The Facts of Gun Ownership

This recent Facebook Meme makes it clear that unrestricted gun ownership has severe consequences. Let’s take a look at each of the countries mentioned in that poster, and compare their gun laws to what we have here in the US. What can we learn from such a comparison?


72316_10151146554085872_516093712_nThe poster shown here must be a bit old (there is no country named “West Germany” any more), but the relative ratios of handgun deaths in the US to levels in these other countries has not improved with time.

In reviewing the gun laws of each of  the countries in this list, wikipedia provides the following information

Japan has very strict firearm control laws, moving in the direction of even stricter laws (and Japan is a stable democracy).

The UK effectively bans handguns and strictly controls the possession of all other firearms, and has been moving towards stricter laws; including a total ban on automatic firearms in 1998, which has since led to a significant drop in gun-related deaths (and the UK is a stable democracy).

Switzerland practices universal conscription and requires all able bodied citizens to keep automatic firearms at home in case of call-up. Gun ownership is protected by law; however, gun owners are legally responsible for the usage of their weapons by third parties (and Switzerland is a stable democracy).

Canada’s laws are more liberal than the UK’s, but do require gun owners to pass a firearms safety course before receiving a license to purchase and own a weapon. Handgun possession and use are heavily restricted, with military class weapons and handguns having barrels under 4.1 being totally banned (and Canada is a stable democracy).

Like Switzerland, Israel also practices universal conscription; a firearms license is required before possessing a gun of any sort. For civilians, who can get a license is very restricted and those who qualify must pass a weapons-training course. In Israel, gun ownership is considered a privilege, not a right (and Israel is a stable democracy).

In Sweden, gun ownership laws are fairly liberal, but a gun license must be obtained from the police, and among the prerequisites are being a member of a gun club and having passed a “hunting examination.” No specific firearms are banned, but gun ownership is considered a privilege, not a right (and Sweden is a stable democracy).

In Germany, self defense is not a valid reason for owning a gun. a permit is required to possess a gun, and a more restrictive permit is required to carry a gun either openly or concealed. Automatic firearms and military weapons as well as Tasers are completely prohibited for private use. All guns must be registered (and Germany is a stable Democracy).

In short, of all of the countries in this list, only the US does not require gun licenses, and only the US does not have nationwide handgun or automatic weapon restrictions, let alone more than token state and local controls. Also, nearly all of these nations view gun possession as a privilege, all of them require training in gun usage and safety before a license is granted, and all of them are stable democracies despite the “lack” of a universal right to gun ownership.

For me, those who are opponents of gun control have some very high hurdles to overcome: such as showing why a “right” to gun ownership has any value at all (let alone claiming that gun ownership is actually guaranteed by the Second Amendment, which it clearly is not). And, showing why universal licensing of gun ownership is a bad thing – given that it is working well in every other major democracy that requires gun licensing.

What is very clear is the outcome of promoting unrestricted gun ownership: many more people die needlessly.  Research has conclusively shown that increased rates of gun ownership leads to a greater homicide rate; and that increased rates of gun ownership are detrimental to the healthy and stability of communities.

At the very least, instead of trying to identify and stop potential “bad actors” at the point of sale from buying guns, we should have a system where a gun license is a prerequisite to gun ownership, obtainable only after one passes a gun safety training course – a position the NRA used to support, by the way.  Also, military grade weapons and cheap handguns must be prohibited as there is no justification (from the point of view of the reasoning given within the second amendment) for their possession by private citizens, even if one believes that the second amendment grants universal ownership of guns as a “right” in a general sense.  However; based on the nature of modern war (and repression) and on what we see in the gun laws of other major democracies, one must question whether gun ownership has anything to do with promoting a stronger and safer democracy- casting the rationale for the second amendment (as currently worded) into doubt.

