Guns & Human Nature

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25 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    I’m not for the AWB or just about any of the ideas proposed recently on the gun control side although i’m open to new regs if they looked like they would do some good. If i had to label myself i would say i’m “pro gun control.” Am i in it for control? Any gun control wouldn’t give me any more power over anybody. If its all about control then that sounds a lot like a way of turning a discussion about guns and violence into a personal argument about me. We’ve already to many personal attacks in the gun control debate from people on the pro gun control side. I’m sick of hearing pro gun control people call gun owners sick or crazed or dangerous. I have no less love for being told that because i might be for new gun laws i’m all about control.

    Now if this isn’t a personal attack at pro gun control people as wanting control, then what is left. I guess that would be the gov wanting control. But the gov in this case is responding to citizens who want something. That doesn’t make it right or a good idea, like anything people want, but that is called democracy. People can petition their gov for something, that is definitely not about the eviilll gov coming for control. When i’ve heard this argument made in the past its always, essentially, scare mongering about tyranny and the evvvill gov. It can be phrased politely or hysterically, but it is pretty much the same argument.Report

  2. Stillwater says:

    Nice post. I’m not sure I understand it well enough to agree or disagree, tho.

    You say that you don’t want gun control because it puts “control” (I’ll get back to this in paragraph 2) in the hands of government and that government is comprised of ambitious people. You then say that people elect those politicians. Isn’t this just the definition of representative democracy? So insofar as you see this situation as a problem, isn’t it due to our type of government?

    Second, you say that gun control laws give “control” to the government, rather than the people, i suppose. But what specifically is being controlled here? Are you worried that armed storm troopers are gonna break down doors and shoot dogs in no knock raids? I mean, I get the general sentiment, but how does this loss of “control” play out specifically? (It sounds vaguely like a “defense against tyranny” type argument.)Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

      “Isn’t this just the definition of representative democracy?”

      My reading of that section was that the type of people who seek elected office are likely to be more towards one end of the spectrum than the other, more towards the “people are evil” side because if people are evil, they have greater justification for greater power grabs.

      I don’t think that that is necessarily true of all people in positions of power (elected or otherwise) but definitely see how a great number, perhaps even a majority, are seeking such ends.

      To the rest of the essay, I actually like a lot of what you say here. I do see practical reasons to put certain restrictions on gun ownership and am at least sympathetic to many of these arguments. However, I also don’t think gun control is going to do anything about the other societal issues that contribute to the violence present in our society.Report

    • Second, you say that gun control laws give “control” to the government, rather than the people, i suppose. But what specifically is being controlled here?

      This is pretty close to my question: under what conceivable circumstances does the government have “control” that private citizens with civilian firearms are going to counter? This isn’t 1861; the gulf between civilian and US military armaments is enormously greater than it was then. And despite any 1980s-era fantasies of civilian resistance, a group large enough to do any real damage is going to be a sitting duck for (as an example) high-altitude drone-based sensors and smart munitions.Report

  3. Diablo says:

    Gandhi did not need guns. MLK did not need guns. Cesar Chavez did not need guns. How many guns does a person need to stop the government? They did not stop government at Ruby Ridge or Waco.

    I do not understand how some Americans say the gun stops the government. Voting, protesting, participating stops the government. The press stops the government. A basement full of guns stops nothing.Report

  4. NewDealer says:

    My view of human nature is that people are complicated and messy. We will all do good things and bad things in our lives. Sometimes to the same person. I am not a Calvinist in any form. I despise Calivinism and the doctrine of original sin. I do believe that almost all people are capable of a great range of actions given the right stresses and imputs though. There is more to learn about human nature from psychology and various experiments than economics, religion, or many other fields.

    The issue here is one of liberty. More specifically what does liberty mean. There are very few people in the United States who would say that they are opposed to liberty and freedom. This is what happens when you live in a stable Democratic Republic. I doubt an open skeptic on democracy and voting could get elected. The only people who talk about limiting democracy tend to be a certain breed of precocious high school student and they usually grow out of it once they get a girlfriend. The result is that all political ideologies and parties (left, right, and center, libertarian) claim to be the true representative of liberty. Hence our debates are about what does a free and liberty-filled society entail.

    People on the right seem to think that a welfare state and social safety net are impossible contradictions with freedom and liberty. As a liberal, I do not share this view. Conservatives also seem very concerned about the 2nd Amendment being a protector against tyranny. But not the first, fourth, fifth, sixth Amendments.

    A true utopia would have no need for guns (beyond hunting) because there would be no violence, cause for violence, or need for self-defense. Everyone would have his or her needs and wants met in a Utopia. There would be no want.Report

  5. MaxL says:

    You’ll have to pardon me if I am misreading this. It looks like you are saying that gun control is a matter of self control and responsibility, that you are an optimist our our human nature….except that we can’t govern ourselves responsibly because “people who desire political office usually are driven by the love of power.”

    Used irresponsibly or opportunistically, how are guns not a tool of control and power, too?

