Atheists are a small minority in the U.S. Advocates of gun control might be a minority in America as well. In light of the recent shootings in Aurora I am curious as to how atheists in this network view the lack of gun restrictions. There are probably divergent views.
I have trouble believing that both presidential candidates are steering away from any call for reform after the horrific mass shooting. In my opinion it is insane to allow citizens access to assault weapons that can kill scores of people in a few minutes. It was even more shocking to hear on a news show that a family had to raise money to pay for the immense hospital bills for one of the victims while they were already crippled with medical bills from the mothers fight with breast cancer.
As a Canadian I came to stand with my U.S brothers for the reason rally and freedom from religion. I would be willing to come down to the capitol and march for two other important causes. Gun control and universal health care.
I'll be the first to concede that my capacity to "defend myself" with a firearm is ludicrously small. I am far more likely to injure myself than to affect any substantial resistance in a dangerous situation. Further, I fully concede that such "dangers situations" are rare, and accidental discharge or other misfortune is a far greater threat, statistically, than that of any intentional violence.
The purpose of guns is psychological. They are a security blanket. They are not a means for the neighborhood posse to march on Washington or to take on the local National Guard. They won't help grandma defend the homestead from marauding ruffians. They are not a tool for overcoming injustice or redressing grievances. But they are something to posses for personal reasons of assuaging personal insecurities. I argue that such insecurities are not a crude pathology that mature and reasonable people ought rightly to outgrow, but something endemic to the human condition.
Religion enters the picture by somehow anointing gun ownership with mythical righteousness, as if "shootin' back at them there bad guys" is, um, discharging some scared duty. It's not. The atheist reason to support gun ownership is not a starry-eyed romance but a realistic appreciation for human nature. We humans like to have weapons.
Now let's revisit the analogy with cars and traffic deaths. Personally I deplore speed limits. I realize that letting unskilled or inattentive drivers go 150 mph will cause traffic fatalities to spike. I myself might become such a fatality. But personally, the price is worth it - again for psychological reasons, and not because driving fast necessary gets us from A to B faster.
All sorts of behaviors are not strictly necessary and arguably are harmful, yet we tolerate them or even celebrate them because our personal preferences lead us there. I prefer to live in a society that unabashedly makes an enormous and obvious sacrifice in public safety in exchange for abstract personal liberties, for I prize the accounting for those abstractions more than the concrete and simple reality of just staying alive.
Classes, yes, absolutely, and certificates of mental health also.
But as a non-gun owning, non-hunting Canadian, I must confess, I agree with an armed citizenry. Canada is a Big Brother country, in some regards we brown-nose USA policy, when it's fiscally advantageous to multinational corporations, but on issues of daily social issues, Canadians have less freedoms than in the USA, don't even bother trying to have a peaceful demonstration here, police have infiltrated everything and all groups. I am happy our Canadian Gun Registry fiasco has been dumped.
Guns are scary, and guns are dangerous, but those are entirely statistically independent concepts than anti-gun laws. They is no evidence that such laws have the intended consequences. We atheists are supposed to be evidence-based, not coincidence based. Single-point differences between countries are nothing more than cultural coincidences, due to different histories.
Michael, your closing words, "...where people carry them like wallets or combs, than one devoid of guns, or with only the occasional gun locked in some basement storage cabinet." puzzle me.
You might have a reason for not saying (in whatever way you choose) "...where people, including the lawless and the mentally ill, carry them like wallets or combs, than one devoid of guns, or with only the occasional gun locked in some basement storage cabinet."
A few posts in this discussion move me to say it is inaccurately titled. "Atheist Views on gun control...." would be more accurate.
The topic of gun ownership in the US is a mixture of dangerous nationalism, a misreading of history, false bravado, cowardice, and special interests - all rolled up as confusing morass of mostly nonsense and emotionalism.
The nationalism stems from the the language of the 2nd amendment. 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. This was written at a time when nascent US government had a deep distrust of standing armies, as being antithetical to a free society. Hence, the part about militias. Over time, it was realized militia's couldn't do the job of an trained army. Now, the reliance on the language of the right of the people. The same ones who focus on that clause are the generally the same as those that ignore the preceding amendment.
"Guns won the west." There is a certain grain of truth to that, considering we declared an unjust war on Mexico and took 1/3 of their country, then shot all the native Americans and their buffalo that we could find, all in our quest for "Manifest Destiny." Problem now is that people perceive that history in the way it is filtered through John Wayne movies and stories of the OK Coral. That version is, to many, the heroic and glorious substitute for reality.
