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Join our debate - ‘Guns serve no purpose in civilised society’ watch

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    Hi All,

    We're holding a debate over in the Law forum on the topic:

    ‘Guns serve no purpose in civilised society’.

    We’d like to invite you to start thinking about this topic and sharing your views in the thread. Our Law lecturer, Steve Goulton, will be joining in live tomorrow.

    Join in the debate.

    Thanks,
    Heather
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    So how does everyone feel about the topic following the shooting in America? Surely things need to change? The law needs to change? Society needs to change?
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    If you accept crime as inevitable, some measure of weaponry is necessary for law enforcement otherwise the state cannot fulfil its primary responsibility of protection of citizens - ergo civility breaks down.

    In the context of the United States, the historical context is everything. Firstly the nature of the Second Amendment and also the prevalence of firearms throughout the United States.

    If the aim is a reduction in school shootings - removing some classes of firearms is not the answer, and will likely have no effect whatsoever. Improving security at schools, improving policing and mental health care would seem to be the answers.

    If the goal is removal of firearms as a mean unto itself - my own opinion is that this would have to be a very long term project - at least 100 years - likely longer than the effective lifespan of firearms as a technology. Any kind of shock prohibition could likely lead to widespread civil unrest or worst case civil war / partition of the United States.
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    (Original post by University of Hertfordshire)
    So how does everyone feel about the topic following the shooting in America? Surely things need to change? The law needs to change? Society needs to change?
    It's undeniably sad to hear these kinds of stories, but with the attitude towards guns in the US, there may be no alternative apart from stricter background checks. Are AR15's really necessary? Not really, but the argument adopted by many pro-gun commentators, claim that civilians should have the right to the same firearms as the government in order to prevent the overthrowing of civilians in an extreme scenario.
    I definitely think Trump's suggestion to equip teachers with weapons is completely ludicrous.
    To see young kids and students dying and losing their chance at a successful, prosperous life, angers me very much. Kids shouldn't be afraid to attend schools in the fear of being shot, yet America's love for guns is unlikely to help the issue at hand.
    I'm not a lawyer so I cannot comment on whether the law has adequate rules and responses to this, in terms of societal changes however, I think either they completly abolish guns and make it illegal to even carry a firearm like in the UK (very unlikely for this to occur), or the more realistic approach would be to tighten background checks, and an idea I thought of recently, would be to perhaps let the governments take ownership of gun shops and create a monopoly in the selling of the goods, which would reinforce this notion of stricter background checks.
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    (Original post by TastyChicken)
    It's undeniably sad to hear these kinds of stories, but with the attitude towards guns in the US, there may be no alternative apart from stricter background checks. Are AR15's really necessary? Not really, but the argument adopted by many pro-gun commentators, claim that civilians should have the right to the same firearms as the government in order to prevent the overthrowing of civilians in an extreme scenario.
    I definitely think Trump's suggestion to equip teachers with weapons is completely ludicrous.
    To see young kids and students dying and losing their chance at a successful, prosperous life, angers me very much. Kids shouldn't be afraid to attend schools in the fear of being shot, yet America's love for guns is unlikely to help the issue at hand.
    I'm not a lawyer so I cannot comment on whether the law has adequate rules and responses to this, in terms of societal changes however, I think either they completly abolish guns and make it illegal to even carry a firearm like in the UK (very unlikely for this to occur), or the more realistic approach would be to tighten background checks, and an idea I thought of recently, would be to perhaps let the governments take ownership of gun shops and create a monopoly in the selling of the goods, which would reinforce this notion of stricter background checks.
    The argument (and I think it has quite some merit) is that guns are essential. Guns are so prevalent in the country that many many criminals have access to them. This makes homeowners exceptionally vulnerable if they do not have some means to protect themselves. Banning firearms takes away the legally held weapons, but has absolutely no effect on the illegally held ones.

    At the moment, there is this cycle of a school-type shooting every few months - this is a terrible thing, but on some level tolerable. If legally held firearms were to be banned, you can guarantee that every single day there would be a tide of news of people who had been killed or raped for want of any means of self-defence. Regardless of whether the homeowners would ever have owned guns, I don't see how a constant, daily barrage of bad news like this would be tolerable. You'd just get individual states reinstating the 2nd Amendment.

