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Made You Think

Apr 5, 2018

Fantasists and zealots can be found on both sides of the debate over guns in America. On the one hand, many gun-rights advocates reject even the most sensible restrictions on the sale of weapons to the public. On the other, proponents of stricter gun laws often seem unable to understand why a good person would ever want ready access to a loaded firearm. Between these two extremes we must find grounds for a rational discussion about the problem of gun violence.

In this episode of Made You Think, Neil and I discuss The Riddle of the Gun by Sam Harris. In this blogpost, Harris weighs arguments and anti arguments for and against gun ownership control.

We still have more guns and more gun violence than any other developed country, but the correlation between guns and violence in the United States is far from straightforward. Thirty percent of urban households have at least one firearm. This figure increases to 42 percent in the suburbs and 60 percent in the countryside. As one moves away from cities, therefore, the rate of gun ownership doubles. And yet gun violence is primarily a problem in cities. It is the people of Detroit, Oakland, Memphis, Little Rock, and Stockton who are at the greatest risk of being killed by guns.

We cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Motivations behind shootings in America
  • Why the US situation cannot be compared to other countries and the need of a unique solution
  • The difficulties our brains have processing statistics, and the skewed importance we give to events
  • School guards and gun use training and licensing
  • Why it’s very unlikely that we will talk with aliens one day

And much more. Please enjoy, and be sure to read The Riddle of the Gun by Sam Harris!

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to check out our episode on Amusing Ourselves to Death, a book that discuss our brain limitations, as well as our episode on Skin in the Game by Nassim Taleb, on the topic of the importance of having personal experience and true knowledge when talking about hot topics.

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Show Topics

  • 0:00 – Escalation of gun violence and controversy about the definition of mass shooting. The lack and the need of rational arguments in favor or against gun control.
  • 4:48 – Two ways of talking about guns and regulation. The perfect world scenario, where guns do not exist. The current world, where they do. Reasons to why America may not be able to copy and paste regulations from other countries which have a completely different contexts. DNA of countries: starting with the individual freedom vs starting with the collective and scaling down to individual.
  • 9:57 – Hedge against tyranny. It's not about the individual right to have arms, but the State's right to have militia. An armed country makes it more threatening to be invaded.
  • 13:06 – Safe and unsafe gun use. Most of people have a very skewed opinion about guns but lacks deep knowledge about them. Campaigns for and against resort in fear rather than education. Sides attack the weakest argument of the other, instead of dismantling the strongest one. Story behind the AR15 name.
  • 17:56 – Arguments in favor of gun ownership. Police will never arrive on time in a home invasion situation. In a world without guns, the bully wins over the others. Guns even the physical playfield. A weak person could defend itself from a physically strong one. Limitations of Martial Arts in real life. Escaping a dangerous situation as a better strategy than engaging in it.
  • 22:15 – Comparing gun deaths to car accidents and medical errors. According to statistics, gun problems are a problem of population density and not a problem of guns ownership: there are more weapons in rural America, but mass shootings occur in cities. Murder rate going down after assault weapon federal ban expiration coincidence and possible causes.
  • 29:4 – Why Media and people would care more about the life o a kid in New Talents Life than the life of gangsters in Detroit. Different reactions for 9/11 and what happens everyday in Middle East. Difficulties to process statistics and emotional attachment in 1-to-1 relationships. Mass shooting deaths represent just 0.1%
  • 37:42 – Original meaning vs evolved meaning of the American Constitution. Different ban treatment for assault weapons and handguns. Drawing the line in which weapons to ban and which not.
  • 41:33 – California and New York banning 17 rounds magazines. Arming Mars' colonizers.
  • 47:48 – Logistics of breaking ins would be easier with a ban law. Dogs as deterrents to break ins. Civilians shouldn't intervene in dangerous situations. When speaking about gun ownership, we should always include training. The Japanese case, where to own a weapon you have to be trained and your license renewed as for driving cars. For cars and certain businesses training is mandatory. How to circumvent the Second Amendment requiring infinite training.
  • 53:27 – Mental health issues and buying guns. Suicide and domestic violence may be reduced without weapons. Abortion sucitates such much discussion and viewpoints as guns. Cause vs magnitude of events. Knife problems in Chinese schools. Guns do enable to kill people faster.
  • 58:58 – Putting guards for schools instead of arming teachers. Politicians against school guards lacking skin in the game, because they have personal guards. Coincidence of mass shootings happening in gun-free places.
  • 1:03:56 – Motivations behind mass shootings. Armed teachers may introduce more "variability". Deterrent effect is difficult to measure.
  • 1:09:51 Idea: giving guns to kids! Training kids how to behavior in dangerous situations. Many schools do have cops around, but probably not because of terrorist events.
  • 1:13:47 – Imperfect Justice system may be corrected by private justice. Some countries may not have guns problems because of a "barbaric" Justice system. Physical punishment as a deterrent. Mass attention as a motivator for shooting.
  • 1:17:47 – Symbolic steps towards more gun control. Veterans could be re-included as school guards and would be better experienced in fire situations. Guns training and licenses would be a billion dollars/year business.
  • 1:23:29 – Considerations for a Constitutional Amendment modification?
  • 1:24:25 – Shift in attitudes and shared responsibility is the way to solve a unique US problem. Tweet to us and share your inputs!
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