    My question is, then, is why is it that our better nature can be put to task when we want to responsibly use a tool of control like a gun to protect ourselves, but our better nature is absent from the job when we want to responsibly use a tool of control like government to protect ourselves?Report

  6. Shazbot3 says:

    I think there are interesting questions about human nature: Are we more altruistic or egoistic? How common is malice?

    But I don’t see how these questions are really relevant to this debate.

    IMO, people are usually kind and good either out of fear of social isolation, derision, and the law or out of natural altruism. But still we have a lot of gun violence (and suicides) due to a mix of all of the following:

    a.) the widespread prevalence and easy access to guns, especially handguns, few of which are easily traced or well-registered or safely stored,
    b.) a near universal human disposition to get incredibly, foolishly angry (or afraid) at least on occasion (and impulsivity leading to suicide attempts) even in ordinary, “good” people
    c.) mental illness of varied kinds that get out of control that are part of the human condition that are often hard to detect before it is too late
    d.) a high rate of drug crime and organized crime caused by a zillion factors

    Factors b, c, and d create a motive for using guns to kill (or kill oneself) and factor a creates the opportunity.

    Lots of other modern, wealthy countries have factors b, c, and d present (b and c are present in all groups of humans) but have lower homicide and suicide rates because of comparatively strict gun control.Report

  7. Major Zed says:

    Several comments above deal with questions of the possibility of government malfeasance and the role (or lack thereof) of guns in protecting liberty (however you define that). I don’t know if this is the right place to bring it up (probably deserves its own OP), or if it has been mentioned elsewhere in the symposium (apologies if redundant), but here goes….

    If you believe Naomi Wolf’s narrative “Fascist America, in 10 easy steps” is realistic, then you might see the plausibility that widespread citizen ownership of guns can provide a defense against step 3, deployment of the “thug caste.”Report

  8. Geoff says:

    What a nice civilized, thoughtful forum discussion. I was beginning to wonder if such a thing existed anymore with bloggers. My compliments go out to the author of this article for setting tone and to all those that responded.

    My concern is primarily about giving up too much freedom and liberty where society can perhaps reach a point of no return. Personally I believe in erring on the side of freedom and liberty as a necessary safe guard to protect our own society from insidiously turning on itself. The safe guards put into place in formation of our republic are by no means perfect but I don’t underestimate the level of thought that went into them which was achieved through extensive debate and eventual compromise.

    The very definition of govern involves control. The question becomes what is the right balance of government control, who decides, and how is it decided? All three questions are highly important.

    Although times change, I am still not convinced that nature of people has fully changed. All historical societies believe they are modern and sophisticated yet history is filled with government atrocities whose violence is unsurpassed when measured against just about any other metric.

    Here are some good refreshers on just how nasty society can become at times and unfortunately often government attempts at control are a significant factor in such outcomes. It helps me build a better perspective when formulating an opinion on level of risk.

    Giving the history of society and it propensity of violence, I think problems created by freedom and liberty, have to be contrasted against the real risks of giving too much of it away and therefore providing an opportunity for organized societal abuse to take root at some point in the future. While there is no clear definitive line to cross, going too far might prove to put us someday on an irreversible path of usurpation of government control requiring every increasing control.

    If changes to our basic freedoms are ever decided, it is very important to me that don’t come about through usurpations of government authority. We need to ensure that our government remains one of the people, by the people, for the people, otherwise we might not be able to conduct such discussions.

    It is also important to me that we continue to respect the notion that our most basic rights don’t come from government (others deciding) but are an intrinsic part of our humanity as individuals.Report

  9. Rufus F. says:

    To show my cards, I’m essentially opposed to enacting further gun control legislation for other, fairly unrelated reasons. So, I don’t exactly disagree.

    But, let me poke a bit at this:
    “I am concerned that gun control is a politically expedient way to grab more power.”

    What sort of power exactly? What I mean by that is- what is it that a citizen can do now, or a government can’t do now that would be changed by putting in further gun control legislation? It seems to me that having a gun as a private citizen gives you no power at all over the government, who can be trusted to cut you to ribbons if you use a gun against them. Because of that, it also seems to me that gun laws wouldn’t really empower a politician in any serious way. They’ve already got the cops and the soldiers, after all.Report

    • aaron david in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I would say that historically, gun control has been passed by governments as they move to gain more control. In other words, it is not the end itself, but one more step on the road to totalitarianism. Also, there are governments that while they technically allow private gun ownership, in practice you are subject to arbitrary tests so access is not equal for all citizens.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to aaron david says:

        Yeah, I know that idea. I’m just asking aren’t most modern governments at the point where they might as well have restricted guns because private citizens with them could no more pose a threat to the state than I could get some people together and conquer Russia?Report

        • Kim in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Yup. Mortars are a far better, and much more easily accessible weapon. At least where I live, which is within easy driving distance of Ohio, where anything is legal so long as you leave the state before sunset.Report

  10. Kasun says:

    article worth reading, and article worth agreeing, i think if government give access to guns to average citizens. crimes and death of people will increase significantly. with a gun you feel so powerful. as you mentioned above everyone is one gun away from being a mass murderer. however speaking of human nature, i think humans are in fact eager to be powerful than one another and obsessed with Evil here is another article which describes about Human Nature.