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Guns save life? Um, no they don't - The online computery journal thingy of a turtle

Nov. 30th, 2009

07:40 pm - Guns save life? Um, no they don't

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And I see FurAffinity FurAffinity's ISP is being a cussed-up piece of broken cuss again. I was going to post something there; I guess I'll post it here instead.

Two weeks ago, I was driving from Houston to Chicago for MFF. As I drove through Illinois, I saw a few series of Burma Shave-style signs at the edge of some farmland promoting an armed populace and advertising the website GunsSaveLife.com. It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? "Guns save life"... it's like saying that knives prevent cuts, or that deep water helps you breathe.

As you might have heard in the news, four police officers were shot to death by a gunman in a coffee shop in Parkland, Washington. The officers were in uniform, and presumably armed as well. Well, gee... their guns sure didn't save their lives, did they?

Pro-gun types say all sorts of crazy, dumb-sounding things about guns. "Guns don't kill people, people kill people!" "Guns have no purpose!" "Guns aren't weapons!" "An armed society is a polite society!" And now this: "Guns save lives!" All these statements are demonstrably false, and this shooting incident is a stark illustration of the inanity of the fourth statement.

Y'know, I'm in a mood to dismantle each of these statements one by one, so here goes.

Guns don't kill people, people kill people: One of the oldest. Sure, it's the person who makes the conscious decision to kill, and the gun is just a tool. And sure, there are other ways to kill people. But having a gun makes it a hundred times easier to kill; a million if the guy you want to kill is some distance away. I should also point out that nobody ever makes a similar statement about any other tool; nobody says "Scissors don't cut paper, people cut paper!" Of course guns don't kill people by themselves; but nobody is claiming that they do!

Guns don't have a purpose: Ever heard that one? You try to point out that the purpose of a gun is to kill, and some gun nut says, "Guns don't have purpose; they're inanimate objects!" This is an extremely dishonest debate tactic, because it deliberately assumes a different definition of "purpose" (intent) than the other guy is using (reason for having been invented in the first place). If you ask why guns were invented, the gun nut will usually give you some other silly answer along the lines of "to make holes in things" or "to send a piece of metal through a tube very fast". But nobody says as they go off to buy a gun, "I need something that will send a piece of metal through a tube very fast." And as for making holes in things? There was already an invention for that purpose: the drill. And if you need to make a hole in, say, a piece of wood, a drill does a much neater, more precise job. A gun, on the other hand, tends to make a rather ragged hole with a splintery exit wound. Besides, the bullet damages the floor! Get the hell outta my workshop, you idiot!

Guns aren't weapons: Yes, I've actually heard this. The argument was, anything can be used as a weapon: a pair of scissors, a metal pipe, a rock, a glass bottle, etc., so the term "weapon" is meaningless, I guess; and besides, according to the language of the laws regulating carrying guns, they're *firearms*; the word "WEAPON" doesn't appear, so there nyeah. All this ignores the fact that the dictionary defines a firearm as a kind of weapon, and that being used as a weapon is not an incidental side possibility of a gun; it is its main purpose. Guns were invented to be weapons, to kill or at least threaten to kill. Gun users who try to argue against this logic just end up sounding stupid, crazy, or both, IMO.

An armed society is a polite society: No, it damn well is not. If everybody is packing heat, does that stop people from having drunken bar fights? No, it just makes the fights more deadly. Another more serious problem of the proliferation of guns is the fact that every interaction between the police and the public, every routine traffic stop, must be treated as a potential deadly situation, causing cops to have more stress than would otherwise be necessary, and to often overreact and turn routine stops into deadly situations. An armed society is a paranoid society.

And finally, guns save lives: No. Murderers don't just walk up to people and say, "Do you have a gun? If not, I'm gonna shoot you!" They take people by surprise; they ambush, or they snipe. The Parkland shooter ambushed those cops in the coffee shop; Seung-hui Cho ambushed all those students he killed at Virginia Tech; snipers John Muhammad and Lee Malvo shot various people in Virginia and Maryland from a secret location; and so on. Having a gun won't save your life if a murderer takes you by surprise. Basically, if you want to protect yourself from hypothetical criminals with a gun, you've got to live your life constantly prepared to deal instantly with any threat; you've got to be on alert 24/7. I dunno about you, but I couldn't live that way. Fortunately, I don't have to, since I don't live in a cesspool of rampant crime and brutal predation.

