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general, Thinkingtanks.com

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Does society need guns for peace? How can humanity transcend violence?

In his TED Talk (attached) Peter Van Uhm argues that "sometimes only the gun can stand between good and evil… The gun may be the most important instrument of peace and stability that we have in this world."

Is his thesis sound? Does society need guns? Can we feasibly rid society of violence? Are guns and other forms of weapons necessary for an orderly society? Given recent outbreaks of violent large scale massacres and terrorists attacks how should governing authorities approach gun and weapon control?

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    Nov 10 2012: I would actually like to add one more strange argument to this debate. In part, it is related to an issue I take with something you and John both agree on "This seems a bit more whimsical as I doubt a personal weapon will help much against the armies of advanced societies". I just want to point out, that this became true, only very recently. Before nukes, facial recognition, and targeted missile strikes etc. a well armed militia may never have been worth fearing for an industriallized nation, but they may have made taking control, more expensive then it was worth.

    I think the right to bear arms, presents a very important part of the argument that American society has lost sight of. "If you want to abuse your authority over me, I have the right to defend myself". What is important about this is it represents the way Americans used to view government. All laws, are enforced at the point of a gun, we just don't like to think about it. Behind the tax code, there are tanks if the police can't do their job.

    Every single time a human being in any society means to pass a law, they should ask themselves "If someone is willing to defend their right to violate this law, to the death, do they deserve to die?". "This is a good idea, but is it a good enough idea to force on every single member of my civillization at the point of a gun". If we did that, we would take the business of government far more seriously. In the past, the right to bear arms helped facillitate this.

    If everyone holds a gun on them at all times, enforcing stupid, needless, or abuse laws, may not become impossible, but it does come at a much higher risk, and financial, and human cost.
    • Nov 10 2012: "Every single time a human being in any society means to pass a law, they should ask themselves "If someone is willing to defend their right to violate this law, to the death, do they deserve to die?" "

      No, that would be ridiculous, you have to also take into account whether a "reasonable" person would let disagreement about your law come to a fight to the death. If you don't then you can't have laws against speeding, littering or shop lifting as long as there's one idiot who announces he would go to war with the state over those laws. When you get your ass shot after you go to war with the state you don't get shot for opposing a law, you get shot for going to war with the state. It's also not just about that one person, the state doesn't inflict violence on him for his petty crime if he keeps resisting, the state inflicts violence on him because the state has to keep society together: if they let him go then they've effectively legalized the breaking of all laws and millions of people will suffer because of that.

      This goes back to that thread on free speech a while ago: letting your laws depend on what you might have to do if some extremist goes to war with you over that law, essentially means giving control of the legislative process over to extremists (who can contradict each other, to make matters worse), it would basically be a heckler's veto for the entire legislative process. It's much better tobase your law based on a mix of public opinion, basic ethics, cost-effectiveness and proportionality of the penalty (the jail time, fine, etc..., not the threat of eventual death if someone goes to war against the state) vs. the offense.

      "What is important about this is it represents the way Americans used to view government."

      You mean white, landowning, heterosexual, monotheistic, male Americans, everyone else has been subject to a level of abuse comparable to that taking place in all those "evil" countries America was supposed to be refuge from.
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        Nov 10 2012: Wow... You're usually the rational one, I'm surprised that the freedom to defend yourself from tyranny is the thing that really gets under your skin... but to each their own.

        You quote my first line, but not my second "This is a good idea, but is it a good enough idea to force on every single member of my civillization at the point of a gun"... because that argument is untouchable. You can choose to be ignorant if you want, but every item you vote on, is enforced at the point of a gun... Thus, every law you have voted for, which is not so important as to require a mugging of every single citizen of your society... Was immoral. Those are just facts.

        People are willing to pull a gun over theft... Probably not littering or speeding. Personally, I think speeding laws are immoral, and contribute to disrespect of authority, much in the way marijuana laws do. I believe reckless driving is the only crime that someone should pull a gun on you for, because it represents a threat to human life.

        "a "reasonable" person", is an impossible concept to define. Were there no reasonable people in Germany during the reign of Nazi's? Very few acted reasonably. People who disagreed with them, were imprisoned or gassed for being unreasonable... but, was disagreeing with Nazi's unreasonable? I don't think so.

