On this episode, my best friend Mike (a non-active duty Marine) speak with Wade and Byrne from Sci-Gasm about guns, gun culture, and why we love them so much here in the US. But it’s really a conversation on how to discuss controversial topics like gun laws as well.
Gun laws are a pretty sensitive subject in America, regardless of which side of the issue you’re on. But it shouldn’t be.
Indeed they are our constitutional right, and I support that right whole-heartedly. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be fair, and debate respectfully on the subject with those who may hold a different view. After this last election, I hope we can all agree civility in political discourse has a lot of room for improvement.
People who argue with logic and reason, are far more likely to encourage more to side with them than people who insult, lie, yell, and behave anything but adult-like.
So with that being said, let’s break down a few of the common myths often bandied about regarding guns.
MYTH #1: They’re trying to take our guns
Any time Democrats propose new gun legislation, Republicans immediately go on the defensive and rile up the base by insinuating their opponents are trying to entirely disarm the populace.
But the base is already on their side, there’s no need to get them riled up. Not to mention, it’s entirely dishonest, and most who do it already know that.
Not a single law was proposed in recent history to remove all guns from private citizens, nor did anyone propose repealing the second amendment. If you feel the need to lie about your opponent’s argument to defeat them, think about what that says about you. It says you’re incapable of winning your argument on its merits. When you do this, you’ve already lost the moral and logical high-ground.
The effort should be focused not on the straw man argument that “they’re trying to take our guns,” but instead on the specific regulation being proposed.
This less than favorable opinion is often due to the constant infighting between the two parties, that is largely full of myths, hyperbole, misdirection, and occasionally bold-faced lies. Neither come off looking like professionals, or even reasonable people.
So the party that strives to be amenable to finding common ground, and deemed as the most civil and honest will win this fight.
The Republicans owned Congress at the time, so a 17% approval rating should be a clear message they’re missing their mark.
Most Democrat-proposed ideas are around more stringent background checks, or limiting certain types of weapons, the latter of which, I think is misguided, but I’ll save that for another time.
Both parties agree that guns shouldn’t be in the hands of violent felons, or those with a diagnosed mental disorder.
But the problem for Republicans often arrives when Democrats propose what might be reasonable background checks, the bill is only one page of such reasonable checks Republicans might be open to agreeing to, but then a myriad of other pages of pork-like special favors for their district or other provisions that have nothing to do with the issue at hand.
Republicans are just as guilty of doing the same on other issues, so no one party is innocent of this. But if both just stuck to passing simple single-item bills on the issues where they agree, they’d be far more effective and win over the American people.
The best tactic for Republicans would be to first loudly proclaim that they’re willing to look at effective background check legislation and pass the background check attributes both agree on. Propose counter legislation that includes those, and only those, and let the Democrats justify why they won’t vote for it.
Show that you’re willing to find common ground publicly, and emphatically, leaving the Democrats looking like the only ones not willing to work towards progress. If Democrats argue, “these provisions don’t go far enough,” Republicans can simply put it back on them by saying, “This is what we already agree on. So let’s pass this first, and if it doesn’t help, we can discuss further measures later.”
Myth #2: The Gun Show Exemption for Background Checks
Democrats often cite the gun show exemption to background checks as a big problem, and frankly, they’re partly right, even if they’re disingenuous in their presentation of the issue.
The fact is that gun dealers at gun shows do in-fact do background checks. However, if you’re a private person who has a .22 caliber pistol for instance, and you’d like to upgrade to a 9mm pistol, you can take it to the show with you, and if some other private person like you who’s there (not a dealer or vendor) has a 9mm but wants a .22, then you can legally make a private citizen trade. This is just like you would do if your neighbor decided they wanted to sell or trade with you, it just happens on the premises of a gun show.
Instead of just shooting down every idea Democrats have, Republicans could admit that maybe there are things that could be done, that aren’t an undue burden on law abiding citizens, to help clean up this “loophole.”
It could be something as simple as having people fill out a background check upon entering the show, if they’re considering buying or trading, and let them shop to their heart’s content from there. If they don’t pass the test, there’s really no reason for them to enter the premises of a gun show in the first place.
While I’m not saying that’s the answer, things like that can certainly be deemed a reasonable measure to prevent guns getting into the wrong hands, and are at least worth discussing in earnest.
As this image from the CDC document found here shows, in 2014, there were 2,626,418 deaths in the United States that year, making 33,000 just above 1.2% of the reasons for death attributable to guns.
By comparison, more than double died from diabetes, nearly three times as many from Alzheimer’s (which took my father last month), and nearly twenty times more died from heart disease.