In any discussion, I prefer to start with the facts and see where they lead.  So, based on the facts, the only conclusion I can come to is that while responsible gun ownership is not a bad thing; we have a major problem in this country with irresponsible gun ownership, and with those who promote it in the name of a “right” that is – at best – outmoded, and is (as currently presented) a fiction in any case.

– Allen

 

Copyright (c) 2014, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved.  I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as you are not seeking (or gaining) financial benefit for doing so, and as long as proper credit for my authorship is given. (e.g., via a credit that gives my full name and/or provides a link back to this site – or just email me and ask!)

Author: Allen

A would be historian turned IT Professional who responded to the call to the Ministry, and is now focused on social justice and community service. He is a father of two (ages 28 & 7). He and his wife enjoy life near Boston. You can follow Pastor Allen on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PastorAllenV/ or on Twitter @allenvm3.

6 thoughts on “The Facts of Gun Ownership”

  1. The majority of gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides. Some will say if guns were not easily available then perhaps many people would not commit suicide by other means, or that if a gun is laying around easily available people might impulsively choose to commit suicide which they wouldn’t otherwise.

    Many of these arguments sound plausible but the evidence appears to say that they are wrong, no matter how good they sound.

    In the U.K. your images says 8 deaths by guns. However the overall suicide rate in the U.K. is 11.8 per 100,000. Guns are much rarer and more difficult for civilians to own in the U.K. yet they still kill themselves at a rate almost identical with that of the U.S at 12.0 per 100,000, probably not a statistically significant difference.

    The U.K. is probably one of the better countries to compare against the U.S. having similar culture and a strongly connected history. So look at Japan without guns. They kill themselves at a rate of 21.7. Not quite double the U.S. or the U.K., but not far short either.

    These two examples should very seriously challenge the notion that somehow guns facilitate or cause suicide. People who really want to do themselves in will find a way.

    There is another important factor you image does not show. Gun violence is very concentrated and localized in our inner cities where we have been fighting a drug and gang war for generations, where policies since the 1960s have destroyed the two parent family. There is strong racial component to the problem. FBI stats for 2011 for homicide show that where the race of the offender is known it was black over 52% of the time despite blacks then being less than 14% of the population.

    What we really have in this country is not a gun problem. What we have here is a problem where good intentions have destroyed families and created joblessness and hopelessness among many in our inner cities.

    The other thing your image does not show is how many lives are saved every year by people who have the means, a firearm, to defend themselves from violent aggressors, criminals, and crazies. Dr. Gary Kleck in research in the 1990s (when crime and homicide were about double what they are today) that upwards of 400,000 lives a year are saved by the use of a firearm in self defense.

    Not only do these incidents exist, they have one very common feature. The gun is never fired, no one is hurt, and no one goes to the hospital or the cemetery. In the vast majority of cases the intended victim displays a firearm and the bad guy decides to go elsewhere (perhaps to find someone unarmed and safer for him to rob or rape).

    Jeffrey Snyder wrote a great article a while back on those who think it is the job of the police to protect them. It is called “A Nation Of Cowards.” Worth reading – copy available here:

    A Nation Of Cowards
    http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/a-nation-of-cowards/

    One last thought. I do not believe that Jesus was a pacifist.

    Was Jesus a Pacifist?
    http://thenewagesite.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/test-post/

    Regards,

    lwk

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    1. I said: ” Gun violence is very concentrated and localized in our inner cities…”

      Also meant to say this. The homicide rate in the U.S. is 4.7 per 100,000. Yet in New Orleans the rate for a number of years has been greater than _50_ per 100,000. If you look at other inner cities with high concentrations of poor blacks you will see similar stats for homicide that _far_ exceed anywhere else in the country. I say that so you can go look for yourself and see that the incredible high concentration in certain areas is a fact.

      A lot of the country outside these areas have quite decent stats comparable to many parts of Europe.

      Regards,

      lwk

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      1. lwk:

        Your comments on suicide I find of interest, but I do not feel they are relevant to the discussion here, as we are talking about those who use a gun to kill others, not themselves.

