Some Ground Rules for the Debate on Gun Regulation

I am only interested in one thing, and that is in finding the best solution to the problem. The problem with extremists and fanatics is that they only care about pushing their cause, not about solving the larger issue at hand.

I don't own guns and I don't mind if people do, within reason of course. And that’s the problem our society is struggling with right now — what is reasonable around gun regulation.

Step 1 is easy. Define the problem. I offer this up for starters: “What do we do as a society to reduce the likelihood of another tragedy like Sandy Hook, without excessively infringing on the individual?” It really does come down to how to balance the good of the many vs. the good of the individual.

Step 2 is research and that’s a problem. Research takes time, effort and resources. Few are willing to take these steps, but they will still seek to offer up their uninformed opinions anyways. I have said before that I don’t believe in the adage “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.” I take a different view: “Everyone is entitled to an informed opinion.” Sure, everyone can give an opinion, but it’s obvious that an uninformed opinion does not carry the same weight as an informed one.

I, for one, am going to leave the question of whether or not we, as a society, should regulate gun availability and ownership to those who have actually done the research necessary to make informed decisions around the issue. But I would like to offer up some suggestions for the rest of us while we are seeking to rationally discuss this complex issue.

What I won’t do is allow myself to be derailed from intelligent debate and discussion by extremists, fanatics and the uninformed. There are those few, a tiny few, who will always live on the extremes, ie. “No one should have guns” and “Everyone should have whatever guns they want”. The vast majority of rational people will see these two positions as extremes and not waste time discussing them. So let’s agree to start the national debate by taking those two extreme positions right off the table. Let’s not waste another moment on them.

I am only interested in one thing and that is in finding the best solution to the problem. The problem with extremists and fanatics is that they only care about pushing their cause, not about solving the larger issue at hand. They come into the discussion from the point of view of protecting their position, not in coming to a greater understanding of the issue. In my book, that makes their input null and void.

As I look over articles in Patch about guns, I very quickly get overwhelmed by the sheer number of comments on these articles. Unlike the typical half dozen to a dozen comments most articles seem to receive, the comments on articles about guns are numbered in the multiple hundreds. And as I read through them, I find a great deal of these comments offer nothing valuable to the discussion. They are obviously extreme viewpoints that just waste a reasonable person’s time sorting through them to get to the reasonable comments.

Of course, that is often the goal — to derail reasonable discussion by falling into the trap of trying to speak reason to unreasonable viewpoints. So in an effort to avoid giving these few individuals more time and energy than they are worth, I offer up these suggestions to keep in mind while discussing any controversial topic and certainly that of gun regulation.

Don’t respond to extremist’s posts or comments. Ignore them completely.
Why give credence to these posts by replying to them? Why treat them as rational by trying to explain why they don’t make sense in the real world? These people take something that is merely “possible” and turn it into the “probable.” These are the conspiracy theorists. These are the people who make the mistake of “because it is possible for something to happen, it will happen.” This was one of my favorite Patch posts around this concept: “Let’s take gun control to it’s logical conclusion which is the complete disarmament of the citizenry. When this happens, what do we have? We have totalitarianism because when only the government has weapons, then the government has all the power." That is not the logical conclusion, it’s only one conclusion. And it’s probably the most unlikely conclusion too. It is simply paranoid and unbalanced to be focused on ending up in a place where the "the government has all the power."

Discuss the issue in terms of gun regulation, not gun control.
Lose the term “gun control” and use the less inflammatory phrase “gun regulation.” Any reasonable, rational person I’ve ever heard discuss this issue has never advocated abolishing a citizen’s ability to own a gun. I’m willing to bet that the term “gun control” was tossed out there as a means to rile up the less informed members of our society and start this whole “they’re trying to take away our right to bear arms” nonsense.

Don’t respond to “They want to take away ALL our guns.”
As soon as someone tosses this one out there, just walk away.

Don’t respond to arguments about the 2nd Amendment.
Let’s stop letting this one derail real discussion on controlling violence in our society. The answer is not going to be found in a discussion about what the 2nd Amendment really means to say. It will be found in looking at what is real in our society today, and then figuring out what makes the most sense from there.

