Built on Facts

A primer on federal gun law

As ScienceBlogs’ resident firearms enthusiast (I might own more guns than the rest of the SB writers combined – and I don’t own very many), I’ve occasionally written about gun rights and related issues. One of the things I’ve noticed is that a lot of people aren’t very familiar with what gun laws actually are in the US. Here I’m going to take you on a tour of what’s legal and what isn’t in the US. I’ll try to do so in a mostly neutral way, but for full disclosure I’d generally want to change the law in two directions – fewer restrictions on use, greater penalties for misuse. When my personal opinion creeps in, I’m going to try to set it apart from the main text. The point of this guide is to focus on is rather than ought, and to serve as a handy reference for when I write about the topic in the future.

First, each state may set its own firearms laws. All US citizens regardless of state must follow federal gun law. Most states do not set restrictions on purchase or ownership which are more restrictive than the federal government standard. Others – California, Illinois, New York, some New England states, etc – have their own significantly more stringent requirements. But these are the exception. For most states, if you’re in compliance with federal law you’re in compliance with the laws of that state. Here I won’t be treating laws regarding carry, as those are almost entirely a state-by-state issue. Federal law is primarily concerned with ownership and purchase.

Let’s take our tour law-by-law:

National Firearms Act: Established in 1934, it’s the oldest of the major federal firearms laws. This regulates machine guns, sawed-off (or short-barreled) rifles and shotguns, suppressors, and “any other weapon” where the last includes pretty much anything other than “normal” guns – things like fake lipstick with a .22 round in it, that sort of thing.

You can own anything regulated by the NFA by going through a particular process. You must pass a stringent background check, obtain law enforcement signatures, register with the ATF, and pay for a $200 per item tax stamp.

We need to pause for a moment and define “machine gun”. So far as the law is concerned, a machine gun is any firearm that can fire more than one shot with one trigger pull. Legally the term includes any weapon that can easily be modified to do so, and it includes the parts used to make a regular weapon fire more than one shot per trigger pull. If you even have a broken double-barrel shotgun that fires both barrels with one trigger pull, you had better get it fixed because it’s a machine gun.

Now this is important: everything in the NFA can still be manufactured for sale or even home-built so long as you follow the process. The exception is machine guns. In 1986, an amendment to another law closed the NFA registry for machine guns. There are no legal machine guns in private hands in the US manufactured after 1986. This results in increasing demand for fixed supply – the cheapest NFA machine guns are in the vicinity of $10,000 simply because there are no new ones on the market.

Crime with legally owned NFA weapons is effectively nonexistent. This was true even before 1986 when machine guns were nearly the same price as regular guns. If you hear of a criminal using a machine gun, it’s either smuggled, converted, or sloppy reporting. Even with illegally owned machine guns such crime was and is uncommon. Movies notwithstanding, a small pistol is much more practical for the average criminal than a machine gun, if the statistics are any indication.

Gun Control Act: Passed in 1968, it created a federal standard for the purchase of firearms. You must be 18 to purchase a rifle or shotgun. You must be 21 to purchase or possess a handgun. You can’t purchase or possess a firearm if you fall into any of several prohibited categories of person including convicted felon, adjudicated mentally incompetent, fugitive, etc. The act prohibits most interstate sales, and the importation of “non-sporting” firearms from overseas. It sets the restrictions, regulations, and licensing requirements that gun dealers must follow.

Private sales between persons not otherwise prohibited are perfectly legal, no paperwork or record keeping required. However, it is very illegal to deliberately sell a firearm to a prohibited person. It is very illegal to buy guns for the purpose of resale.

The “gun show loophole” is sometimes discussed in this context. Long story short, it doesn’t exist. At gun shows, firearms dealers must comply with every record-keeping and background check they have to do at their own stores. Private sales between individuals don’t – just as they don’t have to anywhere else. It’s sort of a moot point anyway; the dominant sources of criminal guns are straw purchases made at a licensed dealer, and theft.

Firearm Owners Protection Act: 1986. This act primarily consisted of regulatory reforms rather than changes to the intent of the previous laws. In practice the main changes to the law include allowing transport of legally owned guns through more restrictive states so long as they are unloaded and inaccessible, allowing ammunition to be transported by post, and prohibiting the federal government from keeping a registry of non-NFA weapons. [Brief polemic break: registries do almost nothing to prevent crime. Ask a Chicagoan or a Californian.] An amendment to this act is what closed the NFA machine gun registry.

Now there is a sort of de facto partial registry. The gun store that sells you a gun must keep the ATF form 4473 you fill out and make it available for inspection or investigation by duly authorized law enforcement. If the store goes out of business, the forms are sent to an ATF storage facility. Thus there is a permanent federal record, albeit one that does not track the secondary market of private sales.

Brady Handgun Act: Passed in 1993, it did very little despite the sound and fury on both sides. Effectively it required a 5-day waiting period for handgun purchases and altered background check requirements. Over time most of its provisions expired, were struck down, or became obsolete with the creation of the NICS background check system. This system is what you’ll encounter if you decide to buy a gun today. You’d go to the store, say “I’d like to buy that gun”, pay the money, fill out an ATF form 4473, hand over your driver’s license, and wait for the store to use the NICS system to carry out your background check. If it shows you have a clean record, you walk out of the store with your new gun.

Federal Assault Weapons Ban: A small part of one of the largest omnibus crime bills ever created, this 1994 act banned the sale of new assault weapons. What’s an assault weapon? Not a machine gun. You’ll recall that machine guns have been heavily regulated since the 30s, and the sale of new machine guns outright banned since 1986. An assault weapon is defined as any rifle with two or more of the following: folding or telescoping stock, pistol grip, bayonet mount, flash suppressor, or grenade launcher. Slightly different but very similar restrictions were placed on pistols and shotguns.

“Hold on,” you might be thinking, “grenade launchers? Those were legal?” Sure. The actual grenades (defined as pretty much anything with more than 0.25 ounces of explosive) are already covered under the NFA as one of those “any other weapon” weapons. “Grenade launchers” are just tubes, which were and are used for things like signal flares or fireworks. The other items on the list are cosmetic. At worst a telescoping stock makes a rifle slightly more portable but then again a simple pistol accomplishes that goal more effectively.

Weapons such as the AK-47 and AR-15 were banned by name, excepting the ones legally owned before the law took effect. These were of course already semi-automatic only; machine guns were as noted already covered by the NFA. [Brief polemic break: It’s worth noting that the common idea of the AK and AR as “high-powered” is quite misleading. Your average deer rifle round is much more powerful. The AK and AR fire fairly anemic rounds by rifle standards since portability of ammunition is a vital concern in the military. A platoon is much more effective maintaining lots of suppressing fire with small rounds than it is taking single potshots with large rounds. Which isn’t to say the AR and AK aren’t very effective weapons. They clearly are.]

The law also banned the sale of new regular capacity magazines, and required that new magazines hold 10 or fewer rounds. [Brief polemic break: magazines and clips are two different things. Unless you’re shooting an old M1 Garand, the thing that holds the bullets is almost certainly a magazine. Also, normal magazines with more than 10 rounds were generally referred to by the law and in the press as high-capacity magazines. This coinage is inaccurate – there are high-capacity magazines and they’re something different.]

The assault weapons ban expired in 2004. Crime rates remained wholly unaffected.

And that’s the major US weapons laws. I have striven for accuracy, but of course you should check for yourself before doing anything involving these laws. Also check your state and local ordinances. Memorize and follow the four rules every time, without exception.

