Guns in America

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by turgy22, Oct 4, 2017.

  1. turgy22 Nothing Special

    I looked up to see if this was already discussed but couldn't find anything. After the most recent and deadliest mass shooting in the US (I'm referring to the Las Vegas one, for those reading this thread years from now), I thought I would broach the subject.

    I'm not a gun owner or enthusiast, so I have a hard time understanding the mentality that defends any and all gun control efforts. If there are any gun owners on here, I'd love to hear your opinions, since I trust we can discuss this rationally.

    What I would like to know is the following:
    1) Why is it necessary for any US civilian to own a gun that can hold more than 10 to 12 bullets and fire them more than once or twice a second?
    2) Why is it okay for anyone in the United States to purchase any gun without having to pass a background check first?
    3) Why would you not want every gun in the country to have a paper trail that shows who currently possesses it and from whom it was purchased?

    I'm just trying to better understand the rationale.
  2. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I'll preface this with some stuff because I don't think I qualify as a gun enthusiast, but I am technically a gun owner. I own a single shotgun, which I've actually bothered to take out and fire on a total of two occasions, and so far only with target loads. So my credentials as a gun enthusiast are, at best, dubious. But I do have a gun and I am the owner of it. I don't hunt, carry a gun with me (openly or concealed), engage in target practice, or use a gun for self defense (if some improbable home-invader were to attack me for some reason and actually gave me enough time to get everything ready for shooting at him, I would necessarily have had enough time to resort to methods that I am actually good at). Some day in the future I might put it to more use, but thus far it mostly just sits there looking pretty (I do keep it clean). The reason I bought it was that I find shotguns interesting and wanted to have one. Anyway, I'll note that on the topic of gun control, I have seen a lot of sketchy arguments and lazy use of statistics from both sides, and I've also heard reasonable arguments from both sides. Like everyone else, I have my opinions on the various issues involved, but when actually discussing these things, I make a point of noting that while I don't mind exploring the details, the numbers, the various comparisons, factors, interests, etc., none of that is what really motivates me. And it's not my own personal shotgun either: I bought that less than two years ago and my stance has been the same since long before that. I do not find gun ownership to be vital to me personally. While I'm not really extraordinary, I am in some ways rather fortunate. I live in a very safe part of the country, have never held a job that puts me at a particular risk of violent attack, have no real enemies, and have not had the misfortune to otherwise become the target of violent criminals. I am healthy and a bit bigger than the average man, so while I don't think I'm especially intimidating, I imagine that I don't look like the easiest victim out there. I also have accumulated a lot of martial arts experience, and while I don't make silly claims about being some sort of super badass, I am skilled enough to make myself a dangerous target, should the day come that some stupid criminal were to randomly pick me and attempt to attack me head-on. Being that I'm not particularly proficient with a gun, that I am particularly proficient with my hands, and that in the extremely unlikely event that someone did attack me it might be by some means I couldn't see coming at all (like stabbing me in the back or running me over with a car, for instance), the idea of a gun for self defense just doesn't seem to make much sense. It's too much of a corner case. For me. In my current situation. And that situation doesn't apply to everyone else! In fact, there are presumably people out there who could check the opposite box from all the ones I checked. There are small, fragile-looking people who don't have martial arts training, live in crime-ridden areas and have, one way or another, attracted the attention of bad people. And I'm not going to be the one to tell such people that they cannot have the tools they need to protect themselves. I'm not going to tell them, "Well, I don't need a gun for self defense, so neither do you." I'm not going to be in favor of the government disarming them on the basis that someone else misused guns. I could try to articulate exactly why I feel that way and why the matters to me, but I think people get that, so I won't go overboard with it. But I just have to note that this principle, for me, takes priority over the other ones. So if people want to argue the numbers and the innumerable nuances when it comes to guns and the law, that's perfectly fine and perhaps necessary. Like I said, I have my own opinions, but even when it comes to my own opinions, my principle of not stripping vulnerable people of the tools they use to protect themselves eclipses everything.

