Saturday, January 19, 2013

Getting to the Nub of the Gun Debate

More of these please?
I am opposed to guns in general, though guns useful for hunting sound reasonable. I can even conceive of the validity of modest guns in the home for protection. If I had my way, though, we'd repeal the 2nd Amendment and then pass gun laws that severely restrict what is permissible in an advanced society.

Assuming the 2nd Amendment and the current Court interpretation remains in effect, then the nub of the gun debate rests for me in the areas of open carry, concealed carry and stand-your-ground laws. The bottom line, for me, is that I don't want to be around your guns, and I shouldn't have to be. Leave your guns at home. Below, I'll point out why even that's a bad idea.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo offers his life experience to explain why he's part of the non-gun tribe. Very thoughtful. But in a later post he gets to the heart of the matter:
My friend Steve Clemons talks in the context of international relations of high-trust versus high-fear relations between states. The last time we discussed this (on some panel I can’t remember just where) it was about how the doctrine of preemption had created a world that was more the latter than the former. I think something similar applies to civil society. Maybe everyone carries guns but everyone is deterred from firing them in anger because everyone else has a gun and someone will shoot back. But even if we buy that mass gun deterrence vision, that’s a high fear society, not one I want to live in. It’s also not a vision of freedom that I buy into or want to be a part of. More like a race to the bottom of autonomous violence.
My point of characterizing this as ‘tribes’ was to make the point that I get that there are parts of the country where people carry loaded weapons and that’s the culture and it seems to work for the people there. And that’s fine. It’s a different culture. It particularly makes sense, as I noted in my post, in rural areas. If you’re living in the middle of nowhere, far from where police or anyone else could get to you quickly, the safety and defense issue becomes very different. One emailer talked about living on a ranch and needing a gun for work, another about walking his dogs in the woodlands near his home and carrying a pistol because there are wolves in the area. Whatever the reasons, a whole different calculus applies in cities.
That just about nails it. I don't want to live in a high-fear society. Wayne LaPierre's prescription for armed guards in every school in America is not only dangerous -- for obvious reasons -- and likely highly ineffective, but also it flies in the face of what everyone should understand about schools: For the good of our children, schools need to be high-trust areas, not high-fear areas.

This notion of high-trust areas should include theaters, restaurants, malls, churches, and, let's face it, most every public place. Anyone who would argue with that has a different agenda from those who appreciate civil society generally have. Meaning, of course, that those who favor open carry or legal concealed carry want to live in a high-fear society either because they are very afraid or they want others to be very afraid. Either way, they're not demonstrating any regard for or possibility of an actual civil society.

Like Josh, I wouldn't focus on the attitudes on rural America. Sure, I do have a solid disposition against rural white Christians who, strangely enough, don't seem to hold actual Christian values about non-violence as stated clearly in the Bible. But I do realize the situational need for guns in rural areas, both because it's closer to actual hunting areas, and the remote nature of the rural dwellings offers a compelling case for being armed for self-defense where law enforcement is generally absent.

Possible gun fetishist sighting (aka not in my tribe).
There's a huge difference, though, between "gun nuts" who resist any kind of gun regulation and people who want or need arms for legitimate reasons. Gun nuts want people to fear them, as it may be the only way in which they feel powerful. I hate to disparage a class of people, but it's why I think they like guns, to feel vital in a world where they feel increasingly diminished. Otherwise, they really do want to kill lots of people if they ever get the chance, or they really are very fearful that the jack-booted thugs and black helicopters of tyranny are about to descend upon them, in which case I'm really sorry for their departure from reality.

In my case, I want to be in Josh Marshall's non-gun tribe. Unfortunately there are thousands of examples every year for why that's the best bet, and I'm not even talking about the Sandy Hooks and Auroras. Just talking about the everyday gun violence all around us. It doesn't have to be that way.

Here are some pretty good examples from Josh Marshall and Atrios that make obvious anti-gun points:
  • Josh shares an email from a reader here that makes a sadly powerful case for gun regulation.
  • Atrios recalls an event back in college that rings the same bell.
Finally, here are the key points about why gun ownership is self-defeating (in general and not necessarily negating the case for guns for hunting or reasonable self-protection): here, here, here, and here. Money quote:
For most contemporary Americans, scientific studies indicate that the health risk of a gun in the home is greater than the benefit. The evidence is overwhelming for the fact that a gun in the home is a risk factor for completed suicide and that gun accidents are most likely to occur in homes with guns. There is compelling evidence that a gun in the home is a risk factor for intimidation and for killing women in their homes. On the benefit side, there are fewer studies, and there is no credible evidence of a deterrent effect of firearms or that a gun in the home reduces the likelihood or severity of injury during an altercation or break-in. Thus, groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics urge parents not to have guns in the home.
I believe the evidence and, accordingly, don't have a gun or want to be around one. I'm in the non-gun tribe. Also, it is self-evident that the argument in favor of more guns and not fewer guns is not rational. Anyone who thinks it is is either not rational or has another agenda other than public safety.

Just what the doctor ordered in a civil society?

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