Opinion

The Great Debate

Michael Bloomberg and America’s guns

By Bernd Debusmann
August 13, 2009

Bernd Debusmann— Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions are his own —

New York’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is stepping in where President Barack Obama fears to tread — confronting America’s powerful gun lobby. In the country that holds a commanding global lead in civilian gun ownership, it promises to be a hard fight.

No matter how it goes, America’s position at the top of the list of gun-owning nations looks secure. Up to 280 million guns are estimated to be in private hands and the arsenal is growing year by year. On a guns-per-capita basis, the United States (90 guns per 100 residents) is way ahead of second-ranked Yemen (61 per 100), according to the authoritative Small Arms Survey issued by the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva.

Obama has been a sore disappointment for advocates of tighter gun controls, and a boon to gun manufacturers and dealers. Predictions that his administration would swiftly work towards greater restrictions helped spark a huge run on firearms after his election. The National Rifle Association (NRA), the country’s biggest gun lobby, said its members reported widespread shortages of ammunition.

Supply and demand are back in balance and those who rushed to stock up need not have feared an Obama assault on gun ownership. The president has shown no eagerness for stepping into the political minefield of gun legislation. On the contrary. Obama rowed back in haste after his attorney general, Eric Holder, prompted alarm among gun lovers by saying he wanted to reinstate a ban on assault weapons that was allowed to lapse under the Bush administration.

There are no signs either that Obama intends to fulfil campaign pledges on other hot-button gun legislation issues such as closing the so-called gun show loophole that allows private citizen-to-citizen sales without background checks, or the Tiahrt amendment, which limits disclosing information on the sale of guns used in crimes.

Josh Sugarmann, head of the Washington-based Violence Policy Center, a group advocating tighter controls, describes Obama’s attitude so far as “deeply disheartening” and says the president broke campaign promises on gun legislation.

Why? History provides an explanation: the last time the United States had a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, the party aggressively pushed gun control legislation and suffered crushing defeats at the polls, in part thanks to opposition stirred by the NRA. The Republicans took control of Congress in 1994 and held it until 2006.

Enter mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York, a city where he is popular and guns are not. In 2006, Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino formed Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), a group that wants to make it more difficult for criminals to get their hands on guns. MAIG’s growth has been explosive: from 15 in 2006 to 250 in 2007 to 451 now.

BATTLE OF GIANTS

That makes, as a headline in the Washington Post put it, for “a battle of goliaths” pitting Bloomberg and his group against the NRA, whose four million members tend to see restrictions such as unregulated sales from private citizens (through the gun show loophole) as an assault on the U.S. constitution’s second amendment.

It says: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Exactly what that means (arms for militia members? for individuals?) was one of the most passionately disputed legal questions in the United States for decades until the Supreme Court last year ruled that it gave individual Americans the right to bear arms. The court also allowed for some restrictions on gun ownership.

In July, the U.S. Senate defeated a measure, introduced by a Republican Senator, John Thune, that would have allowed licensed gun owners to carry hidden, loaded weapons from states with weak gun laws to states with tough ones. The proposal failed largely because of energetic lobbying by Bloomberg’s mayors. It was a rare setback for the NRA and Bloomberg made clear he would remain on the offensive.

“If you want to beat the NRA,” he said on a television show this week, “you have to go out and get your message out. And it costs money to do that … You know, the NRA doesn’t spend that much money. If you look at what the real numbers are, I think that we can pull together here and raise enough money.”

Bloomberg has spent almost $3 million of his own money (Forbes estimates his personal fortune at $16 billion) on the mayor’s group. The NRA’s annual budget is around $200 million.

For Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s Executive Vice President and CEO, talk about money is beside the point. “Bloomberg is clearly out of step with the majority of Americans,” he said in an interview. “Our membership has been increasing by 40,000 to 50,000 a month since the middle of last year. We hope to reach five million before too long.”

LaPierre is confident that the NRA will prevail in future legislative wrangling, not least because “there has been a sea change in the center of the Democratic Party.” Ironically, the vote that defeated the Thune amendment gives backing to that view. The bill required 60 votes to pass. It fell short by two. Of the 58 votes in favor, 20 were from Democrats. (Editing by Kieran Murray)

Comments
160 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Mayor Bloomberg calls his group “Mayors against illegal guns”, but their first cause is designed to restrict the rights of law-abiding individuals who legally own firearms. Is it no wonder people are skeptical of his aims? We don’t live in Oceania, at least not yet.

Posted by Bob Meador | Report as abusive
 

- “Dan Parker, There’s no need be concerned with my medicine cabinet. But you have an obsession with violent injuries.”

And you divine this how? Never mind. That comment and the remainder of your nonsensical rant serve only to illustrate your ignorance and dishonesty. Never heard of a personal firearm being used to prevent a home invasion (or other crimes, for that matter)? You should try reading a newspaper from time-to-time, or any of the many works published on the subject. There is apparently a great going on in the world on a daily basis you know nothing about.

Posted by Dan Parker | Report as abusive
 

Oh, and the following was pretty entertaining as well:

“However, the large caliber and magazine type weapons you fringe maniacs want to own are capable of blowing rather large holes in the target, can tear apart internal organs, can paralyze and maim for life.”

Any firearm (or sword, or spear…or long, pointed stick) can do that. Nearly every bolt-action deer rifle fires much larger and more powerful rounds than does my AR-15. Do you have any idea at all what you’re talking about? No, clearly you don’t.

So are you going to define “assault weapon”, or aren’t you?

Posted by Dan Parker | Report as abusive
 

August 14th, 2009 8:58 am GMT – Posted by Bohemond

Bohemond – Thank you for taking the time to read my first post and comment on it. Your reply does slightly sqew the facts you mention however, as I specifically referred to “violent death”; you mention the UK crime rate. The figures for London and New York show that you are x3.5 more likely to be killed by a gun in the US than London.

Furthermore, the social demographic of those deaths is somewhat different. In the US where gun ownership amongst the whole social spectrum there is a far higher proportion of those killed from middle-class, crime free backgrounds. In the UK almost all such deaths are from youths from the lowest social class, and members of or associated with street gangs. This element of society (modelling itself on US street gang culture and values, incidentally) is an anomaly when viewed as a proportion of the population as a whole.

Finally, the number of deaths due to gun crime is still the exception, with knives making up the majority of killings, due in the main to the lack of availability of guns.

The crime rate issue is due in part to the reclassification of a number of anti-social issues and vehicle related matters as “crime” in the UK. At the same time I understand that a number of US states have taken steps to decriminalise events which would be included in any UK statistics.

It is true that the Swiss have an exceptionally high level of weapon ownership, and this is often mooted by gun activists as proof that ownership does not equate with increased death rates. Firstly, the facts for the US could equally be taken as proof that this is not the case, as the US has the highest rate per capita of gun violence of any of the developed nations.

Second, the Swiss national mentality is one which the average US citizen (and especially the more rabid gun lobbyists) would find incomprehensible. The Swiss believe strongly in control, regulation and compliance. The gun rules which do apply are followed exactly by citizens, and there is a degree of social responsibility which would, I am afraid to say, be almost unheard of in the US. Feral violent street gangs are also uncommon in Switzerland, and so the availability of weapons does not place guns into the hands of those most likely to use them illegally, as is the case in the US.

Final point is that, unlike in the US where the militia on exists in certain historic documents, there is an active militia, legislated and supported by the Swiss government. Members are required to keep a weapon in the home, and required by law to undertake regular training on weapon use, target practice, etc. This level of control and regulation also ensures gun owners are trained in its use and the implications and responsibilities of weapon ownership, and are also identifiable and accountable.

