Sunday, February 26, 2006

Gun control

I recently realized that my blog has become, or rather always has been, exclusively about religion and this was not my original intention. I wanted to have a blog about all of the important issues including politics, science, religion, culture and society; religion being but one of the many. I believe that I will maintain an almost exclusive interest with religion upon this blog, for that represents my personal interests well but I would like to introduce some politics.

A fellow atheist asked a group of us what our views were regarding gun control, I was the first to respond stating that I do not have a solid stance and that the issue is far too complex to say “no guns” or “guns for everyone.” But as the dialogue continued and as I read along from the sidelines I witnessed the discussion become increasingly ideological and I began to see that I did, in fact, have some solid views regarding the issue. The dialogue became a debate largely between an individual that, though passive, owned a gun and claimed it was merely for protection. There were then two dissenting voices claiming that owing a gun for any reason let alone for protection was extravagantly unjust. Both sides had begun to regress into fairly indefensible and irrationally extrapolated hyperbole. The discussion had ceased being rational and was now becoming just as diabolically ideological as the religious extremists around the globe.
Here is a quote from one of the anti-gun advocates: “Then why not carry a conceal weapon wherever you go? Why draw that line? Do you have a bomb shelter? Do you wear a mask to protect yourself from airborne toxins?” – Obviously going too far. Owning a firearm for protection against armed assailants and intruders seems fairly different from owning either a bomb shelter or an airborne toxin mask. This quote is but one minor example of the rhetoric that was being waged from both sides, it had also become somewhat emotionally charged.
I then decided that I did have something to offer the discussion. This is what I had to say:

“I am most likely never going to own a firearm and I don’t really see the necessity for an individual to own one but those that are going to argue into the abyss of pettiness and insignificance that one should never own a weapon for any reason seems both trivial and frivolous. If you do not like guns, that is great do not buy and own a gun but it seems disturbingly anti-American and anti-libertarian to infringe upon ones individual and private life in such a gratuitous way that is not adequately justified. It seems morally condescending and is analogous to the complaisant patronizing that the “morally superior” religious extremists continually engage in.

I do not care for destructive machines of death, which firearms most certainly are, but I also see the necessity of them in the military and police forces and I surely believe that it would be unconstitutional to revoke the rights of an individual due to the moral outcry and contemptuous ideology of either the religious right or the utopian left.”


Cassandra said...

My opinion on guns is this: Owning a firearm is a constitutional right.

As we all know, Amendment II in the Bill of Rights states:

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.

I know that this is interpreted in different ways, but to me, this is saying (simply) that the people have a right to own weapons and have the right to form a militia in order to overthrow a corrupt government (or protect ourselves from any other threat).

Others see the 2nd Amendment giving our military the ability to bear arms, but I do believe that this is giving the right to the citizens. We need to have the ability to protect ourselves - from criminals, from intruders, and from a corrupt administration. Without these rights, we will end up in the same position that our founding fathers were in over 200 years ago. They (the founding fathers) were trying to give the citizens a way out of possibility of a corrupt government.

Jewish Atheist said...

Guns are one issue where I differ from many fellow liberals. I agree with Cassandra that owning a gun is a constitutional right. Moreover, along with the right to free speech, the right to bear arms may be our most important right.

It's true that the proliferation of guns leads to many deaths in America and I don't buy the NRA arguments that gun ownership reduces crime or that "an armed society is a polite society." I think that for most people, it's more likely that a gun in the home will lead to an accidental or suicidal death than to successful self-defense and for that reason I will probably never own one. However, if I had some deranged stalker who was after me, I might calculate my odds differently and get myself a weapon. And unless the government wants to post a police officer at my door 24 hours a day for years, they have no right to prevent me from protecting myself.

I guess my position is that even though we could probably save lives by banning guns, it wouldn't be worth the infringment of one of the people's most important rights.

Stardust said...

Though my husband and I do not like guns, and would never own a gun, I agree with this quote by Thomas Jefferson:

"The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."

JDHURF said...

I agree with you I see it as a constitutional right. I do not believe that a scenario such as citizens armed with guns warding of a tyrannical government is very likely (though it surely is possible) and surely we have a right to own firearms in any case. As I said I do not personally enjoy guns or weapons but I would defend the position of owning one, it truly is a right that mustn’t be revoked.

