Be sure to vote, I am curious where most atheists stand on this issue.

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@Unseen:

"But restricting guns tends to restrict them among the law abiding citizens far more than among the lawbreaking segment of society. One has only to look at the tight control of addictive drugs to see how well that would work."

Does demanding a licence to drive a car or tax on gas restrict driving and car ownership by law-abiding citizens? Perhaps a bit, but we can probably agree that a car is a potentially dangerous machine, and proving to the state that you can handle one safely before you can legally drive it is hardly something you would fight against. So why look to drugs, which, unlike guns, tend to be addictive and mind altering, when a car is a much more apt comparison. 

"Sure, fewer guns would mean fewer accidental discharges, a few crime of passion shootings, and some suicides, though many of the crimes of passion and suicides would simply become deaths by other means."

I see you conceded the point, but did not care to understand it. Fewer weapons, as understood as stricter requirements for gun owners, is correlated with a lower rate of crime. "Many" will not find other ways of killing, obviously, though some will. The US has an intentional homocide rate of around 5 per 100k, most with guns, other Western countries have around 0.5-1.5, mostly not with guns.

"but is strictly limiting guns to save for a few accidental discharges worth banning guns entirely?"

I would say that requiring 2 lockboxes, one for the weapon and another for the bolt, hardly qualifies as "strictly limiting", or that being required to be member of a shooting range and have a gun licence qualifies either. 

"And don't give me the "if it saves one life" argument."

Perish the thought. I'm an economist and I prefer placing dollar values on peoples lives and see if something is socio-economically profitable. Lets say restrictions place a cost $1bn per year, but save 10.000 dead and wounded whose lives are valued at $100k per year for society, then I would be indifferent to such restrictions. As should you.

"I'll leave it to use to disprove it, since it seems commonsensical."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homic...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/murder-rates-nationally-and-state

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_the_United_States_by_state

Compare and contrast, both nationally and internationally. Western countries tend to have strict rules, and low murder rates, the Northeastern US tend to have stricter rules, and lower murder rates.

"I'd ask you to offer that disdainful sort of commentary at the next Veterans of Foreign Wars convention if you believe it so sincerely."

I could ask you to lecture Russians and Chinese about their Jingoism in their next veterans meeting too and see how that would turn out, but I hardly think it would matter, on the whole, for neither you, them, or their fervent nationalism. The downside of being powerful is that you end up sullying yourself, which should be met with reflection, not cries for "by Jingo!"

@Unseen:

Does demanding a licence to drive a car or tax on gas restrict driving and car ownership by law-abiding citizens? Perhaps a bit, but we can probably agree that a car is a potentially dangerous machine, and proving to the state that you can handle one safely before you can legally drive it is hardly something you would fight against. So why look to drugs, which, unlike guns, tend to be addictive and mind altering, when a car is a much more apt comparison.

Licensing cars and even taking away some people's licenses, as a way to keep bad drivers from getting behind the wheel, has never worked very well.

"Sure, fewer guns would mean fewer accidental discharges, a few crime of passion shootings, and some suicides, though many of the crimes of passion and suicides would simply become deaths by other means."

The US has an intentional homocide rate of around 5 per 100k, most with guns, other Western countries have around 0.5-1.5, mostly not with guns.

Well, 5 per 100,000 homicide rate is the same as 1 per 20,000, and since the average person lives 28,500 days, why are there 30 million Americans? shouldn't most of us be dead? I don't see your statistic as defensible. It sounds like something some anti-gun person dreamed up using fuzzy logic and a broken calculator.

"but is strictly limiting guns to save for a few accidental discharges worth banning guns entirely?"

I would say that requiring 2 lockboxes, one for the weapon and another for the bolt, hardly qualifies as "strictly limiting", or that being required to be member of a shooting range and have a gun licence qualifies either.

That would only be enforceable in retrospect (after a misuse), and so won't be terribly effective.

"And don't give me the "if it saves one life" argument."

Perish the thought. I'm an economist and I prefer placing dollar values on peoples lives and see if something is socio-economically profitable. Lets say restrictions place a cost $1bn per year, but save 10.000 dead and wounded whose lives are valued at $100k per year for society, then I would be indifferent to such restrictions. As should you.