Which, BTW, is the strange thing about gun nuts; they act as though they do live in a cesspool of rampant crime and brutal predation, which makes me wonder two things: 1. Do they *really*, or are they just irrationally paranoid? 2. If they in fact do, why don't they move the heck out?

Comments:

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From:pippinbear
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:03 am (UTC)
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Thank you. I'm glad to know that not everyone in America thinks guns somehow make people nice.

Are there laws and regulations controlling fireworks over there? If so, I'd think it could be argued that there should be laws and regulations at least as strong concerning guns. After all, they're pretty similar devices, with the difference that fireworks are meant to entertain and are only dangerous as a regrettable side-effect of the way they work, while guns don't really have any other purpose than to be dangerous objects.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:21 am (UTC)
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Yes. It's a state-by-state thing, I think; you can often see clusters of fireworks stores as you drive on the freeway and cross state lines.
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From:orv
Date:December 1st, 2009 06:57 am (UTC)
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The main difference, I suppose, is the Constitution doesn't enumerate a right to bear fireworks.
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From:pippinbear
Date:December 1st, 2009 01:54 pm (UTC)
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Hmm, isn't that section of the American constitution a part of the whole issue we're discussing? If so, that would seem a rather circular argument. In any case, something being written in a constitution document doesn't *necessarily* make it right, good, or helpful (although hopefully most of what's written in the US constitution does happen to be, not that I know much about it).
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From:wbwolf
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:22 am (UTC)
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Regarding the driveby in your blog: I'd rather see open carry become more common, if only so I know who I need to avoid. Concealed carry just means that you don't know who the wacko is. But his responses seem to underline a common delusion a lot of gun owners seem to have: if I have this gun, I can save my family/myself/strangers in the street. It's like they think they can take out the bad guy in an action movie. Real life isn't that way, and I seriously doubt that the majority the yahoos that have that delusion have the training to pull it off.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:December 1st, 2009 03:25 am (UTC)
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A couple of times. Mostly a certain individual who used to host my website. But arguing like him is like beating your head against a brick wall.
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From:discopanda
Date:December 1st, 2009 10:34 am (UTC)
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Interesting arguement in the example your link points to, and while I do mostly agree with it, I'd also like to point out that all these people honking their horns, regardless of the fact that they have no gun, are already in posession (and presumably in control) of what could easily be construed as a multi-ton deadly weapon. :-) (Yes, I /am/ suggesting they do what it sounds like I'm suggesting they do.)

Edited at 2009-12-01 11:03 am (UTC)
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From:wbwolf
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:15 am (UTC)
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Which, BTW, is the strange thing about gun nuts; they act as though they do live in a cesspool of rampant crime and brutal predation, which makes me wonder two things: 1. Do they *really*, or are they just irrationally paranoid? 2. If they in fact do, why don't they move the heck out?

On the second point, that's often easier said than done. The violence in an area often corresponds to the economic state of the area; lower economic status, the higher the crime rate. There can be a lot of reasons for this, but the main point is that the majority live in high crime areas precisely because they can not afford to live anywhere else.

However, I would argue that it seems like the most vocal gun advocates seem to be solidly middle class males that should have the economic wherewithal to move where ever they please.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:39 am (UTC)
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Definitely. A lot of gun-toters seem to live in peaceful, tranquil suburban paradises, and I just have no idea why they look around and think that marauding gangs of armed thugs bursting in at night to ransack the place are a common enough threat that they have to pack heat all the time.
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From:zorinlynx
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:23 am (UTC)
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You make some good points, but I must say that if you are leading this argument towards banning guns, this is a horrible idea.

The problem is when you ban guns, by definition law-abiding citizens are disarmed. This means those who have guns and don't care about the law can victimize them without worry about being shot back at.

The other issue is that guns are an equalizer. A 90 lbs woman doesn't have much hope against a 230lbs attacker if she is unarmed. However, if she draws a pistol on him he is much more likely to take off running than continue attacking her.

I'm not a "gun nut", I just like to point out that guns do have a place in civilian society. Not only can you not always trust the police or military to help you; in rare cases you may not be able to trust them to even be on your side.
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From:wbwolf
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:35 am (UTC)
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Whether I like or not, banning guns in the US is completely impractical; they are far too ingrained into US society, and as you point out, there are legitimate uses for them (target shooting, farm use, etc.).