Don’t get lost in definitions that are obvious to the majority.
This is just another tactic to derail an otherwise rational discussion. I found this absurdity in one series of comments on Patch: “You say that these were 'military weapons.' What does this mean? What is the difference between your 'military weapons' and your non military weapons?" Whoever this was, please stop wasting our time. Obviously, the writer meant guns that "spray" a slew of bullets in a moment, it means guns that are designed to be VERY efficient in killing masses of people — as in those used in the military.  This person’s statement shows no interest in solving the problem, merely in muddying the waters.

Ignore what comes out of organizations that have a vested interest in the status quo.
Gun manufacturers, gun vendors and the NRA have a lot of money to lose if tighter gun regulations become a fact. Organizations like these are not interested in the public good, they are interested in their pocketbooks. They are obviously biased and have no place in an open, reasonable and impartial discussion on what is best for our society. These organizations are going say whatever they need to say to stay alive.
We just had the experience of our political parties out-and-out lying — altering reality and history in order to push their agendas. We should certainly learn from that and know that these organizations are going to do the exact same thing to survive.

Don’t let the discussion be only about guns.
It’s a certainty that the issue of the growing violence of the Newtown/Columbine type has more that just one dimension to its cause. To get stuck in an argument over whether or not gun regulation is part of the solution to mass killings in our society shows a complete lack of understanding of the complexity of the issue. To solve this problem, we've got to look at ALL the aspects — gun regulation, mental health policies, parenting, and the glorification of guns and killing in the media and the gaming industry.