Since many if not most of the people who are killed in intentional homicides are in the drug subeconomy (killed in drug disputes, gang wars, etc.), I'm not sure they have a dollar value to the regular economy. Not one we should want to value, anyway.

"I'll leave it to use to disprove it, since it seems commonsensical."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homic...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/murder-rates-nationally-and-state

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_the_United_States_by_state

Compare and contrast, both nationally and internationally. Western countries tend to have strict rules, and low murder rates, the Northeastern US tend to have stricter rules, and lower murder rates.

The U.S. has highly developed data gathering by comparison with most other countries. I can't trust national comparisons without assurance that death reporting and recording is the same everywhere.

Correlation isn't causality.

BTW, the way you talk, you'd think intentional gun homicide is one of the top causes of death in the United States. Is it even in the Top 10? No:

Number of deaths for leading causes of death
Heart disease: 597,689
Cancer: 574,743
Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 138,080
Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 129,476
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 120,859
Alzheimer's disease: 83,494
Diabetes: 69,071
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,476
Influenza and Pneumonia: 50,097
Intentional self-harm (suicide): 38,364

Well, okay,many of the suicides will be gun-related and qualify as intentional homicides, but they aren't intentional homicides of one person by another. A suicidal person will find a way either to get a gun or will use another means. There are lots of ways to kill oneself.

"I'd ask you to offer that disdainful sort of commentary at the next Veterans of Foreign Wars convention if you believe it so sincerely."

I could ask you to lecture Russians and Chinese about their Jingoism in their next veterans meeting too and see how that would turn out, but I hardly think it would matter, on the whole, for neither you, them, or their fervent nationalism. The downside of being powerful is that you end up sullying yourself, which should be met with reflection, not cries for "by Jingo!"

Your point WAS that Americans didn't really die defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Mine is that they damn well did.

"Licensing cars and even taking away some people's licenses, as a way to keep bad drivers from getting behind the wheel, has never worked very well."

Yet you do not presumably oppose licensing drivers? 

"Well, 5 per 100,000 homicide rate is the same as 1 per 20,000, and since the average person lives 28,500 days, why are there 30 million Americans? shouldn't most of us be dead? I don't see your statistic as defensible. It sounds like something some anti-gun person dreamed up using fuzzy logic and a broken calculator."

A rate of 5 per 100k will give you around 15k homocides per year in the US, given a population of 300m. Those stats are from the FBI, which presumably know a thing or two about crime in the US. How would you like that foot seasoned?

"That would only be enforceable in retrospect (after a misuse), and so won't be terribly effective."

It's the law in most countries, especially those with low rate of fire arms deaths and injuries. Along with other precautions, it does seem to work.

"The U.S. has highly developed data gathering by comparison with most other countries."

Ignoring your special pleading, not compared to other western countries. If anything, US statistics lag in quality in several areas, and there is a tendency for underreporting crimes. 

"I can't trust national comparisons without assurance that death reporting and recording is the same everywhere."

Of course you cannot. When you are dogmatic, you will find any excuse to ignore contradictory data. You can read about the methodology on the UNODC website for yourself.

"Correlation isn't causality."

Except when it is. For instance, cloud cover and rain are correlated. The only thing that expression proves is ignorance of science in general and the field of statistics in particular. If stricter regulations on guns are not the cause of lower rates of gun related violence, what is your alternative explanation?

"A suicidal person will find a way either to get a gun or will use another means. There are lots of ways to kill oneself."

That's a statement which requires facts to support it. Where is your source that people who commit suicide by gunshot would commit suicide by other means had the gun not been available?

"Your point WAS that Americans didn't really die defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Mine is that they damn well did."

What constitutional rights were threatened by i.e. Spain, Germany, Korea, Iraq or Vietnam? 

If stricter regulations on guns are not the cause of lower rates of gun related violence, what is your alternative explanation?

While availability of guns is obvious, we should at least consider some other, rather obvious contributing factors. The vast majority of the first world consists of much smaller, more homogeneous countries than the US, with more developed social welfare programs and lower rates of poverty, gang activity, and crime in general. Drug use and trafficking are high here. It's not special pleading to note that the US is unique among its peers.

I apologize for not making what you wrote clear. I didn't intent to contend it was the only factor, only that it most likely is the most important factor.

