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Understanding the Pro-Gun Position

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In the interest of furthering a rational debate on gun control, I want to present here the other side’s position – people who strongly oppose gun control – or, at least, what I see as the crux of their position.

And let me begin by saying that, although I disagree strongly with it, I don’t think that position is irrational or even unreasonable.

Put yourself in the position of a law abiding citizen who owns a gun. For the sake of simplicity, and with no sexism intended, let’s call that citizen “he”.

He is a responsible human being who would never deliberately misuse a gun. Further, he derives pleasure from his gun just as I do from my car and from my cell phone (and he likely does, too, if he has a car and a cell phone).

Now, if someone were to say to me – you have to give up your car, because it can be used to kill people, I would respond, “I would never use my car to kill anyone, and, further, I very much enjoy it, and therefore have no intention of giving it up.” If someone were to say the same to me about my cell phone, I would give the same response, “yes, I know it can be used to set off a bomb, to plan a crime, but it will not be used that way by me, so I will not give it up.”

What’s the difference between me and my car or my cell phone, and the law-abiding gun holder and his gun?

The only difference I can see is the potential for misuse and abuse by the gun.

Since the law-abiding gun holder is as sure that he will not misuse his gun as I am sure that I will not misuse my car or cell phone, the law-abiding gun holder is not swayed by the greater potentials for misuse of the gun.

A car can be stolen, a gun can be stolen. A sane person with a car can turn into a lunatic, a sane person with a gun can do the same. A politically nonviolent person with a cell phone can become a terrorist, the same can occur to a politically nonviolent person with a gun.

And that’s why we have the impasse.

In the end, the pro- and anti-gun people are separated by one belief: that the dangers of the gun are so grave and intrinsic to the technology – as we saw Monday in Virginia – that we have to do more to limit them.

Yes, we need to acknowledge that just about any technology can be used for ill. Rockets to the moon can carry warheads here on Earth. A pillow can be used to suffocate someone. The pro-gun people are right about that.

But the anti-gun point of view singles out firearms as especially likely to be misused – more likely than cars, cell phones, space ships, and pillows. That is why we want to limit them.

Such limits are in no way intended as a rebuke of law-abiding citizens who own guns. They are rather intended to do more to prevent non-law-abiding people from getting and using them.

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About Paul Levinson

  • Franco

    If you take guns away from law-abiding citizens then only the criminals will have guns. A black market for guns would flourish and if a nut job wanted a gun he could get one from any criminal.

    It is not the law-abiding citizens that guns should be taken away from, it is the criminals.

    If you want responsible gun control then get after Russia for licensing and providing Hugo Chavez with a new Russian AK103 assault rifle factory soon to be installed in Venezuela where it will be making millions of guns scientifically designed to kill people so every living soul in the jungles and towns supporting Hugo Chavez’s communist mission can be armed. This new Russian assault factory will surly have guns moving on the black markets in Latin America and yes, they will find there way into the US into the hands of criminals.

    Make no mistake, citizens of the US are out of touch with reality as to how 80% of the reast of the world thinks and operates. We need to get our head out of our ass and stop all the nanny saying ideas and face up to the real world, and guns are a real part of it.

    Nobody is getting my guns because I lost them all. Get the picture.

  • Gotta luv it…why don’t you just say…here…let me tell you what you’re really thinking!

    So, I guess someone should WRITE an article telling you how you just want to ban guns because you’re a big puss and you’re afraid of them…

    …what’s that? That’s not the way you feel about it at all? Oh really? that’s not the way I see it…I just told you how you feel.

    Crack head!

  • First of all, Paul, props for writing an article that presents the “other point of view” in the first place. Rare enough in the real world, such a phenomenon is even more rare here on BC.

    But (there’s always a “but,” isn’t there?), I do have one small (or maybe not so small) quibble.

    I mentioned this in the thread on your other gun control article, and I’ll repeat myself here, because I think it’s an important point.

    I’m referring of course, to what I see as the great flaw in ALL arguments in favor of controlling guns outright, or even of simply imposing restrictions on them: the impossibility of enforcing such measures.

    We’ve been down this path twice before: first, with Prohibition, and currently, with our abject failure to control illegal drugs.

    Still repeating myself, I believe instead that we should apply severe penalties to all criminals convicted of committing crimes with the use of a gun.

    There are already a number of laws in place to enable such an effort; they merely need to be better enforced. Where additional laws are needed, they should be enacted speedily.

    This, I believe, is a much more realistic approach to addressing gun crime. Admittedly, it will not stop the nutcases like the VA Tech perp, but neither will greater control or abolition of guns.

