Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Trying to soothe your fear with guns

    Yesterday was interesting.
    My column, in brief,  quoted the superintendent of the Chicago police, Garry McCarthy, saying that we don't have to debate the wisdom of concealed carry gun permits. Just sit back and watch the tragedies unfold.
     I agreed with him.
     The column did not call for gun control, did not suggest action. Just the opposite, I recognized the utter inertia that our nation has fallen into, browbeaten by the NRA, the gun industry, and the slice of America that worships firearms. 
    A person can own a gun for many reasons: sport, protection, habit, tradition, fear. I didn't enter into any of that. What I said was that the usefulness of a gun increases with its availability to the owner, which also increases the danger it poses to him. Obviously true.  And nobody really debated that. Furthermore, since crimes are rare—no gun fan seemed capable of acknowledging this either—compared to gun accidents and suicides, for most people the risk of owning a gun outweighs any real benefit. 
     Many people wrote in demanding "facts," and I wrote back regarding suicides. Buying a gun increases the odds that you will kill yourself—the Harvard School of Public health found "a powerful link" between gun ownership and suicide. Those gun owners who shoot someone typically shoot themselves. 
     Faced with this, my correspondents withdrew, hurrying no doubt to gun chat boards to hoot and holler.
     My view is at odds with the Clint Eastwood fantasy. And nothing honks a man off like having his fantasy pointed out, never mind questioned, never mind mocked. It's a lot more fun to imagine yourself getting the drop on the bad guy at the next Sandy Hook than realizing that buying a gun increases the odds of a violent death for yourself and your family.
     Not being a zealot, I can let this go. It's masochistic of me to bring it up for a second day. But I do find the discussion interesting, reading all these comments -- emails, I ignored the comments after my column. Comments after newspaper stories are generally from trolls who would jeer at an 8-year-old with cancer.  
    But reading my email, I realized something. Gun supporters aren't interested in debate. They just want to browbeat and hector anyone who raises the issue. Though give them credit. They have fight in them. Those who support gun control sit looking at their hands, timid, silent. And to be honest, I respect, if that is the right word, the gun supporters more. At least they have the courage of their convictions and act on them, speaking in loud, sneering, utterly-confident voices. Those who think otherwise — the majority, if you believe polls — are too abashed, or indifferent, to speak.  They've given up. 
     Not me obviously. I can point out the flaws in the gun argument. I can also easily and sincerely tick off the value of guns—as beautiful, collectible objects, for target practice, hunting, to provide protection for those few who are truly endangered, and to give comfort and a sense of security—false, but security nonetheless—to the many who are not.  Plus we're stuck with 'em. 
     I've had fun shooting guns on a number of occasions—at several ranges around Chicago. I have gone pheasant hunting in Wisconsin and skeet shooting in Colorado.  I had an FOID card—it expired, eventually, but I've been meaning to renew it—that I got to take my sons shooting in Des Plaines, and would have bought a gun for that purpose had they showed any interest. (I was a pretty good shot, which I credit to years of video shooter games). I find it sad that those who passionately favor of gun rights, are unable to explore the borders of their belief. They can't look at the other side and find merit. They can't even look at all, and couldn't come up with a positive aspect of gun control, well, if you put a gun to their heads. Not one. 
    Indeed, they seem almost offended, not by what I said so much but by the idea that someone was talking about their predilection, casting doubts about their fantasies. The gun world is so radicalized that respected sportsmen's columnists have been hounded from their jobs just for straying slightly from an absolute, pry-my-gun-from-my-cold-dead-hands extremism.  Good thing I don't work for an outdoors magazine.
     As I read over their fuming, nasty, sarcastic, anti-Semitic taunts that made up this Greek chorus of complaint, seeing the view offered by the soda straw they peer at life through, what stood out was their anger and anxiety. To a man. Which made me wonder: why are they so mad?  They''ve won. The issue is dead, the day theirs. Guns for everybody, all the time. I never suggested we implement the faintest whisper of gun control, didn't call to ban a single exotic bullet,  because that would be completely impossible in our climate of Congressional cowardice. And  I make it a rule never to advocate the impossible. I merely pointed out that guns are dangerous and the more guns, the more danger, just like the superintendent said. There is no need to argue. All we have to do is wait.
    But that is blasphemy enough. This is, at bottom, a religious issue, if not religious, then certainly a matter of faith. Their faith is not in law, not in God, not in society, but in guns. There is certainly a religious fanaticism to all this. It's a passion, almost sexual in nature. No wonder they don't want anyone drawing attention to it. They are like onanists caught in the act,  blustering through their embarrassment, hurt and humiliation, shouting at the intruder. Go away. So faith and a kind of twisted psycho-sexual fixation. Guns give comfort and security to people who obviously sorely lack both. You can't argue that. Guns are owned by people who feel they need guns. I know gun owners on my block. Lots of guns. Yet we live in the same peaceful place. We've talked about it. Nobody is going to yank that blankie from them. One reader wrote to me that Obama was to blame for the sale of 100 million guns, and I wrote back asking why, given that he has done absolutely nothing to restrict gun sales and no rational person believes he ever will. 
     And the reader said, not realizing how right he is: yes, but they were afraid he might. 
     Which is what this whole thing is about. Guns are comfort for people who are afraid, frightened of a changing world, of menacing minorities, of dangers real and imagined. And to be honest, I recognize that placebo as having a value. It's bad to be scared. Arm yourselves, by all means. I wouldn't dream of stopping you. Though I don't understand why your fear should be the only consideration on this subject, the beginning, middle and end of the debate, not that we're debating.   
     If you are terrified, of life, of your neighbors, of vague menaces, get a gun or, rather, lots of guns, since, like any addiction, one stops being effective, and you need more to get the same calming effect. Not for all gun owners, let me state clearly, not that it will help. Maybe you're a security guard, or like to hunt squirrels. There are uses. But for a lot they're totems, comfort objects, like little metal dollies. Certainly the guys I heard from yesterday seemed to have that going on. Though owning lots of guns doesn't seem to make them feel secure either -- they're still afraid, afraid now that someone will take their guns. Afraid of my analyzing this, of asking questions. Pointing out that, rather than making anyone safer in any way other than the psychological, guns imperil their owners, their families and everybody else. It seems unfair that I can understand and accept their reasoning but they can neither grasp nor accept mine. Enough. As I said, let's not argue about it. Because the incident that happened in your youth, the fistfight that wed you to guns for life, is not a compelling argument for an armed society, in my view. And you obviously aren't listening to anything I have to say. But thanks for reading.  


