Posts Tagged With: gun control

Myths that murder: Why gun owners would not stop Hitler.

One of the commonly argued myths used against gun control is that civilian gun ownership is necessary to prevent or overthrow dictators. The assertion goes that if someone like Hitler were to ever try to take over the country, it would be the armed populace that would take him down and preserve freedom and democracy. This argument is offered with the assumption of fact without any actual analysis or reality test. It is often accepted as true without any attempt to see if the claim holds up, and gets passed around as if it were the definitive argument in the discussion.

The problem is, if you actually took a substantive look at research and actual history, this myth completely falls apart.

First, research is actually clear on this. When trying to overthrow a dictator, non-violent resistance is twice as effective as violent resistance. People who regard guns as the cure-all against dictatorships are actually praising the less effective option and doubling the possibility of keeping the dictator in power.

But since people are rarely swayed by facts and science, we also have history to look at to back this up.

Since Hitler is brought up most often as the prototype dictator, Nazi Germany is often brought up to support the myth of the armed civilian over-thrower of evil. However, as Jon Greenberg of Politifact points out, an actual analysis of history of Germany’s gun laws and gun politics destroys this myth. Despite the claims made in the myth, Hitler actually loosened gun regulations, instead of increasing them, to build his rise to power. When taking power in 1938, Hitler deregulated the buying and selling of rifles, shotguns, and ammunition. But even before that, the German people were already well armed. the 1928 gun control laws were not well enforced, and during the 1920’s, paramilitary groups sprouted  up all over Germany. These armed civilian groups, however, contrary to the myth of armed citizenry, ended up being the backbone of the growth of the Nazi movement. They didn’t stop despotism, they enabled it, and if you look at the connections between paramilitary groups and white supremacy groups today, those same processes are still in play. And when the paramilitary groups became too difficult to control, the German SS easily destroyed them.

It is often then pointed out that the gun laws that still remained banned Jews from owning any weapons, and this gun regulation is what lead to the Holocaust. However, as Greenberg points out, despite regulations both before and after Hitler’s initial rise to power, Jews still were able to aquire and own firearms. If gun ownership itself were sufficient to prevent dictatorship, the problem would have solved itself. However, the problem that lead to the Holocaust had little to do with Jewish weapon possession, but with the German civilian permissiveness of and agreement with racial persecution. The remainder of Germany was still armed, and there were plenty of paramilitary groups that could have stepped in and stood up for their fellow Jewish Germans citizens.

But they didn’t.

In fact, they did the opposite. The armed civilians, did not prevent the Holocaust, they enabled it. The paramilitary groups protected Hitler in his rise and continued to support him until Hitler decided to get rid of them. Even if the Jews had moved like an army in response to Hitler, they would have been quickly defeated as they were still a minority in the country and the majority of the citizens were also armed and willing to treat them as a less than human group deserving of oppression. In the end, the Holocaust was not ended by an armed civilian force, but by a military coalition.

This bring us back to the research and what it says about overthrowing dictators in reality. According to the Stephan and Chenoweth study, dictators fall when a minimum of 3.5% is engaged in active resistance, and non-violent resistance achieves this more successfully. When you look at the world, both in the present and recent past, the reasons for this becomes quite apparent. First, dictators and despotism does rely on the will of the people. Dictators come into power because the people are convinced that they belong in power. Dictators start by wooing the people and only switch to oppression after their power is secured, and most of those oppressive policies move into place with the blessing of the people who are convinced it is only going to get used on some outgroup only to see its application expanded. Because people are still agreeing to hand over their rule step by step, initial violent resistance does not get a lot of support socially, often gets labeled as a terrorist organization, and can even empower fascist civilian groups, as we saw with the rise of the Brownshirts as we saw play out in Nazi Germany. Once people realize they tiptoed their way into despotic rule, it does become harder to violently oust them, as they now control the police and military who outgun them, and the political spin machine that can dissuade people from the resistance by labeling them a terrorist organization. In short, your violence becomes the easiest thing to use against you. But non-violent resistance is harder to suppress. Dictators know that they still rule at the will of the people, and suppression of non-violent protest is an act that can cause that to crumble down. They can’t move against the non-violent without carefully crafted strategies that can easily fall apart if exposed, especially in the modern information age. In addition, most people are averse to the idea of killing another person, and so violent resistance tends to dissuade recruitment. What this creates is an environment where the pivotal 3.5% tipping point is easier to reach non-violently. And once that point of active resistance is reached, the dictator topples.

