Social Question

iamthemob's avatar

Are Second Amendment advocates and Gun Control Advocates (for lack of better labels) really that far apart from each other on the issues regarding legislation and regulation of firearms?

Asked by iamthemob (17137points) January 23rd, 2011

As loathe as I am to link to a study, this (which has a sample size of about 1000 people I believe) tends to show that there are many major issues that the majority of Americans agree on some of the most fundamental issues regarding gun control – most notably, the vast majority polled regardless of background or alignment felt that the government should not attempt to prevent law-abiding citizens from owning guns. Some of the major findings are fleshed out here.

If this is accurate, why do you think there’s a general perception that the two sides are so far apart? Or is the study missing a major factor that, if included, would have skewed the results to show the actual conflict in the numbers?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

40 Answers

jaytkay's avatar

The gun lobby is very well-funded, and pro-gun absolutists are very loud-mouthed, so they get a disproportionate amount of attention.

Notice in that survey that a HUGE majority, 90%, believe gun restrictions should be “More strict” or “Kept as they are now”. Even 86% of gun owners agree.

iamthemob's avatar

@jaytkay – True on the “more strict” bit – but I feel like that’s where these studies get misleading. The vague agreement that we should regulate guns better sounds reasonable enough – and so you can’t really argue against it too much. But it doesn’t really clarify the degree that we’re talking about.

When the Pentagon report was released, there was a focus on the large percentage of Marine frontline soldiers who argued that having openly gay servicemembers would have a negative effect on unit cohesion. Of course, that covered all answers from “may be negative” and “somewhat negative” to “very negative” etc. – and just as the argument that gun laws should be stricter sounds reasonable, it’s reasonable for many to think that sure, we late gays serve openly, and at least initially there will be some tension. I would answer that there might be some negative response…and that was taken as an indication that we would be endangering our troops and we should put DADT repeal on hold.

But you may be right that a potential general agreement on this issue does indicate that extreme advocates are taking up all the air time, where moderates are sitting in the background.

I’m a pro-gun moderate…and I was recently just resigned to shut up about the whole thing due to conflicts with what I saw as absolutist arguments on the pro-gun side…which may be the behavior that actually produces the skewed perception of the positions of people on either side.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I think the only real difference in opinion is in the extreme. I would have to say that most people want things to be safer – the average citizen doesn’t want gun violence. Most of the people that I know that own and/or carry a firearm would be comfortable with stricter laws, screening, required classes and certifications. Myself, included.
However, I think the issue becomes more black and white when it is brought up because it turns into this view where it is “absolutely no guns!” or “guns for everyone!”
Not that the extremes aren’t part of the issue, but I do think that most of us agree on the gray areas. Most of us don’t want to see anyone get hurt.

iamthemob's avatar


Do you think that the rapid flair up of the debates that seems to happen be a result of a tendency of both sides to have more specialized knowledge on one side (highly specialized) and to claim that the other doesn’t know what they’re talking about because of that? I feel like that’s a trend…

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@iamthemob I think that is human nature.

iamthemob's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie – absolutely – but I feel like when it comes to guns, we are dealing with some very technical issues a lot of the times – what is an automatic, semi-automatic…what do various safeties do, etc. dealing with the mechanics of gun technology on one end…and a highly legalistic/labor/law enforcement set of knowledge on the other (although law enforcement probably straddles pretty well).

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@iamthemob I just don’t think that is something exclusive to the gun debate. Of course some issues boil down to a foundation of morals and opinions, with very few technicalities to weigh in. However, on either side of any debate you will always have those that are more educated than others, and in many instances they will be more educated on the information that supports their side. Again, I think that is just human nature. Is that what you were asking?

filmfann's avatar

Gun enthusiests see gun control advocates as “Gun Grabbers”.
Gun control advocates see gun enthusiests as “Gun Nuts”.
Yup, the devide is great.