  • One does have to suggest that if you REALLY understood the pro gun position you’d agree with it. You seem to have grasped the form, but perhaps not the persuasive substance.


  • Eddie

    Gun control has worked very well in places like Germany (1930’s), Russia (1920’s), China (1950’s to present) and Cuba (1960 to present) and we know the type of countries they were and are. The first thing fascist and communist countries do is implement gun control. That way the masses have no way of defending themselves. Why do you think our Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment? Anyways, evil is evil and my fellow countrymen, and women, you better wake up to it. No gun-control will stop anyone who is determined to kill. This wacko could have easily used knives or a hammer. He may not have killed as many innocent people but still some would have lost their lives. By the way, this Cho guy had been certified a mental case by the state of Virginia. NOW if that sort of information would be available, as a disqualifying factor to own a gun, maybe, just maybe, this might have been prevented. Look, there are bad guys out in the world wanting to kill us and destroy our culture. Then we have bad guys here at home. How do you want to settle or deal with it? With peace talks? Yeah, right. Some good that has done the United Nations…Some good that does when someone breaks into your home armed to rob you or rape your loved ones. No thanks, I’ll keep my gun and take my chances.Take care, America. Semper Fi – The Sarge

  • Arch Conservative

    “In the end, the pro- and anti-gun people are separated by one belief: that the dangers of the gun are so grave and intrinsic to the technology – as we saw Monday in Virginia – that we have to do more to limit them.”

    No I don’t think that’s wuite right. I think the difference is that anti-gun people think that if we actually did try to limit gun ownership through legisaltion it would somehow reduce gun violence in this nation. Pro-gun ownership people such as myself know that this is absolute horseshit and want the right to own guns ourselves for protection.

    I liken the gun argument to the drug argument. Most drugs are illegal in the US yet that hasn’t really stemmed the tide of people who become junkies now has it? Same thing with guns. if you ban them the people that really want them to do harm will still get them.

  • The difference between the pro and anti gun factions is even more basic than that, AC.

    It’s the difference between those who believe that individuals can be trusted to be responsible for their own actions and choices and those who think that the individual citizen cannot be trusted and needs government to make decisions for him.


  • That’s not quite right, Dave.

    Whilst some people have the self-control to be trusted with weapons, some clearly don’t. Unless you can come up with some way of accurately discerning which is which, I fail to see how an escalating domestic arms race is any more practical than an international one between nations.

    You seem to be trying to connect the parameters of the gun ownership issue to your already well known political views about capitalism and socialism. Unfortunately, neither seem to work very well when one leaves political theory aside and deals with the practicalities of things…

  • Christopher, you’re kind of proving my point. You are arguing that the right should be taken away from everyone because of a tiny minority who are irresponsible, while those who support gun ownership would take the position that we should assume that people are responsible until they prove otherwise.

    As for your idea of an ‘escalating domestic arms race’, I have no idea what you’re talking about. There’s no escalation going on. The basic firearms people own today are functionally identical to those owned by people 100 years ago. Even the basic technology of fully automatic assault weapons is essentially the same.


  • zingzing

    dave nalle: “It’s the difference between those who believe that individuals can be trusted to be responsible for their own actions and choices and those who think that the individual citizen cannot be trusted…”

    so you need guns to protect you from all those individuals that can be trusted for their own actions?

    somehow that fucks up your whole argument. so, it’s not about trusting people or not trusting people. it’s not about the government. your argument (as stated in #4) is totally based on arrogance.

  • zingzing

    “As for your idea of an ‘escalating domestic arms race’, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

    dude. figure it out. it’s simple. MORE guns. der.

    as for weapons not advancing in killing power, you’re just full of shit.

  • No Dave, not for the first time, you have it back to front. I think there are a minority who are responsible whilst the majority are not. You may well consider that some kind of socialist arrogance, but I see it as cold hard fact.

    It’s the Jerry Springer show that has mass appeal, not the kind of rareified political thought you endorse. Just imagine what it would be like being in a bar full of people with the barely controlled rage such as we see here on BC. Then multiply that by copious amounts of booze and heavy weapons. It isn’t going to be pretty.

    Then look further at the propensity of people, emboldened by weapons and alcohol, to administer their own brand of justice. You’ll then see far worse than “strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees”.

    There is clearly an escalating arms race on the streets of the USA. That’s why so many criminals now have automatic and/or assault weapons and other citizens are responding in kind. It’s a clear case of cause and effect.

    Your argument that “we should assume that people are responsible until they prove otherwise” is simply not borne out by the facts. On that basis, you wouldn’t need a police force at all. The facts are that the US has one of the most aggressive criminal codes in the Western world and one of the highest prison populations.