    As for kids shouldn't be afraid of going to school - this is pure rhetoric. The failures in Florida were clearly not failures of gun control. They were blatant failures of policing. We have seen from all over the world, that for wont of guns, people who want to commit mass murder use other means. Vehicular attacks started in Israel and spread to Europe. Take away firearms and school shooters will become school truck rampagers or arsonists. The answer is better security and policing.
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    (Original post by Trinculo)
    If you accept crime as inevitable, some measure of weaponry is necessary for law enforcement otherwise the state cannot fulfil its primary responsibility of protection of citizens - ergo civility breaks down.

    In the context of the United States, the historical context is everything. Firstly the nature of the Second Amendment and also the prevalence of firearms throughout the United States.

    If the aim is a reduction in school shootings - removing some classes of firearms is not the answer, and will likely have no effect whatsoever. Improving security at schools, improving policing and mental health care would seem to be the answers.

    If the goal is removal of firearms as a mean unto itself - my own opinion is that this would have to be a very long term project - at least 100 years - likely longer than the effective lifespan of firearms as a technology. Any kind of shock prohibition could likely lead to widespread civil unrest or worst case civil war / partition of the United States.
    In countries that have a total ban on automatic and semi automatic weapons gun crime is negligible. Surely it makes sense that the more guns - the more crime? Less guns = Less crime? Not just for some classes - total ban.
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    Why don't Americans consider getting rid of the second amendment?
    We are surely a people of our time. We do not stone people any more or cut of peoples hands for stealing.

    Break the 2nd Amendment down -

    A well regulated militia - (surely the army?) being necessary to the security- (is it necessary? This is the key for me!) of a free State, (it is free - they all are) the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

    This was ratified on December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights - TIME TO CHANGE!
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    (Original post by University of Hertfordshire)
    Why don't Americans consider getting rid of the second amendment?
    We are surely a people of our time. We do not stone people any more or cut of peoples hands for stealing.

    Break the 2nd Amendment down -

    A well regulated militia - (surely the army?)being necessary to the security- (is it necessary? This is the key for me!) of a free State, (it is free - they all are) the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

    This was ratified on December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights - TIME TO CHANGE!
    Now there's an interesting idea!
    Whilst I would tend to agree that it's important for legislation to be in keeping with the times, I'm actually a person who believes very strongly in the need for a codified, formal constitution here in the UK - rather than the fluid system we have at the moment.

    Countries and societies are, at their very core at least, intellectual exercises. They embrace, and come to embody, their beliefs (be they religious, or commitments to democracy/capitalism). If we can all agree on certain basic rights (the right to a fair trial, the right not to be executed by the state, the right to move freely within your nation's borders) then why shouldn't those be enshrined permanently for the security of the citizen?

    If that's the case though... who is to say that gun ownership, once brought into the fold of such a contract between fellow countrymen, can rightly be removed? The solution is perhaps the most dreaded of political things: a referendum?
    Let the US have a taste of our misery:
    #Smith&Wexit?
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    (Original post by University of Hertfordshire)
    Why don't Americans consider getting rid of the second amendment?
    We are surely a people of our time. We do not stone people any more or cut of peoples hands for stealing.

    Break the 2nd Amendment down -

    A well regulated militia - (surely the army?)being necessary to the security- (is it necessary? This is the key for me!) of a free State, (it is free - they all are) the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

    This was ratified on December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights - TIME TO CHANGE!
    I've always thought of the militia as localised and/or organised groups of 'normal' citizens with everyday jobs, ready to take up arms if the state/government turns tyrannical. There are various examples of not great administrations in relatively recent history.

    More generally, the USA has a huge amount of guns in circulation. Getting rid of the second amendment is a complete no go tbh. Leaves citizens vulnerable. Better (mandatory, no loopholes for avoidance, comprehensive) background checks, better mental health provision, responsible gun ownership and safety, better policing is the way forward for the USA.
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    (Original post by Goz Unlimited)
    I've always thought of the militia as localised and/or organised groups of 'normal' citizens with everyday jobs, ready to take up arms if the state/government turns tyrannical. There are various examples of not great administrations in relatively recent history.

    More generally, the USA has a huge amount of guns in circulation. Getting rid of the second amendment is a complete no go tbh. Leaves citizens vulnerable. Better (mandatory, no loopholes for avoidance, comprehensive) background checks, better mental health provision, responsible gun ownership and safety, better policing is the way forward for the USA.
    Do they need a militia? - they have a Military which is a development of the word. How can the safety of people be a total no go?
    Surely it has to be an option?
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    (Original post by Johnathan94)
    Now there's an interesting idea!
    Whilst I would tend to agree that it's important for legislation to be in keeping with the times, I'm actually a person who believes very strongly in the need for a codified, formal constitution here in the UK - rather than the fluid system we have at the moment.

