American gun use is out of control. Shouldn’t the world intervene?

In a global perspective on US gun violence, Henry Porter suggest an international intervention to overcome domestic political gridlock:

The annual toll from firearms in the US is running at 32,000 deaths and climbing, even though the general crime rate is on a downward path (it is 40% lower than in 1980). If this perennial slaughter doesn’t qualify for intercession by the UN and all relevant NGOs, it is hard to know what does.

To absorb the scale of the mayhem, it’s worth trying to guess the death toll of all the wars in American history since the War of Independence began in 1775, and follow that by estimating the number killed by firearms in the US since the day that Robert F. Kennedy was shot in 1968 by a .22 Iver-Johnson handgun, wielded by Sirhan Sirhan. The figures from Congressional Research Service, plus recent statistics from icasualties.org, tell us that from the first casualties in the battle of Lexington to recent operations in Afghanistan, the toll is 1,171,177. By contrast, the number killed by firearms, including suicides, since 1968, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI, is 1,384,171.

That 212,994 more Americans lost their lives from firearms in the last 45 years than in all wars involving the US is a staggering fact, particularly when you place it in the context of the safety-conscious, “secondary smoke” obsessions that characterise so much of American life.

via American gun use is out of control. Shouldn’t the world intervene? | Henry Porter | Comment is free | The Observer.

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21 thoughts on “American gun use is out of control. Shouldn’t the world intervene?

  1. jmmorgan242 says:

    I have to preface this comment by stating that I am 100% for incredibly strict gun control. I think that the leniency of current gun control laws is what has contributed to the massive amount of gun-related deaths mentioned above. Something does need to be done about this and soon. However, I don’t think it is the UN’s place to dictate to the US what it’s gun policies should be. That would be infringing on the US’s autonomy, which would ultimately not be in the UN’s interest. If American citizens start forming militia along the Canadian and Mexican borders, and gunning down the citizens of other countries, then the UN has every right to step in. However, while we keep this horrible problem within the confines of our nation, I don’t feel that the UN should be able to exercise any sort of jurisdiction here. For our own good, they can encourage us to have stricter gun laws, but any proposals and policy making must come from the American government and be approved by the American people.

    On the other hand, because NGOs don’t speak on behalf of any other nation, or group of nations, I don’t feel that their interference would encroach on the US’s autonomy, and therefore encourage as many NGOs as want to lobby the government for stricter gun control to march up to Capitol Hill and do just that.

    • ianhesterly says:

      As Emily mentions below, and I go into further detail after her, there is considerable evidence that guns are not the problem. I’m curious as to why you think they are?

      • jmmorgan242 says:

        I’ve read plenty of articles about guns and how the laws aren’t the problem. There’s that cliche bumper sticker you see everywhere that says “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” and while I do agree that the crimes are not caused by the guns themselves, but rather the innate selfishness of American culture, you have to admit, that it’s going to be much easier to enforce stricter gun laws than it would be to try to overhaul the American psyche. I spent three and a half years in South Korea, where, like Switzerland, all males are required to enlist in two years of military service. However, unlike Switzerland, and more like the US, all citizens are not raised in a culture of responsibility towards firearms. In this article it talks about how why what the Swiss does will not work in the US.

        http://world.time.com/2012/12/20/the-swiss-difference-a-gun-culture-that-works/

        Koreans, on the other hand, have been raised on a peninsula where the threat of violence from the North is ever present. They are also obsessed with gun-based computer games filled with violence and killing. If there were ever a violent gun-toting people, you’d think the South Koreans would be them, but in the last 5 years they’ve only had 50 gun related crimes. Why? Incredibly strict gun control.

        http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/12/strict-gun-control-laws-in-south-korea/

        Koreans also have the benefit of being a semi-Confucian society which emphasizes the community over the individual, so their selfishness quotient is a bit lower than that of the US. However, modern Korea is quickly abandoning Confucianism for the frivolous selfish ways of the West, and yet gun crime is still not on the rise. Why? Strict gun control laws. Even in Switzerland, whose population is a mere 8 million, there are 200-300 gun-related suicides a year,and that doesn’t even take into account other gun crimes. While infinitely lower than the gun crime in the US, it’s still tremendous when compared with Korea’s average of 10 gun crimes a year in a population of 50 million. I feel that if we compare the cases of the Swiss and the Koreans, the amount of responsibility that Americans are taught from a young age more closely aligns with that of South Korea, and therefore, like the South Koreans we should employ stricter gun control to keep our citizens safe.

        • ianhesterly says:

          There are quite a few logical disconnects in your comment, here are a few of them:

          1. You agree that the guns are not the cause, but yet you want to remove them. If you remove something that isn’t the cause of the crime, it logically follows that it won’t decrease crime (due to it not causing the crime in the first place).

