The March Philosophy Book of the Month is Final Notice by Van Fleisher. Discuss Final Notice now.

The April Philosophy Book of the Month is The Unbound Soul by Richard L. Haight. Discuss The Unbound Soul Now

The May Philosophy Book of the Month is Misreading Judas by Robert Wahler.

Gun Control Series Q1 -- Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?

Discuss the March 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month, Final Notice by Van Fleisher.
Forum rules
Because this forum is host to a potentially controversial special gun control topic series, all posts will be held for moderation to ensure each forum topic stays on-topic and to ensure the Forum Rules are strictly enforced.
User avatar
Scott
Site Admin
Posts: 4320
Joined: January 20th, 2007, 6:24 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Diogenes the Cynic
Contact:

Gun Control Series Q1 -- Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?

Post by Scott » March 19th, 2019, 9:47 am

This is a discussion topic for the March 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month, Final Notice by Van Fleisher, a book that through fiction addresses topics including techno-medical ethics, treatment of the elderly, and gun control. It's strongly recommend your read the book before participating in this discussion.
---


Many arguments about gun control focus on public safety. But let's put that aside for this particular discussion.

One question that seems like it should be easily answered through an unbiased objective check of simple empirical statistics is whether gun ownership causes one to be statistically safer or less safe. After checking the research, what results do you find? Please don't just guess. Provide credible scientific sources of statistical studies. (Credible sources do not include blogs, YouTube, social media posts, etc.)

Needless to say, there are both (1) aspects of gun ownership that make the gunowner safer and (2) aspects that make the gunowner less safe. So the question is what is the net effect according to true statistical science. (A parallel is airbags in cars, which can sometimes save someone's life and other times break their neck.) So it is a matter of whether the pros statistically outweigh the cons or vice versa, which is really more a question of math and empirical data. For guns, ways they can make someone safer include the ability to defend oneself from a home intruder or the deterrence effect insofar as others know or suspect one owns a gun. Ways they can make the gunowner less safe is through accidents when there is no threat or instances where a gunowner is killed by someone else who uses the gunowner's own gun against the gunowner.

This is an important question because even if it is agreed between some people that guns should be legal regardless of any alleged danger to the gunowner, the answer to this simple statistical question can be a major factor for people to choose to own guns or not, and the morality of that choice. That's not to say the danger to the self (or lack thereof) is the only factor. For comparison, I--like many people--own and ride a motorcycle not because I think it is safer for me statistically than not owning and riding motorcycle but despite those statistics.


---
This topic is a part of a series about gun control meant to start with (1) less controversial, less philosophical, and less complex gun-related topics and then move increasingly towards (2) more controversial, more philosophical, and more complex gun-related topics. If a person cannot discuss the simpler topics in the series in a reasonable civil open-minded way that utilizes the principal of charity, than that person should not bother participating in the more complex topics at all. This forum does not exist for flame wars between wingnuts. In fact, this forum is not a good place for anyone who is not significantly more open-minded than the average person because philosophy entails challenging deeply held beliefs. In this forum, we love respectful debate and discussing controversial topics in unusually productive ways.
Online Philosophy Club - Please tell me how to improve this website!

Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?

User avatar
Eddie Larry
New Trial Member
Posts: 8
Joined: September 10th, 2018, 7:20 pm

Re: Gun Control Series Q1 -- Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?

Post by Eddie Larry » March 19th, 2019, 10:10 am

We had a situation near where we live as follows: 2 senior citizens had a driver they befriended and lent money to. They kept a hand gun in the house. When they demanded their money back, the driver used their weapon to kill both of them. So I would say less so.

However, most gun owners would not think so.

User avatar
Grecorivera5150
Posts: 676
Joined: June 8th, 2012, 1:22 am
Favorite Philosopher: Bruce Lee

Re: Gun Control Series Q1 -- Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?

Post by Grecorivera5150 » March 19th, 2019, 10:20 am

As there is no real way to prove this because of all the potential unknown factors that can be involved with ownership and potential encounters, the more important questions seems to be whether of not gun ownership makes the individual or group feel more safe. It becomes more about law and psychology than philosophy.

User avatar
Scott
Site Admin
Posts: 4320
Joined: January 20th, 2007, 6:24 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Diogenes the Cynic
Contact:

Re: Gun Control Series Q1 -- Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?