Posted by pete | Report as abusive
 

August 16th, 2009 12:07 pm GMT – Posted by Dan Parker

Dan, Thank you for your comments. I have no idea why my post was tagged best either; there have been a number of eloquent and thoughtful posts from all side of the debate, but it’s a great compliment for which I am grateful!

I don’t think I made any comments on my education or indeed intelligence, and my post was less about the gun debate in the US, but more the manner in which the debate has progressed. I think the phrase is “correlation does not imply causation”, and quite right. However, it is only a caution to not assume that an absolute can be extrapolated from any given set of data.

I would be interested to see some sources for the data you mention. I found the 52nd place listing in Wikipedia, which has it own health warning regarding reliability, of course! Looking at the list though, it is somewhat disingenuous to quote this figures, as it includes all regions of the world currently at war or subject to civil unrest. It also includes some duplication (the UK is in there at 88th place, but also includes separate figures for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland) Rather than a league table, it is best used just as a comparative listing, which shows the UK with 2.03 per 100,000 population and US with 5.80.

As we are quoting figures on a discussion relating to guns, though, it is only proper for me to point out that these refer to homicides, which in the UK for example means physical assault or knife crime. The proportion for gun crime alone is far lower for the UK.

Posted by pete | Report as abusive
 

“…As we are quoting figures on a discussion relating to guns, though, it is only proper for me to point out that these refer to homicides, which in the UK for example means physical assault or knife crime. The proportion for gun crime alone is far lower for the UK.”

Apologies for the last post. I intended saying “…which in the UK for example means in the majority of cases death by physical assault or knife crime.”

Posted by pete | Report as abusive
 

Pete,

- “I would be interested to see some sources for the data you mention. I found the 52nd place listing in Wikipedia, which has it own health warning regarding reliability, of course! Looking at the list though, it is somewhat disingenuous to quote this figures, as it includes all regions of the world currently at war or subject to civil unrest.”

There’s nothing disingenuous about the cite at all, as it lists countries according to “homicide” rates, not war casualty rates. But if it will make you feel better, eliminate all countries from the list that are currently at war (civil or otherwise). You’re still left with quite a few examples of high-homicide-rate countries that employ tight gun control. Russia is a good example.

- “It also includes some duplication (the UK is in there at 88th place, but also includes separate figures for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland) Rather than a league table, it is best used just as a comparative listing, which shows the UK with 2.03 per 100,000 population and US with 5.80.”

See above.

- “As we are quoting figures on a discussion relating to guns, though, it is only proper for me to point out that these refer to homicides, which in the UK for example means physical assault or knife crime. The proportion for gun crime alone is far lower for the UK.”

That misses the point entirely. That firearms are banned in a locale and the local thugs turn to using bladed weapons to commit murder is not a good argument for gun control. Is the goal simply to reduce homicides using one particular class of weapon? Is it somehow less tragic for a murder to be committed using a knife than a gun? Is your argument, “Country X has a higher murder rate than country Y, but those murders weren’t committed with guns, so it’s a better result”…?

Is the law-abiding population being disarmed and rendered defenseless against criminals OK because at least the former are less likely to be victimized via the use of a gun?

Posted by Dan Parker | Report as abusive
 

I see enough of this U.S bashing in Canada, but to be more precise, a sort of lecturing or pontification coming from peoples on their high horse, while at the same time benefiting through economic means and freedom of speech, from this economic giant, the United States.

As a Canadian, I can say the United States is a unique World model, which should not be ‘tweeked’ by pseudo-intellectual Euro-Trash morons or anyone else who is not American, because you will never get to know America.

I live right beside America, ‘bombarded’ by their weird and wonderful culture, but love it or leave it, warts and all, America is the ‘gold standard’ for freedom and if there was a lottery or open immigration, the whole world would be leaving en masse to The States and people like you, Pete can form their own Utopia. But there already is a Utopia. Its called America and please do not pontificate while you benefit from this giant.

And trust me, I’m of German ancestry and I know how smart those buggers are (Germans that is). And America (and Canada, and many other nations) left many of their dead in Europe defending your country from Germans crossing the English channel and kicking your sorry ass.

But again, America is a unique model so don’t compare it to Russia, or Belgium or any other place.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive
 

Well we no longer have the right to bear arms in the UK, and I for one certainly don’t feel any safer or more free for it. My grandad shot regularly at Bisley, had a couple of .303′s around, and I don’t recall any great amount of armed crime problems in his day. Should I wander round the nearby neighbourhood of Tottenham with my wife of a evening, I’m pretty certain the seriously high probability of a kniving relative to the rest of the country doesn’t give me much sense of freedom. What I would say is that with 2 years military training, there’s no way I’d be prepared to be a ‘victim’ to any little shit with a knife or gun, if I was armed too. With 60 million people in this small island, its fairly obvious that the State cannot afford to allow people like me to assert our right to act freely like those in the States, because the shortfall in our liberty is now too large to accommodate individual restitution. Public enemy No.1 in the UK is our own government. They have tacitly recognised this, by disarming the populace fairly recently, whilst at the same time arming increasingly thuggish uniformed morons in the police. I see no consequent decrease in armed crime that would justify any of the original nonsense spouted to keep our increasingly gullible and sheeplike citizenry quiet on this issue.

Posted by Rhoopsis | Report as abusive
 

PAUL ROSA:
“I’m quite sure those cameras that now infest any public place and many private places in the US are not meant exclusively for “terrorists”. The managers of our not so sane society are very worried about guys like you.”

This line made me laugh Paul.. I am a deputy sheriff here in California. I have been, from time to time, one of those guys watching people through those cameras that seem to frighten you.. And Paul and isn’t guys like me that we’re watching.. It’s guys like you Paul.

Sleep safe tonight Paul you’re government is at work protecting you…

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive
 

PAUL ROSA:

“I really can’t answer for what rapists or burglars might prefer.”

I know you can’t Paul, because you never sat across from one and interrogated them about a crime you were investigating.

I have dealt with criminals for over 25 years and the one thing they fear is a potential victim who pulls out a gun.

You can try to explain that away, or come up with some weird comparison to Iraq, or whatever, but I have talked to them and I know what they have told me about their views on people having guns and I tell you criminals are not in favor of armed citizens.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive
 

It is perhaps inevitable that a post which simply suggests that this subject would be better served with an honest and frank discussion of the facts without name calling or jingoism, would eventually meet with name calling and jingoism. However, to be fair to the many postee’s from the US I note that this individual is also not a resident.

I cannot see any point raised in Drew’s post which relates to the issue in hand or warrants a response, but I would just observe, with a wry smile, that the summation of the piece from a self proclaimed Canadian (of German ancestry) is that only Americans are fit to comment on this issue, and that all other nationals should keep their noses out!

Posted by pete | Report as abusive
 

Dan,

I appreciate your comment on the league table, and certainly don’t want to get into a tit-for-tat argument over minor asides which distracts from the wider issue of gun control, which you clearly have strong and well reasoned views on. Immediately contradicting myself I would just raise issue with your choice of Russia as an example of gun control’s weaknesses, however. I unfortunately know from first hand experience that the collapse of communism resulted in near anarchy in Russia, with even the most basic of government functions grinding to a near halt. One issue was that many public servants including the military did not get their salaries. This was not for a week or two but months and months. The desperate position this left many millions in meant that they had to take any opportunity they could to survive. During this period many in the military began taking and selling weapons. This ranged from soldiers selling their own arms on the street and in bars, through to whole consignments of equipment being diverted to the black market, usually through or to the Russian Mafia.

The problem for Russia therefore is not the level of gun control and legitimate gun ownership, but rather the fact that there are several million unlicensed, military grade weapons in the hands of private individuals and organised crime, meaning that there is to this day a flourishing black market economy which serves both domestic users, and terrorist organisations around the world.

“Is your argument, “Country X has a higher murder rate than country Y, but those murders weren’t committed with guns, so it’s a better result”…?