          2. You keep talking of the innate selfishness of American culture causing crimes, and yet you say that the only reason a non-selfish South Korean culture doesn’t have the same type of crime as America is because of strict gun-control laws. For your logic to be consistent, South Korea’s lower crime rate wouldn’t be due to gun-control laws, but rather due to them being less selfish.

          3. As far as the comment about the selfishness of America, that is completely subjective and 100% your opinion. In fact, if we go by objective measures, America is actually one of the LEAST selfish (if not THE least selfish) countries in the world (http://www.forbes.com/2008/12/24/america-philanthropy-income-oped-cx_ee_1226eaves.html).

          4. South Korea’s violent crime rate is 31.44 per 1000 people, as compared to 16.9 for the U.S. As with the U.K., that’s almost DOUBLE. That’s terrific that they have less gun crime…they also have less guns. You obviously can’t commit a crime with a gun if you don’t have a gun. The problem is you also can’t stop or prevent a crime as easily (estimated that guns in the U.S. prevent millions of crimes each year). To see specific instances of it, here are two, both in South Korea:

          A. Yoo Young-chul: killed over twenty victims by smashing their heads with hammers, stabbing them, burning down houses, choking them, etc. Most of his victims were women who would obviously be physically weaker and unable to fight him off. Imagine if one of them could conceal carry. None of those girls would have been able to fight him off with a hammer or a knife, but a gun is a great equalizer for weak people to protect themselves. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoo_Young-chul

          B. Woo Bum-kon: killed FIFTY-SIX people. How? With a gun. How did he evade such strict gun laws? He was a police officer (who along with the military are the only ones allowed to carry guns). Again, he killed FIFTY-SIX people, over a large area covering several different villages. It took police more than an HOUR to respond, despite being notified within minutes. This is a textbook example of why gun control is, frankly, stupid. Those 56 people never had a chance to defend themselves, and yet this trusted cop killed them all because his girlfriend woke him up by swatting a fly on his chest. Just think about how ridiculous that whole situation is. This was the largest mass shooting in history until the shooting in Norway a few years ago (coincidentally another country with strict gun control). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woo_Bum-kon

          5. All of the major mass-shootings happen in “gun-free” zones. The shooter in Aurora had seven movie theaters within 20 minutes of him, and yet he picked the one he did because it is the ONLY one that was a gun-free zone. Also see Sandy Hook, Va-Tech, Columbine, etc. It always astonishes me that people expect madmen who clearly don’t care about breaking the law to the extent of murdering people to think that a sign notifying them that they can’t bring their guns in will stop them.

          6. “Even in Switzerland, whose population is a mere 8 million, there are 200-300 gun-related suicides a year,and that doesn’t even take into account other gun crimes.” Funny that you should bring this up, considering that South Korea is SECOND in suicide rate in the world, and the entire top 10 is filled with countries with strict gun control (including Japan at 10). Switzerland, by the way, is 45th. So this isn’t a great point to make, unless of course you don’t care about people committing suicide unless it is with a gun??

          7. Your two reasons for South Koreans to be “violent gun-toting people” are a) North Korea hates them, and b) they play lots of video games. Do people in Switzerland not play video games? News-flash: everybody plays video games. Not everyone commits mass murder. The correlations between video game playing and violence is akin to the correlation between breathing oxygen and playing video games: every single mass murderer breathes oxygen. As far as North Korea hating them; Israel, undoubtedly the most hated nation on earth, has a much lower homicide rate than South Korea, even though Israel also has very widespread gun ownership.

          8. “I feel that if we compare the cases of the Swiss and the Koreans, the amount of responsibility that Americans are taught from a young age more closely aligns with that of South Korea, and therefore, like the South Koreans we should employ stricter gun control to keep our citizens safe.” So because one facet of our culture (and I would guess that the overwhelming consensus would be that our overall culture is much closer to the Swiss than SK) coincides more (supposedly) closely with one country than another, we should adapt that culture’s policies? Despite them having a higher crime rate, suicide rate, and less of an ability to stop mass murder? Or maybe it would just be easier to have people be more responsible, and feel comfortable around guns. People like Luiza below (“The last thing I would want to be toting around to make myself feel safe is a loaded revolver ready to take someone out if I felt threatened. The gun itself would make me feel threatened.”) are a gigantic part of the problem. If you know how to use a gun, simply carrying it doesn’t make you feel threatened. Yet people like this, who are incredibly ignorant about guns, are the ones trying to force gun-control.

