Americans, at least traditionally, would rather take the risks of living in a free but potentially dangerous society than a safe but oppressive one. That basic idea is literally what this country was founded on.
I think this Thomas Jefferson quote sums up the general attitude: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
In the US, the restrictions on most types of guns is a state level thing. In AZ i can own a semi-auto assault rifle without a permit, in CA I can’t.
I’m from Australia and now live in the US. Australia’s strict gun laws were introduced after the Port Arthur Massacre. My feeling is that they work very well. However, it is not exactly a huge challenge to disarm a country that doesn’t have very high rates of firearm ownership. The difference in the USA is that there are millions and millions (hundreds of millions in fact) of guns already legally in circulation (and probably many more illegally).
Restrictions on firearms ownership here would be ineffective, or at least nowhere near as effective as Australia’s gun restrictions, because they would not restrict access to criminals. Guns are, and always will be, easy for criminals to obtain in the US, and no law will change that. Thus, as is often pointed out, restricting gun ownership would only (or mainly) affect law-abiding citizens.
Stricter gun laws may have an effect on the number of accidental deaths and firearm related suicides in the US, and that is a goal that should be discussed. But they will not affect the number of homicides (most of which involve gangs and lifetime criminals, not ordinary people on a bad day).
Americans have largely decided that they are willing to put up with some accidental deaths and suicides (a lot actually, but remember that America is a fucking big country), in exchange for people being allowed to protect themselves with firearms and engage in shooting sports. This is similar to any discussion of risk versus benefit, many such decisions made in America reach different conclusions than Australia (eg, it is really easy to get fireworks here, which I think is very cool, but is pretty unfamiliar coming from Australia where I never saw fireworks growing up except at professional shows).
It is not as crazy as they make it sound on TV. I live in Seattle, for example, and it really, truly, is no more dangerous (or barely more) than an Australian city, despite concealed carrying of firearms being allowed in the state of Washington with only a cursory background check. Most violence that does occur is gang-related, and if I do say so myself, Seattle gangsters are a bunch of wusses. We probably have a lower rate of violent crime in Seattle than Sydney or Melbourne even (I need to look that up), though Seattle is one of the safer American cities.
So there, that’s my argument. I don’t disagree with restriction of gun laws in principle, but I always disagree with unproductive laws that cannot be effectively enforced and do not really achieve their goals. This informs my liberal attitude towards drugs, alcohol and prostitution too. On these issues, the circumstances in different countries can demand different responses. In the US, many people argue (correctly in my opinion) that gun laws are more effective at restricting legal activities than at reducing violence. Clearly, in Australia the situation was different, and the most appropriate law was successfully enacted.
I was told by an American, the reason the amendment that allowed the ownership of guns, was to protect the people from the government if they became too powerful, and we (Australians) had our guns taken away from us.
To preserve and protect the rights and liberties of the individual, the Second Amendment was written precisely the way it was. If the People aren’t allowed to defend themselves against the predator government, the very idea of a democratic nation is sunk. When the People don’t have weapons, two other groups will: the government and criminals. And often times, it would be impossible to tell the difference between the two.
American here. I assume from the way you talk about guns that what you’re really asking about is handguns. Most countries out there allow private citizens to possess shotguns and varmint/hunting rifles. So we’ll just talk about handguns.
Put simply, firearms are force equalizers. No matter how strong, fast, or otherwise armed someone may be, if I have a gun and a nominal amount of training, I can make myself as much or more dangerous to them as they are to me. The main reason that most people carry handguns is for personal protection against an attacker; having a gun is obviously a good thing for you if you find yourself in a confrontation. Remember, even if you have a gun, you can only use it if you feel immediate and significant (how significant is determined from state to state) danger to yourself or others, and you can’t even brandish it unless you feel directly threatened.
In America (and in most countries), citizens are guaranteed the right of self-defense. Unfortunately, self-defense is useless unless you are able to meet or exceed the force presented by an attacker. Again, guns are a force equalizer – possession of a firearm more or less guarantees that you will be able to defend yourself adequately. Most of the time, the simple act of brandishing a weapon is sufficient to halt whatever altercation might have taken place. I refer you to this factsheet (full disclosure: that page does not mention what criteria are used to define a use in self-defense, but their sources seem to hold up, so I trust the numbers).
