Why No One Guns For The Guns

One of the many things that befuddle the rest of the world, and I presume some Americans too, is why a civilized nation like the US allows its citizens to own guns. Not just a hunting rifle or a pistol but military-grade weapons. And continues to do so despite the almost yearly litany of massacres, which is even the more ironic for a culture that otherwise puts great value on safety and the lives of its citizens in general.

For many in the US, the very fact that bearing guns is a right granted by the constitution (The 2nd Amendment) makes the issue not open for discussion. This stems from a rather fervent belief in the infallibility of their constitution and the “founding fathers” , a worship that borders on almost religious fanaticism. Removing something codified as a constitutional right is the American equivalent of drawing the prophet, a political quagmire where even the bravest of those who seek to get elected will not tread. It does not matter, in the least, that the historical context in which the Second Amendment was formulated, namely America’s War of independence and consequent great political instability, has ceased to be relevant centuries ago. The justification for the 2nd Amendment is that it allows the citizenry to defend themselves against the government, should it turn on them, as expressed pithily by the bumper sticker seen frequently on the back of pick-up trucks: “A man with a gun is a citizen. A man without one is a subject”. Of course, if we are to really follow that principle, today’s “citizen” needs to possess tanks, drones, anthrax, chemical weapons and well, even nukes, since the government, should it turn on the citizens, would definitely use some or all of them, in which case possessing a gun will help jack squat. Logic however is futile. Since guns to many in the US are objects of faith. Guns protect them in real life and God protects them in the after. End of story.

Those gun-worshippers who want to proceed beyond the “Don’t touch ma freedom” rhetoric or accept the ridiculousness behind trying to justify that “Guns are needed to fight the Feds”, will construct other justifications. Bad guys will always have guns, regardless of whether possession is allowed by the law or not. By keeping firearm possession legal, the country allows the good guys, the law-abiding citizenry, to maintain an equilibrium of strength. Hence, the solution for the gun-problem is not less but more guns. The reason, they say, schools and malls are targeted is because shooters know there are no guns there, that the balance of force there does not exist. So the solution, following their logic, would be to have every teacher and store manager carry a gun (and the most powerful gun possible, since no sense in coming to a gun-battle packing a pea-shooter) and by extension, every citizen to keep a firearm right next to the iPhone case. Only then would the equilibrium of strength ?be pervasive and violence stopped. A truly brave vision of society this, where a shoot-out is only one heated word, one short temper, one tequila shot away.

Then there is, of course, the “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people with guns” argument. This line is usually accompanied by an identified agent of evil, with the identity of this agent varying based on your ideological position. For the liberal gun-owner, it is the poor state of mental health in the country. For the Bible-thumper, it is the general Godlessness of our times that is responsible. For the parent sick and tired of buying PlayStation Games, it is the desensitization to violence wrought by media, both games and films, that is to blame for the massacres. If it’s not guns, they say, it will be something else.

Problem is, it is always guns. There is more gun-violence seen in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where people don’t play computer games that much but have free access to firearms due to the absence of a working legal system (this holds true for parts of India too) than in Japan and Korea where things are exactly the other way round. US states with greater gun control have fewer gun deaths. Japan has as few as two shooting deaths per year because of so-called draconian gun possession laws. The gun buyback program reduced homicide rates in Australia.

The simple fact remains that if you take guns out of the equation, someone who is unhinged, whether due to playing Mass Effect 3 or from not being hugged enough as a child or from not going to Church, will be able to inflict less damage.

In a recent incident, a Chinese man took a knife and slashed twenty-two school children, injuring them. If he had a gun, they would be dead.

In this world, one can never stamp out evil. The best that can be done is to limit its malevolence.

And not allowing people to buy guns legally and thus limit their evil/second is one way of doing exactly that.

This sounds simple. But it is not. Not in the US where gun-ownership, like almost everything else, is so tied to big money and donor-politics that nothing meaningful is ever done. First of all, the shills, and they are everywhere on popular media and in politics, will prevent any meaningful conversation on gun-control. Try to talk about gun-control after an incident like the Connecticut shootings and you will find the gun-puppets come on TV and scream “This is politicization of a human tragedy” and “It is too soon to have this conversation. People are still grieving”, which is kind of funny when you remember that these were the same people, who post 9-11, were beating the war-drums on 9-12, exhorting revenge on “those who had taken American lives”. Even if the conversation is had, it will be severely limited in scope—“Can we revive this partial ban we once had on assault weapons?” and suitably diluted because the sponsored party-line is that somehow once you take away the Second Amendment, it is a slippery slope from there to taking away the First Amendment and from there to banning super-sized fries, triple burgers and flashing for beads during Mardi Gras.

And so we will keep on seeing the same old—the US government will spend billions to make sure that no one carries anything that could be conceivably used as a weapon abroad a plane (a death from anything that explodes would be an act of terrorism/breach of national defense and because, for some reason, the “equilibrium of forces through the universal possession of guns” argument somehow is not that popular once you are in the air) while allowing semi-automatics to be freely brandished on the ground, more bars will allow people with guns on their premises, more crocodile tears will be shed, more innocents will die from and be maimed by gun violence and more families will carry exit wounds never to heal.



84 thoughts on “Why No One Guns For The Guns

  1. “In this world, one can never stamp out evil. The best that can be done is to limit its malevolence. And not allowing people to buy guns legally and thus limit their evil/second is one way of doing exactly that.” +1

  2. Brilliant post.

  3. I don’t see any progress on Gun Control. People will forget by the time new year arrives.

  4. Venkat Raghunandan December 16, 2012 — 6:55 am

    As usual well written…

  5. How much of this pro gun rhetoric is funded by the gun manufacturers lobby?

    Have always wondered what would have happened in India if such a loony law had been implemented here.