Ron January 08, 2013 at 12:22 PM
Here is how I see the problem. Just for discussion sake I will take the gun ownership side so one can argue I am taking the "conservative " side although we all know "liberals who own guns too. I do not own a gun but support the right to. I think the people who are so second amendment thinking go is that if you give in to assault rifles let say and say ban them next year it will be shot guns or hand guns or what ever. The thought of giving an inch is that the more liberal will then want a foot and so on and I think that is true in some affect. Look at taxes. We raise taxes but don't stop spending, some say ok we will raise taxes one time and that is all that is needed and then politicians on both sides can't stop spending and it goes around and around and around. I for one do not trust politicians either in Washington and ESPECIALLY in CT. Mass has very restrictive guns law just like CT and Springfield has all kinds of gun issues. I do not have the answer but one side is not giving its guns up and the other is not enforcing existing laws and wants more. In a few months it will be the next issue and Newtown will be a slight memory for most people except those families,sad but true in my humble opinion. I work with those incarcerated and if you look at all sides it is crazy for numerous reasons and both sides seem to care less about the other but both sides have the ability to affect the other both positively and negatively.
roland beaudoin January 08, 2013 at 12:45 PM
hammers have been used to kill more people in one years than guns have, we should take away hammers? drunk drivers have killed more people than guns, prohibition again? people kill, not guns
Nick K January 08, 2013 at 02:42 PM
" it means guns that are designed to be VERY efficient in killing masses of people — as in those used in the military." ...problem solved, unless a civilian wants to plunk down over $20,000 (and ever increasing) for a gun made before 1986, this is a moot point, and one of the problems with the debate. The issue is these 'military style' weapons are in fact no more dangerous than most hunting rifles, many are in fact LESS dangerous, as they are smaller calibers meant to allow soldiers that may be a ways away from more ammo to be able to carry more of it so they can better survive and fight. Moot point for a civilian that can load up their car with ammo. In fact, they're only called military style due to a combination of ergonomic features, and visual features that serve no use in increasing the deadliness of the gun (Unless you want to contend there's an issue with bayoneting currently?) I will DEFINITELY agree the discussion has to be about far more than what laws we enact on guns to prevent things like this from happening though.
Ruthie Holton January 08, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Joel, Your comments are among the most rational I've seen on this subject. There will be those who continue to add their comments with the same old tired arguments, (on both sides of the issue) over and over again. Just glad to see that there are some opinions expressed with mature wisdom! Thanks for making my morning!
Bill January 08, 2013 at 03:52 PM
I think "know gun terms" should be #1. There is a difference between an assault rifle, assault weapon, and a regular rifle. You should know the difference before you talk about them and they should not be used interchangeably. An assault rifle and assault weapon are both banned in CT. This means only regular rifles that look like assault rifles are legal. If someone says an assault rifle was used in the CT shooting they were wrong, it was a regular rifle that looked like an assault rifle. There is a difference between a magazine and a clip. Go ahead and ban clips all you want since nearly no one uses them anymore.
Patrice Fitzgerald January 08, 2013 at 04:42 PM
Thank you for starting this discussion, and attempting to keep it on a rational plane. I think a big disconnect is that those who want further gun regulation do not agree with either of these two statements: 1. Guns are fun. 2. Guns will keep you safe. They would argue that guns are not fun for them -- and even if they are for some people, that does not trump the right of our children to be safe from murder by gun. They would further argue that if we didn't have guns in the hands of civilians, we wouldn't have the need for guns for protection from others. It is an inarguable fact that countries which don't have the number of guns that we have do not need guns to protect them from criminals with guns... NO ONE has guns, and the number of gun deaths are miniscule compared to the U.S. One of the small important things that has come out of the Newtown tragedy that might be a force for good is that suburban, wealthy, Americans, who thought they were safe in their upper middle class enclaves, are now focused on the possibility of murder by gun. This has been a horrible problem for children in the inner city for decades. I think we will not be relieved of the ongoing reality of gun massacres until we have changed the national mindset, which will probably involve at least a generation and the repeal of the Second Amendment. So it will happen again. How many will die in the next one?
Joe January 08, 2013 at 04:45 PM
I cant believe people think this is a rational article. Mentally ill people and criminals are the ones that cause these issues. Why are their rights greater than my rights as a law abiding citizen? How about we do this? We start with enforcing all existing gun laws on the books both at a federal and state level, and put violators away for a very long time. We put mentally ill away for a very long time that should be institutionalized. We ban the ACLU from fighting to get all of these groups out early. When we do that, then we can have a discussion about taking away gun rights if crime continues at a level that have the populace uncomfortable. Finally as things relate to the 2nd amendment learn some history and what influenced our forefathers because history repeats itself. Nuts want bazookas and think they have that right but they dont. However I have a right to be in the best reasonable position possible to protect my family and friends against tyranny, and you dont take away that right because of the behavior of people that shouldnt even be part of society. I agree with looking at all aspects. Watch what Obama and Biden come out with, with the help of Bloomberg who wants to control what you can eat and drink. Not one of their ideas will have stopped Newtown, and you will see that if you look at it factually. Isn't preventing another Newtown what we all want?
