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My FAQ on guns and violence (and a response to Faircloth): http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/faq-on-violence
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+Sam Harris  Double check your statistics. Most of the numbers seems extremely *wacky*. 

I dont believe 87 assault in Northern Ireland but 1545 in Scotland. By the statistics you have more kidnapping in Australia (19) than in whole south America and Netherlands is more dangerous than Yemen. Apparently in Belgium there are 70 times more assault than in Ukraine and 23 times more than in Russia. (per 100 000 capita) 

Do I believe that in the whole country there are 500 000 assault in Germany in a year but only 39 000 in Russia?

Well. No. Those numbers are not based on the same  reference. 

https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/statistics/crime.html


[edit] To ALL I do suggest to spend some time on those spreadsheets  and check numbers you might familiar with to consume this article. The numbers in this article (Most importantly in the official UN spreadsheets) do not seem right. 

[edit] Basically these are police reports. You can only take them into account if you understand the local laws and you assume the police registers all offences and all offences are reported to the police.
For example if I understand the law correctly in Sweden prostitution is a sexual offence where the prostitute is always considered the victim and this will be registered in with the police. Hence the high number in "rape"

Plainly speaking the numbers in this article are meaningless.
   
 
NO! How could this be? One of the most rational minds I've come across now succumbing to his emotions and debating a point based on feelings. SLAP Snap out of it, man.
 
+Adam Koncz Excellent points. The figures in the Excel clearly show that comparison across countries is nonsense.
My favorite: twice as much theft in Germany compared to Italy. These figures are useless except for determining change from one year to another because probably within each country things stay similar.
 
+Michael Stewart Oh all those curious ways the human mind works.  A neuroscientist should be able to draw some interesting conclusions.
 
The ignorance with which you write regarding CDV, assault and rape, touting firearms as leveling the playing field is utterly mind blowing.

Hi, I'm a CDV survivor. Alcohol is not a contributing factor to abuse worth citing. Most instances of violence against women occur at the hand of a sober man... A man who is otherwise known as jovial, charismatic, pleasant. A man others would argue is responsible.
Your "drunken argument" analogy is off target.

In instances of rape, a woman is most likely to be assaulted by someone she knows. Not dragged off of the street, or assaulted as a result of a home invasion... Even in such cases, the ability to produce, aim and discharge is often compromised. Then adding an unintended aggravating factor. A weapon which can be used against you.

I should mention, I'm also a rape survivor. As well as a very accurate marksman.
You're exhibiting overtly emotional behavior in favour of logic.
It saddens me to see that you've fallen prey to the "moar guns" mindset.
 
The only way we will have gun control is when we ( gun owners) take control of our guns. Mandate laws in effect and stop allowing crime to go unpunished in our great country. The same people in general who are screaming gun control are the same ones screaming inhumane treatment of prisoners, mentally ill and institutionalized patients. Domestic violence as you have already established is a seperate issue and by the way is not limited to male on female violence.
 
+Kevin Lybrand 

"we ( gun owners) take control of our guns."

Would you elaborate? How do you imagine that?
 
We lack free will. So it's a good idea to put our unconcious finger on tje trigger of a military fire arm? This one is a tough nut to make logic out of. I live in Sweden where only criminals and cops bear arm. And I never ever feel the need to protect my home using fire arms. I would never live in such a place.
 
+Adam Sweet This is not an atheist thread. And the article is "gun control" related. 

Obviously +Sam Harris is very much attached to his guns, but he is playing with his credibility here. And that should concern you as it does me.
 
+Adam Sweet Obviously this issue came up because that nerdy boy in your son's school likes his guns too. He can legally own a shotgun (even though he cannot yet legally drink beer not that he likes beer he is high on pot)
 
 Comments about being a gun loving 'Merican! are precisely why I don't like admitting that I'm an American.
 
+Adam Sweet Right, and how does this make it any better?

Obviously you have multiple issues in the US. Not just that you have extremely relaxed gun laws and nobody is actually responsible for the gun they own. But you have a culture that is driven by fear and promotes violence. There are many countries that has just as many firearms per person but far less gun related crime.
 
+Adam Koncz fear mongering, a false sense of entitlement, an inherently violent societal structure and absolute lack of personal and social accountability, paired with extremely lax firearms regulation (and even more lax enforcement)... that's America for you!
 
Propaganda is propaganda, whether liberal or conservative,  whether religious or secular, wake up. Sam is trying to help you see the hook in your mouth. 