    Countries and societies are, at their very core at least, intellectual exercises. They embrace, and come to embody, their beliefs (be they religious, or commitments to democracy/capitalism). If we can all agree on certain basic rights (the right to a fair trial, the right not to be executed by the state, the right to move freely within your nation's borders) then why shouldn't those be enshrined permanently for the security of the citizen?

    If that's the case though... who is to say that gun ownership, once brought into the fold of such a contract between fellow countrymen, can rightly be removed? The solution is perhaps the most dreaded of political things: a referendum?
    Let the US have a taste of our misery:
    #Smith&Wexit?
    Constitutions seem to be responsible for a lot of issues - Why do you have such a belief in them?
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    (Original post by University of Hertfordshire)
    Do they need a militia? - they have a Military which is a development of the word. How can the safety of people be a total no go?
    Surely it has to be an option?
    It's a development of the word but militia and military should probably be considered different. If a government were to turn tyrannical then it could be argued that they'd retain control of the military. A militia retains it's own power and autonomy.

    Edit: With regards to safety, then should all dangerous devices be withheld from citizens? Vehicles can be driven into crowds. Knives can be used in schools instead of guns. And you're missing the point that there would still be illegal guns in circulation, leaving citizen less able to defend themselves.
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    (Original post by University of Hertfordshire)
    Constitutions seem to be responsible for a lot of issues - Why do you have such a belief in them?
    Well, in part for the reason that I gave but for some additional reasons also.

    I believe in nation-state democracy and whilst patriotism is often paraded cheaply, I believe that national architecture like constitutions/bills of rights create a culture of commonality amongst citizens. It promotes shared values and gives an anchor to conversations about what type of country we want to live. Conversations of the sort that essentially encompass all political activity.

    They also ensure continuity between generation and protect national institutions from those seek to mishandle them. In Britain for example, a constitution could enshrine the right to healthcare, free at the point of use, and thereby impose upon any government the need to maintain the NHS.

    Could you give me some examples of some of the problems that you believe constitutions cause?
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    (Original post by Goz Unlimited)
    It's a development of the word but militia and military should probably be considered different. If a government were to turn tyrannical then it could be argued that they'd retain control of the military. A militia retains it's own power and autonomy.

    Edit: With regards to safety, then should all dangerous devices be withheld from citizens? Vehicles can be driven into crowds. Knives can be used in schools instead of guns. And you're missing the point that there would still be illegal guns in circulation, leaving citizen less able to defend themselves.
    Although, isn't it the responsibility of the government to suppress the militia should it ever actually rise up? Is it the divine right of the militia to overthrow any government it disagrees with, or does the government have an obligation to protect citizenship from civil war on their own soil?

    In order for these two institutions to actually exist in harmony, there would surely need to be pre-agreed terms of engagement? That a government would agree to do/not do certain things and the moment they trespass on those terms, war would be declared?

    This would necessitate either a) an unalterable constitution, a contract between the governing and the governed (it would exist in 2018 as it must in 3018) or b) an ambassador for the militia, who could negotiate with the government on behalf of his standing army.
    Which one would be your own preference?
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    (Original post by University of Hertfordshire)
    In countries that have a total ban on automatic and semi automatic weapons gun crime is negligible. Surely it makes sense that the more guns - the more crime? Less guns = Less crime? Not just for some classes - total ban.
    This isn't even the beginning of a smart debate.

    In countries where there are effective bans on firearms -these are places where firearms have not been prolific in the society. Like Great Britain - most firearms were effectively outlawed - but they had never been generally popular or available, hence the number of illegally held weapons was very very low.

    In the US, where there are very high numbers of illegally held weapons, removing legally held weapons will have almost no impact on gun crime. There won't be less of the guns that are causing the crime.

    I'd also be interested in what you think a total ban on guns in the US would look like.

    Essentially, it would be the Federal Government changing the Constitution and then seizing all firearms from the public - presumably using the force of law. How will they confiscate these weapons? This is exactly what many people believe the 2nd Amendment is in place to prevent - tyranny. It's completely circular reasoning - the 2nd Amendment is there to allow for the citizenry to be armed to prevent tyranny of the state. So the state will use tyranny to remove the 2nd Amendment and the weapons.

    Unless the timescales you are talking about are very large -like hundreds of years, the most likely thing would be widespread disorder and violence, and the probably break-up of the United States.
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    (Original post by Johnathan94)
    Although, isn't it the responsibility of the government to suppress the militia should it ever actually rise up? Is it the divine right of the militia to overthrow any government it disagrees with, or does the government have an obligation to protect citizenship from civil war on their own soil?