        Suicide is a serious issue, and one I have touched on once or twice in this blog; and which I plan to eventually cover in depth: suicide touches the lives of so many of us at one time or another – when we confront darkness and despair within ourselves, or encounter it in the lives (and deaths) of those we know and love. The reason I find your comments on suicide unhelpful in this context is because death by suicide is much more certain with a gun than most other methods – and the victim generally has no opportunity to change their mind once they pull the trigger, unlike – say – swallowing a bottle of pills.

        What does trouble me greatly are your comments on “Gun violence [being] very concentrated and localized in our inner cities … there is a strong racial component to the problem.…” You also refer to “blacks” in your first comment and to “poor blacks” in your second comment.

        Now, I have several close relatives who fit your definition of “poor black” – as well as numerous people of color – many friends – whom I admire and respect. So, I take great exception to that term because it labels a group of people unfairly and inaccurately: it lumps them into a group seen as consisting of poor, uneducated, violent rapists, with no prospects or interest in bettering themselves, even if they had a chance to do so.

        The “poor blacks” I know would not choose to be in a position like that (would you?); and, actually, none of them are. All persons of color that I know are just as human, just as moral and honest, just as capable, just as lovable and just as full of potential as you or I. Those people I know who are “poor” – regardless of their skin color – are almost all in situations beyond their control, whether due to financial disasters they could not avoid, and (often) aggravated by the effects of racism.

        Racism has certainly has been a big factor in the lives of my relatives: it built a huge wall of expectations of what they “should” be like, and how they “should” behave because of their skin color – a wall they’ve been unable to overcome, despite being raised in a solid, middle class, well educated family; and it was a wall not of their own making. I should also note that these expectations and labels came from both directions – from whites who had fixed ideas of what a “black” is like, as well as blacks who rejected them because they did not fit the bill for how they thought a “black” should look and act and talk.

        I would also caution you that racism is an expression of power: a black man may be bigoted, but cannot be racist, since he has no ability to use his bigotry as justification for oppressing or committing violence against whites (regardless of the circumstances). All “blacks” know that if they even try to do so, they will likely wind up in jail (or dead).

        In fact, all parents that I know who are persons of color, including those in mixed race marriages, teach their children to never challenge or act disrespectful to a police officer because they know that if they appear “uppity” – even for something as simple as a speeding ticket, their chances of being jailed, or hurt, are very high – simply because their skins are not “white.” Do you ever worry about how a police officer will react if you challenge them? Probably not! And, I am pretty sure you have never been stopped merely because you are a white person passing through a “colored” neighborhood. My relatives and friends who are “nonwhite” – especially them men – have ALL been stopped – frequently – by police when they are driving through “white” neighborhoods.

        Take a look at the relative conviction rates of whites vs. blacks for murder in any state in this country. If you’re a black accused of killing a white, you have little hope of acquittal, even if innocent, and likely face a harsh jail sentence – at the very least. Neither outcome is likely for a white who kills a black – especially in the South. (When was the last time Florida executed a white person for murdering a black? – Never.) This imbalance of justice also contributes to the FBI statistics you cite regarding the race of the offender, when known.

        Also, many have questioned the quality, validity, and applicability of the research you cite regarding the value of guns for defensive purposes. At the very least, a statistic like the one Dr. Kleck claims to have determined (of the number of cases each year of “Defensive Gun Use”) is almost certainly impossible to measure: it requires knowing what was passing through the mind of not just the person with the gun but also the mind of the person who is challenged by the person with the gun. If I walked up to you to ask for directions and you pulled a gun on me “in self defense” I’d run too – and you’d be convinced it was a case of successful “Defensive Gun Use” – but is it? Dr. Kleck’s research methodology couldn’t possibly have determined this.