To be clear you pick on Sam on this issue you are picking a fight with Steven Pinker,  Christopher Hitchens and of course me, but then who the hell am I.

I was going to make the same argument as Sam  however with less statistics and more emotional appeal.  Those I still like my ending better. “ I don’t own a gun”
 
+Adam Sweet"Complaining" is a pretty broad term. I acknowledged a few of the facts and facets of American society which I have, for the entirely to my life, found detestable. If complaint suits you better, have it.
 Simply put, I've spent far too much time actively combating some of the most vile elements of society through education, to care much for your brand of "activism".
 In this particular arena, my efforts are most effective when my energy is used to provide information to people who are otherwise ignorant of fact. Which, there seem to be an abundance of. Though I'll just add that in today's day and age, there is no excuse for willful ignorance.
It was nice of you though, to try to take a condescending position... you do realise that only works with people who perceive their position as below yours, right?  (:
 
Oh, you mean the custom avatar which was created from an actual photograph of me?
That "fake" picture"?
 
Trite tactic, but I'll bite (:

In addition to the many "real" pictures of me, which are publicly viewable and even tagged for convenience, I rather enjoy displaying "fake" pictures of myself... It irritates trolls.
 
Sam Harris has a very reasonable middle of the road position in my view (well to the left of the NRA). Based on rational conclusions rather than idealism or denial.

I like his quote about how he would rather be armed with more than his idealism if someone breaks into his home in the night. Many are fine protected by a belief in the limited probability of anything bad happening, but simply denying the unthinkable could happen to them will offer no protection if it does.

I do not see how those that choose to own a gun for self defense are in any way wrong or deserving of any demonization. Sam obviously understands the risks of owning or not owning a gun, as most gun owners do.


 
I just   Muted Adam Scott much better :)
 
Disappointing that such an enlightened thinker is so wrapped up in fear of his world that he feels it necessary to litter his house with handguns in order to 'protect' himself and family from a 'psychopath' he is unlikely to ever encounter.
 
+James Clayton Do you have any statistic that if you take all gun related homicide how many of those was self defense? Is it a larger number than 1%?

The fact is if firearms are involved in an robbery you have 4 times larger chance to die. If you are attacked by a knife you have 7 times more chance to survive than if you are attacked by a gun. Mortality rate for gunshot wounds to the heart is 84%, compared to 30% for people who sustain stab wounds to the heart.

Fact is if you own a gun the chances are that you can use it when you need it are minimal. But if you try to use it  you will have a higher chance to be killed than if you don't.

Fact is the cause for most homicide is domestic violence when the gun is used by a family member not for protection but to kill.
 
DEVIATION FROM THE PARTY LINE WILL NOT BE TOLERATED!  PURGE ALL THOUGHT CRIMINALS!
 
+Adam Koncz I'd like to review your source for the statistic that stabbing someone in the heart is less fatal than shooting someone in the heart .  It seems counter-intuitive that puncturing the heart with a knife is less fatal than puncturing the heart with a bullet.  If you were comparing chest wounds (which include all of the upper torso), I think you could make your case.
Is your reference the same one you posted earlier?
 
+James Clayton Can I own a ballistic missile? Can I? Can I? Please! I swear I wont point it to America. And I wont wear it concealed or anything I promise. But its so fun to fire rockets.

The point is not you! It is not the responsible gun owners.There are a lot who are not responsible and there is no filter when you buy a gun.

But the fact that you think you need an assault weapon against intruders is pretty scary for people like me who don't even lock their door.
 
Gun control by tax on gun possession.
Imprison all Capones violators for tax fraud.
 
+Adam Koncz 
The best weapons for self defense, in the home, are those that are the most likely to make an intruder run away rather than shoot it out. If it is a scary looking gun, all the better, it is scary looking. Who wants to have the inferior gun in a gun fight anyway?

Beyond that, you want a gun that isn't going to shoot through the walls and endanger neighbors. An AK-47 is a very poor choice for example, while a shotgun or PS-90 is a perfect choice in my opinion.

As for not locking your doors, perhaps you don't have valuables or you live in some wonderful crime free place. Good for you, but in America there are real bad guys out there that do invade homes and do bad things. At the very least, people need to lock doors and have alarm systems here. Sad but true.
 
+James Clayton Isn't that something that you should work on to solve?

Rather than make sure the bad guys can get as many weapons as they wish? 

I mean self defense is great but if you dont prevent the bad guys to buy more and more powerful weapons. (Or just as powerful as yours.) Then where will it end?
What stops the bad guy to buy a PS-90 or whatever? You are running an arms race that I am not sure you are winning. 
 