No, not at all. My point was that the murder rate in the UK is lower than in the US, and that the proportion of those killings carried out with guns is also far lower. If we assume (a caveat on this, I know) that there is a proportion of the general population who are disposed to murder others, given the availability of the same means to carry out this act (knives, fists, blunt objects, etc) we should see the displacement of the gun crime portion of the total in countries such as the US, with these alternatives. As this is not the case, I propose the thesis (I am avoiding saying the word “fact” as I appreciate it is anything but) that some of the differential is as a result of the wider availability of the differentiator (guns) to those in the US.

Posted by pete | Report as abusive
 

America will have all the crime it is willing to tolerate and it is apparently willing to tolerate quite a lot. Lawbreakers should be harshly punished rather than coddled by a faulty justice system which twists the notion of what constitutes “cruel and unusual” punishment to the point of ineffectively protecting the law abiding citizenry. Yet many don’t clamor for appropriate justice but instead appeal to the diversion that is the side show of “gun control.”

Going after gun owners who conform to the rule of law is a miserable dereliction of responsibility on the part of those who govern and Americans need to recognize it.

Posted by noelekal | Report as abusive
 

Dear Pete,

I agree. That is funny.

However, 20th Century German ‘Imperialism’(?) was crafted by an insular society, as well. And your lecturing comments (from a European no less). Most people on this continent left Europe many moons ago. So keep your smugness to yourself and keep the dialogue open, but don’t kick America when they’re down. That’s easy to do. Guns = Freedom.

And those ‘hillbillies’ as you refer to get up every morning with no Health care and buy YOUR stuff including crappy Jaguars (now owned by Tata), Jacobs drill chucks and Squire can openers.

The global recession is caused because Americans are not buying your crappy stuff. And probably no longer subsidizing your world vacations, either. I watch the dumb BBC but you don’t here me chime in on whats wrong with your Monarchy.

To coin a term sir, “Don’t tread on me”, Schmucko.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive
 

To Pete (cont..)

And again, yes Jaguar (Ford), Land Rover? (Tata). But they all still leak oil in the driveway and they are all pieces of opulent garbage (like trash).

And again, on this side of the Atlantic there is a fight against Liberalism and your comments will not be taken lightly.

Observing you country, sir. The U.K. (snicker, snicker) and I’m also half Scottish/Brit you a-hole. But again, you have all these damn cameras, no guns. And in Canada its the same here, the Liberals are trying to take away all guns and disarm the populace. And create a smart card for everybody to carry. They also have a system like yours, a license plate scanner computing offenders at the rate 6,000 a minute. (Gotta have that tax revenue).

And if you are traveling the world, some other poor Brit (Bloke?) is paying your freight. Your damn VAT so to speak. Some poor Brit is paying all his taxes for you.

Regarding gun control, my house is guarded with a 40oz. Worth baseball bat from Tullahoma, Tennessee. And if I need to use it I fear the worst for any intruder.

But this a fight, so give me a break about this global village crap and live here for a while. You know, Beyond the New York Sheraton.

America is the last domino standing!

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive
 

To Pete cont..,

Also if you would like to talk about gun control and in specific this article. I will tell you this. First, I don’t get my facts from Wikipedia and second I don’t compare Russia to the U.S.

But regarding this article, Bloomberg has future political aspirations and is trying to strike a chord with the growing liberals. He’s also a multi-billionaire and I do not think he would venture in to anything where he would lose his shirt, so to speak.

And I should be able to own any gun I like…however, now if you shoot that gun, that is where the difference lies. Or if you do not store that gun properly there should be some strong penalty.

But while you have been on this ‘Lost Generation’ kick, conservatism is taking a back seat to liberalism. And hence, why I’m taking a stand on this. But how rosy are ones glasses observing the U.S. from the Holiday Inn.

But Americas Big Guns kept you safe from a German Empire.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive
 

Pete:

You mention the murder rate in the UK being lower than the U.S.

What is the population of the UK versus the U.S.; could this account for some of the difference? Per capital?

I agree people in the UK have a longer tradition of being “civilized” towards their fellow citizens the we in the U.S. have, but I would mention that my wife’s English relatives comment that they feel safer visiting us in Los Angeles, than they do back home walking the streets of York. While this is anecdotal I think it still bears something out about perceptions and possibly about reality.

We must accept that every country is different and has different histories, cultures, traditions,governments and rule of law. Our founders chose to codify certain rights they believed were granted by God upon all men in our Constitution. I do not believe the 2nd Amendment (Right to Keep Arms) is any more outdated than the 1st (Freedom of Assembly) or the 5th (Right Against Self Incrimination.

None of the rights are absolute, but before any are infringed upon by government they must be subject to close scrutiny by both the courts and by the people, whose rights they are.

As far as amending the Constitution, what may sound like a good idea may in fact create far worse problems than the original problem being solved. As an example I point to the 18th Amendment, which banned alcohol as an attempt to cure social ills brought on by its consumption. This ban on alcohol made the level of violence rise, created millionaires out of people like Al Capone and gave rise to Organized Crime in America, which we are still fighting against.

So when people propose banning guns in America, or repealing the 2nd Amendment I would remind them that history warns they may be creating a bigger problem than the one they are trying to eliminate.

I would also remind them that Americans are not like any other people on Earth; we are love freedon, yet we want law and order. We want a nation of laws, but we don’t want anyone infringing on our liberties.

If a national election were held and the question was “Should your right to own a gun be taken away from you.” I believe the overwhelming majority would vote “No” even if they don’t own a gun, because we don’t like having our rights eroded.

If the question was “Should assault weapons be banned in America” I am less certain of the outcome of the vote and yet it is essentially the same question, just worded differently. And this perhaps best illustrates the paradox of being an American.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive
 

Drew,

Thanks for those last 2 posts. Your parody of that type of poster was spot on, absolutely brilliant.

Posted by pete | Report as abusive
 

Dear Pete,

I also recall in the U.K., after 9-11. Do you remember that? On what exciting locale were you then? I recall in the U.K. that taxi drivers were not allowed to display your Union Jack on the back of the windshield (windscreen – foreigners…(sigh)) because it might “offend” certain groups.

That’s where you country is going…

Its all related. Guns. Arms. freedom. this is an opinion. its my opinion.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive
 

To Jim: I didn’t ask you to protect me and your comments should embarrass your fellow officers if you really ever were one. It is hardly a comfort and you don’t deserve my thanks. For one thing I don’t get paid to sit and watch the goings on of the street. I does worry me that the nation is spy crazy (so was Iraq under Saddam don’t your recall?)- it infuriates me that another taxpayer supported lobby – The Police -have found yet another way to present a bill to the taxpayer for dubious and for the most part unproven protection. The paraphrase Voltaire – “If terrorists didn’t exists it would be necessary for the nation to invent them”. It offers such a handy excuse to invade other countries. Especially the oil rich ones.

The fact that I haven’t sat across from a murderer or rapist tells me they are fairly rare. And it also isn’t my job. And living in a small rural town – they aren’t what most of the local police have to deal with either as a rule. And you really are an ass for posing like your civil service job makes you a superior mind with superior insights and therefor superior judgment. You could be Barney Pfife for all I know.

And all your comments make me laugh. And in as much as my personal recollections were dismissed as lies – why would I give your comments to slightest credence? But I was mistaken about the man who kidnapped and murdered his kids. He was apprehended but couldn’t help the police find their bodies. He couldn’t remember where he dumped them.

But answer this – Why were so many police associations firm supporters of the now lapsed ban on assault weapons? Would you be happy to face many more of that kind of weapon on the street than those other officers were?

