Gun Control 2.4
December 15, 2017
Gun Control 2.6
December 30, 2017
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The fifth episode of our series on gun control and gun violence  continues our look at the United States. We explore the history of the Second Amendment and some of the common arguments Americans make for why they need guns.

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Theme music: Holy Deep by The Passion HiFi

Show Notes:

  • Of course, Americans often point to the Second Amendment of their Constitution.
  • Which protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
  • Now of course, the first point is that the second amendment was written in 1791.
  • The same year the first semaphore machine was unveiled in Paris, King Louis XVI and the French royal family were caught during an attempt to flee Paris during the French Revolution, Thomas Jefferson believed that “blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstance, are inferior to the whites in the endowment both of body and mind” but that didn’t stop him fucking his personal slaves, and John Fitch granted US patent for his working steamboat.”
  • My point being that it was LONG FUCKING TIME AGO and the world has moved on in many ways.
  • Whenever someone says to me “blah blah founding fathers blah blah second amendment”, my first though is always “why should I give a fuck about something someone though 250 years ago?”
  • And by the way “founding fathers”??
  • That’s some weird shit right there.
  • They were a bunch of tax dodgers who staged a revolution, that’s all.
  • Nobody in Australia EVER tries to win an argument by saying “Well when Arthur Phillip was Governor of the Australian colony in 1788, he thought blah blah.”
  • If you tried that here, we’d throw a can of Fosters at you and your kangaroo.
  • And no-one in England ever refers to the opinions of King George III.
  • Maybe because he was batshit insane, but still.
  • Of course as everyone knows, the second amendment actually says “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.”
  • At the time of the American Revolution, there was no federal standing army, so the states had militias.
  • The armed citizen-soldier carried the responsibility.
  • Service in militia, including providing one’s own ammunition and weapons, was mandatory for all men.
  • When the Revolutionaries started to cause trouble for the British in the late 18th century, the British tried to prevent trouble using a combination of gunpowder embargos and actual disarmament of some colonies.
  • The first battles of the war, The Battles of Lexington and Concord, were around an attempt by the British to disarm the Massachusetts terrorists.
  • After the Revolution, the new American government disbanded its army except for 80 guys and each state was left with a voluntary militia.
  • The government did create a small standing army which grew over time.
  • 700 men in 1784 rising to 5,104 in 1793.
  • So in 1791, when the second amendment was written, militias were still a big part of the defense of the country.
  • States passed some of the first gun control laws about 20 years later, beginning with Kentucky’s law to curb the practice of carrying concealed weapons in 1813.
  • The first attempt to push the individual right argument of the second amendment happened in Kentucky in 1822 – Bliss v. Commonwealth.
  • It was about the right of a guy to carry a concealed sword cane.
  • The court found in favour of the individual right – but it referred to Kentucky’s Constitution, not the big one.
  • It was was overturned by constitutional amendment with Section 26 in Kentucky’s Third Constitution (1850) banning the future carrying of concealed weapons, while still asserting that the bearing of arms in defense of themselves and the state was an individual and collective right in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
  • A couple of years later it was the defense used when a kid pulled out a concealed pistol and killed his brother’s teacher over an accusation regarding eating chestnuts in class.
  • In State v. Buzzard (1842), the Arkansas high court adopted a militia-based, political right, reading of the right to bear arms under state law – but this applied to the Arkansas Constitution that declared, “that the free white men of this State shall have a right to keep and bear arms for their common defense”.
  • The Arkansas high court declared “That the words ‘a well regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free State’, and the words ‘common defense’ clearly show the true intent and meaning of these Constitutions [i.e., Arkansas and U.S.] and prove that it is a political and not an individual right, and, of course, that the State, in her legislative capacity, has the right to regulate and control it: This being the case, then the people, neither individually nor collectively, have the right to keep and bear arms.”
  • After the Civil War, the 14th Amendment was passed in 1868, mostly dealing with the rights of former slaves.
  • The Southern states had an issue with the rights of freed slaves to carry arms and to belong to militia.
  • the 14th Amendment nullified a previous Supreme Court decision in 1857, which had held that Americans descended from African slaves could not be citizens of the United States.
