No Illusions Podcast #51 – Josh McDonald on Gun Ownership

UPDATE: Josh has clarified his thoughts on his blog. Good work.

My guest on NIP#51 is Josh McDonald (aka Sophistifunk), software developer in Melbourne and a former cigar buddy of mine when he lived in Brisbane.

Josh’s love of guns is something I’ve known about but we’ve never delved too deeply into it. When I chatted with him last week, I asked him to explain his reasoning to me. I’ll let you decide whether or not his arguments are compelling.

BTW, this is definitely NOT his blog.

16 thoughts on “No Illusions Podcast #51 – Josh McDonald on Gun Ownership

  1. I think alcohol is a better comparison than a plane. I enjoy alcohol and as long as I use it within the restrictions that are acceptable within a society i.e. drink driving, domestic violence, public behaviour, etc, I should be able to maintain my enjoyment of that activity. That some others because of alcohol kill, maim, cause misery, etc does not provide a presumed justification for complete prohibition.

    1. Good point, Darren. But people who have a mental breakdown and are using alcohol don’t tend to go on to kill 10, 20, 30 people. If we are going to use an analogy, we need to use one that compares guns to another weapon of mass murder.

      1. I agree that it is not an sufficient analogy to draw adequate inferences from and I struggle to come up with an object from which a sufficient analogy would apply. Do you consider there is a sufficient object or thing from which a sufficient analogy can be drawn to justify complete prohibition for non security or law enforcement purposes?

        This may sound more callous than it is meant but is the rationale that someone who has a mental breakdown may go on to kill 10, 20, or 30 people a sufficient rationale for complete prohibition? In no way am I saying that significant gun control should not exist, I’m only referring to the notion that it is simply easier or more sensible to enact complete prohibition.

  2. The best analogies for guns, imho, are things like grenades, dynamite or nuclear weapons. I can’t see any legitimate reason for civilians needing such things so I would argue for complete prohibition. I think there are legitimate reasons for certains kinds of guns being in the hands of certain individuals – farmers, etc – so I’m not a proponent of complete prohibition – but I think the argument is easily made that most civilians do not require guns. So I think we both agree that there should be comprehensive gun control.

    1. Absolutely, the question for me is just where is that line of control. My primary purpose for a firearm is a hobby which I believe is a legitimate reason i.e. target shooting. To that end I would have no problem with only having access to my weapon specifically for that hobby i.e. secure storage at range. I don’t think nuclear weapons is sufficient as there are no hobbies that I can think of that would provide a legitimate reason to validate the possession of a nuclear weapon.

      Grenades and dynamite are more problematic in that while they are fun (yes, I have used grenades in my time with the Army Reserve), I can’t rationalise their use in a legitimate hobby. I just can’t see “blowing shit up” becoming an Olympic sport.

      Is target shooting a legitimate hobby and therefore reason for a civilian to use a firearm in a controlled environment?

      1. Do you really think “shooting at shit” is a more legitimate than “blowing shit up”? Seriously??? 😉

        That said, I’d be fine with sport shooters keeping their guns under lock and key at a range.

  3. Oh dear. I’m just going to back away and leave Mr Funk to his “Precious Tin Cans.” I can’t think of any argument that was made in this podcast that wasn’t later recanted, inverted, or made more convoluted.

    If there is a psych test for gun ownership, I can think of some people who should stay home that day.

    In fact the test should work thus: Do you want a gun? Yes? OK, you’re crazy. Next

    But, there are a couple of points from this debate that I wish to address:

    Firstly, the idea that defending your home with a gun is a legal free pass is a fallacy (at least in Australia). It will depend on the circumstances. See this article for an example http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/doubt-over-charges-after-burglar-killed-with-sword/2005/11/02/1130823281025.html

    As well as that, do you really think that you could defend yourself in the middle of the night when you are bleary eyed? This is a right wing fantasy. The only hope you will have is if the gun is easily accessible and loaded. And that leads to children accessing guns they shouldn’t. On top of this, any self respecting criminal is going to assess the likely threat before the break in. If he (or she) thinks you a have a hand gun, then they will pack an Uzi. I’d rather leave it at screw drivers and tyre levers in Australia.

    And what’s wrong with a deadlock and pepper spray? Make a bit of noise. Turn the lights on. I would think that most burglars rob your house because they think it is empty.

    Secondly, I want to raise the issue of semi-automatic weapons. Surely, there cannot be any argument in favour of individuals carrying machine guns? Yet, it is mostly this type of weapon that causes the most destruction in a massacre.

    And lastly, to address a previous question of yours, Cameron, why do liberals have trouble gaining traction on gun control in the US, I posit it is because of the strength of the propaganda in favour of the “right to bear arms.” This, so called, “right”, is completely indefensible. Where does the right come from? Ask an American and they will say the second amendment to the US constitution. But this amendment was specifically an amendment for a particular circumstance, the arming of the militia in the War of Independence. Why wasn’t this amendment repealed, because the population was largely rural and just like today, farmers need guns. But every citizen of the US I have discussed this with, will sheepishly say, that they still have the right to bear arms, even though the War of Independence was centuries ago, and they live in a city.