iamthemob's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie – Part of what I was asking – but to state it more clearly…I think that many of the issues are fairly technical, and many of the major ones are actually pretty measureable…it seems like an area where, although of course dispute is human nature, shouldn’t be one of such virulent dispute at least when we look at the content of the argument.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I don’t disagree. Again, because I think that we really do agree on a lot of the gray areas. I think fear drives a lot of this, people fear having their rights taken away, potentially causing more harm than good – and on the other side of the fence, people fear that the violence will never end if extreme measures aren’t taken.
It can be hard not to jump to those extremes, and I think that is where the real fuel for debate comes in.

iamthemob's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie – and it’s clear that the subject matter of the rights – deadly weapons – is part of the recipe for heightened emotional reactions.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar


incendiary_dan's avatar

I’m not sure. When I think about it, most people on either “side” of the issue probably want to see the same results, namely less crime featuring gun violence. But both sides come at it with different knowledge, particularly the technical knowledge you mention @iamthemob. I won’t conceal what I mean here: strict gun control advocates typically don’t know shit about firearms in a technical sense and how they’re used in reality, and that hurts any arguments they make. Luckily, that’s easy enough to remedy if someone is willing to learn. There’s also the fact that in general the left and right in this country approach issues with different assumptions about human behavior, society, and human nature (both of which sides I feel are wrong).

zenvelo's avatar

the only technical issue is that handguns are designed to kill people. If you could use them for something else, say, delivering notes to people, or fixing a car, it might be different. but guns are designed for killing things.

In line with the 2nd Amendment, why not require every gun owner to participate in a well regulated militia? You want a gun, enlist in the National Guard.

thorninmud's avatar

The presence of the NRA skews the debate. 81% of gun owners may agree that loopholes allowing gun purchases without background checks should be closed, but the NRA has tenaciously fought any efforts to apply this rule to gun shows, which renders the whole background check requirement for other sources effectively meaningless.

And I’ve got a feeling that a majority of gun owners would think it reasonable to put restrictions on “mass destruction” weaponry, but again, the NRA fights any move in that direction tooth and nail and uzi.

But the NRA position ends up being the default position for anyone for anyone who leans to the pro-gun side of the debate. It’s as if PETA were to be accepted as the policy spokesman for everyone who likes animals. The NRA’s tactic has been to push policy as far away from any restriction as possible, and because there is no organization on the other side of the debate with comparable clout, that has taken policy farther in that direction than most people think reasonable.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@zenvelo I could argue against those fallacies, but I don’t want to bother. Luckily, the Daily Kos already did.

iamthemob's avatar

@incendiary_dan – I think you’re 100% right in most cases with the lack of technical knowledge of firearms on the control side.

I don’t think, though, that there is as great a divide in the assumptions about human behavior being so far apart on the left and right, I think human nature is based on the same assumptions most likely for both… but society may be a little different.

I feel like there’s no philosophical difference between the right and left in an ideal economic environment – namely, one where opportunity was spread evenly to everyone. I think that the jamming point much of the time is that the right seems to often argue “personal responsibility” but denies influences from market entities (like the corporation or the advertising industry) that reduce perceivable choice for individuals – essentially, it relegates responsibility to the individual and lets business off. Those on the left would argue that they’re all about personal responsibility, but that the government has to fill the gap before we can hold people responsible for bad decisions because of the pernicious effects of various past discriminations. So on the left responsibility is shifted to the government (or, spread to all people regardless of whether they’re making good or bad life choices) and from the individual (for now).

@thorninmud – indeed – very, very good points. I’ll note that Second Amendment interpretation was always focused on limitations on the formation of militias until NRA lobbying in the most recent decades. Somewhere between the 80s and the 90s there was a complete 180 and it was about protection of gun ownership, not militia membership.

funkdaddy's avatar

I think @zenvelo hit on the most basic part of the issue. Many gun control advocates see guns only as a weapon designed to kill people while those who own guns may see them as a hobby, home and family protection, a tool, and in some cases a way to help those they love or those around them in an emergency.