Post by Scott » March 19th, 2019, 10:20 am

Eddie Larry wrote:
March 19th, 2019, 10:10 am
We had a situation near where we live as follows: 2 senior citizens had a driver they befriended and lent money to. They kept a hand gun in the house. When they demanded their money back, the driver used their weapon to kill both of them. So I would say less so.

However, most gun owners would not think so.
@Eddie Larry, that is anecdotal and thus your argument for your conclusion is a hasty generalization fallacy.

Nobody is denying that there are dangers to gun ownership and instances where the gun increases the risk or harm to the gunowner. Your example only demonstrates what is already a given. The question is about the sum statistical net effect (i.e. the net consequential result when all the ways gun ownership make the owner safer are weighed statistically with all the ways gun ownership makes the owner less safe). Your post provides no evidence or valid argument one way or the other about that. The argument provided is fallacious.
Online Philosophy Club - Please tell me how to improve this website!

Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?

User avatar
Scott
Site Admin
Posts: 4320
Joined: January 20th, 2007, 6:24 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Diogenes the Cynic
Contact:

Re: Gun Control Series Q1 -- Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?

Post by Scott » March 19th, 2019, 10:25 am

Grecorivera5150 wrote:
March 19th, 2019, 10:20 am
As there is no real way to prove this because of all the potential unknown factors that can be involved with ownership and potential encounters, the more important questions seems to be whether of not gun ownership makes the individual or group feel more safe. It becomes more about law and psychology than philosophy.
@Grecorivera5150

There are countless questions that are more important than the one being asked and discussed in this topic. However, let's stay on-topic and in this particular topic discuss the actual question being asked (regardless of how less important it may be).

Surely, the net safety of gun ownership for the owner can be statistically measured with similar effectiveness and reliability to measuring the net safety of (a) motorcycle ownership, (b) regular marijuana use, (c) regular alcohol use, (d) having a home alarm system, (e) wearing seat belts versus not wearing seat belts, (f) undergoing breast augmentation surgery, (g) owning/having a pool in one's backyard, just to name a few of countless examples. Do you agree?
Online Philosophy Club - Please tell me how to improve this website!

Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?

User avatar
Eddie Larry
New Trial Member
Posts: 8
Joined: September 10th, 2018, 7:20 pm

Re: Gun Control Series Q1 -- Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?

Post by Eddie Larry » March 19th, 2019, 11:51 am

Scott wrote:
March 19th, 2019, 10:20 am
Eddie Larry wrote:
March 19th, 2019, 10:10 am
We had a situation near where we live as follows: 2 senior citizens had a driver they befriended and lent money to. They kept a hand gun in the house. When they demanded their money back, the driver used their weapon to kill both of them. So I would say less so.

However, most gun owners would not think so.
@Eddie Larry, that is anecdotal and thus your argument for your conclusion is a hasty generalization fallacy.

Nobody is denying that there are dangers to gun ownership and instances where the gun increases the risk or harm to the gunowner. Your example only demonstrates what is already a given. The question is about the sum statistical net effect (i.e. the net consequential result when all the ways gun ownership make the owner safer are weighed statistically with all the ways gun ownership makes the owner less safe). Your post provides no evidence or valid argument one way or the other about that. The argument provided is fallacious.
Hi Scott, I took your question as a fact question looking for facts. Thus I responded with a fact. In your response, you stated “The question is about the sum statistical net effect (i.e. the net consequential result when all the ways gun ownership make the owner safer are weighed statistically with all the ways gun ownership makes the owner less safe). ”. Now I understand the question. Sorry I misunderstood what you were looking for.

User avatar
RJG
Moderator
Posts: 1291
Joined: March 28th, 2012, 8:52 pm

Re: Gun Control Series Q1 -- Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?

Post by RJG » March 19th, 2019, 11:55 am

My 2 cents:

It is not about 'safety' per se. The solution is not in banning firearms because of 'safety' concerns. If so, then by that same logic, we would also ban all automobiles. It is about 'responsible' people maintaining safety.

Those that are "psychologically unstable" should not be granted license to use/carry/own firearms. The solution then is to require the passing of a psychological test before being granted license to use/carry/own a firearm. ...we require a driving test before issuing a drivers license, don't we?

User avatar
Scott
Site Admin
Posts: 4320
Joined: January 20th, 2007, 6:24 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Diogenes the Cynic
Contact:

Re: Gun Control Series Q1 -- Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?