Comments

  1. #1 andy.s
    March 7, 2009

    I’ve found that the distinction between full-auto (i.e., machine gun) and semi-auto (one trigger pull, one shot, like in ‘assault weapons’) is completely lost on the average person.

  2. #2 bigjohn756
    March 7, 2009

    Andy.s — You are right and that is because of propaganda promulgated by the prejudiced liberal news media as influenced by the several anti-gun groups who are deliberately ignorant of the existing laws.

    I purchased a handgun yesterday. The purchase took maybe 15 minutes. There was no separate background check because I presented my concealed handgun license(CHL). This license indicates that I have already been subjected to a background check in the recent past.

    In a few months I must take a comprehensive class to renew my CHL. As far as I know, some states will grant a CHL with little more than a background check. Here, in Texas, an applicant must display a knowledge of the gun laws and demonstrate the ability to fire their weapon safely and somewhat accurately, thus the class work. (‘Somewhat accurately’ means that one must achieve a certain score in target shooting, but, this score is far from what might be called marksmanship.)

  3. #3 Scott Belyea
    March 7, 2009

    propaganda promulgated by the prejudiced liberal news media as influenced by the several anti-gun groups who are deliberately ignorant of the existing laws.

    Lots of propaganda to go around on both sides, I’d suggest.

    But the more interesting questions to me are the cultural ones, not the questions of rules and regulations. Looking from outside the US, I really wonder wat people will think looking back 50 years from now and trying to understand the “gun culture” in the US. I’ve discussed handguns with a few sensible, well-educated US individuals, and have pretty well concluded that there’s no way they and I will ever come close to a common view. To take perhaps the most obvious example, I cannot imagine living in a society where I felt the need to own a handgun for protection. I simply wouldn’t; I’d move elsewhere.

    It’s a fascinating and baffling topic.

  4. #4 bigjohn756
    March 7, 2009

    Scott — when you find a society where you are safe from all danger from everyone else then let me know and I’ll move there with you. Perhaps this Utopia will not require police to protect you, or, perhaps it will have an omnipresent police force which will protect you at any time on a moments notice in case a resident becomes unstable.
    Why should we wait 50 years to look back? Let’s go back 220 years right now, look forward and marvel at the prescience of the Founding Fathers of the constitutional republic of the United States of America when they wrote the Second Amendment of our Constitution to protect one of our rights. That is, the right of self defense. Perhaps, you are not accorded individual rights where you live. In that case, I would never move there.

  5. #5 The Ethical Atheist
    March 7, 2009

    Scott,

    From inside the USA, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I can’t understand my country’s fascination with guns either, and hope that in fifty years we would be over that fascination.

  6. #6 bigjohn756
    March 7, 2009

    It’s not a fascination with guns; it’s a fascination with individual rights. I hope we never get over protecting individual rights.

  7. #7 Sean
    March 7, 2009

    Let me preface this by saying that I’m trying really hard not to be inflammatory here. I am sincerely interested in hearing a reasonable response from gun supporters, and open to hearing your ideas.

    First of all, I’d like to know how you interpret the “well-regulated militia” part of the 2nd Amendment. I’m sure you’ve heard anti-gun activists bring this up, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the NRA or anyone else address this.

  8. #8 Sean
    March 7, 2009

    Also, not really a question, but an observation on the “self-defense” argument for gun ownership:

    I have lived in big cities my whole life, and have rarely felt unsafe. In those few situations that I have felt unsafe, never have I thought that a gun would make me feel safer. I have known some people who keep guns for protection (including members of my extended family), but none of them have lived in urban areas or an area with any sort of appreciable violent crime. I wonder what makes them feel less safe than I do, and why guns make them feel safer.

    Finally, the only time I have ever seen a person who wasn’t interested in guns generally, but kept one for protection was in commercials for gun stores. What I’m saying is, the people who keep them for protection seem to be people who have a general interest in guns.

    Any thoughts? I’d like to hear your thought process on any of these issues of self-defense.

    Hope I’ve been able to present my contrary views without ruffling too many feathers. I know it’s a sensitive subject.

  9. #9 bigjohn756
    March 7, 2009

    “A well regulated Militia…” is simply an example of why “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The men founding this nation were primarily interested in individual rights. Remember, they had just emerged from the rule of a government which had usurped their rights, even though that government had a Bill of Rights which, strangely, was not applied to the Colonies.

    BTW, Matt, excellent article filled with facts regarding the history of gun laws!

  10. #10 Scott Belyea
    March 7, 2009

    bigjohn756:

    Scott — when you find a society where you are safe from all danger from everyone else then let me know and I’ll move there with you.

    Please don’t put words in my mouth.

    However, somehow I’ve survived 62 years in big cities, small towns, and out in the bush … and never felt the slightest need for a handgun for protection.

    As I implied, I don’t think you have any idea how bizarre the US “gun culture” looks to many in the other western industrilaized countries.

  11. #11 dg
    March 7, 2009

    some people also can’t understand gay couples’ fascination with gay marriage, and hope in 50 years (or sooner) they will be over it.

    the thing is, it’s hard to understand any topic when you are: 1) not very knowledgeable about it and/or 2) making by-the-gut judgments, rather than rational ones

  12. #12 Scott Belyea
    March 7, 2009

    dg:

    the thing is, it’s hard to understand any topic when you are: 1) not very knowledgeable about it and/or 2) making by-the-gut judgments, rather than rational ones

    Assuming that’s aimed at me, it sounds like you’ve fallen into your own trap and made a bunch of assumptions about my knowledge without any justification …

  13. #13 bigjohn756
    March 7, 2009

    Scott — I didn’t put words in your mouth…yuck! I simply made a request. Furthermore, I have survived for decades in many environments with never a need to use my guns for self protection and I am 70. There are, however, millions of guns used every year in the U.S.A for self defense. In most cases, the gun is not fired. Simply the threat of a gun causes most criminals to run away.
    I don’t care how bizarre the U.S. “gun culture” looks to the rest of the world, because, for one reason, an ad populum argument is fallacious and proves nothing.

  14. #14 Matt Springer
    March 7, 2009

    Re: well-regulated militia. Those words had a specific meaning at the time the constitution was framed. I’d suggest The Founders’ Second Amendment by Stephen Halbrook as a good place to start. For that matter the Wikipedia has links to various historical and legal perspectives. Roughly speaking, that clause of the 2nd amendment is (in my opinion) most plausibly interpreted as “Because a properly functioning armed citizenry is necessary for the security of a free state…”

    For people curious about the need to keep guns for personal defense, I’d have to say I think of it like I think of fire insurance. I’ll very probably never need it. I don’t expect to, and I certainly hope I never do. But if I do ever need it, I’ll really need it. I should also say that personal defense is not the whole issue either – it’s simply a lot of fun to shoot.

    “Finally, the only time I have ever seen a person who wasn’t interested in guns generally, but kept one for protection was in commercials for gun stores. What I’m saying is, the people who keep them for protection seem to be people who have a general interest in guns.”

    You might be looking at an unrepresentative sample. Pretty much every time I’m at the gun store I see little old ladies and young women and other not stereotypically “gun nut” demographics asking about or buying a gun strictly for the purpose of self-protection.

    As far as US gun culture looking odd to Europe, well, I don’t really care. The US and European right to criticize our leaders looks pretty odd most everywhere else too, but I don’t think we should pitch out that right either.