    Oh, one more thing, but I want to be very clear that although what you've said reminds me of a couple of other conversations I've had, I'm not criticizing you and don't actually consider to you be guilty of doing the thing that I'm about to mention, even thought it is really going to seem like it because it's similar. It often happens with friends and acquaintances who want either much stricter gun laws or to ban guns entirely that whenever there is a high-profile criminal incident of gun violence, a psycho spree killer or whatever, that this event, or others like it, is held up as the example of why change needs to be made. In short, they want to throw dead kids in my face. They also, sometimes almost within the same breath it seems, call for "rational discussion." Well, these extreme, high-profile atrocities are not the statistical norm. They are not the majority of gun usage. They are not even the majority of criminal gun usage or bad gun usage. So yeah, we can try to have a rational discussion and try to weigh the good against the bad, although I contend that it isn't really possible to do that in any rigorous, quantitative sense. It's going to come down to opinion and to how we value certain things. But a single, exceptional atrocity isn't a good basis for that discussion. To draw a parallel, if we wanted to have a thorough assessment of automotive safety, we'd want to look at lots of different scenarios, get counts of how often those incidents occur and what the details are surrounding them, etc. A lot of really technical stuff. We wouldn't find the deadliest car crash ever and then go on to talk about everything in terms of it. That isn't realistic. However disastrous that one crash was, there were probably a lot of other incidents that didn't resemble it at all, but which we'd also want to account for if our goal is to understand the issue. I am, by no means, an expert on guns or on any of the ways they are used and misused. But I know enough to know that there's a lot more to it than just one high-profile case.

    Anyway, I doubt my answers will be satisfactory, but I'll try...

    1) I have no idea. I do not consider myself even close to knowledgeable enough to be making the decision as to how many rounds a gun should be allowed to hold or how often it should be allowed to fire. I've heard that states have gradually been pushing restrictions more and more, that they'll manage to pass one law that says X rounds is the maximum, and then, years later, they'll act like X is some absurdly high number that no one should need, and that the new limit should be Y. And so on. I do not have details of this and I don't know if that portrayal was related to me honestly. It's not really something that I've looked into. I can say that when I bought my shotgun, it came with a device to restrict the number of shells that could be loaded into it, which I didn't install. It can hold five shells but I guess in some other state, they're only allowed to load three, so the company ships them with these things to block off the end of the chamber. I forget what it is called. In my limited understanding, a lot of the popular resentment to restrictions on capacity comes from gun "sports" people who do trap shooting, hunting, bullseye shooting, and whatnot. I don't really have a dog in that fight either way.

    2) I don't really know about this one either. I had to pass a background check. Unless background checks are preventing people who legitimately need guns for protection from getting them, I don't see why it would be a problem. I do not know how effective background checks are. For my purposes, I saw nothing wrong with the background check, but like I said, what goes for me may not go for everyone else.

    3) I don't really think that this is practical. Just one example: where I work, at one point they found a rifle in a basement. It was like 150 years old and no one knew who put it there or when. It still works. So while I'm not necessarily opposed to paper trails in every case and think they could be good, the idea of every gun in the entire country having a paper trail? It's just not going to happen. There are a whole lot of guns out there.
  3. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    Moved to Current Events.

    I'm not a gun owner or enthusiast either, but I did do a little research back when Sandy Hook happened. However, I've now forgotten it or not sure how much is relevant/current/accurate now.

    So off the top of my head without doing any current research:

    1) I don't think it's necessary, but more an issue of what one can and cannot have in the "Free Country of America." The NRA (I think it was them) did an absolutely terrific job in 70s? 80s? in laying the groundwork in the courtrooms of arguing that gun control meant restricting Second Amendment rights which culminated in the Supreme Court decision in the 2000s (2008?) of equating the particular line of "militia rights" also meant individual rights to guns. So "gun control" became essentially synonomous to "getting rid of all guns" instead of restricting/controlling access to guns that individuals wouldn't normally be using (i.e. rapid fire weapons).

    2) I'm not sure where you got this idea. I believe most states, if not all, require background checks for gun purchases (I qualify it with "most" because again, this is off the cuff without any research) except for I believe a loophole of buying guns at gun shows (as opposed to shops). Except I seem to remember even that requires a background check except the person is allowed to take the gun immediately while the check is going on while at a shop, the check must be completed first. Not sure...

    3) Also not sure why you have the idea that this is not going on already. I believe legally purchased guns have this paper trail along with serial numbers and maybe other stuff. Guns obtained illegally obviously don't, but then, no legislation will keep that from happening since by definition, it's illegal.