Post by Scott » March 19th, 2019, 12:05 pm

RJG wrote:
March 19th, 2019, 11:55 am
My 2 cents:

It is not about 'safety' per se.
What do you mean by "it"?

This topic thread on this forum is about and about the specific question being asked: Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?
RJG wrote:
March 19th, 2019, 11:55 am
The solution...
What do you mean by "the solution"? I wouldn't say this particular topic is about any kind of "problem", but rather it is a straightforward statistical question: Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe? So the "problem" is just a question and thus the solution is simply the answer to the question.

RJG wrote:
March 19th, 2019, 11:55 am
...is not in banning firearms because of 'safety' concerns. If so, then by that same logic, we would also ban all automobiles. It is about 'responsible' [people maintaining safety.

Those that are "psychologically unstable" should not be granted license to use/carry/own firearms. The solution then is to require the passing of a psychological test before being granted license to use/carry/own a firearm. ...we require a driving test before issuing a drivers license, don't we?
I believe the above quoted statements are off-topic. (This is only Q1 of a series. In different followup forum topics, I will be asking about things like gun laws or the morality/wisdom of owning/carrying guns. But those questions and answers are off-topic in this particular thread. Feel free to start a seperate forum topic about one of those other issues. But in this topic they are off-topic.)
Online Philosophy Club - Please tell me how to improve this website!

Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?

User avatar
Gwarner99
New Trial Member
Posts: 4
Joined: May 8th, 2015, 7:45 am

Re: Gun Control Series Q1 -- Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?

Post by Gwarner99 » March 19th, 2019, 12:16 pm

Scott wrote:
March 19th, 2019, 9:47 am
...

One question that seems like it should be easily answered through an unbiased objective check of simple empirical statistics is whether gun ownership causes one to be statistically safer or less safe. After checking the research, what results do you find? Please don't just guess. Provide credible scientific sources of statistical studies. (Credible sources do not include blogs, YouTube, social media posts, etc.)

Needless to say, there are both (1) aspects of gun ownership that make the gunowner safer and (2) aspects that make the gunowner less safe. So the question is what is the net effect according to true statistical science. (A parallel is airbags in cars, which can sometimes save someone's life and other times break their neck.) So it is a matter of whether the pros statistically outweigh the cons or vice versa, which is really more a question of math and empirical data. For guns, ways they can make someone safer include the ability to defend oneself from a home intruder or the deterrence effect insofar as others know or suspect one owns a gun. Ways they can make the gunowner less safe is through accidents when there is no threat or instances where a gunowner is killed by someone else who uses the gunowner's own gun against the gunowner.

This is an important question because even if it is agreed between some people that guns should be legal regardless of any alleged danger to the gunowner, the answer to this simple statistical question can be a major factor for people to choose to own guns or not, and the morality of that choice. That's not to say the danger to the self (or lack thereof) is the only factor. For comparison, I--like many people--own and ride a motorcycle not because I think it is safer for me statistically than not owning and riding motorcycle but despite those statistics.


...
This does seem to ask individual contributors to undertake a fairly large statistical review, in fact, several such reviews, for different countries and cultures, unless there is an unstated assumption that the question means "in the United States" only? Even there, I suspect that many claimed postives and negatives might vary between States and regions.

Would it not be better to start by asking contributors to identify sources of reliable statistics in their home countries (at least) That is, by crowd-sourcing the review effort?

My own attempts to tie down hard info on this haven't really been very successful in the past, in relation either to the UK or the US. I live in the UK, where gun control laws were hugely tightened after the Dunblane school massacre in 1996. I actively spoke out in favour of that change, even though I was a shooter and gun owner some years previously, and a member in my 20s of the Shooter's Right's Association (UK equivalent - sort of - of the NRA). This was our second random massacre, after the Hungerford attack ten years earlier (not a school shooting).

Now , there have been no similar events in the UK since then. Arguably, that is evidence that the tightened laws were effective, though this involves a counterfactual, so can be challenged.

In the USA, the belief that gun ownership is a necessary requirement for political liberty seems to be reasonably widely supported. I do not know of any other nation where that view is widely held, certainly not in Europe, Australia, or New Zealand (!). Nor do I know how it would be possible to quantify that claim or examine it statistically, beyond determining the balance of public opinion. .

User avatar
Scott
Site Admin
Posts: 4320
Joined: January 20th, 2007, 6:24 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Diogenes the Cynic
Contact:

Re: Gun Control Series Q1 -- Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?