Fascinating how people become biased and delusional when discoursing something personal and what they are emotional about. It's the same proclivity and obliviousness to rational thought that religious people exhibit and Sam fights against. Can't hide my disappointment, especially considering the reasoning and morality that Sams writings and lectures are permeated with. I guess it goes to show how much our reasoning and morality is molded by our enviroment...
 
+Adam Koncz 
I think the bad guys should be prevented from buying weapons as much as possible. I support closing any loopholes and requiring background checks. Harsher penalties for straw purchases if that is needed. I don't have a problem with waiting periods, perhaps with exceptions for people that have restraining orders taken out against others. (some exceptions needs to be there for people that literally need it for self defense against a serious threat, like abused women and such)

Keep in mind the "bad guys" won't always obey the law however, and any legislation will only work on those unwilling to buy on the black market. That would stop some people though. With hundreds of millions of guns here the problem is more complex, or vast at least, than any new laws can really help more than marginally.

There is also the very real problem of laws and government becoming a bigger problem than they are trying to solve. This may seem silly to some, but I would suggest the war on terror or the war on drugs have only made things worse. If the USA were to wage a "war on guns", it would be in my opinion create far more violence and problems we have now.


 
 
+Marko Erceg +Callum Hackett I must have read a different article.

+Sam Harris commented on the "rationality" of some of the comments, but (after reading the beginning four paragraphs again):
1. I don't see a single comment about his detractor's intelligence.
2. His writing tone remains reasonable and rational throughout, which does not seem to qualify as a "rant."  (Rant, v. - Speak or shout at length in a wild, impassioned way.)

Can you provide specific passages illustrating your points?
 
+Garritt VS My remark was encompassing both the original article and the faq. And i was not criticising his eloquence and writing tone, but the points he is trying to defend. There are plethora of rational ways to discuss an irrational thought. I fail to see logical reasoning in the points he is trying to convey, and i resolutely believe that his point of view would vastly differ from his current if he was brought up outside the usa. It's the mere fact that the rest of the western world finds usage of guns primal and barbaric, and yet an ethical pillar like Sam Harris retains opinion on the usage of weapons. It contradicts his (and for that matter of most ethical philosophers) other highly ethical and moral standpoints. I guess i was just bewildered and disappointed that a person of that kind of stature holds to such beliefs. The same way he gets aghasted by religious intellectuals...
 
+Marko Erceg

You are in Zagreb? I thought they used lots of guns very recently with all the ethnic cleansing going on? (I had a good friend from Serbia) If Europe is now civilized beyond understanding the need to have guns for self defense, or to the point of looking down on Americans, then they have a very short memory.

Perhaps Europeans killing each other for thousands of years makes them more fearful of guns? Although I personally think it is strange they are so trusting of their governments, with all the millions of unarmed people murdered by them in the very recent past.

Is it that barbaric to want to have the right to defend oneself? To not trust blindly strangers and just hope the government will always be there to save them? It seems extremely rational to me actually, at the least, there is some truth to the dangers of being unprepared.

 
+James Clayton Nothing of such happened, and certainly not very recently. War started because of the complex socio-political situation induced by the corrupt political strata, not the moral zeitgeist. Besides, the war ended almost 20 years ago, but that's a matter of different discussion... I'm not implying europe is civilized beyond comprehension, but i am categorical stating it's more developed concerning stated issues than the usa. And i think you have a very distorted view on the history of europe, so retorting to that is otiose. You are oversimplifying the matter at hand and it's just not communicating the rationality that both the original article lacks.
 
+Adam Koncz I own several guns. I love to hunt. I also have a gun for protection of my home. I am in control of my guns. I keep them locked and unloaded. I also keep them out of sight. I am responsible with my guns. Noone but me can gain access to my guns without extreme effort. A gun is only as dangerous as the person in possession of it. Gun dealers are the ones who need to be controlled. Gun shows and trade shows are only avenues for for profit gun dealers who hire private individuals to sell guns to the public. No taxes no wait and no record. This has got to stop or be under strict control ATF personel. Gun bans would only start a black market as we all know and buy backs are unrealistic. There is a solution and endless argument never has and never will work.
 
+Gail Grimm +Adam Koncz You guys aren't even realistic! Gail has just in her mind proven how smart she is in comparison to the rest of us. Her obvious resentment of her Country and anyone who disagrees' with her. I also am a victim of domestic violence a single parent and a man. Adam Koncz when you move to the U.S. and take resident then share you're worthless views. Untill then become involved in your country.
 