  15. #15 Sean
    March 7, 2009

    “You might be looking at an unrepresentative sample. Pretty much every time I’m at the gun store I see little old ladies and young women and other not stereotypically “gun nut” demographics asking about or buying a gun strictly for the purpose of self-protection.”

    Interesting. I’m sure I haven’t seen a representative sample. I wonder what kind of numbers there are for the “protection only” crowd.

    For me, I think having a gun, assuming that I learned how to use, store, and carry it safely, would make me feel less safe. First, if I were being robbed or something, I can imagine that pulling out my own gun would spark violence, rather than calming it, putting me in worse danger.

    The other part is a psychological thing. I don’t want to live in a world where I have to be perpetually afraid, and owning a gun for self-defense (to me) would be accepting that I have to be afraid in this way.

    Sure, we don’t have to worry about how Europe looks at our gun culture. But what we do have to worry about is why we have so much violence, most of which involves guns. I think both sides can agree that we need to fix this problem, and cooperate to try to find a solution.

  16. #16 Scott Belyea
    March 7, 2009

    I don’t care how bizarre the U.S. “gun culture” looks to the rest of the world

    Fair enough.

    Enjoy … I don’t envy you.

  17. #17 Matt Springer
    March 7, 2009

    Well, if you were robbed there’s nothing in the world that says you have to use a weapon even if you have one. Plenty of armed people have made the judgment that they’re safer complying in the particular situation in which they find themselves. But at least the option is available should worse come to worst. Statistically speaking resistance with force is safer than compliance when your life is at stake.

    I should also say that you should not pull out your gun unless you’ve already made the decision to shoot. According to the law, if your life is not already in the imminent danger than allows you to use deadly force, you’re not allowed to have the weapon out in the first place.

    I think fear as a motivation is fairly uncommon. I never felt afraid before I owned guns, and that didn’t change after I got my first. To use the fire analogy again, the fact that I have a fire extinguisher under my sink doesn’t mean I live in fear of a kitchen fire. It just means I can deal with one should it happen.

    As for the rates of gun violence in the US, it is certainly pretty high. But it’s also true that if you completely removed every gun homicide from the US statistics, the homicide rate would still be higher than most western European states. You’re certainly right that this is a serious problem. I think there’s systemic cultural issues involved, and gun violence is largely a result rather than a cause. Cross-border studies between nearly identical neighboring border towns in the US and Canada tend to bear this out. Despite very different gun laws and gun ownership rates, crime rates tend to be almost identical.

  18. #18 speedwell
    March 7, 2009

    My 83-year-old grandmother lives in Los Angeles, and has a simple revolver in her home for personal protection. It’s illegal, too, because it is unregistered and nobody else knows she has it except my uncle, who cleans it for her once a month or so. She’s sharp as a tack and as capable of using it intelligently as someone thirty years younger. I’m a 40-year-old geek girl living in a large city in Texas (i.e. not a cowboy and not a redneck) and I also keep a pistol for personal protection. I’m an excellent shot, too.

    My apartment complex once tried to request the residents to tell them who had guns and who didn’t, for “liability reasons.” They evidently hadn’t thought about the liability issues involved in having that information available to anyone who might have a key to the apartments and gun theft on their minds, or the costs involved if they were to evict a gun owner and then get sued for it. They also hadn’t informed the night guard, who is a nice, intelligent, levelheaded fellow. I discussed the issue with him, he discussed the issue with management… no more gun survey.

  19. #19 Blind Squirrel FCD
    March 7, 2009
    There are, however, millions of guns used every year in the U.S.A for self defense. In most cases, the gun is not fired. Simply the threat of a gun causes most criminals to run away.

    I’m calling bullshit on that tired old saw.

  20. #20 speedwell
    March 7, 2009

    “I’m calling bullshit on that tired old saw.”

    And without a shred of evidence or argument to defend your position, too. Truly impressive.

  21. #21 Sean
    March 7, 2009

    Neither side presented any evidence.

    I always thought calling bullshit means “show me the evidence.”

  22. #22 Mac
    March 7, 2009

    Matt,
    Thank you for an informative and entertaining post! I was fearing the worst when it came to the comment section, but people are being remarkably well-behaved towards one another :) especially given each side’s passion toward the topic.
    Mac

  23. #23 Blind Squirrel FCD
    March 7, 2009

    Sean: exactly.

    bigjohn756 needs to provide some, and that might be difficult. For you see, after pulling out their gun and watching the (presumably unarmed) criminals scurry away before them as cockroaches before a strong light, those millions of solid citizens seem to neglect to file a police report about the incident. Must be too routine to bother with.

  24. #24 Uncle Al
    March 7, 2009

    Assault is a behavior not a device. If government fears honest citizens owning guns at their own expense, then it should. What part of “shall not be infringed” is ambiguous?

    Visit Wal-Mart, Big 5, etc. Surf the Web looking for Federal, Remington, and Winchester 12 ga. shotshells 00, 0, 1 and 4 Buck. $0.80/shell is a good price, more than about $1.10/shell is gouging. There has been an ammo drought throughout America since late November 2008. Manufacturers are running flat out and cannot fill requests. Shotguns turn mobs. People know what is coming.

    http://www.natchezss.com/
    http://www.ableammo.com/
    monthly specials, decent inventories.

    Military surplus shotshells have no shot cup and no shot buffer. Never buy foreign manufacturers if your life depends on the outcome. Extended magazines filled to capacity tend to split shotshells left in them over time. Cleaning out grex or Mix 47 is a mess.

    All firearms carry a sincere warning: you are responsible for the fate of every projectile you launch, including misses and shoot-throughs, and people so irremediably stupid they pick up a weapon and do not immediately verify it is unloaded – chamber and magazine. Do not put your finger in the trigger housing unless you plan to kill something.

  25. #25 Anonymous Physicist type
    March 7, 2009

    I’ve got a M91/30 Mosin-Nagant. These are bolt action and use stripper clips instead of a magazine. It fires 7.62x54r which is a traditional full sized military round. Mine was made in 1943 by the USSR. I’ve never had a rifle that pointed more naturally and was so well balanced and steady. These are fairly cheap, beautiful, and historic rifles, and they are wonderfully suited for hunting. I can’t imagine sporterizing one.

    I feel very sorry for people in places like Britain which do not trust their citizens to own weapons, especially with the ancient tradition of a citizen military armed with the long bow.

    You could do a complete post just on Texas gun laws, including the amazingly complicated laws of the individual counties.

  26. #26 From the other side of the pond
    March 8, 2009

    #25, you don’t need need to feel sorry for us in Britain not carrying guns. We are very happy to have a murder rate which is much, much, much lower than the chronic endemic slaughter of the US. You trust your citizens with guns, but the gallons of blood shed on your streets and in your homes each year show that that trust is misplaced.

    We don’t feel a great need to defend ourselves from each other for two reasons: (1) there isn’t the same widespread fear of all strangers that there is in the US; (2) we don’t have people attacking us with guns.

    It’s not just a matter of trust; the majority of the population doesn’t want guns. And it’s not just because people aren’t used to guns; after the Second World War and when we had national service in the 1950s people were used to handling guns in the armed forces and they didn’t want them at home. Most of us think our country is safer without firearms flooding the place. We might feel differently if we were trying to turn back that flood, but that’s a hypothetical.

    So you can feel sorry for us, but at least we can be confident that our children will come home from their schools and colleges alive.

    We do have a problem with knife crime at the moment, which partly seems to arise from an idea that it’s cool to carry a blade (which just shows someone is keeping bad company), and that in some way it can provide protection (which is demonstrably false).