Some of it comes down to exposure as well. In an urban environment it’s difficult to see guns as anything but a threat intended to be used against people. In a rural environment it’s the opposite, there’s so many other things you have a gun for that shooting your neighbor would be a waste of ammo.

So you end up with one side shouting “they’re coming to take your guns!” and the other “they’re coming to bully and kill you!” with those in the middle just not feeling the current system is that far out of whack.

Maybe that’s a sign that things are currently fairly close to balanced? It can be an emotional issue and I’m not trying to minimize either side, just showing it’s not the same black and white questions for everyone.

Ron_C's avatar

I live in the part of the country where hunting and eating you prey is a traditional way of life. You should hear conversation in the lunch-room. Big burly outdoors type guys are discussing recipes for deer, various kinds of sausage even recipes for ground hogs. It sounds more like a ladies cooking circle than a gathering of hunters.

They all have weapons, often more than one. None of them have assault weapons or cartridges that hole 21 rounds. I suspect that we could have reasonable restrictions on assault weapons and cartridge size without affecting them in the least.

Of course the NRA would fight any restrictions and claim that any changes in the law would mean that the government is coming after their weapons. This is all so stupid.

I would insist that all ammunition sales and firearms transfers be strictly recorded. We have the computer capability to trace those sales to insure that they don’t end up in the hands of crazy people or militia members.

iamthemob's avatar

@Ron_C – I feel like that’s the right kind of regulation – but I think that you also need to make sure that there’s an appropriate penalty associated with both the negligent failure to track both as well as the inevitable failure to track that will happen in a well-run system (shit happens).

zenvelo's avatar

see, I agree with @Ron_C ; it’s just that you don’t hunt deer or bear or squirrels or ducks with a handgun.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@zenvelo You defend youre home with a handgun. It is a better choice to use a handgun than with a long gun like a shotgun or rifle in that kind of situation. Another thing you should realize that a side arm is used during hunting when hunting wild boar and other dangerous game. The side arm is a last resort in case the animal starts charging.

Ron_C's avatar

@iamthemob @zenvelo amd @Mikewlf337 there are places where hand gun are a good thing, like protecting your home. Statistically, the home owner and his family is more likely to be injured by the gun than someone that invades the home. An extremely small, almost non-existent number of robberies and invasions were saved by the owner’s hand gun. A sign like “This home is protected by Smith and Wesson” is probably a better deterrent than the secreted handgun.

By the way, the last time I carried a handgun in public is when I was in Vietnam. I was determined not to be captured.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@Ron_C There are precautions one could take to avoid accidents. A sign will only make a serious invader arm himself. I prefer to own a gun and not bullshit with a sign.

iamthemob's avatar

@Mikewlf337 is right about the sign solution. Part of the issue when surprising an intruder who sees that you’re armed is that the stakes go way up, and everybody’s likely to be more rash. The sign might work as a deterrent for them even trying your house – but if everyone has the same thing…well, the intruder is just now aware that the stakes are higher.

I really, really have a problem with the “home defense” argument on one level – but feel like it can be reconciled. I feel like when people use the “crazed meth-head home invader” rhetoric as part of the reasoning, it’s fear-mongering and not a rational reason for ownership (see @Ron_C‘s reference to the statistics of injury and ownership). And regardless of precautions one can take – it’s a gun, and sometimes all the precautions won’t make a difference.

When home defense is used in a more originalist sense – as a means to ensure the people are armed to protect themselves in the face of democratic collapse of one type or another, it’s a reasonable argument – but of course, collapse is generally viewed (reasonably) as a low-probability event, so “home defense” although a reasonable argument isn’t, for me, a responsible argument for gun ownership.

In the end, I feel it’s totally superfluous if we’re honest. The Second Amendment gives us the right to own and bear arms, regardless if they were precisely the type that were considered at the drafting. Therefore, it must be the burden of the regulator or regulation advocate to show how any restrictions will actually increase safety for all – as regulation is necessary.