        This is also at the heart of the problem with the so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws: those laws shift the burden of proof from the person who performs an act of violence to the person who is the object of that violence, merely because the person with the gun claims to have done so “in self defense” – regardless of the reality of the situation. Some of the jurors in the Travyon Martin murder trial voiced their frustration in being unable to convict George Zimmerman because of this very point. This is at the heart of my concerns with the current climate regarding gun regulation in this country – phrasing something as a “right” while at the same time absolving those who exercise that “right” of any responsibility for their actions undermines the very foundations of our democracy, because it allows those with power to impose their will upon others without regard for the rights of others, or even any concern for justice and truth.

        I do agree with you on one statement: “What we really have in this country is not a gun problem.” As I said in the closing of my post, I do not see gun ownership as a bad thing. One problem is that of irresponsible gun ownership (and use) and another is of racism, which is far from dead – even if we’ve cleaned up our racist terminology in daily speech (and the media) and opened a few doors a crack for those of color.

        While it is obvious that I strongly disagree with you, It is clear that you love the USA as much as I, so I thank you for taking the time to respond to my post; and in your response, which is thoughtful – despite my disagreements with it – I see hope that there is room, given time, for conservatives and progressives like us to come to a mutual understanding and agreement on the nature and potential solutions for many of the problems that face our country and the world. Certainly, seeking such common ground is a necessity if our political representatives in Washington are going to ever do anything but play an expensive and unproductive game of political one-upmanship!

        Peace,

        – Allen

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  2. “The reason I find your comments on suicide unhelpful in this context is because death by suicide is much more certain with a gun than most other methods – and the victim generally has no opportunity to change their mind once they pull the trigger, unlike – say – swallowing a bottle of pills.”

    However the evidence of comparing almost identical suicide rates between the U.K. and the U.S., one having relatively easy access to guns and the other not, is prima facie evidence that your concern does not really have much relevance in the real world, at least it seems that way to me. There were a lot of arguments that I had heard about access to guns tending to increase suicide rates and they _sounded_ reasonable to me also. But when I came across that statistic it became obvious that was not really the case at all.

    However here is an interesting paper on the subject that is interesting.

    WOULD BANNING FIREARMS REDUCE MURDER AND SUICIDE?
    A REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL AND SOME DOMESTIC EVIDENCE
    DON B. KATES* AND GARY MAUSER**

    Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy

    http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf

    “Now, I have several close relatives who fit your definition of “poor black” – as well as numerous people of color – many friends – whom I admire and respect. So, I take great exception to that term because it labels a group of people unfairly and inaccurately: it lumps them into a group seen as consisting of poor, uneducated, violent rapists, with no prospects or interest in bettering themselves, even if they had a chance to do so.”

    Statistically it most certainly does not “label … a group of people unfairly,” unless of course you believe that facts and reality are somehow irrelevant. On an individual basis we should always evaluate an individual on their personal characteristics, however the racial component of violence today is a fact that many people refuse to recognize because they believe that to recognize the reality somehow makes them racists.

    It would be racism to “lump” people into a group a make a judgment on an _individual_ based on “lump sum” statistics. But the facts are the facts and you can face them or you can ignore them because you don’t like them.

    But here is one thing you cannot do. You cannot effectively work to solve the problem unless you are first willing to recognize it. Refusing to see reality as it is will guarantee that any effort you make based on a false perception of reality is more likely to fail.

    Liberal policies have failed blacks now for half a century and every time the liberals double down on their failed solutions. Thomas Sowell, a black writer and commentator, has written extensively on the problem and he doesn’t mince words or try to obfuscate the problem. His book “Black Rednecks & White Liberals” is an informative read.

    Someone once said that the definition of insanity was to keep doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. That seems to me to largely describe social policies towards blacks for as long as I have been alive (over six decades now).

    “The “poor blacks” I know would not choose to be in a position like that…”

    The evidence is clear that people raised in an environment of dependency and where they are highly penalized for trying to become independent and where they hear every day the mantra that they are victims and racism is pervasive in everything will tend to stay in that condition of dependency (and vote for the people telling them they are victims, which seems to be the motive of some of the more cynical Democrats in my view). A single mother with children will quickly lose a lot of her benefits if she gets a job and starts earning income. That has been analyzed ad infinitum and it is just another case of liberals refusing to see reality.

