Episode 5: Gun Control

Judith Levy and Damian Counsell
Dec 11, 2012
Direct Link to MP3 File

This week on the Levy & Counsell Show, a fascinating conversation about required military service in Israel and what it’s like raising children knowing they may very likely end up fighting in combat, living in an area with a high probability of experiencing a terrorist attack, and gun laws abroad (specifically in Israel and Great Britain) versus gun laws here in the U.S. Grab a drink and a sandwich, you’re going to want to listen to this one in one sitting and come back here and comment. 

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  1. Israel P.

    Mr Counsell, the people who shoot each other in DC and Chicago are largely culturally homogeneous, so that argument does not work.

  2. Israel P.

    I was surprised that I didn’t hear anything about the gun control practiced by the left-wing powers (prosecutors, courts etc) against the occasional Jew who actually uses his gun for self defense.

  3. Damian Counsell

    Franciscus:

    We didn’t have time to discuss much gun politics because we spent much of it trying to convey how different gun law and culture are in the UK and Israel from in the US. Also, my argument for tighter gun control in the States was a medical one, not a philosophical one. But there were two points when I mentioned liberty (freedom):

    1. When I admitted Brits tend to take their freedom for granted, perhaps because they have had a lot of it for a long time; perhaps because their governments have not lapsed to ideological extremes or abused their power as much as many others in the past century or so.

    2. When I acknowledged that changes in US gun law would have a price in individual freedom. I felt this price was a relatively small one, but acknowledged that many Americans would feel otherwise. Tighter restrictions on the sale and ownership of guns need not remove citizens’ rights to buy or bear them, but I believe they would reduce gun-related deaths.

    A third point I should have made: Brits are less afraid of military and police personnel because their gun use is also tightly restricted.

  4. Damian Counsell

    Israel P:

    I’m pretty sure that I put two facts in apposition to one another:

    1. Ethnically (not necessarily culturally) homogeneous national populations tend, in general, to have lower levels of violent crime.

    2. In the US especially, poor and black people are more likely to be victims of gun crime, often perpetrated by other poor and black people.

    These facts are not mutually exclusive.

    You didn’t do this yourself, but as a side note, it’s wrong to assume that people who appear to non-Africans to be ethnically homogeneous—that is, they all “look black” and share a nationality, even a religion—are in fact the same. Tribally, genetically, they are likely to be more diverse and segregated than similar sized European populations comprised of individuals who “look different”: different hair and eye colours, different dress codes, etc.

  5. Al Kennedy

    Damian, I cannot agree with your argument.  The gun violence among inner city youths which you deplore does not take place in New York, another lcarge American city with very strict gun control laws.  The police there have implented a very effective “stop and frisk” policy.  If Chicago and Washington DC were to do the same, the youth gun violence would decrease dramatically, as it did in New York.  Gun control laws do not authomatically eliminate deadly youth violence.

    Also, you failed to discuss the increasing level of deadly knife violence occuring in Britain.  This is another example that strong gun control laws do not by themselves eliminate or reduce youth violence.

  6. Zafar

    What an interesting podcast.

    Damian – do you think that last year’s (?) London riots would have played out differently if British gun laws were more like US gun laws (or even Israeli gun laws)? Better? Worse? Why?

    Ethnic solidarity in neighbourhoods (eg Sikhs in Southall, some Turkish bits of North London?) seemed to be one thing that empowered people to guard their communities against looters and violence.  Would you say these community ties were more important than access to guns?

  7. Daniel Sattelberger

    What’s the song at the end?

  8. Damian Counsell

    Al Kennedy:

    I’m not sure which argument of mine you’re disagreeing with. I certainly don’t think gun laws would automatically eliminate deadly youth violence. And I refer twice in the podcast to the high level of non-gun-related violence in the UK.

    My main claim is a  modest one:

    I think that (well enforced) gun laws can reduce gun-related deaths in general and I personally believe that that reduction in mortality and morbidity is worth the price in liberty; but I don’t expect many people here to agree with me on that, and I can, at least partly, understand some of the cultural and philosophical reasons why.

    The main thrust of what I was saying is however something that I think a lot of of Ricochetti can agree with: that it’s not *just* guns that kill people; gun cultures do too.

  9. Damian Counsell

    Zafar:

    Thanks.

    Interestingly, a lot of people would say last year’s riots in London were triggered by a police shooting. I think if guns had been more easily available to civilians and if more police had been armed there would, almost inevitably, have been more bloodshed.

    Your point about community ties is well taken. I saw several videos of local groups defending neighbourhoods against rioters, and it’s probably not a coincidence that most of these felt or expressed some kind of ethnic solidarity. Of course, if more white/native Brits had lived in the areas affected by rioting, the demographics of that kind of solidarity might have been different.

  10. George G

    I believe you need to be careful when you speak of a “gun culture.”  What you’re really talking about is a culture of violence.  I’ve lived in a “gun culture” all of my life and have participated in it for most of my life.  I grew up around hunters and shooters and bought my first rifle when I was in sixth grade.  I own a number of guns now and plan to buy more.  I am not a violent person and the people I know who own guns are not violent people.  They are a diverse group of teachers, lawyers, accountants, law enforcement personnel and other very ordinary people.  We are all part of the American “gun culture,” but we are not part of any culture of violence.  When you start talking about controlling guns, you’re really talking about taking guns away from people like us who obey the law.  That is going to have very little effect on those who do not live in our “gun culture” but rather who live in a culture of violence.