Really good post, I also agree with you. I tend to view myself as being a liberal and it seems striking to me that so many atheists that have discussed this issue have been largely liberal but have also disagreed with the general liberal position upon this topic as you and I both have.
I also do not buy into the idea that the more armed the citizens the less crime we’ll see, all one has to do is look at differing countries with a more stringent gun control policy to see this and I had never heard the NRA quote: “an armed society is a polite society,” I think the NRA is wholly absurd. What you say of accidents and mishaps that are the result of owning a gun are most certainly true, it seems as if I have heard of more stories of accidental deaths that were the direct result of owning a gun at home rather than protecting oneself from intruders and trespassers. Owning a gun certainly could be beneficial as a way of protecting oneself in certain situations such as the one you hypothesized, or even take a natural disaster as an example. I would have felt, and probably realistically been, safer with a firearm in my possession dealing with the aftermath in hurricane Katrina than without one, that is hypothetically assuming that I was there.
I agree it is simply too important of a right to revoke.

I am with you on this point, I certainly do not like guns either or any weapons for that matter. That is a great quote that you provided, Thomas Jefferson is one of my favorite intellectual figures in American history if not my favorite.

Thank you all for stopping by and leaving your comments, I certainly appreciate it.

melloncollie said...

This is one of those issues in which the extremes on both sides can be annoying and shrill.

I lean left on nearly every issue, but I do not think the right to own firearms should be revoked. I will probably never own a firearm, though.

The Atheologist said...

stardust1954 quoted Thomas Jefferson:

"The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."

In Thomas Jefferson's time the weapons of the government and the citizenry were pretty much equal in times of fire power.
Today, the most powerful gun that a citizen can legally own is like a pea shooter compared to modern military weaponry. I guess Thomas didn't see that coming, but it is still one of my favorite Jefferson quotes.
A movie trailer that got my attention recently was for the new release of "V for Vendetta". A quote from the trailer is,

"People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people".

How true.

Stardust said...


That is a good point about the comparison between the weapons citizens have compared to military weaponry. Would we the people really have a chance if it came down to the people vs. a tyrannical government?
That's a scary thing to contemplate.

Chase Vaughn said...

I likewise believe that gun ownership (and bearing on the person) is protected in the Constitution.

I also, as a Christian(i know you all are not, so spare me the reminder), lean toward the belief that it is a sin for a man of age (especially one with a family) in America not to own a gun (and possibly to carry it. Not as sure about the last part.).

Why do I believe this? My God commands, Thou shalt not murder. In the Hebrew language, there is a verb 'to kill' and a verb meaning 'to murder.' Many English Bibles screw this translation up. (this is how God commanded killing but also commanded that his people not murder) But, the command to not murder also implies that we are to help prevent the committing of this sin. This means, for me, that God commands me to carry a firearm in order to fulfill his command to protect my family and prevent the murdering of other individuals.

Just a thought.

Stardust said...

This means, for me, that God commands me to carry a firearm in order to fulfill his command to protect my family and prevent the murdering of other individuals.

Holy cow...I have never heard gun ownership being justified in ancient times even before guns were even invented!

Chase, A sin to NOT carry a gun??? Your comment proves the atheist views that religion promotes violence. You have also brought to attention the biblical contradiction of "thou shalt not kill" and "there is a time to kill." Do you know that most people injured or killed by guns in this country are members of the family or friends of the gun owner? I would never own one because it is NOT a moral device. Guns are meant to kill people. Killing will not stop until people get over this paranoia.

JDHURF said...

Chase that may be the most tendentious interpretation that I have ever seen, congratulations.

It’s a sin to not own a gun? Silly.

JustinOther said...

I've honestly never given much thought to my feelings on guns. I suppose I feel the same way as I do about abortion. If you want one, get one and, if not, leave me alone. I do agree that guns in the house do cause a lot of accidental injury and death, but on the other hand how many children die by drowning in pools each year. No one wants to ban pools (ok, maybe not a great example as pools weren't meant to do harm). My point is that life is inherently dangerous and I don't think banning guns will really make it much less dangerous.

Stardust said...

Justinother ~
Our right to bear arms is a constitutional right and I don't believe we should ban them either.

I would like to see better gun control and regulations. Living in the chicagoland area where the number of crimes with guns is high, I think you can probably understand my concern. If people here keep getting guns to protect themselves from other people who have guns violence just keeps escalating. Some urban areas are war zones as it is.

JustinOther said...

I do agree with regulating them, yes. I agree that if you get a gun, I'll get a bigger gun, then you'll get a bigger one, etc.

Orthoprax said...

Would I prefer if nobody had guns? Sure. But the fact is that the gun is already out of the bag and the only people who are affected by gun control laws are generally those law-abiding citizens who will follow such gun control laws. Then the criminals with guns will have a much freer ability to burgle and to rob without fear.

You know what muggers fear most? That their victims might have a gun. Keep that in mind.

Chase Vaughn said...

"You have also brought to attention the biblical contradiction of "thou shalt not kill" and "there is a time to kill.""

Did you even read my post? Please, LEARN TO READ HEBREW BEFORE YOU MAKE IGNORANT STATEMENTS. The Bible never, ever, ever says, "Thou shalt not kill." That's a fact. The Hebrew Scriptures say, "You shall not murder." There is a difference in the ancient Hebraic mind between killing and murdering whether you agree with this distinction or not. Before you pride your depth of research and critique of the Hebrew and Christian Bible, you should probably consult the text in the original language. Thanks.

"Holy cow...I have never heard gun ownership being justified in ancient times even before guns were even invented!"

This is amazing. Here is a hermeneutical tip. The Bible was written to a specific people at a specific time. OBVIOUSLY, I SHOULDN'T EXPECT ANY MENTION OF GUNS. That is why one must think a little harder about the hermeneutical bridging of the Bible's time with our time. If the Bible tells me not to covet my neighbor's ox, then, even though I don't have any neighbors with oxen, I would understand it to equally apply to cars or whatever. So, God commands me not to covet my neighbors car. "Holy cow...I have never heard (commands against car coveting) being justified in ancient times even before (cars) were even invented!" Wow, that fits well.

When Jesus told his disciples that if they didn't have a sword, then to go sell a cloak and buy one, I can probably infer the general idea of a personal weapon. It requires seeing past the particulars of the culture.

Stardust said...

"Holy cow...I have never heard gun ownership being justified in ancient times even before guns were even invented!"

Chase - Don't you even know sarcasm when you read it? Where's your sense of humor?

Why are you being insulting and rude? Apparently that must be part of being a christian because it happens so often. My own grown children don't even talk to me that way. It is not an intelligent or productive way to discuss anything. I find that when people feel threatened, they lash out.

I have a Masters degree and am a teacher. I have studied the bible and have read it twice through. The bible can be used to justify ANYTHING. It's all how a person chooses to interpret it or what passage they choose to take out of it for his or her own purposes, which is what you are doing.


Thanks for proving my point once again.

(JD- these trolls are getting tiring, aren't they?)

Chase Vaughn said...

"Why are you being insulting and rude? Apparently that must be part of being a christian because it happens so often. My own grown children don't even talk to me that way."

Point out where I have been insulting? I have pointed out your ignorant STATEMENTS? But I have never attacked YOUR PERSON? Instead, I have respected you as a person. I disagree with JDURF, but I don't tell him he is an idiot and can't think outside of his "Christian crutch" LIKE I HEAR FROM SOME ON HERE. I don't go around talking about how stupid Christians are or naturalists. I have said many times that many naturalists I know are very intelligent people.(LIKE FORMER LEADING ATHEIST ANTONY FLEW WHO IN NOW A THEIST BECAUSE HE FOUND INTELLIGENT DESIGN ARGUMENTS TOO POWERFUL, GLAD HE IS OPENMINDED, REGARDLESS OF HIS POSITION) This is much different from what I hear from you. I do think that I have heard JDURF say some kind things in the past, not to my argumentation, but to many Christian person's intellects.