    One thing to comment on Oversoul's post is that it's not just this "one high profile incident", but multiples over the years - I can think of the Pulse nightclub last year which before Las Vegas, had the dubious title of the worst mass shooting in modern America, and Sandy Hook before that. There's probably others with the "small" total of victims being around the five or so mark (what is generally considered the threshold for a shooting to be considered "mass", although there are differing opinions of whether that's supposed to be deaths or total shooting victims). What I'm trying to say is that there a lot of shootings going on. The high profile incidents certainly raise it to the forefront, but it's not like all shootings stop until the next high profile incident.
  4. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    That part I bolded was kind of my point. The really big incidents get a lot of news coverage and are sad and all, but if the discussion is gun usage in general or even unjustified, fatal shootings in general, those really big ones are dwarfed by the much more numerous smaller ones, wherever you set the cutoff for a "mass" shooting. If we could wave a magic wand and and specifically prevent the atrocities on the scale of Sandy Hook or Pulse Nightclub, we'd really only be addressing a fraction of the people being shot to death. Not that I'm advocating for ignoring the big cases, but we have to keep that in perspective.
  5. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    Oh, I get what you meant now. I totally misunderstood what you were trying to say. My bad.
  6. turgy22 Nothing Special

    Thanks for the responses, Spiderman and Oversoul.

    To clarify some of my questions:
    1) I'm specifically looking for a reason aside from "the constitution" here. Most gun owners justify them for reasons of self defense or sport shooting purposes. I have no problem with this. I've also occasionally heard arguments for "protection against tyranny" from the federal government or something like that, which I personally find illogical. I'm trying to see if there's something else I'm missing. For the examples Oversoul listed, I don't see why someone would need a high-capacity firearm to enjoy these things.
    2) I was specifically thinking of gun shows and private sales. There's also a rule that states if a background check isn't completed in 3 days, the sale can complete without it. With so many loopholes, why have background checks at all? If a person with a criminal record wants a gun, it's incredibly easy for them to get one legally with the seller facing no liability.
    3) In response to Oversoul's mention of the impracticality of having a paper trail for every firearm transaction: obviously, there are going to be cases where weapons already in circulation are out there and will remain unaccounted for. But whenever a firearm is used in a crime, I think the solution to preventing the next crime is to trace back the origin of that weapon and find out how it came to be in the hands of the criminal. More guns are being manufactured and sold every day. I don't think it's too late to start trying to keep track of them.

    I'm glad you brought up this point. In my opinion, we should specifically be trying to prevent atrocities on the scale of Sandy Hook and Pulse Nightclub. Most of those smaller shootings usually involve only people familiar with the shooter, in most cases suicide or gang-related. I'm trying really hard to word this without sounding like a complete a-hole... but in each of these cases, the victims are usually aware of the danger and have some opportunity to prevent it long before something happens. In mass shootings, you have a lot more deaths of people who are completely unrelated to the shooter and completely oblivious to the danger until they're being shot at. I think preventing or eliminating these high-profile cases should be a focus.
  7. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    While I am inclined to plead ignorance on this because I don't think a pump shotgun is what you have in mind and that's all I personally own, I do think from what I've picked up on over the years that one of the issues in the capacity discussion is that "high capacity" is a meaningless term. There isn't an exact number or loading system that is universally understood to be the threshold for "high capacity." I just checked, and the device I was remembering earlier (something that came with my shotgun when I purchased it) is called a magazine plug and it restricts the capacity of the magazine so that it can only hold two shells. From what I'm reading it seems to mainly be a law that applies only to hunting, but it seems that some state laws are more restrictive. In any case, there are a whole lot of laws regulating capacity, varying from state to state.

    Anyway, I've seen arguments back and forth over whether adding new laws further restricting capacity would affect criminal acts. I'll say that on one hand, I'm skeptical. It doesn't help that the most prominent proposals for capacity restrictions I can remember seemed to be in response to atrocities for which such restrictions don't even seem relevant. Sandy Hook led to proposals to limit semiautomatic weapons even though the shooter used a bolt-action rifle, and proposals to restrict magazine capacity even though there doesn't seem to be any evidence that it would have made a difference. The Virginia Tech shooting had some of that as well, but the shooter in that one reloaded repeatedly without encountering any resistance and there was no evidence that magazine capacity was a factor. A lot of these famous atrocities seem to have someone shooting at crowds from a distance or people fleeing and not even knowing where the shots are coming from. If there was some big trend of a badass tackling the shooter from the shadows once he stops to reload, then that would be another story. However, on the other hand, I'm inclined to give a lot more weight to people's lives than to the convenience of hunters or sport shooters, so if some evidence were presented showing that a particular restriction on magazine capacity would save lives, then I don't see why not.