70 comments:

  1. I would repeal the 2nd Amendment, confiscate every last gun and make gun owners face the firing squad. Once the firing squad was finished, I would order them to stand in a circle and shoot until the issue was over once and for all. But, then, I am an unrepentant liberal.

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    1. A little extreme, but I appreciate your enthusiasm.

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    2. the U.S. has the best-armed civilian population in the world, with an estimated 270 million total guns. That’s an average of 89 firearms for every 100 residents.

      Im sorry what firing squad were we talking about?

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    3. And people like you are why we have that Amendment you despise so much.

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    4. Love you, Richard! Can we have lunch sometime!

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    5. Hmmm, rounding up people whos lifestyles we don't agree with and executing them....... I believe that was tried in the 30s and 40s in central Europe. Thank god we have a second amendment to protect against that............

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    6. Your worst nightmareMarch 11, 2014 at 11:07 PM

      Come and take them tough guy.

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    7. Citizens with guns are the reason that you are free to make such a ridiculous statement. I may not agree with what you say, but I'll support to the death your right to say it

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    8. That's exactly what the second amendment is for. To protect ourselves against tirants lime you!

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    9. So Richard, trial first? or just line them up and shoot them? I'm glad that at least you would repeal the second amendment before murdering millions of people, at least your legal training taught you that.

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    10. Mr. Friedman, Would you suit up like the police, be the first one to break down the door, enter and try to confiscate the guns - lets put it this way - the chances of you seeing other gun owners shooting each other will be slim and none and and Slim has left the building.

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    11. A true liberal, in the classical sense, is in favor of individual rights. You are a totalitarian. Today's "liberals" are not anti-gun. They are for guns, as long as guns are restricted for the use of the government and the "one percent".

      juliesa

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  2. Again,perfect Mr. Steinberg

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  3. I took some time of my day to review the progress of your short article. The comments were very interesting and I have since forwarded the hyperlink to my 'gun-loving crowd'. I really wish we could have an honest discussion but you surely have already made up your mind. For this reason I leave you with the following questions;
    - What is the point of homosexuality?
    - What is the point of sport cars?
    - Who really needs a mansion?
    - Should we choose to abort a pregnancy?
    - Do we NEED to feel secure?