In the end, the myth of the armed civilian protecting democracy is just a myth, but it is a myth that leaves people vulnerable to gun violence. Ultimately, history has shown that dictators rise and fall at the will of the people, and that armed civilian is more likely to put the dictator into power. Once the dictatorship is established, the armed civilian, if they realize the problem they welcomed, is outgunned by the government, and their chances of success are actually half as  effective as non-violent mass resistance.

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Stop Being Stupid about Guns Part II

It’s been about 4 years since I pointed out how stupid this country has been about guns. Since that post, nothing has changed.

And its not like the American can’t agree on what needs to change or talk civilly about this issue, because in the periods between shootings, we can. For instance, most people, whether liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, gun owner or not, agree that we need a good system for background checks for gun sales. Every time I have brought up my plan for gun control, the audience, no matter if they are liberal, conservative, pro-gun, or anti-gun, have all stated that this is something they can get behind and support if it were ever to be implemented.

So we actually can have a civil conversation and agree on how to balance gun owner rights with safety and life. We can actually do this.

But we don’t.

And the reason is stupid.

You see, every time there is a shooting, rather than bring up all the civil conversation we had been capable of, everyone goes to their corners and regurgitates the same stereotypical talking points and shout them at each other. These tropes are so predictable that it could probably be turned into a drinking game or a bingo game. Rather than remembering what we have agreed upon, we end up arguing the semantics of the term “assault rifle,” asserting whether the first half or the last half of the second amendment phrasing is the most important, or we just degenerate into insulting each other. Everyone is yelling and no one is listening.


And none of this actually does anything to solve the problem that the majority of Americans agrees needs to be solved.

And many are quick to point out that this is the intention of the NRA and their pocketed politicians, that they purposely release a slew of distracting strawman arguments so that people can’t come together and pass the laws that will effect gun manufacturer’s profit margin.

But even if that is true, we don’t have to stupidly play their game. We don’t have to follow their fallacious arguments and chase their distractions.

Even if it is true that they are being greedy or evil, we are still empowering them, and therefor we are being stupid. And if we stopped being stupid, they wouldn’t be able to win.

So here is how we can stop being stupid about guns:
1) Keep having the conversation even after it has stopped being a social media trend. We should not only talk about it because it has become popular due a recent terrorist. Instead, actually commit to the conversation.
2) Find the points of agreement in this discussion. If you find yourself arguing over 99% of your opinions, make note of that 1% and build on it until you have a decent plan that people can civilly talk about and agree on. This will become the smart and constructive conversation.
3) The next time there is a shooting, and there will always be another shooting so long as we continue to be stupid about guns, only talk about the points of agreement. Every time people try to bring up the stereotyped and polarizing talking points, make the smart choice to redirect back to the constructive. Don’t chase the distractions and don’t play with the strawman, but rather only let the conversation be about what everyone is already agreeing on.

To do anything else would just be stupid, and we need to stop being stupid about guns.

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Stop Being Stupid About Guns

This post was originally written after the Dark Knight Rises shooting tragedy in Colorado. But it is currently being updated after the Newton CT school shooting, because once again, the gun control debate has gone into full gear. I would like to say that what has resulted is a reasoned and informed argument on the subject.

I would like to. But I can’t. This is the age of the internet, and the debate is turning into masses of uninformed arguments thrown the way monkeys throw their feces.

To begin, I should disclose that I am a gun owner, I was on my high school’s varsity rifle team, and placed in the top 10 of the league. I enjoy the art of target shooting, and don’t think guns need to be totally banned. I do believe that there are reasonable limits that should be in place. I also believe that the current gun rights debate has become stupid.

1) Banning guns would not have prevented the crimes and arming everyone would not have stopped it.

James Eagen Holmes planned his attack well. He used confusion and body armor to protect him. If he didn’t have access to the guns, he had access to home made explosives. More armed individuals may have caused more casualties due to stray gun fire, especially in that confusion.

In Newton, the shooter was the son of the teacher he targeted. No amount of arming would have enabled a mother to easily kill her own son, so arming her in a classroom would not have prevented this.

2)  Guns don’t prevent crime.