I could find a argument anytime I choose. I would rather find a solution. I'll keep my guns because it's my right,my desire and privledge as a American. I will continue to teach my children what is right and what is not. My daughter said Daddy I'ts not that I like to argue I just hate being wrong. Profound statement for a child. I believe more should follow her honesty.
 
Very interesting! Still think that this reasoning extrapolates to allowing all countries to develop nukes though.
 
+Kevin Lybrand "A gun is only as dangerous as the person in possession of it."

And that is what I am saying. 

How do you want to prevent dangerous persons owning guns?

Do you have any suggestions?

Are you want to be involved in an arms race with dangerous persons?
 Twenty years ago it was hand guns now apparently people are buying PS-90-s to protect themselves. 

"Until then become involved in your country."

Unfortunately the USA wants to lead the world. You are selling a culture that promotes violence. Your armies are all over the world.

The internal politics and culture of the USA directly effects my country and most of the countries in the world. For example your elections are not an internal matter because it does matter to us whether you elect a war mongering idiot or someone more ... well ... smart.
 
+Garritt VS  +Sam Harris created a FAQ that is based on false numbers.

It would not matter much except he is who he is. He is not just influential but also a scientist.
 
+Kevin Lybrand Google it. Seems there are a plenty. Must be a sport of some kind over there.
 
+Adam Koncz most of our citizens are law abiding. I don't know what a PS-90 is. My fire arms are for hunting deer and small game. I have a shot gun for protection of my home. I am in no arm's race that's for sure. The war mongers' you are talking about should be called money grabbers in a big oil and chems race. That is another issue altogether and is global. What was your countries part in it I ask?
 
+Kevin Lybrand  Well my country was economically pressured by the US to take part. It was not nice by the way.

You know I dont think anybody wants to ban hunting weapons. The issue is with handguns (responsible for 85% of gun related crimes) and assault weapons.
 
Guns do make it easier to kill as so sniper weapons do as well. Still there are drones and bombs that don't take a human to be right next to them to set off. Though these 'war' weapons or home made 'fire works' can cause lots of destruction even though they are not guns. 
Humans and other animals are violent and it isn't going to end while there is life on this planet. Though it does not hurt to suggest killing one another to extinction is not good in consequence for humans.

Be like Japan with martial arts?
 
Can anyone explain how it isn't rational to own a weapon for self defense? I understand statistics quite well, but the notion of just having faith that it is unlikely doesn't appear that rational to me. I really don't get it. Being armed with idealism in an unlikely situation, like a home invasion, seems to be a risky choice. Begging for mercy is the plan then?

Imagine it like this, you could choose to never use a seatbelt when driving or a motorcycle helmet on a bike. You could be a careful driver and have an extremely small chance of a deadly accident. Assuming one day a drunk or high truck driver veers out of control and smashed into you, then that choice to not have that helmet on, or use that seatbelt, could very well be fatal. Even though the odds of that happening are small.

Sure, you could say the odds are even smaller for armed intruders, but they are just as real. So to me, people are in denial and trying to claim those they disagree with are inferior or irrational, merely because they detest guns, or for some other reason having little to do with the arguments Sam Harris has made.
 
Kill in self defense people will do it law or not , but when does it become a Trayvon Martin event? 
 
+Sam Harris Consider that having a society where in order to kill or harm someone you had to exert yourself or exhibit a physical advantage over your victim. This by itself brings down the number of potential victim/assailant combinations. Factor in how ordinary objects around you can become valid weapons/shields against an attacker with a melee weapon and this brings the rate of success of those victim/assailant combinations down. A gun can be devastating in the hands of anyone, against anyone, and there are far fewer options for defense or escape against a firearm. We are arming the environment that surrounds us with weapons we cannot reliably defend against. The better solution is hard, and it would take a great deal of work and cooperation, but we need to eliminate this threat we have created. You should be using your powers of reason for the greater good. For a man so enlightened as to have grasped ultimate causality by himself, this one should have been a walk in the park. 
 
+James Clayton Its funny that it works isn't it. But you see it does. In Canada or Australia or Europe.

The thing is self defense rarely works. If it would work than the bad guys would be dead. But from all the gun related homicide the successful "self defense" is just a tiny tiny percentage. 

Most of the time what happens that there is an argument (usually domestic) and somebody pulls a weapon. And he can pull a weapon because it is there in the first place. 
 
Absolutely. 