  6. Ssfety issue in US is one of the primary reason I ve not bother to move in US from Australia despite cost of living is quite high here.
    In last 4-5 years, I have only met 2 people here who possess a gun. and one of them was a professional hunter.
    I cant believe country like US jeopardizes its citizens safety on their shores

  7. Linus Trovlad’s ( the inventor of the linux OS) mentions that the number of guns per home is more in Norway and Sweden then it is in US. Norwegians love hunting and keep hunting rifles.

    It is the culture that is the problem other wise there are many countries where there are more guns in homes then in US.

  8. Waiting for the NRA’s stance on the latest incident. Lets see if they can at least put up a sham of sensitivity in this particular case; they haven’t so far. Obama is in a unique position to push for gun reform (no more re-elections), but of course the House won’t even let it be floored.

    BTW, in the last paragraph, “aboard”, not abroad (in case of planes).

  9. We need something to keep the meanness and selfishness of every individual in control in india too. Theory of karma is less believed these days. Bullying can be solved by flashing a gun effectively. Indian system is perfect …only those who “really” need a gun, gets it by some means.

    I am going to get a pepper spray this year and a gun in few years.

  10. 15-inch macbook pro with retina display

  11. Great Bong,

    It is notable that almost all shooters gone berserk in the US have been male. This suggests a relatively simple experiment. Have a jurisdiction where only women civilians are allowed to carry guns and see the results in 10 years or so.

    Also, Junaid’s point, Norway, Sweden and switzerland have more guns per capita than the US. Switzerland issues rifles to all its families to use in the case of a national invasion. Don’t hear about this shooting there.

  12. IF guns dont kill people and people kill people then why doesnt America allow Iran to have nuclear weapons as nukes dont nuke people but people nuke people.

  13. Brilliant. Just brilliant. The one excellent piece that I read on this issue. It is surprising, as I read somewhere, that I cannot walk into a cvs and buy myself an antibiotic for my strep without prescription(as that will somehow harm me) but can walk into a gun store and buy assault rifles or guns with which I kill myself or others. Really lopsided.

  14. In this particular case, the offender did not use automatic weapons ( I understand that you mentioned semi-automatic, but even the term “semi” sounds more sinister than it aparently should, especially to a person like me who has never handled anything more lethal than an air-gun :http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2012/12/16/Reality-Check-Connecticut-Shooter-Did-Not-Use-Automatic-Weapons) and in any case he already was in violation of the existing gun-laws in Connecticut. From that perspective, it seems to be a case of the law not being enforced rather than a case of insufficient laws. Also, while gun-related crimes may be/ is lower in places with gun control ( maybe Chicago is an exception), it maybe worth while to compare overall violent crime-rates among these places since the logic goes that presence of guns is a deterrent to any crime:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1196941/The-violent-country-Europe-Britain-worse-South-Africa-U-S.html

  15. Well if civilians were not legally allowed to drive cars, then no one other than that guy’s mom would have been dead either.
    Any lethal violent act by group A does not mean that the superset B should be demonized and should not be used as an excuse to curb their rights, where (A,B)={(crazy religious terrorists, any religious fellow), (mentally ill guy with guns, any gun-owner including old people and women)}

  16. D,

    The car’s primary use is not to kill a living being. It’s to get from one point to another. Nice try using the guns dont kill people, people kill people with guns argument.

  17. The primary purpose of most legal gun-buyers is not to go on a rampage either; most people use guns to defend themselves or for hunting. By disarming the people, you will also be leaving a store-owner or a family( physically inferior to the attackers with or without guns) with no option but to simply wait for the cops. I agree there should be gun control that takes away guns from mentally ill people, not just a full-scale disarmament.

  18. I’m so so sick of people giving the kind of argument that D is giving. That its not the gun, it’s something else. Yes – if we had abolished schools then the kids wouldn’t have died. If we had mandatory contraception then there would have been no kids to die…etc etc. if we don’t watch the news future killers will not be inspired. Anything but the gun. My only question to those people is..take the incident from Friday, keep everything else the same…the deranged kid, the school etc, but take out the gun. Do you tank the killer would have been able to kill 20 kids? And don’t give the example of the Chinese knife attack since no kid died.
    Definition of a cause is- if removed, the incident would not have happened. Here, take away the gun and this would NOT have happened

  19. Think..not tank..

  20. D, The primary purpose may not be go to on a rampage. But the primary purpose of a gun is to shoot people (The 2nd Amendment does not give citizens the right to bear arms in order to shoot birds). It’s not that complex really. And again to your “store-owner” argument, you now shift from my third to the second argument—guns are needed to protect oneself from the bad guys. What’s the chance that the storeowner won’t take that very gun and rob his competitor’s store? The ultimate goal, as per that argument, to have everyone armed (why should the store owner have a gun…why not everyone who walks into the store?) and have a situation where everyone is responsible for their own security. In short, the cave age.

  21. Shooting people!= killing a living being. And of course, people need to have thorough background check before getting a gun which should exclude the case of an insane store-owner obtaining a gun. Nor should one get to build an arsenal. And seriously, someone putting up a minimum fight to protect themselves and their properties is equal to living in cave-age?

  22. D, I am surprised that you think that a background check would find out if a store-owner is insane. That in itself is an insane thing to say. Unless a background check includes a brain scan and the precogs from Minority Report. Plus it is difficult to background check one’s kids, neighbors and anyone who might break into the house. Nor is it possible for the government to check whether all private firearms are being stored securely.