One of the main problems is police response. In an ideal world, a police officer would be immediately available and present during an altercation or crime. Unfortunately, average response times are a few minutes (this can be up to five to ten minutes or even more in rural areas), which is plenty of time for an altercation to go south. Your own actions are going to determine how well you come off if you find yourself with a hostile attacker, and a firearm increases your chances significantly.
In countries like the UK, handguns are sufficiently rare simply due to cultural stigma that they have never really been widespread. In the US, we’ve had the second amendment in our constitution since the bill of rights was passed in 1791. There are a lot of guns floating around, and it is very easy for someone to get their hands on one, legitimately or not. With that in mind, if a citizen is going to be allowed to adequately defend themselves, you pretty much have to let them have a gun on their person.
I live in a remote area with cougar and bears. If my 5-year-old daughter is stalked by something dangerous while out playing in our yard, an accurate bullet is my only recourse if the animal doesn’t scare. A gun will intervene far faster than a dispatched police officer in an emergency.
Contrary to popular belief, gun owners are not constantly shooting pistols off into the sky or secretly hoping for a home invasion.
Well criminals don’t care if you should or shouldn’t own guns. They will regardless. So most of us see it as protection. But I personally just really love shooting. It’s fun as fuck. It’s also a great stress reliever.
Our gun laws are mostly organized by the state. You cannot have more than 10 rounds in a magazine in CA, for example. I live in Ohio. I can have whatever the hell I want. Same with TX, AZ, etc. In NYC, DC, and Chicago (IL in general, really), on the other hand, you have to jump through many legal activities to even buy ammunition (FOID in Chicago) and even harder to obtain a firearm.
Now let’s look at crime rates in those specific cities/states. See below for gun friendly statistics found in another source:
Crime statistics released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) suggest strongly that tough gun control laws do little to curb violent crime.
In Boston, where the state legislature recently imposed the most oppressive gun laws in the nation, the murder rate went up a whopping 67 percent in 2001. Likewise, the rate of forcible rapes went up 11 percent.
Buffalo, NY, also saw a 67 percent increase in its murder rate and a 30 percent increase in its forcible rape rate in 2001. New York politicians routinely boast about having some of the toughest state gun control laws in the country.
Chicago not only outpaced the national average by posting a 5 percent increase in its murder rate, but the city remains the odds-on favorite to capture the title of “Nation’s Murder Capital.” In Chicago, it’s illegal for citizens to own defensive handguns. The city’s mayor, Richie Daley, is currently on a personal crusade to ban civilian firearm ownership nationwide.
Now let me put you in this scenario: You’re a young woman, mid 20’s, attractive, walking home from your bartending job in the city. It’s 2am, so it’s fairly empty around the streets. It’s a 15 minute walk, and you make it every day. It’s not long enough to warrant a cab ride, and you figure it’s good exercise. A suspicious male eyes you and starts to follow you. You start to run, he starts to run. You turn into a wrong corridor out of panic and it’s a dead end. You reach for your phone, and start to dial 911. It will be 4-7 minutes until the cops arrive (longer if you’re in a large metro city). Plus, you’re not sure where you have ended up due to the sheer panic so you cannot give clear instructions for the cops to find you. Here you have a choice: If you do not own a gun, would you rather an armed law abiding citizen, who saw this shady behavior from the beginning, coming to your aid with his weapon at the ready, or would you rather have guns be outlawed for everyone, in which you’d be a victim of rape? Even better: Would you rather have a weapon yourself, trained on how to use it and confront the attacked head on?
Hypothetical, sure, but I’m sure it has happened before.
Not every death you all are counting is gun-related. In fact, knives are much more dangerous from a distance of about 7-10yd and closer. Believe it or not, a knife slash is more lethal than a gunshot wound, all else provided equal. Plus, knives are more widely available, can be concealed easier, and makes no noise.
So should we ban knives? No. We need them to cook, to make art, etc.
Let’s look at another example: According to NHTSA, there were 37,104 deaths by vehicle averaged between 1994 and 2009. According to Wikipedia, the USA has a 10.41 firearms related death rate per 100,000, and given our current population of 311 million, there’s an average of about 32,000 deaths per firearm related deaths from 2004-2006.. Plus, you cannot claim you killed someone in a vehicle due to self defense, but you CAN claim that in the gun statistic, which is not broken down even more. People use guns in suicides, but seriously, if you wanted to kill yourself, you’d find another way. Unintentional deaths were only .23 per 100,000.
According to this study, we should be banning cars before guns. It’s just so much easier to blame guns because they have 1 use instead of 2 or more like knives or cars. Just putting some perspective out there. Same with virtually any tool/machinery out there.