As the 538 article also shows, nearly two-thirds of those gun deaths were suicides, and a small percentage were self defense, or police shootings of criminal suspects.
While I think we all agree suicides are tragic, as a libertarian, I believe that you own your own body, and have the right to end it whenever you like.
My own grandfather was quite ill when he shot himself, and having already lost my grandmother years earlier, he didn’t want to burn through what little he had saved for his kids by chasing a terminal disease. While you may not agree with it, that was his choice and you should respect it.
But no matter what side of suicide you are on, it cannot be fairly called an act of violence, nor the fault of a gun. So those acts should not be considered when discussing gun violence, and I think those with an anti-gun position should be fair when presenting such arguments, no not cite 33,000 number, but instead, the 10,000 or so that were potential murders or manslaughter, versus suicides and justifiable homicides.
All that being said, 10,000 wrongful deaths is still a large number of people, and is incredibly tragic. It is a small percentage, but certainly statistically significant, and Democrats have fair cause to want to do something to lessen that number. Even if we disagree on their proposed methodology, their altruistic intentions should be evident and respected.
These are three of many arguments from both sides that are the first that came to mind to me. But I’m sure you can think of many more.
The bottom line is that Democrats should know most Republicans don’t want to put guns in the hands of bad people. They just don’t want law-abiding citizens to have their rights violated and disagree on how to go about preventing it.
Republicans should know that most Democrats don’t want to disarm America, they want to prevent wrongful deaths, and they think less guns will achieve said goal.
Until both parties in congress, and the party-faithful voters who make their voices heard on social media learn to understand, then be understood, these immature and dishonest tactics will continue to ensure that America doesn’t advance in any meaningful and constructive way.
We’re all smart enough to know better, it’s time we acted like it.
Donald Trump has recently announced that as president, he would use executive order to ban Muslims from entering the country temporarily.
As an atheist, I feel all religion can be dangerous if taken to extremes. But that being said, there can be no doubt that around the world, in the 21st century, the overwhelming majority of atrocities committed in the name of religion are committed by people of the Muslim faith.
Any time a tragedy happens, we as a people tend to believe we should try to analyze the problem that caused the tragedy and fix it. If the problem is too big for any one of us to fix, the non-libertarian population often feel government should fix it for them.
But let’s apply a little critical thinking to Trump’s idea of banning foreign Muslims from entering the United States.
How exactly do we go about banning all Muslims? If a Muslim applies to come to America, do the authorities ask that Muslim if they’re Muslim?
While an honest Muslim might answer truthfully, knowing it would preclude them from coming, wouldn’t a radical Muslim intending to kill Americans, or a desperate but peaceful Muslim hoping to flee a war-zone, just lie to get into the United States?
Quite similarly to the “If guns are outlawed, only criminals will have them” argument, if Muslims are banned from entering the United States, only deceitful Muslims will enter.
There is no DNA test that tells you what religion someone is—religion isn’t genetic. There is nothing science has to offer to detect one’s religion.
The 1st amendment states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
By the letter of the Constitution, the president could in-fact pass such an order, because it isn’t Congress passing a law, it’s the president passing an executive order.
So while some have put forth the constitutionality argument, I would have to argue it is a non sequitur.
But, the Supreme Court continues to allow Blue Laws which are clearly an establishment of religion, proving the letter of the Constitution isn’t always their ultimate guide.
So it’s quite possible that the Supreme Court would strike such an executive order down based on the “principles” of the first amendment, versus the letter of it, as they tend to err on the side of secularism these days—something I typically appreciate.
So now we understand that if Trump wrote such an order, there’s no way to know who is and isn’t a Muslim. Even if the Supreme Court didn’t strike it down as an executive order, if Congress tried to pass it as law, it would most assuredly get struck down then.
But also, it is important to consider that even if such a law did somehow evade the Supreme Court’s wrath, and scientists invented a Muslim detector that really worked; when exactly is “temporary” over?
We’ve been fighting the war on terror since 2001, and it’s not like there are any fewer radical Muslims killing people. While the radicals may be a small minority at best, if he’s passing such an order to eliminate the threat, the threat won’t be eliminated until all Muslims are dead—an idea I assume most people would not support.
Because much like it’s impossible to identify a Muslim with any certainty if they choose to hide it, it’s equally impossible to identify a radical Muslim hell-bent on killing innocent civilians they deem to be infidels deserving of death.
Hopefully, Trump and his supporters will come to their senses and realize this isn’t a workable plan, and instead look for ways to better screen all people coming into the United States. But they should also understand that with freedom comes danger, as illustrated by our gun laws—something most Trump supporters do support, and anyone else who is serious about liberty.