          9. Again, just in summary: a three country comparison between Switzerland, the U.S., and South Korea:
          South Korea, with strict gun control (and according to you a closer cultural fit): highest violent crime rate, highest suicide rate, deadliest mass murder.
          United States: admittedly the highest homicide rate (although as you said above, guns aren’t the cause), but behind SK in violent crime, suicides, and of course capability to stop mass murder.
          Switzerland: Behind South Korea in murder rate, violent crime, suicides, and also the capability to stop mass murder.

          • samdittmer says:

            Ian, I was surprised that you asked jmmorgan242’s opinion and then didn’t seem to consider it carefully. Most of the “logical disconnects” you mentioned seemed like reasonable, nuanced positions.

            On a divisive issue like this one, it’s easy to find statistics that support both sides. I think it’s important to realize that at the core of the debate are some pretty deep questions about how we deal with violence and what kind of world we want to live in. I believe we should spend more time talking about those questions and less time searching for logical fallacies in opposing arguments.

            For me, the most interesting part of this conversation is the discussion about the problem of evil. Jmmorgan242’s approach is somewhat Hobbesian – she argues that the cultural evils in the United States have deep roots, and it is more practical to empower the Leviathan to restrain our violent impulses than to reform our hearts. You seem to agree with her about the difficulty of addressing the problem of evil, though you seem to view evil less as a cultural malady and more as a sort of disease that infects madmen. However, rather than turning to the Leviathan, you seek safety in Hobbes’ (or perhaps Locke’s gentler) State of Nature – we cannot understand the source of the evil in human hearts, so we must arm ourselves, and at least be prepared to fight a “war of all against all”.

            Anyways, this is the sort of conversation I would vastly prefer. I’ll note in passing how well a movie I saw recently (World War Z) captures the views of the world that the two of you present. But, for the sake of completeness, I’ll go through your points:

            1. She means guns aren’t the SOLE cause of crime. She never said they weren’t a contributing factor.
            2. Her position is consistent. She said South Korea was becoming more like America culturally, without an increase in gun crime.
            3. Yes, that is her opinion. You asked her for her opinion. Also, those sorts of statistics aren’t particularly informative – consider the widow’s mite.
            4. If gun control moves a crime from the homicide category to the violent crime category, I think that’s a positive effect.
            5. She’s arguing for stricter gun control laws, not “gun free zones”, so I don’t know why you included this. Anyways, searching the internet for “mass shooting gun free zone” turns up plenty of arguments and research on both sides.
            6. I was a little confused here myself, but I think she’s just making an “order-of-magnitude” sort of comparison to emphasize how effectively gun-control laws in South Korea have kept gun crime near zero.
            7. She lived in South Korea for 3 and a half years, which I imagine has something to do with her opinion of their culture. Anyways, some groups play more violent video games than others. For example, males are much more likely to play violent video games, and much more likely to engage in school shootings. That’s probably not a coincidence.
            8. Her point is that changing laws is easier than changing culture. For example, look at segregation. In that case, changing laws was an important first step towards changing culture.
            Also under this point, it bothers me when I’m told that I’m “part of the problem” because I have no plans to own a gun. I refuse to let the threat of violence hang over my life. I’ll try to live my life well, and if someone really wants to kill me, I’ll die, and I’m okay with that.
            9. If South Korea has more violent crime and less homicides than the United States, that could suggest that South Korean society is more violent than our own but the government has significantly reduced the homicide rate through gun control.

  2. eebashaw says:

    There are all sorts of problems with the idea of the international community stepping in to take control of American gun laws. Whether the Constitution was made to read that all qualified Americans could purchase and own a (registered) firearm is up for debate, certainly, but it has now become an American right and the international community has no business putting its hands in it because it is not even necessarily the gun laws that are the problem. A country like Switzerland where the vast majority of young men are enlisted and trained in military service and have very easy access to legal guns has one of the lowest gun homicide rates in the world. So this begs the question: are American gun laws the problem? Or is it something deeper, like American culture and society? Because it very well may not even be the way that guns are regulated, but an issue that has come as a product of how America is run, it is not an issue that can be fixed by laws from the international community. Not only would it completely undermine the American political system, it would not keep determined crazies from accessing the guns they want. A political gridlock is in place in regards to gun rights because not everyone in America agrees that there should be stricter gun laws. This is a situation Americans are going to have to come to a general consensus on, otherwise it will be a sign that the American political system has failed.

