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.
Michael OL wrote:
However, I would argue that while any life lost to violence is regrettable, the percentages even in gun-happy America are astronomically small. That the rate is 10 in 100,000 or 1 in 100,000 is not a palpable difference for the "average" person who will never personally know any victim of gun violence.
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I know someone who tried to kill himself with a firearm (a roommate) and wrestled the gun away from him (a scariest thirty seconds of my life, and I was in the military).
Ten times is not a palpably small difference. It is the difference between 3,000 deaths per year (1:100 000), or the entire population of my rather rural Nebraska county, or 30,000 deaths per year (approximately 1/15th of the entire state of Wyoming). In other words, we can knock off all of Wyoming in fifteen years (barring no population growth).
30 000 is approximately the same as all drunk drive deaths in the USA every year, and drunk driving is entirely outlawed.
On the flip side, all Western democracies have much stricter gun laws than the USA, and a much lower death rate from guns.
From http://www.theegglestongroup.com/writing/deathstats/index.php (Eggleston Group, an insurance firm) Note firearm homicides are the seventh leading cause of death in the USA, and a significant portion of suicides are by firearm as well. Moreover, their death numbers by firearms are much higher than yours (and they are in the business of making money off death - they have to get the numbers right or they do not profit)
|Real Time Estimate
Top 7 Causes of Death
Since 1 Jan, 2012
I remember the days when a smoker got indignant when asked politely to just blow their smoke in a different direction. Never thought I would see the Berlin wall fall, never thought that the "It's a free country" argument for smoking anywhere at anytime would lose it popularity.
A strategy that could work:
Ok, let's do like with nicotine:
legislate where you can fire a gun, check
legislate when you can fire a gun, check
legislate who can buy a gun, check
just like we did with nicotine... oh wait, we did that eons ago!
TNT, there's an important difference; the Constitution is silent on nicotine.
And it is silent on individuals bearing arms. Militias is what the II Amendment speaks of.
Only recently, when the activist court (conservatives hate activist courts, except when they rule the way conservatives want) struck down Chicago's handgun law, did the court find a definition that "militia"="person."
The Constitution is also silent about registering guns. It says nothing of prohibiting registering long-barrel firearms (which is what the recent AR-15 shootings involved). Registration is not infringement.
It says nothing about selling guns over the Internet through classified ad services or E-bay. It says nothing about owning spears, brass knuckles, nunchucks, blackjacks, pistols, rifles, explosives, mines, grenades, anti-aircraft batteries, or nuclear weapons. It only says "arms."
Sound silly to throw in anti-aircraft batteries and nuclear weapons? What is the difference? They too are arms. There is no distinction between "military" arms and "civilian" arms in the II Amendment.
The Constitution's main body also gives the Congress the right to legislate.
There is nothing in the II Amendment which prohibits registration, other than the interpretation of the Court of the NRA, which trumps the Supreme Court, the House, the Senate, the President, and the Will of the People.
To the NRA, registration is an "infringement," in the same manner that a voter's rights organisation thinks that registering voters is an infringement, or free speech advocates think requiring a business license for a for-profit newspaper or radio station (which also requires a broadcast license) is an infringement.
No. Those are not infringements.
The USA has the oldest constitution active today but not because it is so perfect and unchanging (hey, that sounds like a religion). Like religion, that holy book has changed too.
Slaves are free and citizens (the only time citizen appears in the text - otherwise it applies to persons - thus the II Amendment does not prohibit foreigners, terrorists, or felons from buying guns either), women vote these days, DC gets to vote for President, 18yo adults get to vote now, alcohol was prohibited, that prohibition was repealed, yada yada yada.
Very much like the Bible. And it has its acolytes, its worshippers, its apologists who believe it is holy and unchanging (though like the Bible it has too, though not as many times).
James, if you want the job, are you interested in replacing SCOTUS?
Your one salary would cost taxpayers a lot less than their nine salaries.
Okay, that's facetious; I'll take your post seriously.
You correctly say conservatives hate activist courts except when they rule the way conservatives want. Antonin Scalia's activism will take us back to the founders' times.
However, you wrote "The Constitution's main body also gives the Congress the right to legislate."
In books about SCOTUS, their authors distinguish between rights and powers. Will you accept a one-word change, that the Constitution's main body also gives the Congress the power to legislate?
Also, I've read Heller. Your "militia"="person" has persuaded me to read the Chicago decision. I'll get back to you on it.
James, I'm getting back to you on the "militia" = "person" issue.