Whether it was you or another commenter who made the spurious argument that stacks and stones are also “assault weapons”- if a rock or stick were really the effective equivalent of those weapons, why don’t more Cops just carry night sticks and a sling shot? It would save so much money in Afghanistan and Iraq if all the forces there had to carry were rocks or sticks, don’t you think? I watched a local police officer in my town clean some of his station’s guns and there wasn’t a single assault weapon type as described in the pages I have researched. I was moonlighting as a janitor at the time.

All I have learned from the question I put so many pages back is that there are people out there who are not rational. They argue for guns the way some people argue about points of theology. They argue from what they believe not what they can prove. And the comments that pester mine also try to argue an obvious point into submission even if it requires they use the flimsiest tautologies.

And when in any of my past comments did I do anything but ask a question? The comments that pester mine are from people who are zealots. And like a typical little person with a job you will someday have to leave – you think you can issue rhetorical threats from it? Go to hell and I hope your department fires jerks like you.

If you really spy on people like me than you waste your time and every body’s money. Be careful – while guys like me are distracting you the real “bad guys” might be right behind you.

But keep it up – I didn’t question it at the time of my first comment but I am questioning the sanity of the second amendment now.

Posted by Paul Rosa | Report as abusive
 

Michael Bloomberg should be put behind bars for advocating disarmament of the militia, this makes him a tyrant against rights and our countries welfare.

Posted by braveheart | Report as abusive
 

Drew,

I’m not sure what it was, and certainly have no idea what it means, but certainly made me laugh long and hard, so thank you for that.

On a general point, my original post never mentioned my views on the gun control issue itself, only on the nature of the debate. Subsequent sensible discussion with the forum has focussed on the relevance of gun ownership and homicide rates.

Posted by pete | Report as abusive
 

Hi Jim,

Thanks for your comments. Don’t mean to sound patronizing or pompous but you made excellent points which certainly made me think.

On murder rates; the figures Dan and I were discussing were rates per 100,000 population, so should be (roughly) comparable, regardless of the actual size of the country.

I don’t think we can claim the moral high ground re.civility, and certainly not just because our society has been around for a few thousand years. Large periods of that history were spent happily persecuting one social and/or religious group or another, in the most bloody and unpleasant fashion. It occurs to me though that, thinking about the manner in which nations and indeed civilisation in general develops over the centuries, there is always a gradual move away from formalised violence, whether through statute or custom. I’m not saying that any and all nations are not capable of violent acts (Germany is a paragon of order and control, but they have blotted their copy book a couple of times in recent history), but as a general trend there is a move towards greater acknowledgement of the principle of pacifism.

Re. your comments on York (where I am off to at the weekend for the first time in decades, oddly enough, so will be keenly interested to see how I find it) civic and national pride is also a factor in comparing the 2 countries. The US is famed for it’s positive, can do attitude, and this translates into the level of patriotism seems in all walks of life. The UK has by contrast a reputation for being suspicious of success, and enjoying failure of others more, especially if that person is perceived to be “too big for their boots”, with a “ha, serves em right” attitude. This translates into the press and general public approach.

As a small nation we are also pressed closer in together, and there is therefore far more intermingling of social strata in day to day life in the UK. I am not saying that the UK is more socially mobile, of course, but just that simple geography makes it difficult to compartmentalise whole areas and neighbourhoods as safe or dangerous, as is often the case in the US. Therefore in the UK the lowest elements of society are often far more visible in day to day life for the middle classes, and this, helped in no small part by the UK press (a subject which is worth a thread all of its own, comparing it’s approach to news, patriotism and social responsibility compared to other developed nations including the US) fosters a feeling of exposure for some.

It goes without saying (but I will anyway) that the US constitution is a remarkable document, managing to encapsulate in a few short paragraphs the basic framework for Government, Judiciary and Society. Someone once commented that whilst the contributors managed, in that one document to define a nation, the FDA took over 20,000 pages and numerous revisions to establish an ineffectual standard for frozen pizza toppings!

All legislation should be subject to regular challenge, to ensure it is valid and relevant to the society it controls. The central issue of the posting (the right to bear arms) is of course an amendment to the original constitution, which perhaps proves the point. Perhaps the success of the Constitution is also its greatness weakness therefore, as the high respect in which it is held means it becomes increasingly untouchable, as the statements within it are taken to be truths in themselves, and therefore beyond question.

In the UK we have never had a Constitution and therefore legislation is based on principles of precedent and statute alone. In fact, the ongoing efforts of the EU to try and ratify a Constitution for member states is a highly contentious issue for many UK citizens who use many of the same arguments of those in the US who seek to protect their constitutional rights, but with the aim of ahceiving exactly the opposite conclusion!

Your point concerning the contradictions of the US national psyche did make me think againl, and I think this is one element which and one which can be difficult for non-nationals to understand. I know that the “Land of the Free” tag, which is often the focus for mocking derision in the rest of the world, is genuinely believed by many (even the majority) of US citizens to be the defining feature of the US. I think however that every country (in fact every person) has a degree of NIMBYism and certainly the general distrust in the UK to things like the European Court of Human Rights and the EU Constitution is an example of the “well, obviously the Europeans need to be controlled, but we can’t have them telling us what to do” attitude. (By the way, I mention Europeans as “other people” because you really don’t understand the UK until you understand the famous Daily Mail headline “Heavy Fog In English Channel; Europe Cut Off.”)

Finally, I am sure you are correct, that terminology is everything, and how a question is phrased can for the most part guarantee the answer received. Perhaps the gun control lobby would therefore be better placed trying to appeal to the responsible gun owner, and actually try to relax some of the existing gun control regulation, such as the type of weapons permissible, in return for increased transparency of ownership. In the same way that other great obsession of Americans, the car is regulated, perhaps the issue is not access but accountability. In the US as in most countries you can own as many cars as you wish and have them as powerful as physics and your bank balance will allow. However the only proviso is that they are licensed and traceable to you, the owner, and you are ultimately responsible for their conduct and the purpose to which they are put. As responsible car owners see this as a necessary control, and indeed a means of protecting them from the actions of other road users, perhaps the same should be applied to gun owners who have no intention of deliberately using those weapons in an illegal manner. As with cars, it would need some sort of punitive control mechanism with increased tariffs for transgressors but my understanding is that unlicensed gun ownership is already a criminal offence, and goes without saying that any use which results in a criminal offence is also punishable. Taking the line that some posts have taken, is this not a way in which the responsible gun owner can help secure their freedoms and help law enforcement and the Courts punish the criminals?

Posted by pete | Report as abusive
 

I think all proposers of any ban should be forced to watch the entire anthology of Coronation Street as punishment.

But seriously, I heard a statistic (take them or leave them) but I heard that of the 1800 murders in NYC in one year, 1700 of these are so called black-on-black shootings. A term the news uses…

And in Toronto, a lot of these gun killings are done by young black men. This is an observation. America is a mix of cultures, and so is Canada, but not the U.K. or Europe.

So there are some bad apples. But why punish the good apples? Its easy to ban everything. I live in liberal Ontario, so I know all about bans. Bans are easy to do and require ‘little thought’.

But anyone from the U.K. cannot have a ‘sensible’ discussion on gun control because your country is mostly white folks going to the pub.

It ain’t the same over here.

This is the New World. You live in the Old world.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive
 

In Toronto, a few years back, there was a high profile Christmas gun battle in downtown Toronto. Boxing Day actually. You could google this. Innocent shoppers caught in the crossfire on Canada’s busiest street. One dead. This brazen shootout happened in broad daylight.

I had talked to someone from Detroit who saw this on their news and it did raise eyebrows. We have a hand gun ban already in this country.

Now I’m Canadian and I buy into the Detroit:scary thing but this person from Detroit said its appears to be scary in Toronto.

But you have to be skeptical and suspicious of all politicians. If you aren’t you are fool.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive
 

PAUL:

Obviously the thought of police surveillance has unnerved you and caused you to buckle under the strain.