    It is this constant mantra that reinforces the right to bear arms. Additionally, when I have spoken to US citizens about guns, I have come across memes such as “Well if you pull your gun, you’d better use it. You can’t holster a cold weapon.”
    again, this is self re-inforcing brain washing. Who wrote this rule? Where is it law?
    It is part of a story that people tell themselves and each other, to help resolve the cognitive dissonance their brain feels when they are fed propaganda.

    On a side note Cam, I don’t know if you have come across Robert Cialdini, but his book “Influence” might provide some thought starters for your book.

  4. I can see a whole new line of Olympic medals that Australia can compete for now that we apparently don’t know how to swim.

    “Driving so fast you shit yourself”
    “Throwing javelins at shit”
    “Archery…. shit yeah..”

    Running out of shit jokes 🙂 badoom tish.

    I think that it is a legitimate hobby and reason but more pertinently, it is why I don’t think grenades or dynamite are a sufficient analogy. There are a plethora of sporting hobbies that involve the concept positioning or placing a small object into or through an area via some transport mechanism. Archery, golf, basketball, tennis, soccer, etc and this is why target shooting is considered a sporting hobby as opposed to the skill set required to light a match and run!

  5. First I’d like to congratulate Cameron for this very intelligent podcast and blog! Please keep it up. I missed it a lot during the recent hiatus.
    Now let me say: I (still) can’t see any justification for firearms in a modern society. This is the 21st century, any scenario where a firearm might be needed in the past can be replaced with non lethal methods. We already have some fine options as mentioned by Tony. Still we should focus on improving these methods to make them even safer. The technology for that is already there.

  6. I enjoyed the conversation on the podcast, and on here as well.

    First of all, as someone living in the States, I love hearing people living somewhere else comment on what we think here. Not that Cameron and Josh’s assessments were incorrect, but that they didn’t go far enough! I heard another podcaster put it well recently when he said, “the easiest single way to incite a revolution in the United States is to enact strict gun control.” He couldn’t be more correct.

    Towards the end of the episode, Cameron observed how loony it was for Americans to say they want their gun for the possibility that they need them to protect them from their government – but that even with the robbery of our treasury, the non-prosecution of those involved in financial scandal, etc., that we still have not seen those things as enough reason, then we are just a bunch of blowhards. He’s right. Where are the riots in street? Where are the mass demonstrations? Even those things are practically non-existant. So why should we say that we are keeping our guns for the “just in case” reason?

    For me (okay, I’m copping to my American stereotypes), it does come down to freedom. I do not own a gun, nor do I ever want to. I abhor violence and disagree with the use of guns, both by private individuals and by the State. Friends of mine own whole arsenals, and even knowing they are around makes me uncomfortable. But I do not think that it is up to me, nor anyone else, to impose upon anyone else what they may or may not do. Whether it be guns, drugs, or cheeseburgers, we all have choices to make. Yes, I agree with those who say that we should be free to do anything as long as it doesn’t affect those around us – but I extend that to everything in life.

    1. John, you don’t think killing weapons are something that should be regulated? If so, how far would you take that? Should civilians be allowed to own bombs? Tanks? Nuclear weapons? Would you draw a line anywhere? And, if so, where?

      1. Let’s put it this way. For it to even be considered a hypothetical that there would be be 100% no regulations against any deadly weapon, it would have to be a given that they would have already come to the conclusion that those weapons shouldn’t exist in the first place, and they would end up being destroyed before said lack of regulation would take place.

        Just because a principle I espouse, i.e. “complete freedom” would in essence, take a utopia for society-wide realization, doesn’t mean that partitioned application would not have benefit.

  7. Podcast continues to be the most thought provoking podcast I listen to, sometimes not regularly since it takes more out of those little grey cells than most.

    I don’t agree with Josh, but his main argument was valid and honest and if society is going to legislate against anything it/we should have very good reasons. Rather than cars or aeroplanes I would consider something like re-introducing wolves into northern europe, they are not going to bring any material benefit to human kind and there will be almost certainly be human casualties but I think the world will be richer for it.

    Personally I don’t think this works for guns but it is an argument/ debate worth having.

    The one life lost is too much argument is a bit specious and if taken to absolute could have us all driving around at 10 mph, in a gluten free, alcohol free, tobacco free, enjoyment free bubble.

    Like all hard and interesting arguments it is a question of balance.

    On the statistics people seem to concentrate on criminal activity or spree shootings I suspect on civil ownership these are outweighed by accidents and domestic arguments where their close availability leads to many avoidable deaths.

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