So, do you ever hear me talk about naturalists in the way you describe Christians, as though they're stupid, under-evolved persons LIVING IN THE DARK AGES OF THE UNENLIGHTENMENT. You talk about openmindedness, but say openmindedness to Christianity is 'gullible.' You are the very height of insulting to Christians. And, you then have the audacity to call me insulting. Oh, poor Chase, he's just a credulous, backwoods person who just needs a crutch in life. He can't think for himself.

It's this attitude that makes me attack your arrogance(by attacking your arguments, not your person). You need to be shown that Christians have reasons for what they believe and why. You don't know what your talking about when you talk about Christianity. I don't care if you studied Hebrew, if you didn't study long enough to know that the Bible doesn't say "You shall not kill." And, if you did already know this, then your were being very deceptive and dishonest in your argumentation. I gave you the benefit of the doubt and assumed that you didn't read Hebrew. Sorry.

So, who is insulting. Again, I think you are probably very intelligent, but I also think your statements about the Bible have been made out of an ignorance of what the text of the Bible actually says. If you find that insulting, then I guess all that's allowed here are pats on the back from fellow atheists concerning how smart all other atheists are for rejecting what gullible Christians believe.

I will quit posting since all that are allowed here are atheists and other Christians who fit your caricatures of credulity.

Chase Vaughn said...

I use "ignorant" as meaning: unaware or uninformed.

This is not an attack on the intellengence of others, only the ignorance of others.

Stardust said...

Chase~ It is still insulting to assume things about someone you don't even THAT is ignorant.

Stardust said...

JD...sorry, I took the "flame bait" again. :-S I see every atheist blog has its christian trolls. We must have so many iteresting and better things to say than christians! ;-)

Rusko Elvenwood said...

Well, you tried to get off the topic of religion...

My view on gun control is much in line with the other humanists that have commented. I personally enjoy target practice as a sport. I don't own any guns. (I certainly don't think anyone was commanded by god to own one. The same biblical logic could be used to say that god commands me to own a nuclear weapon!) I do agree that a certain amount of control should be enforced to include waiting periods, registration, and not allowing convicted felons the right.

JDHURF said...

American citizenry surely would have no chance in facing the federal military; I also do not find such a scenario to be very plausible.

I agree, it’s like banning “elicit” drugs it doesn’t curb the problem it may even enflame the entire situation making it far worse.

“You know what muggers fear most? That their victims might have a gun. Keep that in mind.”

Exactly, one of the positions that the atheist gun owner was taking and others had the nerve to argue against that with emotional calumny. I agree with you I would also like it if there just were no guns, that would be ideal, but as you say the guns are already out of the bag.

No need to apologize, some theists are good at dodging questions, leading people into convoluted tangents and provoking one to respond with a heightened emotional response. I have actually ceased reading his posts, I just scroll past them.

Right, there has to be a certain level of gun control. You cannot just sell a gun to any person that happens to want to buy one, there must be some form of security check at least. I also do not believe that it is commanded to own a gun!! Lol!!
Well, obviously even when one tries to exclude religion from the discussion it intrudes anyway…..

Thank you all for stopping by and commenting, it is appreciated.

Jeffrey Stingerstein said...

topic being debated in atheist circles. Here is my two cents on the issue:

John Billings said...

Fellow Freethinkers,
Despite all the complex questions of gun safety, background checks, etc, the root issue is really simple. We have a natural right to self-defence. Putting it another way: if we cannot defend ourselves against criminals, who will?

JDHURF said...

Wow, it sure has been quite some time since I’ve returned to this old post and my views have surely changed considerably in general and in some specific instances on this particular topic.

I do believe in various forms of gun control. It just seems trivially obvious to me that no one has a real need to own an SKS or an anti-air craft rifle (such as are legal in many states regarding the former and which is legal in Texas regarding the latter).

It’s not a coincidence that the United States is alone among Western nations with the pervasive ownership of all various sorts of high tech weaponry (such as the high powered assault rifles and heavier machinery cited above) and gun related deaths and homicides.

I do still believe that there can be found good reasons for allowing people to own guns (the disarmament of the unions in Chile preceded the mass slaughter of union members by the fascist uprising during the coup which saw to the death of Allende), but, again, anti-air craft weaponry doesn’t seem to fit in here, surely some gun control is good.