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A conversation that needs to happen

December 21, 2012

An open and honest conversation on gun control needs to take place in this country. The question is, can it be done? I’m not so sure, especially when there is so much fear, misinformation, and misleading. Umair Haque said it best on twitter the other day, “Facts don’t win debates. Frames win debates.” If only this were not true.

The problem is that nothing is going to change so long as we only focus on one issue to the detriment of others. What needs to happen is a multi-faceted approach that looks at a number of different areas including mental health, gun control, and other areas. We do a disservice to ourselves and others when we believe issues are simple and that problems can be fixed by just doing or fixing one thing. There is not one single answer. There never is. Issues are always complex and they require complex solutions. Brett Keller put it well, “All Americans should feel some level of culpability for mass shootings, because we have collectively allowed a political system driven by gun fanatics,  a media culture unintentionally but consistently glorifying mass murderers, and a horribly deficient mental health system to persist, when their persistence has such appalling consequences.”

We know that more guns equals more deaths. There is too much evidence out there for this to be debated at this point. We can talk about rights and freedoms all day long, but if the evidence shows that the less guns there are the less deaths there are, then your right to bear arms conflicts with everyone else’s right not to die. There were around 30,000 deaths last year in the US due to firearms (including homicides, suicides, and accidents). That is 82 people per day. And the numbers are growing. We cannot go on letting these mass murders occur and clearly the 300 million plus firearms in this country and the loosening of gun laws have done little to prevent these tragedies from happening.

Things will not change as long as gun-rights advocates continue to perpetuate the idea that the government is out to get them and that their rights are under attack. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, seeing as how gun owners have continued to gain more and more rights over the last few decades. At the same time using non-arguments like, “gun don’t kill people, people kill people,” will continue to prevent meaningful debates and conversations from taking place. Finally, it doesn’t help that gun-rights advocates continue to highlight research studies to support their case that have since been challenged and shown to be lacking and will not acknowledge the overwhelming evidence put forth by a large number of research studies that finds that gun control works. It also doesn’t help that the NRA has effectively created a ban on the government funding gun control research. The only reason you would do that is if you are scared of what the studies might find.

Below you will first find links to a number of research studies dealing with gun control. This is followed by a list of articles looking at the second amendment and our perceived rights and freedoms. Finally, at the end, you will find a list of articles discussing a host of issues related to this subject. This is not meant to be a full and comprehensive list, it is just meant to be a conversation starter.

I welcome discussion, however, it needs to be kept civil, and if you are not willing to read the articles and research below and keep an open mind in conversations, you need not comment.

Research Studies:

Harvard Injury Control Research Center – Firearms Research – Large list of studies and their findings including:

Shooting Down the “More Guns, Less Crime” Hypothesis

“The United States has far higher rates of firearm deaths…compared with other high income countries”

More Guns, More Crime – study showing that changes in gun ownershsip track with changes in homicide

The Social Cost of Gun Ownership – study showing that fewer guns means fewer deaths

Guns in the Home – List of studies and their findings concerning some of the following issues:

  • Where there are more guns, there are more gun deaths
  • Keeping a gun in the home raises the risk of homicide
  • A gun in the home is more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense

Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms: faster falls in firearm deaths, firearm suicides, and a decade without mass shootings

The Expiration of The U.S. Assault Weapons Ban Increased Homicides in Mexico

Holding a gun makes you think others are too

The Second Amendment and Our Rights:

A history of the Second Amendment in two paintings – Ezra Klein

That’s the initial vision of the Second Amendment,” Amar continued. “The good guys are on the left. They’re the local militia. The bad guys are on the right in the red coats. They’re the Union Jack. That’s arms-bearing, Founders-style. Originally, the Second Amendment is very much about local militias keeping check on a federal military establishment. It’s about Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill. It’s a product of the American Revolution. The motto at the founding is when guns are outlawed only the king’s men will have guns.”

…“In a nutshell, almost everything ordinary Americans think they know about the Bill of Rights, including the phrase ‘Bill of Rights,’ comes from the Reconstruction period. Not once did the Founders refer to these early amendments as a bill of rights. We read everything through the prism of the 14th amendment — including the right to bear and keep arms.”