    • I completely agree with your comment that gun laws may not be the problem here, but that American culture and society may be to blame. How can we as a society sit in front countless violent movies and brutally kill scores of people in video games, and not expect our children to grow up with violent tendencies? The real culprit for violence levels in the United States is a general disregard for the sacred value of human life. Senseless violence and subjugation permeates nearly every aspect of popular culture. While rap music glorifies sexual deviance, demeans women, and promotes the horrors of street violence, kids and teenagers are hardened by it and taught that such behavior is normal and acceptable. If the UN wants to get serious about reducing gun violence, it needs to address the video game, movie, and music industries and reevaluate just how seriously violence affects children and teenagers as their brains develop and their perceptions are so easily swayed.

    • skylodwig says:

      These are basically my thoughts exactly. When I first read this article, the first thing I started thinking of were various other gun regulations in other countries and what are their statistics. As you’ve stated, Switzerland has one of the lowest gun crime rates and yet a large number of its citizens own guns. Not only do they receive the training from the government but are provided firearms from the government itself. And then we have the U.K. which is one of the strictest countries when it comes to firearms and they also have a very low gun crime rate. So what have these countries done to get these statistics so low? It can’t possibly be their laws because they have nearly opposite laws where firearms are concerned.

      I think the real issue with America and guns is not just the accessibility of them, but our culture. We have developed a culture around guns and our attitude toward them has been severely altered. I feel that the media has played a large role in developing this culture. One thing that I’ve noticed across Europe is how they rate their films. The more violent the film, the higher the rating. In fact, violent films are typically rated ’18’ and therefore means no one under the age of 18 can see the movie, regardless if they are accompanied by an adult or not. This may seem like a small factor but it’s wise to underestimate the power of media. Having the exposure as we as Americans do to violence, starting at a young age, has created a desensitization to it that, I believe, has greatly influenced and propagated our high gun crime rates. It’s not only the fiction film and television industry that is to blame, the news is just as much at fault. We sensationalize and turn mass shooters into celebrities. We give them names and and attention and fame.

      I don’t believe we need other countries coming in and telling us what we’re doing wrong and trying to get us to change things. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t look at them and what they are doing and adopt a few things ourself. This is our country and our government, but it is a changing one. That’s the beauty of it. If there is something we don’t like about it, then let’s change it.

  3. ianhesterly says:

    It’s nice to find sensational statistics like the one above to get an emotional reaction, but the fact is it’s rather meaningless. Some quick facts to counter the article:

    1. First, and most important, is the Second Amendment. Part of our constitution, the supreme law of the land, says that, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” People in other countries can get on their high horses and tell us how uncivilized we are, but that was one of the base principles our country was founded on, a principle that was listed second only after freedom of speech and religion.

    2. Speaking of other countries on their high horses…the U.K., a country probably as similar as any other to the U.S., has very strict gun-control laws. Their violent crime rate is also nearly DOUBLE that of the U.S. The U.S. has a violent crime rate of 16.9 per 1000 people, while the U.K.’s violent crime rate is 31 per 1000.

    3. If guns were the problem, Switzerland (where almost every psychiatrically qualified citizen has a gun) wouldn’t have one of the lowest murder rates in the world.

    4. I find it hilarious that the article mentions American “‘secondary smoke’ obsessions.” Had the author bothered to do the research, he would’ve found out that an estimated 443,000 people die each year in the United States from smoking. In other words, it would take less than 3 years for smoking deaths to surpass all U.S. military deaths, as compared to 45 years for gun deaths…which is a bigger problem?

    5. Speaking specifically of secondhand smoke, it is estimated that nearly 54,000 people die each year from secondhand smoke. At that rate, it would take 22 years for the amount of people killed by other people’s smoking to surpass historical wartime deaths. Again, just secondhand smoking deaths kill TWICE as many people as guns do. And yet, which problem should require worldwide attention and which should be slammed as an “American obsession?”

    6. Including suicides in his number at the very least doubles the numbers and is misleading.

    7. Estimates of how many crimes guns prevent per year in the United States go as high as 2.5 million, and even the most conservative estimates are in the hundreds of thousands.

    8. Should the world intervene in America to “help” us with gun control because 12,000 gun homicides per year are committed, or should they intervene in Syria to stop 3,000 people (including women and children) from being gassed in one day? Or to stop 100,000 people from dying over the last two years?

    This article is a lazy, misleading hatchet piece in which he compares Americans to both Syrian rebels and participants in witch trials. Perhaps if he realized that his own country has the highest violent-crime rate of just about any Western country, he could borrow a few ideas from us.

  4. kmdavis2 says:

    Like the other readers here, I believe that a. it is not the world’s job to tell America what to do and b. who is to say that guns are really the issue here? Although I cannot firmly agree to either side, I do agree with Ian on how the data is misleading and that it does not provide statistics on how many deaths guns prevent. I get why the government wants to push the gun agenda through because of all the high-profile shootings and such. However, I am from LIttleton, Colorado, where Columbine happened, and I can personally attest to the fact that guns are not the issue in shootings like these. It is easy to blame guns, but there are so many other elements (like the fame shooters achieve, mental illness and troubled backgrounds) that should be focused on. It’s easy to try and pinpoint all of the violence problems on guns to make it seem treatable, but it’s just not plausible!

