a horrible injustice, an injustice that falls especially harshly on women and the poor, an injustice that would only be made far worse by flooding this country with even more guns, particularly more handguns.”

Next, without contradicting how much lower the rate of killing is in other countries, Mr. Harris states that violent crime has decreased a lot in America. This is entirely true, but is, again, irrelevant. Violent crime, for reasons Steven Pinker has discussed in his most recent book, has gone down in much of the developed world, including America — but other countries have fewer people actually die from their violent crimes. Thus his assertion changes not one whit that the death rate from guns is much lower in these other developed countries, leading to lower death rates overall (guns or not).  We are doing far worse than we should be and the reason is guns. Too many. Not too few.  Twenty times rate of death from guns than other developed countries in a recent study! (see below).  Twenty times. Let it sink it. 

Mr. Harris points to violent non-homicide crimes and claims that non-homicide violent crimes are a bad thing, too.  Well, certainly, everyone agrees with that  – but, again, it is irrelevant. My assertion was this direct comparison between America and other developed nations: a much higher rate of people get killed here than in these other nations because of guns. As bad as non-homicide violence is, less death is less death. 

Mr. Harris discussion of non-homicide crimes doesn’t fly for another reason. Mr. Harris, says a country like Sweden is a place with a terribly high rape statistic and pointedly states that we should get those Swedish women some guns to thwart rapists. This assertion certainly interested me (though it is still irrelevant to homicide). 

It interests me personally not only was my recently deceased mother a rape victim, but I’m a former prosecutor, a former ten year politician (the majority of my time was spent with jurisdiction over criminal law) and a former Chair of a Sex Crime Commission which offered substantive legislation that was passed. Given all that, I was surprised — and horrified — if Swedish women faced such a relatively terrible threat of rape.   (Women worldwide face too much horror in this regard, but Harris’ specific assertion about Sweden is noteworthy). 

I spent much of my career analyzing crime statistics, so this would be blockbuster news were it true.  After all, Sweden, as a chapter of my book discusses, is one of the most atheistic societies on earth. It is a society that prides itself on the ratio of patents per capita and its highly developed civil society. So…Sweden…a rape capital? 

As intriguing as the assertion is, it does not withstand scrutiny. The link below confirms the simplest and most logical explanation. Sweden is in fact so progressive on women’s rights relative to most other nations that its data collection on rape is very rigorous and its definition of sex crimes so broad, that the reality is that, while the number is high, they are counting a much different and more broad category of sex crimes. Also, for example, for sheer accounting purposes, multiple rapes against the same woman by the same man offered in one report to the police are counted as separate for each sex act, while the same scenario is often treated as only one rape report in other countries. 

To illustrate this point at the other end of the scale, consider the recent gang rape in New Delhi that has gotten so much justified publicity. An analysis found that there was one rape conviction in this entire incomprehensibly large city. Is that because there was only one person guilty of rape? Of course not. It is in fact an indication of a highly dangerous society for women with a collapsed legal system. Sweden is the opposite, and is much more progressive.  The point about Sweden is both wrong as well as irrelevant. 

My original points in my first post on this topic stand stronger than before: 

  1. 1)Killings are much more common in America because of guns (a point Mr. Harris does not dispute).
  2. 2)Women are killed much more frequently in America because of guns. There is no way to mandate — or “volunteer” — many millions of American women to buy and be trained with guns in some incredibly expensive government program, and it would be counterproductive were that even possible.
  3. 3)The Swimming Pool canard doesn’t work. Mr. Harris says in his response, as he did originally, that we must view gun deaths in context and compares gun deaths to drowning deaths, but does not note even the obvious positive benefits of pools — benefits that gun advocates cannot boast for guns.
  4. 4)Given the horrible carnage guaranteed by #1 and #2, we should attempt to follow the example of the many developed nations that have succeeded spectacularly in decreasing gun violence through removal of non-hunting guns, including hand guns. 

An organized, concerted effort over years is an entirely reasonable endeavor given the number of lives pending annihilation if the current system continues. It will not be easy, not at all, but it is much more likely to succeed than a government subsidized training and give-away program. And, based on the results in other countries, it will have an almost certain chance of decreasing death dramatically if implemented.  

Let me make two predictions, one melancholy, one optimistic: 

1) given the makeup of the current Congress, transformational action in the next two years is unlikely and there will be more massacres and, even more horrific (and increasing) deaths in America day in day out, often victims of domestic violence, mostly with the use handguns and the latter bloody numbers will continue to dwarf those of intermittent massacres; 

2) a movement can and will arise that, if organizational effort is applied, will capitalize on changing demographics and eventually reverse this gun-flood policy thus allowing people and rationality to ultimately survive and prevail, but there will be many unnecessary horrible deaths before American finally does the right thing, but we will and we will sooner than you may think. 

I close as I did last time, seeking common ground based on reason and good will — most certainly toward Mr. Harris whom I so admire and who has done so much for evidence-based reasoning — but especially for the thousands who will unnecessarily die in America until we follow the highly successful example of other nations.  

I was told less than ten years ago that a black president was a political impossibility in my lifetime. I was told this by an intelligent person who wanted race to be irrelevant. Many had heard similar statements from smart people.

This nation is changing demographically every day. We cannot predict all the trends, but the path of continuing gun violence is the path of death, carnage, and policy disaster. The path of removing non-hunting guns (including handguns) combined with strong regulation is a path of practical promise and a path of life – a path worth the investment of serious organized effort based on overwhelming evidence necessary to overcome the entirely weak arguments in support of the current Gun Flood policy. 


The mythology of guns for protection:

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/research/hicrc/firearms-research/gun-threats-and-self-defense-gun-use/index.html

The reason some developed countries, such as Sweden, sometimes have elevated crime rates compared to less effective countries:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19592372

More guns, more death.

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/guns-and-death/ 

gun deaths twenty times greater

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/10/health/americans-under-50-fare-poorly-on-health-measures-new-report-says.html?_r=1&

Americans “far more” like to suffer violent death

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/u-s-highest-rate-violent-deaths-article-1.1237340

My initial piece responding so Sam Harris

http://richarddawkins.net/foundation_articles/2013/1/4/sam-harris-neglects-the-most-important-evidence-about-guns#.UPGxh6XB594

Sam Harris responds in his FAQs to my piece:

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/faq-on-violence

Written By: Sean Faircloth
continue to source article at

131 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with Sam Harris on this issue. I am also finding the slamming of men by Sean to be very off putting.

  2. I disagree with Sean that the reason for the violence is guns; America has a culture of violence and paranoia, and the broad ownership and use of guns is simply a symptom of this.

    I have lived on three continents (including a year and a half in the States) and have travelled widely, and America is, by far, the most paranoid place I’ve ever been. It’s not surprising that violence follows. The answer to this problem is neither more nor less guns – the root causes of the paranoia and the widespread inclination towards violence as a solution are the issues that need to be resolved. In addition to this, class disparity contributes too, as poverty is associated with a higher risk of involvement in crime.

    Furthermore, the cessation of America’s futile war on drugs could likely also decrease violent crime considerably.

  3. Fantastic work, Sean. I am delighted to see you persist and do the detailed work that Sam seems to stop short of doing. Thank you.

  4. Legal changes and campaigns to reduce the presence of ballistic weaponry in the US are the only sensible way forward. The US has a toxic culture of hoplophilia entirely out of keeping with modern civilized norms, and it suffers disproportionately from that. The only way to loosen and eradicate such a culture is to take a strong and concerted public stance against it – to make ownership of lethal weaponry something suspicious and undesirable, like it is in the civilized world.

    These sorts of cultural shifts can be engineered very easily. It was not ten years ago that British smokers responded with laughter and outrage at the suggestion they smoke out of doors in public places – now even the most inveterate of their kind do so as a matter of course and give it no more thought. Most even tend to go outside of their own homes too. Likewise, anti drink-driving campaigns transformed the culture of the 50s and 60s that led to so many accidental road deaths, and within a decade or so.

    Quite why anyone would want a terrifying lethal weapon in their possession in the first place baffles me of course – as it baffles the vast majority of people in countries with sane cultures. Perhaps one day this kind of hoplophilia will be a recognised medical condition, given how socially dysfunctional it makes an individual, and treatment for it will be readily available.

  5. Bravo Sean. The factor of 20 he emphasises is the statistic to focus on. For gun advocates – even those as distinguished as Sam Harris – to use a stastistical argument, they need to beat that one. It doesn’t matter if Americans manage to terrorise each other a little bit more by opening the gun floodgates even further in any given year, and that results in gun violence being only 19 times worse in America. That’s like saying Stalin killed proportionately less than Pol Pot, so dictatorships are acceptable.

  6. I agree with Sean much more than Sam on this issue, even as I usually agree with most of Sam’s views on anything. However, on this particular issue I feel the problem per se is attitude toward violence thus while all Sean’s ideas and solutions should and can help the best solution is to try to change our consciousness toward respect and away from fear and defense. Just like we changed or raised our consciousness using seat belts, drink and driving, smoking, gay marriage/equality we can too change our views toward respect toward human beings, women, children in particular

  7. I very much agree with Sean, but there is a point he failed to mention regarding those women too poor to afford guns: if they have a bunch of kids and a home to run, how will they afford the TIME to train with the damn weapons?

  8. In reply to #2 by onona:

    I disagree with Sean that the reason for the violence is guns; America has a culture of violence and paranoia, and the broad ownership and use of guns is simply a symptom of this.

    I have lived on three continents (including a year and a half in the States) and have travelled widely, and America is, by far, the most paranoid place I’ve ever been. It’s not surprising that violence follows. The answer to this problem is neither more nor less guns – the root causes of the paranoia and the widespread inclination towards violence as a solution are the issues that need to be resolved. In addition to this, class disparity contributes too, as poverty is associated with a higher risk of involvement in crime.

    Furthermore, the cessation of America’s futile war on drugs could likely also decrease violent crime considerably.

    I agree with you 100%. Class disparity, segregation, and a life stuck in unemployment with no hope of improvement is what’s awaiting many minorities in most American inner cities. Sprinkle some guns on top of this and we have the current culture of violence. I hope the current assault rifle discussion shed more light on the crazy homicides rates in e.g. Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore which I believe is a MUCH more pressing matter.

  9. In reply to #1 by debaser71:

    I agree with Sam Harris on this issue. I am also finding the slamming of men by Sean to be very off putting.

    Is it the statistics that he quoted that are off putting or the fact that he chose to mention them?

  10. I disagree with Sam on this. It was good to see Sean bring up the article about the relevant crime statistics in the article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19592372 worth a look. I suspected it might be something like this coming from Australia I was shocked to see such high levels of assaults per 100 000.

    However, I completely understand Sam Harris wanting to own a gun considering the position he has put himself in by criticising Islam. I wonder if he felt this way about guns before he began going public with his criticisms of Islam. I hope everyone on this forum remembers this when criticising his stance, his neck is one hell of a lot more out on the chopping block than most of us. Even if he’s wrong.

  11. In reply to #1 by debaser71:

    I agree with Sam Harris on this issue. I am also finding the slamming of men by Sean to be very off putting.

    He’s NOT hammering men- only those disposed to violence to women. So don’t use the strawman argument

  12. A quick proofread and edit would reveal numerous grammatical errors. This essay would benefit from these being corrected.

  13. Confirmation bias was perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Sam Harris’ post.
    That and his use of an apocryphal ‘down the pub’ legend to support his case.
    Never thought Id see that from a rational scientific mind- but I guess we’re all at risk
    of similar errors of judgment.

  14. In reply to #12 by Reckless Monkey:

    I disagree with Sam on this. It was good to see Sean bring up the article about the relevant crime statistics in the article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19592372 worth a look. I suspected it might be something like this coming from Australia I was shocked to see such high levels of assaults per 100 000.

    However, I completely understand Sam Harris wanting to own a gun considering the position he has put himself in by criticising Islam. I wonder if he felt this way about guns before he began going public with his criticisms of Islam. I hope everyone on this forum remembers this when criticising his stance, his neck is one hell of a lot more out on the chopping block than most of us. Even if he’s wrong.

    The quoting of assault statistics is irrelevant- he did not say “assault involving firearms”, I note. Nor does he know that the Australian Government has seen fit to BAN all defensive weapons (mace, pepper spray and anything the police decide is a weapon- kid’s baseball bat, piece of wood, tyre lever) thereby rendering the public defenceless; this is to my mind the reason for more assaults.
    He also did not mention the most obvious fact- 10 years prior to Port Arthur, 13 mass shootings; 10 years after- NONE.
    Sam has shot himself in the foot- so to speak…

  15. In reply to #2 by onona:

    I disagree with Sean that the reason for the violence is guns; America has a culture of violence and paranoia, and the broad ownership and use of guns is simply a symptom of this.

    I have lived on three continents (including a year and a half in the States) and have travelled widely, and America is, by far, the most paranoid place I’ve ever been. It’s not surprising that violence follows. The answer to this problem is neither more nor less guns – the root causes of the paranoia and the widespread inclination towards violence as a solution are the issues that need to be resolved. In addition to this, class disparity contributes too, as poverty is associated with a higher risk of involvement in crime.

    Furthermore, the cessation of America’s futile war on drugs could likely also decrease violent crime considerably.

    Is it POSSIBLE that paranoia exists because people are terrified of being SHOT- you know, with GUNS???
    And class, poverty, drugs exist everywhere, in many cases far worse than in the USA.
    yet, strangely America has this huge rate of gun deaths- What a conundrum!

  16. America’s solution to Gov’t debt- MORE DEBT

    America’s solution to gun deaths- MORE GUNS

    I’m beginning to see the truth

  17. My take (as a UK citizen):

    Sean’s arguments sway me more than Sam’s. There’s three things left out however:

    In the UK, it’s knife crime that hits the news more. Sean’s comments about handguns in domestic violence cases then get thrown into question. Every well stocked kitchen has a decent set of knives (my own included). My experience as a martial artist also leads me to one conclusion: If someone is that determined to kill you, they will! Regs aside, weapon enforcement aside, that is the truth. If they are that determined, they will figure out the most sure-fire way. Gun regulation here will neither help nor hinder the victim. That’s the first.

    As Sean rightly pointed out however, most violent crimes are not plotted, they are impulse reactions. The agressor will reach for the nearest weapon, be that a knife or a gun. However, it is easier to run from someone armed with a knife than a gun. Gun regulation here will DEFINITELY benefit the victim. Second.

    Finally: Watch ‘Bowling for Columbine’. Canada have just as many guns as the USA with a fraction of the deaths. Culture seems to be the difference. So the key thing has to be to tackle the culture and political mindset of which, gun ownership is included. Carrying on ‘as is’ as the NRA suggest can only exacerbate the situation.