    “I would also caution you that racism is an expression of power: a black man may be bigoted, but cannot be racist,…”

    That sounds like a redefinition of racism to fit it to a political agenda. Nevertheless racism is what it is and redfining solves nothing. “Racism” is pure and simple the act of having a stereotype of what X is and having already decided that any instance of X has the attributes of the stereotype.

    When a white person doesn’t hire a black man because he believes blacks are always violent and have inherent criminal tendencies he is being a racist. When black gangs of kids go looking for whites to knock out with a sucker punch in a game often called “polar bear hunting” they are racists pure and simple. When blacks assume everything negative outcome in their life is the result of white racism they are being racists. When white liberals assume that blacks require their enlightened help and guidance to escape poverty they are being racists.

    A racist sees every indidivual as being being dominated by the stereotype. Those who are not racist are willing to see an individual as an individual and don’t come to irreversible decisions based on race. Anyone can be a racist (and a bigot) no matter what the color of their skin is. As to power blacks have considerable political power today (which they largely misuse in my view, but that is a different subject).

    I do agree with you that racism is still a problem. Back in the 1950s the problem was clearly white racism. Today I see much evidence that black racism is a far more dominant problem, that coupled with the inherent racism of liberals who automatically label any opposing view as “racist.”

    I wrote this a while back on racism:

    Racism is inherent in the human condition. Humans are wired to see differences and draw conclusions about the meaning of those differences based on experience. Humans are wired to identify “we” and “them” and differences of sex and color are two big and obvious differences.

    There is nothing immoral or inhuman about naturally drawing such conclusions. The mechanisms are largely below the conscious threshold. This is as true of black, yellow, and red children as of white children. All are born natural racists and bigots.

    The point of education is to bring the rational mind and the heart into the conversation and help it see the evidence that there is more that unites than divides, to see the humanity in all that underlies the differences. There is nothing inherently awful about starting out life as a racist and a bigot. It is the human condition. The tragedy is is not in how we start, but in how we end.

    “Take a look at the relative conviction rates of whites vs. blacks for murder in any state in this country.”

    “In murder cases, whites are executed much more frequently. Nationally, from 1977, when the death penalty was reinstituted, to 2011, the last year for which the FBI has compiled data, 64.7 percent of those executed were whites, but whites committed only 47 percent of the murders.”

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/377488/shaky-case-against-death-penalty-john-r-lott-jr

    ““Defensive Gun Use”) is almost certainly impossible to measure:”

    It is certainly very difficult to measure. However it is probably possible to get order of magnitude information which is what Kleck attempted to do. Question, have you actually ever read Kleck’s description of how his research was conducted to come to some idea yourself? You can find a copy here:

    ARMED RESISTANCE TO CRIME: THE PREVALENCE AND NATURE OF SELF-DEFENSE WITH A GUN
    Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz

    http://www.guncite.com/gcdgklec.html

    Also he answered some of his critics here:

    The illegitimacy of one-sided speculation: getting the defensive gun use estimate down. (response to article by David Hemenway in this issue, p. … from: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology

    http://www.amazon.com/The-illegitimacy-one-sided-speculation-Criminology/dp/B00097TN8Y

    (The above used to be available for free on the web, but not sure where now.)

    One liklihood is that the numbers today are considerably less than what Kleck found because he did his study in the 1990s when homicide rates were double what they are today. The trend has been downward now for decades.

    “This is also at the heart of the problem with the so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws: those laws shift the burden of proof from the person who performs an act of violence to the person who is the object of that violence, …”

    What the stand your ground laws do is take the burden off a person finding some way to retreat in a violent situation. I have written on that here:

    Stand Your Ground and Self Defense
    http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/stand-your-ground-and-self-defense/

    The fact is there are physiological changes under extreme stress (like person advancing on your with a knife threatening to kill you). Those changes can make it extremely difficult to _see_ the avenues of escape – your attention is riveted on the threat.