Ron_C's avatar

@iamthemob I wasn’t advocating for “gun” signs, I ‘m simply pointing out that most burglars and home invaders are primarily cowards and mostly lazy so they are likely to bypass a home that may put up some defense.

I don’t consider hand gun ownership a real deterrent to violence at home.

It should be patently easy to show that there should be some limit on weapons ownership. Right now, we are not allowed to have cruise missiles, mortars, or missile launched grenades. I submit that things like cartridges that hole more than 8 rounds, sniper rifles, and machine guns need to be kept out of the hands of the public. Further, I would ban all handgun import into the U.S. If we are going to be the authors of our own destruction, the tools should be, at least, American made.

WasCy's avatar

Sometimes I think that we’re so hung up on processes that we can’t imagine that there’s another way to do a thing. Why don’t we change our process? We wouldn’t think of buying a car, for example, without first being a licensed driver. (Maybe some do, and maybe that’s a problem that I just don’t know about.) But a car “in the wrong hands” can be just as deadly as a gun, if not more so.

I can understand a dealer at a gun show being unwilling to slow down his ability to sell by requiring a background check of the buyer at the point of purchase. There would be almost no sales made in that case. So why not change the process to satisfy the sellers and the regulators to some degree?

Would gun owners be averse to a licensing option that made them prove their capability prior to purchase? (The background check already does that, to a degree, anyway.) That is, for the gun owner or potential owner to pass some sort of licensing test – and obtain the license – that shows he has no prior criminal or mental history record that would preclude ownership, and that he is aware of the state / local gun laws in his area and can knowledgeably handle the weapon? Pass the test, get a license – prior to owning a weapon – and then present that to any registered seller (and make that license presentation and review requirement of any public or private sale), and be done with all the rest of it.

Maybe we should make a similar license review a mandatory feature of auto and truck sales, too, just like we do with alcohol sales.

iamthemob's avatar

@Ron_C – My one issue is that I’m always weary of banning or restricting significantly anything related to moral beliefs or protected by the Constitution.

I feel like a licensing tiering rather than ban might be a better route to address the concerns, though. The unintended consequence of making certain types of gun illegal is that you guarantee that only criminals will have them. Perhaps a training and licensing, as well as background reviews, of increased severity based on the type of weapon. Holding the weapon without the license could then be a separate criminal act.

Ron_C's avatar

@WasCy that is a very very good idea. I suspect that the NRA would fight any such thing. I have to ask myself, why do we need gun shows?

I don’t think you can buy a car at car shows so why should they actually sell guns at gun shows?

I am sure that the NRA will tell you that driving is a privilege while the right to bear arms is a constitutional right. Of course that is not how I read the Constitution.

WasCy's avatar


I think the reason you can’t buy a car at a car show is simple logistics. It would be incredibly expensive for sellers to transport enough stock to a show (and store it securely and enable the necessary prep work) to make effective sales. Knife and gun shows are a different matter, and I have no problem with different marketing for different products, and no problem with gun sales at all. But if dealers are okay with background checks then there should be an effective way to enable something similar for gun shows.

No sane person either for or against gun control wants indiscriminate violence, drive-by shootings, assassinations and armed robberies. We can start from that point and move on, I think.

iamthemob's avatar

I think that the major problem with the “gun violence” issue is that there will always be a black market. I think if the focus of control advocates was sharply on putting a stranglehold on that market, we’d have a whole lot of consensus (as long as we can shut the NRA up. ;-))

The vast majority of guns used in crime by an unregistered/criminal user are purchased through an upright dealer by a shady straw, or a legally licensed but corrupt at-home and commercial gun dealer. In fact, illegal activity by those licensed to sell guns – Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) – is a huge source of crime guns and greatly surpasses the sale of guns stolen from John Q. Citizen (arguably the narrowest stream to the black market).

I don’t know the state of the legislation now, in all honesty… but doesn’t it seem like the dealer licensing, regulation, and enforcement penalty (both civil and criminal potentially) should be so severe that it mandates proper sales practices?