    I was under the impression that most criminals who intend to use their guns for criminal activities get their guns illegally through other criminals and not through background check loopholes at gun shows or otherwise. I do not really know anything substantial about these loopholes and have heard conflicting reports about them. But whatever the reality of the situation, it seems to me that background checks should be enforced, and if that isn't happening, then that is a problem.

    I'm a pedantic *******, so I took your "every gun in the country" 100% literally. But my point was that there are hundreds of millions of guns in the country, and while a lot of them already have a paper trail, others never had one, or it was lost, or it is still around somewhere but might not necessarily be practical for law enforcement to find it. I am in favor of paper trails in general. But tracking hundreds of millions of anything is no small task. I fully agree that it's worth it to at least try, though.

    Just recently I heard a story involving a funeral. The decedent was a teenager who had been shot by a gang member, although he was not himself affiliated with any gangs. So my first reaction is well, the kid is just as dead being the only victim of that particular shooting as he would have been if it had been a massacre. Doesn't seem like it would be any consolation that the perpetrator was a gang member instead of someone whose brain just broke or whatever. And I'm sure that if some guy's wife snaps and shoots him dead, his last thoughts are of how at least he wasn't killed in a movie theater with a bunch of other people. Or if a woman is worried because of her ex-boyfriend and afraid that he could be dangerous, well, as she's bleeding out she can take the opportunity to ponder how at least she had warning signs and therefore some chance, unlike the victims of a psycho who invades a school and starts shooting everyone in sight. Yes, those people could all take solace in the fact that their deaths were, in some fashion, different from other deaths that other people had happen.

    Hey, now you don't need to worry about sounding like a complete a-hole: I sound like more of one and make you look better by comparison. You're welcome.

    But seriously, I kind of think you have a legitimate point. I mean, not that the more common incidents of one or a few people being shot to death are unimportant. But the particular case of a single individual shooting crowds of strangers seems like it is categorically different from most other types of shootings. It has its own patterns, which aren't necessarily similar to other crimes. And with that in mind, I can see a case for taking action specifically to prevent it, because things that might prevent other types of crime might have no bearing on this.
  8. Spiderman CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant

    turgy22:

    With your clarifications, I would say the simple answer to #1 is simply: There isn't, in my mind. Even sport shooting doesn't need that kind of firepower, I don't think; it transforms from "sport" shooting to a mass slaughter. But, not being a gun owner or having been around guns, the honest answer is "I don't know". You'd have to find many gun owners willing to have an open discussion to truly find why they might think it is or is not necessary.

    #2 would have to require some research to find out why gun shows and auctions are exempt.

    Unless you have some stats to back this up, my first read on this statement is that its taking a very simplistic and possibly dangerous view of "smaller shootings". Besides Oversoul's example, there's victims caught in a crossfire or missed targets, road rage where you shouldn't expect to get shot at for gesturing (the discussion for even getting into road rage put aside), abusive others who violate court orders and get to the victim anyway (meaning the victim *did* do everything legally possible to prevent the situation)... probably several more examples. People can get shot without knowing or having a relationship with the shooter or doing everything they thought possible to prevent it.

    Regarding Sandy Hook, the shooter used his mother's guns which were obtained legally (meaning, she bought them at a store and passed the background check). Same thing with the Vegas shooting. Not sure about the Pulse nightclub shooting... but this is the argument from gun rights, that people are getting guns legally and then using them for murder. You can't necessarily prevent that aside from banning *all* guns, like Australia did. I think one of the gun control counter-arguments is that if the semi weapons were banned (and now the bump stock converters to make them fully auto), there would be a smaller amount of victims and less severe injuries, although tacitly acknowledging that shootings will still happen. But the gun rights seem to have the "upper hand" right now, so to speak, to prevent legislatures from making any changes or new laws.
  9. Terentius The Instigator

    I agree that details are hard to nail down, but curtailing the destructive capability (fire rate, magazine size, round type) of weapons and modifications civilians are able to purchase seems like a solution that should work for all sides.

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