Mike January 08, 2013 at 05:03 PM
For what it is worth; The last systematic research into this was done by the National Academy of Sciences in 2004. They found that gun regulations, regardless of whether they make guns easier or harder to get or own or carry, have little to no effect on crime rates. To my eye, that makes this whole debate largely irrelevant. We seem to be looking for something, or anything, that we have control over for no better reason than to be able to say we did something.
Joe January 08, 2013 at 05:04 PM
Joel, this statement of yours really bothers me. "I, for one, am going to leave the question of whether or not we, as a society, should regulate gun availability and ownership to those who have actually done the research necessary to make informed decisions around the issue" I've done research and I'm also a highly educated law abiding person. My research shows that much of gun violence in cities is around drugs yet so called smart people seeing the same research think we should legalize drugs. My research on mass shootings tells me that these people are nuts, and are on, or are comng off of medications that alter their brains. Yet I don't see anyone yelling for psychiatrists or drug company executives being put in jail when some of these may have caused horrific events. These people that have done the research are not going to be providing music to your ears because the research shows that the issues are not type of guns, but type of people that we have in our society. There are antigun researchers that try to compare our country to other countries yet they dont have South Chicago, Washington DC, NYC, South Central LA, in other countries so their research is flawed. Do we follow their research? Look at India. Women are protesting now for the right to have guns because this recent horrible rape wasnt the only one, and police cant protect them, yet you see researchers talk about Indias lack of gun violence.
Peter Dinella January 08, 2013 at 05:48 PM
OK, Joel, how do you interpret these facts from a mid-December survey conducted by Pew? The question asked was: What do you think is more important--to protect the right of Americans to own guns, or to control gun ownership?" PROTECT RIGHT TO OWN GUNS Republicans... 69% Democrats..... 20% Independents..47% CONTROL OWNERSHIP Republicans.....27% Democrats.......72% Independents..42% You left out probably the mose important REAL issue in your list for "rationale" debate: IT'S ABOUT POLITICS.
Jim Dish January 08, 2013 at 06:21 PM
How about stop listening to people who say "All the laws in the world won't stop a bad guy from getting a gun and doing violence" or "taking away guns won't work because prohibition didn't work" That's provably untrue. All you have to do is look at other countries. Banning guns may not 100% eliminate gun violence but it looks like it drops the numbers by over 95% when you look at other countries. Even if you don't advocate severe gun bans you can't take the hodgepodge of unenforced inconsistent laws we have in the US and claim we have plenty of laws and they don't work. Until we enact nationwide consistent regulation along with specific bans for posession of certain weapons there is zero basis for that excuse/argument. The evidence is quite the opposite.
Jim Dish January 08, 2013 at 06:30 PM
BTW Peter the question asked in that poll is a ridiculous premise as the two objectives are not exclusive. It's a dumb poll and injecting it into the conversation should also be banned by the new ground rules. And we have Joe injecting Indian women are protesting for guns. Do you know anything about Indian society that leads you to believe we should be influenced by their reaction to a caste system leading to the systemic oppression of largely uneducated women? Talk about muddying the waters!
Joe January 08, 2013 at 06:33 PM
Hey Jim how about taking guns away from the criminals first in our inner cities? Good luck with that. You cant use the military because of posse comitatus. Are you going to volunteer police officers with families to go in and take away all those illegal guns, so they end up dead. Finally the big one. You cant target the inner cities and guns because the ACLU will fight that because its racist and discriminatory. So, I guess you go after the average AR15 owner who happens to be 35 years old, with some college education and children. By the way I dont even own what people describe as an assault weapon but the hypocrisy, lack of knowledge of history, and the world view of people on the left when you arent comparing apples and apples, just makes me sick. That scares me far more than my physician assistant neighbor with a family that owns an AR 15. Alot more people in this country should worry more about how broke we are, how the government doesnt care what we want (Obamacare is an example of what we didnt want), and less about Dancing with the Stars or which of the Kardashians is knocked up and by whom. I would say that the most common reason for people owning guns is fear of bad people. When you successfully get the bad people to not have guns then come talk to us. We live in the suburbs, and not Utopiaville.
Joe January 08, 2013 at 06:41 PM
Jim I have been to India more than 10 times as I work in IT. This has nothing to do with the caste system. This woman was our version of a physical therapy student and she isnt alone. Its all women. I was in Bangalore two summers ago smart guy and was told by women about young women being slipped roofies and raped at a far greater occurrence than we have ever seen in this country. Its epidemic and its not poor women, but educated. The police dont follow through and frequently the woman commits suicide as well as the father because of the shame. In England, a much smaller country than ours without our inner citiies have had a drop in gun deaths. Yet, there has been an increase in rapes, beatings, home invasions, and other non- death violent crimes. I guess in your world its all about deaths. For me its all about bad guys and nuts not hurting innocent people AT ALL.