However, I do feel that their needs to be improvements in how guns are regulated in the US. How it stands now, the best we have is a waiting period and attempts at a background check, but due to the disconnected nature of the various databases that are required, is often incomplete and haphazard at best. However, there is no requirement for training how to properly use the firearm. I liken owning a car to owning a gun; you can purchase a car, but you need to show proof that you have gotten training on how to use it and follow the rules of the road before you can drive it. The same cannot be said for gun ownership. And when there has been attempts to add what I think is a reasonable addition (such as in Washington state in the late 90s), gun rights groups go crazy.
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From:zorinlynx
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:40 am (UTC)
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The problem with increased regulation is the "slippery slope" argument. Banning of something doesn't happen overnight; things tend to slowly get more and more regulated until it becomes such a pain in the ass to obtain the item that it might as well be banned.

See Canada and the UK for examples.

I agree that some regulation may be beneficial, but with many lawmakers and gun control advocates, "some regulation" never seems to be enough. It's a constant battle on both sides.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:43 am (UTC)
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Speaking of constant battles, how drenched in the blood of defenseless victims of violent crime is the soil of Canada and the UK? Not very, from what I hear. Certainly not more than here.
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From:orv
Date:December 1st, 2009 07:07 am (UTC)
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You're right, of course, but you're also attempting to apply logic to an argument that's actually based entirely on emotion.

The logical part of the argument is a rationalization. Most gun advocates are as passionate as they are because they're afraid of something. Usually crime, or foreigners, or the government. A gun makes them feel powerful and less vulnerable.
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From:deckardcanine
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:27 pm (UTC)
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And I've seen a gun proponent declare that the anti-gun side is based entirely on emotion. This is from his experience as a debater, wherein he is invariably (and inaccurately) labeled an NRA lapdog. He backs his statements with figures from what should be neutral sources, and all his opponents can do is insult him.
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From:orv
Date:December 1st, 2009 06:54 pm (UTC)
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There's a lot of emotion on both sides. There's also no way to get statistics that aren't skewed or filtered somehow, because we can't run two parallel experiments with two identical societies, one of which has guns and the other of which doesn't.

In general it's on the list of topics I tend to avoid because it's not possible to convince anyone; the two sides are too hardened. The same is true of the abortion debate. It's calcified into our society now, and any attempt to discuss it ends up being as ritualized as kabuki theater.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:December 1st, 2009 07:46 am (UTC)
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Thanks for crunching the numbers for me. :}
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From:orv
Date:December 1st, 2009 06:59 pm (UTC)
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I believe in defending my fellow man from the potential of a tyrannical government coming into existence.

Yeah, that'll work. I mean, it worked so well for David Koresh. I have little respect for people who fantasize about overthrowing the government with handguns and rifles.

Besides, historically most armed revolutions have made things worse, not better; our own was very much the exception to the rule.

It could be argued that the U.S. government is indeed becoming tyrannical right now.

Weird how so many people suddenly decided the government was a tyranny and started stockpiling ammo as soon as Obama got elected, even before he'd actually done anything. Being a sore loser is not the same thing as being a revolutionary.
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From:orv
Date:December 2nd, 2009 03:37 am (UTC)
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People started to stock up on weapons because Obama and the liberal administration are seen as threats to our freedom and do not honor the US constitution as it is in the way of their liberal political agenda.

Bush frequently tried to skirt constitutional limits on his power but I don't recall any ammo stockpiling during his term. Nor during Clinton's. I think there are two factors at work here:
  • There are whole media empires that stand to make a buck by telling people they should be terrified, even if that terror is not at all realistic.
  • There are a fair number of people who are just plain nervous that a President who doesn't look like them and has a foreign-sounding name has been elected.


The US Government would, if this completely passes both houses and get signed by the President, be running more than 50% of the US economy.

You talk as if 50% is some sort of magical threshold that will cause us to become the Soviet Union, but that's ludicrous. Every successful economy in the world has some blend of capitalism and socialism. Ours is actually much more capitalistic than most, and likely to stay that way. We're talking about moving the slider slightly towards socialism, here; it's not going to result in the destruction of the country. If capitalism were that fragile it would have collapsed during the 1930s, when the government was employing scads of people in outright make-work projects.