    And yes seriously. Everyone carrying guns to protect themselves IS the cave-age. (Psst…that’s why you pay taxes and have a police force).

  23. @Arun, guns+mentally ill person in the family= recipe for tragedy. Less than military grade guns+a 80 year old ssane guy != bad thing for the society.

  24. Greatbong..no point. I have spent the last two days arguing with people like D on different fora…and have realized that this is not a rational set of people we are talking to. Those who think that they need military grade weaponry and hundreds of rounds of ammunition to defend themselves against God knows what, are simply not rational beings, but paranoid ‘everyone’s out to get me’ people. And you know it is not a good idea to argue with an irrational being. Or a person with a gun. And definitely not someone who is both!!!

  25. D. In your equation
    Guns+mentally ill person = tragedy, take out guns and see what the right side changes to?

  26. There is already a ban on murders and police exists pretty much everywhere in the world. Does not mean there is no violent crime anywhere despite laws being already a deterrent. Many people think they can protect their families and properties to some degree ( few burglars, wild animals) until the police arrive if they have the ability that puts them on equal footing as their attackers eg- a gun.
    Again, in all recent massacres, if these deranged individuals were not allowed to possess guns these incidents would not have happened. I dont know why a medical history of mental illness of the individual and people in their immediate family should be a difficult thing to check before issuing weapons. Breaking into someone else’s home to steal guns is a stretch ( dont recall incident like that). People tend to hide their guns from the kids; would be more dificult for someone else to find them. Anycase, someone can as well break into a cop’s home and get a gun.

  27. I agree with GB, it’s obviously the kind of gun that is important as well. hunting rifles are one thing, semi-automatic handguns are quite another. this talking points article has a good discussion on this – http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2012/12/tactical_reality.php?m=1

    one of the things that scares me about living in the US is the rise in paramilitary groups (often nazi, aryan nation couched as the garden variety libertarian) and the fetishization of post-apocalyptic survival situations, which is a recent phenomenon.

    the economic recession and increase in the visibility of people of color is also arguably traumatic for many white folks. pace the recent florida shooting over “loud rap music”.

  28. Gun lobby is powerful. Agreed. So is the tobacco lobby powerful at one time. But somehow society is able to overcome that and able to ban and restrict cigarette use in many places in the U.S. There is even talk of tobacco free society.

    So the society has to evolve and a consensus has to be reached against free possession of guns. When and how is anyone’s guess.

  29. @Arun, guns+sane person > no guns+ sane person (since she maybe facing a bunch of teenagers armed with knives/baseball bats)> guns+insane. Forgive me for not thinking that beheading is a cure to headache.

  30. @Arun, Taking out guns might prevent such massacres while simultaneously leading to increase in violent crime-rate ( not just ones with guns) which is the other side of the argument.

  31. US! A civilised nation???

  32. Cops are not omni-present.

    If you ban guns, you make sure that only criminals will have them (and rich people who can hire body-guards).

    Yes, spree-killings will probably not be as fatal, but you need careful analysis to see what the net effect would be on the whole of society. You are surely going to have a few more rapes every year, a few more burglaries, a few more muggings. So, it is a trade-off like every other policy choice….

    Also, it might seem easy to mock the idea that school employees should pack heat to deter potential spree-killers….. except that is exactly what happens in Israel.

    They have armed civilian security guards in every school, often the grandparents of the children in the school…. If uzi-packing grandma can deter Islamic fanatics, it is not too hard to imagine that a trained, armed school employee can deter people who want to get famous by killing children.

  33. Its a jungle out there. There are many people/places where whole group becomes one to target a individual for selfish means or just fun.

  34. Somehow I just wonder why so many US kids are mentally disturbed. Are the parents to blame? Is it the education system? Its really baffling to see young kids taking to guns.

  35. Well said

  36. Wake up America your 2nd amendment Bill of Rights from 1791 isn’t working!
    Innocent children die because of the right of people to keep and bear arms.The obsession over guns and weapons of a nation is killing its own children!
    67% of murders in the US are by firearms. Nothing really to be proud of….huh !!!!!!

  37. Ok D. Final question. Nancy Lanza had guns and she was trained to use them. Why was she unable to stop this? And how would whatever argument you give not apply in every other case where you suggest more guns are the solution?

  38. Sweden and Israel are examples of societies with similar per capita ownership rates for guns (including large calibre automatics) – they have miniscule murder rates. In England and Wales, from the time that guns were banned in 96-97, murders have INCREASED steadily; and violent crimes have increased a lot faster. In other words people owning guns – has very little to do with levels of violence in society.

    The worst K-12 massacres before this sad event, were in Great Britain and Germany – and I am sure we all recall the Norway massacre ? All these countries have far stricter gun laws.
    In other words, if someone is motivated enough, nothing will prevent them from doing evil. In Rwanda – a largely gunless society – 1 million people were hacked to death with Machettes in less than 3 months. You know what could have stopped it and did stop it ? When the Tutsi rebels came in with GUNS and started killing the Hutus responsible for Genocide.

    Yes, guns have only one application – the ability to kill others. And so, with owning a gun, comes the requirement of self control, and the ability to judge right from wrong. These can only act as restraints in communities and societies which take their responsibility to bring up their children with a good and proper moral grounding – and who learn early on, to respect diversity in opinion (as opposed to diversity of cultural identity only). In the US, over time, family values and religion are steadily breaking down – especially among minority communities – fatherless families are an epidemic. These are difficult problems to solve

    Far easier to just do the convenient thing and talk aout “banning guns”.. The fact that there are over 200 million of these in the US, and that this ban would therefore , from a crime and crazy behaviour point of view – be not only meaningless – but by dis arming good people – also be dangerous is of course irrelevant.