So if we’re OK with one danger, we should be OK with the other, lest we be hypocrites.
While I don’t claim to have the answer; if we’re seeking one, I’d at least like to know there’s a bit of logic and reason behind the ideas being proposed, because this one has very little.
“If you see something, say something,” is a much simpler notion, it’s something we can all do to help government officials find these people. Exercising our 2nd amendment rights to arm ourselves so we can take down any would-be killers in our midst if we encounter one is pretty simple too.
Both are far more likely to be effective and far more doable than Trump’s entirely unworkable notion.
Any time a mass shooting occurs, the immediate aftermath always includes those who are opposed to gun ownership as a right making their arguments, and those who support such a right launch their counter attack. Since I believe in the principles of the 2nd amendment myself, I’m forced to point out the flaws in these arguments.
So why don’t we ban alcohol, since “No one needs to drink alcohol,” (remember, most people argue “no one needs an ‘assault’ rifle”)? Oh wait, we tried that, didn’t we?
During the dreaded Volstead act years, (aka Prohibition), crime went up, not down. While alcohol was banned, it was still quite rampant. Except all the people using it were now criminals. And the people selling it became murderers lest they be locked up.
On December 5th, 1933, then president Roosevelt announced the 21st Amendment had been ratified, a repeal of the 18th Amendment that was prohibition, and the worst violation of the U.S. Constitution’s principle of liberty was finally undone.
Decades later, in June of 1971, Richard Nixon, seemingly fully ignorant of the lessons of prohibition, announced the War on Drugs, and much like prohibition, it has also led to more violence while drugs are still readily available to nearly anyone who can afford them.
So what evidence do we have to believe that banning or restricting guns will lead to a different outcome? The aforementioned drug and alcohol bans have simply created black markets that aren’t nearly as selective about who they sell to, and increase crime doing so.
Many point out that other countries don’t allow guns, and they’re doing fine, but it’s important to point out that they didn’t start out with that right, as America did. So that’s one reason why it might work there when it wouldn’t work here. They don’t already have many guns in the marketplace, and there’s also a cultural issue that resides within the majority of American’s that owning a weapon of self defense is a right, that you would have to overcome.
I will continue to argue we have a mental illness problem, as much or more so than we have a gun problem. In principle alone, I do not believe in restricting the rights of millions of good people (legal gun owners like myself who have never, nor likely will ever kill someone) because of the actions of bad a few.
Instead, I’d concede that all firearm sales be subject to background checks, even private sales, such as the ones at gun shows. Many gun-rights advocates may part with me on that point, but the fact remains that someone who would fail a background check currently, could go to such an event, and buy from a private attendee (vendors at gun shows still do background checks, just now private owners who are looking to swap).
That person—leaving with a gun, was in violation of the law if they knew they wouldn’t have passed the background check, but the seller and the show itself were fully within the law, and our current background-check system, in that moment, has failed.
But if we look deeper, most of these mass shootings are from violent psychopaths, many of whom had a history of psychiatric care prior to committing their heinous acts.
If only their respective doctors were to convene, as doctors are sometimes known to do, and collaborate on a system to order further evaluation of someone they have diagnosed with a disorder that the doctor determines makes the patient a danger to others, then submit a suggestion of a firearms restrictions to the FBI so that person would fail a background check, maybe some of these mass shooting could be prevented.
But the fact is that bad people are always going to exist so long as we don’t find some magical way to genetically modify humans to a eliminate the qualities that lead one to be a violent psychopath. That of course assumes it’s a genetic defect versus a product of the person’s environment in the first place; a subject for another post.
So the real issue is that when one of these people does go on a killing spree, there can be no mistake that there are only three things that can stop them.
A change of heart. (I don’t recall an incident where this has ever happened)
Running out of ammo (Happens, but usually after a lot of people are dead)
Or a good person with a gun takes action to stop them.
In my opinion, the best way to end gun deaths of innocent people, is to promote gun ownership to good people, so that more good people are armed and prepared to deal with the bad ones when they go off on a rampage. Terrorists and spree killers aren’t going to snuff themselves out, after all.
A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. ~ 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution.
Nothing seems to evoke more passion from either side of the political aisle than America’s illustrious 2nd amendment. People on my side of the fence often cite the “shall not be infringed part,” but those who wish to limit or eliminate the citizenry’s right to carry arms often cite the “a well-regulated militia” part. Their argument being that the framers meant for Americans to be able to form militias (think local governments) to protect the people, and those militias would need to be armed.
Their argument seems pretty sound on the face of it. Makes sense, right? Not so fast.