If you want to prevent a crime you address its precipitating causes like income inequality, gentrification, social expectancy stressors, etc. Violent deterrent only leads to violent escalation. Criminals use violence instrumentally, using enough to get the job done. If they perceive that their target is capable of more violence, they will adjust accordingly. They will work in larger groups to assure they can’t be outgunned, or they will shoot first to prevent their victim from using the gun they assume they have.

Now a lot of the people who make the “more guns, less crime” argument are basing it on the correlation that there has been an increase in gun ownership and a decrease in violent crime. But this conclusion is flawed. Why?

Repeat after me: “Correlation does not prove causation.”

First of all, the drop in crime has occurred across the board in this country in gun loving and gun fearing states alike. If the arming of the populace were the reason, we would see the drop only in the gun loving states. In fact, what we see is that there  is little correlation between gun ownership and crime in cities. Also, there are other variables which could better account for for the drop in crime, such as the aging of the baby boomer population (the majority of Americans are less violent due to age), better policing to prevent crime, and abortion access reducing the stresses on the impoverished. The data does not  allow for an indisputable connection between gun ownership and crime reduction.

3) Gun control does not address the causes of crime.

Limiting gun access will reduce violence in many ways. Of the mass shootings in America, about three quarters of shooters acquired their guns from legal sources. Common sense regulations can close these loopholes. Also, when it comes to violence from legal gun owners, a pissed off guy on the street is far less dangerous than a pissed off guy on the street with a gun. And when it comes to responding to violence, society is better served by learning how to de-escalate the pissed off guy on the street than it is by shooting him.

That being said, the argument about gun control ignores and distracts from the real causes (like this, for instance). Gun violence is a symptom, not the disease.

4) Guns kill people.

Before you start chanting that stupid slogan like chorus of mindless drones, realize the immense irresponsibility of denying a gun’s lethality. Guns were invented to kill. Target shooting has developed as an additional use for firearms, but it hasn’t removed the lethality. It is that acknowledgement that motivates me to be damn careful with my firearm. I know it kills, so I make sure that I use it safely and responsibly. I don’t wave it around, fire it randomly, leave it out when not in use, or do anything else that could cause it to unintentionally be misused because I know that if I am irresponsible with my firearm, it could kill someone.

Gun owners need to own up to this. Too often, guns are being introduced to prove virility, score political points, and intimidate in arguments. This is irresponsible. If you want to win any argument for gun rights, you need to understand this. Every right, after all, bares with it a responsibility. Remove that responsibility, and you are arguing entitlement. And I cannot support gun entitlement.

It also should be noted that on the same day as the Newton shootings, there was a mass stabbing in a school in China. None of the 22 children who were stabbed died. A difference in weaponry does make a difference in the severity of injury. If guns did not make killing more efficient, they wouldn’t be used in combat, hunting, etc. To deny this is to deny common sense.

5) Common sense gun control will keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Only about 10-15% of guns that criminals have access to are the result of gun thefts. The rest are a result of acquiring guns through loopholes, straw buyers, and other means of manipulating the lack of regulation. Tougher regulation and monitoring will result in fewer sales to criminals.

6) Being stupid about guns will cause gun violence.

Why do people go on killing sprees?

Because they think they are entitled to kill.

We have a culture obsessed with violence. We have TV shows, movies, video games, internet sitesetc, that use guns and violence to as the solutions to the problems, the way to win and collect points, or the way to get attention. An yet we act surprised when someone then goes out and uses violence for attention or as a way to deal with their problems.  What has resulted is a real problem in this when it comes to mass murder. In 2012 alone, there were 16 mass shootings. When one of these occurs, we shout out the same stupid slogans, but ultimately change nothing. But let’s talk about the messages sent. When you make an argument based on gun entitlement and using violence as a solution to problems, expect people to get shot. Guns may not be the problem, but the argument you are making for your guns is.  And because contradiction is not argument, merely calling for tighter laws does not present any sort of solution, addressing the root causes of our need to be violent will.

So let’s stop being stupid about guns. They are lethal weapons that need to be respected, and as such, used responsibly. They are not solutions to arguments, nor are they the answer to crime. At the same time, they are not the causes of crime. We don’t need AK 47’s, but we also don’t need absolute bans. What we need is to get smart and address the causes of the violence instead.

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