  • Eddie

    Hey CR,

    You’re wrong…Here’s why: Latest stats put it that there are 250 million guns out in the US of A. If your statement was, in fact, possible (as much drinking, cajoling, fighting and hell raising that we do here in the USA), with all those guns, we would be looking at another Baghdad 10x over on a daily basis. Americans are responsible; we do abide by the rule of law. However, there are minor elements that will thrash the house (there’s always a 10%) and will cause and raise evil hell. Those are the ones we need to control and lock up. Permanently, period. Remember, the reason the police was created was to take care of the lawbreakers. I believe in protecting myself and my family. Trust me, if the situation presents itself, and you need to protect yourself, dialing 9-1-1 will not make the cops appear ala Star Trek. A great example, for the right to bear arms, is New Orleans. I’m sure many individuals, after Hurricane Kartina, wished they would have had a personal weapon to defend themselves against the thugs,robbers, rapists and all types of wicked bastards prowling and getting theirs after the storm.
    CR you do have one point. There might be a form of domestic arms race. However, that is due to the fact that people are realizing that those who are suppose to protect us will not be there, on time,and that the bad guys always seem to be armed and prepared. Why not even out the odds?
    Take care. Semper Fi –

  • As one of them anti-gun nuts, I have to confess that banning things (prohibition & drugs) has certainly proved difficult, expensive, or downright idiotic. And the state’s who’ve passed the strictest “use a gun in the commission of a crime & we’ll cut your balls off” haven’t been successful–any mandatory sentencing throws off judges and juries.

    But comparing us to 3rd world countries or dictatorships as a rationale for “every day is gun day in the US of A” makes as little sense. Compare our murder and crime rates to Europe–where gun control is pretty strict.

    The 2nd Amendment doesn’t help at all–face it, gun lovers, it can be interpreted both ways. One of the few times the founding wise guys blew it.

    My brother was a cop for about 10 years, 3 of them undercover. He became a supporter of gun control because he discovered that most people who own guns simply hesitate too long when there’s a bad guy in their house. Then the bad guy takes their gun & blows them away.

    I know that doesn’t apply to any of the good conservatives here. Even liberal old me is convinced that I would never freeze. We liberals only pretend to be wimps.

    Tragically and sadly, it’s like the abortion debate. Strongly held, emotionally-butressed positions, finding factoids and statistics to back up both points of view. And never room for compromise…while fetuses, students, kids on the street die and our prisons bulge to the bursting point.

    If anything, it just reinforces that human beings are incapable of rational thought.

    Unless of course, one subscribes to the basic truth,

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Servant

    Oh please, Mark, humanity would never be rational enough to subscribe to the basic truth. Like I said in another comment:

    People die.

    Get over it.

    Everyone else has too.

  • dude. figure it out. it’s simple. MORE guns. der.

    More guns? You’re demented. The average gun owner in the US currently owns more than 5 guns. The rest of the population doesn’t own guns. The ‘arms race’ is over.

    as for weapons not advancing in killing power, you’re just full of shit.

    Hardly. You clearly know next to nothing about firearm technology. The advances since the middle of the 20th century have been small and incremental. The basic killing potential of popular firearms developed prior to that period remains pretty competitive. For example, the Colt 1911A is almost 100 years old, but you’d still be hard pressed to find an automatic pistol which exceeds its in quality and effectiveness by more than a fractional margin which basically comes down to personal preference. There’s a reason why it is STILL one of the most popular handguns after 100 years. As for higher capicity, rapid-fire, fully automatic firearms, the basic technology dates back to that same period before WW1. Sure there were refinements, but small, automatic machineguns and automatic rifles were pretty well established by WW2. The distance from a BAR to an M16 or from the Sturmgewehr 44 to modern assault rifles isn’t that far, and the same is true for lighter sub-machine guns. In fact, older assault rifles and submachine guns are more deadly in some ways than their modern equivalents which are designed to be lighter and easier to carry and more suited to wounding than killing.


  • Didn’t Gatling invent the first reliable machine gun, the eponymous Gatling Gun, during the War between The States?

  • The Gatling Gun is peculiar because technically it’s outside of the design lineage of most modern machine guns (except for the modern GAU-12 Gatling) because rather than being a true repeating rifle it’s a group of separate linked rifled barrels. Kind of like a Neanderthal to the Maxim Gun’s early Homo Sapien.

    They couldn’t figure out any other way to get that rate of fire with the technology of the time, and with the primitive cartridges available in the Civil War it jammed and misfired all the time, not to mention overheating (which was one of the reasons it was designed with separate barrels) and deforming and blowing out barrels as a result. Much fun.