"Anyone comes into my home or attacks my family, I'll blow them away." Or, "I'm armed because it's the only way to keep the government in check if they know the citizens will shoot back." Both, in my estimation, have varying degrees of idiocy. Those who have guns in their homes are at greater risk from dying a violent death than those that don't. And, I'm really waiting to see someone bring down an F-18 fighter jet with a squirrel gun or pistol.
"What are you going to do when the terrorists attack?" The US does have enemies. And, we know that they will plan, coordinate, and carry out attacks. Problem is, those enemies are both foreign and domestic. Now, I doubt there is an Al Qaeda cell operating out of Ashtabula County, Mississippi, or Franklin County, Illinois. However, while I can't speak to Miss., there is a KKK cell in later jurisdiction. A domestic enemy that is covered by the 2nd Amendment.
Every time a mass shooting happens in the US, we intentionally bypass discussing or analyzing the reasons - access to firearms, mental health, domestic terrorism, etc. The NRA and their supporters loudly and falsely scream that to do so is politicizing the tragedy. Politicians looking for votes, including both of the current presidential candidates, sidestep it rather than risk alienating one base or another. So, we wring our hands after Oklahoma City and do nothing. Wring our hands after Columbine, an do nothing. Wring our hands after Phoenix and Gabby Giffords, and do nothing. And, we'll all sit around and wring our hands after Aurora, Colorado, and wait for the next mass murder.
Thoughtful answer Pat. You mentioned "Manifest Destiny" and that reminds me in 2012 of the U.S. invasion of Canada in 1812 that was a major uniting force for all Canadians. Before that we were all not on the same page.
I am a little envious of how the U.S. can glorify their past. We were badly outnumbered and withstood the attempt to conquer us. Yet, we really don't celebrate a defining moment in our history (except a bit on the 200th anniversary). I had to laugh when I saw a piece in Yahoo news by an American historian that said the U.S. won the war of 1812 and downplayed the events in Canada and the burning down of the White House. He got a lot of facts wrong - but there is that spirit of a positive spin from a country that immortalized the Alamo.
The end result of that conflict is north of the 49th parallel health care does not turn anyone down for medical help with a prior illness or lack of money and you can't easily purchase an automatic weapon capable of killing scores of people in a few minutes.
I am glad that "Manifest Destiny" is no longer part of the U.S mindset. We wouldn't stand much of a chance with a 2012 invasion.
You're absolutely correct about glorifying our past; even if that glorification doesn't comport with reality. And, the War of 1812 is a prime example. The US really didn't "win" that war. And, the Battle of New Orleans was actually fought after the peace treaty was signed, and had no effect on the outcome - other than make Andrew Jackson president. At best, the outcome was a draw. The Canadians beat back the US invasion, which most Americans don't know about. And, it's the rare American that knows the burning of the White House was a payback for what the US did in York, Ontario.
I thought of this discussion where you talked about changing and glorifying the past when getting a little uptight about a history rewrite by Hollywood's "Argo" film of Canadian Ken Taylor's role in rescuing the American hostages in Iran.
A film critic puts it nicely in his "Argo Canuck Yourself" piece - another play on swearing like booklovers inspired "nucking futs"
After reading that, my first thought was, "You've got to be shitting me!" I distinctly recall, after Ambassador Taylor's rescue of the Americans, billboards going up around the US. They proudly displayed the Canadian flag, with the words "Thank You Canada" emblazoned on them.
Then again, one of the uses of history is to inculcate a population with nationalistic myths. Just like Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris winning the Viet Nam War on film.
Nice to see Affleck show some class. He got some of the facts wrong in the movie but met the issue head on. He changed the postscript line wording at the end of the movie and allowed Ken Taylor to refute the pure fiction parts of the film in the commentary portion of the DVD. Not everyone who watches the movie are the types to have any interest in a commentary released later - but at least the ones that do - will have a better appreciation of what really happened.
Reading that was a pleasant rarity.
One of the uses of movie making is to sell tickets. Profit and truth keep but little company nowadays.
Actually, we did win the war because the British withdrew after the treaty was signed. The Battle of New Orleans was fought after the treaty had been signed, but word hadn't reached British or American forces. Also, I think Canada was part of Britain in 1812, wasn't it?