How many times it happens? Most rape is done by a family member or people the victim knows well. Might happen after a party but then you would not have a gun with you anyway.
 
Less lethal like 'self defense' weapons like tazer can still kill or be used as torture device. Though with causing death blow with martial arts, allergy to mace, or taser death I don't know if them being illegal would change them from being lethal to those cases. Human nature and nature is a 'bitch' some times I guess for our mortality.
 
+Jennifer Isaacs I think that when people talk about banning handguns then they dont think it will eliminate all homicides. I think they just aiming to not have 4 times more than in any other developed nation.
 
+Adam Koncz

That does seem to be the best argument against guns. Trust in the statistics and don't worry about unlikely threats, regardless of your neighborhood, wealth, or career.

I think that makes sense, but if Sam Harris is concerned some jihadist might want to kill him, (or whatever his concern is) or if I am worried about thieves or those that know what business I own and might try to take me hostage, I think it is entirely rational to own a gun for self defense.

Would you ever want to be tied up begging for your life? Even if it is a remote chance, why take it? 
 
Jails are often like carousel rides for mentally ill and those addicted to drugs considered illegal. Though American jails sure have allot invested financially and one of the largest amount of prisoners with in them for a developed country. Maybe less guns may slow it down but I think gangs and murders will find a way if guns were not available any how. People often find ways to do things of considered good or bad consequence if they really want to.
 
With statistics that can never be wrong where is that?
I don't quite like to rely on authoritively statistics, but more likely explore all other non-bias information skeptically besides these things. 

"There is a general perception that statistical knowledge is all-too-frequently intentionally misused by finding ways to interpret only the data that are favorable to the presenter. A mistrust and misunderstanding of statistics is associated with the quotation, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics". ...
Ways to avoid misuse of statistics include using proper diagrams and avoiding bias. "The misuse occurs when such conclusions are held to be representative of the universe by those who either deliberately or unconsciously overlook the sampling bias. Bar graphs are arguably the easiest diagrams to use and understand, and they can be made either with simple computer programs or hand drawn. Unfortunately, most people do not look for bias or errors, so they do not see them. Thus, we believe something to be truth that is not well-represented. In order to make data gathered from statistics believable and accurate, the sample taken must be representative of the whole. As Huff's book states,"The dependability of a sample can be destroyed by [bias]… allow yourself some degree of skepticism."" --- wikipedia

To assume I would be tied up begging for my life would mean I would have failed at defensive techniques gun or not. Military POWs are a good example that have had guns even though they got captured any how. 
No disrespect to POWs of any kind though.

Also wikipedia is not an authoritive but rather explore all things in research. Media literacy is a good thing to know with such skepticism.
 
+James Clayton +Jennifer Isaacs 

Of course statistics can be wrong (Good example is Sam Harris's article)  

And of course you can have as many guns you like. Of course you can ignore statistics.

Just dont pretend to be surprised when you have a mass shooting every two months and 5 times more murder than in any other developed country.  
 
+Jennifer Isaacs

Failing with defensive techniques resulting in being a hostage begging for their life, or physically assaulted, still depends on the techniques used. Pepper spray or using martial arts is great, especially in public. If however your home was broken into by an armed intruder, you would have a far greater chance at being successful against them if you had comparable or superior firepower.

As for prisoners of war, they generally know they are supposed to be treated humanely under the Geneva convention and may surrender rather fighting to the death. An armed invader breaking into a home doesn't care about rules or laws. They may spare your life, or they might kill every person they rob or rape. It is really up to them at that point, if you have failed with whatever defensive technique you decided to employ.
 
+Adam Koncz

Until the criminals are all disarmed, assuming this is even possible, I would rather be armed with a gun than idealism or a belief in statistics. I respect those willing to live unarmed and totally trust in the police or government, but I also respect those that feel safer having a gun at home or carrying a concealed weapon.

That is what freedom here is about, having choices we each can make. We can decide what we each think is more dangerous. Having a gun, or not having one.

On a side note, I was watching a national geographic special on drugs last night, and an illegal marijuana grower in the UK bragged about his samurai sword he would use for defense if a gang broke in and tried to steal his plants. It was silly on one level, how he thought that sword would protect him, but on another level it was cool that drug dealers were armed with swords and less likely to accidentally kill others. The USA is generations away from anything like that in our society however.
 
 Not every one in the world has equal morals and law and how they should go about. It seems as though anything of power can be corrupted, abused, or  misused to what most in the world would consider bad consequence. Money is not the root of all evil and guns don't kill people alone.
It is those individuals and groups that allow things to happen that should be considered more than machines made by humans and what we use in nature to harm one another.

