Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
- Benjamin Franklin
You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.
Other web sites to far more statistical analysis of the gun debate. These pages attempts a brief overview, but with more emphisis on blunting biased presentations than on establishing a clear conclusion. Too many statistical presentations are spun to make a desired position seem clear and decisive. With the exception of John Lott's More Guns Less Crime, whose statistics are formidable enough to be decisive but not quite clear, most gun control or Second Amdnement statistical evaluations are quite dubious.
There is a distinct difference between philosophy and science. Philosophy might deal with values, beliefs, faith and politics. While philosophical argument might make pretense of using logic, logic can reach proper conclusions based on intial premises. In the realm of moral and political philosophy, the initial base premises are essentially unprovable. As an example, all men are not created equal. However, I will cling as stubbornly and emotionally as anyone to the concept of a government based on this entirely incorrect premise. However unequal men might be in fact, they must be equal under law.
Ben Franklin's opinion on Liberty and Safety quoted above, an opinion echoed by many Second Amendment advocates, is a similar deep down values question. Our country was originally founded upon such values. Our country clings tenaciously to such traditional values, but our country is also a driving force for change. Franklin was a radical revolutionary in his time. He might have found the concept of clinging to the Franklin tradition amusing.
Such values, however unpovable, make up the core of our soul. Once in a while, science steps onto turf once owned by the philosophers, priests and politicians. People like Galileo, Newton and Darwin set off revolutions in thought that reverberate centuries later. While a field of study cannot be examined objectively by science, philosophers, priests and politicians argue with emotion, values and lies. Until hard data becomes conclusive, soft data is twisted and danced upon.
The gun debate centers on a values issue. The founding fathers believed individuals ought to be responsible for their own defense, and the defense of the community. The vast majority of the country was full time farmers who were also part time militia soldiers. The professional army was tiny, and professional police forces had barely begun to exist. Firearms were muzzle loaders. A single individual could do a minimum of damage before the community could respond.
Modern society is far more specialized. I am not a farmer militiaman. I write software. This difference might reflect the degree of change since the Bill of Rights was ratified. We now do have professional full time police officers. We are accustomed to their having primary responsibility for enforcing the law and keeping the peace. At a deep down core level, this is a values change. Many in the United States feel absolutely no responsibility for their own safety and well being. That is the government's job. Rather than accept any responsibility for their own safety, many are willing to take whatever steps necessary to see that the government can do what they perceive as the government's job.
As a philosophical, religious or political question, this remains unanswerable. This difference in opinion clearly reflects important base values. Depending on one's core deep down belief, one tends to find conclusive looking proof in what scientists would consider inconclusive data. The traditional method for resolving such deep down values driven questions is to fight a war. Might we do better?
John Lott is unlikely to be remembered with Galileo, Newton and Darwin. He might, however, have taken the gun safety issue out of the realm of philosophy and politics, and into the realm of science. His book, More Guns Less Crime is far an away the most comprehensive evaluation of the practical effects of the gun control / Second Amendment question. His critics are responding with the same sort of frustrated emotional denial that the religious conservatives presented Galileo, Newton and Darwin.
Being a secular humanist and devout agnostic, watching loud collisions between faith and fact results in a certain unholy glee. Such glee might be premature. The study is still relatively new. The data might be expanded, the methodology refined. Still, the gun community's emotional attacks on Lott the man reflect an inability to attack Lott's data. It is fairly clear that Lott has science on his side, but the gun control advocates are not going to let mere facts induce the soul shaking trauma of considering a change in their values.
There is a reason why religion and politics aren't supposed to be discussed in polite company. One is not going to change a Republican into a Democrat or a Catholic into a Protestant through debate and fact. These are values issues. The emotional commitment to a base perspective of the nature of the world is more important than mere facts.
There are pages other than that on Lott here. While Lott ought to define the current central debate, older arguments are also presented. I am very dubios about the merit of the older arguments. When one's values have already settled in one's soul the correct answer to a question, one finds the data to confirm what one's soul already knows. If the numbers don't match one's soul, the numbers are twisted and contorted to yield the desired answer.
In addition to the Second Amendment question, Dave Grossman's book On Killing raises a First Amendment question. Are violence in our movies and video games reducing our resistance to violence? His writing is very convincing, but a quick attempt to confirm his figures was disturbing. I classify the merit of his statistics with the older arguments. He is suggestive, but not convincing.
More Guns Less Crime - USA - World
On Killing - White House Study - Children