    A final thought for those favouring gun bans… Since the 1950s in the US – with the exception of the Gaby Giffords shooting – every public mass shooting with more than 3 victims, has happened in “gun free zones” – Where would you rather be, if getting shot is your primary concern ?

  39. @Arun, Mumbai police had guns. How could the 26/11 happen?

    And I have not advocated more guns/ no change in the gun-control policies/ guns are a necessary and sufficient conditions for peace. I dont just think that 35 separate incidents of violent, lethal crimes with equal number of fatalities in each, that can take place when peace-loving citizens are unarmed ( and the stats show that violent crime-rates per capita in US is half of that in Canada and far less than that in UK) is more desirable than a case of 22 kids being killed by a crazy dude at one place. I would prefer a middle way by restricting certain guns or elaborate background checks such that these type of incidents occur even more rarely and with lesser fatality in each case.

  40. Wow, Anirban, do you get all your info from Fox News?

    Sure there’s a reason insane armed killers target gun free zones, i.e. no backlash, but I really wouldn’t want to be in a zone either where armed civilian vigilantes were going at it trying to take down a madman. I’m pretty sure most people would agree.

    Don’t know about Erfurt (Germany), but UK banned handguns after the Dunblane massacre and hasn’t had any instances comparable to the incidents of gun violence in the US. Your theory is obviously wrong.

  41. [In the US, over time, family values and religion are steadily breaking down – especially among minority communities – fatherless families are an epidemic. These are difficult problems to solve]

    Ah, just saw this. Never mind my earlier comment, Anirban, you’re obviously some kind of idiot conservative.

  42. Here’s my solution:

    Based on preliminary internet research, there are about 300,000 vulnerable spots in the US (these include 140,000 schools, 6000 hospitals, 40,000 movie halls and about 110,000 shopping malls) where shootings can happen. If we were to post on average, 2 trained US army veterans at each of these spots, we would need 600,000 veterans. Paying them a salary of $50K per year would make this program cost roughly 30BN USD. There are 300MM guns in the US. If each gun owner were to be taxed at $100 per gun per year, we can fund this program. This would solve the veteran unemployment situation (we might not find enough actually), have a trained person to respond to these shootings in these key spots without having to arm everyone. Thoughts?

  43. On a lighter note…

    Instead of banning guns, why not ban bullets 😉
    Or make them so expensive that no one can afford it…say $10000/bullet.

    This I believe would make gun massacres a lot less frequent

  44. Every time a shooter in US goes crazy, the us media comes out with its theory about loners, nerds and goths. When i was in school i had all kinds of friends, kids who were good in sports, kids who were good in studies, the rich kids, the famous kids. There were no mutually exclusive sets of friends the way they are portrayed in american tv. We never had such labels to classify people. Maybe it was because the school i went was never bright enough to be aware of such classifications. Maybe it was because we all dressed the same and there was little sexual politics going on. The first time i was aware of such divisions was when i started my PU classes in Bangalore. I believe by then i was mature enough to handle any kind of classification or label that society put on me. If american tv is in anyway a correct portrayal of school life in us, then it would do good to examine why there is such social ostracism of certain type of kids and why they are expected to grow up into freaks who will most probably turn out to be the shooters.

  45. @Desi

    Very true. Controlling the sale of guns would certainly help but what really is required is a social change.

    I have never lived in US and don’t know what the cultural problem is but as I mentioned earlier, there are other countries in the world with more guns in homes than US.

    So to solve the problem requires a two pronged strategy involving controlling the sales of guns and addressing the social causes which result in such behavior.

  46. Wish you back to your civilized country.

  47. For those of us who do not live in the US, it’s a good academic discussion. But just as you can’t convince an educated, young, middle-class Pakistani that the latest car-bombing on tv was not carried out by RAW, you can’t convince this section of the American populace about the stupidity of their penile-extension fantasy with guns. At some point you need to just step back and say, just as in the case of Pakistan, let these morons kill themselves. You cannot mend a society that does not want to mend itself. Even today, as 20 toddlers are about to be buried, close to 40% of the population of the country thinks that increasing regulation on weapons of mass murder is blasphemous.
    I say, let them be. It’s horrific to read about massacres, but equally horrific to read about women getting gang-raped in Delhi on a regular basis. Let’s work towards trying to fix what we can, instead of bending our minds around a problem that the affected people themselves do not seem to really care about. After all, this is not the only issue where American Exceptionalism has put blinders on the US population, where their insular mindset prevents them from seeing solutions out there in the open, not only among their ‘first world’ brethren, but among the much derided ‘third-world’.
    Meanwhile let’s get one thing corrected. Let’s stop labelling Americans with lofty adjectives like ‘individualistic’, ‘free-spritied’, ‘laissez faire’, and call them for what they really are: Paranoid.

  48. Technology (biometric thumb reader on gun itself, psychiatric test & anger management training of gun owner, etc) can be put to use to reduce such cases. Semi Automatic guns can be further controlled based on requirements.