    Why do Americans like shooting each other so much?

  27. #27 Matt Springer
    March 8, 2009

    A lot of assertions there, by British friend!

    The main thing to note is that your gun control laws have not been in place for very many decades – but your crime rate has always been much lower than the US even when any British citizen could own pretty much whatever they wanted. As I argued above, the problem is probably one of culture. Take a look at the cross-border Canadian study I mentioned, and my comment about the non-firearm homicide rate.

    I don’t want to see an ad hominem like that last sentence again. It’s certainly not true. Heck, it’s not even true that all Brits feel the way you do. At least a few don’t.

    Either way, I have an immense fondness for your country and wish you all the best, guns or not. Sorry for the whole Obama/Brown thing – I have no idea what our president was thinking, and I’m honestly pretty offended.

  28. #28 John
    March 8, 2009

    Here in America there are simply too many guns in the hands of irresponsible Dirty Harry and Dirty Harriet wannabes.
    I don’t know what we can do to change this, but something has to be done soon.

  29. #29 zeister
    March 8, 2009

    A Canadian View
    Urbanites often forget that North American gun culture is rooted in English common law prior to the American Revolution. Firearms are a part of our common history. Furthermore, firearms includes hunting, trapping, sport shooting (target, skeet & trap) as well as collecting. We do not engineer society to suit criminals but our laws should protect an historic minority culture, the rights of the individual and private property rights. Bans ignore both history and rights. Ban calls by politicians have successfully manipulated the ignorant and the fearful in the quest for political power. The science is with the pro-firearms lobby while rhetoric and false science are the demesne of the anti-gun lobby.

  30. #30 Frankium
    March 9, 2009

    Sitting in Norway, where the amount of guns (apart from sport/hunting) owned by civilians is very low, this is a truly strange debate.
    People will always disagree, have conflicts, be driven by whatever reasons to commit acts on the wrong side of the law. Why adding guns to the mix is a good idea I cannot understand.
    If every homeowner has a gun, will that be the end of burglary?

    Anonymous Physicist type wrote:
    “I feel very sorry for people in places like Britain which do not trust their citizens to own weapons, especially with the ancient tradition of a citizen military armed with the long bow.”

    Would you say that people in the US trust each other more when they are armed?
    Is it possible that people in Britain live in a society where trust is so abundant that there is no need for a private citizen to be armed?

  31. #31 Donalbain
    March 9, 2009

    It’s not a fascination with guns; it’s a fascination with individual rights. I hope we never get over protecting individual rights.

    Nonsense. It is about guns. Nobody is in favour of all possible individual rights. For example, there is a large overlap between the people who shout loudest to defend the right to own guns and who do not defend the right to engage in gay sex or gay marriage. Similarly with the right to gamble or to buy sex toys in Texas..

    There is something (I do not know what) in USAian culture that has led to a degree of idealisation of the ownership of guns. Now, whether that is a good thing or a bad thing I leave as an exercise for the reader

  32. #32 Bexley
    March 9, 2009

    “I feel very sorry for people in places like Britain which do not trust their citizens to own weapons, especially with the ancient tradition of a citizen military armed with the long bow.”

    Just thought I’d throw some facts out about how gun control works in the UK. (Though in less detail than Matt’s post about US gun laws.)

    There are more retrictions on what weapons we can own (eg broadly no handguns). However we can still own guns if we have a good reason to own them. So we can own them for sports purposes or because we need them for our job. One of the key differences though is that we aren’t allowed guns for self defence.

    I’m not convinced that some of the posters here realise that the UK does allow its citizens to own guns for sport.

  33. #33 Matt Springer
    March 9, 2009

    #31, True as a statistical matter, but far from universal. There’s no lack of anti-gun Republicans or pro-gun Democrats. For that matter there’s an entire national organization (the Pink Pistols) devoted to gay pro-gun activism. “Armed gays don’t get bashed” is their motto.

    Either way it shouldn’t make a difference. Things don’t suddenly become bad just because someone distasteful advocates them, otherwise one starts to get into “but HITLER was a vegetarian!” territory.

  34. #34 Paul Murray
    March 9, 2009

    This one’s been done to death, if you’ll pardon the expression. Sure, the guns used in crime are illegally owned (stolen). But they were manufactured legally and the initial purchase (which is what keeps the manufacturers going) was legal. The incredible, shocking, unbelivable, astonishing, insane rate of gun crime in the US – which USians regard as normal – is a result of the place being awash with guns. The sheer number of the things is what’s making the difference.

    And the fact that you can buy ammo at Wal*Mart. What’s 9mm ammo for? Hunting? No – 9mm ammo is for killing people. That’s all you can do with it. Kill people. And you can buy it at Wal*Mart.

    Out of curiosity – what do you suppose is the ratio of persons living in the USA to live bullets excluding hunting ammo?

  35. #35 just a note
    March 10, 2009

    Hitler wasn’t a vegetarian. He loved to eat pigeons and sausages. Look it up :)

    Pro-gun Obama voter here. Plan to vote for him again in 2012. Republicans have never said anything that interests me.

    Historically, bosses have used violence and murder to fight organized labor. It’ll happen again if we ever become powerful to scare them again. Can’t hurt to be armed when that time comes.

  36. #36 just a note
    March 10, 2009

    There has been an ammo drought throughout America since late November 2008. Manufacturers are running flat out and cannot fill requests. Shotguns turn mobs. People know what is coming.

    These… are the words of an insane person.

    “People know what is coming.”

    What, you loon. Tell us. Race war? Black helicopters? Blacks piloting black helicopters?

  37. #37 Donalbain
    March 10, 2009

    Sorry, but if you read what I said, you would have seen that I said “Now, whether that is a good thing or a bad thing I leave as an exercise for the reader”.

    However, my point remains that the US culture fetishises the gun to a greater extent than other western cultures. This fascination is not linked to the idea of individual rights.

  38. #38 Dave
    March 10, 2009

    A voice from Spain here.

    Here the issue you have with guns there uses to be presented as a portrait of stupidity, in a ‘look how rude and dumb they are so they all feel to own a killing tool to feel safe’ way. And sadly that’s the common point of view, and the one who have almost everyone I have spoken with about this. I guess that’s a sweet thing to think, as it’s supossed to put us upper somehow, as if we were smarter or more civilized or less barbarian. But a couple of times ago a friend of mine died because his father killed him and the rest of the family with an axe, and day after day we have plenty of stabbed people in the news.

    So as far as I can see it, a gun is something that can had been designed to kill, which can be dangerous, but not the only tool that can be used to kill someone else, and nobody is talking about laws to keep control of hammers and knives and sticks.

    Frankium, above, said ‘If every homeowner has a gun, will that be the end of burglary?’ The answer is obvious, but it’s also obvious that it’s the same answer to ‘if no homeowner has a gun, will that be the end of burglary?’

  39. #39 Matt
    March 10, 2009

    Agreeing with the man from spain.

    banning guns won’t do any good because people will always find another weapon, be it knives or something else. You can’t stop it.

  40. #40 Matt Springer
    March 10, 2009

    “That’s all you can do with it. Kill people. And you can buy it at Wal*Mart. Out of curiosity – what do you suppose is the ratio of persons living in the USA to live bullets excluding hunting ammo?”

    Ok that’s just silly. I’ve fired hundreds of rounds of 9mm and thousands of rounds of .40 S&W and have never killed, injured, or even sent rounds in the direction of another human being. There are sporting purposes for pistols all over the place, there protection from animals in rural areas, and there’s the simple fact that it’s tremendously fun to learn to shoot well.