    By now you will see that I am a proponent of choice. I see no societal benefit of homosexuality but yet I will not stand in the way of an issue that does not pertain to me. I do want to see all people be happy and to some it is a fast car, to another it may be a feeling of security. And to you Mr. Neil it may be another click on your blog counter.

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  4. You're assuming people read your columns before commenting. Who has time for that? Is it possible to be able to write without knowing how to read? Wouldn't seem so in theory, but the evidence is overwhelming. I'd think emails would be even worse than comments, as those people felt compelled to go the extra step. The primary issue here seems to be paranoia. Even if everyone were armed, they'd still be afraid, because it's something that exists within, not without. That calls for therapy, not access to weapons.

    Interesting idea about the sexuality of guns. Of course. I wonder if it would help at all to get women involved. Perhaps we could band together and let men know how SEXY it is to have sensible gun views. We could have ads and billboards. "I would never date a gun nut!" Maybe not the best way to say it, but we can work on that.

    Second Amendment, courtesy of Key & Peele: http://vimeo.com/80115696

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    1. Again, I will push my freedom of choice. Point and laugh all you want at a guy driving an enormous gas guzzler. It's completely fine for you to measure his manhood, heck you can even say it. Please mister, will you tell me if the following are okay;
      - learning martial arts (come on, when will you need to fight)
      - lifting weights
      - big SUV (there are no mountains in IL to drive over)
      - millions in retirement account (isn't $500k enough already)

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    2. Nah. I used my handgun to chase off a would-be rapist. There's a reason gun ownership among women is growing rapidly. I taught my son to shoot and made my husband get his concealed carry permit. Son outshoots either parent now.

      juliesa

      juliesa

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  5. Repeal all gun laws now. Arm everyone.

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    1. What gun laws? Everyone is armed.

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  6. Dear Mr Steinberg, Fire is dangerous, it kills people, it also creates light. Are you afraid of the dark too !

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    1. Shouldn't it be "Fire is dangerous. It kills people. It also creates light. Are you afraid of fire too?" I mean if you're going to go that route, be smart about it!

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    2. Well, yeah. That's why people use electric lights instead of lighting fires in their houses anymore. Candles are more dangerous than LEDs. That's just a fact.

      Why does it upset you that guns are dangerous and most often kill either their owner or someone their owner knows? It's just a fact.

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    3. Where do you get these talking points you liberals are always throwing up! Whoo give it a rest.

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  7. Is that the same Harvard School of Public Health whose Dean offered the following Opinion:
    My view of guns is simple. I hate guns and I cannot imagine why anyone would want to own one. If I had my way, guns for sport would be registered, and all other guns would be banned.?

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    1. Is it? Or is that just some quote you made up to scratch your itch?

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    2. "My view of guns is simple. I hate guns and I cannot imagine why anyone would want to own one. If I had my way, guns for sport would be registered, and all other guns would be banned."
      - Deborah Prothrow-Stith (Dean of Harvard School of Public Health)

      (Prothrow-Stith and Weissman l991: 198).

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    3. 7. Kates DB, Schaffer HE, Waters WC, IV. How the CDC succumbed to the gun epidemic. Reason, April 1997, pp.25-29.

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  8. Just curiously why doesn't Todd Vandermyde's reply to you appear hear....another example of an anti-practicing censorship?

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    1. No idea. Maybe he felt guilty and took it off. I only remove gross sexual comments made by anonymous individuals. If that was him, tough. And censorship is something the government does, John Wayne. Here it's called "editing." I know it's hard to wrap your head around.

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    2. Its amazing that you can't manage to write two sentences without resorting to insults. My sense is that demonstrates the frustration you have as your side has lost this debate before it ever started.

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    3. Neil I didn't post it here, but I will if you want. I put it up on Illinois carry and FB.

      common lets do lunch.


      Todd

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    4. Because he didn't post it here, he posted it on Facebook. I know it gets confusing.

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  9. Just where is Todd's response?