  49. I dont know how everyone in any country can be protected by a police force even if you pay billions in taxes! It is simply not possible to protect every single person. Another this is that there will always be bad people everywhere. Thats nature’s balance. You need to understand how to protect yourself and in what manner. Its your option to stay calm, be a rabbit in your hole, get robbed/killed/injured and then call up the police! Either way you can wield weapon of your choice and protect yourself at that very moment when you are getting robbed/killed/injured.
    Of course there should be some kind of control where anyone and everyone should not be allowed to get a gun (that too a millitary grade one). Individuals possessing guns should often be audited and have gun license interviews on a regular basis. This should minimize tragedies if not prevent them.

  50. @ homiletic :: As your name suggests, you are long on preaching and very short on facts and logic. You should read more. UK massacre I am referring to at the link below.

    But seriously, whats with the name calling ? Fox news, idiot conservative ?? Thats why my views are wrong ?? You have not actually answered anything I said, apart from saying that you don’t want to be in a cross fire between an armed citizen trying to protect you and themselves, and a deranged killer, who does not value human life, trying to kill you.

    To be logical – you need to take your statement and associated implications to its conclusion – which would be one of the following ::

    a) You would rather have only the deranged killer shooting at you
    b) You could wish away the fact that there are already more than 200 million private fire arms in circulation in the US – and that with the best will in the world, there will be crazy people to come for generations, who will get their hands on it with minimal difficulty.

    If your position is a), you are a complete moron. If your position is b) you are at best mildly retarded, as reality is what it is, I sincerely hope you stay lucky for the rest of your life.

    As for the issue of minorities committing more crime :: please prove that I am wrong – If making factual statements makes me an “idiot conservative”, then better an idiot conservative than a moron like you, walking around with your head stuck up your posterior.

  51. 1. Make background checks mandatory – and yes, that means guns cannot be sold to people who have a history of mental illness (which includes any use of Ritalin, Xanax etc.)

    2. Stop gun sales at gun shows. Only registered stores can buy/sell guns. An individual may only sell to a store.

    3. Make an annual license check and registration renewal mandatory for guns.

    4. If a stolen gun is not reported to the police (by the owner) within 12 hours, ensure jailtime and steep fines.

    5. If your kid (under 18) is seen handling your firearm without supervision, you will go to jail. Make 16 the minimum age at which a kid can use a gun at a shooting range with adult supervision.

    Just for starters, these would make a difference.

    Disclaimer – yes, I am a gun owner. yes, I do think gun laws are too lax in this country.

  52. Also, ban magazines with more than 10 rounds.

  53. You haven’t really countered one of the arguments against gun control: Such crimes are committed using illegally procured guns. No one says that everyone SHOULD have guns. But the probability that a law-abiding citizen MIGHT be armed will deter a shooter looking for sitting ducks.
    The ‘fighting the Feds’ argument is nonsense, and you’ve disposed of it admirably.
    As far as studies linking gun-control and reduced violence, other countries have higher per-capita gun-ownership with lower instances of gun violence—as already stated in the comments.
    Here’s the last paragraph of the article cited by the WP article you cited: “While the causes of individual acts of mass violence always differ, our analysis shows fatal gun violence is less likely to occur in richer states with more post-industrial knowledge economies, higher levels of college graduates, and tighter gun laws. Factors like drug use, stress levels, and mental illness are much less significant than might be assumed.”
    The problem with macro-studies like this is that some variables often rise and fall together e.g., tighter gun-control laws and education. Now, which one actually causes gun-violence to fall and which variable rides along on the correlation-not-causation wave is hard to determine. The best way would be to study a region where gun-control laws arrived in a staggered fashion: some towns before others. Here, you’ll get closer to a natural experiment—similar demographic, income distribution, and other variables that corrupt experiments. But then you’re unlikely to get a timeline long enough to get statistically relevant data. It’s a pickle.

  54. Actual text of the second amendment says

    As passed by the Congress:

    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.

    As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:

    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.

    Which posits the following:

    1. There is actually a ‘well regulated Militia’ – in the context of which “right of the people to keep and bear Arms” should be held sacrosanct.

    2. That the said Militia is actually necessary (in 2012) to ensure the defense and the security of the entity known as the ‘state’.

    Without wading into the living document/originalism debate – can one explain how (1) and (2) can still be the main arguments for the right to keep and bear arms. I am only trying to play the Devil’s advocate here – I do not think it is economically or politically rational to push for total firearm ban.

  55. At the time of Aurora massacre Jason Alexander (Seinfeld’s George) had stirred up a controversy with his anti-gun stance. It was partially similar to Great Bong’s well written blog entry. I don’t wish to copy-paste it all but will just paste a link –


  56. Very logical aren’t we.So here is a question for the greatbong himself.If Mr Adam Lanza had given the school a miss and walked into your office, would you rather have a gun on you or not ? Or would you rather put your tax money to use and call 911 as he starts opening fire ?

  57. Also, the article you’ve cited as evidence of buyback reducing homicide rates in Australia itself admits that the difference wasn’t statistically significant. Another drawback of the buyback could be The Cobra Effect. You’d effectively create an incentive to make guns illegally, set up a fake legal trail, and sell them back to the government.

  58. Logic,

    The logic is that Mr. Adam Lanza should not have had guns in the first place. I hope that’s not too difficult to understand. If he doesn’t have one, I don’t need one. In case he illegally acquired his firearm, well then unless I have a gun at least as powerful as him, I am finished. Also, Mr. Logic, when two people stand in front of each other, both carrying guns, the person who presses the trigger first is the person with the motivation to kill. I am pretty sure, most decent non-homicidal people, would not be the first to press the trigger. The self-defense instinct might kick in after being shot, but by that time, Mr. Logic, it might be too late. There are also, Mr. Logic, multiple cases where people get shot by their own firearms. Yes. Mr. X comes into my office unarmed, I reach for my AK47 which I keep right next to my lunch box, he throws a kick to my groin (since he has already come with a plan of attack and I am caught by surprise), I double up in pain, he now has my AK47. Where is the Logic now?