    Regardless I reject the idea that an instrument somehow radiates some immoral telos because of its design. If someone attacks you with deadly force, then you have the moral right and practical necessity to have an instrument capable of decisively ending that aggression with maximum speed. A gun can do that. Nothing else can.

    To answer your rhetorical question (because it really is an interesting one), I’d estimate somewhere between 1:20 and 1:100. Civilian ammunition production in the US is around 7 billion rounds a year. Using the DOJ’s stats, that means about 1 bullet in a million are used in homicides.

  41. #41 Groo the Wanderer
    March 10, 2009

    Interesting primer Matt. Just a couple of observations though…Regarding the assault weapon ban, you forgot the high cap. detachable magazine as being one of the features included in the definition. Also regarding the definition of High Capacity….the law defined High Capacity as any magazine that would hold in excess of 10 rounds. Since the law defined it, that’s how it is to be applied to that law, so it’s not incorrect. As for personal transfer of firearms, it’s also illegal to transfer a hand gun to someone who lives in another state as you do without going through a licensed dealer. I also liked that you know the difference between a magazine and a clip….that’s also one of my pet peeves.

    Someone asked about the definition of “militia” as it is mentioned in the 2nd ammendment…so let’s look at that.

    Militia has several meanings, but the most commonly agreed upon one deals with private citizens who train for military duty, separate from the regular military but who can be used to supplement the regular military in times of need.

    The Militia Act of 1792 enacted May 2, 1792 held:
    -The president can call the militia to service
    -The militia gets the same pay an allowances as regular US troops while they are activated and they are subject to the same rules and articles of war.
    -Provided for penalties for militia members failing to obey presidential orders to include fines and court martial.
    -Provided that military personnel only sit on courts martial boards.

    Militia Act of 1792 enacted May 8, 1792 held:
    -Established Federal guidelines for militias
    -Required that citizens provide their own weapons only AFTER being enrolled and notified of their acceptance in militia service (Also established guidelines for what type of weapon the member had to provide and the amount of ammo and powder he needed to carry)

    Militia Act of 1903 (Also known as the Dick Act)
    -Created the National Guard Bureau
    -Required organized militia to conform to regular Army organization.
    -Provided for Federal funding and subjected units to Regular Army inspection and standards.

    National Defense Act of 1916
    -Transformed militia from individual state forces into a reserve component of the US Army
    -Made the term “National Guard” mandatory
    -All bona fide units became Federally recognized
    -All qualifications for officers were set by the War Dept.

    So, in the United States, the National Guard currently serves as the nation’s militia. Some states have specific laws prohibiting citizens from establishing, equipping and training “militias” outside the purview of the established National Guard. They remain at the service of each respective state’s governor, but may be called into Federal service by congress in certain times of urgent need.

    There’s a brief overview of “militia”….I’m sure the debate will rage on as to how this satisfies (or doesn’t) the intent and wording of the 2nd ammendment, so let the booing, hissing and gnashing of teeth commence. Cheers—

  42. #42 Frankium
    March 11, 2009

    Matt, #39 said:
    “Agreeing with the man from spain.
    banning guns won’t do any good because people will always find another weapon, be it knives or something else. You can’t stop it.”

    That is nonsense. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that fixing the social problem that is causing someone to commit, lets say a burglary, is not an option, so you might just as well give up, get another lock on your door and stock up on ammunition?
    You are just trying to cure the symptoms. It is like taking painkillers because your leg is torn off; it might help you for a few minutes, but in the long run you are still bleeding to death.

    Also, I am not sure the man from Spain thought his argument through: of course someone can beat you to death with a stick, but why would that justify an “arms race”? What I was getting at with the question about every homeowner being safe with a gun was that by adding guns to the mix it will only ensure that sooner or later the person trying to rob you will also be carrying a gun.

    In any conflict situation you might get into with another human being, if one or both of you have guns the damage done to one of you, both of you, or even worse someone 100 meters away, is so much more severe.
    And lets not get into the dangers of shooting yourself by accident, children playing with guns, the wrong kind of psychiatric patients getting their hands on a gun, etc. All these may be exceptions, but the more guns you pour into a society, the greater the chances that they will occur.

  43. #43 Groo the Wanderer
    March 11, 2009

    Guns do not CAUSE people to kill each other or to commit crimes, they are tools that people use to do these things. Banning guns will not stop people from committing crimes. Society needs to take a firm stance on the criminal and make sure that they are punished for what they do. The penalty doesn’t deter, the surety of getting the penalty does. Overall, more people die each year from drunk driving, yet I don’t see any mad rushes to ban alcohol. Cigarettes have no use other than to cause illness and disease. Why haven’t we banned them? Stupidity causes more injury, death and destruction than most any other single cause, yet I have never seen any laws passed governing “Aggravated dumbass” or even “Simple stupid”. Anyone who wants can find a soapbox to stand on and preach the righteous sermon about whatever they are committed to, but it can all be summed up in one sentence….Human beings are the only animal smart enough to invent the baseball cap and the only animal stupid enough to wear it backwards.

  44. #44 Eofhan
    March 11, 2009

    This is gonna make some folk angry. After serious consideration, I decided the “personal defense” argument is largely a rhetorical device. Don’t get me wrong — I’m absolutely certain that people have rightfully employed guns to defend life. I’m also convinced that the (for lack of a better term) “real” reason most gun-owners want guns is because they enjoy shooting. On the other hand, it’s disingenuous to point to a victim of gun-crime and assume that no crime would have been committed in the absence of a gun. I suppose both positions to result from the exchange of race-to-the-bottom, emotion-saturated media salvos that passes for debate in the U.S. To me, it simplifies to:

    • Group A wants to engage in an activity that they enjoy, and acknowledges that the activity carries risk to themselves and others.
    • Group B doesn’t want to engage in the activity, and therefore sees only gain in eliminating the activity and its consequent risk.

    It’s a straight-forward trade-off of personal-freedom versus public-risk. I really wish we could discuss it in those terms, rather than hurling bodycounts at each other.

    Personally, I’ve long thought the 2nd Amendment to be about military-matters. The Founding Fathers fought a war to establish a government so weak that they, themselves, scrapped it and started over. The Constitution is, at least in part, clearly about limiting the power of government. To me, it only seems reasonable that they were concerned not with personal defense, but with maintaining an adequately-armed populace as yet another check against the new central government. Of course, in that context, Americans should be allowed to own surface-to-air missile systems and anti-tank weapons. Anything less isn’t a credible threat.

  45. #45 L
    March 12, 2009

    Greetings from the decidedly leftist world of WGS academia. (Yes, Matt, I occasionally read your blog due to your selective Luddism when it comes to answering your phone).

    I feel that detractors in this thread chalk “personal protection” up to mere rhetoric and dismiss it without adequately considering the perspective. Discussion gravitates towards defense of property (burglary, mugging), and shifting the debate to the legitimacy of using deadly force to protect property skirts some really important issues.

    I understand the ethical concerns about gun ownership. On many levels, it’s terrifying that we can go to Wal-Mart and buy an object capable of ending human life. That kind of power is frightening and troublesome, and I get that. For those who’ve never felt unsafe, or who have never felt threatened enough to condone gun ownership in light of such pressing philosophical considerations( #3, #8, #10): I sincerely hope that your confidence is justified, and that you prosper all the days of your life, etc. etc.
    But I’d like you to think about the demographics Matt discusses without brushing them off. I’m a single female student in my early 20s, living in a high-crime area. If someone wants to take my purse, or my wallet, or my car … whatever. I’m not willing to get in a shoot-out over it.

