Why Americans can't agree on guns


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I would also add: “because Americans on both sides refuse to acknowledge that other countries provide existing models which may support or refute their arguments.” To wit:

  • Gun control advocates who think all forms of gun ownership will lead to increased violence may be ignoring Switzerland, where the vast majority of male citizens are trained in the use of firearms and keep guns at home as members of a well-regulated militia (which Switzerland has in lieu of a standing army).
  • Gun control opponents who think gun laws don’t help reduce violent crime may be ignoring the fact that relatively unrestricted access to firearms (whether part of a well-regulated militia or not) is one of the biggest differences between the U.S. and similar countries which have low rates of gun violence.

Experimental statement:

My problem with most proposed implementations of gun control? They ignore the fact that guns are things that go boom and are therefore tons of fun to use, for enough people’s definitions of “fun”.

Something which is dangerous can be rendered safe and in a way that does not excessively affect enjoyment, no matter how weird, of an activity. However, no one in the political sector (on either side) wants to address this aspect of the topic, because “fun” is an alien concept to anything related to the law. “Fun” is a kind of “persona non grata” idea, no matter what it is under discussion. I’d describe fun as “un-legal”, totally inappropriate for discussion against the traditional gravitas of law.

And for this reason, among others, most people arguing for or against something will never intentionally create rules that actually work well in reality.

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That hasn’t kept lawmakers from enacting reasonable restrictions on the production, distribution and use of dynamite. Where is the “explosives don’t kill people, people kill people!” lobby?

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I’m a social liberal who lives in a very blue city on the West coast but also happens to enjoy firearms, and generally speaking I find that my biggest hurdle to having a constructive conversation about firearms with gun control advocates is the way the conversation invariably devolves into them making a series of escalating ad hominem personal attacks.

Unsurprisingly it’s difficult to continue having a dialog with somebody who would rather speculate on the size of your penis or equate you with caricatures of people from a part of the country that they likely have no personal experience with.

In my experience this is the only political topic in which this sort of behavior is condoned, even applauded by people who tend to consider themselves very open-minded.


People who argue gun control, like most people arguing anything, try to ignore everything that inconveniences their position. Most people are always far more interested in simply spouting their dogmas than in seeking a resolution.

Myself, I could not possibly care less what people in other countries do or think about gun control. This is our country and our situation, not theirs. We need to create laws that fit US, not Belgium or Lithuania. And we do need to acknowledge and live with the fact that people are different in different parts of the country. That’s what the 9th Amendment is about, and why we live in a supposed republic and not a kingdom.


The straw man fallacy occurs in the following pattern of argument:
Person 1 has position X.
Person 2 disregards certain key points of X and instead presents the superficially similar position Y. The position Y is a distorted version of X and can be set up in several ways.

You get the exact same kind of thing from those who want to outlaw abortion. They “know” that they know THE TRUTH™ and that they and ONLY they are in right with God™ and if you disagree with them you’re an unAmerican communist devil-worshipping atheist baby murderer. Never mind the fact that being a devil-worshipping atheist is a contradiction in terms and a logical impossibility…the things that we lesser, less Godly mortals think of as truth, accuracy, honesty, sense, intelligence, or rationality are never roadblocks - or even visible - to those who “know” THE TRUTH™.

One thing that seems very odd to me as a foreigner is how America seems to avoid even mere clarification of the status quo. Sure, gun laws here are very different, but that’s not what I mean. In our legal system I would expect such a controversial to have generated enough Supreme Court decisions to establish pretty clearly what the scope of the 2nd amendment is, what level of gun control is constitutionally unproblematic or else out of the question. This approach of leaving everything up in the air as long as possible and letting everyone pretend that the constitution means what they want it to mean doesn’t seem very helpful.


“Not wanting to copy the laws of another country” is one thing. “Pretending that no precedent exists which may support or refute a position about the potential impacts of gun policy” is quite another.

There was quite a bit of this going on during the healthcare debate too.


… this sort of behavior is condoned, even applauded by people who tend to consider themselves very open-minded.

Good point, although I think there are other political topics like that. Such as attitudes toward “white trash”.

Thanks for the blog post, Jason. I don’t exactly follow the Tufts Alumni Magazine, so I’d never have seen this.

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The Supreme Court decisions have been pretty clear. No laws restricting the right to possess and carry guns.

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I wonder, too, if this is part of a larger trend of political fracturing in American society-- are we just more likely to mark out our territories politically speaking, and see disagreements as not healthy political debate, but attacks on our fundamental political selves? Are we, in other words, just more divided as a country? If so why?

Rodgers argued in his book age of fracture it was a general and slow move away from a more consensus brand of politics. I wonder this this contributes to the inability to agree on issues like this?

Edited to add: which seems to be what this article is arguing … carry on.

Do you have an unconditional right to carry a fully automatic weapon in the streets of NYC, or is there any fine print?


I think that acknowledging that different parts of the country have different view is a good thing. Considering that the U.S. is the third most populous and fourth largest (land area) country in the world, I think that there’s good reason that the whole nation has trouble reaching one decision when it comes to some of the more divisive issues nowadays.


Interesting idea, that we are like 11 nations. This may fit into many other issues the US is encountering these days.

I recently saw Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown where he was in Denmark. And it occurred to me that Denmark’s government works because of its small size, 6.5 million. That’s only 2% of the population of the US, and is less than the SF Bay Area.


Well, you’re completely ignoring the fact that states and municipalities aren’t controlled under the Constitution.

When I was a child they sold dynamite in the farm store to any adult of known good character. Right over the counter.

Now I can’t get it when I need it. It took me two full days of sweating to grub out the last big pine stump I had to pull.

This is why we have 50 states with different laws.