This will be accomplished by taxes are highly confiscatory and overly burdensome to the public.

During the 1950s the top tax bracket was over 90%; we taxed the hell out of the rich during that decade and the economy did just fine. And yet Obama had barely gotten into office before we had people claiming that increasing the top tax rate even 1% from the 20-year low of 35% would be an outrage and an unmitigated disaster. It's ridiculous.

Polls have shown that the majority do not want government takeover of health care yet our leaders ignore the masses.

Yes, that would be a problem if anyone were actually proposing a government takeover of health care. What's been proposed so far isn't even a complete government takeover of health insurance.
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From:nefaria
Date:December 1st, 2009 01:50 pm (UTC)
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> 616 justifiable homicides, meaning it brings the total unjustified firearm murders to 9,579
You might want to subtract out the suicides too, or at least not count suicides as murders.

> So lets heavily restrict guns and get working on things that matter.
Have you compared handgun murder rates in US cities with strict gun control laws against murder rates in US cities with weak gun control laws? That would factor out the international cultural differences. I'll point out that every Swiss family is required to own a gun for civilian defense, but their crime rate is far lower than ours for cultural reasons.

My guess is that heavy, national restrictions on gun ownership will simply create a huge, entirely-unregulated black market where criminals can buy guns with no restrictions at all, and citizens will be unable to defend themselves because firing a gun, even in self-defense, would be a felony with a mandatory prison sentence. There's more support for guns than there is for illegal drugs, and I'm sure you know how easy it is to obtain illegal drugs in the US.

There's also the question of what's going to happen to the 100 million guns already in the country if we make it illegal to own one; do we send police house to house to seize them? How many shootouts would there be between otherwise law-abiding citizens and the police over this?

Gun control folks have a utopic ideal of a gun-free USA, but you can't get there from here.

Edited at 2009-12-01 03:21 pm (UTC)
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From:nefaria
Date:December 1st, 2009 10:56 pm (UTC)
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Right above this post:
> And beside, I'm not arguing for banning guns, just more restrictive to the point that it's almost like banning for many types.

You want to almost ban them instead of entirely ban them, but once they're almost banned, it's only a baby step to finalize the process.
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From:pippinbear
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
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It doesn't make much of a difference in the actual numbers, but I notice that you're conflating "England", "Great Britain" and "the UK" here. You give the name of England, your number for gun-related deaths is for Great Britain (comprising England, Wales and Scotland, although all but one of those deaths was in England as far as I can see), and your population total is (it looks like) for the UK as a whole (the union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland). The British Isles do have a lot of confusing terminology so I can quite understand non-Britons getting things mixed up, and the difference in population is only about 2-3% so it doesn't affect your point. However, I feel compelled to point it out. ;)
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From:orv
Date:December 1st, 2009 07:03 pm (UTC)
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To me, Waco just proves how ineffectual guns really are in resisting the government. All Koresh's gun collection did was increase the force with which he was eventually smacked down. If your goal is to let people overthrow the U.S. government, you'll have to legalize civilian possession of tanks, fighter jets, and tactical nukes.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:December 2nd, 2009 01:22 am (UTC)
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You spend a lot of time dwelling on nightmarish scenarios such as these, do you?
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From:orv
Date:December 2nd, 2009 03:19 am (UTC)
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If it comes to a national revolution, our government would be spread way to thin to outgun every US citizen.

Sure, but they don't have to outgun them all at the same time.

Besides, an armed revolution almost always results in a country ruled by a dictator or by groups of warlords, which in my estimation is worse than anything the U.S. government is likely to turn into. The current crop of right wing gun groups is worried we'll turn into Sweden, but I'd rather live in Sweden than in Somalia.


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From:kinkyturtle
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:41 am (UTC)
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No, I'm not. My point is this: Man, gun advocates say a lot of really dumb crap. Dumb and provably false.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:December 1st, 2009 07:44 am (UTC)
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No, but they keep repeating these dumb arguments so often that people who ought to know better start taking them seriously. This is not a good thing.
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From:orv
Date:December 1st, 2009 07:03 am (UTC)
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The other issue is that guns are an equalizer. A 90 lbs woman doesn't have much hope against a 230lbs attacker if she is unarmed. However, if she draws a pistol on him he is much more likely to take off running than continue attacking her.