    I want to talk about actual self-defense. I live ½ mile away from the site of a double homicide that took place last year. Men broke into the apartment of two grad students on my campus, tied them up, and then executed them.

    Violent crime is a reality.

    Now, I fully appreciate the irony of using the gun to make a feminist point. But firearms are the great equalizer in physical confrontations where the scales would otherwise be completely tipped against me. Before the availability of personal firearms – at any other historical moment – would an average 115 lb female have an equal chance in combat against a 200 lb assailant? Unless you’re Disney’s Mulan, the answer is “no.” So let’s talk about “fear.” Fear is not anxiety that someone might break into your apartment and drive off with your laptop. Fear is leaving work late at night as a shape in the parking lot veers consciously to intersect you before you reach your vehicle. Fear is knowing that you are not faster or stronger, and that even if you were, it will do you no good against someone’s weapon. Fear is the clenching of your gut; the cold sweat breaking over your body when you consider that you might die before anyone hears you scream.

    Words like “self-defense” and “rape” and “murder” lose impact when we toss them around without stopping to consider what they really represent. The rhetoric becomes commonplace, obscuring the brutality of assault. You may not like guns, but we can probably agree that there are worse things. Comments on this thread seem to be predominantly male, and rape and abduction is much less likely for men. But it’s possible. So I’d ask you, for just a moment, to put yourself in my shoes. Imagine yourself of slighter build – no more than 120 pounds. Imagine what you would feel like right before an immanent attack … and during the attack itself – your cheek scraping the concrete, the excruciating pressure of fingers around your neck, the violent crack of a fist against your head, and then the rape itself. Would you want to be powerless in such a situation? Is the thought disturbing? I certainly hope so. Rape – attempted or completed – is a reality for 1 out of every 6 women (statistics from RAINN). #19, you call “bullshit” on the “tired old saw” that the threat of a gun will deter most criminals. If you were in this situation, do you think that your best bet is a gun to threaten your attacker with, or nothing at all? Do you have 6 female friends or relatives? Odds are that it will happen to one of them at some point during her life.

    Yes, it IS offensive to suggest that “self defense” is just a tool to push a pro-gun agenda. For the “little old ladies” and young women that Matt sees at the store, guns are the tool. The agenda is diminishing the threat of violence against themselves, and every woman should have that right. #31, it is not “nonsense” that an individual in a violent world opts to buy insurance – as it were – on her right to protect her person. It’s not even about broad ideals of “individual rights” with me, and it’s certainly not about a “fascination” with guns.

    #41: You’re right – “personal defense” can easily become just a rhetorical device when the entire thread discussion basically ignores half of the U.S. populace. It is NOT a “straight-forward trade-off of personal-freedom versus public-risk” when the public risk is so much greater for women. There’s the “duh” factor that increasing gun laws won’t stop non-law abiding citizens from accessing guns, but the bigger picture is that if you eliminated guns altogether…we’d be right back to that lopsided, unfair fight. You: 120 lbs of panic; and your larger, faster, stronger assailant; alone in an alley, or parking garage, or public park.

    One can’t weigh the implications of the gun debate without acknowledging what guns mean to women – both in the ways in which they’ve been used in crime against women, and how women can use guns against crime.

    The decision to own or carry a gun is highly personal, and certainly complicated. I respect and understand anyone’s decision that guns are not for them, but I’d be damned before anyone tells me that I shouldn’t have that option.

  46. #46 Frankium
    March 12, 2009

    To L, #45:
    You should add to your list of fears the feeling of a gun pressed against the back of ones head.
    What happens when the rapist pulls his gun faster than you?
    Would you say that when every woman carries a gun, that will be the end of rape?
    My bet is no, of course not, it would only mean that in the long run every rapist also carries a gun, and every confrontation is more likely to end with severe injury or death.

  47. #47 L
    March 12, 2009

    What is this, Gotham City? The escalation scenario is far-fetched… rapists prey on those they believe to be vulnerable. Having to bet on whether or not your victim is a quicker draw takes that away. As far as the fear of a gun to the back of the head? Sadly, that’s already the status quo for too many women. Rapists and murderers have guns now. You say that in the long run “every confrontation is more likely to end with severe injury or death.” Again, status quo: every rape already ends with severe injury or death.

    If every rapist and every woman was armed (which is a ludicrous supposition), then the result would still be a fairer fight than previously when the two faced off.

    Would it stop all rape? No.

    Would it stop any rape? Yes – and that’s reason enough for me.

  48. #48 Frankium
    March 12, 2009

    Gotham city indeed:
    When is our armed heroine going to draw her gun? It’s not like the soundtrack of her life is going to change when a rapist/mugger/whatever approaches. She could of course walk around with one hand in her pocket, purse or wherever she keeps her gun, but I really don’t know if it would make her feel any safer to walk around assessing whether to apply deadly force or not on half the people she meets after dark.

    And what if someone tries to attack her, and she kills the person, is that ok in every situation? Life is seldom black and white, perhaps the attack could have been avoided, perhaps the assailant could have been scared off with the use of non lethal force, etc.

    But you are right, it may stop an attack at one point, assuming that there is enough time for a potential victim to correctly interpret the situation, draw his or her weapon, that the assailant does not also draw a weapon and probably a million other factors.
    In the case of rape you should also take into consideration that most rape victims know their attacker (This site suggests 80%: http://www.wcstx.com/friendrp.htm), so it may not add up to levelling the playing field much for most rape victims.

    Of course, these are just speculations on my part, as I have seen no statistics/research done on how arming both sides in a rape-like situation affects the outcome. Do you know if such research is available anywhere? It would be interesting to see if it made any difference.

    But assuming that we only look at the type of crime a handgun may protect you from, would not the smarter solution be to work at the root of the problem; removing whatever reasons people have to commit the various crimes, instead of just arming everyone?

  49. #49 Groo the Wanderer
    March 12, 2009

    So Frankium, you talk a lot about removing the root of the problem. How do you do that? Bioengineer a sexually neutral human race? Give everyone everything they want so they will have no reason to want to steal? What about people who prey on others just because they are assholes and have no real motivation other than they want to? It is fact that your average burglar or rapist or mugger is a basic coward and will not press an attack against an armed victim or even one who looks like they are prepared to defend themselves. No, a gun is not always the answer or an answer for most situations, but it the threat of one is still a viable deterrent. I carry a gun because I can, but I also take the responsibility to be proficient with it and understand its limitations and drawbacks. I also accept the responsibility that if someone attacks me or my family, I will use that gun to protect what needs to be protected. If he draws first, he will have to hit me while I’m moving and then dodge return fire. After all, gun control is hitting what you aim at.