First off I am a deputy sheriff, but not in Mayberry, in Southern California.

Second, I have sat across from criminals who I have interviewed and I do think that gives me a little more insight, than say a part time janitor would have, into what motivates them and what they fear the most.

Third, we again are talking about apples and oranges. You keep referring to Iraq, etc. I am saying that most people who own guns do not use them in crimes; you said that you observed a police evidence room while working as janitor and did not see a single assault weapon. You know why? Because they are used in less than 1% of gun crimes, even here in L.A. we are more likely to run across cheap handguns than an AK-47. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen occassionally, but it is the exception and not the rule.

You asked about the support of gun control measures by police associations. Well, having served on the Board of Directors of our own association I will tell you they are essentially labor unions. And we back the play of our local politicians and their legisaltion so as to curry favor with them during contract negotiations. That’s the ugly truth. We support those politicians who are going to give us more money, better benefits and bigger raises. Just like every other labor union in America, including the SEIU, which represents janitors..

And finally I want to say this about police surveillance. we use cameras to monitor areas that are high crime spot, to monitor areas that we think are dealing drugs, to monitor a suspect’s residence to see when he leaves or arrives.

And if this bothers you Paul, how about this, we use satelite tracking devices attached to suspects vehicles to track them wherever they go; this eliminates the need to have a large team of detectives “tail” a suspect. It is extremely efficient and allows up to redirect resources paid for by taxpayers to other areas, as needed.

So basically Paul you are living in a police state, whether you realize it or not. The only difference between us and East Germany is that little paper document called the Constitution that protects your rights, including your right to own a gun. I don’t think it would be a good idea to erode those rights because once you eliminate one of them, someone in the government will ask you to erode some of the others in the interest of public safety..

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive
 

Hello Pete,

I think you’re dead on about the language the gun control lobby uses. If the issue was registering weapons, background checks, etc. I don’t think sensible gun owner can argue against it. And in fact in California we already have those laws and regulations in place. What is lacking is a uniformity among the states. The issue is whether the Federal Government can stretch the Intersate Commerce Clause to give them the authority to mandate a national gun registry.

This has been tried in the past, but always was defeated in the House and Senate. While the NRA has always been a powerful lobbying group, the fact is most gun owners do not belong to that association, but they do write their representatives and they do vote. And in a State like Texas or Georgia you can best residents have some pretty firm opinions about their right to own a gun, and whose business it is.

I think Americans should be able to own guns, as long as they are not a convicted felon, found by a competant court to be a drug addict, found by a competant court to be a mentally ill subject, found to be the subject of a restraining order, or have been convicted of any misdemeanor crime of physical violence. In short I support the laws of my state, California, with regards to gun ownership.

For those who abhore the idea of gun ownership let me say this: There are many things I do not apporve of personally that are allowed to take place in our free society, but because we are a free society I keep my nose out of other people’s business, until they break the law. I would appreciate the same consideration from my neighbors with regards to my choice to own a gun.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive
 

Drew,
I’ll bet most of those black on black shootouts happen because we still have Jim Crow laws. We just put them under this very noble and patriotic name called the “Drug War”. End prohibition, end the shootouts, this country would be such a safer place.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive
 

Pete,

You’ve misrepresented a couple of my points. First off, I did not cite Russia as an example of the “weaknesses of gun control”. I cited them as a country with a much higher murder rate than the U.S. (among many others) in spite of the fact that the government tightly controls firearms ownership…organized crime notwithstanding. You also completely swept aside and ignored the 40 other countries that outrank the U.S. in that category in favor of a mini dissertation on the collapse of the Soviet Union. A rather disingenuous response to my point.

- “No, not at all. My point was that the murder rate in the UK is lower than in the US, and that the proportion of those killings carried out with guns is also far lower.”

The murder rate in the UK was also lower than in the US well before your draconian gun-control laws went into effect. So you don’t even have a good apples-to-apples correlation in evidence.

- “If we assume (a caveat on this, I know) that there is a proportion of the general population who are disposed to murder others, given the availability of the same means to carry out this act (knives, fists, blunt objects, etc) we should see the displacement of the gun crime portion of the total in countries such as the US, with these alternatives. As this is not the case, I propose the thesis (I am avoiding saying the word “fact” as I appreciate it is anything but) that some of the differential is as a result of the wider availability of the differentiator (guns) to those in the US.”

Your thesis is only valid if you completely ignore every other societal variable, of which there are quite a few. Also, the fact that there are other nations with higher per-capita rates of gun ownership than the U.S. that also have significantly lower murder rates than we do would seem to throw another big monkey wrench into your theory.

In short, you’re attempting an overly simplistic analysis of a couple of data points and drawing conclusions that suffer for it.

Posted by Dan Parker | Report as abusive
 

Dan

You did not cite each and every nation rated above the US in that list, and I did not therefore respond with an individual dissertation. You did however specifically mention Russia, and I responded to your point. This is hardly disingenuous. If you wish to give a detailed synopsis of each nation, I am sure I will be able to respond, although I have no first hand experience of many of them, but this is,I suspect the same for you.

You raised Russia as an example of a nation with strong gun control legislation which appeared above the US in your list. I took this to mean that you felt their gun control policy demonstrated weakness in preventing or reducing the homicide rate. You did not actually make a point in your posting; I had to surmise this from the context in which you wrote it. If you have another point then make it and lets debate it.
On murder rates, you seem to have “moved the goalposts” (I’m not sure if you have this expression in the States) in the debate. Previously you have stated that there are numerous nations with higher homicide rates than the US and stricter gun control, and cited the UK and Russia, which I responded to in kind. You now allude to other counties with higher levels of gun ownership and higher murder rates, but you don’t provide any facts so difficult to debate against. I am not aware of these nations, and can’t find evidence to back your suggestions up, but I am not the font of all knowledge.

I am more than happy to debate with anyone, and think that sensible, reasoned discussion is always informative and can on occasion change opinion, if the debaters have a willingness to listen. I am not quite sure why you adopt such an aggressive tone, but I have tried to avoid silly personal attacks, as they serve no purpose and invariably make the accuser look the fool. On another forum I had a long exchange with a fervent member of the NRA, in which I don’t think we agreed on one single point of view, but still managed to appreciate each others evidence and, at the same time, had a pleasant, rewarding and informative dialogue which has developed into a friendship. That we now find that we disagree on almost every other topic of conversation we discuss is an ongoing source of amusement.

My point, once again, is that I actually added my initial comment not to agree or disagree with the gun debate, interesting though I think it is, but rather to point out that rational argument would serve both sides better, and help avoid stereotypes, be they gun toting Commie hating Charlton Hestonites or weak willed, middle class NIMBYs of the Michael Moore school.

Posted by pete | Report as abusive
 

As a Dutchman living in the USA I am amazed about the discussion or better non-discussion about guns. I cannot understand the logic and the reference to the second amendment. Personally I believe that the USA has no future when they endlessly keep going back to the past. The other point is that there is no normal discussion possible on almost any subject in the US. Maybe that you can talk about golf or baseball, but forget global warming, guns or health care. There is no normal discussion possible. You are either a socialist or a communist. I really hope that some day the USA will wake up and transform itself to modern times, where other people already use km instead of miles, etc. But I am afraid it is not going to happen in my life time.
ps. I have travelled in more than 50 countries and lived an about 10 different countries. This has shown to me that there are many other ways people can live.
Stay open and try to learn from the world.

Posted by San Vriens | Report as abusive
 

“Obviously the thought of police surveillance has unnerved you and caused you to buckle under the strain.” Comment by Jim.

What Buckled? What unnerved? Actually – after your last words – anyone reading your comment probably should be. How long will it be before the country becomes another Myanmar? The answer is – not very long!