    Yes, I know we are a world power that constantly gets into everyone else’s business. But, I think we need to realize that the we have our own Constitution and if the people feel so inclined to change it, than that motion will carry. As of now, our Constitution allows us the right to ‘bear arms” and I think we need to protect that right only against fellow Americans.

  5. As Emily and Ian denote well, suicides are included in the gun death statistics, which skews the numbers. Moreover, I would agree that guns are not the problem. Although I do think that we need to be more vigilant about enforcing our gun laws that are already on the books and should seriously reconsider the complete ease with which guns are bought and sold (I would argue in favor of having to get a background check or something to go into a gun show, for example and also for a limit on magazine sizes unless you have a special permit), we should never “get rid of these rights” as the author so disturbingly says. How he phrased that sentence disturbed me quite a bit, as he phrases it in such a way that he implies rights are things that can be tossed out when not convenient. One of the reasons I do not think we should have strict gun control is because, unless it was as a whole nation (which will never happen because of the support it would require to take it out of the constitution), it would never work. Take Chicago for example. It has some of the strictest gun laws in the country; and one of the highest murder rates in the country. There is a much deeper problem. I truly believe that guns do not kill people, people kill people. We need to stop blaming guns for the major psychological problems many Americans clearly have and start trying to figure out what the psychological problems are, what the indicators are, and stop those people from obtaining guns. Also, as evidenced by drug trafficking most famously from Mexico but also Canada, it is quite possible to smuggle things into the states. Gun laws would not keep everyone from getting guns, just those who are not upstanding and would use illegal means to get them most likely for illegal purposes.

  6. Also, just as I do not believe we have a right to intervene in other countries’ domestic problems (except in cases of genocide, etc.), other countries do not have a right to intervene in our problems. Especially when we have a functioning, democratic government. Also, no international laws are being broken. Therefore, the international community has no right to so blatantly infringe on our sovereignty.

  7. Taylor Shippen says:

    I love satire.

  8. rgettys says:

    Agreed Taylor. It is obviously not a scholarly article by any means, with definite skewing of facts to make it seem like a huge issue. It reminds me of an episode of Top Gear, where they make funny comparisons of cars to food items, etc. The point is well taken, that American Government is involved in a great deal less trivial matters safety wise. Classic British humor, but does touch on the nerves of long standing beefs with the USA, both from the international community and British specific beefs. 1- America is involved in everything abroad and should mind its own business. 2- Americans sue about everything. 3. Americans are afraid about stupid things (If European countries had the same crime rate, the state department would put the on the no travel list) 4. America is obsessed with firearms. also did you notice the hints of Britain is better than the US in there? (laws based on English commonwealth laws that were abandoned long ago,, etc.)

    Mainly I feel that this was posted in this blog to get some people worked up, and they knew that gun control would surely get SOMEBODY in the class of Mormon Politically minded individuals to give an intense reaction.

  9. madythorn says:

    Gun control is obviously a very hot-topic issue in the United States, and apparently the world right now, so I find it a little funny that rgettys would so flippantly say that this was just posted to get someone riled up. Clearly it’s an issue, that no one really wants to compromise on, so it will continue to be an issue. That, however, doesn’t make it any less important of an issue. I think the author makes a few good points. Even if he intended the article to be satirical, he still feels strongly about those points, he just went about addressing his view in a way that comes off less controversial. It may be easy for a European to look in on American life and judge us on our 2nd Amendment obsession, but he does not understand our culture or morals the way that we do. He mentioned that maybe the UN should get involved and try to stop the number of firearm killings every year. What could the UN possibly do about that? Clearly the United States is working on getting control of the issue, but the people of the United States are torn about what the correct way of fixing this is. I personally believe that the right to bear arms is about more than owning a gun. We have almost no privacy here, there is strict regulation over so many different aspects of our life, that forcing us to give up or guns is just one step too far. Americans have to draw the line somewhere, and we are not ready to give up a right that is spelled out so clearly in the Bill of Rights.

  10. ryannewell says:

    Regardless of the author’s motives, this article should serve to make Americans think about their views on international issues. As Mady said, “It may be easy for a European to look in on American life and judge us on our 2nd amendment obsession, but he does not understand our culture or morals the way that we do”. Likewise, it is easy for American citizens to look at other countries and make judgments based on an American point of view, even when we as Americans may not fully understand the issue from the other side. If anything, the article should make us pause before rushing to judgment and action.