  • In the latter half of the 20th century, there was considerable debate over whether the Second Amendment protected an individual right or a collective right.
  • Does it mean individuals have the right or just states have the right to keep an armed militia?
  • Prior to 2001, every circuit court decision that interpreted the Second Amendment endorsed the “collective right” model.
  • However, beginning with the Fifth Circuit’s opinion United States v. Emerson in 2001, some circuit courts recognized that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms.
  • The Fifth Circuit is the appeals court in Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana.
  • There continues to be a lot of debate about what the second amendment is all about, and we don’t have time to go into it.
  • Suffice to say it isn’t a simple matter, because nobody really knows what a bunch of white rich guys in 1791 really would have thought about what should happen 250 years later when people had access to weapons they couldn’t have even have conceived of.
  • And for people who think the Bill of Rights is a sacred document, what about the PATRIOT Act?
  • was often challenged as a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures.
  • On top of the second amendment, there are a range of reasons Americans give for why gun control won’t work in their country when it’s worked – to some degree, at least to stop mass shootings – in every other similar country.
  • “America has borders”.
  • Australia and the UK are islands.
  • While it’s true guns will come over the border, that doesn’t seem to be a reason to try to reduce the number of guns.
  • We have a TON of shoreline.
  • Earlier this year, a sting operation by Australian federal police stopped a shipment of 5000 guns from entering the country.
  • “Prohibition didn’t work on drugs, why will it work on guns.”
  • It’s a good argument but I think it’s flawed.
  • Drugs are addictive. Guns are not.
  • Restricting access to guns doesn’t stop them from getting into the country.
  • It does make it harder though.
  • Which means there are less guns.
  • And that drives the price of them up.
  • And the complexity of trying to get your hands on a black market weapon.
  • If someone wants one badly enough, they will probably manage it.
  • But the person who just loses their shit in the moment and decides to shoot up a school or a concert or a nightclub might find it harder to get their hands on one.
  • “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
  • You’d think at a country music festival in Nevada, which is an open carry state, there were plenty of people with guns.
  • How did that work out?
  • At least one of the people shot in the recent mass shooting in California I mentioned was actually a woman who was carrying a handgun but says she didn’t have time to use it.
  • How often does a victim use a gun for self-defense in the USA?
  • According to  the Violence Policy Center, there were 1.2 million violent crimes, defined as murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault, in the USA in 2012.
  • They compiled a report titled “Firearm Justifiable Homicides and Non-Fatal Self-Defense Gun Use” based on FBI and Bureau of Justice data.
  • Or, put another way, 1.2 million scenarios in which there was potential for someone to kill in self-defense.
  • In how many of those did someone pull a gun and shoot the other person, dead, in self-defense?
  • Can you guess?
  • 259 times.
  • Out of 1.2 million incidents.
  • Compared with 8,342 murders by gun that year.
  • Match those 259 justifiable homicides with the theft of about 232,000 guns each year, about 172,000 of them during burglaries.
  • That’s a ratio of one justifiable homicide for every 896 guns put in the hands of criminals.
  • Those 259 justifiable homicides also pale compared with, in the same year, 8,342 criminal homicides using guns, 20,666 suicides with guns, and 548 fatal unintentional shootings, according to the FBI’s Supplemental Homicide Report.
  • The ratio for 2012, per the Violence Policy Center, was one justifiable killing for every 32 murders, suicides or accidental deaths (the ratio increases to 38-1 over the five-year period ending in 2012).
  • That’s a heavy price to pay.
  • So what conclusions can we draw from this?
  • The notion that a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun is a romanticized vision of the nature of violent crime.
  • But of course that’s not the only number to look at.
  • How often does the presence of a gun stop a crime — either violent or against property, such as a burglary — from happening.
  • The gun lobby trots out an annual figure of 2.5 million such instances.
  • But an analysis of five years’ worth of stats collected by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey puts the number much, much lower — about 67,740 times a year.
  • Now that still sounds like a lot of crime being stopped by guns.
  • But out of 1.2 million crimes, only 67,000 are being stopped by someone with a gun?
  • That’s about 5% of crimes.
  • Again, according to the 2012 study by the Violence Policy Center, “Intended victims of property crimes engaged in self-protective behavior with a firearm” only 0.1 percent of the times they were targeted by a crook.
  • Another report by The Harvard Injury Control Research Center, also found that “firearms are used far more often to intimidate than in self-defense.”
