Two Important Arguments from Both 'Sides' of the Gun Debate
The argument over guns is a complex topic, but we ought not to dismiss arguments because they do not square with our gut feelings – regardless of whether we want more or less guns, more or less laws.
Like any subject that weaves its way round corpses, gun control discussions easily ignite the worst parts of us. Whether it’s descent into name-calling, insults, ad hominems and similar lazy, childish tactics, or a dismissal of anyone other than those on “our” side, attempts at objectivity are often scarce. However, many of us, including myself, are in the advantageous position of ignorance: it is advantageous, since it means we have no excuse not to encounter and contemplate the best arguments on both “sides” of the debate.
To that end, I want to highlight two potent arguments I’ve encountered from two individuals who, more than likely, would disagree to large extents on gun control in the US.
I say “sides” because I’m very hesitant to portray sides in debates: important discussions are often more complicated than such a binary placement asserts. No one wants more innocent people dead; no one wants more children firing off guns in their home, killing family members. The difference depends on specific items of policy. These arguments highlight precisely this and, I hope, will show that indeed the “other side” do not comprise a set of evil, irrational individuals (there might be a few, but we’d be bad thinkers to assert that everyone who wants less gun control is a crazy, sky-shooting cowboy).
Argument 1.1: Guns Undermine Liberty
I’ve previously argued that individual liberty only has meaning if one is allowed to, basically, willingly destroy one’s own body. That means, as long as you are not harming non-consenting others, you should be free to smoke, drink, even amputate your limbs – and, indeed, kill yourself. All of these come with caveats, of course: we might be ignorant to the extent such self-destruction might really have (on others). However, the larger point is not the encouragement for adult citizens to slowly destroy their bodies but the recognition that this civil society respects your autonomy, your personhood, to the point that, if you wish to harm yourself, such respect remains.
Freedom of speech similarly applies: we should be able to express even the most offensive of speech, without worry that mere offence is sufficient reason to stifle us (there might be other, better reasons to prevent it, based on legitimate concerns of harm). Under the guise of PC or “public morality”, citizens are prevented from writing, acting, or expressing themselves, undermining the freedom not only of these artists, but of the audience too, in that their freedom to decide to be an audience is already prevented.
When the State starts deciding what is and isn’t good for you, when it begins acting upon paternalistic grounds, then we ought to start worrying. Freedom only means something when we’re free to act stupidly (again, all with caveats), when we’re free to express ourselves.
Guns, however, change this dynamic entirely.
In the New York Times, Firmin DeBrabander argues that individual liberty is completely undermined by allowing citizens to wield guns.
“Guns pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name — that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.”
Those who long for a gun on every citizen would encourage an enforced “polite” society “precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening.” We would “walk gingerly — not make any sudden, unexpected moves — and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.” A person who brandished a weapon would already be communicating that the conversation is over: there can be no discussion with such a person at all. The fullstop is in the barrel and he’s willing to show you, if you decide to challenge him.
Free speech and expression can only exist with the knowledge that non-violence will be the response. But guns, by definition, would change that. DeBrabander asks us to imagine what would have happened had the non-armed Zuccoti Park protestors carried weapons when the police stormed.
Argument 1.2: Guns Poison Power
Against such powerful points, gun control advocates assert that by undermining our ability to arm, we allow complete government despotism a greater chance of reality. By being armed, we can stand up to a regime of control. But this encourages an extreme individualism, not a coherent community – since we are not asking for a select group of trained individuals to be the only and trusted bearers of arms, but everyone. This is a distrust of community, since gun control advocates are saying as soon as we allow one group guns (army, police, etc.), the rest of us open up to servility under their armed hands, pulled by the strings of their master (the government).
Citing Foucault, DeBrabander points out that “nothing suits power so well as extreme individualism”. After all, this makes it easier to take control, since instead of a large opposing group, you have many disparate, self-regarding opponents. Thus, instead of aiding liberty against a powerful state, it aids a powerful state in taking more liberty.
But there is reason to consider the importance of being armed, as Sam Harris highlights.
Argument 2.0 Guns Can Protect in a Violent World
A popular argument from gun rights advocates it that if you make gun ownership a crime, then only criminals will have guns. This means only “bad” guys would have guns, while good people would by definition be at a disadvantage. There are various responses to this: who decides who’s a “good” or “bad” guy; even in the hands of innocent people, guns can escalate a crime situation unnecessarily; due to the insane nature of attacks, robberies, etc., one will not act like a John McClane but more like a quivering mess, which is the worst mindset to be in when holding a powerful weapon.