    • Ryan, you’ve shared my thoughts exactly. I might even go so far as to argue that gun control is nowhere near the point of the author’s focus. America has adopted an increasingly alarming mentality that it has the rightful duty to impose its will upon the rest of the international community. We cast our culture as the incontrovertible pinnacle of human development and leave no room for differing opinions or international sovereignty when said ideals conflict with whatever interests us best at the time.

      It doesn’t matter what the issue is. This author might as well have chosen abortion, domestic abuse, or gay marriage and then suggested that the US was in need of an international intervention; whatever issue he could have chosen would have proved his point. America is incredibly quick to impose its view on the rest of the world, but what happens when the rest of the world presumes to think, conclude, and dictate to America? In that same line of thinking, what would America do if it came to our attention that Chinese surveillance drones were crisscrossing the Wasatch in the interest of “preserving international peace and protecting their security interests”?

      America is in very real danger of forging a “one law for you, and another for the rest” political paradigm. Perhaps an article like this will make us rethink the implications of such a paradigm. And perhaps if we rethink the paradigm, we can abandon it of our own accord long before we are forced to by the international community that we’ve cast as our younger, poor, misguided siblings for far too many years.

  11. “No nation sees itself as outsiders do.” Amen, Henry Porter. And nice work writing an article that makes us stop and think about the role the US plays abroad, and also of how quickly Americans reject that that same role be played on American soil by any other country. Why is it that the US, the self-proclaimed moral leader of the world, can be up in everybody’s business all the time, but the moment someone suggests that maybe, just maybe, America itself could use some international help in resolving a domestic issue of its own, Americans are all up in arms (no pun intended)? the NERVE of such a man to suggest that perhaps you haven’t quite been able to deal with the gun control issue very effectively; to fail to realize that “other countries do not have a right to intervene in [your] problems”, and that such an intervention would be to blatantly infringe on [your] sovereignty”? Who does that, anyway?!
    I should clarify my position. I am not advocating that we take up the guns control problem to the international community. I don’t think that other countries, including the US, should tell other countries how to govern themselves. However, I am not American. And maybe I simply fail to see how this craze over the right to bear arms makes any sense, or maybe, like Porter said, it’s simply a matter of a nation seeing itself differently than outside nations do. I’m an outsider, and this is how I see this problem: it’s ridiculous. And it has gone way out of control. The last thing I would want to be toting around to make myself feel safe is a loaded revolver ready to take someone out if I felt threatened. The gun itself would make me feel threatened.
    And in fighting the gun-control argument I think we need to stop using extreme examples of happy, innocent people just taking a stroll down a well sunlit street—no dark allies, no drug dealing, none of that whole “well, they shouldn’t have been alone in that dark ally at night to begin with” argument—and all of a sudden a crazy person with a gun pops out of nowhere in this perfect scenario and shoots those innocent people. Oh man, if only they had had the right to carry a gun with them to defend themselves! Everything would have been fine. But darn those gun control activists fighting against our God-given right to bear arms.
    Here’s the thing. I realize that scenarios like that do happen, and it is extremely unfortunate. But can we stop for a second to consider this: how many people actually know how to work a gun? Happy, innocent people who go for strolls down their streets don’t strike me as being the most proficient at gun shooting (and maybe I’m just being stereotypical here. But seriously). In fact, the adrenaline and panic of such a moment would likely make those nice people a bigger liability than a useful defence system.
    I sincerely apologize if i am just being ignorant or insensitive of the deeper complexities of the issue. I agree that guns don’t kill people—people kill people. But people have been killing other people in the US because they have access to guns. It’s a vicious cycle. And, in my point of view, it becomes even more vicious because people tend to think that the only way to control the cycle is by allowing for even more access to guns, believing that it is their inherent right to do bear arms.
    Maybe someone can help me better understand the issue.

  12. ianhesterly says:

    RE: Sam

    I considered her opinion, but it was flawed. If an argument is fallacious, it would be pretty foolish to stay on that side of the fence. Searching for logical fallacies in opposing (and our own) arguments is the most sensible thing to do. I’m not sure why analyzing an argument to be logically sound or not is something we should be doing less of…

    1. “While I do agree that the crimes are not caused by the guns themselves, but rather the innate selfishness of American culture…” I prefer to take what people say at face value, rather than a third party interpreter who tries to explain after the fact what was really meant. She said the crimes are caused by selfishness.