  • Now we have to ask – if we reduced the number of guns, would that also mean the number of crimes would go down committed with a gun would also go down?
  • That seems to be the case in Australia, the UK and Canada.
  • If someone is robbing you in the street, are your chances of getting killed higher if they have a gun versus a knife?
  • If I’m out with my wife, and a guy approaches me with a knife, I at least figure I can attack him while she runs away.
  • I might get knifed or even killed, but she has a good chance of getting away while I’m struggling with the guy.
  • But if he has a handgun or worse?
  • Listener Karl Liljekvist (LIL-EK-VIST) from Sweden wrote me an email with another common factoid I hear a lot:
  • Most gun friendly states in the U.S. (Red states) dom’t have much gun violence. The major metropolitan areas are predominantly blue and have a lot of gun control and have a LOT of gun violence.
  • I don’t know where he is getting his red v blue numbers from, but they don’t agree with the stats from the CDC.
  • States with more guns tend to have far more gun deaths.
  • And it’s not just one study.
  • According to David Hemenway, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center’s director, “Within the United States, a wide array of empirical evidence indicates that more guns in a community leads to more homicide”.
  • This also ties in to the myth that Guns don’t kill people—people kill people.
  • People with access to more guns tend to kill more people—with guns.
  • States with higher gun ownership rates have higher gun murder rates—as much as 114 percent higher than states with lower gun ownership rates.
  • A recent study looking at 30 years of homicide data found that for every one percent increase in a state’s gun ownership rate, there is a nearly one percent increase in its firearm homicide rate.
  • Gun death rates are generally lower in states with restrictions such as safe-storage requirements or assault-weapons bans.
  • When economist Richard Florida took a look at gun deaths and other social indicators, he found that higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness didn’t correlate with more gun deaths.
  • But he did find one telling correlation: States with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths. (Read more at Florida’s “The Geography of Gun Deaths.”)
  • “But Chicago is more violent than Houston!”
  • In the US gun laws are not uniform between or even within states.
  • Chicago has tight gun laws, but the rest of Illinois does not and neither does Indiana.
  • It was found that many of Chicago’s guns come from surrounding areas in the state or Indiana.
  • Firearms travel from areas with loose gun laws to those with tight laws.
  • To be effective, you need a consistent national approach, like Australia, the UK and Canada.
  • But Government Tyranny!
  • If you’re really worried about the government becoming tyrannical, you’re too late.
  • 1% of the population already control the government and most of the wealth.
  • And where were the people with the guns while that happened?
  • Where were they when Trump became President?
  • Nowhere to be found.
  • Besides, if you really think your access to guns, even semi-automatics, would help you overthrow a modern army, you’re living in a fantasy.
  • LEO SAYER
  • Look at what happened in Syria as an example.
  • HITLER AND STALIN TOOK AWAY GUNS
  • This argument is historically inaccurate.
  • Weimar Germany had tougher gun laws than Nazi Germany.
  • Hitler expanded private gun ownership.
  • It is true that Gypsies and Jews were not permitted to own guns, but there is no basis for the belief that these two groups would have stopped the Holocaust had they been armed.
  • Hitler was extremely popular among the German people.
  • To suggest that the only thing keeping Hitler in power was control of guns is ridiculous.
  • The same is true of the Bolsheviks in Soviet Russia: the idea that an armed populace would have stopped Stalin is a fantasy.
  • Like Hitler, Stalin was extremely popular.
  • And he had the army on his side.
  • Then of course there are the suicides.
  • States with more guns have more suicides.
  • the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24% over the 15 previous years (1999 to 2014), from 10.5 to 13.0 suicides per 100,000 people https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_in_the_United_States
  • Nearly 43,000 suicides in 2014
  • Nearly half of those – 21,000 gun suicides a year.
  • About half of all suicides in America are committed with guns, and seven in 10 by men, who also account for 74% of gun owners in the country.
  • Oddly, given these combined statistics, nearly half of gun owners say they keep weapons because it makes them feel safer, a proportion that has increased dramatically since 1999 even though violent crime has been in a steady decline.
  • In fact according to the Harvard study, Guns in the home are used more often to intimidate family members more than to thwart crime.
  • But as Chrissy says – there are 37,461 people car deaths in the USA every year (not the one million I said in an earlier episode).
  • You have a higher chance of getting killed in your car than being killed by a gun.
  • But a) cars are far more useful than guns and b) most people with a car aren’t using it to kill someone.
  • So I’m not sure that’s an argument.

 

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