  18. The problem I see with people using statistics is this: when you find some that appear to be in your favor, they are good supportive evidence but if they disagree with your position, you try to find a way to claim they aren’t good supportive evidence. Lets take this issue with Sam’s and Sean’s statistical data. Sam makes a claim about rape rates in Sweden. Sean correctly shows that you have to be careful when comparing other nations because laws in countries differ and as such crime rates can’t be used as a measuring stick without taking this into consideration. Now to the violent crimes and death statistics. Sean attacks Sam for not doing the leg work to look further into the statistics and says “less guns, less deaths.” From a recent Time article, “Switzerland trails behind only the U.S, Yemen and Serbia in the number of guns per capita; between 2.3 million and 4.5 million military and private firearms are estimated to be in circulation in a country of only 8 million people. Yet, despite the prevalence of guns, the violent-crime rate is low: government figures show about 0.5 gun homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010. By comparison, the U.S rate in the same year was about 5 firearm killings per 100,000 people, according to a 2011 U.N. report.” This isn’t to say that we should keep guns and I am sure someone will find a way to dismiss these statistics (My own biases may keep me from finding it as I read the article and look up the reports but everyone’s biases affect them similarly). The reason I mention this article is because more guns doesn’t mean more death on the vast numbers that the United States has. One can argue the gun laws are different between the U.S. and Switzerland but I would rather like to look at the culture. I believe we could train people the proper use of firearms and how to maintain them, which would help reduce accidental shootings and try to instill a culture of responsibility and patriotic duty much like Switzerland has. I will concede that Switzerland’s unique culture would be hard to emulate here. Sam may have been onto something when he talked about training women how to use firearms which Sean says would be too hard to do. Training half the citizenry right now? Yes it would. Sean claims attitudes can change in a lifetime so why can’t training be accomplished gradually. Trying to equip people who don’t have guns will be difficult? Also true but some guns are cheaper than others and if a gun is seen as a good investment, people can figure out how to afford one. Televisions and automobiles are very prevalent in the culture and putting off buying one could go a long way to affording a gun (if not cover the whole purchase price of one to several). This isn’t to say everyone can afford guns, particularly poor single mothers but assuming Sean is correct that Sam’s only option would be the government to subsidize guns, the group is substantially smaller and costs would be cheaper than some sections of our total budget (military is one, several times what it is for several other nations. As for the domestic violence against women? I think this comes down to whether you remove the tool or try to correct the problem. Crime seems to be higher in lower income areas so trying to raise the socioeconomic conditions of said areas and reducing the gap between the richest and the poorest could go a long way to alleviating that, but again I admit this would be difficult and at first very expensive. Being a proud member of the Boy Scouts in my teens (Yes I am aware of their policies against homosexuals and it was being heavily criticized and debated when I was a member, that is a different issue and needn’t be discussed here) I learned to shoot rifles and proper gun safety. I learned respect for firearms and that has helped me avoid making mistakes the few times I have been around guns whereas my friends have made typical but stupid mistakes when around them. Now if this type of training and emphasis was placed at an early age which is a possibility (public education is a reality in this country although it is far from ideal and any dropout rate higher than 0% is too high) so training people isn’t an impossibility although with cuts to education happening all the time would mean this would be difficult to do, I will concede that. If Sean can make claims that within a lifetime we could pass amendments to the constitution or at the very least pass legislation that won’t be struck down by the supreme court that will put a ban on certain weapons despite the current gun culture, then I can believe the solution doesn’t have to be strictly gun control but about raising up the people on the low end of the socioeconomic ladder and bring about education of firearms which I think would be an effective solution. I have no delusions about this being an airtight argument and I am sure someone will find many things to criticize about this. Well lets hear it.

    The Time Magazine Article
    http://world.time.com/2012/12/20/the-swiss-difference-a-gun-culture-that-works/#ixzz2HoR5fo9z.” (“The Swiss Difference: A Gun Culture That Works,” Helena Bachmann, Time Magazine, Dec. 20th 2012

  19. Haha, so you think the US should ban guns? That is certainly the conclusion you’re implying. How costly would that be to enforce? Far more than arming and training inner city women, I’d imagine (which I think Sean embellished quite a bit, given that Sam didn’t propose such an action). Ask the War on Drugs how much it spends to keep weed off the streets, then go out and walk down any street in America and buy some. You can’t take guns out of a country that won its freedom with guns. You can’t limit guns to revolvers and shotguns and bolt action rifles, as the second amendment is in place to protect the people from a military, which would certainly be using modern weaponry. You clearly don’t like Sam’s opinion, yet you offer no valid rebuttal, and neither does Sean.
    In reply to #16 by Nodhimmi:

    In reply to #12 by Reckless Monkey:

    I disagree with Sam on this. It was good to see Sean bring up the article about the relevant crime statistics in the article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19592372 worth a look. I suspected it might be something like this coming from Australia I was shocked to see such high levels of assaults per 100 000.

    However, I completely understand Sam Harris wanting to own a gun considering the position he has put himself in by criticising Islam. I wonder if he felt this way about guns before he began going public with his criticisms of Islam. I hope everyone on this forum remembers this when criticising his stance, his neck is one hell of a lot more out on the chopping block than most of us. Even if he’s wrong.

    The quoting of assault statistics is irrelevant- he did not say “assault involving firearms”, I note. Nor does he know that the Australian Government has seen fit to BAN all defensive weapons (mace, pepper spray and anything the police decide is a weapon- kid’s baseball bat, piece of wood, tyre lever) thereby rendering the public defenceless; this is to my mind the reason for more assaults.
    He also did not mention the most obvious fact- 10 years prior to Port Arthur, 13 mass shootings; 10 years after- NONE.
    Sam has shot himself in the foot- so to speak…

  20. Sean,

    I’m happy that you and Sam are having this debate. It’s a thoughtful, reasonable discussion I doubt most Americans have heard, given the high stakes politics that surround guns in this country. Thank you.

  21. In reply to #22 by Prime8:

    Haha, so you think the US should ban guns? That is certainly the conclusion you’re implying. How costly would that be to enforce? Far more than arming and training inner city women, I’d imagine (which I think Sean embellished quite a bit, given that Sam didn’t propose such an action). Ask the War on Drugs how much it spends to keep weed off the streets, then go out and walk down any street in America and buy some. You can’t take guns out of a country that won its freedom with guns. You can’t limit guns to revolvers and shotguns and bolt action rifles, as the second amendment is in place to protect the people from a military, which would certainly be using modern weaponry. You clearly don’t like Sam’s opinion, yet you offer no valid rebuttal, and neither does Sean.

    Prime8 you are either very naive or delusional. No citizen regardless of their training would have any hope against a modern military – drones, fighter planes, tanks etc vs an irregular militia. Just look to Iraq or Afghanistan (the lack of quick or straightforward success by the west notwithstanding) to see the folly of your arguement.

  22. Being Scottish – where the non-gun violence stats are still horrendous, and one of the reasons I’m now Canadian – I grew up never seeing guns except on farms where I worked. I am very anti-guns, and don’t even like the ‘sport’ shooting folk engage in, despite the scoped air rifles big brother & I used to shoot rabbits for food to support our mother while teenagers – along with fishing, picking apples & berries, plus nicking some tatties & neeps from the farm fields.

    That said, Sam Harris is in a high risk group due to his published work, and unlike most people, actually has real on-going death threats against him. He has taken proper care to become competent, understands the threats against him, and clearly has plans for different possible attacks by demented folk, primarily by running away. Because he trains to be competent with the weapons he estimates are prudent, that doesn’t make him “a gun enthusiast” as Sean says above.

    The USA is unique in having the 2nd Amendment – which is outdated & misrepresented by the public on both sides – and now has 1 gun per citizen, which makes basic societal attitude changes very difficult. Sam seems to be more realistic about the PRESENT situation, while Sean, Sam & I all want much tighter rules & laws in the long struggle for a FUTURE result, which is far less gun ownership and all kinds of gun usage.

    The huge American gun making & hunting industries don’t make these issues any easier to fix properly, nor does the too common American ‘don’t tell me what to do’ stubbornness.

  23. In reply to #26 by Peter Grant:

    I’m far more concerned by the much greater problem of non-lethal domestic violence.

    Granting that tightened and more uniform gun control might take a generation or two to reap real rewards,
    what legislation would you enact that could reduce in a similar timescale this problem of DV?

    My background question is regarding my understanding that expenditure of resources must be allocated by mooted net benefits. Senescence is not only the number one killer (90% in developed countries) but arguably the number one cause of all misery. Opportunities for improvement don’t come cheap and net benefits of improvements are not clear.

    Legislative resources often are best usefully applied when zeitgeists are looking unstable and tractable. Though often only moderately relevant to solutions being sought, unfortunate events, can lower the barriers of cost and effectiveness of legislative change.

  24. In reply to #27 by phil rimmer:

    Granting that tightened and more uniform gun control might take a generation of two to reap real rewards,
    what legislation would you enact that could reduce in a similar timescale this problem of DV?

    Given that the problems differ in scale by at least two orders of magnitude this comparison is a bit unfair, but since I suspect that there may in fact be an inverse correlation between the two I am concerned that such legislation might actually exacerbate the much larger problem of domestic violence in general.

  25. In reply to #28 by Peter Grant:

    …but since I suspect that there may in fact be an inverse correlation between the two I am concerned that such legislation might actually exacerbate the much larger problem of domestic violence in general.

    Is that because of this thought?

    “Considering this in terms of game theory, increasing the likelihood that violence results in death should make violence a less successful strategy.”

  26. In reply to #29 by phil rimmer:

    In reply to #28 by Peter Grant:

    …but since I suspect that there may in fact be an inverse correlation between the two I am concerned that such legislation might actually exacerbate the much larger problem of domestic violence in general.

    Is that because of this thought?

    “Considering this in terms of game theory, increasing the likelihood that violence results in death should make violence a less successful strategy.”

    Yes, thanks for noticing my comment from the previous thread.

  27. One thing neither essayist has addressed is that of security technology for the home. The exciting debate has spanned many areas, but one big thing Harris puts forth is defence in the home – if a window was merely banged on with a sledgehammer but took 45 minutes to break, would a gun be necessary?

    Would be interesting to know of the latest/greatest materials to secure one’s home, e.g. glass, doors, etc. I don’t mean so much the fancy alarm systems which are of dubious utility.

  28. Conversation seems to have ebbed so I hope the moderators will indulge me in a thought experiment:

    Say we developed phasers like in Star Trek, that were cheap to produce and very easy to use: Simply point and click and the target is disintegrated instantly. Assume they were so effective that non-lethal violence could no longer occur and that in every violent altercation one or possibly both players would be eliminated. Wouldn’t over-all violence drop by at least a couple of orders of magnitude?

  29. In reply to #30 by Peter Grant:

    “Considering this in terms of game theory, increasing the likelihood that violence results in death should make violence a less successful strategy.”

    Yes, thanks for noticing my comment from the previous thread.

    I’m afraid I can’t begin to agree with the implications of this conclusion. Even assuming your inverse relationship, how is the violence worse than the psychological suppression of it by threat?

    When individual partners are divided into socially liberal or socially conservative categories, the quadrant with the dramatically high DV rate are the pairings of male conservative with female liberal. Often violence is the necessary first step to getting societal help for a woman to escape an oppressive patriarch, a horrid thing leading to a good resolution. Once the stigma of divorce vanishes and the supportive society licensed to even earlier intervention we may not see any reduction in the number of incidents but we may see a reduction in net severity.

    Patriarchy with a gun and low DV is indistinguishable in mechanism from the low DV in Muslim societies.

    Appropriately I now click the submit button.

  30. In reply to #32 by Peter Grant:

    Conversation seems to have ebbed so I hope the moderators will indulge me in a thought experiment:

    Say we developed phasers like in Star Trek, that were cheap to produce and very easy to use: Simply point and click and the target is disintegrated instantly. Assume they were so effective that non-lethal violence could no longer occur and that in every violent altercation one or possibly both players would be eliminated. Wouldn’t over-all violence drop by at least a couple of orders of magnitude?

    Yes but possibly only because the population had diminished pro-rata. The psychopathic few percent would have the best shoot-em-up free-roaming game ever.

  31. In reply to #33 by phil rimmer:

    I’m afraid I can’t begin to agree with the implications of this conclusion. Even assuming your inverse relationship, how is the violence worse than the psychological suppression of it by threat?

    It’s how the legal system works, we suppress violence with the threat of incarceration. In the US some states even have the death penalty.

    When individual partners are divided into socially liberal or socially conservative categories, the quadrant with the dramatically high DV rate are the pairings of male conservative with female liberal. Often violence is the necessary first step to getting societal help for a woman to escape an oppressive patriarch, a horrid thing leading to a good resolution. Once the stigma of divorce vanishes and the supportive society licensed to even earlier intervention we may not see any reduction in the number of incidents but we may see a reduction in net severity.

    I don’t see why she should have to take even one beating and in the long run it may be better if she just shot the bastard, he might re-marry.

    Patriarchy with a gun and low DV is indistinguishable in mechanism from the low DV in Muslim societies.

    I seriously doubt that there is low domestic violence in Muslim societies.

  32. In reply to #34 by phil rimmer:

    Yes but possibly only because the population had diminished pro-rata. The psychopathic few percent would have the best shoot-em-up free-roaming game ever.

    Psychopaths are not necessarily irrational, it would be an incredibly short game.

  33. In reply to #35 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #33 by phil rimmer:

    I’m afraid I can’t begin to agree with the implications of this conclusion. Even assuming your inverse relationship, how is the violence worse than the psychological suppression of it by threat?

    It’s how the legal system works, we suppress violence with the threat of incarceration. In the US some states even have the death penalty.

    I should have fleshed this out a little more. It is the suppression of the woman’s dissent by the threat of the patriarchal gun I meant to invoke here but didn’t manage too successfully.

    When individual partners are divided into socially liberal or socially conservative categories, the quadrant with the dramatically high DV rate are the pairings of male conservative with female liberal. Often violence is the necessary first step to getting societal help for a woman to escape an oppressive patriarch, a horrid thing leading to a good resolution. Once the stigma of divorce vanishes and the supportive society licensed to even earlier intervention we may not see any reduction in the number of incidents but we may see a reduction in net severity.

    I don’t see why she should have to take even one beating and in the long run it may be better if she just shot the bastard, he might re-marry.

    Rough justice, killing someone, is bad enough for one trained for it. For the high empathy mind it is potentially devastating to be brought to the point of taking a life. The psychological and societal costs of this are enormous. PTSD is the common outcome for the reluctant killer. Reluctant killers most usually give up their guns, never wanting to use them again under any circumstance. The US gun lobby advice to the recently murderered (sic) is not to react so but get on down to that shooting range and hard-wire in a little more callousness.

    Patriarchy with a gun and low DV is indistinguishable in mechanism from the low DV in Muslim societies.

    I seriously doubt that there is low domestic violence in Muslim societies.

    You doubt DV statistics? Then I should have played my other argument, that US reporting of it is probably low because of a high religious stigma against uppity women. Clicks submit again.

  34. In reply to #36 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #34 by phil rimmer:

    Yes but possibly only because the population had diminished pro-rata. The psychopathic few percent would have the best shoot-em-up free-roaming game ever.