    2. The position is clearly not consistent, but I guess I’ll have to spell it out: 1. She agrees that crimes are not caused by the guns. 2. She says the crimes are caused by the innate selfishness of American culture. 3. Koreans are much less selfish than America. 4. Koreans don’t have the same type of crime that we have to deal with in America. 5. This is because of gun-control laws. #5 does not logically follow the others. In addition, another flaw in her argument (which I touch on later but don’t connect to this point) is the fact that if selfishness causes crime, and the U.S. is more selfish, then why does SK have higher crime and suicide rates?

    3. Yes, she gave an opinion that was factually incorrect. And despite you not liking that statistic, it is highly relevant. The next time Indonesia has a tsunami or Japan a nuclear disaster or Pakistan an earthquake, I think they’d be more pleased (and helped) by the billions contributed by the U.S. than a widow’s mite. However, even if you take that stance, the U.S. STILL is more charitable than South Korea, with a higher percentage of their GDP given away than SK.

    4. Several flaws with your comment here, chief among them being that homicides are part of the violent crime category. Also interesting how you ignored the two case studies that I mentioned, both of which would’ve been prevented by guns. Additionally, of course if a crime was simply “moving” from the homicide category to the violent crime category that’s generally a good thing. However, that’s not the case. SK and the UK both have DOUBLE the violent crime rate of the U.S. But according to you, it is worse to have approximately 8000 gun murders per year (regardless of the amount of crime deterred and lives saved) than to have DOUBLE the violent crime? In 2011, there were an estimated 1.2 million violent crimes committed. If we doubled that to equal the rates of the U.K. and SK (and we could more than double it, due to the estimates that guns prevent much more than 1.2 million crimes but we’ll keep it on the low end), that means there would be 2.4 million violent crimes per year in the U.S. In other words, nearly the entire state of Utah would have been a victim of murder, forcible rape, robbery, or aggravated assault. No thank you.

    5. Gun-free zones are a form of strict gun control. One of the most obvious and also least effective. Since 1950, every public shooting that has resulted in more than three deaths has occurred in a gun-free zone, with the exception of the Giffords shooting (one in which nobody there had a weapon on them, and they were only able to stop him by hitting him in the back with a folding chair). As far as searching the internet, the first result was this: http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/09/washington-navy-yard-mass-shooting-aaron-alexis-gun-free-zone-fbi. Hopefully I don’t need to point out the clearly biased and logically laughable statements in the article. Maybe instead of referencing successfully making a Google search you can include specific statistics or articles that I can respond to. I’m open to considering them, when I see them.

    6. Again, is the goal to stop crime or just gun crime? If it’s just gun crime, then congratulations to South Korea on having their citizens kill themselves at the SECOND HIGHEST rate in the entire world….at least they aren’t using guns, though, right?

    7. Not sure why you brought up her living experience in SK here, considering I was accepting her premises on the two reasons why South Koreans should be violent. And wow please don’t tell me you’re seriously trying to say that violent video games are related to mass shootings because males do both more than women?? If that’s your logic, then mass shootings are also related to football (men play it more), running fast (men generally run faster), jumping high (the same), how much someone earns (men earn more), how much facial hair someone has (hopefully men), etc. Are those probably not coincidences as well? Again, I’m willing to look at this point objectively, but you need to do the same. You are starting out with the assumption that there is a link between video games and mass murder. If there isn’t one besides “men do both more” then it’s probably worth just moving on. One thing to consider is that mass murder peaked in the 1930’s…as far as I’m aware, video games weren’t around then.

    8. Changing laws may be easier than changing culture, but changing laws EFFECTIVELY may not be (see prohibition). Additionally, if (as she stated) the CULTURE is the issue and the cause of crime and not the guns, it would make no sense to try and reduce guns and not try to change the culture because it isn’t “easy” enough. Additionally, you can talk about changing laws, but this isn’t just some random law. This is the Second Amendment to our Constitution: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
    As far as you being bothered by being “part of the problem,” if you think I’m saying anyone without a gun is part of the problem you’re off-base. My point was that people who are frightened merely by being in the presence of a gun clearly don’t know much about them or how to use them, and shouldn’t be pushing things they don’t know about. If you know a lot about guns and could use them responsibly if you wanted but choose not to, then good for you, it doesn’t matter to me either way. But if you’re trying to push legislation to get rid of others’ way to protect themselves just because you don’t understand guns? Dumb and irresponsible. I respect the attitude you mentioned of living your life well and letting come what may, and you weren’t who I directed that comment to. So you understand more what I’m talking about, here are two really short examples of what I mean:

    http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_22942476/degette-draws-criticism-pretty-stupid-ammo-magazine-comment

    9. It could suggest that, except you’re ignoring Switzerland. Really the bottom line of the issue is this: the premise of gun-control advocates is that more guns cause more crime. Switzerland disproves this argument. Period.