I found the decision (McDonald v. Chicago) and searched on "militia", looking for nearby mentions of "person" or its synonyms. I saw none.
Alito wrote the Court's opinion and here are a few of his words, describing an action taken in the 39th Congress, shortly after the Civil War:
Disarmament, it was argued, would violate the members’ right to bear arms, and it was ultimately decided to disband the militias but not to disarm their members.
The issue stirs so much emotion that it's easy to see that a commentator might have spoken of a definition that "militia"="person".
I've owned guns for 40 yrs. I've carried one for 25. Whenever I can, I have one within reach or within a few steps.I do so not only for my protection, but for the protection of those around me who may not be able to protect themselves. And even for those do not take responsibility for their own security. And even for those who would strip me of my right to carry. As an ethical adult in a free country I consider it to be my responsibility to do so.
I do not carry a gun because I like guns, I don't. They are loud, destructive, and expensive. I don't carry a gun because I like carrying one. They are dangerous, a burden of constant diligence and responsibility, and they intimidate some people if they realize you have one on your person.
I choose to live in a rural home. When I come home there is no armed guard in my drive way. I can't afford one. If I don't provide for my security no one else will.
I believe my perception of the world to be a sane and rational one. The world, including America, has always been, and always will be, a place where truly dangerous people exist. The town of Mayberry is a myth. That our government will make us safer in exchange for some of our rights is a lie.
That the 2nd amendment is about hunting is a misconception. It is about a citizenry's right to protect themselves against an abusive government in the event that it becomes necessary to do so. We live in a world where freedoms are hard won by the few who can fight for them and defend them. Looking at the big picture of history, one see constant change in cultural, political, and societal realities. The safety and freedom I experience today, may not be my reality next year. Stranger things happen.
I thank you for giving me this forum to express myself, and, if you have read this far (especially if you don't like my position) thank you for allowing us to reach out to each other. I hope you do not think of me as some one to be feared. I'm not. I am some one who has your back whether you know it or not.
And for you who are on my side, I promise, that when my fire arm is taken away, it will be from my cold dead fingers.
David, for all of the reasons you stated so well, I'm on your side.
A gentle-looking white-haired old lady in a senior citizens discussion group several years ago said she feared meeting an NRA member in a state park.
Not wanting to quibble, I didn't ask her if she feared meeting a criminal in a state park. Not wanting to frighten her, I also didn't tell the group I'm an NRA member.
By saying nothing, I guess I denied her remark a dignity it didn't deserve.
I don't own a gun, never have, maybe never will. The last time I saw one it gave me the jitters, so I took a gun course so I wouldn't feel like such an idiot. It helped. I don't fear meeting criminals in any park and have travelled solo at night in many dangerous countries, but I'm a big girl with an even bigger attitude.
But the truest statement in your discourse is this: That our government will make us safer in exchange for some of our rights is a lie.
Following others' lead, here is an attempt to return to the original question in this thread... atheist reasoning on gun control.
In religious circles, the operative question is whether a given idea is or is not consistent with the holy-book. One does not ask whether the idea is good or bad, just or unjust, useful or useless - but merely whether it is biblical or quranic and so forth. The debate is about the interpretation of the book, about the book's author's intent. It is not about first-principles, because those principles are already assumed.
Notice the similarity between the holy-books and the US constitution? Too often, Americans debate laws not in terms of their essential merit, but whether they are constitutional or not. So for gun control, mimicking the religious mindset, the question invariably devolves to the meaning of the second amendment; namely, whether it suggests private ownership of "arms", or only individual possession in the context of a "well-regulated militia". Gun control proponents claim the latter, while gun-rights activists the former.
The atheist viewpoint, as we have seen in this tread, is neither consistently pro nor against guns. But most of us can probably agree that our reasoning for or against guns should be from first principles, from consideration of guns' effect on society, and from questions of whether or not it ever makes sense to take personal recourse to violence. We don't get wrapped up in timidly reverential constitutional scholarship, ceding our reasoning on justice to the all-mighty "founders".
We are not ever going to take away all guns, but we can limit the kinds of weapons and the kinds of people who have access to them in reasonable ways. The notion that no restrictions consistent with Constitutional rights can be placed on gun ownership which will improve safety in public places is not sensible. Re-instituting the ban on assault weapons, limiting the size of magazines, registering guns, and licensing owners are all reasonable restrictions. They could improve public safety over time while allowing gun ownership to continue in relative freedom.