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Posted: 07 March 2012 07:17 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I’m sure this will be a fiery topic - but let’s talk about. For or against, and why?

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Posted: 07 March 2012 08:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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For.

Guns are inanimate tools.  Too many people commit a form of the Anthropomorphic Fallacy by thinking guns are somehow inherently evil. 

The fact that some people misuse this tool leads many of these same people to go on to commit the Fallacy of Misleading Vividness.  A single violent gun crime makes the headlines in the same way that a single child dying from an allergic reaction to a vaccine makes the headlines.  What rarely make the news are the “non-events”—many more crimes not committed or prevented by the defensive use of a gun and many more children not dying from vaccine preventable diseases because they were vaccinated.  So the rarer events (gun crimes and allergic reactions to vaccines) are the ones that are repeated over and over again in the media and pop culture - both of which loves scary and heart-wrenching stories.  This causes people to have a skewed perception of the dangers of each tool.  And once their minds are made up, their emotions make it very difficult for facts to have any impact on the discussion.  It’s difficult to debate when there is a dead child anywhere in the discussion, no matter how they died.

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Posted: 08 March 2012 05:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Huge topic, mid atlantic. My own feeling is that long guns are less problematic: the ones people use for hunting or perhaps for home security. My concern is with handguns, which are easy to conceal, and with semi-automatic or automatic weapons, which are too powerful and therefore dangerous for any legitimate use except killing lots of people.

The US has one of the highest rates of murder per capita in the advanced world. Much of that is due to gun violence. (We’ve discussed this before on the Forum in some detail).

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Posted: 08 March 2012 11:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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dougsmith - 08 March 2012 05:10 AM

Huge topic, mid atlantic. My own feeling is that long guns are less problematic: the ones people use for hunting or perhaps for home security. My concern is with handguns, which are easy to conceal, and with semi-automatic or automatic weapons, which are too powerful and therefore dangerous for any legitimate use except killing lots of people.

Not sure of what you mean by “too powerful.”  Are they also “too powerful” for the police?  Most all long guns (hunting rifles or shotguns) are more powerful than handguns.  Many hunting rifles can shoot through Kevlar vests - not so for handguns. 

There is a big difference between semi-automatic and full-automatic firearms.  A semi-automatic handgun does not shoot any faster than an old-fashioned revolver. 

If you mean that some handguns can hold more than 5 or 6 rounds like many revolvers, this is true.  Of course it is true for many long guns too.  But I contend that having multiple rounds is a good thing for self-defense.  Life is not like TV or the movies.  The good guy doesn’t just have to shoot one time to dispatch the bad guy.  It is rare for there to be a “one-shot stop.”  Watch many of the real-life videos of police officers’ dash cams that have recorded the police shooting the bad guy and the bad guy not going down even after more than one shot.  Drugged up bad guys may not feel pain, so one or two non-lethal shots may not stop them.  You may be forced to keep shooting such bad guys.  Plus you can’t assume just one bad guy at a time.  Many times more than one violent predator (of the two-legged variety) attempts to attack a law-abiding citizen.  And during such intense stressful situations tachypsychia sets in affecting your vision and perception, the adrenal glands dump causing tremors and shaking, so you can’t be 100% assured you will make a perfect shot the first time.  If you were ever in such a situation you’d be thankful you had multiple rounds at your disposal. 

I would suggest that the error of this fallacy of Misplaced Vividness of multiple people dying can be demonstrated with planes and plane crashes.  No news story ever says, “3,000 planes took off today, flew cross country and landed safely.”  However that one time a single plane crashes and kills all 300 people on board makes the news for weeks on end.  No one would then say that planes should be made that hold fewer people so that during the next plane crash fewer people would die. 

Finally women and the elderly (who are generally smaller and weaker) often cannot handle the larger long guns.  They should not be denied the right to defend themselves with one of the most effect self-defense tools that exists just because it is small and can be concealed.

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Posted: 08 March 2012 12:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I think the issue should ideally be decided on an empirical basis. Rocinante is right that guns are tools and not inherently evil. On the other hand, some kinds of guns are designed specifically for killing human beings, and they allow individuals to do so more easily and in greater numbers than most other tools available to the average person (the airplane analogy seems inappropriate here since the statistical risk posed by airplanes is so vanishingly small compared to that posed by guns that they cannot be reasonably compared). As special tools designed for this purpose, they pose a potential hazard that is unique t their nature. If one could show that the predominant use of such tools was legitimate self defense, I would support government encouraging, or at least not interfering, with access to them. On the other hand, if it could be clearly shown that the majority of the harm done by these tools was through illegitimate criminal activity, accidnets, and so on, then it would seem a simple public health matter to restrict them (leaving aside the quetsion of whether this is feasible in the United States, which it likely is not).

