The big bang

Different sides of the gun debate, this week in Salon's Table Talk community.

Published February 20, 2009 7:29PM (EST)

Issues and News

Does owning a gun make you safer?

Jared2 - 06:14 am Pacific Time - Feb 18, 2009 - #232 of 289

I would not object to someone having a registered shotgun under their bed for "protection," especially in rural areas. I see no need for anyone to carry a handgun. Most people would only be able to hit something with a shotgun.

Oceanus - 07:24 am Pacific Time - Feb 18, 2009 - #233 of 289

Really? No need? So when I carry a handgun while hunting so that on the very rare occasion when a single shot from my rifle does not immediately kill the deer I can dispatch it humanely without the danger of a point blank shot from a high powered rifle, that is not necessary? The man in my neighborhood three weeks ago who shot and killed an armed man who was attempting to carjack him and his wife, his carrying was not necessary?

I agree that more people carry than really, strictly, need to. But as long as they are law abiding citizens who are knowledgeable about the use of firearms and who are carrying legally, what is the problem? I think that this speaks to a different philosophy. You can not see any reason why people need to carry a firearm so you think that they should not be allowed to. I do not think that people should be required to demonstrate need in order to be allowed to. I consider it incumbent on others to demonstrate a positive reason why they should not be allowed to in order to take away their right to carry.

And, by the way, wielding a shotgun for defense is not as easy of a thing as you think. It requires as much skill, perhaps even more, as a handgun and gives you far fewer chances to hit your target.

zollydog - 07:52 am Pacific Time - Feb 18, 2009 - #235 of 289

I tend to fall on the "people should be allowed to own guns unless they're doing something negative with them" bench. Mainly because I can't judge someone else's need (and I believe in respecting other people's cultural traditions) and I understand how impractical gun control can be if it overreaches. 

Jared2 - 08:55 am Pacific Time - Feb 18, 2009 - #240 of 289

Well, what is the solution to the current situation, where every testosterone-crazed 19 year old male has easy access to a handgun which he can then use to kill someone who "disses" his girlfriend, along with any bystanders who get in his way? This is what the "right to bear arms" has degenerated into, when it was clearly intended to be about militias.

Oceanus - 09:06 am Pacific Time - Feb 18, 2009 - #241 of 289

No, every testosterone crazed 19 year old does not have easy legal access to a handgun. You have to be 21 to legally purchase a handgun. If you mean that he can buy one illegally on the street then you are right. But that is a different matter. Banning the legal possession of handguns is not going to stop the illegal trade any more than banning drugs has stopped that illegal trade.

Perhaps the real solution is not to try to ban guns but to try to change the conditions which make people choose to misuse them. The vast, vast majority of gun owners in the US are responsible citizens. If you see someone misusing a tool, is the answer to ban the tool, or to stop them from misusing it?

zollydog - 09:53 am Pacific Time - Feb 18, 2009 - #243 of 289

Eh. You know...I hate to channel the NRA, but that whole people kill people thing is very true. I don't entirely agree that someone who would shoot someone would also knife someone or what have you, but I agree 100% that the issue is with the person's perception and not the particular weapon.

Plus, people advocating for gun control tend to think about gun ownership from their own perspective, and that perspective tends to be one which is in its origins urban and anti-gun. Whereas gun owners in a lot of cases have what they see as legitimate reasons for owning guns.

And finally, though in the aggregate people may do stupid things with weapons, that does not mean that a responsible gun owner and his/her relatives and friends are likely to realize harm from gun ownership.

Nancy Richardson - 11:18 am Pacific Time - Feb 18, 2009 - #244 of 289

There is something really wonderful about people thinking that a gun makes them safe...

or that "responsible" gun owners aren't the ones who get blind drunk and kill a few people.

Nope. That never happens.

Or that small children don't find loaded guns around the trailer and think it would be fun to kill an inconvenient little brother.

And none of this responsible gun ownership talk isn't carrying water for the NRA.

Oceanus - 11:25 am Pacific Time - Feb 18, 2009 - #245 of 289

OK, I am just going to let pass the reference to gun owners being trailer living drunkards.

And let's reverse this argument. You claim that my owning a gun (several in actual fact) does not make me safer at all. I don't know, that might well be true. But does my owning a gun make you (the generic you) any less safe? Does the fact of my having an unloaded shotgun in my closet, which I bring out for skeet shooting and bird hunting, make you any less safe? Statistically I put you in far more danger by driving to work every day than I do by owning guns.

Jared2 - 11:26 am Pacific Time - Feb 18, 2009 - #246 of 289

And if you have a gun under your bed for self defense, then the bullets must be kept in a separate place for safety. Everyone says the gun should be unloaded. Now if someone does break in to your home holding a loaded gun, just how long will you have to find your gun, your bullets and load the gun? Not much of a defense against an intruder who already has a loaded gun pointing at you, is it? But if you keep the gun under your bed loaded, that is the equivalent of having an armed grenade there. Just pull the pin.... If you are that paranoid, you would need a bedroom with thick steel shutters and a steel door. Unless, of course, the intruder has a bazooka.

Oceanus - 11:36 am Pacific Time - Feb 18, 2009 - #247 of 289

Jared, you know, in many ways that scenario is just the flip side of the hero fantasies so many people accuse gun owners of having. It is a paranoid fantasy. You are right, if I happen to be sound asleep and a man breaks into my bedroom and I wake up with a gun pointed at me then I am pretty much screwed and no number of firearms in my house is going to help me.