  11. Damian Counsell

    I use the term “gun culture” deliberately neutrally. I think the situation Judith described in Israel is a “gun culture”; it is a gun culture that, despite the widespread possession and use of guns, leads to very few gun-related deaths. (There are also, of course, hugely destructive gun cultures elsewhere in the World.)

  12. The Clash, Guns of Brixton. 

  13. Daniel Sattelberger
    Blue Yeti: The Clash, Guns of Brixton.  · 4 minutes ago

    Thanks, Yeti; I might have something more substantive later.

  14. George G

    Damian:  Thanks for your last comment.  That’s what I was driving at:  the fact of gun possession does not by itself produce a culture where violence is widespread.  Something more has to be going on for people to make the choice to use guns for violence.  We need to keep that in mind as we discuss gun control issues.  Too often, gun control is casually assumed to be a simple and obvious solution to a very complex problem, when it is nothing of the kind.

    Thanks so much for your podcasts.  I really enjoy them and appreciate your (and Judith’s) perspective.

  15. Thom Williams

    Damian and Judith, I love this podcast as I find both of you well informed and eloquent and because it is refreshing to steer my thoughts away from the navel-gazing that happens so often to US political junkies. I had a couple of mild objections to the discussion, though.

    The first is a broad one about how American “gun culture” and gun crime should be viewed. Damian, once you control for crimes committed by the clinically mentally ill/disturbed and gang violence you will find the remaining population who make up the “gun culture,” even collectors and “gun nuts” (you did not use that term, Damian) don’t have a problem with gun violence at all. So I believe the proper way to look at gun ownership and use  in the states, and what proper gun policy should be, needs to get to the bottom of those facts. A blanket statement about how US gun laws are misguided because of our cultural diversity, as you admit, is rather unthoughtful and unuseful.

    (1/2)

  16. Thom Williams

    (2/2)

    The second point is more niggling, regarding the swift boat “non scandal.” John Kerry’s military record, especially as he attempted to exploit is as a stellar credential, was indeed scandalous and worth a proper vetting, which it didn’t even fully receive. Kerry’s record in combat was not what he purported by a long shot, and his activist behavior upon his return, putatively on behalf of his brothers in arms, was downright shameful and disgusting. The attention this received in the 2004 elections was not a “non scandal.” It deserved the attention it received. If anything, Kerry got off easy.

  17. BakerJW

    My father is a gun collector, as was my grandfather. You might say i was raised in a “gun culture” as well. The cultural was one of respect for weapons and what a proper use of one is and to not be afraid of simply being in the presence of weapons.

    Obviously there are cultures where the gun is not shown respect and is seen as a way to lift oneself above other individuals. It is not gun ownership that causes these problems, it is a tearing down of the individuals respect for themselves and respect for the individuals around them.

    A weapon is a way to defend ones individual life,  sovereignty and property. I am not a big man, if i were i might feel more comfortable without a weapon. To remove it, is to remove my right to defend my own life effectively. I refuse to put my life in the hands of others and i refuse to be out gunned when threatened. The gun is the great equalizer.

  18. Franciscus

    One critical aspect is missing from the discussion I believe; one of the reason the second ammendment, limited government and individual liberty. While self protection is discussed, the discussion of liberty is not. I believe that the foundations of the US was under great suspission of organized government, and in favor of individual liberty. To secure a limited government, and ensure a tyrannical government didn’t have the monopoly on firearms, the INDIVIDUAL retained these rights. Thererore you can site all the statistics you like, but the fact remains that individual liberty also encompasses the responsibility for ones own safety. Despite any myriad of studies and number of statist schemes to remove firearms from the individual, historically governments that have a monopoly on weapons haven’t had a good record in securing liberty for the individual. I will choose to retain my guns and as much individual liberty as possible, despite the current political situation. If the government finds itself unable to defend our country, I would hate to be the invader that tried to enter the US, especially Texas.Cheers, Franciscus

  19. Eeyore
    Karen:  Every other week there’s some heartbreaking story about a child finding an unsecured gun and shooting and killing himself or someone else.

    That’s about right. It’s about 30-60 a year, and every one of them is national news. But it’s about half the number of kids who are run over by the family car (which you only hear about locally).  It’s about a fifth of the number who drown in the bathtub (We need tighter controls on bathtub possession). One year I was in Tucson, they celebrated that it had only been a “3-child summer”. Only three children had drowned in improperly secured pools (they must be self-locking) . One year it was 12.  (We need stricter and more consistent Federal pool control). And don’t get me started on private ownership of automobiles. Every year, drunks commit over 20,000 homicides with them.

  20. Franciscus

    Thanks for the response. Using your logic one could make the case for serious restrictions if not the outright banning of automobiles, and outlawing alcohol (bring back the 18th Amendment). Given the number of highway and drunk driving deaths each year the case would be a no brainer. But as with firearms we derive other benefits from cars and alcohol that society feels outweighs the consequences. But unfortunately all you get in media is the times guns were used to commit crimes, not when they prevented them or were used so save a life. This information seems to be left out of the New York media narrative. Just like John Kerry and his false testimony under oath to Congress, you can’t get the real story on guns here. In the end I feel more compelled by the idea that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” than I am by the idea that removing all sources of violence will somehow create the perfect Utopian society. If the goal was really to make people safe, vice outright control of the individual, Americans would be required to own a weapon and qualify annually.

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