Sam Harris On Guns + My Own Thoughts

Anybody interested in the problem of gun violence and America’s unique relationship to firearms (should be all of us), should take the time to listen to this podcast by Sam Harris. It’s probably the most sane and level-headed analysis I’ve heard on the subject in a media landscape dominated by hyperbolic zealots on either side of the spectrum. It’s one-and-a-half hours well spent.

Let me share, briefly, my own feelings on the subject. To set things straight from the get-go, let’s agree to the following: It is indisputable that America has more guns per capita than any other western civilized country we care to compare ourselves to. It’s also indisputable that we have more gun deaths (total and per capita) than any other advanced¬† nation. It is much easier to get hold of a gun in America than in any other modern, first-world nation. The correlation between the number of guns in our society and the high occurrence of gun violence can hardly be denied. If we cannot agree on these things, don’t bother reading further; you are not a reasonable-minded person.

Still, a few years ago, for whatever reason, I got it into my head that I wanted to own a pistol. The local gun shop in the neighboring town of Monroe informed me that the state of Connecticut requires one to have a gun permit in order to buy a handgun. They kindly offered to provide the training necessary to get the certification. After a six-hour course, including firing a total of twelve shots (the only shots I had ever fired in my life at that point) with a .22-caliber revolver at a shooting range, and passing a 30-question written “test” (open-book, discussion with the other people taking the class allowed, and self-grading of said test), I was given a diploma certifying that I had fulfilled the state-mandated requirements. At the local police station I submitted my application and finger prints for a criminal background check and after about six weeks received notification that I could pick up my pistol permit at the state police facility in Bridgeport. I now had the state’s blessing to own and carry a gun in public.

That very same day I headed off to a gun shop and, on the advice of the store clerk, bought a 9mm Springfield XDM semi-automatic pistol with a total capacity of 19+1 rounds (legislation passed after the Sandy Hook massacre now prohibits me from loading it with more than ten rounds when not on my property, which is rather good news for the 11th person I plan on killing).

Next stop was the shooting range where I had previously “qualified” by shooting a revolver twelve times. The inadequacy of this qualification soon became apparent when I discovered that I didn’t know how to load the magazine of my newly acquired pistol; small wonder as this was the first time I’d ever held a semi-automatic pistol in my hands. Let me repeat this since it’s not insignificant: I was licensed by the state to own and carry any kind of legal firearm, yet I had never operated, and did not know how to load my pistol.

No matter how hard I tried I could only stuff a couple rounds into the magazine before it jammed. I finally sought the help of the range officer on duty, and after he also failed to load up the magazine, he finally discovered the problem: the store clerk had sold me two boxes of .40 caliber ammunition to go with my 9mm pistol.

What I’m trying to say here is that even in Connecticut (and even after Sandy Hook), the requirements to own and carry a pistol, are woefully inadequate. It is absolutely crazy to allow somebody with the training I received to own, buy and carry, openly or concealed (which is the law in CT) any kind of firearm.

I agree with most, if not all, of what Sam Harris said in his podcast, and have become more convinced than ever that what I said in a previous post is true: we need to repeal the second amendment of the US constitution. Or rather, repeal and replace, since I don’t want to ban guns. But the way 2A is worded makes it very difficult to come to any kind of consensus as to what it actually means in practical terms. The gun nuts (the Ted Nugent fan boys) will always point to “the right of the people” and “shall not be infringed”, while the gun grabbers (Bloomberg et al.) will emphasize “a well regulated militia”, and they will both be right. My own vision for a revised 2A might include words to the effect that gun-ownership is indeed an individual right, but not any gun for anybody at any place, and the power to regulate requirements and limitations is given to congress. I believe Sam’s analogy to the requirements to get a pilot’s license is appropriate and sound. I say this knowing full well that any member of Congress who proposes a repeal of the second amendment will have committed political suicide more effectively than declaring an unbelief in Jesus.

 

Gun Legislation Post Sandy Hook

I just spent the last few hours composing and sending the following e-mail to all my local and federal representatives. Governor Malloy got an abridged version since he has a 2,000 character limit on his contact form(!).

Before I post my e-mail I would like to extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to those who lost loved ones on 12-14-12. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and suffering you are experiencing.

Dear [Recipient]

I would like to share with you some of my thoughts on legislation proposed locally here in CT and on the national level.

I’m not a gun nut who is afraid of “government tyranny”; I have my feet firmly planted in reality. I’m just a regular schmoe who happens to own a few guns, enjoys shooting recreationally at a range and keeps a loaded firearm in my house for a worst case scenario. While I do have a concealed carry permit, I choose not to carry a firearm in public. In my 53 years on Earth I have never been so afraid that I thought shooting someone was the only solution, and I’m still willing to take my chances. However, I do have issues with laws that serve no purpose and do no good to solve the violence problem our country faces, and indeed may detract from real solutions.

I don’t find myself to be a strong supporter of the NRA (too many crackpots for my liking), but the disingenuous argumentation and intellectual dishonesty from elements on the anti-side have provoked me to become a member, at least for a year, as a pure gesture of protest. After I did that I donated an equal amount to the ACLU. Let me outline some of the things I would support in terms of better gun legislation, just to start off on a positive note:

  1. I would support requiring training for the purchase of any kind of firearm.
  2. I would support extended training for a concealed carry permit.
  3. I would support 100%, no exceptions, universal background checks for the sale and transfer of firearms.
  4. I would support making it easier for those with serious mental health conditions to have relevant information included in a background check.
  5. I would support stricter laws and punishments for gun-trafficking, straw man purchases and crimes where guns are used.
  6. I would support a stronger effort to enforce the laws already on the books better.
  7. I would support removing Joe Biden as the head of President Obama’s gun task force; the man is a clown and he’s hurting any effort to reach an agreement (seriously).

Here are some of the things I would strongly oppose:

  1. I oppose banning specific types of firearms/accessories/magazine caps, specifically the so-called “assault rifles” and the erroneously named “high-capacity” magazines, which are, in fact, standard capacity. FBI statistics show – and you all know this – that the previous AWB did nothing to reduce gun crime, and that, in fact, gun crime has been on a steady decline for the past several decades, despite a rise in gun-ownership.
  2. I oppose special ammunition taxes, restrictions on how much ammunition you can purchase, and outlawing Internet purchases of ammunition. The vast majority of gun owners are recreational shooters, and making it harder and/or more expensive to get ammunition would simply inconvenience law-abiding citizens and do nothing to discourage criminals.
  3. I oppose requiring gun owners to carry special liability insurance for the simple reason that it seems, to me, intuitively unreasonable to be required to carry insurance in order to exercise a constitutionally protected right.
  4. I oppose a national gun registry. While it may seem innocent and even useful on the surface, it smacks too much of letting Big Brother know what you own and where to confiscate it. Actually, I’m on the fence on this one.
  5. I oppose gun free zones. People intent on mass murder tend to choose the easiest, least protected targets. While it has become something of a cliche to say that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, it just so happens to be true when the bullets start flying. The police can’t be everywhere all the time. While we will never know the outcome of Sandy Hook Elementary had there been a competent armed person on the premises, it seems to me that we can say with some degree of certainty that the victims would have had more than the 0% chance of survival they were afforded.

Finally, I am not a single-issue voter, I consistently vote D across the board and am not threatening to change my vote depending on your actions in this matter. I do however hope you take my thoughts into consideration before you make your decision.

Regards,
Lars Dahl