But, really, what are the chances of that happening? Rather I would expect to be woken up by the sound of someone breaking in with plenty of time to respond to it by setting off my alarm, calling 911 and, lastly, confronting him with a gun should it be absolutely necessary. I would much rather pull back and let the cops deal with the intruder.

And further, you know what, I am not a paranoid nutball who owns guns because I am afraid of the big, bad, mean people breaking in and killing me and my family. And neither are the other gun owners I know (including almost all of my family ... none of whom have ever been injured by a firearm or injured anyone else with a firearm).

zollydog - 11:58 am Pacific Time - Feb 18, 2009 - #250 of 289

I'm still not seeing why exactly I should not own a gun because other people apparently do not know a hawk from a handsaw.

For the record, I have a baseball bat and a cellphone for intruders. Much easier to wield, yaknow. And the last time someone actually did invade my home, those sufficed.

Jared2 - 12:28 pm Pacific Time - Feb 18, 2009 - #255 of 289

I see only two reasons for owning firearms:

1. Hunting. Fine if you really eat what you kill

2. Protection. Which means you are afraid. If you really do need a gun for protection, you must be living in a pretty uncivilized place. I would move.

Oceanus - 12:33 pm Pacific Time - Feb 18, 2009 - #256 of 289

3. Pest/varmit control

4. Shooting sports (pistol, rifle, skeet/trap/clays, etc)

5. Recreational plinking

6. Appreciation for them as objects (i.e. collecting)

7. Because they were in the family and it would be a shame to get rid of your great-grandfather's shotgun (one of mine qualifies as that)

Just because you only see two reasons does not mean that the rest of us are so limited.

dragondawn - 01:07 pm Pacific Time - Feb 18, 2009 - #257 of 289

I just mailed in my paperwork to register a .38 Smith & Wesson pistol in my name; it belonged to my mom who inherited it from her uncle, and I got it when she passed away a few years ago. She and my dad used to take it and my dad's guns (and me) shooting all the time, and she even had a concealed carry permit for awhile. Heck, when I was a little thing (5 or 6), dad specifically showed me where he kept his rifles and the ammunition for them, as well as where he kept his loaded .44 Magnum behind his bed in a holster: it was part of gun safety to know where things were kept as well as how to take care of them. Maybe because I grew up going target shooting with my family I never had a problem with gun fascination since they weren't forbidden or exotic. Plus, my dad hunted and regularly brought back pheasant and other birds during the bird hunting season, so I saw close-up what guns could do to living things and that removed any desire to play with them.

Granted, I grew up in a time and place where that approach to gun ownership and children was much more common than today, but painting all gun owners as irresponsible is, well, irresponsible. More education for everybody about gun safety is the answer, IMO.

Oceanus - 01:20 pm Pacific Time - Feb 18, 2009 - #258 of 289

Exactly, I was raised around guns and hunting. I was taught how to shoot an air rifle as soon as I was old enough to hold it safely. As a result they were never glamorous, mysterious things to play with, they were tools (and you had better not go messing with your daddy's tools!). I am more nervous about the potential to hurt myself with my table saw than with a gun.

I suspect that this is much more common in the South and the Midwest than in much of the rest of the country.

clemencedane - 05:48 pm Pacific Time - Feb 18, 2009 - #262 of 289

I'll just say up front I am for gun control, not gun abolition. I don't see why responsible gun owners would not be in favor of gun control? Gun control means making thorough background checks on people before you sell them a gun to make sure they don't have a criminal past. It also means requiring people to take a safety course (or pass a test perhaps) so they know how to use and store a gun safely. Since neither of those things would apply be a problem for responsible owners, why would it bother you that they would do these things to prevent the wrong people from getting guns?

Lastly, it's always the responsible owners who get involved in the debates and talk about the freedom to own guns and how they do responsible things x, y and z and I never think there's any issue with you. If you are here talking about how you don't go on drunken binges or shoot at shadows in the dark you're not part of the problem. No laws should prevent "people like you" from owning a gun. At all.

I don't know what the "right" laws are, but I know the spirit of them and the purpose of them should be to prevent unstable psychos and irresponsible people from owning guns. I think if responsible gun owners joined us in common cause on that we could work together to figure out how to do that.  

Anglophile - 12:11 pm Pacific Time - Feb 19, 2009 - #280 of 289

The U.S. is a melting pot and that leads to increased tensions across cultures here (i.e. cops shooting unarmed black men in their driveways; gang members murdering cops; gang warfare; etc.) We have a huge criminal subculture thanks to drugs and prostitution being illegal -- there is massive amounts of money to be made in these black markets. Finally, our entertainment culture glorifies and glamorizes violence and fetishizes guns. Throw in easy access to guns and it's no shock that our homicide rates are sky-high.

I don't think, therefore, it's necessarily instructive to compare our gun homicide rates with those of other Western European countries. American culture is a unique animal; there are some commonalities with those countries, but some very distinct differences that add up to why gun violence in this country is so high.

Bear in mind that I generally lean in favor of strongly enforced gun regulations. I support the assault weapon ban; I believe we need to close the gun show loophole, etc. Enforce the laws we have, add new ones judiciously as needed, and then let individual states and/or municipalities decide if there is a need to go further. I don't necessarily think, for instance, that a rural community in Vermont with a very low gun homicide rate would need the kind of tougher and more numerous laws Philadelphia might require (whose gun violence rate and homicide-by-gun rates are appalling).

That being said, I don't believe that banning guns is a solution. First, because guns are an intrinsic part of the American culture anyway, and second, because removing guns would not address the root cause of gun violence.

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