Ron_C's avatar

@WasCy I would bet that many of the guns used in crimes were purchased in loosely controlled gun shows. I think you idea of having a license before you buy a gun, especially at a gun show, is a reasonable idea for a Federal Law.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Where’s @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard with his cut and paste rebuttals? He usually disproves plenty of the fallacies people have trotted out pretty early on in discussions like this.

I’m just gonna repeat something I wrote on this thread:

“There are three types of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.” – Mark Twain

I’ve been thinking about that line in terms of these sorts of debates. The main useful thing I learned studying psychology for five years was how to interpret statistics. Statistics are one of those areas in which 100% truthful facts can be used to say things that are false. A lot of it has to do with what isn’t stated. Sometimes correlation is passed off as causation. Sometimes you will have statistics which seem to say one thing, but when you look at the wording you see that it isn’t a fair comparison.

Let’s take the “fact” that, supposedly, you’re more likely to shoot a family member than an intruder (which I’ve never seen substantiated, anyway). On face value, it looks like guns are more danger than they’re worth, but what isn’t stated is how many crimes are prevented by using a gun without shooting, which is the vast majority of them. Gary Kleck, a criminologist at Florida State, points out that 550 rapes a day are prevented by women pulling guns on attackers just in the U.S.. That’s over 200,000 a year, far more than the accidental discharges and such.

The same goes for simplistic appeals to look at European statistics. Consider for a moment that Europe does not have the same sort of drug trade and gang violence that we do here, nor do they have a prison society (did you know the U.S. imprisons the highest percentage of its population, mostly people of color and mostly on trumped up charges?). And, of course, culture.

When we use statistics in an argument, we really need to be aware of what they mean and how the information was gathered. Ideally, we should be able to peruse the literature, but that’s not always possible. Therefore, a critical eye is always necessary.

And while we’re at it, if you haven’t read this thread, I’d consider it.

Lots of people in the country use handguns for pest control. Specifically handguns loaded with snakeshot or ratshot rounds. Also, though a shotgun is more ideal for self defense, handguns are more effective tools for people that lack the strength or dexterity required to use a shoulder arm.

iamthemob's avatar

@incendiary_dan – Seriously. That’s exactly the type of position that I think is part of the problem…you blanket dismiss claims as fallacious like you and Fids are the only ones that know the answer.

What exactly are you responding to.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@iamthemob No, I responded as if someone made a fallacious point, which they did, and that our previous conversations here on Fluther have covered them. Several of them in fact. The fact that we do, in fact, have correct information contrary to the claims of others because we have both firsthand knowledge of the issue and have done extensive research should be considered, particularly given the fact that the primary points I argue against are being made by people throwing out blanket statements without any particular research or firsthand knowledge.

The primary fallacy I see continually repeated, which I made the mistake of not specifically pointing out (that’s what I get for typing so late with no coffee, which will be remedied soon), is that nobody needs handguns for hunting or any valid use. As someone who uses a handgun for defense and has a valid reason to do so (and will be branching out to use one in my trapping endeavors, too), I obviously take offense. I also wanted to add a bit more critical thought to this discussion concerning the oft-quoted statistic I mentioned. More and more I’m finding comparative statistics completely inadequate and really just poor premises in an argument, logically speaking (you know how I love that formal logic).

And if you’re going to pester people about making blanket statements, maybe go after the people really doing it.

iamthemob's avatar


Without saying who…or which point. I get that you feel like you’ve been over this before, but there are blanket statements that are true.

So I don’t really know which argument you’re pointing to as fallacious. It would also help, of course, if you would point out the problems rather than characterizing it first – calling each other fallacious (which I do, I must admit) is what gets us into the messes in the first place.

The problem is – I don’t see a single person on this thread that made that assertion. The closest is the single statement by @zenvelo that guns are designed to kill. That’s not close to what you are saying you’re responding to…and also, it’s pretty much true. That’s what weapons do. There also hasn’t really been a resort to statistics except for casual mention of the increase in likelihood of harm from gun violence in the home for gun owners. It was mostly dealt with as a side issue in this thread, so attempting to undermine the methodology of it isn’t really important…but that statistic is about the statistical likelihood of someone in your home dying from gun violence once a gun is brought into the home – which is unassailable. If we’re going to use that risk as part of the argument, we must of course bring in the other statistical analyses you mention.