    Psychopaths are not necessarily irrational, it would be an incredibly short game.

    No they most often are not but you did make those weapons mighty powerful…

  35. In reply to #37 by phil rimmer:

    I intended low reported (i.e. under-reported) DV in Muslim societies. Guns suppress reporting and strong-arm (in the US) compliance.

  36. In reply to #37 by phil rimmer:

    I should have fleshed this out a little more. It is the suppression of the woman’s dissent by the threat of the patriarchal gun I meant to invoke here but didn’t manage too successfully.

    I realise that the gun is considered a phallic symbol, but that doesn’t necessarily make it patriarchal.

    Rough justice, killing someone, is bad enough for one trained for it. For the high empathy mind it is potentially devastating to be brought to the point of taking a life. The psychological and societal costs of this are enormous. PTSD is the common outcome for the reluctant killer. Reluctant killers most usually give up their guns, never wanting to use them again under any circumstance. The US gun lobby advice to the recently murderered (sic) is not to react so but get on down to that shooting range and hard-wire in a little more callousness.

    Sounds like good advice.

    You doubt DV statistics? Then I should have played my other argument, that US reporting of it is probably low because of a high religious stigma against uppity women.

    Probably, but not as low as in Muslim communities.

    Clicks submit again.

    Does this mean that you are flagging my comments as offensive?

  37. In reply to #38 by phil rimmer:

    No they most often are not but you did make those weapons mighty powerful…

    If nearly everyone had one he wouldn’t last five minutes.

    In reply to #39 by phil rimmer:

    I intended low reported (i.e. under-reported) DV in Muslim societies. Guns suppress reporting and strong-arm (in the US) compliance.

    How do guns suppress reporting? You can only hold a gun to someone’s head for so long, religion is much better at ensuring long term submission.

  38. In reply to #40 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #37 by phil rimmer:

    I should have fleshed this out a little more. It is the suppression of the woman’s dissent by the threat of the patriarchal gun I meant to invoke here but didn’t manage too successfully.

    I realise that the gun is considered a phallic symbol, but that doesn’t necessarily make it patriarchal.

    Nah! From the DV statistics, the bulk coming from conservative males per the study I was taking as my guide. (Will post when I can find again.)
    >

    You doubt DV statistics? Then I should have played my other argument, that US reporting of it is probably low because of a high religious stigma against uppity women.

    Probably, but not as low as in Muslim communities.

    External studies show DV is wildly under-reported in Muslim communities.

    Clicks submit again.

    Does this mean that you are flagging my comments as offensive?

    Not at all. It would never occur to me to do that.

    It was a little joke about women needing to submit to religious men.

  39. In reply to #42 by phil rimmer:

    Nah! From the DV statistics, the bulk coming from conservative males per the study I was taking as my guide. (Will post when I can find again.)

    Please do!

    External studies show DV is wildly under-reported in Muslim communities.

    I thought it might be.

  40. In reply to #41 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #38 by phil rimmer:

    No they most often are not but you did make those weapons mighty powerful…

    If nearly everyone had one he wouldn’t last five minutes.

    True.

    In reply to #39 by phil rimmer:
    How do guns suppress reporting? You can only hold a gun to someone’s head for so long, religion is much better at ensuring long term submission.

    I think it only has to be in the bedside cabinet draw of an easily angered individual to act as a sufficient disincentive. Religion co-opts all your neighbours into this suppressive act. Nailed it there.

  41. In reply to #44 by phil rimmer:

    I think it only has to be in the bedside cabinet draw of an easily angered individual to act as a sufficient disincentive.

    When someone owns a killing device and trains to use it well and instinctively, you know they have imagined killing people, intruders, muggers, as part of their preparation to cope with the circumstance. Owners of kitchen knives are not obliged to have such extreme and desensitising thoughts. “Prepared to kill” is a special mindset that an oppressed spouse may well detect in her oppressor. Rage disables logic in all of us, even the most rational, and in my experience arises most often in concerns of infidelity “Prepared to kill” and rage make an impressive argument for compliance, I would imagine.

  42. There is something I don’t understand about Sam and Sean’s positions on arming women: Is the aim to enable them to deter street assailants like rapists or to deter violent or murderous husbands or boy friends at home?

    The former is already possible, women can buy a gun and ask for a conceal-carry permit.
    But I think it’s naive and impractical to think this could reduce lethal domestic violence.
    While I don’t know about the USA, I have been working as a doctor for more than thirty years in Switzerland where most acts of severe domestic violence (DV) or murder against women are committed by husbands or male companions with ahistory of battering them before and who just didn’t leave their abuser before it was too late.

    I have had to examine battered women at least once or twice a week, and give them a medical certificate detailing their wounds, but all too often until recently, they would tell me that they didn’t want to file a complaint with the police right now but to keep the document (for reference) because “he’ll surely get better” or “I should give him another chance”, and a few months later they’re back again with some more bruises or worse in the same state of hopeful self delusion asking for another certificate “for reference”.

    My hunch is that if battered women who are still under the psychological power of their tormenter were given a gun, it would end up in the guy’s hands and be used to kill her. The sensible thing is to get them to leave him as soon as he starts to be violent and get the courts involved and let the state do the rough stuff. Moreover buying a gun to “safely” cohabit with a dangerous person one could easily leave strikes me as somewhat illogical.

    I think a better way to prevent severe DV (in cases where self deluded or psychologically dominated women who do not take appropriate action themselves) would be to enact a statutory obligation to report all cases of DV against adults to the authorities the same way Swiss law requires medical personnel and other citizens to report any instance of child abuse the may know of or face prosecution for not doing so.
    It might not work a first, yet a horrible experience I was involved in makes me think it could work. Shortly after a Canton in which I work had enacted a confusing bit of legislation on reporting serious DV, a brutal and obviously sociopathic husband brought me his sorely battered wife saying the he “had” to beat her “as usual” for disobedience, but now she couldn’t take down the trash, so could I quick fix her so she could take down the trash? I am not a psychiatrist but something convinced me he was bound to murder her. I gave the lady aid she needed and called the police without her knowledge or consent. The police said they didn’t know about the new legislation and that I should write to the judiciary office as I promptly did by fax and registered letter. Both were sent to the psychiatrist on duty at the state hospital and went there. Unfortunately, as later learned, the investigative judge summoned the husband for 3 months later and neither were seen at follow up appointments. Three weeks later I got a call from the police: He had just murdered the young wife by bashing in her skull with a bed post in front of their 18 month old daughter… At court, as a state witness, I made sure to mention that I had warned a magistrate of the clear danger of impending murder and the trial judge did the same. Fortunately the press made a stink about how all this could have been avoided if the warning had been heeded and the authorities taken timely action.

    Since then I have noticed a marked change in the way the police handle DV cases. I cannot be sure there is cause and effect of course, and battered women are still coming to the clinic at the same frequency, but while previously they would say that the police had merely advised them to get a medical not “or we can’t do anything”, today they report that Mr. Violent has already been carted away in handcuffs and they’ve been told to get a certificate from the doctor. Being handcuffed and put in a cell can do wonders for the overexcited… So may I suggest that merely enacting a legal obligation to denounce might just stem domestic violence much better than adding guns to the home.

  43. Excellent article Mr. Faircloth. I can barely stand to read articles on gun control and the US. Its one of those situations that just seem so intuitively obvious to me and the arguments from the gun advocates seem so ridiculous I usually feel they are barely worth refuting, the same way I feel toward climate change deniers and creationists.

    The one question I have for Harris and those that agree with him is this: I assume that since you are at this site you believe that reason, critical thinking, atheism, etc. will lead to a better world, as do I. Is this really the world you envision? A world where everyone walks around carrying a gun? Is that really your idea of progress? Because if it is then I have a lot more in common with my Christian peace loving friends then with you.

  44. In reply to #17 by Nodhimmi:

    Is it POSSIBLE that paranoia exists because people are terrified of being SHOT- you know, with GUNS???
    And class, poverty, drugs exist everywhere, in many cases far worse than in the USA.
    yet, strangely America has this huge rate of gun deaths- What a conundrum!

    Well, no. I’m not talking about everyday paranoia about crime, but about actual deep-seated paranoia about the government, and the rest of the world. The fact that a scarily significant percentage of American adults believe their own government was involved, to some degree, in the 9/11 attacks reveals a serious problem simmering beneath the surface of their culture. America’s involvement in numerous conflicts worldwide has also brought with it an element of paranoia on home soil, and when you combine that with increasingly polarised fundamentalism in politics, shaky economics, the recent global financial crisis and other other concerns including increasingly extreme religious fundamentalism, you end up with a lot of tension and a culture of fear. You even have Doomsday-preppers stockpiling bunkers and preparing for Armageddon – granted, these are fringe minorities, but their doomsday pessimism and paranoia has a way of seeping into broader society and poisoning the well further. And then go and throw sensationalist media outlets like Fox News and their persistent fearmongering (their constant stories about the “war on Christians”, etc) stirring up feelings of persecution into the mix, and you end up with a very serious paranoia problem.

    Yes, class issues, poverty, drugs etc exist everywhere, but the US is unusual in the broad problems these creates given its status as a first world country. We expect to see such huge class disparity, drug wars, poverty and gang problems in developing nations, not first world nations like the US.

  45. In reply to #50 by onona:

    Yes, class issues, poverty, drugs etc exist everywhere, but the US is unusual in the broad problems these creates given its status as a first world country. We expect to see such huge class disparity, drug wars, poverty and gang problems in developing nations, not first world nations like the US.

    My son just sent me this Michael Moore clip. Whilst I am not keen on MM as he is rather more an emotional “pamphleteer” than a strict rationalist it nevertheless fingers the US for its fearful, paranoid, collective state of mind. Essentially identifying the inequalities of its society and the fear-selling media, the US is notably unequal and right wing amongst top nations.

    The narrative running in many heads is of a personal success achieved without acknowledgement of society’s enabling contribution. Jealous, indolent others, desperate to merely take it off you rather than decently work are pointed to endlessly by fear monger’s Fox. (As the religious know, fear sells like nothing else.)

    I have to admit that strengthened and more uniform gun laws will only be part of the recipe for fixing the US. Trusting that government, democratically elected, is the functional mechanism to build a more compassionate and equal society has to be an idea far more Americans must start to share. Everyone else gets it. Stop trying to opt out of your own society because you don’t agree with the democratic choices this time. Oh and stop shooting presidents!

  46. In reply to #2 by onona:

    I disagree with Sean that the reason for the violence is guns; America has a culture of violence and paranoia, and the broad ownership and use of guns is simply a symptom of this.

    I’m also more with Sam Harris on this one, though there is little to show for it.
    I see the same sort of things I saw with his torture arguments.
    He argues a lot against the default liberal viewpoints (like my own) and as a result seems brash and deeply misguided, but on careful reading everything he actually says is valid and his underlying stance is reasonably favourable.
    He would not oppose an assault weapons ban and he supports a regime of gun licensing. Important measures that would help a lot. Given that he lives in America and does receive sincere death threats I have to agree with his case for owning guns, and he agrees with me that this is not for everyone.

    My outstanding argument would be on risk.
    There have been instances of people using and needing guns to defend themselves in their home, and there have been instances of people shooting themselves and others by mistake.
    Is there data to show which is the greater real risk, lacking a gun to protect yourself when you need it or getting shot by some accident or mistake that resulted from your owning a gun?

  47. In reply to #44 by phil rimmer:

    I think it only has to be in the bedside cabinet draw of an easily angered individual to act as a sufficient disincentive.

    He can’t reach his bedside drawer from a prison cell, so I still don’t see how guns suppress reporting domestic violence. At least, not any more so than other forms of violent intimidation would.

    Religion co-opts all your neighbours into this suppressive act. Nailed it there.

    Religion is not only responsible for suppressive acts, it is suppressive in and of itself. Many victims really believe that Allah will torture them for all eternity if they do not honour and obey their husbands. Also, consider that armed neighbors will probably be more willing to intervene on a victim’s behalf than unarmed ones.

    In reply to #45 by phil rimmer:

    When someone owns a killing device and trains to use it well and instinctively, you know they have imagined killing people, intruders, muggers, as part of their preparation to cope with the circumstance. Owners of kitchen knives are not obliged to have such extreme and desensitising thoughts. “Prepared to kill” is a special mindset that an oppressed spouse may well detect in her oppressor. Rage disables logic in all of us, even the most rational, and in my experience arises most often in concerns of infidelity “Prepared to kill” and rage make an impressive argument for compliance, I would imagine.

    I suspect that most of us have imagined killing someone.

  48. In reply to #49 by Red Dog:

    The one question I have for Harris and those that agree with him is this: I assume that since you are at this site you believe that reason, critical thinking, atheism, etc. will lead to a better world, as do I. Is this really the world you envision? A world where everyone walks around carrying a gun? Is that really your idea of progress? Because if it is then I have a lot more in common with my Christian peace loving friends then with you.

    While I largely agree with Sam Harris on this issue, I’m afraid I can’t answer your question since once of your premises is entirely faulty: Sam Harris does not “envision” such a world, nor does he propose or endorse measures that could conceivably lead us to such a place.
    In fact, as he has repeatedly made clear, he instead proposes radical gun control measures that would drastically reduce the level of gun ownership in the United States.

    It would please me greatly to see you, along with many other of Harris’s critics, employ a bit more “reason” and “critical thinking” in response to his arguments. Rather than relying on what seems “intuitively obvious”, demonstrating that you’ve actually read, with any care at all, what Sam Harris has actually written would be a good start.

  49. Nice response to Sam in this fascinating exchange – I hope it continues.

    I must say though to Mr. Faircloth – are you aware that far more men (black and poor men in particular) die from firearms every year than women? Your implication that gun violence is always something done BY men TO women is not accurate.

    We have a gun violence problem in America, full stop. Let’s not try to frame this issue within the narrow, simplistic walls of sex politics and gender wars.

    The other point I would like to make, and one that I specifically emailed Mr. Harris about, was the complete lack of discussion about the businesses that produce these killing machines. An avalanche of legally-produced firearms floods into the US economy every year, and this has increased in the past decade despite (or because of?) economic woes. Gun manufacturers enjoy nice, fat margins, in no small part because they seem to have zero liability for the effects of their killing machines. How much damage and misery is caused by “unintended” handgun gun violence each year, as opposed to benefits we get from the “legitimate” use of handguns that Sam defends? Can the makers of guns just slink away from all of this carnage and monetary damage to society?

    Jacob Weisberg at Slate magazine has opined that guns should be treated as a public health issue, and I tend to agree. Let the full yoke of burdensome and costly health regulations and liability be placed on gun manufacturers – let’s at least do something to hold the makers of the killing machines accountable for the killing.

  50. Question to anyone with expertise in US law – have there been any class action lawsuits against gun manufacturers by gun violence victims and their families? A person with mesothelioma can legitimately sue an asbestos manufacturer, even for exposure that was decades before – why can’t the parents of an 8 year old murdered by a gun two weeks ago sue Bushmaster?

  51. In reply to #32 by Peter Grant:

    Conversation seems to have ebbed so I hope the moderators will indulge me in a thought experiment:

    Say we developed phasers like in Star Trek, that were cheap to produce and very easy to use: Simply point and click and the target is disintegrated instantly. Assume they were so effective that non-lethal violence could no longer occur and that in every violent altercation one or possibly both players would be eliminated. Wouldn’t over-all violence drop by at least a couple of orders of magnitude?

    Are you suggesting that ALL non-lethal violence is gun related or do you mean ‘All gun related non-lethal violence’?

    Still, Either way, I fail to see why any decrease would happen, it is not as if those committing the offence think, ‘bugger this, I might get shot too’. Rage is a funny thing, it empowers oneself with a feeling of invincibility. You can almost guarantee that ones personal safety was NOT a major factor in most if not all mass killings, let alone in domestic or street violence.

  52. In reply to #53 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #44 by phil rimmer:

    I think it only has to be in the bedside cabinet draw of an easily angered individual to act as a sufficient disincentive.

    He can’t reach his bedside drawer from a prison cell, so I still don’t see how guns suppress reporting domestic violence. At least, not any more so than other forms of violent intimidation would.

    He isn’t in a prison cell if she is sufficiently intimidated.
    Without killing weapons in his possession she does not know that he is psychologically “prepared to kill”.

    Religion co-opts all your neighbours into this suppressive act. Nailed it there.

    Religion is not only responsible for suppressive acts, it is suppressive in and of itself. Many victims really believe that Allah will torture them for all eternity if they do not honour and obey their husbands. Also, consider that armed neighbors will probably be more willing to intervene on a victim’s behalf than unarmed ones.

    But we are examining the quadrant where the bulk of DV occurs, conservative husbands and liberal wives. There is no DV issue with same world view couples.

    I suspect that most of us have imagined killing someone.

    I’m sure we have, I certainly have in moments of rage, but that was not my point at all. My point is in my second sentence in this post.

  53. In reply to #52 by CliveHill:

    Is there data to show which is the greater real risk, lacking a gun to protect yourself when you need it or getting shot by some accident or mistake that resulted from your owning a gun?

    http://www.guncite.com/cummingsjama.html

    “CONCLUSIONS

    Clinicians and researchers never have all the evidence that they desire. In addition to having more studies similar to those that have been done, it would be desirable to have evaluations of other outcomes, such as unintentional gunshot injuries, both fatal and nonfatal, and other nonfatal outcomes, such as rape or assault. More accurate information is needed regarding the effect of firearm storage practices on the balance of risks. Clinicians and researchers also might wish to know if there are settings or subgroups for which benefits do outweigh the risks.

    What advice, if any, can clinicians offer to their patients who are considering the purchase of a gun? Based on criteria for judging whether an association is causal,[17] the evidence from comparative observational studies appears consistent with the inference that owning a gun increases the risk of suicide. Most studies show a moderately strong association, the biological mechanism is plausible, the exposure precedes the outcome, the association has been replicated in several populations, and there is evidence of a dose response (greater risk with more or more available guns). Evidence that a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide comes from only 2 studies and seems weaker; however, these studies offer no support for the view that gun ownership confers a net benefit in terms of protection against homicide.

    Based on the evidence currently available, it appears that gun ownership is associated with a net increase in the risk of death for a typical individual. Clinicians might advise their patients accordingly. “

    What would be a further interesting question is to expand the personal risk question to include risks to all family members.

  54. In reply to #52 by CliveHill:

    I should also note that in a few instances the risks would be otherwise. For stable folk living in uncertain and notably threatening conditions, like Sam Harris or (Peter Grant in SA with his bedside machete) armed may be the safer option.

  55. In reply to #58 by phil rimmer:

    Without killing weapons in his possession she does not know that he is psychologically “prepared to kill”.

    Fists can kill too, and they are pretty convincing.

    But we are examining the quadrant where the bulk of DV occurs, conservative husbands and liberal wives.
    There is no DV issue with same world view couples.

    No reported DV issue with same world view couples you mean.

    I’m sure we have, I certainly have in moments of rage, but that was not my point at all. My point is in my second sentence in this post.

    This one?

    “Owners of kitchen knives are not obliged to have such extreme and desensitising thoughts. “

    Have you ever watched an angry woman chop vegetables?

    In reply to #57 by veggiemanuk:

    Are you suggesting that ALL non-lethal violence is gun related or do you mean ‘All gun related non-lethal violence’?

    Neither. All violence is potentially lethal, guns are just much better at it.

  56. In reply to #61 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #58 by phil rimmer:

    Without killing weapons in his possession she does not know that he is psychologically “prepared to kill”.

    Fists can kill too, and they are pretty convincing.

    Only the fist owner knows that.

    Hands and kitchen knives have a myriad other more important applications. Owning a gun you have to mentally prepare yourself to use it to kill another human being and everyone knows it. Show it and you have to commit to using it. Guns say you are cool and deadly or scared shitless and even more deadly. Owning a gun and not being prepared to use it to kill is a recipe for disaster. A husband with a gun is prepared to kill. A wife knowing he has a gun knows he is prepared to kill. A chef may indeed kill but you don’t know that.

    But we are examining the quadrant where the bulk of DV occurs, conservative husbands and liberal wives.
    There is no DV issue with same world view couples.

    No reported DV issue with same world view couples you mean.

    No reported DV issue with the same reported world view couples, I think you meant to say. There is religion’s suppression.

    I’m sure we have, I certainly have in moments of rage, but that was not my point at all. My point is in my second sentence in this post.

    This one?

    “Owners of kitchen knives are not obliged to have such extreme and desensitising thoughts. “

    Have you ever watched an angry woman chop vegetables?

    Lol. Its the angry chopping of the carrots that makes my blood run cold 🙂

    But no. Being “prepared to kill” not prepared to chop veggies.

  57. In reply to #62 by phil rimmer:

    Only the fist owner knows that.

    I think that their victims would beg to differ.

    Hands and kitchen knives have a myriad other more important applications. Owning a gun you have to mentally prepare yourself to use it to kill another human being and everyone knows it. Show it and you have to commit to using it. Guns say you are cool and deadly or scared shitless and even more deadly. Owning a gun and not being prepared to use it to kill is a recipe for disaster. A husband with a gun is prepared to kill. A wife knowing he has a gun knows he is prepared to kill. A chef may indeed kill but you don’t know that.

    I though we were talking about people actually threatening each other with weapons? An angry chef could be just as intimidating to someone weaker and unarmed.

    No reported DV issue with the same reported world view couples, I think you meant to say. There is religion’s suppression.

    No, the truly suppressed are the ones who believe they should be.

    Lol. Its the angry chopping of the carrots that makes my blood run cold 🙂

    But no. Being “prepared to kill” not prepared to chop veggies.

    My point was that we all have violent thoughts.

  58. You know, enough with the “I so deeply, lovingly, and ceaselessly admire the incredible, amazing, and superman Sam Harris ….” nonsense. How much rear-end licking to you have to do to write a piece disagreeing, and disagreeing vehemently with Harris? Just state your points and leave it be. Why all the grovelling? At most, say you admire Harris once and be done with it. This excessive love fest (here and in the previous piece) smacks of phony platitudes meant to soften the blow of disagreeing — perhaps in hopes of placating Harris and getting a response. Let the arguments stand without the kissy kissy nonsense. Harris doesn’t deserve reverence, not on this nor many other issues. He’s said deplorable things many times and deserves as much as he gives. It’s time to stop treating a pseudo-intellectual as some sort of brilliant thinker the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Treat Sam Harris for what he is: A manipulator of facts and audience.

  59. In reply to #1 by debaser71:

    I agree with Sam Harris on this issue. I am also finding the slamming of men by Sean to be very off putting.

    The “slamming of men”? Oh, poor you.

  60. In reply to #64 by exkiodexian:

    Just state your points and leave it be.

    Does this also go for criticism of Harris? You seem to have gone a bit off the deep end with your vitriol and are exhibiting an irrational hatred of the man.

    He’s said deplorable things many times…

    Such as?

    Russell Blackford’s recent piece was made for people like you.

  61. “In 2005, 5,285 U.S. children were killed by gunshot compared with 57 in Germany and none in Japan—a country with some of the toughest gun controls in the world. In America […] Homes with guns are 12 times more likely to have household members or guests killed or injured by the weapon than by an intruder.”
    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-01-13/guns-dont-kill-people-gun-culture-does

    The last figure is the main problem with Harris’s guns-for-self-protection rational, in my opinion.

  62. In reply to #63 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #62 by phil rimmer:

    Only the fist owner knows that.

    I think that their victims would beg to differ.

    Their victims don’t know their abusers are prepared to kill. “Prepared to kill” and prone to rages is the silent, bruise-free intimidation that I am implying may pervade many American households.

    I though we were talking about people actually threatening each other with weapons? An angry chef could be just as intimidating to someone weaker and unarmed.

    No! Intimidation doesn’t need overt threat. That is my point.

    No reported DV issue with the same reported world view couples, I think you meant to say. There is religion’s suppression.

    No, the truly suppressed are the ones who believe they should be.

    True believers get the placebo benefits and feel quite the reverse of suppressed. We are talking of real oppression here. Wishing to do one thing but intimidated not to.

    Lol. Its the angry chopping of the carrots that makes my blood run cold 🙂

    But no. Being “prepared to kill” not prepared to chop veggies.

    My point was that we all have violent thoughts.

    My point is that is known of most by all, pretty much, but only a limited number are known to have mentally prepared not only to harm but to kill.

    My last on this. So no more restatements.

    I, clicking, liked you. I still do but I clicked it instead of reply. 🙂

  63. In reply to #68 by phil rimmer:

    I am still considering the rest of you post, but would first like to respond to the following:

    True believers get the placebo benefits and feel quite the reverse of suppressed. We are talking of real oppression here. Wishing to do one thing but intimidated not to.

    Do you not think that beliefs or ideologies can be oppressive in and of themselves? Surely the most oppressed individuals are those who have been convinced that they actually love their oppressors.

  64. In reply to #69 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #68 by phil rimmer:

    I am still considering the rest of you post, but would first like to respond to the following:

    True believers get the placebo benefits and feel quite the reverse of suppressed. We are talking of real oppression here. Wishing to do one thing but intimidated not to.

    Do you not think that beliefs or ideologies can be oppressive in and of themselves? Surely the most oppressed individuals are those who have been convinced that they actually love their oppressors.

    I have no taste for the argument that “you are not expressing the real you because of a thinking habit you have picked up”. Whilst religion is a mind virus so too is a predisposition to the scientific method. The latter is the one that might save us from the next mega natural disaster and so the one I am happy to be infected with and to diligently spread to others. I have no illusion that we are inherently rational as we are simply coincidence detecting, inference generating machines with a taste for Bayesian statistics and not a hint of Boolean algebra in sight. Language, logic and reason are cultural attributes. There are good cultures and bad, those that may endure catastrophe and those that urge it on.

    I shan’t respond to the “prepared to kill” dialogue as I think there is no interest here. Please feel free to put a closing case though.

  65. What if we focus on preventing the end result of mass killings instead? Isn’t that the real goal?

    1. Do we agree that most, if not all of these mass murderers have serious mental issues?
    2. Do we agree that violence in movies, video games etc. is at an all-time high?
    3. Do we agree that illegal drugs play a huge role?
    4. Do we agree that poverty plays a role?
    5. Do we agree that domestic violence is a huge problem?
    6. Do we agree that statically most gun crimes occur in large citys?
    7. Do we agree that there is no difference in the functionality of an AR-15 and a semi-auto matic hunting rifle?
    8. Do we agree that a hunting rifle and an assault weapon can both use very large magazines?

    The solutions are simple.
    1. Prevent unstable people from getting their hands on guns.
    2. Make domestic violence penalties much, much, much harsher.
    3. Make illegal drug use penalties much harsher.
    4. Make obtaining vilolent games & movies harder for adolecsents to use. In fact, make assistance by an adult a punishable crime.
    5. Make life in prisons much less desirable, no cable TV, etc.

    The point here is simple: CORRECT THE THINGS THAT WILL HAVE A REAL IMPACT. Do not punish innocent gun owners for the crimes of a handful of unstable people.

  66. In reply to #7 by carlos sutter:

    I agree with Sean much more than Sam on this issue, even as I usually agree with most of Sam’s views on anything. However, on this particular issue I feel the problem per se is attitude toward violence thus while all Sean’s ideas and solutions should and can help the best solution is to try to change our consciousness toward respect and away from fear and defense. Just like we changed or raised our consciousness using seat belts, drink and driving, smoking, gay marriage/equality we can too change our views toward respect toward human beings, women, children in particular

    Well said and I also agree with Sam on most issues – he’s one of the best out there for opening up the conversation. However, fear and paranoia are hugely exploitable and this battle is not going to be won by anything other than enough people saying the situation is unacceptable and doing something about it. At the risk of being too simple, if everyone was going to be as logical and as mentally well-balanced as Sam Harris, then neither Sam Harris or anyone else would need guns. We’re not there yet and more guns in more hands is running screaming in the wrong direction. On Piers Morgans talkshow I witnessed a gun nut giving the host grief, normally something I wouldn’t object to Piers Morgan suffering, but the rebuttal by a Harvard Professor of Law (?) contained a very assertive call to the public to stop letting the nutjobs like the NRA set the agenda. If you can find it, I thought he made the point as well as anyone I have heard.

  67. In reply to #70 by phil rimmer:

    I have no taste for the argument that “you are not expressing the real you because of a thinking habit you have picked up”.

    Neither do I, what is the real you or me anyway? There are other potential versions of you and me though, some better and some worse.

    Whilst religion is a mind virus so too is a predisposition to the scientific method.

    True.

    The latter is the one that might save us from the next mega natural disaster and so the one I am happy to be infected with and to diligently spread to others.

    Science is useful and true and interesting, that’s why I think we should spread it around.

    I have no illusion that we are inherently rational as we are simply coincidence detecting, inference generating machines with a taste for Bayesian statistics and not a hint of Boolean algebra in sight.

    I don’t think we have any inherent properties.

    Language, logic and reason are cultural attributes.

    This is where I think I disagree most, the forms these take are determined as much by our genes as by our environment.

    There are good cultures and bad, those that may endure catastrophe and those that urge it on.

    But that’s not what makes them good.

    I shan’t respond to the “prepared to kill” dialogue as I think there is no interest here. Please feel free to put a closing case though.

    Let me think about it some more first.

  68. “In the practical realities of this world, in order to counteract the flood of even more guns in the random hands of jealous boyfriends and drunk bar-fighters, the government will, under the Sam Harris proposal, have no choice but to step in and mandate gun ownership by the selected group, and then force training upon them.

    How, as Sam Harris suggests, do women in the US suddenly become seriously trained gun experts who carry loaded guns when on the street — and, like Sam Harris, keep costly guns at the ready in multiple rooms to guard against all points of entry? Who would pay for this unprecedented federal gun distribution program?”

    This is the most ridiculous statement in Faircloth’s rebuttal of Harris’s rebuttal I’ve read thus far. Where does Harris suggest it is upon the mantle of the government to ensure that every home is protected and provided with a tax-subsidized weapons and ridiculously-overpriced (4 figures PER PERSON???) training to use them. Such is the thinking that follows from the idea that everything must come from the government.

    Were this logic (and/or ideology – call it what you will) equally applied then Sean would expect (or demand) that if locks on windows and doors and burglar alarms reduced home break-ins and smoke, fire and carbon monoxide alarms reduced death from home fires and CO leaks, then would he not also be calling for Uncle Sam to levy more taxes to pay for every home in America to be protected with such devices? But he doesn’t (or does he?) and I’d like to know why. If his argument is that a home break in is not the same as being murdered by a gun, he should certainly recognize that in most cases, when perpetrated from an outside criminal, most of these murders is PRECEDED by a successful break in (or unsuccessful defense of one’s castle). In which case, would it not make more sense for home security to be subsidized as a primary measure of protection before he “expects” it to fund “only” the second (and typically final) line of defense? (I say final rather than second because presumably the armed police force – completely tax subsidized – is ostensibly a secondary, though/despite being often delayed – line of defense. At least one preferable to Faircloth to a female (or male!) victim owning a gun for self-defense. Such would-be victims must be content – to maintain Faircloth’s draconian-enforced idealistic ethical high-ground – to be protected with the door and window locks and burglar alarms they must buy themselves, the too-late delayed arrival of tax-funded 911 and police services, armed only with the “frying pan” in Harris’ example (which must also be bought by the homeowner, and presumably kept by the bed with an assortment of other alternative potential kitchen defense items).

  69. In reply to #73 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #70 by phil rimmer:

    The latter is the one that might save us from the next mega natural disaster and so the one I am happy to be infected with and to diligently spread to others.

    Science is useful and true and interesting, that’s why I think we should spread it around.

    I have heard it said Christianity is useful, true and interesting. I wanted a big differentiator. The closed and open nature our our respective adventures seemed a useful point to take a stand on..
    I have no illusion that we are inherently rational as we are simply coincidence detecting, inference generating machines with a taste for Bayesian statistics and not a hint of Boolean algebra in sight.

    I don’t think we have any inherent properties.

    These were all attributes of any brain. Hebbian learning (cells that fire together wire together), heirarchical inference stacks, and reinforcement. No escape and only fuzzy logic. Only in reconciling with each other is language and logic necessitated. Only with discourse and disagreement can we see our fuzzy view is fuzzy.

    Language, logic and reason are cultural attributes.

    This is where I think I disagree most, the forms these take are determined as much by our genes as by our environment.

    Of course they are. But thats trivial. The interest comes in the varieties of phenotypical expression. We are uniquely neotenous with relatively unwired brains. More than any ape we learn and wire on the job. We have cultural evolution that can turn on a sixpence and get us through ice ages. We are astonishingly suggestible as children compared to other apes. Human cultures diverge with great ease and speed, because of this. Some fuck with kids’ brains and some feed ’em and stand back in amazement.

    There are good cultures and bad, those that may endure catastrophe and those that urge it on.

    But that’s not what makes them good.

    Un-fettered problem solving for its own sake. That’s my marker for societal health. Having come this far I’m entirely confident that mutuality is a given. Its the thinking tools engaged on every front that I want. I’ll also back the society that imagines itself in a million years time and beyond.

    This is way off track sadly, but the thread does seem dead, so maybe the mods can spare us a little.

  70. In reply to #71 by holysmokes:

    The US is already the most punitive developed nation on the planet A quarter of the world’s prisoners are American citizens.

    Why on earth do you think people in extremis will behave rationally?

  71. “Sam Harris states that it would be a very difficult political fight to remove handguns from American society. I agree completely! Indeed this will be a difficult fight, though one that has been successful – and very effective in saving lives – in many other nations. But if you want to talk about political impossibility, try the guns-for-all-women mandate (along with the training and gun purchase costs, to which this proposal inevitably commits America). It is a Gun “Welfare” program. It is never going to happen and it would (sorry) backfire if it did.”

    Wow, I just read this bit after responding to earlier similar comments Sean made. Is this the biggest strawman argument committed by a respected author against another, certainly among fellow atheists? Nowhere did I get the impression that Sam was suggesting that since guns can offer would-be victims a fighting chance in some situations meant that THEREFORE we should as a nation (amid our current economic woes) implement a “free-guns-and-training-for-all” fully subsidized government program. Wow. I hope Sam Harris does not leave that intellectual wart of a rebuttal, or such an erroneous misreading of his argument, stand, or be defended only by his readers, such as myself.

    “His primary opposition to handgun removal is that it is politically impossible in 2013.”

    I thought his point (or perhaps I have superimposed my own) was that it was PRACTICALLY impossible. And certainly it would not guarantee the prevention of another Sandy Hook incident, the sort of incident spawning this entire debate, the legislated results of which it would ostensibly endeavor to forever prevent. And so, what happens THE DAY AFTER an ideal gun ban is passed and we get another mass killing? Will we be hearing “my fellow Americans, though this news is regrettable, it is a statistical inevitability and we have done our best to prevent it by disarming all of you innocents, and you must be patient and give time for this most logical of legislations to take full effect”? No! – we will hear (on both sides): “See! It didn’t work! AND I can’t even protect myself now at all!” and “We must do MORE than we have just legislated, as it was CLEARLY insufficient.” A slippery slope, you say?

    • The Swedish rape statistic rebuttal, however, seems valid, and I’d like to see one more counter-rebuttal by Sam Harris on that point.

    “The Swimming Pool canard doesn’t work. Mr. Harris says in his response, as he did originally, that we must view gun deaths in context and compares gun deaths to drowning deaths, but does not note even the obvious positive benefits of pools — benefits that gun advocates cannot boast for guns.”

    I and others (including Harris) have already addressed this. It seems Faircloth is willing to forgive a known hazard (even one that eclipses many other hazards) so long as it has an accompanying “health” or “fun” component. I mean, one can argue that with more LIFE comes more DEATH, or that since EATING is essential for survival we overlook all the deaths that result from choking, food poisoning, allergies, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc. Consider that MOST food deaths result from the more “pleasurable” consumption of certain foodstuffs (fats, sugars, alcohol) than that which we eat purely for survival, it is hard to separate these differences and legislate for them – including the oft-portrayed “moral depravity” of the carnivore. To be sure, there exist those who want to tax such unhealthy “luxuries” (like alcohol), or require consumers pay higher health insurance for the benefits, or to ban the farming or hunting of animals “legislating” vegetarianism. These are world views shared by many with such futuristic optimism to match the civil rights movement of the past, or Sean’s vision of a completely gun-free America (100% now confiscated and owned in a vast arsenal by a forever-guaranteed-to-be-benevolent government, of course).

    “I was told less than ten years ago that a black president was a political impossibility in my lifetime. I was told this by an intelligent person who wanted race to be irrelevant. Many had heard similar statements from smart people.”

    This works both ways. With regard to fear of the police state, a or too-powerful or unjust government, I’m sure Sean will also agree that many in the early 20th century Europe thought a Hitler or Holocaust were an impossibility (“it can’t happen here”) or that English pilgrims seeking religious freedom on North American shores would soon annihilate a native people and enslave a foreign one. Indeed, ALL things are possible if given time and determination. And people being people, even the best statistics can be biased and misleading and best intentions can go wrong. And?…

    P.S. I enjoy reading Sean Faircloth as much as I sense he enjoys reading Sam Harris, so I would hope my rebuttals are viewed in a similar light, my credentials and reputation the only thing being comparatively unknown or relatively insignificant.

  72. In reply to #64 by exkiodexian:

    You know, enough with the “I so deeply, lovingly, and ceaselessly admire the incredible, amazing, and superman Sam Harris ….” nonsense. How much rear-end licking to you have to do to write a piece disagreeing, and disagreeing vehemently with Harris? Just state your points and leave it be. Why all the grovelling? At most, say you admire Harris once and be done with it. This excessive love fest (here and in the previous piece) smacks of phony platitudes meant to soften the blow of disagreeing — perhaps in hopes of placating Harris and getting a response. Let the arguments stand without the kissy kissy nonsense. Harris doesn’t deserve reverence, not on this nor many other issues. He’s said deplorable things many times and deserves as much as he gives. It’s time to stop treating a pseudo-intellectual as some sort of brilliant thinker the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Treat Sam Harris for what he is: A manipulator of facts and audience.

    Got your knickers in a knot? You don’t seem to know what an ad hominem is, nor that it does not constitute an argument. Look up some more logical fallacies while you’re at it.

  73. In reply to #47 by blue:

    It looks like this is no longer the Richard Dawkins website, but the Sean Faircloth website!
    The way I see it, Sam Harris makes a better argument.

    Ther way you see it is presumably the one-eyed American way?

  74. In reply to #68 by phil rimmer:

    I’ve reread all your posts, let me see if I understand you correctly:

    If conservative men are no longer able to threaten their wives with guns we can expect to see an increase in domestic violence, but we should actually welcome this as it will help to bring about social change.

    I can sort of see the argument, crime in general is usually an indication of inequality, but something still bugs me about it.

  75. Mods’ message

    Thank you for a generally cool, calm, rational discussion on this controversial subject. One or two of the more recent comments, though, have started to become a bit overheated and personal, and we would just ask those users not to escalate things further.

    Thanks.

    The mods

  76. Sean wrote “…firearm assaults on female family members, and intimate acquaintances are approximately twelve times_more likely to result in death than are assaults using other weapons. Two-thirds of women killed by spouses are killed by guns.”

    This is nonsensical. They aren’t killed BY guns, they’re killed WITH guns; guns that are owned (or at least possessed) by their spouses or “intimate acquaintances”.

    And what is your solution to this? To make sure that the women don’t have access to guns of their own? The fact is that men already own guns. The fact is that some men will use guns against their wives/girlfriends/partners. How are you proposing we should address this? Disarming the men? Good luck. The ONLY sensible way to redress that imbalance is to make sure that the more vulnerable part of the equation has the means of defense suitable to the task.

    Sean claimed “Middle and low-income women can’t afford the guns and training that Sam Harris has.”

    I’m sorry, but that’s just rubbish. A woman can easily buy a small .38 caliber revolver such as the Armscor M206, readily available for $200. Many gun ranges offer women-only training seminars for under $100. Very few woman can’t find $350 for a gun, ammo, lock-box and training, especially if their life might depend upon it.

  77. In reply to #4 by Cartomancer:

    Legal changes and campaigns to reduce the presence of ballistic weaponry in the US are the only sensible way forward. The US has a toxic culture of hoplophilia entirely out of keeping with modern civilized norms, and it suffers disproportionately from that.”

    Sorry, but that’s rubbish. The US is as “civilized” as any nation on earth and more so than most. Let me guess: you also would consider Rome and Greece to have been “uncivilized” since men commonly owned swords — the “assault weapon” of the day.

    Quite why anyone would want a terrifying lethal weapon in their possession in the first place baffles me of course – as it baffles the vast majority of people in countries with sane cultures.”

    Let me un-baffle you: the reason why many Americans want a lethal weapon (and there’s nothing “terrifying” about it) is because of a very simple fact — millions of bad guys already illegally have them. Now please explain exactly how you plan to disarm those bad guys. Given how well (or rather NOT well) laws against say, hard drugs and prostitution have done in keeping bad guys from drugs and prostitution, I’d say that your chances of success with guns is approximately zilch. So all you will accomplish is to remove the only means that the good guys have of defending themselves from the bad guys. Brilliant.

  78. comment 76 buy phil rimmer: The US is already the most punitive developed nation on the planet A quarter of the world’s prisoners are American citizens.
    Why on earth do you think people in extremis will behave rationally?

    My point is that the Judicial branch of the government, and the medical establishment should be taking better care of unstable people. Obviously that will not stop every single incident, however it would have certainly prevented several of these killings. I see no problem with keeping mentally deranged people institutionalized against their will if necessary.

    The number of people incarcerated is irrelevant, however if prisons were more like a place people do not want to be instead of luxury hotel, many of the people currently doing time would think twice before committing crimes. I spent several years aboard ship in the Navy. We used to envy the conditions in prison compared with the way we lived.

    More gun control is simply treating the symptoms, rather than attacking the issue head on. The laws already on the books are rarely enforced. Why should we think that additional laws will do any better?

  79. In reply to #84 by holysmokes:

    comment 76 buy phil rimmer: The US is already the most punitive developed nation on the planet A quarter of the world’s prisoners are American citizens.
    Why on earth do you think people in extremis will behave rationally?

    My point is that the Judicial branch of the government, and the medical establishment should be taking better care of unstable people. Obviously that will not stop every single incident, however it would have certainly prevented several of these killings. I see no problem with keeping mentally deranged people institutionalized against their will if necessary.

    This is easy in hindsight. How do you predict in advance which people are “mentally deranged” enough to need to be locked up in perpetuity? How would you feel if you or one of your family were so judged?

    The number of people incarcerated is irrelevant, however if prisons were more like a place people do not want to be instead of luxury hotel, many of the people currently doing time would think twice before committing crimes. I spent several years aboard ship in the Navy. We used to envy the conditions in prison compared with the way we lived.

    What are conditions like in US prisons and how do you know this? Do you really think they are like luxury hotels?

    You spent several years in the navy. That was your choice.

    More gun control is simply treating the symptoms, rather than attacking the issue head on. The laws already on the books are rarely enforced. Why should we think that additional laws will do any better?

    What is the real issue – “mentally deranged” people?
    Which laws are not being enforced?

  80. In reply to #83 by Robert Haines:

    Sorry, but that’s rubbish. The US is as “civilized” as any nation on earth and more so than most. Let me guess: you also would consider Rome and Greece to have been “uncivilized” since men commonly owned swords — the “assault weapon” of the day.

    It’s all relative. Ancient Rome and Greece were indeed uncivilised by modern standards, albeit that they were less barbaric than many other nations.

    There are many measures of civilisation eg artistic development, ethical development, technical development. Clearly it is possible to be more civilised by some measures than others. The USA is very civilised by some measures, but is (I would argue) relatively uncivilised in some ways eg capital punishment, size of prison population, homicide rates, inequality, poverty, and indeed prevelance of guns.

    Let me un-baffle you: the reason why many Americans want a lethal weapon (and there’s nothing “terrifying” about it) is because of a very simple fact — millions of bad guys already illegally have them. Now please explain exactly how you plan to disarm those bad guys. Given how well (or rather NOT well) laws against say, hard drugs and prostitution have done in keeping bad guys from drugs and prostitution, I’d say that your chances of success with guns is approximately zilch. So all you will accomplish is to remove the only means that the good guys have of defending themselves from the bad guys. Brilliant.

    Who are the “good guys” and who are the “bad guys”? It’s easy to pick them apart after the event.