  50. #50 JACK & TRACIE
    March 16, 2009

    GET A LIFE PAUL. DO NOT LOOK FOR HELP FROM ANY GUN OWNING AMERICANS WHEN THE MEXICANS COME KNOCKING ON YOUR DOOR WANTING TO CUT YOUR HEAD OFF OR FOR THAT MATTER MAYBE THE JUST WANT TO RAPE A MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY AND ALL YOU CAN DO IS WATCH NOW WHERE IS THAT DARNED 9MM AMMO YOU FOUND SEEN AT WALMART? THE STUPIDITY OF SOME PEOPLE IS ASTONISHING. WHERE ARE ALL THE PEOPLE GOING TO BE WHEN THEY HAVE TO STAND AND FIGHT FOR WHAT THEY HAVE WORKED FOR ALL THEIR LIFE?!ONE OF THESE DAYS THAT 9MM AMMO MIGHT COME IN HANDY WHEN FOOD SUPPLIES ARE SO DEPLETED THAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE HANE TO HUNT FOR THEIR FOOD-EVER HEARD OF CATTLE OR DEER? GET WITH IT MR.MURRAY AMMO HAS MANY MORE USES OTHER THAN KILLING PEOPLE EVEN THOUGH YOU MAY WISH YOU HAD THAT AMMO ONE OF THESE DAYS TO SAVE YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES LIFE.

  51. #51 Frankium
    March 16, 2009

    Groo the wanderer said in #49:
    “So Frankium, you talk a lot about removing the root of the problem. How do you do that? ”

    If I had the answer to that you would probably be reading this in my Nobel peace price-speech. I am not saying I have all the answers, but as this is Scienceblogs and not the DarkAgesBlogs, we can allow ourselves to step back and look at this kind of problem from a wider perspective instead of digging down in our trenches. And would you not agree that one such perspective would be to assess why people see the need to arm themselves in the first place? Putting aside cases caused by things like mental illness, what do you think could be done to even out the differences that force some people to become criminals? Would not the ideal solution be one that allowed less guns instead of making people buy more guns? Would it not be nice if you did not have to own a gun for protection?

    “What about people who prey on others just because they are assholes and have no real motivation other than they want to?”
    This is a common mistake, known as the fundamental attribution error. In short, we all have a tendency to find reasons for other peoples behaviour in their personality, while ignoring the situation they might be in. You see someone drive past a red light and the person is obviously an idiot, but if you do it yourself it is because you were stressed, had to be somewhere, was distracted etc.

    Again, ignoring things like mental illness and the odd Josef Fritzl out there, most people want to do the right thing. I bet if we could interview a great number of criminals, most of them would want to be legitimate, and did not choose this path by themselves. That sounds naive, but take into consideration that many of these people will perceive their actions as the right actions, just as us normal people when we run a red light, they _had_ to rob the liquor store to feed their kids, their addiction, or some other reason.

    Another thing: a lot of the people posting here seem to be waiting for someone to break down their door at any moment to rape and pillage their familiy and property (post #50 is waiting for the mexicans it seems). Is this a common fear in the US? The idea that someone will come for us all any day now?

  52. #52 Matt Springer
    March 16, 2009

    It doesn’t seem to be, Frankium, in my experience. In any case you can always find oddball creeps in any country. The BNP, National Front, Vlaams Belang, and other European parties manage plenty of paranoia without having guns as an issue.

    In answer to two of your other questions, it would be nice if no one needed a gun for protection, just as it would be nice if politicians were so awesome there was no need to criticize them. But in neither case would that justify removal of the right to do so if you wanted. In a free country, the presumption should be in favor of freedom. So no, I don’t think the ideal solution is one that allows less freedom.

    I do have some suggestions for improvements. One, gang and other organized crime violence could be greatly reduced by reforming drug laws. I’m not talking blanket legalization, but some kind of sensible legal regime for those drugs which are popular but not very dangerous (say, compared to alcohol). Second, stronger penalties for violent crime, especially involving firearms. Commit a violent crime with one, go to prison for a long time – no deals or plea bargains. Third, prison reform. Right now prisons tend to be hellholes of violence and gang activity, training and hardening inmates for more violence after their release. I’m not sure how to best combat this, but there are some success stories out there – Angola in Louisiana is an often-cited example.

  53. #53 Groo the Wanderer
    March 17, 2009

    I agree with Matt, it would be nice to live in a society where you didn’t NEED to own a gun and I will never argue that point. I am a sportsman and I own guns for sporting purposes, including my handguns. I enjoy shooting. Not practicing to kill someone, but sport shooting. Just putting holes in targets. It’s a skill and a pleasurable past time. As for the root problems…I’m sick of looking at how someone wasn’t held enough as a child and using that to justify them shooting up a school or church. That’s bullshit. Your term “fundamental attribution error” is just another example of psychobabble from someone who has never dealt with the cesspool of society first hand before. I have. For many years. There is no such thing as a utopian society. People are responsible for their own actions unless there is a legitimate physical problem. One of the biggest drawbacks in the US society, that almost no other country in the world has is the fact that we have so many cultures trying to co-exist here. We have also created a government funded and supported culture called welfare. A large percentage of our crimes are committed by the unemployed and uneducated. Not because they are disadvantaged, but because they make more money squirting out babies, living on welfare and selling dope than they would working legitimate jobs. This is the group that is responsible for a majority of the crimes in the US. I hate the term politically correct, because that has just caused our society to push for difference instead of unity. What are the answers? Go back about 250 years or so and close our borders. Set strict immigration requirements and strict laws with harsh penalties for violent crimes. Put a mine field across the Mexican border and authorize deadly force. Say no to anyone wanting to come to the US who doesn’t have a job and a sponsor lined up. Make English our official language and require anyone wanting to live here to learn it. (And ebonics is not English by the way).

    In reality, it’s not anything simple that is going to change how our society is right now. Taking guns away from everyone will do nothing other than cause tremendous dissent in our middle class. I also say judge not lest ye be judged, because fault can be found in any country on the planet. There is no perfect answer…yet.

  54. #54 Frankium
    March 19, 2009

    Matt #52:
    Aside from the part about freedom, I agree with you. The US has the highest number of people in prison in the world (Wikipedia suggests 756 pr 100,000 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison#Population_statistics) there is obviously a need for reform.

    About the freedom part, I am not opposed to freedom, on the contrary, I just don’t see the freedom in having to arm myself. This could be something we’ll have to agree to disagree on, but I would feel more freedom in a safer society, and I cannot see how more guns=more safety.

    Groo the wanderer, #53:
    Just because there is no utopia, does not mean there is no reason to change. We will never have 0 casualties caused by traffic accidents, but would you not agree that should be the goal of everyone planning road safety?

    The fact that I have “never dealt with the cesspool of society first hand before” makes me the lucky one, but it does not mean I live in a utopia. It just means I live in a safer country. Scandinavia was largely populated by vikings at one point in time, so change is obviously possible.

    “Make English our official language and require anyone wanting to live here to learn it.” Though not all relevant, it kind of makes me think of this comic: http://xkcd.com/84/.

    “There is no perfect answer…yet.”
    That is where we agree, but we should also add that there will _never_ be a perfect answer. There is not going to be one o-great-solution, I think changes of this magnitude, to a whole society, can only come about through gradual change.
    Although a different discussion, it is similar to the environmental challenges we all face, that (if they are real, lets not get into that discussion) can only be overcome if we make the small changes as individuals, combined with the larger changes through reforms from governments.

