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. 

The Levy-Counsell Show is now free for everyone to hear. Listen in above or subscribe in iTunes. Direct link here.

Members have made 55 comments.

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  1. Profile photo of Israel P. Member

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

    • #1
    • December 11, 2012 at 1:59 am
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  2. Profile photo of Israel P. Member

    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.

    • #2
    • December 11, 2012 at 2:22 am
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  3. Profile photo of Damian Counsell Inactive


    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.

    • #3
    • December 11, 2012 at 2:39 am
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  4. Profile photo of Damian Counsell Inactive

    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.

    • #4
    • December 11, 2012 at 2:40 am
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  5. Profile photo of Al Kennedy Member

    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.

    • #5
    • December 11, 2012 at 5:05 am
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  6. Profile photo of Zafar Member

    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?

    • #6
    • December 11, 2012 at 5:24 am
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  7. Profile photo of Daniel Sattelberger Inactive

    What’s the song at the end?

    • #7
    • December 11, 2012 at 7:04 am
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  8. Profile photo of Damian Counsell Inactive

    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.

    • #8
    • December 11, 2012 at 7:08 am
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  9. Profile photo of Damian Counsell Inactive



    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.

    • #9
    • December 11, 2012 at 7:18 am
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  10. Profile photo of George G Member

    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.

    • #10
    • December 11, 2012 at 7:29 am
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  11. Profile photo of Damian Counsell Inactive

    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.)

    • #11
    • December 11, 2012 at 7:38 am
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  12. Profile photo of

    The Clash, Guns of Brixton. 

    • #12
    • December 11, 2012 at 7:42 am
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  13. Profile photo of Daniel Sattelberger Inactive
    Blue Yeti: The Clash, Guns of Brixton. · 4 minutes ago

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

    • #13
    • December 11, 2012 at 7:48 am
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  14. Profile photo of George G Member

    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.

    • #14
    • December 11, 2012 at 8:13 am
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  15. Profile photo of Thom Williams Inactive

    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.


    • #15
    • December 11, 2012 at 8:31 am
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  16. Profile photo of Thom Williams Inactive


    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.

    • #16
    • December 11, 2012 at 8:32 am
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  17. Profile photo of BakerJW Inactive

    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.

    • #17
    • December 11, 2012 at 8:36 am
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  18. Profile photo of Franciscus Inactive

    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

    • #18
    • December 11, 2012 at 9:14 am
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  19. Profile photo of Eeyore Member
    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.

    • #19
    • December 11, 2012 at 9:23 am
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  20. Profile photo of Franciscus Inactive

    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.

    • #20
    • December 11, 2012 at 9:44 am
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  21. Profile photo of Franciscus Inactive

    Just as you pointed out about Israel and conceal carry, the states here that have them in high proliferation like Texas, Utah, Arizona etc., have seem precipitous reduction in crime. This makes the case that an armed society is a polite society.

    • #21
    • December 11, 2012 at 9:49 am
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  22. Profile photo of Eeyore Member

    Damian – I think you (and millions of Americans) make the mistake of thinking stricter gun laws or regulation on possession will have any effect on gun crime. The mistake is conflating legal gun owners with illegal gun owners. Only an Australian or British style confiscation will have any effect on illegal possession and use. Gun laws mean almost nothing. North Dakota has one of the highest legal gun ownership rates in the country. In 2010 they had a total homicide rate of 1.6/100,000. (This will change with the “gold rush” culture developing around the Bakken oil) In Chicago, where it is almost impossible to own a legal gun, it is not unusual to hear of 20, 30 or even 40 shootings over a weekend. The homicide rate in 15.2/100,000 – down from 29 in 1992.

    After hurricane Katrina, in the Algiers Point area of New Orleans, a man had 23 holes shot in his house until he remembered an old shotgun previously forgotten in the back of a closet. Sitting armed on his balcony with neighbors, no more trouble. (I bet none of the 23 hole were made by legally possessed firearms).


    • #22
    • December 11, 2012 at 9:53 am
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  23. Profile photo of Eeyore Member


    This is another area of Algiers Point. They didn’t have a single looting or gunshot problem in their neighborhood after Katrina.

    • #23
    • December 11, 2012 at 9:55 am
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  24. Profile photo of Damian Counsell Inactive

    I’m glad you brought up automobiles, Franciscus, because it proves that “my logic”, which is the logic of epidemiology, is correct. Britain also has serious restrictions on the ownership and use of automobiles and, despite its relatively dense population and high rate of car ownership, it has among the lowest road accident rates in the World. I say again, such restrictions might irritate many Brits, but there are still a lot of cars on Britain’s roads and a lot of people driving them safely.

    I like to think the latter part of your comment wasn’t addressed at me, but at no point have I called for removal of all or any source of violence, and, even in this podcast about guns, I alluded to the perils of utopianism in government (when trying to explain Britain’s resistance to ideology and extremism).

    • #24
    • December 11, 2012 at 10:02 am
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  25. Profile photo of Eeyore Member

    Also Damian, you said to forget about the footballers and drunkards. Just how do you do that? I understand it is official public policy in some areas to say “Do not go out on weekend evenings – you will likely be assaulted by the yobs” I also understand the official word in some areas is that if assaulted you are to drop to the ground, assume a fetal position, use your arms to protect your head and yell “Someone call the police”.