There is always  exceptions to the rule of things out there. All is speculation to the reasons of many things and not much else here.
The wild west and duels may be alive again before you know it.
 
+James Clayton I am 36 years old. I have not seen a handgun in my life apart from of police. (Yes hunting rifles a plenty)

On the other hand I do not know anybody who has been murdered. I dont know anybody who told me that he knows someone who has been murdered. I have never been robbed.  A friend of mine was mugged while on holiday in the US though.

The closest I come to murder was that several streets away a housewife stabbed his husband because he did not like her cooking as the gossip says, this was 5 years ago.

Don't get me wrong there are murders in my country just not that much. 
 
+Adam Koncz

Hypothetically, if all guns could be removed from society there would be less murders. Civilians would be less likely to be killed by other civilians. I agree it is harder to kill people with a knife, bombs take some intelligence to make. Poison can often be traced. Certainly the number of sensationalist mass murder sprees would be greatly lessened.

(Of course the Oslo killer committed the greatest murder spree in history in Europe - so while there would be less of them, the few that happen could be worse)

That said, even in societies that have been disarmed, they still have the highest murder rates in history. If you count the people shot and killed by their own governements. The soviets and the chinese killed tens of millions of unarmed people. The nazis expanded gun control to make it illegal for Jews to own guns before starting the final solution. So while you may think it can never happen again, the total statistics clearly show the greatest danger to civilians throughout history isn't other civilians, it is their own governments.
 
That is why mental health should be addressed but it is a taboo topic. Also many may fear that such information found by scientists and those that work in such fields of mental health may be used to do something of conspiracy or control the population with such knowledge perhaps. 
Health of any sort should be researched more through science but many do have beliefs that matter more than the facts some times when it comes to remedies and of the like. In other words many get offended that placebos or 'alternative medicine' is criticized by science. So I wont doubt that there will be a few offended if mental health is discussed of all sorts. 
 
The real cause for violence is the mind, not guns; I guess +Sam Harris would agree. So, tell us then: which one leads to a greater level of social sanity, encouraging the more peaceful segment of society to cultivate thoughts of violence (yes, thinking about killing, even in self-defence, is violent thought) or encouraging the more paranoid segment to give up their thoughts of becoming victim to violence very unlikely to happen?

Which was the answer to 9/11? Which was the answer to the Cold War? Does it make the world safer for the US, Russia, China, etc. to proliferate nuclear weapons?

Sam, my advice is to spend a little more time studying peace than you do violence. Structural violence is only a part of the problem; your argument in favour of more guns can only lead to an even greater amount of cultural violence than currently exists in the USA and which is, IMHO, far more dangerous. Seriously, experts in peace studies have already gone through this in great detail.

Check out Johan Galtung and http://www.transcend.org/ - I would love to hear your thoughts on his theories.

Peace to all :)
 
"But I don’t think these broader statistics apply to me." They might not apply to Sam Harris, but they obviously do apply to the whole of society. Nancy Lanza apparently had the same thinking. Was her judgment the product of a reasoning bias? It is interesting how the gun owner tends to assume that the risks of owning guns are negligible to him or her, that he or she are always in the better half of the population, and that he or she has absolute control. No smart child would mess with a gun, right? Until their curiosity speaks louder than common sense, a common sense sometimes not fully grasped at a young age.

What disappoints me is that I don't see a gun advocate actively trying to come up with a meaningful proposal. It is only about the maintenance of the status quo. From my reading, Sam's writings seems pretty compatible with improving background checks. Can we agree on that? Why can't gun owners give more support to it? Why is the answer always one the escalates the issue?

We should value our rights in a sense of not taking them for granted, of being good stewards of them, and understanding that we have a vested interest in making an earnest attempt not to make the exercise of a right threat to others, instead of shoving them down other's throats.
 
+James Clayton Oh and you think if the US government wants to exterminate half of the US population with the support of the other half handguns would be useful?
 
Altruism is more fascinating to research than violence in my imho.
 
+Adam Koncz

Handguns, not so much as they are short range. Despite the fact they are used in crime and murder almost exclusively, military style rifles are what the bans are targeting.

Rifles are very effective during civil wars. Assuming the USA turned into some evil 1984 nazi nightmare sort of place, it would be civil war. In a civil war semi auto rifles are quite useful. (I am not a conspiracy theorist either, just answering your question)

Many soldiers and cops already have inclinations to resistance however, so a real civil war here wouldn't be a few dozen lunatics clinging to their guns, it would be millions. It would be extremely messy.