    The Maxim Gun from the early 1880s is the real origin of modern automatic weapons technology, because it’s the first one to use a single barrel and self-load cartridges automatically, which makes it the ancestor of all automatic firearms including machineguns.


  • Here’s an interesting anecdote from a recent column by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Steyn:

    I live in northern New England, which has a very low crime rate, in part because it has a high rate of gun ownership. We do have the occasional murder, however. A few years back, a couple of alienated loser teens from a small Vermont town decided they were going to kill somebody, steal his ATM cards, and go to Australia. So they went to a remote house in the woods a couple of towns away, knocked on the door, and said their car had broken down. The guy thought their story smelled funny so he picked up his Glock and told ’em to get lost. So they concocted a better story, and pretended to be students doing an environmental survey. Unfortunately, the next old coot in the woods was sick of environmentalists and chased ’em away. Eventually they figured they could spend months knocking on doors in rural Vermont and New Hampshire and seeing nothing for their pains but cranky guys in plaid leveling both barrels through the screen door. So even these idiots worked it out: Where’s the nearest place around here where you’re most likely to encounter gullible defenseless types who have foresworn all means of resistance? Answer: Dartmouth College. So they drove over the Connecticut River, rang the doorbell, and brutally murdered a couple of well-meaning liberal professors. Two depraved misfits of crushing stupidity (to judge from their diaries) had nevertheless identified precisely the easiest murder victims in the twin-state area. To promote vulnerability as a moral virtue is not merely foolish…it signals to everyone that you’re not in the real world.

    Steyn’s column is titled “Let’s Be Realistic About Reality.”

  • Paul, thank you for trying to reasonably explain the other side’s view. That is commendable in itself, but also helps to show what you might not entirely get about us gun advocates.

    That is, gun advocates generally wouldn’t just say that we like guns and wouldn’t misuse them. Well beyond that, guns are a useful and sometimes necessary tool – very much like a car. Taking away your car would not just be unfair because you haven’t abused it. You wouldn’t be able to get to work, or take the kids to school. It would be a serious practical hardship.

    Likewise with guns. Not everybody needs them – but then not everyone needs cars. People in NYC can ride the subway. But exactly the poor people in the worst neighborhoods most of all need the practical ability to defend themselves with firearms, as especially do the weak and otherwise defenseless- old widows, say.

    In short, gun ownership isn’t just about having a gun fetish, or being a sportsman. Some people enjoy collecting and trading and recreational hunting, and that’s great. But guns are also a uniquely critical tool that generally cannot be effectively replaced. And if you’re needing one and DON’T have it, it might be the end of you right then and there.

  • Terry

    In 2004, there were nearly 61 million children age 14 and younger in the United States. This age group made up 21 percent of the total U.S. resident population in 2004.

    Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children of every age from 3 to 14 years old (based on 2002 figures, which are the latest mortality data currently available from the National Center for Health Statistics). In 2004, there were a total of 42,636 traffic fatalities in the United States.

    The 14 and under age group accounted for 5 percent (2,157) of those
    traffic fatalities. This age group accounted for 4 percent (1,638) of all vehicle occupant fatalities, 9 percent (246,000) of all the people injured in motor vehicle crashes, and 8 percent (214,000) of all the vehicle occupants injured in crashes. Every day in the United States, an average of 6 children age 14 and younger were killed and 673 were injured in motor vehicle crashes during 2004. In the 14 and under age group, males accounted for 56 percent of the fatalities and 47 percent of those injured in motor vehicle crashes during 2004.

    Statistics from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

    These automobiles are licensed and registered, as are the drivers. They are manufactured under strick goverment controls and regulations, also sold with govermental input, yet there were 42,636 deaths that occured with the assistance of these machines. Where is the outrage over these deaths.

    With that said, firearms are far more regulated than any car.

    Now for a question; If I register my guns and obtain a license for them, shouldn’t I be allowed to carry them any place that a car is allowed?

  • STM

    You’re all missing the point. The problem with unrestricted gun ownership is that it leads to a proliferation of firearms. Which is actually the reason why it’s important to look at the proliferation itself.

    No, you’re not going to get guns off the streets and out of the hands of criminals, and I’ve spent enough useless time arguing the point here to realise that American gun culture is peculiar to the US and no comparisons to gun control that’s occurred anywhere else in other civilised, first-world countries can be made. What Paul writes is true: most legal gun-owners in the US aren’t going to break the law, and in the context of the law as it stands in the US, shouldn’t be penalised.