But that claim is common sense. It’s the same as saying the statistical likelihood of you drowning in your home increases after you build a pool.

So what is this trying to flesh out…because it was a discussion before accusations of fallacies came into it, mostly about proper licensing.

jaytkay's avatar

Complaining about factual discrepancies and claiming ” 550 rapes a day are prevented by women pulling guns on attackers just in the U.S” is laughable.

Do rapists keep careful records of successful vs unsuccessful rapes? Do armed women keep notes, including whether the foiled attack was a rape, a mugging or a murder?

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I agree with most people here and with the majority of those in the study that some regulation would make things safer and possibly reduce crime and accidents.

Here are some suggestions to consider:

First, every firearm headed for the American market must be registerd into a national database by its serial number accompanied by a ballistics test and firing pin shell casing imprint. Upon sale, this info will be cross-referenced with picture ID and on-site database fingerprint confIrmation of the buyer, who must be licensed as described below. This includes any replacement barrels sold in the US. This will give LEOs a good start on solving violent crimes and would serve somewhat as a deterent,

Only those licensed to own guns can own them Licensure should involve classes in gun safety, handgun self-defence training and law, general weapons handling and maintenance; target training on the range with minimal accuracy requirements with each weapon purchased, federal and state gun and hunting laws; full background check, eye exam, range of motion exam (to demonstrate that the person can actually properly AIM the firearm of their choice), and some sort of psychological eval.

Every firearms purchase must involve presentation of ID and fingerprint confirmation of the buyer which will be entered and cross-refernced into the national database with the weapon’s identifiers, incliding the ballistics report, so that the weapon and the buyer will always be linked in the database. If this can be done at gunshows, so be it. If not, goodbye gunshows.

Ownership transfers between common citizens should be handled the same way we handle cars down at the license office—so the weapon can be tracked to it’s lawful owner at any time. It would be encumbent upon the owner to notify law enforcement as soon as he/she suspects the weapon has been stolen or lost as this would save the owner a lot of grief if the weapon turns up in a crime.

Anyone convicted of importing firearms, or parts of firearms, illegally or by-passing weapons registration in any way, should do heavy time. Gun theft should carry very heavy penalties. Unlicensed people who possess firearms should be given the opportunity to become licensed and register their firearms. If they cannot pass licensure, the firearms should be confiscated If the reason that they cannot be licensed is because they are felons, then they should be charged as a felon in possession of a firearm, which in some states carries a prison penalty of ten years. Anyone convicted for possession of a stolen firearm should do heavy time.

Anyone possessing a “clean” weapon that does not have a corresponding ballistics report in the national database should be fined and ordered to properly register the weapon under penalty of prison time. If the weapon is registered within a certain amount of time, like ten days or so, the fine would be refunded.

These requirements will produce knowledgeable, trained and capable owners and hunters who are aware of the dangers and responsbilities of gun ownership. They will be registered in a national database and cross-referenced with every gun they own. Any firearm used in a crime that leaves behind a bullet in fairly good shape would be identifiable through the national database. Any spent shells left behind would also be identifiers.

These regs would still allow the lawful citizen to own as many firearms as they would like and still defend home, business and family under the second ammendment (if you are worried about defending yourself from your own government or somebody else’s, good luck against heavy machine guns, RPGs, air to ground missles and helicopters), but at the same time go a long way to solve the violent crimes and avoid many of the 31,000 firearm-related deaths including 13,000 homicides, 18,000 suicides, 640 fatal accidents and over 200,000 non-fatal injuries in 2006 alone. (CDC Vital Statistics)

Mr_Paradox's avatar

I want to point out that most homocides are commited with either a stolen or black market weapon.

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther