A communitarian view on gun control

I thought y’all might be interested in this perspective on gun control from Amitai Etzioni, who is sort of the godfather of the rather modest communitarian movement in this country. An excerpt:

etzioni_mainWe should not wait for our elected officials, in President Obama’s good words, “to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” We should do our share. One way to proceed is to mark our homes, apartments and condos, with a “gun free” sign. Parents should notify their friends that they would be reluctant to send their child over for a play date unless the home was safe from guns. Residential communities should pass rules that ban bringing guns onto their premises, clearly marking them as gun free.

Anyone who puts up such signs will become an ambassador for gun control, because they are sure to be challenged by gun advocates to explain their anti-gun positions. Here are some pointers they may wish to use against the typical pro-gun talking points.

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

• Tragically, it is the case that there will always be dangerous individuals, but they can kill a lot more with easy access to guns. On the same day as the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, a knife-wielding man targeted a primary school in a Chinese village. Twenty-two children and one adult were wounded, but none were killed.

“Guns deter crimes and save lives.”

• Of the 30,000 gun deaths in America every year, only 200 are caused by self-defense. Studies have shown that a higher rate of gun ownership is correlated with higher rates of homicide, suicide and unintentional shootings. The U.S. has a firearms homicide rate 19.5 times higher than the combined rate of 22 high income countries with similar non-lethal crime and violence rates…

Note the emphasis on community-based solutions — starting in one’s home and workplace, engaging one’s neighbors in debate. Very much based in faith in engaged communities.Very different from the “50 percent plus one” forced solutions that left and right tend to jockey for…

Not that a communitarian would object to more reasonable laws regarding guns. As Etzioni says, “No right is absolute. Even the right to free speech, considered the strongest of them all, is limited. You cannot shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater — precisely because it endangers life.”

21 thoughts on “A communitarian view on gun control

  1. Bryan Caskey

    I keep hearing everyone saying “reasonable gun controls”. Everyone likes to be thought of as reasonable, so this sounds fine. What specifically does that mean?

    Also, on the gun-free zone issue, I think we need some humility from the people advocating for that. Gun-free zones have been an unmitigated disaster. Here are a list of some gun-free zones that I just randomly chose:

    Sandy Hook Elementary School
    Virginia Tech
    A movie theater in Aurora, CO
    Columbine High School

    Gun-free zones are not working. If you want to talk about “common-sense” and reasonable gun laws, what exactly is the rationale for a gun-free zone?

    If an entire residential community became “gun-free”, guess where all the burglars are going?

    Gun-free zones are the classic “feel good” idea. It seems like a good idea, but it’s actually not.

    I’m open to good ideas that work. But this one isn’t working. Try again, Amitai.

  2. Brad

    Hey, no question — such an approach requires a LOT of faith in one’s neighbors…

    A cagey person would say it’s safer to be vague about whether one has guns in one’s home. That way you get a touch of any deterrent effect (of which I’m not entirely convinced, but if it works at all, keep ’em wondering), and at the same time people don’t KNOW you have guns, so you’re not hanging out a “Break into my house; good place to steal guns” sign on your door.

    Best of all possible worlds…

  3. Steven Davis II

    Never heard of him or his movement.

    I’ll wait to see what Morgan Freeman and the blonde from Two Broke Girls have to say about gun control.

  4. Juan Caruso

    “If an entire residential community became “gun-free”, guess where all the burglars are going?” – Bryan C.

    Correct you are, BC.

    But that would be good news for prosecutors’, trial lawyers’ and judges’ job security, would it not?

    Gun control and crime control are antithetical. Just ask any prosecutor, trial lawyer, judge, and politician. You might soon find that the majority of those willing to answer (e.g. V. Sheheen) either have a gun permit or bodyguard (regardless of political their affiliation).

    Just a thought.

  5. Bryan Caskey

    Brad, this sounds like you’re endorsing being a “free-rider” by taking advantage of my house being occupied by someone bearing arms, which then protects someone who didn’t purchase a firearm. Shouldn’t everyone contribute to the community benefit of criminals being afraid to break into your house?

    I guess my bearing arms has the external benefit of protecting my neighbors who also “might” have guns. Who knew I was such a great neighbor!

  6. Mark Stewart

    I am pretty sure that guns are among the top 5 most burglarized items. So unless one is willing, and able, to bunker in place…

    I don’t have anything against guns; it is the gun owners that generally, though of course not always, concern me.

  7. Brad

    Personally, I don’t think I’m brave enough to follow the communitarian path on this.

    Think about it — he wants to provoke gun rights people into spontaneous debates on the subject.

    Well, it occurs to me that the kind of people who would come up to you and start an argument because you have a “no guns” sticker on your window are NOT the world’s most stable people. They would likely have hostility issues. And they would be statistically more likely to be armed than other people would be.

    Not the safest of situations.

  8. Brad

    Yeah, I worry a lot about supplying the criminal world with one more weapon by having it available for a burglar to steal — which seems more likely to me than the same weapon being used effectively to drive a burglar away.

    I mean, really — how many burglars even try to break into a home when there’s a chance someone is there?

  9. Bryan Caskey

    I still don’t see any solutions other than putting signs up in your windows that says “unarmed”. Maybe it’s possible that every problem in the world cannot be legislated away. I know that’s a scary proposition for some folks, but it’s the truth.

    Control on magazine capacity? I don’t get that one at all – other than it’s the emotional argument of “We must do something, and this is something – so therefore it must be done. It’s like saying you’re going to decrease drunk drivers by decreasing the size of beer cans.

    Does anyone here actually own a gun? Shot a gun? Seen a gun in person? I’d love to see a BradWarthen poll on these questions. The amount of time it takes to change a magazine is almost negligible. Magazine capacity is a silly idea. And why 10? What’s so magic about only 10 cartridges in a magazine? If less is better, why not 5? Why not 1? Why not go back to only muzzle-loaders? (Which are really quite neat.)

    Also, can anyone define “assault weapon” for me? I struggle with that one.

    Maybe I should write a Socratic dialogue on that. Hmmm…that might be my weekend project.

  10. Karen McLeod

    I believe there were about 200 deaths which were the result of self defense last year. There were many more times in which a gun which was owned by a person in the house was used for suicide or homicide, or accidentally discharged and killed someone. How do we balance all these deaths against the right to bear arms? I don’t advocate a ban on guns, but we must make people who own them accountable for their use.

  11. Mark Stewart

    I have never owned a gun; and I have never been burglarized when home. That’s the benefit of a good dog – they lurk around the ol’ homestead… When I have no interest in doing so. When my dog is away, I seem to get hit. Interesting…

    I really doubt any burglar is worried that a homeowner is a gun owner. They just worry that someone might be home. And as I said, it is clear that burglars look for guns to steal. But y’all knew that already.

  12. Steve Gordy

    Hey, since Bryan has shown that gun-free zones don’t work, let’s extend that principle. Henceforth, unrestricted carry will be the rule in every statehouse, as well as the U.S. Capitol. We don’t need no stinkin’ police to protect those places; the lawmakers can do it themselves.

  13. Bryan Caskey

    If we’re talking about “communitarian” solutions, what if we went the other way from gun free communities? What if our community decided to come together and train all adults on proper firearm handling, operation, and storage?

    What if we had a trained and armed community all working together to keep each other and their children safe?

    Sounds like a communitarian idea to me.

  14. David

    The “50 percent plus one” forced solutions that this country jockeys for is just another name for the way we go about doing those things we choose to do together.

  15. Nick

    Regulate guns just like cars:
    – The owner has to get a license, by passing written and operating tests before he can purchase one. 100% on a final exam for the CCW course and shooting 90% in a timed course at the range sounds good to me. And don’t forget the background check, including mental health records.
    – Each gun is registered, just like a car, by “WIN”.
    – Guns can only be sold to other licensed gun owners.
    – Each time ownership changes, a test round must be fired and the interference pattern on both the round and casing forwarded to NCIC.
    – Gun owners must purchase liability insurance to cover possible misuse of the gun.
    – Those who fail to report the theft of a gun which is subsequently used in a crime will be charged as accessories.
    – Those who report the theft of a gun which they themselves subsequently use in a crime will be assumed to have planned such crime.

  16. revjen45

    As an advocate of armed HD/SD, I would not debate the issue with somebody who has a “No Guns” sign because I don’t care what they think.


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