  59. What is it with Desis who have in all probability never laid their fingers on a gun in their entire adolescent and early adult life growing up in Calcutta and Chennai, and after a decade in the United States, suddenly turn into these rabid gun-loving, NRA-logic-spewing, fight-guns-with-more-guns mouth-breathers?
    Is it a desire to be seen as more ‘mainstream’, as in, ‘I may look like I just stepped off the boat but I can out-redneck you any time’?
    One understands opinions change over time, especially when you move from a socially conservative South Asian society to a multicultural, largely liberal one. But does good old common sense also need to be jettisoned along the way? How does a lifetime of considering firearms as taboo and objects to be feared and loathed suddenly turn into these crazy arguments seen on this forum?
    Carry guns to protect yourself in office, carry guns in case there’s a firefight…c’mon people! You didn’t grow up hearing this kind of logic around you!!!! And it worked fine for you, it works fine for most civilized nations around the globe. These are implanted arguments, suddenly being utilized for a purpose that has nothing to do with your love of guns or for your love of a flawed, outdated provision in the constitution of your adopted homeland.

    How is it that so many of these same people cry hoarse about Islam not changing with the times, and still argue that what was true in 1787 still holds good today when it comes to guns in the United States?

  60. The nuance I see missed in this discussion is that there are actually 3 broad kinds of people (not 2). The first are the homicidal / killer / terrorist types. They are going to get hold of guns and other firearms no matter what the laws say. And these guys are unlikely to be too threatened about their targets having a gun in their pocket. If anything, this awareness is likely to make them shoot faster and more persistently to prevent any counterattack.

    The second are the common citizens. Having a gun may make them feel more secure (especially if they live in sparsely populated countrysides). Again, gun laws arent going to make a difference one way or another to this category.

    The third are the impulsive types – people who shoot out of anger (e.g. road rage), passion (e.g. jilted lover) or are mentally unstable (yes, a few unstable types will be category I, but I suspect most are category III). It is here that gun bans will make a big difference. These guys aren’t motivated enough like category I to go through acquisition and use of firearms. If they don’t have easy access to a gun, they may use a knife (like the Chinese guy) and hence end up doing much less damage. I suspect most violence occurs due to these type of people – and this is largely mitigatable through gun control.

  61. 2 situations were guns can help:
    In Bihar where dacoits come in group of 40 – 50.
    Communal mobs.

  62. @Shubs- You seem to be the only sane person on this forum.

  63. “one of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results”

  64. Tragic things happen from time-to-time. What happened in CT is no different than say a school bus going off a cliff and killing 20 kids. It is terrible and we should as a nation do everything to stop mentally deranged people from accessing guns. Most folks that own guns have no interest in fighting the fed.They are more concerned about their individual freedoms and protection. In India, criminals commit terrible crimes in open daylight and a country full of goats do not have the guts to stand up to these miscreants. They look the other way when crimes are committed because of retribution. Surely you remember the rape attempt near Kalighat Metro a few years ago when over 300 people did nothing but a brave woman stepped up to help the victim. Contrary to popular theories, terrorism is Punjab started to flounder when the government started arming villages and key citizens.

    As I read the sad story of what happened in CT, I was also encouraged by the bravery of armed citizens. Here is an example:


    And the classic one:

  65. yer such a freedom lovin, milton friedman readin, ass whuppin good ol’ boy, Anirban.

    what is that now, Anirban McLane? Or Anirban “buck” Owens? Or the classic – Anirban “roy” Rogers?

    i did have a classmate called anirban roy back in the day. he was an idiot too.

  66. Tantriclover, it is pretty funny that you talk about goats when every few weeks you have Americans getting mowed down helplessly by crazy shooters. How come we don’t get to hear of cases where any of the crazy shooters were taken down by the brave gun owners, who as described by themselves would spring to action like rambo in a minute’s notice?

  67. Back in grad school, university officials talked about Crimes of opportunity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_of_opportunity), and they recounted cases where people were robbed of 10 dollars and the robber would go and buy ice cream with the money robber. Sounds weird, and the only way to avoid such crimes was to not brandish ornaments or costly electronics while walking alone. Why did the criminal commit the crime? Because he thought he could easily do it.

    Same argument for gun laws, there might be a lot of crazy people around, but a ban on guns would dissuade them . If buying a gun required a background check and/or an interview with a police officer before getting one,or even a mandatory training, there would be less people moving around with guns, even less crazy people .

  68. Sare Jahan se Accha December 19, 2012 — 11:24 pm


    You’re very much anti-pakistan right? Here’s a thought experiment: let’s say Pakistan got to nuclear capability first. Would you recommend India going to the UN and asking N-Bomb be banned or would you recommend India build one of their own as well? Guns, like N-Bomb are not just for killing people. They act as a deterrent as well. If a burglar does not know if the home he is about to raid has a gun or not he’s inclined to not attack it. It does not have to be more potent than what he has like you suggest. 

    Since you are anti-gun, here’s another thing you can do. Post a notice in front of your house that your house DOES NOT have any guns. That way, you can advertise to the world how you like to keep things safe since guns are dangerous. Change has to begin at home. 

    I see a lot of folks from India( @shubs) criticizing people that holding a different opinion is some sort of personality disorder that Indians possess just to appear main stream. I like this way argument. If I disagree with you, just dismiss that I am trying to fit in with the rednecks or only get news from Fox News( the fact that I read GBong, doesn’t count — I am still told I get my news from Fox news) or an idiot conservative. 

