Ironically, it happens my current favorite song sounds like what must be playing in Sam Harris's head this week. Wish I had time to say more about his gun screed, but I don't. Suffice it to say, I actually think the New York Times is quite a bit more "enlightened" than the NRA on the topic of guns. Funny that he thinks otherwise, and yet further proof (as if more was needed) that just because you're right about atheism doesn't mean you can think cogently about everything.
There's a strain of conservatism among parts of New Atheism that I've always found strange and sometimes unsettling. Ayaan Hirsi Ali's employment at the American Enterprise Institute, Hitchens' vocal support for the Iraq War, and now Harris and guns. Dawkins' website once featured an article from the American Thinker, a loony right-wing site which currently features a caricature Obama of as Alfred E. Neuman on its front page. It seemed the distinction between good and bad criticisms of Islam was lost.
Its probably the first time Id have to agree with you. The gaps in Sam's reasoning are shocking.
Upside: Hip tune in 6. Because 6 is the new 7.
Downside: The Onion published this in May.
I think the bottom line in Sam Harris's position is this:
1. The evidence of the effects of gun ownership rates and gun laws on rates of violence, from both the U.S. and other countries, is very unclear. It's not just Sam who thinks this. The National Research Council reached the same conclusion in its comprehensive investigation of firearms and violence in 2004. So did the Supreme Court in its Heller decision in 2008. Even Justice Breyer, who wrote the dissenting opinion in that case, agreed that the evidence on whether gun control laws do any good is contradictory and inconclusive.
2. There is some evidence that widespread gun ownership has significant benefits (deterrence of crimes, self-defense) that at least partly offset whatever harm it may cause. It is not necessarily irrational for responsible, law-abiding citizens like Sam Harris to own guns for self defense.
In light of this, the empirical case for more gun control, and for people like Sam Harris to voluntarily give up their guns, is relatively weak and does not justify the rabid, dogmatic attitudes and claims of many gun control proponents. Those attitudes have more to do with a visceral dislike of guns and gun culture, rationalized by a superficial and selective reading of the evidence, than with any serious, comprehensive investigation of the effects of gun policy and gun ownership on violence and public safety.
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