    I also note that somewhere in Britain, there was a huge story concerning the trial of a farmer who shot 2 teenagers as they were robbing and beating him for the 6th time. I also hear that in some areas, the odds of being burgled is about 1-in-2 in a given year, and that 60% of the burglaries are “hot” – that is, of an occupied dwelling. And that you can’t stop them physically or be you’ll guilty of assault.

    By the way, been “glassed” in a bar lately? I understand that’s becoming quite popular.

    • #25
    • December 11, 2012 at 10:23 am
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  26. Profile photo of Karen Member

    I personally would prefer a president with prior military experience, but I don’t think most Americans care. The presidency has been reduced to a popularity contest, so experience of any sort isn’t that important, as evidenced by Obama’s reelection. I’d rather a president be a student of military history than anything, yet our current CinC obviously is not – to our detriment. It’s great if someone served their country in uniform, but I don’t know how beneficial it is to successful leadership as president. Think Carter. I think someone with prior service, especially one who has participated in a military conflict, understands the gravity of entering into another and the importance of the commitment and sacrifice of those we ask to defend us. I think prior service is a prerequisite for Secretary of Defense, but I’d also like the Secretary of State to be a career diplomat, but that’s not a priority either in the current administration. 

    • #26
    • December 11, 2012 at 10:57 am
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  27. Profile photo of Karen Member

    As for gun control, my sons often play at the homes of children whose fathers are in local, state and federal law enforcement, so I know they have guns in their homes. I also know they are very responsible individuals. At the same time, I don’t really understand people who have a stockpile of guns for the heck of it. Every other week there’s some heartbreaking story about a child finding an unsecured gun and shooting and killing himself or someone else. Also, it is just too easy to acquire guns by illegal means in the US. I understand someone wanting them for home defense or hunting, but I wouldn’t mind stricter and more consistent state gun laws to help weed out the crazies and gun runners. 

    • #27
    • December 11, 2012 at 11:08 am
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  28. Profile photo of Astonishing Inactive

    Gun laws and customs can seem to indicate something essential about a country.

    But with its relative homogeneity and constant existential threat, Israel makes a special case from which one cannot draw broader inferences about gun laws, or anything else

    Without being snide, one might say Britain’s gun law is of a piece with its ubiquitous spycameras–a once great people cowering toward its own variety of Western decline. Also of a piece is the unconcern that leaders have experience of the military. Such unconcern was heretofore unknown anywhere, except recently in the America-protected West. The British should care that they don’t care. 

    Conservative Americans consider our country exceptional, and are not troubled if our exceptional laws and attitudes–American principles–about guns seem to a British proceduralist uncivilized, rude, or unnecesary for liberty. We exceptional Americans are necessary–we have been necessary–for Western freedom these last hundred years or so, and we conservatives think our exceptional laws and attitudes about guns are equally necessary for us to maintain our necessary exceptionalism.

    Our domestic gun violence (evolved coincidentially as yet another sad legacy of slavery!) is a price paid to keep ourselves, and the West, free.

    • #28
    • December 11, 2012 at 11:20 am
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  29. Profile photo of Astonishing Inactive
    Damian Counsell: I’m glad you brought up automobiles, Franciscus, because it proves that . . . the logic of epidemiology, is correct. Britain also has serious restrictions on the ownership and use of automobiles and, despite its relatively dense population and high rate of car ownership, it has among the lowest road accident rates in the World. I say again, such restrictions might irritate many Brits, but there are still alot of cars on Britain’s roads and a lot of people driving them safely.

    . . . at no point have I called forremovalof all or any source of violence, and, even in this podcast about guns, I alluded to the perils of utopianism in government (when trying to explain Britain’s resistance to ideology and extremism).

    Yes, the zeitgeist of the “logic of epidemiology” is a gradual process.

    That logic did not immediately give you spy cameras everywhere to keep you safe by watching everyone’s every move to make sure no one does anything “risky.” (Yes, soon you will have to substitute “risky” for “criminal,” because the latter implies culpability.)

    The “logic of epidemiology” (I must remember that lovely phrase!) is the logic of The Last Man.

    • #29
    • December 11, 2012 at 11:42 am
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  30. Profile photo of Damian Counsell Inactive


    I am an anti-totalitarian Lefty, old enough to have been a junior Cold Warrior, opposing my Communist peers at every turn. My reasoning is the exact opposite of the totalitarian’s. Marxists (for example) claim they advocate “scientific socialism”, even as they discard and denounce the scientific method when its results contradict their revealed truths.

    Epidemiology has huge shortcomings, but it has the best tools for measuring aggregate harm in populations. There are, as I pointed out in my earlier comment, public health questions where we say: “The death toll from allowing this person/these persons this specific freedom is high enough that we must withhold it from them,” but I’m not even advocating the withholding of the right to bear arms.

    I’m saying that we can quantify the price of fractions of this particular freedom in a way that is anything but “arbitrary”: in lives. Not only does this approach not say there is “no limit to your good deeds of limits on the individual”, it helps us to set limits on intervention and tells us when intervention does more harm than good.

    We still have to decide where we draw the line.

    • #30
    • December 12, 2012 at 1:00 am
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