Jim, you’re still an ass. You still sound like Barney Pfife but on steroids. But thanks for reminding me how important organizations like the ACLU are. They at least can’t claim they are creating the police state and than milking it for every tax dollar they can. You also explain why one hardly sees any flag waving any more. Your comment makes it clear there is nothing to wave them for. And you still put forward that spurious argument that guns protect one’s civil rights. Law protects civil rights, not weapons. By the time one has reached the time or place when guns are a protection, one’s civil rights have already evaporated and its a matter of basic survival.

And you still haven’t answered the question about assault weapons and whether it is wise for a society to allow those kinds of weapons to be widely available to any gun owner who wants them. And the comments in this entire debate have drifted far from the original article. They seem to have become a debate on gun ownership in general.

Take you eyes off the spy holes and look around. You seem to be loosing the debate. You and your fellows have been turning the country into a prison camp who’s citizens are merely “trustees”. And not very trusted Trustees at that.

But I knew this was coming eight years ago. Next time I’m outdoors I’ll remember to wave a big foam finger, or better still, I’ll make sure the landscape around my house is suitably composed for that neglected vantage point – from above. Forget curb appeal, let’s go for “spy in the sky appeal”. We’ll just have to hope the realtor forgets to mention that the neighbors might be hiding enough firepower to murder the rest of us in a few seconds.

Posted by Paul Rosa | Report as abusive
 

Sorry, forgot to paste in my response to this point:
The murder rate in the UK was also lower than in the US well before your draconian gun-control laws went into effect. So you don’t even have a good apples-to-apples correlation in evidence.

The level of gun ownership in the UK has always been very low. At the time the UK laws on gun control were tightened there were fewer than 57,000 registered owners. After the act was passed effectively banning handgun ownership 163,000 weapons of all types were tracked and handed in for disposal. This gave a gun ownership figure of less than .3% of the population. Therefore, you miss entirely the point the UK is an excellent example of the correlation between levels of gun ownership and gun related homicide. regardless of whether the level is due to legislation or personal choice.

Posted by pete | Report as abusive
 

There are a multitude of reasons why gun control simply will not work in the US. First and foremost, there are still areas of the US that are far more rugged than my fellow European readers can understand.

Second, we as Americans, feel we have a right to gun ownership because we are just that a free society! We are untethered by the social constructs that strangle so much of Europe and Asia. We have the right to bear arms for our protection.

Protection from what? From the tyranny of evil men. So, I ask you why is mayor Bloomberg so quick to assume that he knows what is best for the entire country? How can he make a decision for the people of my state, Oklahoma, based on his insular, liberal life in the “Big Apple”?

I do not pretend to know the inner workings of the New York City, nor do I want to know. However, I also do not try to dictate the policies for his city, anymore than Bloomberg should try to dictate to mine.

The federal government needs to stay out of states rights and other states need to mind their own business. Our legally owned, Constitutionally protected firearms are not the problem. If Bloomberg wants to help then why doesn’t he get involved with a lobby for stronger sentencing for violent offenders.

Posted by Jack Tatum | Report as abusive
 

For a different perspective from an Englishman, read the BBC article, “America’s Safety Catch” here:
http://tinyurl.com/6xrnv9

 

One of the reasons that the US has never been invaded, is the fact that the invaders would face a rifle behind every blade of grass. There is no movement or “progress” that we can undertake that will give us better protection than ourselves. There are bad people in this country, and in the world…The Sheriff is at least 15 minutes away. When the bad guys break the door down, who will protect me? Mayor Bloomberg? I think not…. the only one who can protect me is ME!!! I therefore, will stay armed and prepared to kill ANYONE who tries to do me harm. Leave me alone and I will be your friend. Screw with me, and I will be the worst enemy you could ever face… Your never alone with Smith and Wesson… Good luck in being unarmed in a dangerous and violent world…

Posted by Cory Hine | Report as abusive
 

PAUL:

You call me an ass and yet you are the one who sounds like chicken little running around crying about the sky falling.

You have spent too much time with your mop and bucket; perhaps it is you that should step out into the sunlight and see the country for what it is:

A place full of diversity; diverse cultures, opinions, lifestyles and above all else freedom.

You would deny my freedom to own a firearm, yet gladly wrap yourself in the flag and proclaim freedom in every other aspect of life in this country.

Your the horse’s ass, Paul. Not get back to your mop bucket..

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive
 

Should the U.S. learn from other nations and become more global? Perhaps. What I have noticed living here all my life is that when other nations come here to live, they bring their culture with them.

They have their holidays, their dress, their dances,their events and some even their own laws and regulations. Whether it is the Dutch community, the Chinese community, the Irish community, the German community or the many others that live here, we as Americans are encouraged to accept this as part of the “melting pot” ideal.

Yet it seems that the rest of the world cannot accept certain aspects of our culture. Why is that? It seems to me that the rest of the world is no different. There are things going on around that world with which many American’s do not agree. That’s just life.

Everyone thinks they are right. No one really thinks they are wrong. So, those outside the U.S. think they are right on “Global Warming” or “Gun Control”. So what? They think their measuring system is better. So what? Some people like purple and some like green. So what?

As far as I know the U.S. isn’t trying to force our measuring system upon the rest of the world nor are we trying to make you have gun laws as we do.

We don’t want the government to rule us. We want our voice always to be heard. We don’t want the government to be the dominant but the sub-serviant. In the U.S. the government is of the people, by the people and for the people.

This is not a idea from the past, which monarchies and dictatorships represent, but rather an idea that is young in relation to history.

It is our culture, if other countries don’t like, guess what? That only means there are things about their cultures we don’t like as well.

Remember, everyone thinks they are right and their ways are the best ways.

Posted by John | Report as abusive
 

I cringe as I watch society step closer and close towards a more Orwellian future. One of the things that makes America great is the choice itself. Not only was this system put into place in the event the countries citizens would ever have to literally overthrow their government (violently if need be), but it is also a sign of trust on the governments part. Yes the potential for violence might be greater, but to retract these rights is a much greater travesty; one that offends on a deep moral and philosophical level. If the government no longer places it’s trust in its people, what is left?

I think Benjamin Franklin said something of the effect: “those who sacrifice there freedom for security don’t deserve freedom at all”.

READ 1984.

I SUPPORT GUN RIGHTS EVEN IF THAT MEANS I GET SHOT.

 