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    1. Neil probably doesn't have the moxy to meet with Todd V., and discuss the issue. Firearms are a very useful tool in defending yourself against those who would do you harm. I will carry a gun every day I am legally allowed to. It will not become a weapon until I am FORCED to use it. I will not wish to ever have a reason to use it, but just like the fire extinguishers in my home, the one day I may need it, is the only reason I NEED it.

      There is no irrational fear, only the personal need for me to be prepared.

      Please Neil, if you read this, get in touch with Todd V. and sit down and have a conversation/debate about this issue. You just may learn about Mary Shepard, or other reasons why this is so important.

      So, you can "sit back and watch" for the armageddon that has not come in the other 49 states that have put this new law into effect, or you can have an intelligent conversation with one of the men who helped put it in place.

      Thank you Todd for all you do.

      Jim P. +p+

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    2. Did it have the word "ballsack" in it? Because then I deleted it. Otherwise, bring up your concerns to Todd.

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    3. nope not in my stuff.

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  10. Author - you're an idiot and jump to a lot of conclusions. You are part of what is wrong with this nation of wussies. And no I am not speaking in a clint eastwood accent, I do not like him.

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    1. You don't like Clint Eastwood? You have to be a wussy to not like Clint Eastwood!

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  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  12. The commenters who are casting aspersions on Neil's courage and virility just keep proving the point of his column, over and over.

    "There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons." Ronald Reagan, 1967.

    -CAS79

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  13. Personally I despise guns. Saying that I respect a person'r right to own one to protect their property and/or to hunt. What I don't support is bringing your gun in to the commons. I'm 100% against carry permits. If you want to own a gun fine, just don't expose my family and myself to it. If you're so afraid to leave your house without one, please stay at home.

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    1. You are free to your opinions and you can "Despise guns" all you want. I am not afraid to leave my house without one, but given the choice to exercise my RIGHT to bear arms, or not, I choose to have as maany TOOLS available to me to protect what I love. The supreme court, 50 states, and millions of people agree with me.

      Also, my carry permit allows me to carry CONCEALED, which means that you and your family will not be exposed to it at all. Of course, if you and I were in the same place and there were someone trying to do you or your family serious bodily harm, would you still be against me using my legally concealed firearm to help defend you?

      You do realize that people in Illinois that have been granted the right to CCW, have passed at least 3 background checks, have been found to not be mentally unstable, have undergone the longest CCW training of anywhere in the United States, and are statistically shown to be 13% less likely to commit ANY crime than someone without the license?

      You can ignore the fact that the other 49 states have had concealed carry allowed, in some cases for many, many years; and the sky just hasn't fallen.

      One of the best ways to learn something is to try it. If you were to try shooting, maybe take a shooting course, you will see that guns are not evil, they don't just "go off", and they can be quite fun to shoot on a range.

      I am a very open minded person, and have thought long and hard about both sides of this subject. To me, it seems a great idea to always be best prepared by having all of the tools I may need.

      I bet the handicapped lady whose car I helped jump start just this evening, feels the same way.

      Gun owners are not someone to fear, but rather can be just the person needed at the most inopportune time.

      Carry on...

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  14. Neil: I think these are the most comments you've had since you started EGD. Way to go and keep on. I still haven't figured out how to post here as anything but "anonymous" but this is great entertainment. Frightening that a few of the posters are running around loose but entertaining.

    Doug Dahlgren

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    1. Thanks Doug. I took off the vilest ones -- I just don't want them sullying my blog -- and turned the moderator function on. Dealing with this human wreckage isn't really my idea of fun.

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    2. You mean the "wreckage" who faced you with that Deborah Prothrow-Stith quote? Is that the "wreckage" you're talking about?

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  15. Another view for OPEN DEBATE
    http://illinoiscarry.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=46696&st=0

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  16. "Those who support gun control sit looking at their hands, timid, silent." An exception to this statement is Lee Goodman who fought long and hard against concealed carry even after the Seventh Circuit ruled Illinois law unconstitutional.

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  17. You wrote:
    The column did not call for gun control, did not suggest action.

    No, instead you chose to begin your assault on law abiding gun owners, impugning them and besmirching them as much as you could in a more subtle fashion than many who share your sentiments, complaining about “arm-everybody proponents have adopted an all-or-nothing, cover-our-ears-and-howl approach that forbids even thinking about the issue”.