I don't think the US is all that unique in its heterogeneity, most Western European countries have immigrant populations of 10-20%, and as I recall the US is in the lower bound of that interval. I also don't quite see how geographic size would drive homocide rates, generally people tend to bunch up, I believe around 70% of the US population resides in the Eastern half, which just happens to be approximately the same size as Europe, but with half the population density. It's not like countries such as Tunisia or Hungary have well developed social welfare programs and low rate of poverty either, yet they do persist in having substantially lower homocide rates than the US. 

Actually the population center of the U.S. is west of the Mississippi River (I used to live near it). More than 50% of the U.S. now tends to live west of that point. It's a changing demographic. This is per the U.S.Census Bureau. It's a quibble I know.

"Licensing cars and even taking away some people's licenses, as a way to keep bad drivers from getting behind the wheel, has never worked very well."

Yet you do not presumably oppose licensing drivers?

I don't particularly support it, either. It seems to function more as a way to make money. Mandatory driver training would seem to be more beneficial.

"That would only be enforceable in retrospect (after a misuse), and so won't be terribly effective."

It's the law in most countries, especially those with low rate of fire arms deaths and injuries. Along with other precautions, it does seem to work.

That simply ignores the fact that Americans aren't Canadians and Canadians aren't Indians and Indians aren't Norwegians and Norwegians aren't South Africans. You look at one factor, see a difference, and pounce on it as though the fact that there is a difference is somehow objective proof that the difference is relevant or is even a factor at all, without proof. You simply assume it. Correlation isn't necessarily causality.

"The U.S. has highly developed data gathering by comparison with most other countries."

Ignoring your special pleading, not compared to other western countries. If anything, US statistics lag in quality in several areas, and there is a tendency for underreporting crimes.

Rape or drunken driving, perhaps, because it's a "he said, she said" sort of crime, but how does one underreport shootings? If a body has a bullet hole in it, why wouldn't it be reported as a shooting? You seem to believe that in America the police might overlook a shooting the way they might let someone off with a warning if one of their tail lights is broken.

"I can't trust national comparisons without assurance that death reporting and recording is the same everywhere."

Of course you cannot. When you are dogmatic, you will find any excuse to ignore contradictory data. You can read about the methodology on the UNODC website for yourself.

I don't own a gun and don't want one. I wish there was less gun crime, but I blame it on American attitudes and a flaw in the the American character, not on hardware. I'm not dogmatic; I'm a skeptic. I believe the best conclusions are reached when all the arguments on both sides get a strong hearing.

"Correlation isn't causality."

Except when it is. For instance, cloud cover and rain are correlated. The only thing that expression proves is ignorance of science in general and the field of statistics in particular. If stricter regulations on guns are not the cause of lower rates of gun related violence, what is your alternative explanation?

That Americans are more violent (in a statistical sense, of course: most Americans aren't violent at all). For various cultural and social reasons, as well as traditions, Americans behave as they do.

"A suicidal person will find a way either to get a gun or will use another means. There are lots of ways to kill oneself."

That's a statement which requires facts to support it. Where is your source that people who commit suicide by gunshot would commit suicide by other means had the gun not been available?

What would you accept as proof of something so obvious? How about that many people commit suicide without guns, perhaps because they don't have one. It's easy enough, then, to go out in the garage and kill oneself with carbon monoxide, for example.

"Your point WAS that Americans didn't really die defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Mine is that they damn well did."

What constitutional rights were threatened by i.e. Spain, Germany, Korea, Iraq or Vietnam?

That's cherry picking. I'm referring to wars that threatened to spill over into the U.S. where the enemy was expansionist, anti-democratic, and dictatorial. In the case of Korea and Vietnam, the intention was to stop the spread of Communism under the "domino theory." Now, we can argue whether there really was much of a threat to U.S. sovereignty over its own territory, but have little doubt that that is the way the soldiers viewed it.

@Tom - thanks teach - always willing to learn.

You're most welcome, Suzanne. Or as Latino friends say, de nada.

I find astounding your spirited interest in the issue. Do you have related responsibilities in your country?

I find it astounding that this is still being debated. What is the spirit of the law?

So many interpretations of the one sentence - the fact that it has to be debated in the Supreme Court, Mmmmm.....Militia - what is a militia - what is a militia in todays terms?