However, the bulk of the debate and most people’s decisions on this issue seem more values based than pragmatic or empirical. Rocinante, for example, while a smart and rational person, is deeply resistant to the idea that government interference with the choices and actions of individuals has any legitimacy at all, and I suspect this influences his opposition to gun control efforts and his interpretation of the evidence. I, on the other hand, am not only comfortable with a far greater role for government in restricting individual behavior, but I am also in medicine and I see the gun issue as a public health problem, not a moral issue. Others, I find, are often more concerned about the interpretation and relevance of the 2nd amendment and the issue of “rights” than about the practical consequences of allowing or restricting gun ownership. The Supreme Court decision to read te amendment as intending to ensure an individual right to gun ownership seems a perfect example of this torturing of simple and straightforward language to fit an ideological position.

So the debate often seems pointless to me because it involves issues of values and faith in certin moral principles, about which human beings are notoriously inflexible and resistant t contrary evidence, and it is predicated on a database which seems pretty thin and unreliable, easily interpreted in ways that conform to the ideology of the person doing the interpreting.

My own opinion is that dramatically restricting the availability of guns to ordinary citizens would do far more good than harm. I also have come to believe that the cat is too far out of the bag at this point, and I doubt we could ever make guns hard enough to come by to do any good without allowing a kind of intensive and authoritarian policing that even an old liberal like me would object to. So while I generally oppose things like mandatory open carry laws, I have doubts about the practical value of gun ownership restrictions since tey seem impractical t enforce.

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Posted: 08 March 2012 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I feel very lucky to live in a society in which It’s unlikely that another person will intentionally seriously physically harm me.

I’d feel so much more at risk if gun ownership were common.

And if I owned one there would be the risk that I harmed someone else with it.

I think general gun ownership is a crazy idea.

Stephen

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Posted: 08 March 2012 01:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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StephenLawrence - 08 March 2012 01:07 PM

I feel very lucky to live in a society in which It’s unlikely that another person will intentionally seriously physically harm me.

I’d feel so much more at risk if gun ownership were common.

And if I owned one there would be the risk that I harmed someone else with it.

I think general gun ownership is a crazy idea.

Stephen

I agree. In the back of my mind I wonder if some religious zealot might not mow us all down at the Reason Rally (less than 3 weeks from now). Of course the NRA would say I should simply bring a gun. That logic sickens me.  sick

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Posted: 08 March 2012 02:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Rocinante - 07 March 2012 08:42 PM

For.

Guns are inanimate tools.  Too many people commit a form of the Anthropomorphic Fallacy by thinking guns are somehow inherently evil.

The concept of a private citizen owning a gun can be extended to a country owning a nuclear weapon. If nuclear weapons are just inanimate tools, why all the big fuss about Iran?

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Posted: 08 March 2012 02:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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mid atlantic - 07 March 2012 07:17 PM

I’m sure this will be a fiery topic - but let’s talk about. For or against, and why?

For.  Mainly because bad guys are going to acquire guns whether they are legal or not.  If they are not legal, good guys are only going to have guns if they are part of military or law enforcement.  I want all the good guys (who want to) to have guns if they are willing to own and use them responsibly.

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Posted: 08 March 2012 03:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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jls7227 - 08 March 2012 02:04 PM
Rocinante - 07 March 2012 08:42 PM

For.

Guns are inanimate tools.  Too many people commit a form of the Anthropomorphic Fallacy by thinking guns are somehow inherently evil.

The concept of a private citizen owning a gun can be extended to a country owning a nuclear weapon. If nuclear weapons are just inanimate tools, why all the big fuss about Iran?

True an individual being allowed to own a gun for self-defense is generally analogous to a nation having nukes for self-defense. 

But some people shouldn’t own guns.  Those who have clearly demonstrated they initiate violence with a gun have chosen to give up their right to own a gun in exchange for a prison cell. 

Likewise, there are certain nations who have demonstrated the fact that they are governed by weird-beard theocrats who publicly hang homosexuals,  commit violent and unjust suppression of innocent citizens and most importantly relishes the idea of killing as many Jews as possible have given up their right to own nukes. 

Not all nations are equal.

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Posted: 08 March 2012 04:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I’ve been watching this thread to see in what direction it would go being curious to see if fellow atheists are gun owners and after Darron mentioned it in another thread I wanted to see if it would stir someone up to reply. I’ve been around guns my whole life and am a gun owner, one of the two conservative tenets I follow. the other is fiscal, teaching salaries being sparse. Gun ownership and hunting is common here and there are several shooting ranges for target shooters, which is what I am. Personally, I have no problem with responsible people owning firearms if used properly. However, there should be parameters to this, namely registration, restricted ownership due to past criminal behavior, mental illness, and a total ban on all military type weapons for civilian use. I know this is a heretical position for a gun owner but who needs to hunt deer with a grenade launcher or an automatic weapon? The NRA,s position on this is that all citizens should have the right to collect and use these antipersonnel weapons and BTW that’s what they’re for, but spotrsmen/women, have no need for them. They are very expensive, use tons of ammunition and are usually used by collectors to blow up derelict trucks. So, I have no problem with restricting auto or semi auto weapons. Also, each state’s gun laws vary as do laws in cities, many of whom ban handguns all together. You can’t hunt squirrels in Central Park. So my question to a gun owner is what is your motivation for gun ownership? If you trust the local police then you don’t need one for protection. Put a ball bat beside your bed. 99% of the sounds you here at night are your house settling, and the Mayan calendar isn’t signaling the end of the World as we know it so you don’t need that Uzi to protect the wife and kids. Besides, who wants to spend a thousand dollars on a gun?


