Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Gun Control

Gun Control - 2008-07-02 16:19

Gun Control in light of the recent Supreme Court decision -- a fair and balanced review

The late great science fiction writer Robert Heinlein spent years advocating mandatory gun possession for all adults, feeling that our society was built on the twin foundations of laws and property rights, and that individuals with guns were needed to enforce these rights. He called these “pillars” and the  “essence of freedom.”

He also felt it made people more polite.

It doesn’t take much to imagine a perfect storm of property rights, law and guns all meeting up one afternoon at the local Department of Motor Vehicles for a test case of this philosophy.

And, is the definition of politeness to be found in the abject fear section of the dictionary?
Web sites such as and seem to fundamentally agree with Heinlein, but both take a different, more legal approach to their arguments.

Prominent on both sites is the 2nd Amendment, the holy justification of the absolute right for individuals to bear arms.

The argument seems to be as follows. In a free society, the government owes its existence to will of the people. If the people don’t like the government, they get to “take it back.” And, this is key; the people might have to use force to do it.

That’s where the gun thing comes in.

To sum up a bit, gun ownership on these sites is seen as more a responsibility than a right, or as Malcolm X once said, “You can’t give a man his freedom; if he’s a man, he has to take it.”
And freedom is hard work, and guns can be helpful in that work.

For those advocating for guns, the collateral damage—the death, fear and loathing, are all seen as a necessary evils—a sort of cost-of doing-business; deplorable but unavoidable.

The site clearly showed a bias against gun- especially handguns. Because James Brady was shot in the head by an illegal handgun using special “talon” type bullets, this is to be expected.
The site also had some interesting statistics and reports about what the cost of guns actually is in America.

This fact:

“In 2000, more than nine young people aged 19 and under were killed a day in gun homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings in the United States,” is taken from the sites “fact” area.

And this one:

“In 2000, suicide by all means took the lives of 29,350 people in the United States: of this number, 57% (16,586) were completed using a firearm,” both show a bit of the statistical cost of guns.

The use of statistics can really confuse an issue—both and are chock-a-block full of statistics, and if you look closely at them they seem to say opposite things. cite a study of guns in Australia favorably for its pro-gun stance. cite the same Australia study as an example of its anti-gun stance.

Using the approach that everything is probably exaggerated in these partisan sites, it still seems like a whole bunch of people die accidentally and on purpose from firearms in the United States each year. What that actually means is really what the sites seem to be finessing.

Another interesting approach to the truth about guns is to examine Lonely Planet’s travel site for warnings when traveling to different countries.

In Rome the warnings concern pickpockets and style thieves, physical crimes against people are noted to “Not be a significant problem.”

In Florida, the warnings concern violent crime targeted against tourists, with a special section on “careful rental car usage,” citing people getting shot to death. Lonely Planet has another special chapter in its guidebook concerning America’s violence problems.

The National Rifle Association web site avoids obvious statistics and focuses on being helpful. The tone is non-confrontational, and it offers many helpful hints to children and women.

There is also a special notice that the temporary FEMA housing provided post hurricane Katrina now allows for the residents to keep guns in their new housing, thanks to the NRA’s lobbying efforts.
So really which side of this debate you are on comes down to a few simple ideals.

If you think that thousands of deaths outside the normal channels of death are a fair exchange for living in a free country that remains faithful to its founding fathers probable ideals—you come down on the pro-gun side.

If you feel that the cost is too high in terms of actual people; if you think that maybe there is a better, less painful approach to living—you come down on the side of humanity.

Being polite can be taught by caring parents, it doesn’t take a mutual assured destruction algorithm for us to make nice with other people.

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