    Fact is, Guns are a reality in the US and in most developed nations. What do you think is the reason India was under the white rule? Is it because the white man came with a kitchen knife at us? We didn’t have guns, they did. And that meant domination for a few centuries. The kumbaya, let’s hold our arms together and sing, “Sare Jahan se Accha,” doesn’t work always.

    People in this forum make it look like US is a just a wild wild place where gun fights erupt everyday without a moment’s notice ( there’s a guy who says he didn’t move from Australia just because of this). Whatever the reason for second amendment may be, there is a place for individuals owning something that has a deterrant value. The limits that needed to be in place are already there( you are wrong about people being able to own military grade weapons, they do not). Whatever your opinions on guns is, you benefit from other people owning guns. 

    I find it funny that people who are perfectly okay with twenty kids riding in an auto rickshaw on pothole lined road with raging drunks driving massive trucks on the same road, expressing outrage on the situation here in the US. I would rather live in the deep south where everybody owns a gun than ride my Maruthi 800 at night on any highway in India. My chances of surviving are better a thousand times more. 

    Obviously, this is not to bring down the tragic event that took place. Anytime, a mass murder happens we feel this is something that could have been avoided, but it is not. One reason, counter-intuitively, schools are a target is BECAUSE they are gun free zones. A lot of people may find it laughable at the scenario of teachers toting guns but if it’s common knowledge that there are trained people in schools who can use guns is enough to deter the mass murders to move some place else. I think it will “limit the malevolence,”  you may find it idiotic. Whatever our individual opinions are, there is no way all guns can be eliminated from the public sphere in the US. The only way to limit the damage is bum rushing a mass murderer. Whatever the call is from the politicians or bloggers like you, there is no way to completely contain future tragedies. I really enjoyed the moment where the President shed tears at a news conference, at the same time killing people with impunity( at least some of them children — they are just not OUR Children) using drones. Sometimes there are no answers. 

  69. @ homiletic. You finally learned to take your head out of your backside to google the quote. See, I am actually helping you edge past your current IQ of 25. Think up some more insults if that helps improve your verbal skills, and helps you think of yourself as an “intellectual”. I am done dignifying your stupid stereotyping with any kind of response… Oh, and here’s some more news for you. I don’t know your room mate or where you schooled, but I am pretty sure your room mate would say that he thought you were an idiot too.

  70. Nice post, greatbong.

    I didn’t read through all the comments, but would like to mention that the “pro-gun” people fantasize that they will be in the right state, physically, to use their guns for defense at the time when such calamities strike. This is very rarely the case. In the real world, to use a gun for defense in such one off scenarios when you are not mentally prepared would require that you be some sort of a quasi Navy SEAL.

  71. All said and done, one has to reflect how the NRA and the huge stakes involved for firearm manufacturers influences this debate.

    I doubt if any rational debate on this is even possible when the stakes involved for one side are so high. They will use any and every reason to justify their course.

    Now, let’s say if weapons manufacturers were fined for every such act with huge lawsuits, that would be a level playing field and then arguments for and against guns could be argued.

    Until then, this story will be repeated (against hope).

  72. As seen on twitter, its so simple –

    Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Unless they play video games. Then the video games kill people.

  73. @Shubs – thank you.

    On a related note – most gun related deaths (from mass shootings) are from legally procured guns


  74. I wonder why even in civilized gun-controlled countries like Britain there are bouncers in clubs and guards in Buckingham Palace or bodyguards for celebrities. Should not they just rely on the existence of police and laws as a sufficient deterrent against crimes? I hear they do pay taxes over there too.

  75. @Sare Jahan Se Accha: Since you specifically addressed my comment…

    That you hold a different opinion is your prerogative. My surprise is about how you came to believe in that kind of rationale. I’m, of course, assuming you grew up, and were, at least till your mid-20s, in India. The arguments you present, are rooted in a certain background and culture. They come from at least a few generations of close familiarity with weapons of this nature. They come from having your grandfather’s bolt-action being handed down to you with on your 18th birthday. They come from memories of accompanying dad and your older brother for weekend hunting trips to the woods as you were growing up. They come from memories of pieces of wisdom about safety, responsibility that comes with owning guns, being passed down over dinner and casual conversation, while cleaning your dad’s precious collection in the garage. They come from experiences of seeing everyone you knew while growing up, owning guns, as collectibles, for sport, for hunting. They come from the experience of hearing conversations about gun ownership for as long a you can remember.
    In short, something that is pure Americana, nothing like our experiences growing up in India, which are also cherished and valuable, but different, certainly with respect to guns. I don’t know about you, but the closest I came to experiencing guns was on two trips to the Army firing range while part of NCC Air-Wing in school when we got to fire precisely 5 rounds on standard issue vintage Lee-Enfield .303s. And my guess is that 99% of Indian teenagers don’t even get to do that. I don’t remember hearing even one single conversation in my entire pre-adult life where the issue of owning guns was even discussed as a topic of conversation, or was part of public discourse.
    Which is why I call the passion displayed by expatriate Desis to defend the convoluted logic on display without really having a personal backgroundp to do so, ‘implanted’, perhaps in an effort to avoid calling it ‘fake’. But that’s just my opinion.

    It’s akin to an American expatriate living in India and fervently defending arranged marriage based on the logic used by Haryana’s Khaps.

    And no, I’m not ok with potholes or the lack of saftey on Indian roads. What that has to do with my opinion on guns in the US is beyond me.