    Also as Lt. Col. Dave Grossman wrote about in “On Killing” retreating can in fact trigger homicide in the attacker who might have not yet been willing to kill you looking at you in the face.

    Many people have been unfairly convicted in a self defense situation because a lawyer in a _safe_ court house could come up with some theoretical scenario of retreat.

    “Some of the jurors in the Travyon Martin murder trial voiced their frustration in being unable to convict George Zimmerman because of this very point.”

    I have a post on my blog which itself has little content, but has links to a series of articles by Massad Ayoob who was an expert witness for the Zimmerman defense. It is a good read and will give people a much better idea of what the jury saw. I fully believe that some jurors after the fact under the pressure of social condemnation may have felt they did the wrong thing afterwards. But in fact they saw the real evidence and came to the only reasonable verdict in my view.

    Inside the Zimmerman Trial
    http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/inside-the-zimmerman-trial/

    My view of the trial was that it was an attempted lynching in the media. Not saying Zimmerman is a nice guy or a hero or anything, but based on the evidence the verdict was the right one.

    ” I see hope that there is room, given time, for conservatives and progressives like us to come to a mutual understanding and agreement on the nature and potential solutions for many of the problems that face our country and the world.”

    One thing that liberals or progressives need to do is simply be willing to see and accept the evidence, for example, the evidence that violence does have a racial component that is important. That is not to say that blacks have violence in their DNA – never said that. Sowell in his book that I mentioned explores how southern blacks adopting values of white redneck culture looks to be a component of the problem today.

    I don’t think we can ever come to a mutual understanding as long as one side refuses to acknowlege facts and instead labels those they disagree with them racist. I am not specifically saying that about you either – you were very polite in your reply compared to many folks I have talked to on the subject. Some people go ballistic over the very suggestion of a racial factor in the problem. Mainstream media today almost always try to hide the race of many malefactors as unimportant when they can. A mob of 100% black teenagers rioting and robbing from stores in a mall is described as “youthful exhuberance” with no hint of the racial makeup of the actual people involved.

    Anyway, thanks for a polite reply and I tried to be polite also, but you never know how something you write – especially on the Internet – will rub someone else. 🙂

    regards,

    lwk

    Like

    1. Well lwk, it’s clear we still are poles apart on this issue. I’m no fan of some of the more vocal progressives either, since their tendency to find evidence of Rush Limbaugh’s delusions or the Koch Brother’s Machiavellian schemes under every rock is just as disingenuous and unhelpful as the ultra conservatives who are always looking for hidden conspiracies behind anything a liberal politician says or does.

      But do understand, given the history of white violence against blacks, especially in the South, it’s no wonder that many see the George Zimmerman trial verdict, and the “Stand Your Ground” laws, as whites declaring open season on blacks, especially young black men. It’s a concern that is well justified and really needs to be addressed if our legal system and government are going to continue to be seen as providing a fair opportunity for all voices to be heard. Because, history provides abundant evidence that once a majority feel “the system” is rigged against them, then that system cannot survive for long.

      These laws are based on a false premise, one you point-to as a positive aspect, that a person who feels threatened can act on that feeling without concern for the consequences of their actions, and without reference to the realities of the situation. They, and those who promote them, accept as gospel the premise that you can solve a problem by pointing a gun at it, and perhaps shooting it too. If this were true, then there would be no place for Christianity in our society, and the vendetta and lynchings would still be the preferred method of administering “justice.” — They’re not, nor does anyone want them to be, and for good reason.