    I’m enjoying the debate (although I probably won’t have time to get back to our one on isolationism for a while), and certainly things need to be done to prevent events like Sandy Hook, Va-Tech, etc. To me it is clear that targeting guns won’t be effective (see Chicago, NYC, D.C.). Looking at things like alcohol abuse, history of domestic violence, mental illness, etc. And in all honesty if we want to immediately improve health, pollution, and save lives I think the bigger priority should be outlawing smoking (I know the odds are incredibly slim). However, if you were a policy-maker what sorts of things would you propose?

    • samdittmer says:

      Hey Ian,

      Embarrassingly, I only noticed your post today (I’d checked several times up above at our earlier comments, but had never scrolled all the way down). Anyways:

      Of course you are right that there is limited value in attempting to rephrase someone else’s argument. I shall attempt to explain here what I believe. The primary intent of my original post was to discuss my beliefs about the “right” kind of debate. Arguments can be internally logically consistent but morally reprehensible, and they can be morally sound but sloppy and inconsistent. I believe that the moral content of an argument is more foundational than the logical details.

      So arguments about gun control deal with a lot of statistical comparisons and analysis of sources, but IMO the argument ultimately is a clash of stories. People tell different stories about where violence comes from and how violence can be reduced, and these different stories stem from different views about human nature. I don’t believe that statistical analysis can tell us which story is correct. Sometimes statistics can demonstrate that a really simplistic story is false (e.g. everyone who owns a gun will eventually kill themselves) – but the good stories, the ones people really believe, are much more complex.

      To dangerously oversimplify both of our positions, I would claim that violence grows from deeply rooted social problems, but that widespread availability of guns under certain circumstances make it more likely for that violence to be lethal. You would argue, I believe, that the widespread availability of guns puts fear into the hearts of people without much of a moral compass, and so makes violent crime less likely. Both of these stories are consistent with the statistics we’ve referred to – they might even be consistent with each other.

      My preference for Story as a more foundational element than Logic also is related to our differing interpretations of the widow’s mite. Jesus didn’t say: “If you look at those two mites as a percentage of her total annual income, she gave a greater percentage than the others”. (That could easily be false, because those two mites would have been tiny compared to the market value of the food that she ate in a year, which could still be counted as “income” even if it’s donated). Jesus said: “For all they did cast in of their abundance, but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living”. The sacrifice the widow was making was greater in a moral sense, not in a numerical sense. Jesus isn’t arguing that we should change the way we try to use numbers to measure how good people are. Jesus is saying that we should not use numbers to measure how good people are.

      On violence, gender, mass murder, football, and video games: Statistics can be used to demonstrate the correlation, but that was already common knowledge. Like you say, the important question is whether or not there is some sort of causal link connecting them all, which is a much harder question. (I believe that men today have more of a predisposition towards violence than women, and this difference is a major cause of all the others. Violent video games are not a major cause of this predisposition towards violence, but they can awaken or enlarge a dormant appetite for violence – but they can also serve as an outlet for that appetite. I’m not sure which happens more often.)

      If you’re curious, here’s one of the sources I saw on gun-free zones: http://www.demandaction.org/blog/2013-02-update-comprehensive-study-of-mass-shootings-by-mayo. (sometimes I don’t post links b/c I don’t like waiting for my comment to get moderated).
      But again, that all seems tangential to the central conversation, and I’m guessing the difference in numbers stems from different ideas about how things should be described (different stories about what is important).

      On your final question: If I were a policy-maker in the U.S., I would push for an end to the War on Drugs (not necessarily full legalization, but definitely a serious reduction in enforcement measures). I think that gang action is a major source of violent crime, and that gangs get a lot of their power and prestige by controlling the drug trade. I believe that enforcing drug laws with less enthusiasm would be a more just and a more effective way to lessen that power than the current strategies.

  13. I think we have all agreed that there is no way the UN or any other state should intervene in gun-violence issues in the United States. Unless some genocide or war crime is occurring within the United States’ borders, any intervention would be a violation of sovereignty.
    A lot has been said but I would just like to mention 3 separate examples of the necessity of the possession of guns among the people. In 2009 gun control laws were lifted in DC, in 1998 EXTREMELY STRICT gun control laws were put into practice in Massachusetts, and in 1964 Jamaica implemented a strict law against the possession of hand guns. Violent gun-related crime rates dramatically increased in both Jamaica ( and Massachusetts (once equaling 70% of murder rates of neighboring states now equals 125% of the rates of neighboring states), while in DC with the lifting of the ban, murder rates dramatically decreased (25% in just one year). It would appear that only the good citizens show integrity in the turning in of their weapons while the more than dishonest criminals neglect to abide by yet another law.

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