If we apply some critical thinking, it is patently out of character with the rest of the bill of rights.
The Constitution was drafted, not as a set of laws for the people to abide by, but instead it is limits set on government as to how they may rule over the people.
“We the people” grant government the right to infringe on our freedoms in order to serve the greater good of our nation. But fearing that such a government could become as oppressive as our recently defeated European overlords of the time, they drafted the Constitution to protect us from future similar oppression.
For instance, our first amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” versus something like “You are free to practice any religion of your choosing.”
This pattern is consistent in the entirety of the Bill Of Rights, and while most see both those phrases as essentially the same, there’s an incredibly important distinction. As the Constitution is written, the people have the power and are imposing a limit on the government’s ability to limit their religious freedom (The first phrase, as the constitution is written). In the second theoretical example, it implies government has the power and is granting religious rights to the people.
So with that in mind, let’s revisit the meaning behind the word “militia” in the second amendment. If we assume the term “militia” refers to the military and police, which are government entities after all; those who wish to limit our gun rights believe our forefathers wrote an amendment that says that government cannot infringe on government’s rights to bear arms. This is not only inconsistent to the rest of the Bill of Rights, but its redundancy is nonsensical. If government cannot infringe on government’s rights to carry guns, then there would be no reason to even mention it in the first place.
So why do gun control advocates believe this is what the 2nd amendment implies? It’s a simple case of confirmation bias—a phenomenon whereby someone attempting to prove something they hope to be true/false, eschew interpretations that conflict with their bias and/or accept suspect data that supports their bias, due to an inner desire to substantiate their argument.
We are all prone to do this, and with the exception of devout skeptics like myself, we’ll rarely even know we’re doing it, nor act to correct it.
For instance, imagine a detective investigates the murder of a married woman. We all have heard that when someone who is married is murdered, the most common culprit is the spouse. So if the detective, after interviewing the spouse, gets a bad vibe from him, may ignore exculpatory evidence; only accepting info that could insinuate he’s guilty. As you can imagine, this leads to belief in things that often aren’t true.
In Dale Carnegie’s Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, #5 is “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” It is easy to assume gun control advocates are simply people who hate guns and want to take them away from those of us who don’t.
While this is occasionally true, some people are being quite reasonable, they just have different values or beliefs, and don’t understand our views. Opinions don’t have right or wrong answers, so we shouldn’t paint them in the light of “wrong,” just different than us.
Others may me be like former US representative Gabby Giffords who was brutally shot in 2011 by a crazed killer on an unhinged political shooting spree, or former Reagan White House Press Secretary James Brady who was shot in a failed presidential assassination attempt. Their lives were forever changed because of gun violence, so it’s quite reasonable to assume they would advocate limiting our right to bear arms. And when people have been forever affected by senseless gun violence, it behooves all of us to respect their trepidation in respect to lax gun laws. We haven’t walked a mile in their shoes.
James Brady & The Reagan Assassination Attempt
So what did the framers actually mean when they wrote in the “militia” clause? Why is it even there, if it doesn’t mean what those people think it means?
You’ve no doubt heard many people argue that the 2nd amendment was written so the people could be armed to stand up to an oppressive government, and probably assumed this was just conjecture by gun-rights advocates, or based on quotes from the framers at the time.
But it’s also the real purpose behind the “militia” clause.
What they actually meant was that the government will always be a threat to become bloated and oppressive. And while a government can pass a million laws, those laws have no teeth if there is no militia to enforce them. So in order to keep that government and its enforcement wing (the militia) well-regulated, the people should be armed as well. This way, the government (and militia) always have some level of fear from the people, to balance the people’s fear of the militia. In other words, they meant for the PEOPLE to keep the MILITIA well-regulated, not for a well-regulated militia to have arms. A militia, by definition, is already armed.
So apologies to those who wish to limit our rights to bear arms, and believe the “militia” clause supports your argument. If you want to argue against gun rights, using the “militia” argument, it just isn’t consistent with the rest of the Constitution, and you’re unfortunately misinterpreting the clause.
A recent study in Virginia suggests that an increase in gun sales may result in lower crime rates, not more. How could this be? Bob Costas and others insist it’s the other way around. So who should I trust? Science or a sportscaster?
Of course I’m being facetious, and no doubt Costas means well—but Bob is severely lacking in his scientific acumen on the subject. Instead of speaking from a skeptical point of view, he decided to bloviate from the heart and off the cuff.