Credentials: I’m a firearms instructor, own 6 of them myself, and shoot them for sport and competition as well as carry for my personal protection.
Fact: After passing their concealed carry law, Florida’s homicide rate fell from 36% above the national average to 4% below, and remains it below the national average (as of the last reporting period, 2005).
Fact: The serious crime rate in Texas fell 50% faster than the national average after Texas passed a concealed carry law in 1995.
I am an American, and whereas I respect your right to the opinion that owning firearms is stupid, I deny you the right to force me to live according to your opinion. If you don’t like guns, don’t own one.
Now, as to the reason firearms are so ingrained in the American psyche, one needs to understand the need for the Second Amendment.
The main issue of not understanding the Second Amendment is a matter of context….one which both the anti-gun lobby and even the pro-gun lobby propagate. The Second Amendment has nothing to do with hunting…it has nothing to do with sport shooting….it has nothing to do with collecting firearms. Surely it protects these uses of firearms, but at it’s heart, the Second Amendment is simply putting in writing your right as a human being to defend yourself against threats to your life, liberty, and your pursuit of happiness…..whether that threat comes from a criminal element or the very government the Constitution established.
The Founders understood, and many of us (current Americans) have never learned (or simply forgotten) that the right to arms undergirds every other right in the Bill of Rights, including those spoken of but not named specifically (as covered in the 9th Amendment). What good is the Freedom of Speech if the government has the only means of force and is able to repress it? How can the citizenry demand the government respect their rights if their voice is the only weapon in their arsenal?
When the Amendment was written, America had just loosed herself from the yoke of a tyrannical government, and wanted to ensure that We, the People had the ability (not the right….a right is inalienable and cannot be taken from you unless you willingly give it up) to do so again if the need arose. The Declaration of Independence states:
“…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Arms grant the citizenry the final say in how they are governed. Such a thought seems anathema to most modern citizens because we have all lived in relative prosperity under a government that only recently began a rapid assault on individual liberty. Thomas Jefferson understood gun control back in 1774-76:
“Laws that forbid the carrying of arms. . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” — Jefferson’s “Commonplace Book,” 1774-1776, quoting from On Crimes and Punishment, by criminologist Cesare Beccaria, 1764
Ask yourself this:
Have laws against guns kept guns out of the hands of criminals? Have laws against murder, rape, or theft kept criminals from committing these acts? A person that willingly breaks these laws will not be deterred by yet another law….how does that make sense to anyone?
George Washington summed up the meaning of the 2nd Amendment best:
“A free people ought to be armed. When firearms go, all goes, we need them by the hour. Firearms stand next to importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty’s teeth and keystone under independence.” –George Washington, Boston Independence Chronicle, January 14, 1790
If we give up arms, we give up speech, religion, and assembly. We give up the right to legal search and seizure or a fair and speedy trial by a jury of our peers. Arms are the ultimate guarantee, indeed the only guarantee, of all of our other rights.
I’m pretty liberal-progressive overall, but I DO NOT UNDERSTAND people who think guns should be illegal across the board.
It’s fucking stupid. Outlawing guns takes guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens and puts them exclusively into the hands of criminals. I love the 2nd amendment, and protecting it is one of the things I feel the most strongly about.
Come on, people really need to think deeper than “hurr durrr guns are dangerous and therefore should be illegal.” Owning a gun just levels the playing field between you and the guy who breaks into your house in the middle of the night.
Do you trust your government to protect you 100% of the time? I sure as hell don’t.
I own several types of guns and enjoy shooting. Yes, the USA is different than many other countries in our gun ownership laws, but it is a great part of being an American. I have been the victim and almost victim of violent crime, and I feel certain that my gun HAS saved my life on several occasions. I have had my home broken into and ran the criminals off with my gun. I have had someone pull a knife on me, and I got them to retreat by showing my pistol. I have stopped an attempted rape by having my gun in my hand.
Yes, they prevent crime in certain circumstances!
That being said… In many ways I would love it if we could eliminate ALL guns in the world, but it is simply not possible. Even if we did, People would kill each other with what they could find. I hate the fact that I have had to use my weapon, even though I have never fired a shot in distress. There are too many guns in this country to get rid of them.
And yes, going to the range and target shooting is great!
This will probably be buried but I feel the need to post it anyway. There are many people here from the UK, Australia or various other “gun free utopias” who say they have never had any need for a gun.