  76. For all the NRA-loving, give-everybody-a-gun-in-school types, one of the worst massacres occurred in Columbine which actually HAD an armed officer in the school at the time.


  77. Sare Jahan se Accha December 22, 2012 — 6:23 am

    @shubs, my friend. I want to be kind with you on this argument. An argument needs to stand on it’s own merit, not by the background of who is making the argument. That much we need to establish before starting to argue.

    So here’s me flipping your hypothetical. Let’s say I am the son of a Khap and currently I am in the States. Should I be defending arranged marriages regardless of what I think? An American expatriate living in India can certainly defend arranged marriages — even based on the logic ( whatever that maybe) of Haryana’s Khaps, if he feels they are strong and stand on their own. So somebody who grew up in India can positively make an argument for Guns, without being somebody who wants to fit in with the rednecks.

    Coming back to the argument, yes, I did live in India until my early twenties and never fired a gun either in India or the US. Even until today. I don’t know if I may at some point. My grandfather did not present me a glock for my 18th birthday. I am fortunate enough to have an independent mind and question the merits of an issue on it’s own. I do think it’s beneficial for me if my neighbor has a gun because I trust a well standing citizen than a burglar who will be careful about breaking into either of our houses because he doesn’t know who is able to defend themselves. If you take away the guns, only the law abiding will give them up( you know, because they are law abiding) where the criminal has no such compunction to do the same. And the criminal may even acquire them illegally when lawful citizens may not.

    In the end, this outrage on guns need to stop every time there’s a mass murder using guns. Guns are a fact of life in America as they are in several developed countries(and some undeveloped but that’s a different issue). Gun violence is high in America for a litany of reasons. But this is no wild west. There are a lot of measures already in place to minimize everybody getting their hands on guns( given what’s enshrined in the constitution). The lunatic in this case acquired them illegally. So they are not going away. The faux outrage shown by our El Presidente is just political. There is no way to prevent another shooting. But politicians cannot say that out loud. Imagine if somebody immediately after an earthquake in Japan says we need to prevent these earthquakes from happening. You can take measures to minimize loss of life, loss of property but you can never stop a tragedy from completely occurring. If that were the case, we would have completely stopped all the murders, rapes and burglaries. In the cases where humans are perpetrators of the tragedies, we feel like we are in control of something and feel “something” needs to be done. So after a mass killing every once in a while since — I don’t know — the early 20th century, they happen not because somebody somewhere did not pursue some policy. It is because shit happens. I know it’s not a decent thing to say, and my heart goes out to the families affected( I am a parent myself of kids that age), one has to take a step back. And channel our outrage on parents who let their children hang onto Autorickshaws at 20 a piece.


  78. Will compulsory liability insurance be a good starting point? Meanwhile NRA has come out with a predictable statement blaming everyone and everything else but guns – their solution to world hunger would probably have guns in it.

  79. I did not want to troll anymore on this post, but I found this rebuttal closer to my views on the issue. I think anyone interested in hearing the other side may want to take a look. No constitutional arguments are given but it offers a persepctive on the graphs used in the Ezra Klein article cited by GB.

  80. @Sare Jahan Se Accha:

    From my very firstpost on this topic, I’ve tried to emphasize that the point I’m tryIng to get my head around is why a group of desis rooted in a very different background and culture are trying to outdo each other to defend the purchase and proliferation of assault rifles among the American population. Nothing more. The question of whether American civilians should have access to grenade launchers, rocket batteries Or anti-aircraft guns (which seem to be the logical next steps) is best left to them to figure out. At the most, for us it is an academic discussion, and not a very productive one, in my opinion.
    Yes, there are perhaps American expatriates in Pakistan advocating the compulsory donning of the burkha, just as there may be American expatriates advocating the banning of same-gothra marriages in Haryana (where’s Ripley when you need him!). Since these people obviously defend arguments ‘based on merit’, you and your like-mnded desi friends are obviously in some very august company.

  81. Hello GB, very well argued piece.

    I was wondering if you saw this piece on Guns by Sam Harris and found any of his arguments persuasive.


  82. GreatBong,
    I usually come haunt your website whenever I can, and I agree with you on many topics discussed in posts. But this is not one of them.
    To counter your argument, India has gun control, and has amongst the most stringent gun laws in the world. (almost impossible to legally own a firearm in India actually)
    Has gun related violence subsided in India? It is rarer yes, but the psychological affect of it is much greater. So much so that 20-30 people with guns can form a gang and amass almost unimaginable power.
    Easy availability of guns also remove a fear of guns, part of the reason that while guns may seem to make the overt threat of gun related violence rise (as is the case with the US), the possibility of forcing the populace to accept parallel extra-judicial state agents is lowered, especially for countries as populous and as large as US and India. (it is unfair to compare US and Japan for this reason alone imho).
    People in countries like India and China live under perpetual fear of extra judicial state elements (you know they do), partly because they are defenseless. This also gives rise to discontent and problem often exacerbates when the some of the erstwhile defenseless themselves form into a state agent (read how the Yakuza in Japan was formed mainly of the Burakumin and the Ethnic Koreans in their midst, its development is almost as sad as the cancer of Naxalism that is now eating away our country), and another parallel state agent is foisted on the defenseless masses, who have deal with another agent, apart from dealing with stricter state controls such conditions usually bring without fail.
    More guns, while not the solution for this, are at least an attempt at solution.
    Part of the reason why the Salwa Judum campaign is so important in Chhattisgarh.
    While gun ownership for all and sundry may not be the answer, gun control isn’t a solution either.

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