Thanks everyone for weighing in, whatever your viewpoint. I think discussions like this help us understand each other better. And it helps us think about why we believe what we do.
Like Tobias, I'm a gun owner. And I'm a damn good shot because I practice. It's fairly stupid to buy a gun and not learn to use it. And beyond using it correctly, know how to take care of it, store it, etc. Knowledge is power.
I was trained and train myself and educate others. I don't push guns on anyone. If a friend expresses interest, I try to guide them but not before issuing the one thing that everyone with a gun must understand: You NEVER, EVER pick up a gun when you're angry, frustrated, etc. If you're not in control, forget you own it.
Now, people say only cops should be armed. The problem is, when a human being becomes a cop they do not stop being human beings. Many policemen experience intense stress and they often take it home. Domestic issues occur and Mr.Policeman, who has a gun, is no different than any other angry person who hasn't learned to control their temper. IOW, cops do committ domestic violence.
Regarding knives, um...I'd argue fairly confidently that the majority of people carrying knives have never really learned how to use a knife in close combat situations. And in many states there is the 21' rule for police. If a person wields a knife at them they are legally allowed to shoot the person inside that distance because a human being can cross 20' in a second or even less. ( Don't believe me? Watch a fencing match sometime LOL ). There are laws about blade length for knives and these laws are barely enforceable. It's usually pure chance if a cop catches a person with a 6" blade because knives are fairly easily hidden and lay flatter than most handguns, even a little .22
If I get angry or depressed, the LAST thing I think of touching is a gun. But the point between the cop and me is that there is no way and no law that can 100% guarantee any human being will always behave responsibly. It's impossible. Drunk drivers, for all our strict laws about it, still kill people every day.
Regarding hunting: The biggest killer of wildlife out there ain't guns. It's got four rubber wheels and is usually breaking the speed limit X-D
I like to think of myself as a student of history and one repeated theme throughout it is that no government lasts forever. Some eruption occurs ( preceeded by various events ) or some change occurs and often the people caught up in the mix are average citizens. I can't help but wonder if the residents of Swat, Pakistan were legally armed if the Taliban would have had a much harder time reducing girls' schools to rubble and dragging families apart and otherwise creating intense fear amongst the people living in the neighborhoods there. The Taliban members are armed. And they have very much a 'deal with us or die' mentality. And it's not just the Taliban like this. Like Pam said, I will try to avoid history lessons but Google is a great thing for identifying the various violent groups out there determined to make life hell for 'average' people. And very often those 'average people' are UNARMED. They're much easier to push around.
Most of the gang members in the Los Angeles region are horrible, horrible shots. I think the innocent folk on the street caught by stray bullets would be far better served if there were free target classes offered to these gang members. Because on thing is certain so far: if they want guns, they're easily had. And they obey NO LAWS to get them. Criminals don't give a rats ass about gun laws. Their world is different and so is the mentality.
There are two states here in America that sit next to each other. Maine and New Hampshire. They have different gun laws and in Maine, the onus to avoid being killed is on the homeowner who finds themselves invaded by burglars who are armed. In New Hampshire, it's quite the opposite. Is it any wonder then that the crime rate in NH is lower than Maine? Criminals KNOW that citizens in Maine are on the wrong end of the law stick and they exploit that.
In Florida, a law was passed that allows a legally liscenced person to use their concealed weapon in public if they feel their lives are at stake. After the law was passed, a woman driving home late from work was being threatened on the highway by a speeding driver. He drove her off the road ( using his car as the tool ) and she stopped. He pulled in front of her and got out, approaching her car in anger. She got out and pointed her gun at him with one hand and had her cell in the other. He stopped right in his tracks, turned around, got back in his car and sped off. The cops caught him later. That gun in that womans hand made that dude think twice about potentially becoming physically aggressive with her. There's no doubt about that.
In North Carolina, there's the 'anywhere' law. Anywhere your life is under threat on your property you are allowed to defend yourself to the death if necessary and not prosecuted. See, different states in this country have different laws depending often on their tradition of politics. New Hampshire is the 'Live Free or Die' state for instance and the folks there believe in that saying passionately.
In Rwanda, hundreds of thousands of innocent people were killed by.....? I'll let you answer that on your own. Those folks did not have guns. The killers did. It's not hard to figure out, given human nature, that those who want power are very happy with those who are passively willing to let them have it.
Will our military turn on its citizens? I don't know. The National Guard has often, with some governors permission, attacked protestors with various tools at their disposal ( dogs, batons, pistols, gas, etc ). The protestors had no such tools so are easily dispersed.
Anyone remember Tianamen square? Chinese citizens without guns being controlled by a military and police squads with them. Is that freedom? Safety? Not in my mind.
BTW, anyone know who the crack shotgun champion in the world is ( or at least used to be - I haven't kept up ?) Well, for quite a while it was George Digweed, from England
In fact, some of the best shots in the clay sports are from England. England has a long tradition of shooting sports.
The type of gun really doesn't matter. In the wrong hands, it's a tragedy. So is a car and cars are in the wrong hands of MILLIONS of faulty human beings. I have personal experience of losing someone to a drunk driver. No experience as a free citizen losing someone to a gunshot ( not including my military experience here ).
For every drunken redneck with a gun there are thousands of responsible gun owners. I do not think the majority should be punished for the actions of a few.
I think it's unfair, very unfair in fact, to say America was built on some history of 'violence'. Having a gun was a necessity in the wild and rough path to establish a homestead or just to travel around. Gun ownership, as Pam stated, at one point was no big deal. It's the histrionics, IMHO, of tittilating news bites repeated over and over that form peoples opinions who don't stop to question the news they are getting. But that's another thread I guess.
Not every single person HAS to own a gun here and I don't believe in forcing people to be comftorable with guns if they aren't. But I don't think the uncomftorable should put a leash on those who are comftorable with guns.
Like Tobias, where I live it's pretty much a given that at least a shotgun is a good idea. And crimes DO occur in rural areas. I hope to all that's holy or innocent in the universe that no one ever breaks into my home because while I would use my gun to defend myself, on no level would I enjoy having to shoot someone. But the thing is, if we confine the arguments only to crime we are not talking about the whole picture. Gun bans would affect hunters and people into target competitions.Responsible people, legal citizens, law abiders...having their guns ripped away? For what? So only the government has guns? My my...I'll never have that much faith in politicians...
Anyway, before this becomes worse than the rambling answer that it is, I really do respect everyone's opinions and viewpoints. The world would be terribly boring if we were all exactly the same. I do have to admit though it's kind of nice I'm not the only one on this thread ( Howdy Tobias! ) who feels stricter gun laws don't achieve much except disarming law abiding citizens. Please write it in black sharpie on paper and tack it to your fridge: Criminals do NOT obey laws, much less gun laws. X-D
BTW, michael you always crack me up...