40 Reasons to Support Gun Control
(Apparently derived from the essay by Michael Z. Williamson.)

1. Banning guns works, which is why New York, DC, and Chicago cops need guns.
2. Washington DC’s low murder rate of 80.6 per 100,000 is due to strict gun control, and Arlington, VA’s high murder rate of 1.6 per 100,000 is due to the lack of gun control.
3. Statistics showing high murder rates justify gun control but statistics showing increasing murder rates after gun control are “just statistics.”
4. The Brady Bill and the Assault Weapons Ban, both of which went into effect in 1994, are responsible for the decrease in violent crime rates, which have been declining since 1991.
5. We must get rid of guns because a deranged lunatic may go on a shooting spree at any time and anyone who would own a gun out of fear of such a lunatic is paranoid.
6. The more helpless you are the safer you are from criminals.
7. An intruder will be incapacitated by tear gas or oven spray, but if shot with a .357 Magnum will get angry and kill you.
8. A woman raped and strangled is morally superior to a woman with a smoking gun and a dead rapist at her feet.
9. When confronted by violent criminals, you should “put up no defense — give them what they want, or run” (Handgun Control Inc. Chairman Pete Shields, Guns Don’t Die – People Do, 1981, p. 125).
10. The New England Journal of Medicine is filled with expert advice about guns; just like Guns and Ammo has some excellent treatises on heart surgery.
11. One should consult an automotive engineer for safer seatbelts, a civil engineer for a better bridge, a surgeon for spinal paralysis, a computer programmer for Y2K problems, and Sarah Brady [or Sheena Duncan, Adele Kirsten, Peter Storey, etc.] for firearms expertise.
12. The 2nd Amendment, ratified in 1791, refers to the National Guard, which was created by an act of Congress in 1903.
13. The National Guard, funded by the federal government, occupying property leased to the federal government, using weapons owned by the federal government, punishing trespassers under federal law, is a state militia.
14. These phrases,” right of the people peaceably to assemble,” “right of the people to be secure in their homes,” “enumeration’s herein of certain rights shall not be construed to disparage others retained by the people,” and “The powers not delegated herein are reserved to the states respectively, and to the people,” all refer to individuals, but “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” refers to the state.
15. We don’t need guns against an oppressive government, because the Constitution has internal safeguards, but we should ban and seize all guns, thereby violating the 2nd, 4th, and 5th amendments to that Constitution.
16. Rifles and handguns aren’t necessary to national defense, which is why the army has millions of them.
17. Private citizens shouldn’t have handguns, because they serve no military purpose, and private citizens shouldn’t have “assault rifles,” because they are military weapons.
18. The ready availability of guns today, with waiting periods, background checks, fingerprinting, government forms, et cetera, is responsible for recent school shootings,compared to the lack of school shootings in the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s, which resulted from the availability of guns at hardware stores, surplus stores, gas stations, variety stores, mail order, et cetera.
19. The NRA’s attempt to run a “don’t touch” campaign about kids handling guns is propaganda, and the anti-gun lobby’s attempt to run a “don’t touch” campaign is responsible social activity.
20. Guns are so complex that special training is necessary to use them properly, and so simple to use that they make murder easy.
21. A handgun, with up to 4 controls, is far too complex for the typical adult to learn to use, as opposed to an automobile that only has 20.
22. Women are just as intelligent and capable as men but a woman with a gun is “an accident waiting to happen” and gun makers’ advertisements aimed at women are “preying on their fears.”
23. Ordinary people in the presence of guns turn into slaughtering butchers but revert to normal when the weapon is removed.
24. Guns cause violence, which is why there are so many mass killings at gun shows.
25. A majority of the population supports gun control, just like a majority of the population supported owning slaves.
26. A self-loading small arm can legitimately be considered to be a “weapon of mass destruction” or an “assault weapon.”
27. Most people can’t be trusted, so we should have laws against guns, which most people will abide by because they can be trusted.
28. The right of online pornographers to exist cannot be questioned because it is constitutionally protected by the Bill of Rights, but the use of handguns for self defense is not really protected by the Bill of Rights.
29. Free speech entitles one to own newspapers, transmitters, computers, and typewriters, but self-defense only justifies bare hands.
30. The ACLU is good because it uncompromisingly defends certain parts of the Constitution, and the NRA is bad, because it defends other parts of the Constitution.
31. Charlton Heston as president of the NRA is a shill who should be ignored, but Michael Douglas as a representative of Handgun Control, Inc. is an ambassador for peace who is entitled to an audience at the UN arms control summit.
32. Police operate with backup within groups, which is why they need larger capacity pistol magazines than do “civilians” who must face criminals alone and therefore need less ammunition.
33. We should ban “Saturday Night Specials” and other inexpensive guns because it’s not fair that poor people have access to guns too.
34. Police officers, who qualify with their duty weapons once or twice a year, have some special Jedi-like mastery over handguns that private citizens can never hope to obtain.
35. Private citizens don’t need a gun for self-protection because the police are there to protect them even though the Supreme Court says the police are not responsible for their protection.
36. Citizens don’t need to carry a gun for personal protection but police chiefs, who are desk-bound administrators who work in a building filled with cops, need a gun.
37. “Assault weapons” have no purpose other than to kill large numbers of people, which is why the police need them but “civilians” do not.
38. When Microsoft pressures its distributors to give Microsoft preferential promotion, that’s bad; but when the Federal government pressures cities to buy guns only from Smith & Wesson, that’s good.
39. Trigger locks do not interfere with the ability to use a gun for defensive purposes, which is why you see police officers with one on their duty weapon.
40. When Handgun Control, Inc., says they want to “keep guns out of the wrong hands,” they don’t mean you. Really.

Posted by Carol Winters | Report as abusive
 

To Michael Ham,

Agreed. And the Drug War is another conundrum.

But the subject of Gun Control…someone mentioned poverty and in my opinion, the huge disparity between rich and poor creates some of this violence.

But to change the American model, would mean more taxes to even this disparity. A popular idea in the States now. But, again, to change the American model, would mean more taxes, less disparity, but less income for all Americans, more for the government, and America will no longer be the world buyer of stuff. Like crap from the U.K. And all that crap at Walmart, too.

The U.S. drives the world economy. Is this a false statement??

Gun control = A disarmed populace = More taxes = Less purchasing power for Americans = Less British crap sold = Smug Europeans taking less vacations.

Its all related…

And all this happened in Canada already.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive
 

Also in simplified form,

Guns = Freedom = Freedom of speech = Morons like Carol Winters (espousing not even her own opinion but M.Z. Williamson’s flawed logic) having the freedom to discuss her diatribe.

Well, hmm… people say. I live in Europe and I have freedom of speech, too. And yes, thanks to America.

America is the last domino standing.

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive
 

Jim – you know what they say about guys who need big guns or big cars?

And you’re comment about mops and buckets might get the cleaning staff a little worked up if you dare get near any of them again.

You’re still an ass and I think it’s still growing. Too bad the same thing can’t be said about the other side.

I also think you have a big problem with psychological Projection. I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree and happen to be self employed. I was moonlighting, you arrogant joke. I really hope police departments aren’t full of jerks like you.

Posted by Paul Rosa | Report as abusive
 

Drew–
Please extend the courtesy of refraining from disparaging remarks that are not only irrelevant (ad hominem), but demonstrate the type of courage found only either in front of a computer screen or out of earshot of those who would otherwise take offense; I doubt very much that you would be so inclined to refer to someone as a moron if he or she had opportunity to punch you in the mouth. Though we may fervently disagree, let all of us embrace the advice of the late novelist Kurt Vonnegut and “be kind”. And having taught formal logic for 27 years, I do agree that Williamson does indeed stumble over a few fallacies here and there, but the spirit of his argument outlining the absurd contradictions and emotional appeals that often result in disastrous prohibitions I think makes a good point: People generally choose sides with less than all the facts, and are incapable of empathizing with those who disagree. This condition, unfortunately, has preceded most wars.

Posted by Carol Winters | Report as abusive
 

Carol Winters & Drew

I seem to be misreading this, but the article Carol posted looks to me like a piece written to sarcastically highlight the discrepancies between gun control fact and theory. In fact to me it seems rabidly pro-unregulated gun ownership. Not quite sure why Drew is so upset by it therefore.

John,

I agree the cultural melting pot idea should promote greater tolerance and understanding, and over a longer period of time, given that there are no exceptional additional factors, does help with assimilation. A good example from the UK is the curry. Indian immigrants have been in the UK from the days of the Empire, and yet only 30-40 years ago a curry was still seen as something outside the norm. Now curry is officially the UK’s favourite take out food, and (I think) also in the top 5 for home cooked meals. It has been assimilated to the extent that we no longer see it as foreign.

On the subject of democratic Government, the UK led the field on this one, of course. The Magna Carta in 1215 was the first document to enshrine in law control of the monarchy by an elected body, and in the same century we had the first elected Parliament. By the 1600′s we had the elected Parliament as the main ruling body, with the Monarchy increasingly sidelined to the current point where the Monarchy is merely a symbolic office with no practical power to influence policy. Government by the people since the 1600′s at least therefore.