So You Think You Know the Second Amendment – Jeffrey Toobin

For more than a hundred years, the answer was clear, even if the words of the amendment itself were not. The text of the amendment is divided into two clauses and is, as a whole, ungrammatical: “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.” The courts had found that the first part, the “militia clause,” trumped the second part, the “bear arms” clause. In other words, according to the Supreme Court, and the lower courts as well, the amendment conferred on state militias a right to bear arms—but did not give individuals a right to own or carry a weapon.

Putting the Second Amendment Second: Reframing the constitutional debate over gun control – Akhil Reed Amar

But Heller’s facts, which involve the possession of a gun inside the home for self-defense, lie rather far from the Second Amendment’s core concerns, as originally understood by the Founding Fathers. To think straight about gun control and the Constitution, we need to move past the Second Amendment and pay more heed to the Ninth and 14th Amendments.

The Freedom of an Armed Society – Firmin DeBrabander

Arendt offers two points that are salient to our thinking about guns: for one, they insert a hierarchy of some kind, but fundamental nonetheless, and thereby undermine equality. But furthermore, guns pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name — that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.

Battleground America: One nation, under the gun – Jill Lepore

The constitutionality of the 1934 act was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1939, in U.S. v. Miller, in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s solicitor general, Robert H. Jackson, argued that the Second Amendment is “restricted to the keeping and bearing of arms by the people collectively for their common defense and security.” Furthermore, Jackson said, the language of the amendment makes clear that the right “is not one which may be utilized for private purposes but only one which exists where the arms are borne in the militia or some other military organization provided for by law and intended for the protection of the state.” The Court agreed, unanimously. In 1957, when the N.R.A. moved into new headquarters, its motto, at the building’s entrance, read, “Firearms Safety Education, Marksmanship Training, Shooting for Recreation.” It didn’t say anything about freedom, or self-defense, or rights.

F*&k Freedom – Brian Rathbun

…it seems we should be prepared for a debate in the coming weeks and months between those who advocate greater gun control to protect innocent lives and those who make a competing moral claim that such regulations infringe on the more important right to bear arms, which is supposed to be part of a general value of freedom. But that’s bullshit. Human beings with a moral compass who live in any kind of society do not have total freedom. Never have and never will. Total freedom is incompatible with any notion of morality, whether liberal or conservative, and makes collective living impossible.


Looking for Lessons in Newtown – Nicholas Kristof (respondes to a number of gun-rights arguments)

What can philosophy of technology tell us about the gun debate? – Ned Resnikoff

Happiness Is a Worn Gun: My concealed weapon and me – Dan Baum

“The gun is our Moloch” – Garry Wills

Ten Arguments Gun Advocates Make, and Why They’re Wrong – Paul Waldman

Guns and the Limits of Shame – Jon Lee Anderson

Changing Frames and Changing Public Opinion about Gun Laws – John Sides

6 Timelines That Explain America’s Persistent Gun Culture – Emily Badger

A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths – Max Fisher

Why the NRA Is Still Winning the War on Guns – Elspeth Reeve

Death by the Barrel: David Hemenway applies scientific method to the gun problem – Craig Lambert

Whom Does the NRA Really Speak For? – Jordan Weissmann

Addicted To Bang: The Neuroscience of the Gun – Steven Kotler

Former ESPN Outdoors Producer: “Most Of The People I’ve Met From The NRA Don’t Believe The Bullsh*t They’re Selling” – Matt Barnette

US and UK murder – rate and weapon (updated) – Doug Saunders

Doing What We Can? – Stephen Saideman

In Search of the Guns & Freedom Unicorn – Josh Marshall

America’s Cultural of Violence – Nicholas Thompson

More Guns, More Mass Shootings—Coincidence? – Mark Follman

The NRA and “now is not the time” – Lee Crawfurd

Children living in fear: Newtown to Pakistan

Every Day is the Day to Talk About Gun Control – David Frum

Crime data: Homicide at 30-year England and Wales low – BBC

How Do We Fix This? – Josh Marshall

The gun ownership and gun homicides murder map of the world – Simon Rogers

The Geography of Gun Deaths – Richard Florida

Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States – Ezra Klein

The Japan lesson: Can America learn from the country that has almost zero gun deaths? – Max Fisher

One Comment leave one →
  1. Beverley Scherdin permalink
    December 22, 2012 8:18 am

    Well said.

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