"Handguns are "Arms" and concluded that thus they may not be banned by the District of Columbia; however, they said that Second Amendment rights are subject to reasonable restrictions.

"The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" relates to the Militia of the States only. That the Second Amendment does not apply to the District, then, is, to me, an unavoidable conclusion.

The court rephrased the question to be decided as follows:
The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted limited to the following question: Whether the following provisions, D.C. Code §§ 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22–4504(a), and 7-2507.02, violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?

Then there is this -

The Stevens dissent seems to rest on four main points of disagreement: that the Founders would have made the individual right aspect of the Second Amendment express if that was what was intended; that the "militia" preamble and exact phrase "to keep and bear arms" demands the conclusion that the Second Amendment touches on state militia service only;

The Breyer dissent also objected to the "common use" distinction used by the majority to distinguish handguns from machineguns: "But what sense does this approach make? According to the majority’s reasoning, if Congress and the States lift restrictions on the possession and use of machineguns, and people buy machineguns to protect their homes, the Court will have to reverse course and find that the Second Amendment does, in fact, protect the individual self-defense-related right to possess a machine-gun...There is no basis for believing that the Framers intended such circular reasoning.

Court cases like this are always interesting, especially when the NRA are inolved -

Attorney Alan Gura, in a 2003 filing, used the term "sham litigation" to describe the NRA's attempts to have Parker (aka Heller) consolidated with its own case challenging the D.C. law. Gura also stated that "the NRA was adamant about not wanting the Supreme Court to hear the case.
The gun debate in America, generally goes around and around in circles - it is politically impossible to have any control of guns.

The NRA is involved, and will just keep on challenging any court decision. Does the NRA get contributions from the manufacturer's of guns? This is very big business, with so many people making a fortune out of gun sales, the fear they have instilled, the circular arguments in court, cannot be undone.

http://www.americansworking.com/guns.html

In the meantime people are scared, parents are scared, just in case a loony tune decides to shoot up some place. The schools, I get, kid bullied, so mows down teachers and students alike. I didn't understand the Movie Theatre shooting.

Americans also have to see it from an outsiders point of view. I am an Atheist, and I wanted to give my opinion. In Australia, the gun lobby is always pushing to change the laws, and also, keeps on going to court, but they lose.

My point is - American history is totally different to other countries of that era. Australia hasn't had a civil war, American against American - guns are prolific, and nobody is going to get rid of their guns - it is a mind frame that I personally don't want to see here.

@Tom - We, in lil' old Australia, get all the news, from politics, to gun control court cases, to gun shows. We have a shooters party here, who blackmailed the local government into giving them the rights to shoot feral animals in National Parks. The hikers, campers etc had no say. Blackmail works, and they also have a lot of money behind them. The blokes doing the shooting have no formal training, if they did, I wouldn't have a problem.

I know how easy it is for the average person in the street to lose control politically.
I also have an American Uncle, who moved his wife and three daughters to Canada, because of the amount of guns and random shootings that were going on, and he is a Republican. I also found the argument for guns is exactly the same as for theists. Ignore the statistics, be a tad sorry for the kids killed, maybe, but there you go, we must have our guns just in case of!!!!! Nothing will change, it is all too entrenched, just like theism.

But is has been fun - the insane thing, is that, America has such a huge influence on Australian children, they know more about America than they do their own country.

Australia is linked to America and England, if we like it or not.

I might get a gun, and shoot the next teenager I hear who says 'Like'. Aagghhh!

I also found the argument for guns is exactly the same as for theists. Ignore the statistics, be a tad sorry for the kids killed, maybe, but there you go, we must have our guns just in case of!!!!!

Ignore statistics? Please, Suzanne. These are Republicans. This is the NRA. When science makes your position look truly horrendous, simple ignorance won't do. It's time to break out the muzzles.

Before 1996 the US Centers for Disease Control kept statistics on public safety regarding everything from car crashes to chainsaws to firearms. But ever since 1996, thanks to the Republicans and NRA lobbyists, federal funding for scientific research on firearm safety and violence has virtually disappeared.

Study the impact of firearms on public safety at a population level in the United States? None of that. Stay Stupid, Stay Armed.

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