    So glad you included those that would use the full force of the government to disarm the populace, in the name of “safety”, “progress” or “sanity”. You know, the people on “your” side that displayed their rationality and sensitivity by calling for the deaths of gun owners or people who dared to oppose the “gun” control agenda, people like your Pulitzer Prize nominated fellow traveler Donald Kaul, who gleefully wrote how he wanted to “tie Mitch McConnell and John Boehner to the back of a Chevy pickup truck and drag them around a parking lot until they saw the light on gun control”.

    My… that certainly doesn’t sound extreme, now does it?

    Now here you attempt to support your position, commenting:

    Buying a gun increases the odds that you will kill yourself—the Harvard School of Public health found "a powerful link" between gun ownership and suicide.

    Is that the same Harvard School of Public Health whose Dean - Deborah Prothrow-Stith – once commented "My view of guns is simple. I hate guns and I cannot imagine why anyone would want to own one. If I had my way, guns for sport would be registered, and all other guns would be banned”?

    No bias there.

    And the inclusion of suicides in this format assumes a certain stupidity on the part of gun owners – implying that if they didn’t have a gun, they wouldn’t have been able to kill themselves.

    In true pattern for a member of the liberal intelligentsia this shows an amazing disregard for human ingenuity – at least for those types who would never be seen at one of your soirees. Guns have been heavily restricted and banned in Japan for centuries, yet their suicide rate per 100k dwarfs ours, so something tells me that even if your fantasy was realized we would still find ways to shuffle off this mortal coil without the availability of guns… that is, if we weren’t too stupid to exist without oversight and guidance from those people as wise as yourself.

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    1. Then you pursue "the Clint Eastwood fantasy", dismiss commenters as “trolls”, another chance to belittle gun owners and dismiss and ignore statistics that don't support your viewpoint, and implying that gun owners do not function in reality. You go on to comment: "Gun supporters aren't interested in debate. They just want to browbeat and hector anyone who raises the issue".

      An interesting position, given that, despite the mealy-mouthed offerings of simply “wanting an open and honest discussion about guns” from the left, we gun supporters aren’t the ones who routinely censor comments that don't support our agenda like the sites of those who support gun bans – excuse me “sensible restrictions”, we are not the ones shouting down opponents invited to discuss the issue like imported news interviewers, and we’re not the ones who insult guests like talk show hosts who mock gun owners for their paranoia while hiding behind armed security.

      You then comment that you “find it sad that those who passionately favor of gun rights, are unable to explore the borders of their belief. They can't look at the other side and find merit. They can't even look at all, and couldn't come up with a positive aspect of gun control, well, if you put a gun to their heads. Not one.”

      What does this infer? That gun owners are shallow and unintellectual; all the while failing the same challenge to explore and look at opposing viewpoints to acknowledge that any of the fears of “gun” control measures like registration leading to confiscation are sound, despite examples of exactly that happening not only in China, Germany and Russia but right here in California and Massachusetts. It also relies on the assumption that the “gun” control you continue to sell like a used car has actually done something more than relegating the law abiding citizen to a state of legislatively imposed disarmament and resulting victimhood.

      What about the thousands of victims of gun violence – not the artificially inflated suicides and felons killed by police and law abiding citizens, not the criminals killed by other criminals, but the law abiding citizens killed by those same types of criminals, who never had the chance to defend themselves, and were killed despite the “gun” control in place here and other cities like Washington DC and New York City? Who speaks for them to argue the failure of your ideology?

      In fairness, and consideration of the other side, I suppose “gun” control has accomplished something. It gave politicians a chance to say they “did something” (that in reality made the problem worse), and gave all those North Shore and university liberal donors their “feel good” moments, while the law abiding people in Englewood and Pullman went without the means to defend themselves legally against criminals who blatantly ignored your best attempts.

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  18. Ok I have to weigh in... my father owned firearms he used them to hunt and slaughter livestock, I.e to survive. My Grandfather owned firearms he also use them for survival. In the history of my family as far back as I have documented lineage there have been firearms. Not a single one of them ever killed anyone. so it strikes me as very hard to believe that somehow by having firearms in my home as we're in the homes of my parents and grandparents that I am more likely to be killed by said firearms.....