Post by Scott » March 19th, 2019, 12:31 pm

Gwarner99 wrote:
March 19th, 2019, 12:16 pm
This does seem to ask individual contributors to undertake a fairly large statistical review, in fact, several such reviews, for different countries and cultures, unless there is an unstated assumption that the question means "in the United States" only? Even there, I suspect that many claimed postives and negatives might vary between States and regions.

Would it not be better to start by asking contributors to identify sources of reliable statistics in their home countries (at least) That is, by crowd-sourcing the review effort?
I encourage members to post in this topic info about any studies regarding the net safety of gun ownership, whether country-specific to their country, a different country, or international. If multiple studies are presented providing conflicting indications, then that is where the philosophy and potential for on-topic debate or argument comes in.

The limitations on any one study or set of studies presented will limit the strength of that evidence in terms of the extrapolated conclusions it supports. For example, if a study only studies men but not women, then it will be informative but that gender limitation is a limitation of the evidence regarding an extrapolated conclusion about the general non-gender specific net safety of gun ownership. Like gender, country-specific studies have that limitation. All studies have many such limitations, which is what makes them evidence of the extrapolated conclusions not proof.

Unfortunately, so far, zero evidence has been presented either way in this forum topic thread so far. Hopefully, some evidence will be found and presented soon. Maybe it will be mixed and lead only to very debatable conclusions, or maybe the sum of the evidence presented in this topic will provide a very compelling clear answer to the titular question one way or the other.
Online Philosophy Club - Please tell me how to improve this website!

Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?

User avatar
RJG
Moderator
Posts: 1291
Joined: March 28th, 2012, 8:52 pm

Re: Gun Control Series Q1 -- Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?

Post by RJG » March 19th, 2019, 12:44 pm

RJG wrote:It is not about 'safety' per se.
Scott wrote:What do you mean by "it"?
"It" = "Gun ownership"

Scott wrote:This topic thread on this forum is about and about the specific question being asked: Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?
Yes, I understand the question, but you are trying to make a (questionable?) connection between "ownership" and "safety", ...right?

Scott wrote:What do you mean by "the solution"? I wouldn't say this particular topic is about any kind of "problem",...
Aren't you implying a 'safety' problem? …i.e. being "safer or less safe"?

Scott wrote:...but rather it is a straightforward statistical question: Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe? So the "problem" is just a question and thus the solution is simply the answer to the question.
Scott, the question seems flawed as it is written. The question falsely implies (and pre-assumes) that "ownership" has something to do with the "safer or less safe". -- It is just like asking "Did you kill your wife in the morning or afternoon?", it falsely implies (and pre-assumes) that you had something to do with killing your wife.

It is not the "ownership" of something that makes the owner "safer or less safe", maybe it is the "usage" (or "misusage") of that something.

Another way to see the flaw in the question is to replace "gun" with "car" and ask the same question. -- "Does car ownership make the car owner safer or less safe?"

User avatar
Gwarner99
New Trial Member
Posts: 4
Joined: May 8th, 2015, 7:45 am

Re: Gun Control Series Q1 -- Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?

Post by Gwarner99 » March 19th, 2019, 12:50 pm

In fact, It may be best to start by agreeing a shared list of all the possible or proposed positive and negative aspects of gun ownership, without trying to evaluate any of them, at first; a taxonomy, I suppose.
Not all of these address safety directly, though.
Then identifying possible sources of statistical information relating to each of these, by country.

For instance:

Proposed benefits;
Greater personal security for gun owners against violent crime
Deterrence effects against violent crime
Civilians able to counter violent criminals
More civility and less aggression
Political liberty – check on government power
Individual rights and freedom
Pleasure from sporting use of firearms
Use of firearms to control pests

Proposed harm;
Accidental death and injury
Increased risk of successful suicide
Danger of mass killings
Risk that weapons will be turned on owners by criminals during incidents
When many firearms are in circulation, easier for criminals to steal or otherwise obtain them
Danger to bystanders
Police become more likely to react with deadly force through threat of an environment where firearms are prevalent
Increased fear of armed confrontation with risk to public
Increased likelihood of escalation of disputes to level of deadly force.

Pelegrin_1
Posts: 95
Joined: October 11th, 2013, 10:48 am

Re: Gun Control Series Q1 -- Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?