Thus, would it not be better to regulate guns more effectively, instead of getting rid of them altogether? Criminals will get hold of guns – indeed, by definition, if guns are outlawed, one becomes a criminal just by acquiring one – and leave non-criminals more vulnerable than ever. I’m not certain outlawing all guns is the solution, because of this. It doesn’t, however, mean we should all be armed, but I don’t know how to square that at the moment.
But Sam Harris goes further and correctly so: He doesn’t wish for a world without guns at all. According to him, people who wish for this do not understand violence or its nature. “A world without guns is one in which the most aggressive men can do more or less anything they want. It is a world in which a man with a knife can rape and murder a woman in the presence of a dozen witnesses, and none will find the courage to intervene.” The Kitty Genovese case comes to mind, where bystanders only watched while a young woman was brutally murdered. Would a gun have helped? Perhaps.
Harris undermines the rebuttal that these situations are sudden, shocking and thus would mean good people shooting recklessly.
“The liberal commentariat seems to have no awareness of what “well-trained” signifies. It happens to include an understanding of what to do and what not to do when the danger of shooting innocent bystanders exists. The fact that bystanders do occasionally get shot, even by police officers, does not prove that putting guns in the hands of good people would be a bad idea. Gun-control advocates seem always to imagine the worst possible scenario: legions of untrained, delusional vigilantes producing their weapons at a pin drop and firing indiscriminately into a crowd.”
Harris here is calling for better and more training; better laws, not all-encompassing and totally restrictive ones.
As many have pointed out, this still doesn’t undermine the data indicating guns increase chances of death – even when kept at home – and so on. The usual retort that risk is everywhere might be boring to hear, but remains true. Yes, guns are “designed” for killing whereas knives are not, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have incidents of knife-attacks. Guns can level the playing field, especially for women - who are often the targets of violent crimes from more powerful opponents. Says Harris: “A world without guns… is one in which the advantages of youth, size, strength, aggression, and sheer numbers are almost always decisive. Who could be nostalgic for such a world?”
I do not know where I stand. However, assuming Harris’ data is correct, that only “good” people acquired guns, were well-trained, regularly checked on by independent bodies (the same way we are tested for drivers, etc.), and such, I see little problem with gun ownership. But, the problem is deciding who should and should not own guns; the undermining of liberty if it is given to all citizens; the danger to free speech and liberty when held by anyone; that even “good” people can become enraged, drunk, etc., and easy access to a gun can escalate a mere drunken brawl to a murder spree.
This is a complex topic, but we ought not to dismiss arguments because they do not square with our gut feelings – regardless of whether we want more or less guns, more or less laws. By outlining two important arguments, we can see that reason does exist. Even if both are wrong, we can show this without recourse to name-calling, Strawmanning and caricature. A debate and discussion must be had, since discussion can aid us in achieving the goal we all want: a world with less violence or, more realistically, one where fewer innocent people die. If guns aid or hinder that goal, we will figure that out by having a proper conversation, not a mud-slinging contest, regardless of which “side” you are on.
Image Credit: Andrija Markovic / Shutterstock
Researchers documented the most common negative side effects of smoking weed, and who might be most susceptible.
- A team of researchers identified a total of 26 possible adverse reactions to cannabis use.
- Coughing fits, anxiety, and paranoia are among the top three most common adverse reactions to smoking weed.
- It was the people who smoke on a less frequent basis who were more likely to have had the bad experiences.
The most common adverse effects of pot<p>As it turns out, coughing fits are among the top three most common adverse reactions to cannabis use, along with anxiety and paranoia, according to a new study published in the <em>Journal</em><a href="https://jcannabisresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42238-019-0013-x" target="_blank"><em> of Cannabis Research</em></a>. </p><p>Now that weed is legal in the state, a team of researchers at Washington State University sought to document potential negative reactions to cannabis in order to paint a detailed picture of the effects of smoking weed for newbies. The authors surveyed more than 1,500 college students on the specific type and frequency of adverse reactions they had experienced while using pot. Additionally, the students in the study were surveyed about their demographics, personality traits, reasons for using cannabis and their use patterns. </p><p>Despite marijuana's <a href="https://bigthink.com/sex-relationships/marijuana-sex" target="_self">numerous benefits</a>, the team identified a total of <a href="https://jcannabisresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42238-019-0013-x/tables/2" target="_blank">26 possible adverse reactions to</a> the drug. More than half of the study participants reported having coughing fits along with anxiety and/or paranoia while using cannabis. The most frequently occuring of these were the coughing fits, along with chest/lung discomfort and body humming. A subset of the study group reported these reactions occurring around 30–40% of the time they were using pot. On the flip side, the three <em>least</em>-commonly reported reactions to cannabis use were fainting, visual hallucinations and cold sweats. </p><p>"There's been surprisingly little research on the prevalence or frequency of various adverse reactions to cannabis and almost no research trying to predict who is more likely to experience these types of adverse reactions," <a href="https://news.wsu.edu/2020/03/30/new-research-sheds-light-potentially-negative-effects-cannabis/" target="_blank">said Carrie Cuttler</a>, assistant professor of psychology and an author on the paper, according to WSU News. "With the legalization of cannabis in Washington and 10 other states, we thought it would be important to document some of this information so that more novice users would have a better sense of what types of adverse reactions they may experience if they use cannabis."</p><p>The most distressing of the 26 negative reactions were panic attacks, fainting, and vomiting. Yet, the survey data suggested that cannabis users generally do not find even acute adverse reactions to cannabis to be severely distressing.</p>
What causes a bad reaction?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwOTEwOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTQ5MDQ2Mn0.S2Pkbh3VAgB4Gk5tkavamMv0_4t76dg65yGWpCHG17U/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1872%2C0%2C1252&height=700" id="dee45" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="df6e30ecae156ba0012f4773a374800c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
But most city dwellers weren't seeing the science — they were seeing something out of Blade Runner.