I think the jist of your post though, if you will allow me to summarise for you, is that this is a domestic matter for the US, which has no impact on the legislation or practice of other nations. I think that you are absolutely right that, so long as there are sufficient controls to ensure American visitors are unable to carry these weapons across international borders, then the decision on what the US does is for the US to decide. However, I completely disagree with any suggestion that this means that individuals cannot contribute to the debate. Indeed, given the diverse experience of contributors from around the world I think their contribution can only encourage intelligent and balanced debate within your borders. The key bit is intelligent and balanced, of course. Whilst, as I have mentioned several times, the more extreme posts by some US citizens here and elsewhere only reinforce global prejudice against the US, equally others have used it for a bit of “Yank bashing”. Neither is fair, rational or helpful. Like you I have no idea what the metric system or oil wars have to do with gun control, but equally I am mystified what Jaguar cars and number plate scanners have to do with anything much at all! (Then again, this from someone who has just worked curries into a debate on gun control!).

I think that Most US citizens are proud of their Constitution and, likewise, I am equally proud that my country does not have one; these are wholly opposing positions, but also entirely justifiable and crucially, neither stance is an attack on or threat to the other.

Final couple of points, one of which also ties into John’s thoughts on national identity.

I had stopped looking at Drew’s postings, but noticed on reading back the comments a couple which had returned to gun control of a fashion, contained comments which I felt I had to respond on
“…But seriously, I heard a statistic (take them or leave them) but I heard that of the 1800 murders in NYC in one year, 1700 of these are so called black-on-black shootings. A term the news uses…

And in Toronto, a lot of these gun killings are done by young black men. This is an observation. America is a mix of cultures, and so is Canada, but not the U.K. or Europe.
So there are some bad apples. But why punish the good apples? Its easy to ban everything. I live in liberal Ontario, so I know all about bans. Bans are easy to do and require ‘little thought’.
But anyone from the U.K. cannot have a ’sensible’ discussion on gun control because your country is mostly white folks going to the pub…”

The UK (indeed, Europe as a whole) can best be described as the archetypal melting pot. Immigration and cross border migration has been a feature of the continent for thousands of years. There are numerous nations in Europe where there are several national languages due to this.

London is one of the most ethnically diverse capital cities in the world with over half the population being non-white/non-European. It is certainly true that ethnic groups tend to congregate in urban areas, at least during the initial few generations of integration, but to suggest that this country is “…white folks going to the pub…” is nonsense.

I appreciate though that all US citizens, with the exception of the 3 million or so Native Americans are in effect immigrants. In fact it is one of those American quirks that is often commented on by other nationals that so many, American citizens born and bred for many generations back, still seem to firstly associate themselves with another country to which they have no personal connection and in many instances have never visited or indeed living relatives who have been there. Perhaps the melting pot idea is promoted by this, in some part at least

I don’t really understand the earlier point about “black-on-black” violence and would not comment on it, other than to say that the very use of the term is an appalling example of institutional racism, if as the post implies it is in common use in the US press and other media. I am sure Drew did not mean to suggest that “blacks” are bad apples, but it appears to me to suggest that there is a scale of importance based on skin tone, and by quoting it as a mollifying factor concerning the Washington murder rate, implies that the overall figure is not really as bad as it seems as, 1700 are “only” black-on-black.

Posted by pete | Report as abusive
 

To Carol Winter,

I would be happy to discuss Gun Control to any mental midget, such as yourself. You are welcome to phone me.

Just don’t make it collect.

But to refute all your points from A-to-Z. (Even I have a life to lead)…

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive
 

Also to Carol Winter:

(Knuckles cracked…),

In case you didn’t notice Carol, this is called “The Great Debate” and we have Paul Rosa and that officer from L.A. squaring-off, Jim and Pete squaring-off and me and Pete squaring off. And these are all great ideas. And its all here on the Internet (note to Pete: you know the Internet?, which was invented by America!)

And even Pete, bless his soul, I call him names, this is part of my arsenal and this is an effective strategy, because even you seem to be a little tongue-tied.

But I like picking on Pete, too. And I like picking on people from the U.K. and I’m going to pick on you right now. So you are going take your little medicine and like it.

First off, you are invited to call me anytime. It would be foolish to give my number out right now, under the microscope, so to speak. But I have disclosed my long last German name and the small town I live in. So do a little a research…

But you, Carol Winter, took a few shots at me, so if I could respond. Yeah I’m hurling epithets in the safety of my own home – well you’re part right. And you’re also part wrong.

Believe it or not, I also “walk the walk”, so to speak, but you will have take my word on that. Only you’re sophomoric fragile confidence hopes that I hide behind a computer.

I’m not hiding. I’m right here.

And I called you a mental midget. Prove me wrong. Prove to me you are not part of the ‘Crayon Crew’ with Pete.

But lets look at you for a second…first, you interrupted our debate, And its a great debate! by printing a whole chapter on this thread, which in my opinion is rude as well, forcing the good people on this debate to read this crap. And we only have so much time. So sometimes less is more. And there is a lot of crap on the net and I just scanned what you put up.

You could have encapsulated your moronic posting with a joke, but I forgot, you were making a joke. Not all of us, like Pete, are on permanent vacation, either.

Second, you are suggesting censorship on the internet just because things aren’t going your little way. And pardon me, I didn’t know you made the rules…And thankfully, its still an open forum.

Third, your comments about ‘a punch in the face’, which I thought were cute, is a borderline threat and lets not mince words… If i said the same thing to you, I think someone might be showing up at my door. But thanks to America, the whole world ain’t Liberal yet. America is the last domino standing.

Fourth, let me take a shot at you (no pun intended)…

You publish your last name on the net, so either, you are brave or terribly naive and I think its the latter of the two.

You use Latin in your thread to impress, so right off the bat, you are a psuedo-intellectual University Student, probably come from a rich home, probably from the Eastern Seabord (not the Midwest).

You are probably a ‘policy wonk’ – trying to impress Men with your brain. (And we all know about women with great personalities…)

Or maybe you are a Man impersonating a Woman. Or a Woman impersonating a Man.

Hopefully this is my last statement on this thread and I look forward to hearing from everybody on other posts, including you Carol Winter. And Pete for being such a good sport.

Guns equal freedom. Equal freedom of Speech.

God Bless America

Drew Scott Kreutzweiser
Ontario, Canada

Posted by Drew | Report as abusive
 

Interesting comments from an Englishman regarding the passionate discourse in our country on the right to own a firearm. There is some clamor in Great Britain currently about bringing back the right to bear arms due to the increasing crime problem, especially in the countryside. Americans who do not wish to have the law changed are vocal in the gun debate to the point of being belligerent because they know that if the state moves aggressively on gun ownership there will be a cascade of laws once a precedence is established in court and private gun ownership will be over – well and truly. The mayors who have problems in their respective cities have societal problems – not gun problems. Eleanor Holmes Norton cries about the prevalence of gun shops in Virginia that she claims are a source for firearms in the crime ridden shooting galleries of the District. They sell a lot of firearms in Virgina – but the difference is that residents aren’t using them to slaughter each other like the thugs in DC. There are hundreds of millions of firearms in the U.S. If the State takes the weapons from the law-abiding citizens – the only people left who will have access to the huge number of unregistered guns will be the criminals – just like the situation in Great Britain.

Posted by Galasso | Report as abusive
 

For Carol Winters: I respectfully disagree with the article you cite that says gun banning has worked in DC. Just last week, the Chief of Police of the District of Columbia said that they are optimistic that by year’s end they will have had less than 100 homicides – which will finally after 45 years – dip to the level when JFK was President. That is certainly not a record to be proud of especially in such a small metropolitan area.

Posted by Galasso | Report as abusive
 

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