      I’ll close with this thought: Robert A. Heinlein – as radical a Libertarian as there ever was, once wrote (in “Starship Troopers”) that the most dangerous person in any situation is not the person with the biggest, fanciest weapons: it’s the person who uses their brain most effectively. Thinking that having a weapon in your hand guarantees safety, no matter how fancy that weapon may be, is a hope based on a false premise. It is an assumption we as a nation have lulled ourselves into believing from time to time, and paid dearly for doing so – as Osama Bin Laden proved in 2001, and Iraq and Afghanistan showed us repeatedly in the years since. Liberals made the same error in judgment in years past in thinking it was possible to “ban the bomb.” … Not really, unless you ban brains at the same time! The knowledge is there: knowledge of not just how to make guns, but also how to employ force and terror in forms other than guns to achieve your goals – no matter how valid (or invalid) others may perceive your goals to be.

      Banning or controlling guns won’t solve the problem of people committing violence against their neighbors – as everyone will agree, but reasonable controls can reduce the level of destructivity and terror readily available to those likely to inflict violence upon either themselves or to others. Likewise, granting everyone free access to guns is also of no help – every person I’ve known who is (or was) in the military would agree that no person or group with guns – no matter how fancy they may be – stands a chance against a modern military force.

      Guns do nothing to preserve liberty or freedom, and they do not guarantee safety from perceived threats: it’s only our brains, and a willingness to use them, that can do so.

      Comments on this blog are moderated. So, while I may respond to your future comments privately, I think this thread has gone as far as it should for now. I welcome your input on future postings.

      – Allen

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      1. Although I had said I’d close off comments on this particular post, I did feel it was only fair to allow “lwk” one more response. Unlike a few other commenters on this issue (who I did not approve for posting), “lwk” raises some good points, and is well worth listening to, even if I don’t fully agree with what he has to say. (NB: His comments have been slightly edited to remove a couple of points that were off topic with regards to this particular discussion…)

        – Allen

        “Robert A. Heinlein – as radical a Libertarian as there ever was, once wrote (in “Starship Troopers”) that the most dangerous person in any situation is not the person with the biggest, fanciest weapons: it’s the person who uses their brain most effectively.”

        I am huge fan of Heinlein and have probably read every book he wrote. If I remember correctly he said in one of them that “An armed society is a polite society.” I any case a lot of my political motives stem from Libertarian premises.

        “[Stand your ground laws] are based on a false premise… that a person who feels threatened can act on that feeling without concern for the consequences of their actions, and without reference to the realities of the situation.”

        I have a license to carry a handgun in Texas and have spent considerable time researching my possible liabilities should I need to use deadly force in self defense. I referenced a post on my blog to articles by Massad Ayoob who was an expert in self defense and firearms who was retained by the Zimmerman defense. I have been reading articles in various publications by Ayoob for a very long time – he is an earned authority in my view.

        According to Ayoob in real court cases the physical evidence will almost always either strongly confirm a real self defense use, or just the opposite if it was not justified. In Texas (and I think most if not all states) if you have _any_ part in starting the confrontation (e.g., using “fighting words”) you will most likely forfeit a claim of justified self defense.

        Finally it is not the case you can just say “I was afraid for my life” and prevail. If the police and prosecutor are skeptical of your claim it will go to a grand jury and they will decide if you need to go to trial. In the Zimmerman case the police initially saw it as a clear cut case of self defense. It was only political and media pressure that pushed it into a trial, and special prosecutor did not use a grand jury (most likely because she doubted they would bring back an indictment).

        In a trial the jury will be asked to imagine a “reasonable person” and try to determine if a that reasonable person would have seen a threat of serious bodily injury or death. I don’t think that is an easy test to pass if you just claim you were afraid when there is no reasonable basis.

        So I totally reject your characterization that a person can just imagine a threat and start blasting away, _and_ get away with it in front of a real jury. As I said this is a subject of great interest to me. I absolutely never want to have to use a gun in self defense. I have no great desire to kill someone, but I refuse to be a victim, or even worse, have my wife be a victim to violence I could prevent.

        “… it’s no wonder that many see the George Zimmerman trial verdict, and the “Stand Your Ground” laws, as whites declaring open season on blacks, especially young black men.”