  55. #55 Groo the Wanderer
    March 20, 2009

    I agree with you completely Frankium, that there needs to be change. And I will certainly agree that we can agree to disagree. The main point here that I see it is that there are two lines of thought. You think we are saying that we HAVE to arm ourselves to be safe and that we HAVE to arm ourselves to be free. That is not the point. The point is that we have the freedom to own firearms, whether we chose to or not. Not everyone here has guns. Having a gun does not mean we will never be the victim of a crime and not having one doesn’t mean we will be. It’s just the freedom of being able to make the choice. Every country also has its “cesspools”, many people are just fortunate enough not to come in contact with this element of the population and therefore they don’t fully appreciate the danger that is present. I also made the comment about learning English as part of a point that is very relevant. Our society here is getting so fragmented in the name of political correctness that we are losing sight of what our founding fathers were trying to do….Create a unified society with like ideals and morals that is free to govern itself with equal representation and opportunity. We are heading away from that instead of toward it. We are becoming a large continent with many societies and nationalities all trying to maintain their home identity instead of working toward all being Americans. I’m all for change if it is in the right direction. Banning all firearms is a step in the wrong direction for many different reasons.

  56. #56 Braced for Attack
    May 24, 2009

    Every day, when I turn on the news, I hear something about today’s biggest problem…global-warming. I’m wondering if the American gun-ownership opponents here own cars. Perhaps, to prove a point, they should all voluntarily give up that right and sell those deathtraps. Another advantage would be the elimination of a bit of the following risk…many times more people die due to car ‘accidents’ than gun ‘accidents’ every day.

    More food-for-thought is that the world seems to enjoy blaming the internal-combustion-engine, a German invention, on the US for the aforementioned global-warming problem. More reason to give up your car ownership-rights to help the world better respect the USA.

  57. #57 vbolt
    December 7, 2009

    For all of the British who feel sorry for us in america. Go fuck yourself. We sent you the arms you needed in wwII so you woudn’t have to speak german as your principal language. We will send you arms again when the muslems overrun your streets and enforce sharia law against all non believers. As for me I relish owning guns and look forward to pulling the trigger when the need arises. Long live America and to hell with the rest of worthless hummanity.

  58. #58 Harpo
    June 10, 2010

    Great exercise in discussion. My concern is the ever increasing “powers” of America’s Federal Gov’t as well as State Gov’t – depends on which State. The number of contradictory laws on the books has given rise to a selective enforcement attitude – the laws I agree with apply to you but the laws you prefer do not apply to me. Gun laws are the example – Gov’t needs to disband and start over with just the original constitution, bill of rights, federalist papers, etc. etc. up to but not including 1916, when Pres. Wilson overhauled democracy based on his warped vision. Harpo.

  59. #59 .223 ammo dude
    December 2, 2010

    One thing is for sure. If they start putting serial numbers on all of your .223 ammo the price is sure to sky rocket. The government needs to just stay out of this other than supporting the 2nd amendment. I mean it was important enough to the founding fathers to be the second thing on the list of needed additions.

  60. #60 Nate
    December 3, 2010

    But why is everyone targeting Democrats for passing National Gun laws and bans the bans were passed by Republican presidents Nixion 1968 Reagen 1986 Bush sr 1994

  61. #61 Malcom Reynolds
    December 13, 2010

    Thank you for the unbiased report on federal gun laws. It was quite nice and a helpful recap at that.

  62. #62 john
    December 30, 2010

    hey do u know if its legal to buy a handgun at age 18-20private sale by federal law?

  63. #63 Matt Springer
    January 14, 2011

    It is not. You have to be at least 21 to purchase a pistol regardless of the seller.

  64. #64 Winston
    November 26, 2011

    To everyone not a U.S citizen, I own, shoot and love my firearms. Why?? Because I can. I can because the founders of our nation decided that was a natural right and not something that could be taken. If you would like to defend your decision, first lobby your lawmakers to restore that right then maybe “your decision” would be valid. For me it’s not about self defense,the satisfaction of target shooting or wanting to be dirty harry, it’s BECAUSE I CAN! And for every American that thinks all the criminals need are HUGS to change, Visiting hours are from 9 am till 6 pm the first Sat of every month, better yet let’s save them on the streets, I hear there is a hugging booth on Crenshaw, complete with some gang bangers looking to go straight. All the aforementioned socialist please concentrate on your monitor, see the finger yet?

  65. #65 Wow
    November 30, 2011

    “I can because the founders of our nation decided that was a natural right and not something that could be taken.”

    But you aren’t signing up for the wars you’re prosecuting.

    Seems like you want the rights without the responsibilities.

    “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.”

    Go out there and take up the responsibilities for your right to bear arms.

  66. #66 Wow
    November 30, 2011

    Bigjohn, #2. You whine about anti-gun and liberal bias but it has ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on your post.

    Do you HAVE to claim persecution about your metal whang fetish every time it “comes up”?

  67. #67 Wow
    November 30, 2011

    “Scott — when you find a society where you are safe from all danger from everyone else”

    Bigjohn (again). Scott didn’t say he’d need to find a society where he is safe from all danger from everyone else.

    It seems like you’re too scared to consider any danger from anyone else can be solved with anything other than you packing heat.

    Me? I’d like to learn how to handle a gun, but I don’t want to actually own one. Just in the same way I’d like to learn archery or western swordfighting. It would be fun to see how well I’d do.

    But I don’t feel the need to own a longsword or a bow.

  68. #68 Wow
    November 30, 2011

    Matt, you are in the USA (I take it), and you’re into guns and owning them, therefore you hang out with other gun owners who like owning guns.

    This would indicate you are not taking from a representative sample either.

  69. #69 Wow
    November 30, 2011

    “17

    Well, if you were robbed there’s nothing in the world that says you have to use a weapon even if you have one”

    Then why would you have one? A weapon you’re unwilling to use (and a gun is only a weapon, unlike a sheath knife, but like a “combat knife”) is only a danger for you, since there’s one more gun that someone willing to kill can use.

  70. #70 Wow
    November 30, 2011

    “In answer to two of your other questions, it would be nice if no one needed a gun for protection,”

    The UK, France, Germany, Australia, … et al have no need for a gun for protection.

    Iraquis need guns for protection.

    Are you arguing that the USA cannot manage what so many others have, or that they’re like war-torn Iraq with tribal warlords making no-go zones?

    Though Borat was a bloody awful film, one bit deserves looking at (and listening to the commentary on “Beverly Hills cop” shows this again), but in Borat, he walks up to some “gang kids” in a ghetto. Talks to them. Starts off a little uncomfortable, but after a while, they’re all talking like human beings. The commentary for BHC has the plainclothes cop refusing to go with the director to ask the ghetto kids’ mother if he can have permission to use the shot of them for his movie.

    The policeman was afraid.

    The director wasn’t and had no problems.

    The USA has a fear of others. Like Australia mostly, in fact. They deal with it better.

  71. #71 Wow
    November 30, 2011

    “For all of the British who feel sorry for us in america. Go fuck yourself.”

    Would you proffer the same advice to the only one here who felt sorry for another countries’ residents? That was an american feeling sorry for the british.

  72. #72 riley
    March 6, 2012

    Here’s one for you Matt as you seem pretty knowledgeable on US gun laws. I am a retired law biding British citizen.Not a gun nut. I own a holiday home in CA. I travel regularly to the US several times a year on the ESTA 90 day rule. As a hobby I enjoy target shooting with a handgun. I spend a great deal of money when in the US stirring the sluggish American economy. I employ Americans to look after my property while I am not in the US. It seems for a foreign alien like me it is not possible to own a handgun in the US as I do not qualify to do so under current US legislation as far as i am aware of. I do not hold a green card nor do I have US citizenship. Seems a little unfair don’t you think? Is it possible for you to research the situation I find myself in and present a possible way around this apart from the usual citizenship route? Which would allow me to own a handgun in Ca legally? I greatly respect the USA and our American cousins.Seems to me expletive insults posted on this site facile and unnecessary.

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