Post by Pelegrin_1 » March 19th, 2019, 1:14 pm

The answer to the question in the title seems almost too obvious. But the obviousness of it applies primarily to a gun owner who truly knows how to handle and use the type(s) of he or she has. That being the case, it should be generally be the case that the gun owner should be safer with a gun than without, or at least that should be true in a land where a lot of people possess a gun. The problem is that the question is the wrong question.

The question should be: Does the right of citizens to own guns make the society a safer place for the citizens of that society?

User avatar
Gwarner99
New Trial Member
Posts: 4
Joined: May 8th, 2015, 7:45 am

Re: Gun Control Series Q1 -- Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?

Post by Gwarner99 » March 19th, 2019, 1:25 pm

Scott wrote:
March 19th, 2019, 12:31 pm
Gwarner99 wrote:
March 19th, 2019, 12:16 pm
This does seem to ask individual contributors to undertake a fairly large statistical review, in fact, several such reviews, for different countries and cultures, unless there is an unstated assumption that the question means "in the United States" only? Even there, I suspect that many claimed postives and negatives might vary between States and regions.

Would it not be better to start by asking contributors to identify sources of reliable statistics in their home countries (at least) That is, by crowd-sourcing the review effort?
I encourage members to post in this topic info about any studies regarding the net safety of gun ownership, whether country-specific to their country, a different country, or international. If multiple studies are presented providing conflicting indications, then that is where the philosophy and potential for on-topic debate or argument comes in.

The limitations on any one study or set of studies presented will limit the strength of that evidence in terms of the extrapolated conclusions it supports. For example, if a study only studies men but not women, then it will be informative but that gender limitation is a limitation of the evidence regarding an extrapolated conclusion about the general non-gender specific net safety of gun ownership. Like gender, country-specific studies have that limitation. All studies have many such limitations, which is what makes them evidence of the extrapolated conclusions not proof.

Unfortunately, so far, zero evidence has been presented either way in this forum topic thread so far. Hopefully, some evidence will be found and presented soon. Maybe it will be mixed and lead only to very debatable conclusions, or maybe the sum of the evidence presented in this topic will provide a very compelling clear answer to the titular question one way or the other.
I agree that a basis in factual information is a good thing for any controversy. I think you are underestimating the complexity of what you are asking for, though. But surely philosophy should teach us to start by clarifying concepts and the questions we ask, and statisticians will tell us the "some evidence" may be do more harm than good.

The statistics are very tricky; for example, different countries define "violent crime" differently, and even record it over different periods, so comparing crime rates between countries can be difficult.

I've found some information , starting with Wikipedia and the sources that are cited there. But to pick that information apart is a big project, and would need a sound structure, as well as lots of statistical expertise (probably more than I would claim.) I think we would have to take each topic or claimed effect in turn, for example, evidence for the affect of rates of gun ownership or possession alongside crime rates is itself a very tricky issue, from what i can see.

User avatar
Gwarner99
New Trial Member
Posts: 4
Joined: May 8th, 2015, 7:45 am

Re: Gun Control Series Q1 -- Does gun ownership make the gunowner safer or less safe?

Post by Gwarner99 » March 19th, 2019, 2:12 pm

RJG wrote:It is not about 'safety' per se....

It is not the "ownership" of something that makes the owner "safer or less safe", maybe it is the "usage" (or "misusage") of that something.


I agree that the word"safety' alone doesn't capture all the claimed benefits or harms from widespread access to guns. That is why I suggested that we start by compiling a list of all the main benefits and harms that people have suggested for widespread access to firearms. At this stage, we shouldn't debate the merits of the claims, just identify all the main claims people can and do make for benefits and harms.

Then we could think about what kind of evidence would support or rebut each of the claimed effects. That would include some statistical quetions, amongst others.

You don't like the word "ownership"? Fair enough. Would you be happy to say "ownership, possession or easy access" to guns, instead? For example, in Switzerland many people have firearms at home that are issued to them as members of military or police units. They don't "own" them, but they possess and have access to them.
We'd probably need a short term for use in discussion like "access" though.
Another way to see the flaw in the question is to replace "gun" with "car" and ask the same question. -- "Does car ownership make the car owner safer or less safe?"
Well, that would be a reasonable (though different) question in itself, but again, there are other benefits and harms beyond 'safety' associated with car ownership, too. Some of those are about individual safety, others are broader, for instance "Mobility, access to larger areas, enjoyment,use in employments" vs "deaths and injuries through accidents, noise, pollution, towns designed in a way hostile to pedestrian usage".

Post Reply