Oh, you should read the outrage on the Internet about Joe Biden stating they would use executive orders for gun control, bypassing legislation if they do not get their way. If Obama were crazy enough to do that, things will turn bad really fast here.
 
Beyond all of the high-minded idealism, can we talk pragmatically for a bit?  As Sam mentions, we have about as many guns as there are people in the US.  We have extremely porous borders.  We have a constitutional amendment securing the right to bear arms. Criminals and drug cartels tend not to pay attention to laws. How precisely would you disarm all law abiding US citizens?  If we make you god-king-dictator of America for a day...how would you do it?
 
Wayne, I understand the difficulties, but to consider that the problem would be solved only by a total ban is, in my view, a false dichotomy. True, it might not make much of a difference if we have 250 million guns instead of 300 million, but is having 600 million a solution to the problem? I don't think so.
Maybe it is about keeping 300 million, but in a safer way. Is this impossible? 
 
Nestor,  I appreciate the sensitivity to false dichotomy.  I'm not calling for doing nothing.  I believe that there is a way to control guns in a way that allows people to retain their right to self-defense against people who tend not to pay attention to laws (like criminals and drug cartels).  I'm seriously asking everyone who is wringing their hands over Newtown: please get out of the clouds and tell us your proposal?
 
I believe that we can start by improving background checks. But this kind of prove my point: gun-rights advocates usually don't really try to come up with something meaningful. I like to understand when something doesn't work, but I would also like to hear about what could possibly work.
 
How dare we few suggest that perhaps maybe we should worry more about why people want to hurt each other and less about the machines and tools they used to do it. Banning things never seems to fix anything, so why is it the first thing people latch on too? 9/11 used box cutters and planes. Still hasn't stopped people from doing terrible things. We have seen an up tick in mass killings from young white males. Why? Doesn't that suggest that maybe their reactions is a poor way of trying to get peoples attention? It is also the one group that is being hit very hard by the economic disasters. No one is shocked when soldiers come back from war and can no longer deal with things. Why then is it shocking to everyone when kids facing a very bleak future flip out? The news all across the board has done nothing to stop the anger and fear. The news has not educated the public about what is going on in the world, it has only decided to push its poorly reasoned opinions on its readers. I would rather people focused on the factors that put people over the edge. For instance there are many car accidents that are caused by people running late to wherever they need to go. Almost everyone is guilty of this behavior at one time or another. It is a laps of judgment on our part. But why are people in more of a hurry now than in earlier decades? Could it have something to do with working longer hours for less pay? Or by the “Logic” I see on the so called, “progressive/liberal news media, we should be banning sports cars because they look more dangerous and that will some how solve our problem with vehicle violence. “Seriously?!”
 
Improving background checks sounds like a great idea.  Seems like it has been talked about forever.  Way past time to get it done.  But, how would that have changed Newtown?  That's the context I'm speaking in: what are some serious proposals that would have had some (any) probability of preventing what happened at Newtown?
 
Cars are actually more useful than gun in the long run when not relating them to entertainment. Why not just shoot zombies in a video game of some sort instead of having the real thing for fun? Is it that the powerful feeling is just that desire and to feel safer even if they really don't improve safety that much more? After all little kids can get a gun license but can't get a drivers license, why is that?
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_do_kids_underage_get_guns
I am unsure of all the laws and ways of how children may have gun ownership from all over the world. Though in the US it is possible for a child to use a gun legally but not buy one.
 
+Wayne Abbott
I think that instead of focusing solely on Newtown, we should focus on the broader picture, on the trend: Columbine, Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek, Newtown, Rochester, Aurora again… Not only these, but also gun violence in general, a much more important problem, although less visible. No single action will prevent another Newtown, but I believe it is possible to reduce its likelihood, even if by a small margin. 

If we have a really good background check for ex-felons and the mentally-ill, we could reduce the number of them that would have access to a gun. Even if most still can circumvent the system, and they will, a small reduction, even of only 1 percent, is enough to de-escalate violence enough to save lives. More importantly, it would be stop us from going toward a 600 million gun scenario.