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  19. A gun kept in the home is far more likely to be involved in the death of a member of the household than it is to be used to kill in self-defense. It's just math and that was the main point the column was trying to make.

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    1. But it's a blatant untruth and the studies that support that opinion fail to consider criminal behavior or association - that's the point the replies were trying to make.

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    2. Based on what study? There are 300 million firearms in the usa making a statistical claim like that is like saying that having a car makes you more likely to kill yourself with a car. So don't buy a car??

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    3. Very few self defense gun uses involve killing. Usually the attacker is frightened away when the victim presents the gun, or fires and misses, or fires and wounds. 80% of people shot with handguns shooting survive.


      juliesa

      The object is to stop the attack, not necessarily to kill the attacker.

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  20. I'd love to go out and grab a few drinks and discuss your views. And also discuss why you haven't renewed your foid card. You should apply for your concealed carry license and write about the process.

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    1. I'd like to. I think my bosses are a little balky about the idea. Can't do the drinks though -- don't drink.

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  21. First of all, Chicago has had the toughest gun laws for a long time, and where are there more gun deaths? Many states do not have any requirements for carrying guns and there are no greater gun deaths in them. But, mostly - you could substitute "global warming" in Neil's article against guns and get the same effect. Even though it has not been proven - the zealots still treat it as a religion (just like the anti-gun zealots). Since we have had such a rotten winter it has now been switched to "climate change" Zealots, no matter what they are for or against, should be taken with a "grain of salt"

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  22. Good news! I'm calling Todd V's bluff. Happy to debate him, not in a steak joint, but on camera, moderated, at the Sun-Times. It's a date. After the primaries. Respectful, fun, factual. What's not to love?

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    1. That is good news. Please post the time and date, so that we can all hear how it goes. I look forward to hearing both sides of the argument, debated in an adult manner, without the rhetoric and interruptions that we have seen so much on television.

      With the Sun-Times moderating, will both of you be sure to get equal time to speak?

      Let's hear some facts!

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    2. No, no, the debate will be set up so I get most of the time to speak, and Todd has only a few ... no, geez, of course it will. Though give you've already floated the paranoiac complaint to dismiss the whole thing, when he loses, I suppose we'll have to find some "neutral" moderator of satisfaction to you guys. I'd say Charlton Heston, but he's dead, right? You'd probably only be happy with Wayne de la Pierre.

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    3. Neil it was never a bluff. And I will come down to the Sun-Times to have the debate/conversation dialogue or what ever.

      I also propose that we find a place and do a town hall type forum. We'll get a moderator, or each pick one, and take questions from the audiance. You and me to disscuss, debate and defend our positions.

      Bring McKinney up from Springfield. . .

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  23. I didn't know there was a bluff? I only heard a request for a meeting.

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  24. It's Bluff the strawman!

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  25. No, don't make it a public forum. The gun industry will make sure the audience is filled with their dupes. This is Barry Aldridge, but I'm too lazy to sign in as anything but Anonymous, right now.

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  26. Barry , Neil can give away half the tickets and I will give away half the tickets. Hows that for you?

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  27. "My column, in brief, quoted the superintendent of the Chicago police, Garry McCarthy, saying that we don't have to debate the wisdom of concealed carry gun permits. Just sit back and watch the tragedies unfold."

    Why do you think and he think that? Murders decreased in every other state that passed concealed carry. Is Illinois uniquely violent? Or do you just having trouble understanding real world results? The problem with you and McCarthy is that you are relying on emotion rather than actual results.

    Also, regarding your news column, the NRA features a small fraction of the many monthly defensive gun uses in its magazine, and has for decades.

    juliesa

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  28. I'd love to hear a debate between Neil and ToddV, but it would have to be broadcast over radio or TV as I live in north Lake County. Excellent post. I've always felt paranoia and guns are a dangerous combination and the angry fanatics on the gun side have not eased my fear.

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    1. Well goodness knows the mellow supporters of "gun" control who called for the death of anyone who supports the same ideas as the NRA fills me with a warm sense of calm reassurance....

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  29. Where are the anti-Semitic remarks? Did you delete them? Good if you did, no need to give any attention to them. But, if you didn't, which ones were?

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