I hear that argument a lot, especially with regard to muggings or rapes. The problem is these are crimes of opportunity, where the attacker has the element of surprise. There's no time to draw a weapon, and the most likely outcome if you belatedly do is that the weapon gets stolen along with everything else. If someone sees a situation like that developing far enough ahead of time to have time to draw their weapon, they've probably seen it soon enough to avoid it entirely.
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From:natashasoftpaw
Date:December 1st, 2009 08:23 am (UTC)
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There's also the fact that drawing a gun turns the situation into an immediately life-threatening one for the person on the other end. If a victim pulls a gun on an attacker, and the attacker has any sort of weapon, they're going to fight. If the attacker has a gun, they're going to draw and fire. Thus, the only attackers who'd be discouraged by the mere sight of a gun are the unarmed and easily-spooked ones, not exactly a common combination among street criminals.

I generally avoid these sorts of discussions, but one thing that gun advocates definitely overlook is the fact that a gun alone cannot protect someone, and even the basic weapons training (safety, retention, target practice, etc) mandated by states like Virginia can't do it. In order for a gun to be as much of a protective tool as gun advocates claim, the bearer must be fully prepared to take a life if necessary, without flinching or hesitation. This is part of military and police training, but not something civilians learn, and even most gun owners would hesitate long enough for their attacker to get the upper hand. And anyone who thinks they can just whip it out and point it at someone to defend themselves is setting themselves up to either get arrested for brandishing (pulling a gun without genuine need) or get killed at the hand of their own weapon.

Personally, I'm fairly pro-gun, but I don't think I could really pull the trigger if I needed to, hence why I don't carry one.
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From:discopanda
Date:December 1st, 2009 10:18 am (UTC)
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If you ask why guns were invented, the gun nut will usually give you some other silly answer along the lines of "to make holes in things"

Which has been known to end very badly.
http://www.kctv5.com/news/15698864/detail.html
(Hint: A handgun is NOT an appropriate cable tv installation tool. Ever.)
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From:deckardcanine
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:35 pm (UTC)
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Your second question is worth asking even if they are just paranoid. The probable answer: "Move where? Every livable place is dangerous enough to merit a gun."

I keep forgetting the name of the town where gun ownership is mandatory, but they've boasted more than 30 years without a murder. My hometown of D.C., meanwhile, has been statistically suffering from the fact that only cops and criminals have guns.

Mind you, I don't believe everything that gun proponents say. I've heard one claim that knives were deadlier than guns. Well, gee whiz, if guns aren't the best weapons, then why do you care about restrictions on them?

But in truth, I think that conservatives would oppose gun control even if they believed it saved lives. There's simply no way they're letting the cops be the only ones allowed to use guns; that's tyranny in their eyes.
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From:drmercurious
Date:December 1st, 2009 10:51 pm (UTC)
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Personally I would like to see better ENFORCEMENT of the laws in place conerning guns.

Also: I've talked to police and they all say the same thing: you do NOT pull your gun out UNLESS you are prepared to deal with the reality that you WILL kill someone with it. You CANNOT count on only 'wounding' someone and even then you could cripple someone physically for life. Not to mention the mental damage involved in being shot.
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From:nefaria
Date:December 1st, 2009 11:05 pm (UTC)
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If the goal is to reduce gun-related violence instead of gun ownership, there are options that both sides could agree on.

1. Make comission of a violent felony with a gun a Federal offense, with life in prison for the second offense. The NRA doesn't like felons with guns running amok any more than the rest of us.

2. Offer a one-hour gun safety training class in school, maybe a kiddy class in elementary school and one more intense in high school. Give the kids pamphlets to take home if they want to learn more. This would reduce accidents and encourage responsible behavior.
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From:wbwolf
Date:December 2nd, 2009 01:00 am (UTC)
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I would agree with the first one, but I would have to insist that the second one would have to be voluntary. While it might not be as effective, the simple fact of the matter there would be sufficient parent backlash (especially depending on the area), that making it mandatory would just be a mine field. I'd rather see a mandatory gun safety course before purchasing a gun (which I understand Virginia does) become more widespread; that would be a little better targeting of the problem.
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From:nefaria
Date:December 2nd, 2009 01:32 am (UTC)
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Yep, that's why I said offer instead of require, parents who don't want their kids to know how to use guns should definitely be able to opt out.
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