        It is no wonder because the media in a feeding frenzy tried to portray it that way. Zimmerman didn’t exactly fit the bill as a person who is half hispanic, but the media got around that by calling him a WHITE hispanic.

        Zimmerman was (maybe still is?) a Democrat. He voted for President Obama. He himself has black relatives, tutored a black child, and launched a campaign to help a homeless black man who had been beaten by a white. All this happened before his encounter with Trayvon Martin.

        The idea that Zimmerman was some white vigilante looking to shoot a black out of prejudice is ridiculous if one considers _all_ the evidence. But the media went into a feeding frenzy to publish a favorite narrative and twisted the fact to suit the narrative to sell papers and air time on TV.

        It is no wonder that many blacks, inflamed by totally fallacious and biased reporting, got upset and saw the event in a way that might lead them to believe the narrative that white men were out hunting young black kids.

        In regards to the racial component of violence and crime in the U.S., you might check this out from the Bureau of Justice (quoting):

        * Blacks were disproportionately represented as both homicide victims and offenders. The victimization rate for blacks (27.8 per 100,000) was 6 times higher than the rate for whites (4.5 per 100,000). The offending rate for blacks (34.4 per 100,000) was almost 8 times higher than the rate for whites (4.5 per 100,000)

        Most murders were intraracial

        From 1980 through 2008—
        *84% of white victims were killed by whites
        * 93% of black victims were killed by blacks.

        http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf

        Blacks generally kill other blacks and whites generally kill other whites. There is no epidemic of whites suddenly killing blacks, except in a media narrative that seems more focused on the sensational than the truth.

        “… a concern that is well justified and really needs to be addressed if our legal system and government are going to continue to be seen as providing a fair opportunity for all voices to be heard. “

        Blacks were often the victim of racial violence, fifty years ago. Today the younger generation of whites largely repudiate racist sentiments. Now we are more and more seeing blacks targeting other races, particularly whites and Jews, the “polar bear hunting” and “knockout” games recorded on cell phones for publication on youtube. Or gangs of young blacks running rampant through malls and stores in organized “flash mob” events.

        We have problems for sure. Certainly whites in the south particular committed sins in the past. But that is no excuse to sweep under the rug the extreme problem of violence we are now seeing in the black community most often in our inner cities.

        First we have to admit that it is a problem and that race is definitely a component of the problem. Once we see and admit that then perhaps we can start to see real solutions vs. solutions based on avoiding acknowledging reality that are doomed to failure.

        “granting everyone free access to guns is also of no help – every person I’ve known who is (or was) in the military would agree that no person or group with guns – no matter how fancy they may be – stands a chance against a modern military force.”

        I have a proposal on my blog for universal background checks that I actually believe that a majority of gunowners might support.

        http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/universal-background-checks/

        I think it is something of a straw man fallacy to assert that people like me support “free access to guns” for everyone. We don’t.

        As to the “stands a chance against a modern military force” that is a complex question and _both_ sides of the argument operate largely in illusion. There is a hell of lot I could say about that as a Vietnam veteran but I just choose not to right now.

        The fact is that governments with less than honorable intentions fear armed citizens. If you read about the Revolutionary War both sides thought it would be an easy walk to victory and both were wrong. It was a lot closer than most realize.

        I support reasonable restrictions on firearms ownership. Where people like me run into problems with other people is that our definitions of “reasonable” are way different.

        As to Christianity, I consider myself to be one although my understanding strays very much from the traditional views. I believe that when Christ said to “turn the other cheek” he was telling us how to behave _most_ of the time. But I don’t think he meant an absolute dictum. I don’t think he meant for us to break the basic understanding in Judaism that one had a basic right to defend one’s life when threatened not just with a slap on the face, but imminent murder.

        That’s my view. Again, thank you for responding with a great deal of restraint I think. That is pretty rare actually. 🙂

        regards,

        lwk

        Like

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