    But before the fatal shooting, many of the soon-to-be killers are law-abiding people who believe they are the “good guys”. They just got drunk, stressed, provoked, clumsy, afraid, etc..

  81. In reply to #32 by Peter Grant:

    Conversation seems to have ebbed so I hope the moderators will indulge me in a thought experiment:

    Say we developed phasers like in Star Trek, that were cheap to produce and very easy to use: Simply point and click and the target is disintegrated instantly. Assume they were so effective that non-lethal violence could no longer occur and that in every violent altercation one or possibly both players would be eliminated. Wouldn’t over-all violence drop by at least a couple of orders of magnitude?

    For you to say that non-lethal violence could no longer occur, do you mean that everyone (every adult?) is issued with a phaser? Otherwise I’m not sure the situation would be dramatically different from the current one.

    Assuming you mean that every adult has a phaser, I think most people would be living under constant stress from the possibility of instant disintegration (intentionally or unintentionally) by someone’s phaser (or indeed their own). If they are easy to use, then they are easy to misuse.

    The overall level of violence might fall due to the deterrence, and simply from the permanent removal (by disintegration) of more violent people. At best I suspect this would be an unacceptable trading of non-lethal violence for lethal disintegration, even if the overall level of violence fell. However this is difficult to predict – we only have statistics of (bullet-firing) gun ownership/control in different nations to draw on.
    However there are reasons to think that the overall level of violence might go up, eg the greater lethality & prevalence of phasers might lead to a “shoot first, ask questions later” when in any doubtful situation; the police would be unable to maintain control without either even more powerful phasers OR more aggressive use (either way, more death); the clean nature of the disintegration might make the act of killing even less “bloody/yucky”, and hence more likely to be performed; the long-term stress from the deadly environment (especially whilst growing up) might cause increased levels of mental disorders, leading to even more phaser use.

    Obviously, there are other issues relating to phasers which you probably would want to exclude from this thought experiment eg the total disintegration of the target would make the phaser a great weapon for the perfect crime – there’s no body or bullet – and so very little evidence of the crime. There’d be a lot of disappearances, but not so many proved murders (but hey, that would bring the homicide rate down, so why not? ;). This would only lead to greater use of the phaser, I fear.

  82. In reply to #84 by holysmokes:

    comment 76 buy phil rimmer: The US is already the most punitive developed nation on the planet A quarter of the world’s prisoners are American citizens.
    Why on earth do you think people in extremis will behave rationally?

    My point is that the Judicial branch of the government, and the medical establishment should be taking better care of unstable people. Obviously that will not stop every single incident, however it would have certainly prevented several of these killings. I see no problem with keeping mentally deranged people institutionalized against their will if necessary.

    The number of people incarcerated is irrelevant, however if prisons were more like a place people do not want to be instead of luxury hotel, many of the people currently doing time would think twice before committing crimes. I spent several years aboard ship in the Navy. We used to envy the conditions in prison compared with the way we lived.

    More gun control is simply treating the symptoms, rather than attacking the issue head on. The laws already on the books are rarely enforced. Why should we think that additional laws will do any better?

    Because they can tackle other parts of the problem.

    Fits of jealous rage (utterly normal) coupled with non-clinical low empathy (men are lower empathy than women) plus an instantaneous means of death where you don’t have to feel the blade clunk on the bone will get you over that rational disincentive to murder….easy as pie.

    The real motor to our actions are emotions not reason. Reason guides our actions when we give a damn about them. Some emotions still trump others, even though we train ourselves and others to try and get only reason to prevail.

    We know we can’t help ourselves because of this and make provision to make some things harder. On a diet we put the cookie jar on the topmost shelf out of the way. Getting out the steps to reach them gives us a little pause. Sometimes not enough. Getting them out of the house is better.

    If we reverse Peter Grant’s thought experiment and made guns disable people instantly but explode their guts out of their stomach and die slowly in screaming bloody agony, that might help give those with jealous rage and handguns pause.

    Negative reinforcement as Skinner noted is not as good as positive and saturates fairly early. The little boy in the UK who was beaten to death by his mother for failing to learn the Koran well enough had any amount of negative reinforcement. I’m sure he tried harder at first. Sadly not hard enough.

  83. In reply to #87 by Son of Mathonwy:

    For you to say that non-lethal violence could no longer occur, do you mean that everyone (every adult?) is issued with a phaser? Otherwise I’m not sure the situation would be dramatically different from the current one.

    In my thought experiment phasers are very cheap and easily obtained.

    Assuming you mean that every adult has a phaser, I think most people would be living under constant stress from the possibility of instant disintegration (intentionally or unintentionally) by someone’s phaser (or indeed their own). If they are easy to use, then they are easy to misuse.

    True, but this is simply a thought experiment which I use to demonstrate how increasing the lethality of violence should decrease the success of violence as a strategy. It is nothing like a description of the ideal society.

    The overall level of violence might fall due to the deterrence, and simply from the permanent removal (by disintegration) of more violent people.

    If it doesn’t we will all go extinct pretty quickly.

  84. Much as I like a lot of Sam Harris’s work (and admire him for discussing issues in a way that is often open to misunderstanding), it seems as if in his two pieces on gun ownership are attempts to justify his desire to own guns, rather than a logical argument for American society in general. He even distinguishes himself from the general public in several instances (others might use a gun for domestic abuse or suicide – but I know I wouldn’t), which even if it is true is not helpful to the debate, in my opinion (even if, as has been mentioned Sam has more reason to be worried about violent attacks than most).

    The other issue I have with the argument is that Sam makes the logical leap that owning a gun equals safety. I’m pretty sure the issue is more complex than this (which seems to be supported by some evidence posted by others). The scenario is that you hear someone breaking into your house at night, so you grab the loaded gun from your bedside table and…what? Dash downstairs and open fire? The intruders may have been burglers, and you’ve shot them dead (surely murder?). Or do you hide and wait to see if they look ‘murderous’? What if they have guns too? This now becomes some sort of Die Hard-style shoot out in your house.

    I fail to see how any of this could be argued to make you or your family ‘safer’.

    An analogy from the UK is growing knife crime amongst teenagers, when most say they carry a knife for ‘protection’, when in reality the knife is very likely to end up sticking in the person carrying it.

  85. In reply to #80 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #68 by phil rimmer:

    I’ve reread all your posts, let me see if I understand you correctly:

    If conservative men are no longer able to threaten their wives with guns we can expect to see an increase in domestic violence, but we should actually welcome this as it will help to bring about social change.

    I can sort of see the argument, crime in general is usually an indication of inequality, but something still bugs me about it.

    Yes I would imagine an increase in DV BUT also an increase in therapeutic divorce. The latter I would suggest wholly positive in the circumstances.

  86. I’m no expert, but to me, it just seems like the US Government are trying to funnel citizens with an urge to use weapons, into the army or police, I’m sensing a new war being started by the US soon, more than likely, with Syria. But the main goal, for the US, would be Iran. We’ll see.

  87. In reply to #90 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #87 by Son of Mathonwy:

    In my thought experiment phasers are very cheap and easily obtained.

    In that case the outcome would depend on cultural factors. In the gun (& Star Trek) -loving USA, no doubt the phaser would be carried by a significant number of people. In the UK it might not be, especially if there was a social stigma attached to it – although if it was marketed like the latest mobile phone (or indeed was added to the latest mobile phone), it would spread like wildfire.

    True, but this is simply a thought experiment which I use to demonstrate how increasing the lethality of violence should decrease the success of violence as a strategy. It is nothing like a description of the ideal society.

    Absolutely – I was just setting the scene.

    The overall level of violence might fall due to the deterrence, and simply from the permanent removal (by disintegration) of more violent people.

    If it doesn’t we will all go extinct pretty quickly.

    1) It’s entirely possible for civilisation or race to engineer its own extinction.

    2) But anyway, I’m not sure that we would go extinct quickly, if at all.

    For the developed world, the population change rate is around +0.5% (eg – very roughly for USA/UK/France birth rate 13 per 1000, death rate 8 per 1000, per year).
    Taking the figures from Harris’s blog (I should check this really), let’s say that violence is approx 10 per 1000 population per year.
    So overall, if we replaced violence with instant death at the same rate, we’d get a population change rate of -0.5%.
    This would not necessarily be that noticable for a few decades, but would kill everyone (in the developed world) in a few thousand years.

    However for the world as a whole, the population change rate is more like +1.1%, so increased lethality might not actually tip it into the negative. More likely it would roughly halt population growth.

    So from 1) and 2) I don’t think we can reject the possiblity that the overall level of violence would stay the same or increase, simply on the grounds that “we’ll all go extinct” otherwise.


    To continue with the thought experiment… (Let’s assume that it is very difficult to disarm a person. Without this caveat there would be a lot of scope for non-lethal violence in the phaser scenario. Also let’s assume that the phasers do indeed become very popular, and that it is impossible to reverse the decision to make them freely available).

    It is impossible to know what the outcome of the phaser scenario is. I can see the outcome being anywhere on a scale between:

    A) Reduced overall violence levels due to fear, draconian measures by the police and the disintegration of the more violent elements in society.

    B) Increased overall levels of violence due to fear, paranoia, “shoot first, ask questions later” attitudes, more mental disorders, and the fact that killing is less “yucky” with a phaser. This would tend towards a lawless state.

    I don’t know where on this scale we would end up. I expect different societies would end up in different places. My feeling is that we may well have reduced levels of overall violence, but not enough to remotely outweigh the increased levels of fear, death and unhappiness.

  88. In reply to #88 by luka_qnice:

    See how honest (about gun control) gun control proponents are: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt1ZyASNyA&feature=playerembedded

    The video doesn’t exist, or you mistyped the link. No matter.

    This is quintessentially an ad hominem argument: “I found a dishonest gun control proponent, therefore all gun control proponents are dishonest, and gun control is therefore bad.” You do your cause no help with such tactics.

  89. In reply to #95 by Outwitted by fish:

    In reply to #88 by luka_qnice:

    See how honest (about gun control) gun control proponents are: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt1ZyASNyA&feature=playerembedded

    The video doesn’t exist, or you mistyped the link. No matter.

    This is quintessentially an ad hominem argument: “I found a dishonest gun control proponent, therefore all gun control proponents are dishonest, and gun control is therefore bad.” You do your cause no help with such tactics.

    Well, I’ll try again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt1Zy_ASNyA&feature=player__embedded

    The thing is, there are many (all in the video) dishonest gun control proponents. I wasn’t clear about it, but with that particular post I wasn’t making the point that gun control is bad (I did in different posts around RDFRS). I was just trying to point to the questions raised in the video.

  90. In reply to #97 by luka_qnice:

    Well, I’ll try again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt1Zy_ASNyA&feature=player__embedded

    The thing is, there are many (all in the video) dishonest gun control proponents. I wasn’t clear about it, but with that particular post I wasn’t making the point that gun control is bad (I did in different posts around RDFRS). I was just trying to point to the questions raised in the video.

    Okay, that time I saw it. What questions were you pointing to? All it seemed to me to be was a cheap attempt to call people hypocrites by (1) creating a phony organization and (2) harassing people at home to see if they’d put up a sign on their front lawn. Yes, the paper should not have published a list of licensed gun owners, as that was a violation of their right to privacy (assuming the paper actually did that), but no, not wanting a rather ugly sign on one’s front lawn doesn’t make someone a hypocrite.

    Anyway, I see no indication that the people confronted on the video were any of the folks participating in this discussion here, so the charge that this is an ad hominem argument stands. Address points made, please, and leave the “anti-gunners are horrible, dishonest people” nonsense out. Thanks.

  91. In reply to #94 by Son of Mathonwy:

    1) It’s entirely possible for civilisation or race to engineer its own extinction.

    Yes, that was one of the points I was making.

    2) But anyway, I’m not sure that we would go extinct quickly, if at all.

    Even though with technological advancement the lethality of violence has steadily increased throughout history, the level of violence has also dropped. That is why we have not gone extinct, yet.

  92. In reply to #98 by Outwitted by fish:

    In reply to #97 by luka_qnice:

    Well, I’ll try again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt1Zy_ASNyA&feature=player__embedded

    The thing is, there are many (all in the video) dishonest gun control proponents. I wasn’t clear about it, but with that particular post I wasn’t making the point that gun control is bad (I did in different posts around RDFRS). I was just trying to point to the questions raised in the video.

    Okay, that time I saw it. What questions were you pointing to? All it seemed to me to be was a cheap attempt to call people hypocrites by (1) creating a phony organization and (2) harassing people at home to see if they’d put up a sign on their front lawn. Yes, the paper should not have published a list of licensed gun owners, as that was a violation of their right to privacy (assuming the paper actually did that), but no, not wanting a rather ugly sign on one’s front lawn doesn’t make someone a hypocrite.

    Well, would you put a “nice sign” with the same text in front of your house! Schools and some other places have to! And gun control proponents with armed security guards and constant police protection are hypocrites (including Obama).

    Anyway, I see no indication that the people confronted on the video were any of the folks participating in this discussion here, so the charge that this is an ad hominem argument stands. Address points made, please, and leave the “anti-gunners are horrible, dishonest people” nonsense out. Thanks.

    Take it easy man, I never said that. I’m sorry if it’s not clear, but my “how honest” comment was about the people in the video.

  93. In reply to #99 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #94 by Son of Mathonwy:

    2) But anyway, I’m not sure that we would go extinct quickly, if at all.

    Even though with technological advancement the lethality of violence has steadily increased throughout history, the level of violence has also dropped. That is why we have not gone extinct, yet.

    True. Although that correlation doesn’t prove causation (although I doubt that you’re suggesting that).

    I would say there is causation on the large scale, in the case of nuclear weapons almost certainly inhibiting direct conflict between the major powers.

    Whether there is much causation on the level of the individual is not at all clear. I would think that the reduction in violence (say in the UK) over the last few centuries is much more due to improved living standards, education and I suppose a general increase in “enlightenment”, than it is to the increase in lethality of hand-held weapons.

  94. In reply to #100 by luka_qnice:

    Well, would you put a “nice sign” with the same text in front of your house! Schools and some other places have to! And gun control proponents with armed security guards and constant police protection are hypocrites (including Obama).

    Not that what I personally would do is relevant, but no, I’d not put a nice sign up either. My front lawn is not a billboard lot. I can hold and express opinions without having to post signs or wear particular tee shirts.

    No, I don’t agree that hiring professional security yet advocatting tighter licensing and controls on firearms purchase or carry is hypocrisy. Presumably, the hired professionals would be subject to the same licensing laws, or perhaps even stricter ones since they are doing so professionally. For example, I can do my own plumbing and wiring at home, provided I stick to code. I’d need to be licensed and bonded if someone were to pay me to do so for them.

    Oh, and as for President Obama – his armed security is required by federal law.

    Anyway, I see no indication that the people confronted on the video were any of the folks participating in this discussion here, so the charge that this is an ad hominem argument stands. Address points made, please, and leave the “anti-gunners are horrible, dishonest people” nonsense out. Thanks.