    However, don’t you think it’d be be good to restrict the availability with more stringent checks and balances, ie no one who’s had psych counselling for instance, until they perhaps go through a battery of tests to say they are no longer a danger.

    Something like that would have kept a weapon out of the hands of Cho. Also, it wouldn’t hurt for the laws to be exactly the same in each state … so you can’t go to a neighbouring state and buy up weapons simply on the production of a driver’s license because the purchase would be subject to much more stringent controls elsewhere.

    A six-week cooling off period prior to purchase wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. And no private sales of second-hand guns – licenced dealers only, and all guns on a registry.

    None of that infringes on anyone’s right to gun ownership, particularly under the 2nd amendment, but it does offer a few extra absolutely vital protections.

    As for the car-comparison nonsense: Yeah, they’re dangerous, especially in the hands of idiots. They also get used a lot more than guns and there’s a few more of them around.

    They were also designed primarily as a means of transportation, a role they still fulfil – rather than as a means of killing things, which is what guns are designed for.

    That’s an odious comparison.

    Try to take the emotion out the debate guys, and see if America as a whole – not just the odd state – can’t come up with a solution that makes everyone happy.

    It’s too important an issue for 300 million people to remain at polar opposites.

    And in the wash-up, no one can argue against keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

  • Damn, Clavos. That’s a great anecdote, and I assume it’s all true. Really tells the whole story in a nutshell.


  • STM

    There’s something fishy about Clav’s story.

    “They were going to move to Australia … ”

  • What are you saying, Stan?

    Oz is so bad nobody wants to move there? :>)

  • Dave,

    I did a little quick googling.

    The story IS at least half true. The boys DID go to at least one other home, where the homeowner met them at the door with gun in hand. They then went to the home of the Dartmouth professors.

    The motive was robbery and Stan notwithstanding, they DID want to go to OZ.

    They were 17 and 16 years old at the time, and were from Vermont.

    There’s a book about the incident, available on Amazon and titled Judgment Ridge.

    Steyn’s an interesting pundit/observer of the contemporary world. His primary shtick is that the Western societies, in particular the Europeans, are being “out bred” by the Muslim ones and will soon be overwhelmed because of that. (extreme simplification of the theory on my part).

    He has a book on it, which I read recently, called “America Alone.”

  • STM

    Clav: “What are you saying, Stan? Oz is so bad nobody wants to move there? :>)”

    lol. No, it’s the notion that anyone with a criminal record will be welcome here. Poms still tell jokes about it – (spoken in a poncey pommy accent) “When I got to immigration at Sydney airport, they asked if I had a criminal record. I said: ‘Oh, sorry old chap, I didn’t realise you still needed one’.”

    Ho ho.

  • Edgar

    A professional criminal will rob some Joe Blow’s gun to commit crime?

    It’s like saying, a Rock star will rob some guy’s guitar, and not fear being booed out of stage!

    Do you really believe criminals will trust their LIVES to a gun they don’t know whet it will blow off?

    When they can get mint condition, brand new ones?


  • The above commenter is almost sublimely inarticulate. I’ve read and re-read what Edgar wrote, and I have absolutely no idea whether he’s pro- or anti-gun, who he’s responding to, what scenario he’s envisaging his hypothetical criminal to be in or, indeed, what his actual point is.

    “DUHHHHH!” must be his sign-off line…

  • I believe that Edgar advocates the purchase of fresh, new guns for criminals rather than used or previously owned guns, because criminals want to avoid guns which might have wear or defects. I assume that this is based on his own career as an armed robber who used a defective gun and suffered for it.

    BTW, going back to something earlier, Steyn’s thesis that Muslims are going to overwhelm Europe by outbreeding the natives has a LOT of good evidence to support it. I’ve been working on a little article on that topic myself and the evidence really does point towards the inevitable destruction of at least France and Germany unless something serious is done to address the issue.


  • Destruction is a bit of a strong word, Dave. The people who now occupy the territory known as Bulgaria are not Bulgars, and the people who occupy much of Britain are not the Celts who gave the island its name. But it’s hardly appropriate to talk of those lands as having been ‘destroyed’.

    To be perfectly clinical about it, it’s just Darwinian migration theory in action.

  • The Obnoxious American

    Edgar was obviously saying that you wouldn’t trust your life on some gun that you managed to steal. Real criminals will buy their guns off the black market, many new in the box.

    We have driving tests for cars, I’d welcome it if there was something similar for guns, IF like drivers licenses, we could also get a consistent set of gun rights that are transferable across the country. And the tests should be reasonable, basic understanding of firearm safety, background and psych check, and then you are done. Capacity limits or rules about the type of stock or whatever are just silly.