        If the United States decides that dissent is illegal... Is being willing to die to preserve the first ammendment unreasonable? Our founders disagree.

        Your last atttack is just vitriolic emotional nonsense, and completely factually incorrect. First off monotheistic... Jefferson wasn't a theist... What are you talking about. White? It's so easy to forget that while white people were getting along in America, in Europe they all hated each other... Even white people being treated equally, at the time, was incredibly progressive. Yes gay people, women, and many races were descriminated against here, like they were everywhere else, but it has nothing to do with guns.
        • Nov 10 2012: "People are willing to pull a gun over theft... Probably not littering or speeding."

          I wouldn't shoot someone for theft, but there you go, you assume that "people" wouldn't pull a gun for littering or speeding, so you are making a guess as to what a reasonable person would do.

          "Personally, I think speeding laws are immoral, and contribute to disrespect of authority, much in the way marijuana laws do. I believe reckless driving is the only crime that someone should pull a gun on you for, because it represents a threat to human life."

          Speeding = reckless driving. But you raise an excellent point here: reckless driving presents a threat to human life, but not a 100% certain threat, in fact the probability of you killing someone through reckless driving is pretty low (though high compared to other things in daily life, which is why we see it as a threat), whereas getting pounded by the military gives a 100% probability of death for you, so enforcing this at gunpoint would already be disproportional if you only believe in individual cases and not the greater effect on society. You're just gonna have to think of the bigger picture when making laws against anything but murder (then again who gets to decided that murder warrants the death penalty if we can't agree on what is reasonable?)

          " "a "reasonable" person", is an impossible concept to define."

          You betcha, that's why we haven't replaced judges and lawmakers by computers, c'est la vie. If you're looking for an ideology that's going to solve all the world's problems with only a few simplistic tenets you will come up empty.

          "If the United States decides that dissent is illegal... Is being willing to die to preserve the first ammendment unreasonable? Our founders disagree."

          I don't think that it would be unreasonable to disagree in that case, like I said, you have to take basic ethics and proportionality into account when making a law.
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        Nov 10 2012: 'Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them?" Thoreau
        • Nov 10 2012: Unjust laws should be overturned, but that doesn't mean you should go to war with the state over every disagreement and no, you don't have to persuade the majority, you can have the courts test against basic ethical principles. Don't forget that when you go to war with the state and win YOU will have imposed your will on the rest of the people through violent means, what gives you the right to do this if the majority of the people does not agree with you and there are not basic human rights at stake?

          P.S. you shouldn't see the forces of the state as unmoveable: soldiers will often switch sides as we've seen in Libya and Syria.

          An armed government exists so the ability to use force isn't confined to the strongest members of society: it makes sure able bodied young men don't get to dictate all of society.
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        Nov 10 2012: No where in my argument do I talk about going to war with the state... but you accuse me of it over and over. No where do I talk about "If you're looking for an ideology that's going to solve all the world's problems with only a few simplistic tenets you will come up empty." I'm explaining why gun rights used to make sense, and are a bit out dated, but still represent an important theory of governance today. Did your girlfriend break up with you are something? I don't know where all this is coming from, lol.

        With the reckless driving argument, I am expressing my point relatively clearly. When human life is at risk, and society is at risk, government has the right to use guns... Going 50 in a 40 is situationally dangerous at worst, at 3 am on an empty street, it's perfectly safe. Police should be in the business of protecting life, and evaluating threats... not sitting at the bottom of the steepest hill they can find with the lowest speed limit to look "productive". The second the police are trying to hassle and control perfectly normal safe public behavior, I have a problem with it.

        Bradley Manning has been in solitary confinement for 900 days, for freedom of speech. The information he "leaked", was accessible by over 4 million government contractors, and employees... It was not classified.

        This may seem like a relatively harmless, or well intentioned government, but under your own definition, every person in this country has every right, to defend themselves against the tyranny of this oppressive regime... The UK plans to extradite Julian Assange, another non criminal who did nothing but speak truth to power... Europe isn't very much ahead of the curve.

        I am saying, that when a man comes to your door with a gun, and imposes an unjust law on you, you have just as much right to shoot that man, as he does you. Being a representative of government does not make him right, and you wrong.

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