    Take it easy man, I never said that. I’m sorry if it’s not clear, but my “how honest” comment was about the people in the video.

    Well, then, I suppose it’d be hypocritical of me to post this Washington Post story about gross dishonesty put out by the NRA…

    …and thoroughly disingenuous of me to then claim that I was only calling attention to the folks blatantly lying in the article, and meant to cast no aspersions on gun proponents’ honesty in general.

  95. I’m Canadian and I think that the record should be set straight about that whole USA vs. Canada guns ratio… I think it originates from the Michael Moore film and as though I greatly enjoy Mr. Moore “documentaries”, I will never use it as reference (the guy’s a polemist, a great one!).
    Gun owners in Canada are mostly hunters since only rifles are legal to have (with a very thorough background check) . Handguns are restricted to cops or other law enforcement officers who have to use it with a very restrictive permit, within the parameter of their job. So yes, we have guns in Canada. Do we have as many guns as the USA per capita? I strongly doubt it. Are we allowed to carry the same type of guns as in the USA? No way, eh!
    Do we wackos in Canada? unfortunately

    In reply to #20 by AsylumWarden:

    My take (as a UK citizen):

    Sean’s arguments sway me more than Sam’s. There’s three things left out however:

    In the UK, it’s knife crime that hits the news more. Sean’s comments about handguns in domestic violence cases then get thrown into question. Every well stocked kitchen has a decent set of knives (my own included). My experience as a martial artist also leads me to one conclusion: If someone is that determined to kill you, they will! Regs aside, weapon enforcement aside, that is the truth. If they are that determined, they will figure out the most sure-fire way. Gun regulation here will neither help nor hinder the victim. That’s the first.

    As Sean rightly pointed out however, most violent crimes are not plotted, they are impulse reactions. The agressor will reach for the nearest weapon, be that a knife or a gun. However, it is easier to run from someone armed with a knife than a gun. Gun regulation here will DEFINITELY benefit the victim. Second.

    Finally: Watch ‘Bowling for Columbine’. Canada have just as many guns as the USA with a fraction of the deaths. Culture seems to be the difference. So the key thing has to be to tackle the culture and political mindset of which, gun ownership is included. Carrying on ‘as is’ as the NRA suggest can only exacerbate the situation.

  96. In reply to #101 by Son of Mathonwy:

    True. Although that correlation doesn’t prove causation (although I doubt that you’re suggesting that).

    No, it doesn’t, but it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively etc.

    http://xkcd.com/552/

    I would say there is causation on the large scale, in the case of nuclear weapons almost certainly inhibiting direct conflict between the major powers.

    Good example.

    Whether there is much causation on the level of the individual is not at all clear. I would think that the reduction in violence (say in the UK) over the last few centuries is much more due to improved living standards, education and I suppose a general increase in “enlightenment”, than it is to the increase in lethality of hand-held weapons.

    It could also be that more violent individuals have been removed by natural selection due to increased pressure from technological advancement.

  97. You speak of arming and training woman to own guns as being unconstitutional, yet you seem to not give a second thought that taking away handguns from American citizens would be blatantly unconstitutional.

  98. The second amendment was not crafted specifically and only for “hunting guns”. The founders knew that a citizens right to bear arms was essential to the preservation of liberty and protection against tyranny. I will be the first to admit that something must be done about our gun culture but the problem is much more complex than simply the ownership of guns. There are things that could be done immediately to address the issue without infringing upon a responsible, law abiding citizens right to own a firearm. Put the teeth back in the ATF and close the gun show loophole are two obvious ones. The idea of outlawing and confiscating the handguns of American citizens is simply absurd and places you on the unreasonable and fringe side of the debate. That idea is just as ridiculous as the gun nuts who think that there should be no restrictions or regulations on gun ownership. I have heard so much misinformation and ignorance from both sides of this issue. It is very rare to find an intelligent, informed, and reasonable person on this issue.

  99. I made an error in an earlier post when I said that PTSD correlated strongly with the reluctant killer. It is, if anything, rather broader than this. In WWII a study showed only 15% of soldiers carried out their orders when shooting to kill. The others deliberately didn’t. The modern training regimen has upped this to nearly 100%. Soldiers are no longer, consciously at least, reluctant to kill. Now PTSD is going through the roof with a full 20% of active soldiers succumbing to it. What is more those suffering are most usually those soldiers who have killed.

    It is important to understand that in a conscripted army there will be a good mix of the general population and the 15% obedient soldiers in WWII may correspond to the lower empathy end of that mix (the natural filters of being male and selection for front line duty will tend to concentrate these types). We can jump forward to our current voluntary army and imagine a higher quantity of such types to make up the population of soldiers because of their self selection through positive attraction to the work.

    Even given this it would appear that taking a life, even licensed by a good cause and duty and of course self defense, usually results in life crippling after effects. We are not innately wired for killing.

    A society in any way needing its citizens to be prepared to kill is a broken society.

  100. In reply to #106 by michael3ov:

    The second amendment was not crafted specifically and only for “hunting guns”. The founders knew that a citizens right to bear arms was essential to the preservation of liberty and protection against tyranny. I will be the first to admit that something must be done about our gun culture but the problem is much more complex than simply the ownership of guns. There are things that could be done immediately to address the issue without infringing upon a responsible, law abiding citizens right to own a firearm. Put the teeth back in the ATF and close the gun show loophole are two obvious ones. The idea of outlawing and confiscating the handguns of American citizens is simply absurd and places you on the unreasonable and fringe side of the debate. That idea is just as ridiculous as the gun nuts who think that there should be no restrictions or regulations on gun ownership. I have heard so much misinformation and ignorance from both sides of this issue. It is very rare to find an intelligent, informed, and reasonable person on this issue.

    Excellent. I agree on almost all of that. I do have a quibble, though with the assertion that the debate is about confiscation/banning of all handguns. Here’s the actual proposal. There’s nothing there about confiscating handguns.

    And, for entertainment value:

    Yesterday, January 19, 2013, was the first National Gun Appreciation Day. Five people were shot in accidental discharges at gun shows. The irony writes itself. To be fair, these incidents are all due to carelessness and irresponsibility. But isn’t that the point of requiring training and licensing to carry something with such destructive potential around in public?

  101. In reply to #50 by onona:

    The fact that a scarily significant percentage of American adults believe their own government was involved, to some degree, in the 9/11 attacks…

    Scarily significant for whom, may I ask? I’m not sure what’s scariest – the percentage that mistrust their own government or the percentage that believe what they are told on TV.

  102. In reply to #55 by blitz442:

    …guns should be treated as a public health issue…

    Now that’s an interesting way around the impasse between pro- and anti- NRA positions. Thinking along these lines:

    Bill all healthcare for gun victims directly to the firearms industry, and legislate so insurance companies can claim from them too, in cases where there are insurance claims related to use of guns, anything from a bullet hole in a roadsign to life insurance payouts. That might help induce some sense of responsibility, and bypass the need for extensive class actions. Once the firearms industry – manufacturers and licensed dealers – has to foot the bill for the “unintended” ill effects of the use of their products, they might be more willing to negotiate better controls, or at least less able to afford expensive lobbying.

  103. In reply to #71 by holysmokes:

    What if we focus on preventing the end result of mass killings instead? Isn’t that the real goal?

    Do we agree that most, if not all of these mass murderers have serious mental issues?

    YES

    Do we agree that violence in movies, video games etc. is at an all-time high?

    NO

    Do we agree that illegal drugs play a huge role?

    NO, well, maybe the illegality of drugs plays a role

    Do we agree that poverty plays a role?

    NO, not for mass killings. Maybe for gun violence among those who find crime a tempting way out of poverty, but the mass killers don’t seem to be poor at all.

    Do we agree that domestic violence is a huge problem?

    YES

    Do we agree that statically most gun crimes occur in large citys?

    STATISTICALLY, I suppose. YES

    Do we agree that there is no difference in the functionality of an AR-15 and a semi-automatic hunting rifle?

    DONT KNOW. Gun experts may care to explain the difference, if any. Both fire things at high speed, but how many, how fast, and how far, don’t know. How is this relevant?

    Do we agree that a hunting rifle and an assault weapon can both use very large magazines?

    DONT KNOW. Bolt-action rifles tend not to hold many rounds, I thought. But I leave that to the gun experts to explain. Anyway neither can hold large magazines if there aren’t any available. Who needs 100 rounds to bring down a deer anyway?

    The solutions are simple.
    1. Prevent unstable people from getting their hands on guns.

    YES, ABSOLUTELY, 100% AGREED.

    1. Make domestic violence penalties much, much, much harsher.

    YES. But more importantly, make the reporting and prosecution of such crimes much more of a priority

    1. Make illegal drug use penalties much harsher.

    NO. Just legalize the lot. Abandon the War On Drugs, get the illegal stuff off the streets by undercutting the market, get the gangsters out of the drug business. No more crack-heads in a rage holding up a gas station to get the money for their next fix.

    1. Make obtaining vilolent games & movies harder for adolecsents to use. In fact, make assistance by an adult a punishable crime.

    NO. Red herring BS. Lets stomp on the video game industry instead of the gun industry? Go check video game popularity in other countries, and try to correlate with shootings if you can FFS.

    1. Make life in prisons much less desirable, no cable TV, etc.

    NO. Make life in prisons much less frequent by releasing all the non-violent drug offenders and others who pose no actual threat to the safety of others. Monitored Home Detention can work for many non-violent convicts. Pay at least some attention to rehabilitating the violent ones who will be turned loose after they’ve done their time.

    The point here is simple: CORRECT THE THINGS THAT WILL HAVE A REAL IMPACT.

    AGREED

    Do not punish innocent gun owners for the crimes of a handful of unstable people.

    Oh, you poor innocent gun owners, my heart bleeds for you. Or it would, I expect, if you got me in your sights.

    But merging our diverging positions: how about the gun lobby going hard out to push for an end to the War On Drugs? Then you can get back to cleaning your weapons and enjoying your hunting or target shooting without fear that some junkie is gonna break into your home. You might even prefer to leave your guns under secure guard at the shooting range, instead of risking keeping them in your own home, where some deranged relative might get hold of them.

  104. In reply to #83 by Robert Haines:

    In reply to #4 by Cartomancer:

    Legal changes and campaigns to reduce the presence of ballistic weaponry in the US are the only sensible way forward. The US has a toxic culture of hoplophilia entirely out of keeping with modern civilized norms, and it suffers disproportionately from that.”

    Sorry, but that’s rubbish. The US is as “civilized” as any nation on earth and more so than most. Let me guess: you also would consider Rome and Greece to have been “uncivilized” since men commonly owned swords — the “assault weapon” of the day.

    Quite why anyone would want a terrifying lethal weapon in their possession in the first place baffles me of course – as it baffles the vast majority of people in countries with sane cultures.”

    Let me un-baffle you: the reason why many Americans want a lethal weapon (and there’s nothing “terrifying” about it) is because of a very simple fact — millions of bad guys already illegally have them. Now please explain exactly how you plan to disarm those bad guys. Given how well (or rather NOT well) laws against say, hard drugs and prostitution have done in keeping bad guys from drugs and prostitution, I’d say that your chances of success with guns is approximately zilch. So all you will accomplish is to remove the only means that the good guys have of defending themselves from the bad guys. Brilliant.

    Thanks for saying that. It seems that some are enticed by a “feel-good-morally-superior” zeitgeist, fashioned as a majority, and urged to take action NOW (because we must do SOMETHING), and regardless of its effectiveness, or if it backfires, the need to pat oneself on the back, be part of a seen-as-worthy cause or “made a difference” is too strong to resist.

  105. I can’t understand the fixation on “decreasing gun violence”. Would substituting deaths from guns with deaths from guns accomplish anything? If some kind of gun was only used in the USA, it would have 100% of all world-wide murders with that kind of gun. It is completely irrelevant. What could be the goal would be decreasing violence or murder.
    There is just no reason to even compare “gun deaths”. It is very likely that country with more guns will have much more “gun deaths”. With drug war in full swing on top of that.

    About lack of intrinsic positive value of guns (which pools have) – these are tools for combat. Any person with a gun (even better – also with training) has significantly better chances in any physical struggle. An insurance for a chance that in the future world might be less safe than it is now, and a reminder to step lightly to current largest violence perpetrators – agents of the state. Relatively free countries turned tyrannical in history, there is certainly no guarantee that this is all in the past. Actually some evidence points that some switch like this might be just happening in the USA. Village with some guns is no match for battalion of tanks… but it might just be enough to bring a dictatorship down if it needs to send detachment of soldiers every time some taxes are unpaid, or leaflets printed in any one of thousands of towns and neighborhoods.

  106. In reply to #20 by AsylumWarden:

    Finally: Watch ‘Bowling for Columbine’. Canada have just as many guns as the USA with a fraction of the deaths. Culture seems to be the difference. So the key thing has to be to tackle the culture and political mindset of which, gun ownership is included. Carrying on ‘as is’ as the NRA suggest can only exacerbate the situation.

    Watch Bowling for Columbine with a skeptics hat on. Mike Moore uses: editing tricks; emotional appeals; ambush journalism; misrepresentation; and just plain flat out lies. He does it to a much greater degree than the tricks seen in the movie Expelled. I would suggest Michael Moore Hates America as one to watch.

  107. I have to say I lean more towards Sean on this issue. I am a strong supporter of gun regulation. Still, I find this discussion somewhat simplistic. The problem in USA from my perspective is that half of the population seems to regard guns as the ultimate symbols for liberty while the other half regard them as the ultimate evil. I think both position are dead wrong. I think focusing on guns every time some shooting occurs is at best futile and at worst very counterproductive. There are a lot of guns in Canada as well. Still, the proportional number of gun violence is much lower. Why is that? Why is it that a much smaller percentage of people grab their guns and kill people in Canada even if there are a lot of guns in the homes of Canadians? I think we should be talking about the gun culture in USA, no so much about how frequent guns are per se. It is quite obvious that Americans have a much different relation to guns than for example Canadians. It seems to me, that solving problems with violence and especially with guns is regarded as more acceptable in USA. I think it’s misleading to think that you will get to the root of the problem of gun violence in USA merely by regulating guns. You have to go much deeper. Why do so many Americans feel the need to own guns and why are they so trigger happy in first place? Is it due to a deeper feeling of insecurity? Is it a culture of violence that teach Americans that it is ok to solve problems with guns? I do not have a good answer, but I’m pretty sure gun regulation on it’s own will not do much to prevent innocent people from getting killed by bullets in the future.

  108. I think the most flawed part of Sam’s response is the idea that handing out guns to women would somehow improve their situation. That seems to be the worst idea EVER! First, the whole idea that women would have guns all over the house in order to protect themselves from abusive husbands seems crazy to begin with. Second, I’m sure very few of the women who get killed by their spouses are actually contemplating this scenario before it happens. I mean, if they actually did would they not get the hell out of there in first place? Some might of course live in abusive relationships to begin with. But, if that’s the case they are most likely not women with enough self-esteem to go out and buy guns or attend training courses. Besides, what abusive husband would let their spouse own a gun and be trained how to use a gun? I guess Sam Harris’ idea is that women should hide guns in every room of their houses just in case. Am I the only one who find this idea pure madness!