I referred to the mentally-ill because this directly relates to mass shootings: it is a prerequisite. The reference to ex-felons is a bit more subtle. I often hear the argument that only an effective way to take all the guns from criminals would allow a total ban. (For the record, no one is proposing a total ban. I believe in the right to self-defense as a last resort option. The use of a lock can do a lot to keep you safe, efficient law enforcement too.) If the background check makes harder for criminals to acquire guns, hard enough to reduce the pressure for one to arm oneself for self-defense reasons, even if ever so slightly, it would help to curb violence. If you will, the idea is that the curve of gun availability over time, especially to those who shouldn't be trusted one, has a negative derivative or at least as close as possible to zero, as opposed to exponential growth.

If this reasoning is hard to buy, consider this. Should we trust a gun to an ex-felon? I would say no, as he or she already abused our trust. How about those adjudicated mentally-ill by a court? Sanity, a prerequisite to owning a gun, is established to be missing. If we agree on that, then we should have a way to make it happen. How? I would argue through a nation-wide database. (Could be state-wide, but only if all states have the quite similar rules, which is hard, to avoid the weakest link problem.) How to maintain a good quality database? It is needed that all (or at least most) courts comply on providing the information. Would this database be effective? It must be easy and broad. Every transaction should incur in a check, including private sales and gun shows, which will only happen if this check is easy, cheap, and enforced. Having a document validating the check could be made a requirement to buy a gun. Does this infringe the second amendment? I would say only if the status being checked is unreasonable. In my opinion, for felons and ex-felons, those adjudicated mentally-ill by a court, or those under an active restraining order that is not the case. Sane law-abiding citizens can still buy and keep his or her guns for self-defense, target shooting, and hunting. The only penalty is the background check, on purchases, to be made as painless as possible. 

There, I made my case. Not much, I know, but one step in the right direction, one that I hope we all can be comfortable with. Can we agree on this, at least in part?
 
+Sam Harris Of course, it's completely feasible to secure your home against the intrusion. But then you wouldn't need the guns scattered about the house -- and heck, how boring is that?

For about the same price as a kitchen remodeling, your doors and windows can be practically bad-guy proof while maintaining aesthetics.
 
+del skorch I think you must live in a country with a low crime rate. Have you considered how easy it is to enter your house through the roof? Roof-tiles, insulation or corrugated iron offer little or no impediment to forced entry.

If you stay in the US, I would also point out that if your house is made of wood, a hatchet is all that's needed to bypass the door and window burglar proofing (albeit with a bit of effort and noise).

I stay in south africa where crime rates are high enough that we consider all routes burglars might take into our houses.

Just to make sure I'm not misunderstood here, I don't believe in owning a gun (our country has a strict set of controls and laws about guns anyway), so I'm not trying to agree with Sam (on the whole I might or might not - I'm undecided), but if your argument is that you can stop an intruder from entering your house and therefore you don't need a gun, then that's not a good argument, unless you live in a proper castle or some such structure.
 
So the truth is more of it being a conditional thing of defense and protection of a weapon or murder device. At least it seems so by research.
 
+Sam Harris I was surprised to see that the lock box you linked to on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000T24OFG?ie=UTF8&tag=wwwsamharri02-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B000T24OFG
sports "1081 possible combinations", which a clever child could open fairly easily by trying every combination. On average, it would take him about 30-45 unsupervised minutes (whether all at once or broken up into shorter attempts).  Maybe I'm missing something, but that doesn't sound secure to me.   

I know lockboxes do solve the problem, but not that particular one.
 
We have locks on my husband's guns. I got the police department to do it for my husband thought it really didn't matter if they were on his guns. We have them secure and in places the kids cannot get to.
My kids think children's toys and games are more interesting than guns. So I am not worried about our home.
 
Please be careful of going off the deep end and use common sense. I left a link of a very rational perspective on these events. Penn Jilette also had a thoughtful take on it. Little research goes a long way.

In moments of seeming social collapse, what gives you hope?

“We are not in social collapse - this is an illusion created by excessive media coverage of the most dramatic violent events. Rape, once considered acceptable in war and courtship, is now unacceptable. In most parts of the world, it's declined. Rampage killings are extraordinarily rare. In the US, though 27 people were killed in Newtown, 40 people are killed everyday - but the media doesn't cover those killings. And in many countries, homicide rates have come way down over recent years.” -Steven Pinker 


https://soundcloud.com/cnn/cnn-profiles-steven-pinker-on
 
I had a  thought about how to enact really effective gun control without infringing on anyone's second amendment rights.  Require that all legally registered guns must be painted pink.  Think it would work?
 
Nope +Topher Belknap . That would be funny on the reactions though.
Also some may be pissed off calling the guns sexist. lol
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