Cap’t Jack

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Posted: 08 March 2012 06:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Thevillageatheist - 08 March 2012 04:31 PM

I’ve been watching this thread to see in what direction it would go being curious to see if fellow atheists are gun owners and after Darron mentioned it in another thread I wanted to see if it would stir someone up to reply. I’ve been around guns my whole life and am a gun owner, one of the two conservative tenets I follow. the other is fiscal, teaching salaries being sparse. Gun ownership and hunting is common here and there are several shooting ranges for target shooters, which is what I am. Personally, I have no problem with responsible people owning firearms if used properly. However, there should be parameters to this, namely registration, restricted ownership due to past criminal behavior, mental illness, and a total ban on all military type weapons for civilian use. I know this is a heretical position for a gun owner but who needs to hunt deer with a grenade launcher or an automatic weapon? The NRA,s position on this is that all citizens should have the right to collect and use these antipersonnel weapons and BTW that’s what they’re for, but spotrsmen/women, have no need for them. They are very expensive, use tons of ammunition and are usually used by collectors to blow up derelict trucks. So, I have no problem with restricting auto or semi auto weapons. Also, each state’s gun laws vary as do laws in cities, many of whom ban handguns all together. You can’t hunt squirrels in Central Park. So my question to a gun owner is what is your motivation for gun ownership? If you trust the local police then you don’t need one for protection. Put a ball bat beside your bed. 99% of the sounds you here at night are your house settling, and the Mayan calendar isn’t signaling the end of the World as we know it so you don’t need that Uzi to protect the wife and kids. Besides, who wants to spend a thousand dollars on a gun?


Cap’t Jack

I also was curious to see how many freethinkers here are gun owners - because I don’t want to piss them off and have them hunt me down! LOL

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Posted: 08 March 2012 06:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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The fact that guns are merely tools, and not inherently evil is a common argument.  However, Phillips head screw drivers (cross-slot) are also merely tools, but if they were outlawed, it’s doubtful that very many Phillips head screws would be used.  Similarly, if guns were outlawed, many a spouse, annoying nieighbor, school teacher, boss, school bully, etc. would not have been killed.

Occam

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Posted: 08 March 2012 06:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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jls7227 - 08 March 2012 02:04 PM
Rocinante - 07 March 2012 08:42 PM

For.

Guns are inanimate tools.  Too many people commit a form of the Anthropomorphic Fallacy by thinking guns are somehow inherently evil.

The concept of a private citizen owning a gun can be extended to a country owning a nuclear weapon. If nuclear weapons are just inanimate tools, why all the big fuss about Iran?

Nuclear weapons can obviously do much more damage.

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Posted: 08 March 2012 06:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Occam. - 08 March 2012 06:17 PM

The fact that guns are merely tools, and not inherently evil is a common argument.  However, Phillips head screw drivers (cross-slot) are also merely tools, but if they were outlawed, it’s doubtful that very many Phillips head screws would be used.  Similarly, if guns were outlawed, many a spouse, annoying nieighbor, school teacher, boss, school bully, etc. would not have been killed.

Occam

Not necessarily, if somebody really wants to kill some one else, they will.  Any object can be used.

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Posted: 08 March 2012 07:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Occam. - 08 March 2012 06:17 PM

Similarly, if guns were outlawed, many a spouse, annoying nieighbor, school teacher, boss, school bully, etc. would not have been killed.


Again, I must point out you are only presenting one side of the equation. 

You are ignoring the number of times a crime was not committed out of the criminal’s fear of an armed citizen.  You are also not counting the number of times an armed citizen presented a gun (with or without firing it) to stop a crime in progress.  Only when you have all cases of gun use can you make an accurate cost/benefit analysis.  Otherwise it is nothing but emotion. 

It would be like a person only counting the number of drunk driving deaths and claiming that cars (or alcohol) should be outlawed.  After all, why would a person need a car where the speedometer goes to 100 MPH?  And alcohol’s only purpose is to cloud the mind and judgement.  Such thinking ignores the much more prevalent safe and responsible drivers who use their cars to do good every day, and the vast majority of social drinkers who never do any harm.

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