I’m from Ireland originally and also lived in the UK before I moved to the U.S 10 years ago. I have been stabbed on two separate occasions. The first time I was stabbed in the stomach when I was 14 and living in Ireland 5 minutes from my house by another kid I knew. The second time was when I was 19 and living in the UK going to university. I was attacked by 3 guys and stabbed in the forehead. I was lucky, the blade hit the far left side of my forehead and instead of penetrating my skull it slid along the side of my skull under my scalp. Before he was able to stab me again, I was able to drop the guy holding the knife with a punch and run away.
They chased me and knowing the area I ran right by a nearby police station, shouting for help and bleeding. I couldn’t stop to try to get in since they were only seconds behind me, and no police came out to help me, nor did anybody else on the street. I ended up getting away anyway, but that was purely by virtue of me being a fast runner and in good shape, even though I was injured.
I carry a gun daily now, even though nothing like this has ever happened since I moved to the U.S. On two occasions I have been without the tool I need in order to effectively defend myself in a potentially deadly situation, I will not allow it to happen a third time. A gun will not guarantee my safety if anything like this happens to me again, but it sure as hell gives me a sporting chance.
Besides owning guns for self-defense, I own guns because they are fun. I first learned to shoot with my grandfather back when I lived in Ireland, and now that I live in the U.S I can own damn near anything I want. Shooting has been a lifelong passion of mine, and its easily my favorite thing to do. I love shooting them, building, maintaining and repairing them, collecting them, learning the history behind them and loading my own ammo.
You think allowing anyone to own a gun is stupid? Well that’s cute, apparently you’ve never been to the inner city. I grew up in South Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots. You can bet your ass we were happy we had a gun when you could see the flames only a few blocks away. That’s not to mention the break ins in my car and house and the insane amount of vandalism that goes on in those neighborhoods. I’m not one to advocate pulling out a gun and shooting someone but a line does have to be drawn when it comes to protecting newborn children or elderly grandmother (both living in my house at the time). Also, it’s worth noting that no one in my neighborhood fired a shot. Just the fact that all the men were sitting on their porches with guns on their laps made enough of a statement.
I’m a pretty far left leaning liberal but you have to be pretty damn sheltered to think that guns serve no purpose. There are tons of things we can do to start cleaning up the inner cities but until then, I will never tell a single mom living in an apartment in South Central that she can’t keep a gun under her bed.
I am what would be called a liberal in America (and progressive too!) and I am in favor of the 2nd Amendment.
The right to bear arms is one of the more profoundly progressive concepts of the American Revolution. It’s not about owning lots of guns, it’s about fundamentally changing the way government and the citizens interact.
In the typical Ancient Regime the king controlled most, if not all, of the weapons. Guns were assigned to you by the king and the people possessed them at his pleasure. The power of violence started with the king and devolved downwards.
The American Revolution proposed that the power of violence, which is a lot of the real power in life, stood with the people and the government, or king, did not have a monopoly on that. The right to bear arms is a statement than the people have power and do not need it ‘given’ to them by some monarch.
By taking the power of weaponry from the government it was, and is, a fairly liberal concept.
I am a liberal Northeasterner, born and bred, but I spent a few years in Utah (very conservative, for those not in the US) for work. What I learned there was that shooting guns is part of their identity. It’s something almost all of them participate in while growing up — family hunting excursions, shooting in the backyard, etc. — and usually continue to participate in throughout their lives. Because there’s so much empty space out there, it’s not really that dangerous to go to your backyard and shoot at targets, small animals, etc. And I will admit, it is fun as hell.
Further, keeping at least a pistol in your house, for “security” reasons, is as natural for some people as locking our front doors at night.
Between these two factors, for many people the idea of taking away guns is akin to taking away a favorite toy or pastime. The ideas of inner-city gun violence are alien to them, as they live in rural, sparse, less violent communities. They rarely see the horror of guns that urban and even suburban communities are so familiar with.
Guns are a tool. When put in the wrong hands, a hammer is just as dangerous as a gun. Difference being a gun has one purpose, a hammer has two.
How about, rather than focusing on guns, we focus on crime. How does it feel knowing your country has far more assaults per capita than the US, far more rapes per capita than the US, more suicides (probably not by gun) than the US, and of course let’s not forget murder (to be fair for some reason they excluded the US who is 15 or 16 places higher than Australia).
In other words, focusing on guns isn’t necessarily the problem. Focus on crime itself and you see there are issues in every country, guns are just a distraction.