Sam Harris has written his response to angry fans with an FAQ. Aside from the corrections he makes to the way-too-prevalent misinformation on violence and weapons in culture his basic point is allowing guns. He does emphasize the importance of self defense training but his primary point is the gun is the great equalizer. It allows people of all shapes and sizes to defend themselves.
It’s an odd truth historically that the six-shooter civilized the west as the “great equalizer.” In an era of predation enabling a weak and previously unarmed person to be able to respond to a thug was advantageous. However, the gunslinger soon had the upper hand on the farmer and town person with a gun in the drawer or on the wall. Soon guns were used too quickly and towns outlawed their presence. Presumably, two things have occurred since then: one, there is a renewed or growing need for people to protect themselves from others with guns, and two, a gun is the best way to handle it.
I don’t agree with either. The world is safer than ever before and the penchant for waving weapons about is disguising that fact. And two, education, training, and public morality are the best means of preventing social and familial violence on all levels.
This has little to do with gun law but rather how we continue to lower violence in our society while maintaining necessary vigilance and training to be able to fight a war with civilians, should it come down to that. I think of Sparta a city that trained and gave all of its energy to the military. Sparta became a formidable foe against the Greeks who did not evolve into a military culture.
The arguent is skewed. We’re discussing the wrong issue. It’s like getting sidetracked in gay arguments by trying to prove whether one is naturally or genetically gay, or not. It doesn’t matter. The same with the existence of weapons. Here, it’s even more strange as there is a use for self defense knowledge and there are desires for weapons aside from hunting and self defense. If I say it’s fun it makes me sound like some sort of gun loving monster but we have to allow latitude for freedom to own things that are dangerous and not necessarily useful as others see it. Society rotates through materials and ideas like a fashion show; one person’s love of Facebook is another’s hatred and certainty that its the doom of civilization.
The argument on whether guns are safe, violence in the media contributes to violence, and whether desensitization contributes to gun-based violence are all great questions that aren’t easily answered. Liberals and conservatives have hashed the stat’s for years now with no clear and obvious results. Sam notes the higher rates of assault in Sweden as compared to greater homicide in the US and then asks is a murder equal to many assaults? And then says it is impossible to answer. But insurance companies do every day. A death is worth so much and a lost arm is worth so much. Actuaries determine in practice the value of a life versus a body part. It may be no consolation to the survivor but a death is not worth an infinite amount while an arm has finite value. Frankly, a baseball pitcher may rather give his life than his arm or surely think closely over that dilemma. An insurance specialist knows. A team captain or coach has to decide whether an injured player should risk losing his knee for season, or life, and whether that player should finish a game where winning pays big.
My point is that gun purchases aren’t the issue to continue to lower violence in the US. I think Sam and others are OK with testing, certification, and other means of regulating gun purchase in the same way we regulate many other dangerous items; his argument strays from the classic NRA argument that education should not be a gun ownership requirement. As a farmer I get scanned when I buy ammonia because it can be used for making methamphetamine or explosives. I can’t buy dynamite without a permit. I can’t buy medical anesthetics like lidocaine without a prescription. I even have to get a Vet to approve of antibiotics for my horses.
As someone who has spent time in weird and difficult situations my attention is best spent on psychologically dealing with another person and not waving a weapon about. A fool thinks they are invincible. Defense and offense are both about the mind and not the weapon. Let’s work on the mind!
My antiviolence goals are manifold and have less to do with permission than knowledge and training: To educate people in defense and self defense. To educate people in peacemaking skills. To educate people in conflict avoidance and conflict resolution. To educate people in involvement and social care. To educate people in mental illness to help people evaluate themselves. To provide better psychological care and mental health in all people over all personal health issues.
I would rather do this than end up with idiotic court cases where a BIC pen is defined as a dangerous weapon so weapon laws can be used for prosecution–a BIC pen was used to kill by inserting through the ear and the lawyer seeking harsher judgement asserted the BIC pen to be a dangerous weapon. As a military man said, to a trained or imaginative person a pen is a dangerous weapon. I would not make religion illegal either but daily fight and educate on its proper and improper use.
I also see no reason why areas shouldn’t be gun free. The UN counsul was no place for a Palestinian to wave his pistol about claiming he wasn’t safe anywhere, as a political move, yet, why arrest him? Conversely, a newsman showing off an ammunition clip on TV to make a point is not the situation DC gun laws are trying to ameliorate. It is sad when justice becomes legalistic, bureaucratic, and officious, unable to evaluate jurisprudence and situational morality.
Jim Newman, bright and well