    In order for these two institutions to actually exist in harmony, there would surely need to be pre-agreed terms of engagement? That a government would agree to do/not do certain things and the moment they trespass on those terms, war would be declared?

    This would necessitate either a) an unalterable constitution, a contract between the governing and the governed (it would exist in 2018 as it must in 3018) or b) an ambassador for the militia, who could negotiate with the government on behalf of his standing army.
    Which one would be your own preference?

    Yeah, I mean I think the idea of a successful militia being formed in the USA in opposition to a government is fanciful. It wouldn't stand any chance of success against the resources that the military hold.

    A militia doesn't have a divine right to succeed and a well-trained military would stop them. Agreed. The government having an obligation to 'protect citizens' from civil war.. That depends on the reasons of conflict? Edit: I suppose, yes the government does, but what if the majority of the populace reject that obligation at a point in time?

    And I don't really see a militia as a body (which goes against "regulated" of the second amendment, I acknowledge). I was just aiming to point out that militia =/= military.
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    (Original post by Johnathan94)
    Well, in part for the reason that I gave but for some additional reasons also.

    I believe in nation-state democracy and whilst patriotism is often paraded cheaply, I believe that national architecture like constitutions/bills of rights create a culture of commonality amongst citizens. It promotes shared values and gives an anchor to conversations about what type of country we want to live. Conversations of the sort that essentially encompass all political activity.

    They also ensure continuity between generation and protect national institutions from those seek to mishandle them. In Britain for example, a constitution could enshrine the right to healthcare, free at the point of use, and thereby impose upon any government the need to maintain the NHS.

    Could you give me some examples of some of the problems that you believe constitutions cause?
    The 2nd amendment!
    Off topic - Why should we have free healthcare anyway? It’s not a divine right to abuse!
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    (Original post by Trinculo)
    This isn't even the beginning of a smart debate.

    In countries where there are effective bans on firearms -these are places where firearms have not been prolific in the society. Like Great Britain - most firearms were effectively outlawed - but they had never been generally popular or available, hence the number of illegally held weapons was very very low.

    In the US, where there are very high numbers of illegally held weapons, removing legally held weapons will have almost no impact on gun crime. There won't be less of the guns that are causing the crime.

    I'd also be interested in what you think a total ban on guns in the US would look like.

    Essentially, it would be the Federal Government changing the Constitution and then seizing all firearms from the public - presumably using the force of law. How will they confiscate these weapons? This is exactly what many people believe the 2nd Amendment is in place to prevent - tyranny. It's completely circular reasoning - the 2nd Amendment is there to allow for the citizenry to be armed to prevent tyranny of the state. So the state will use tyranny to remove the 2nd Amendment and the weapons.

    Unless the timescales you are talking about are very large -like hundreds of years, the most likely thing would be widespread disorder and violence, and the probably break-up of the United States.
    You go door to door.
    What's more important - ancient opinion or children's lives?
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    (Original post by Goz Unlimited)
    Yeah, I mean I think the idea of a successful militia being formed in the USA in opposition to a government is fanciful. It wouldn't stand any chance of success against the resources that the military hold.

    A militia doesn't have a divine right to succeed and a well-trained military would stop them. Agreed. The government having an obligation to 'protect citizens' from civil war.. That depends on the reasons of conflict? Edit: I suppose, yes the government does, but what if the majority of the populace reject that obligation at a point in time?

    And I don't really see a militia as a body (which goes against "regulated" of the second amendment, I acknowledge). I was just aiming to point out that militia =/= military.
    I think the point is -we lived in very different times in 1791. What did militia mean to them?
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    (Original post by University of Hertfordshire)
    The 2nd amendment!
    Off topic - Why should we have free healthcare anyway? It’s not a divine right to abuse!
    Umm... well this took a turn.
    Can I ask, are you a student at U of Hertfordshire?

    But anyway, back to the topic at hand -
    No, it isn't off-topic. I had said that perhaps gun ownership ought to be retained in US law because they have a codified constitution, and depending on how one views that document, it would go against what it means to be an American to reduce the rights contained within it. A breaking of the promise between government and citizen, that is supposed to be enduring across generations... a continuity of the American story?

    You asked me why I am a believer in constitutions and wish to see one here in the UK, and I replied that it would allow us to enshrine our beliefs in law in a way that would ensure continuity of what we collectively believe in. I gave the right to healthcare as an example because it is consistently shown to be important when the British people are polled.
 
 
 
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