I don’t want to begrudge anyone’s opinion of not wanting guns around; it’s a personal choice. But what I have a problem with is people making false or ignorant claims on national TV as if they’re an authority (which he is not), proposing to take away a freedom I enjoy because they don’t enjoy it, exploiting a tragedy to push a political agenda, and quite frankly, advancing that agenda during a venue where it’s inappropriate.
Being a gun owner who loves the stress-relief target shooting can often bring, I was quite annoyed. Had I been NBC’s CEO, Bob would have been shown the door. It was irresponsible and unprofessional to say the least. I’m not calling for him to be fired, that’s for NBC to decide; but I would like to think Bob should have known better and NBC would expect and demand better from its talent.
So let’s start to think logically about what Bob said. He insinuated that but not for the purchase of a hand gun, that Javon Belcher and his wife would be alive today. In theory, Bob is saying that this couple was otherwise happy and harbored no ill will towards each other. But then Belcher bought a gun, and for reasons solely motivated by Belcher owning that gun, he committed murder, then suicide.
Does that seem as ridiculous to you as it does to me? I hope so, because it is. What evidence does Costas have to demonstrate that if Belcher didn’t have a gun, he would not have used a knife? What would have prevented him from bludgeoning her to death with any other random household item?
They had marital issues coupled with what appears to be mental issues with Belcher. He had spent the evening with another woman the night before, after all, yet seemed to have a problem with his wife going out to a concert without him. Then of course he settled the argument by murdering her, then himself. Perfectly stable minds don’t do that. So let’s lay the blame where it belongs, a decline in someone’s state of mind.
The fact is Bob Costas had an opportunity to offer condolences to a grieving family, which to some extent he did. But then he ruined that moment by advancing an agenda and exploiting a tragedy.
Let me give you an example that might explain why this is so irksome. Imagine a wife losing a husband to heart failure. Let’s assume that he wasn’t exactly a health and fitness nut, but instead he just enjoyed life the best he knew how, ate what he wanted, did what he wanted, and lived with the consequences. Then imagine someone coming up to his wife and said, “I’m very sorry for your loss. But you know, if your husband had eaten better and exercised more, he’d still be alive.”
I’d be furious, and I’m sure any one of you would be equally upset as well. That’s in essence what Bob did. When a tragedy occurs, you just offer condolences, not advice, and you definitely don’t proselytize.
But back to guns. I own guns for two reasons. While I do not hunt, I do love target shooting. But more importantly, if someone enters my house with ill intent, I’m not calling 911 to help me, I’m calling 911 to come pick up the body. Maybe they were there just to steal my TV, but I’m not interested in risking my life by blowing my cover and asking their intent—they’re simply going down. That’s why we have things like the Castle Doctrine and Stand-Your-Ground legislation. If we are to be a free nation, we can never be expected to cede our life, liberty, and property to anyone who wishes to take it unlawfully.
If we are serious about reducing crime, we need to discuss the reduction of laws that incite violent crime. Here’s a hint: every law that the vice squad enforces is part and parcel for most violent crime. Get rid of those laws, and much like the repeal of prohibition, violent crime goes down. It should come as no surprise that people get violent when you take away their freedom.
Believe it or not however, as Dr. Michael Shermer suggests, studies show that as mankind evolves, violence continues to decrease all around the world anyway. So while the news leads you to believe things are getting worse, studies show they just aren’t. I believe that this decrease in violence is proportionate to the continued downfalls around the world of tyrannies, theocracies, and any other form of government that doesn’t have freedom at its core.
Let me ask you a theoretical question. You are feeling kind of frisky and you decide you want to pick a fight with someone, so you pick any random guy standing around. Now imagine that guy had a holster with a gun in it, are you feeling just as frisky now? Assuming you’re not suicidal, I imagine not. Therefore, we know that guns often thwart violence, because people rarely mess with someone carrying one—even if they carry one themselves. It’s just the theory of mutually assured destruction on a smaller scale.
The fact is, we will never have all the facts because there are no studies to show all of the crimes that didn’t happen because a would-be-attacker got spooked by the would-be-victim being armed.
Our forefathers were immensely thoughtful when writing the Constitution and there is nothing there by accident. The right to bear arms was very important to them because while “We the people” hire police to protect us, that doesn’t mean that we assign them the authority to be the only ones who can protect us. Our own protection starts with us.
So forgive me Mr. Costas, but if you’re not going to think your statements through, do the scientific study, or at least research other science; you might want to learn to bite your tongue before you voice support for infringing upon our Constitutional rights. A majority of us don’t appreciate it.
log·i·cal: capable of reasoning or of using reason in an orderly cogent fashion lib·er·tar·i·an: an advocate of the doctrine of free will; a person who upholds the principles of individual liberty especially of thought and action