    I respect Sam Harris and agree with him on most issues, but in this case it seems to me he lives in a whole other universe. The sheer thought of spouses having guns to protect themselves from each other seems like a recipe for disaster. What is it with Americans and their guns? Why are you so in love with them?

  109. What’s with the fixation on women here? When did gun violence become a women’s issue?

    This kind of gender polarization is deplorable. Please bring back equality for men and women.

  110. I’m with Sean on this.

    Sam seems to overlook that crazed loons breaking in to kill him may also have guns, thus also have range but have the advantage of surprise even if Sam does hear breaking glass at 0347hrs.

  111. Just to set the record straight, as a canadian, I’d like to add to what one of my fellow countrymen said earlier. It is completely false to say that Canada as a per capita gun ownership comparable to the US one. This falsehood seems to come from Michael Moore’s “bowling for Columbine” movie and apparently is being repeated all over the place.

    As of 2007, there was 30.8 guns per 100 residents in Canada, which is actually less than in France (31.2), Norway (31.3), Sweden (31.6), Finland (45.3) or Switzerland (45.7), and about the same as in Austria (30.4) and Germany (30.3). It is certainly far from the 88.8 guns per 100 residents in the US..(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_guns_per_capita_by_country).

    And as already pointed out, these guns are rifles and shotguns for hunting as handguns are banned in Canada.
    In reply to #115 by Nunbeliever:

    I have to say I lean more towards Sean on this issue. I am a strong supporter of gun regulation. Still, I find this discussion somewhat simplistic. The problem in USA from my perspective is that half of the population seems to regard guns as the ultimate symbols for liberty while the other half regard them as the ultimate evil. I think both position are dead wrong. I think focusing on guns every time some shooting occurs is at best futile and at worst very counterproductive. There are a lot of guns in Canada as well. Still, the proportional number of gun violence is much lower. Why is that? Why is it that a much smaller percentage of people grab their guns and kill people in Canada even if there are a lot of guns in the homes of Canadians? I think we should be talking about the gun culture in USA, no so much about how frequent guns are per se. It is quite obvious that Americans have a much different relation to guns than for example Canadians. It seems to me, that solving problems with violence and especially with guns is regarded as more acceptable in USA. I think it’s misleading to think that you will get to the root of the problem of gun violence in USA merely by regulating guns. You have to go much deeper. Why do so many Americans feel the need to own guns and why are they so trigger happy in first place? Is it due to a deeper feeling of insecurity? Is it a culture of violence that teach Americans that it is ok to solve problems with guns? I do not have a good answer, but I’m pretty sure gun regulation on it’s own will not do much to prevent innocent people from getting killed by bullets in the future.

  112. Why can’t people get it in their heads that a gun in the household or carried on the street for protection against attackers has a greater chance of causing a tragic unnecessary death than it will in saving a life. If as the NRA claims that more guns will mean more security then with that logic the safest place in America should be our inner cities. Tragically we know that is not the case. It is time we see the facts for what they are and craft a sensible bipartisan solution toward lowering gun violence.

  113. In reply to #120 by MAUCH:

    Why can’t people get it in their heads that a gun in the household or carried on the street for protection against attackers has a greater chance of causing a tragic unnecessary death than it will in saving a life. If as the NRA claims that more guns will mean more security then with that logic the safest place in America should be our inner cities. Tragically we know that is not the case. It is time we see the facts for what they are and craft a sensible bipartisan solution toward lowering gun violence.

    “In his first publication on the subject, in 1986, Kellermann studied all gunshot related deaths in Seattle over six years, and found that

    54% of firearm-related deaths occurred in the home where the gun was kept
    
    70.5% of these (firearm-related deaths in the home where the gun was kept) involved handguns
    
    0.5% of these (firearm-related deaths in the home where the gun was kept) involved an intruder shot while attempting entry
    
    1.8% of these (firearm-related deaths in the home where the gun was kept) were judged by police as self-defense
    
    there were 1.3 times as many accidental firearm-related deaths in the home where the gun was kept as self-protection shootings
    
    there were 4.6 times as many criminal firearm-related homicides in the home where the gun was kept as self-protection shootings
    
    there were 37 times as many suicides in the home where the gun was kept as self-protection shootings."
    

    Response from a gun rights advocate, arguing that most gunshot related deaths are intruders shot by homeowners: “It’s just one city.”

  114. Roughly half of murders are committed with guns. So the most idealistic outcome of a gun ban, a la U.K., would be a drop in murders from about 4 to 3 per 100,000 per year. But even that is completely unrealistic. Gangsters and criminals arn’t going to hand their guns in. What possible incentive would they have? There is no legal change for them. It’s illegal for a felon to posses a gun now, just as after a ban.

    That said, everyone knows it’s politically impossible to ban all fire arms in the US. The population as a whole just doesn’t want it.

    The gun control advocates are overly smug. Europe isn’t completely safe either. Everybody remembers Theo van Gogh getting gunned down in Amsterdam. The gun was illegal just like all the dope on streets. So you can only expect the laws to make a dent in illegal activity.

  115. Paranoid of what?
    Or, do you spend your time on left-wing blogs with paranoids with their theories of George Bush planting explosives in the WTC?

    Your reasoning sounds like the people for whom the US becomes more horribly racist society the more blacks are elected to high office.

    In reply to #2 by onona:

    I disagree with Sean that the reason for the violence is guns; America has a culture of violence and paranoia, and the broad ownership and use of guns is simply a symptom of this.

  116. Gun ownership is more common in rural areas than in inner cities. States such as Iowa and Maine have homicide rates similar to Canada, while D.C. is closer to Mexico.

    In reply to #120 by MAUCH:

    Why can’t people get it in their heads that a gun in the household or carried on the street for protection against attackers has a greater chance of causing a tragic unnecessary death than it will in saving a life. If as the NRA claims that more guns will mean more security then with that logic the safest place in America should be our inner cities. Tragically we know that is not the case. It is time we see the facts for what they are and craft a sensible bipartisan solution toward lowering gun violence.

  117. That is assuming the armed forces attack their own people. I actually can’t make up my mind on that one. Using the local police as a sample, I would think the armed forces would devastate the people of this country, without thinking about it twice.

    In reply to #24 by Grimace:

    In reply to #22 by Prime8:

    Haha, so you think the US should ban guns? That is certainly the conclusion you’re implying. How costly would that be to enforce? Far more than arming and training inner city women, I’d imagine (which I think Sean embellished quite a bit, given that Sam didn’t propose such an action). Ask the War on Drugs how much it spends to keep weed off the streets, then go out and walk down any street in America and buy some. You can’t take guns out of a country that won its freedom with guns. You can’t limit guns to revolvers and shotguns and bolt action rifles, as the second amendment is in place to protect the people from a military, which would certainly be using modern weaponry. You clearly don’t like Sam’s opinion, yet you offer no valid rebuttal, and neither does Sean.

    Prime8 you are either very naive or delusional. No citizen regardless of their training would have any hope against a modern military – drones, fighter planes, tanks etc vs an irregular militia. Just look to Iraq or Afghanistan (the lack of quick or straightforward success by the west notwithstanding) to see the folly of your arguement.

  118. I saw the same photo of the gun buyback in my local paper and I thought – that image could give a gun lover an emotional high. Why would that be? Well it would stimulate the brain like a drug for an addict.

    Many Americans suffer from gun addiction: A condition of being addicted to guns and gunplay.

    Classic hallmarks of gun addiction include: 

    • impaired control over guns, 

    • preoccupation with guns, 

    • continued use of guns despite consequences, 

    • and denial. 

    Behavior patterns associated with gun addiction are typically characterized by immediate gratification (short-term reward), coupled with delayed deleterious effects (long-term costs).

    Recovery from gun addiction requires affected Americans to

    1. Believe in oneself, and at some turning point, develop trust in each other.

    2. Value freedom from violence.

    3. Establish a durable self identity, both psychological and spiritual.

    4. Create a strong support network, sharing values and outlook on life.

    5. Maintain self control, and achieve social inclusion.

    6. Practice coping skills to avoid fear, anger and a sense of loss.

    7. Develop a sense of purpose, by embracing a wider culture and philosophy.

  119. We in the US need to make guns, like cigarettes, uncool. In the mean time, we need stricter gun laws.

  120. Having a 2nd Amendment necessarily creates what can only be termed collateral damage. Americans implicitly accept this so long as this Amendment stands. This is a problem.

    Mike

  121. In reply to #121 by phil rimmer:

    In reply to #120 by MAUCH:

    Why can’t people get it in their heads that a gun in the household or carried on the street for protection against attackers has a greater chance of causing a tragic unnecessary death than it will in saving a life. If as the NRA claims that more guns will mean more security then with that logic the safest place in America should be our inner cities. Tragically we know that is not the case. It is time we see the facts for what they are and craft a sensible bipartisan solution toward lowering gun violence.

    “In his first publication on the subject, in 1986, Kellermann studied all gunshot related deaths in Seattle over six years, and found that

    54% of firearm-related deaths occurred in the home where the gun was kept

    70.5% of these (firearm-related deaths in the home where the gun was kept) involved handguns

    0.5% of these (firearm-related deaths in the home where the gun was kept) involved an intruder shot while attempting entry

    1.8% of these (firearm-related deaths in the home where the gun was kept) were judged by police as self-defense

    there were 1.3 times as many accidental firearm-related deaths in the home where the gun was kept as self-protection shootings

    there were 4.6 times as many criminal firearm-related homicides in the home where the gun was kept as self-protection shootings

    there were 37 times as many suicides in the home where the gun was kept as self-protection shootings.”

    Response from a gun rights advocate, arguing that most gunshot related deaths are intruders shot by homeowners: “It’s just one city.”

    The problem most people have with these statistics is that for them, a gun under their bed will STILL make them feel much more safe and protected than a piece of paper with some numbers on it (the same kinds of paper with numbers on it that we are supposed to trust that result in things like the economic disaster and so-forth) telling us NOT to keep guns under our beds.

    This is partly because the number of successful gun-owner defense IS NOT ZERO. If you see a statistic saying that 98% of all gun fatalities are accidents in the home and only 2% ever kill an intruder, most people will imagine that THEY will be part of that 2%!! This is partly due to the “it can’t happen here” mentality we have, that WE are smart and everyone else is stupid, so negative statistics must apply to them, not me.

    They will argue that anyone who tries to take away their rights to own a gun based on such statistics are condemning to death those few who WOULD benefit from having a gun. And, assuming the person you are arguing with IS such a person who would survive some form of terrorism with his gun, could rightly say that you are willing to sacrifice HIM for the BETTER GOOD, and how dare you tamper with or modify his destiny or right to protect it, based on a study and a public rationale that it benefits the whole country, not just one person?

    Of course, at that instant all assumptions would be hypotheticals, and all anyone is left with are the statistics, one’s trust or mistrust of them, and their respective ideals. Which I guess is pretty much where things were before my wimpy analysis…

  122. In reply to #129 by AgriculturalAtheist:

    Of course, at that instant all assumptions would be hypotheticals, and all anyone is left with are the statistics, one’s trust or mistrust of them, and their respective ideals. Which I guess is pretty much where things were before my wimpy analysis…

    But there should still be a quid pro quo if you want to reduce someones rights in this area. The hypothetical competent gun owner who will not kill himself or his family (because he lives alone, say), can still expect that in having his rights constrained (higher standards of ownership, licensing, training, testing etc.) should still see his risk of death in his own home reduced by the effects of those constrained rights on others. It isn’t all loss for the guy. Measured de-escalation of the tooled up American masses will “hurt” the responsible least.

  123. I love Sam Harris he is one of the greatest debaters for reason we have but he is utterly wrong about guns. Forget about freedom from religion what about freedom from guns? Freedom from the threat of people with guns? A couple of states have already passed the legislation to enable teachers to be armed in school. Do I have to point out the obvious here? What happens when a teacher runs amok and shoots the class? Teachers suffer breakdowns all the time. What then? Do we arm the children so they can protect themselves from teachers? Total lunacy.

  124. I’m assuming it’s about this ? : http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-riddle-of-the-gun

    Show me where he is manipulating facts, because I don’t see it anywhere. I just see someone who looked at both sides of it, and takes a specific stance.

    It’s clearly an opinion piece, and he may be wrong. But he’s entitled to his opinion ( as we all are ).

    In reply to #64 by exkiodexian:

    You know, enough with the “I so deeply, lovingly, and ceaselessly admire the incredible, amazing, and superman Sam Harris ….” nonsense. How much rear-end licking to you have to do to write a piece disagreeing, and disagreeing vehemently with Harris? Just state your points and leave it be. Why all…

  125. In reply to #4 by Cartomancer:

    Legal changes and campaigns to reduce the presence of ballistic weaponry in the US are the only sensible way forward. The US has a toxic culture of hoplophilia entirely out of keeping with modern civilized norms, and it suffers disproportionately from that. The only way to loosen and eradicate such…

    Your post was rather fuelled by personal attacks and emotional rhetoric. That’s not very scholarly at all. Humans are predators, and we are predators without any natural weapons. We do not have sharp teeth or claws, so instead we developed weapons to utilize. Throughout history cultures have trained their young in the use of weapons for defending themselves and their civilization, as well as to hunt for food. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that the ownership of weaponry is not only perfectly natural, but also something that is instinctively desired. Fighting against what we have evolved to do is a foolish stance, instead we should educate people into the safe handling of firearms from a young age. That is exactly what my culture, as a Native South American, has done for thousands of years. We are very civilized, far more than people who worship things such as majority rule as a somehow acceptable government structure. Far more than those who think that rule by law through fear of punishment is somehow an acceptable form of justice. Our crime, the little that we have, is close to non-existent. Crime comes from culture, not the ownership of weapons. We embrace our nature and cultivate our morality, this is why we do not suffer from the corruption that you do. Your beliefs are far from sane, they are unnatural and unwelcome in, to use your own words, a civilized society such as mine.

  126. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Besides, more people are killed with knives and baseball bats than with guns.

  127. There are too many emergency and disaster situations in which I would want to have a gun. I want a gun. The only reason I don’t have one now is I can’t afford it. I don’t see that changing ever.

  128. In reply to #135 by blainedeyoung:

    There are too many emergency and disaster situations in which I would want to have a gun. I want a gun. The only reason I don’t have one now is I can’t afford it. I don’t see that changing ever.

    Unless you live somewhere like Beirut or Iraq the evidence is overwhelming that a gun in your home is far more likely to be used against a friend or loved one rather than an intruder. The rational thing for an average American to do is to pay attention to such information and not have a gun. The main reasons for having a gun are that you have been scared by various media to think that the world is more dangerous than it is and that a gun will make you more rather than less likely to suffer violence or that you need it to bolster your macho image. Steven Pinker covers both issues in his last book The Better Angels.

Leave a Reply