Joe January 08, 2013 at 06:45 PM
Oh yeah Jim Dish...you said, "injecting it into the conversation should also be banned by the new ground rules" Really??? We now have banned speech and ground rules in conversations?" Typical left wing tactic. Who made those? You? Maybe some day one of your kind will ban the first amendment.
Joe January 08, 2013 at 06:57 PM
Now I'm mad. Is this the world some of you want? Todays Wall Street Journal. CEO if the countries largest table linen company arrested for posesssion of a gun in NYC. In 2011 he was the victim of a home invasion where he was tied up by 4 people who stole 260000 of cash etc. Sunday someone was trying to break in and he called the police, then as the person made entry, he pointed his Sig Sauer at him and he fled. The police looked at the video in his building and saw that he had a gun so now he is arrested under Mayor Bloombergs laws (billionaire with bodyguards). Are some of you so ignorant of the world that you think its OK for the victim of a violent home invasion to not have the right to have a gun of their choice, so it doesnt happen again? Mayor Bloomberg who is being consulted by Joe Biden on gun control does.
Peter Dinella January 08, 2013 at 08:14 PM
I'd love to respond to your insightful understanding of survey procedures, but I've got to go downstairs and see the end of the movie I'm watching: Hellcats of the Navy starring Ronald Regan. By the way, I was a survey professional. PEW knows what they are doing. If you have any suggestions for them to improve their procedures, I suggest you contact them.
Peter Dinella January 08, 2013 at 09:35 PM
Where is Joel? He's hiding under his liberal academic desk! Update for Jim Dish : Ronald Regan sank four Japanese (Jap) ships, returned home safely, and married his sweetheart. America is great!
Ryan January 09, 2013 at 12:36 PM
According to the 2010 census data, in 2009 there were 342 murders by rifle. There were also 1,836 murders by knife, 623 by blunt object, and 815 with no weapon, just the body. So if they feel that we need to ban these improperly named "assault weapons" then they best ban all knives and cutting instruments, bats and clubs, and we can't forget to ban punching and kicking as well.
Karen Cortes January 09, 2013 at 01:33 PM
@Ryan, I have seen the the statistics you present on other social media sites, and I do not dispute the numbers you have listed. However, what is missing from the material are the 9,203 deaths by handgun. Here is the link to the Census data. It is interesting to look at. Details about age groups, circumstance (such as gambling, prostitution-- even brawl due to influence of alcohol). http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0310.pdf (By the way, I have no interest in taking away anyone's legal guns).
arnie berman January 09, 2013 at 01:53 PM
arnie : here is one informed mans opinion.1 the tragedy of sandy hook was devestating as we all know and my sympathies go out to all. 2. that being said, more gun control will solve nothing.3. author john lott wrote a book after extensive study on this issue with no axe to grind on either side, and found that the states with the least gun contrpol were the safest. fbi crime statistics back that up.4. the ar 25 used in this is not even an assault rifle, though it looks like one.5. the time it takes to fire the 30 round clip and to have a 10 round glock or such and change the clip twice and fire the same amount of rounds is about a 10 second difference in time and would have not made any difference in the outcome.5. a study was made on the 68 shootings of this type in the past 32 years. all but a few were on antidepressent drugs that on their warning labels tell you that it may cause suicidal thoughts or actions. somebody explain to me this. you cannot get more depressed that to want to off yourself, so why are these so called antidepressants even used. this in my opinion is more of a factor that wehat type of gun is used.6. lastly the gun is not the culprit here anymore than the match is to the arsonist, the plane is to islamic extremist, or the materials used in the oklahoma city bombing. the truth is , is that if someone wants to kill someone, they will find a way to do it. the answer is to find solutions that will stop this from occuring in the first place
Fred January 09, 2013 at 04:09 PM
Chicago already has a weapons ban, they are the US model if a nation wide weapons ban goes forward. Also lets be clear that the ATF still holds the record for killing the most children in one action down in Waco. i will never forget the government agents shooting a mother suckling her child at Ruby Ridge.
Joe January 09, 2013 at 06:42 PM
Latest news is Biden said that Obama may put in gun control by executive order. Last I looked we have 535 voting members of Congress that have a say in that. If Obama does that then everything that has been warned about tyranny and Hitler like leaders will have come true and that will make for a very bad situation for this country and Obama supporters. I may not like what Congress decides to do and I can use this message board and other vehicles to express that, or I can use the judiciary if I think something is unConstitutional. However any president acting unilaterally on the 2nd amendment could change this country in ways we can't comprehend. If I were one of you lefties, I would even tell Obama that he needs to push his agenda through Congress and don't make unilateral decisions to the weapons owned by law abiding citizens. Unfortunately, this guy is no idiot. He knows exactly what he is doing, and if he follows through it will make that crazy prediction people have made come true when he first was elected and rammed Obamacare down our throats that he will overstep his bounds, people will push back and then he'll manufacture a constitutional crisis for the sake of the country.


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