On Sept. 9, many West Coast residents looked out their windows and witnessed a post-apocalyptic landscape: silhouetted cars, buildings and people bathed in an overpowering orange light that looked like a jacked-up sunset.
A study finds 1.8 billion trees and shrubs in the Sahara desert.
- AI analysis of satellite images sees trees and shrubs where human eyes can't.
- At the western edge of the Sahara is more significant vegetation than previously suspected.
- Machine learning trained to recognize trees completed the detailed study in hours.
Why this matters<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2MDQ1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTkyODg5NX0.O3S2DRTyAxh-JZqxGKj9KkC6ndZAloEh4hKhpcyeFDQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="3770d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3c27b79d4c0600fb6ebb82e650cabec0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Area in which trees were located
Credit: University of Copenhagen<p>As important as trees are in fighting climate change, scientists need to know what trees there are, and where, and the study's finding represents a significant addition to the global tree inventory.</p><p>The vegetation Brandt and his colleagues have identified is in the Western Sahara, a region of about 1.3 million square kilometers that includes the desert, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sahel" target="_blank">the Sahel</a>, and the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/subhumid-zones" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sub-humid zones</a> of West Africa.</p><p>These trees and shrubs have been left out of previous tabulations of carbon-processing worldwide forests. Says Brandt, "Trees outside of forested areas are usually not included in climate models, and we know very little about their carbon stocks. They are basically a white spot on maps and an unknown component in the global carbon cycle."</p><p>In addition to being valuable climate-change information, the research can help facilitate strategic development of the region in which the vegetation grows due to a greater understanding of local ecosystems.</p>
Trained for trees<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2MDQ3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTk5NTI3NH0.fR-n1I2DHBIRPLvXv4g0PVM8ciZwSLWorBUUw2wc-Vk/img.jpg?width=980" id="e02c0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="79955b13661dca8b6e19007935129af1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Martin Brandt/University of Copenhagen<p>There's been an assumption that there's hardly enough vegetation outside of forested areas to be worth counting in areas such as this one. As a result the study represents the first time a significant number of trees — likely in the hundreds of millions when shrubs are subtracted from the overall figure — have been catalogued in the drylands region.</p><p>Members of the university's Department of Computer Science trained a machine-learning module to recognize trees by feeding it thousands of pictures of them. This training left the AI be capable of spotting trees in the tiny details of satellite images supplied by NASA. The task took the AI just hours — it would take a human years to perform an equivalent analysis.</p><p>"This technology has enormous potential when it comes to documenting changes on a global scale and ultimately, in contributing towards global climate goals," says co-author Christian Igel. "It is a motivation for us to develop this type of beneficial artificial intelligence."</p><p>"Indeed," says Brandt says, "I think it marks the beginning of a new scientific era."</p>
Looking ahead and beyond<p>The researchers hope to further refine their AI to provide a more detailed accounting of the trees it identifies in satellite photos.</p><p>The study's senior author, Rasmus Fensholt, says, "we are also interested in using satellites to determine tree species, as tree types are significant in relation to their value to local populations who use wood resources as part of their livelihoods. Trees and their fruit are consumed by both livestock and humans, and when preserved in the fields, trees have a positive effect on crop yields because they improve the balance of water and nutrients."</p><p>Ahead is an expansion of the team's tree hunt to a larger area of Africa, with the long-term goal being the creation of a more comprehensive and accurate global database of trees that grow beyond the boundaries of forests.</p>
Younger Americans support expanding the Supreme Court and serious political reforms, says new poll.