Zakaria on gun control

(Updated August 12, 2012, at 1 pm MT)

Zakaria on guns
Click image to see the video on the CNN website

Fareed Zakaria is always the voice of reason, it seems to me. He always makes his case in carefully reasoned, low-key, non-partisan terms. He recently discussed guns and gun control in his What in the World segment. Clicking the image above will take you to it. If you prefer to read the transcript, it’s available too, but if you skip the video you’ll miss the graphics that illustrate his points.

His conclusion:

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but not to his or her own facts. Saying that this is all a matter of psychology is a recipe for doing nothing. We cannot change the tortured psychology of madmen…. What we can do is change our gun laws.

Update, 8/12/12: It was reported this weekend that Zakaria plagiarized a portion of his Aug. 20 Time magazine article, “The Case for Gun Control,” and a related article from his Aug. 8 CNN blog, “Know your gun rights history.” The Zakaria article linked in this post is not the one that contained plagiarized material. Zakaria has apologized to Time, CNN, and the original author, Jill Lepore of The New Yorker; however, plagiarism is never acceptable and will, or should, forever cast doubt on Zakaria’s credibility as a journalist. — Ed.

42 comments

        1. Wuzyoungoncetoo,

          Plagiarist, yes. Everything else you said just makes you sound simple-minded, yourself.

          This isn’t my blog, but I think we’d all appreciate you keeping the discussion civil. No one benefits from the sort of interaction you’re modeling.

    1. If the issue is death by guns, I don’t think it really matters if it was considered justifiable by someone. It’s still another shooting, another death, because of another gun.

      1. @ PIEDTYPE

        I can’t see how you’d categorize all shootings as being the same. I understand that people may disagree about the necessity of armed conflict, but to say that all shootings are the same is intellectually dishonest.

        For me, that would be like saying all auto accidents are the same – caused by cars.

        If all you intend to show is that guns can shoot people – bravo. If you’d like to have a debate about gun control, you’re moving in the wrong direction.

        1. Sometimes emotion gets in the way of an otherwise good point. It happens to the best of us. I hope you weren’t offended by my response.

          Reading through your website, I wanted to bring something to your attention. While I’m not representative of all 2nd Amendment supporters, I think I speak for many when I say, “The people that want to carry a gun to protect themselves and their families aren’t the problem.” Criminals who have access to guns are the problem. Mentally unstable people with access to guns are the problem. Unfortunately, all three types of people can be considered “gun owners.”

          It often happens in the gun control debate that gun owners get lumped together into one big scary category, irrespective of their intentions, backgrounds, criminal history, or inclination to harm others. This is a tragic mistake, in my estimation. By screaming, essentially, “Guns are bad! Bad people have guns! We need less guns!” You alienate, almost immediately, a large portion of your intended audience and make debate difficult because you’ve framed it as a classic “us vs. them” scenario. It seems that the primary arguments are either:

          1.) You think there are too many guns and they’re to blame for our problems.
          OR
          2.) You believe there should be more guns and they are the solution.

          Neither is true and both sound utterly ridiculous.

          I’ll be the first to admit that many gun-rights advocates aren’t reasonable, rational, or open minded. That being said, it doesn’t help those who seek common sense regulation when they, too, appear to demonize the opposition. Gun owners aren’t bad people who secretly pray for an opportunity to murder someone, under the guise of justice, in some romanticized modern-western draw down.

          We need to table our irrational fear, start listening to each other, and begin attempting to solve the problems that enable people like James Holmes. Gun control is, undoubtedly, part of that equation, but not every gun owner is a ticking time bomb.

        2. I don’t think I’m demonizing all gun owners when I say there are too many guns in our society, too many people who carry them for the wrong reasons, and too many bad things that happen because somebody was too young, angry, drunk, irresponsible, impulsive, depressed, etc., and there was a gun handy. I’ve elaborated on this before. I don’t want to take all guns away from all gun owners; I just want much tighter laws about who can own a gun and what kind they can own. Letting more and more people have guns because more and more people have guns is not the solution; it is the problem.

        3. I suppose we might have a difference of opinion about the matter, but I’m not sure how large. While it is true that gun owners (by definition, regardless of legal status) shoot people for a variety of reasons, the vast and overwhelming majority of gun owners in the US never shoot at anything but game and paper. Using Zakaria’s statistics, or facts, 88 guns for every 100 people is a lot of guns – especially when most people are not gun owning families. That means that there are quite a few gun owners that own multiple guns. But, here again, I would venture a guess that your average hobby shooter or gun collector is not roving the streets looking for trouble.

          You may not be demonizing all gun owners by saying there are too many guns, but when you make gun laws and assumptions irrespective of the legal or ethical status of gun owners, you’re definitely lumping them all into the same category.

          What the gun control debate should be about is, as you said, making sure those who have access to guns are properly vetted. The stakes are simply too high to bury our heads in the sand. However, the debate must be a rational one. We must set aside any visceral fear or, conversely, love of guns and talk about them dispassionately.

          We must admit the following: Gone are the days of our founding fathers when guns were a single shot affair. Today’s firearms have become far more accurate, accessible, and destructive – many being capable of shooting multiple deadly rounds without the need to reload.

          But, we must also recognize that attempting to control the type of gun can be problematic. Many traditional hunting rifles can be altered to become de facto assault rifles with little effort. The same case can be made for semi-auto, auto-loading pistols vs. revolvers. With the proper training, someone can reload a revolver with speed and precision, making its destructive potential only slightly less pronounced than your average auto-loader.

          The control of ammunition is equally frustrating. To allow individuals their sporting rights, we allow very advanced and lethal ammunition onto the market. That ammunition will kill a moose, deer, bear, or other medium-to-large size game just as quickly as it will kill a person.

          So, we must carefully approach this problem. While there is a compelling interest in placing meaningful controls on guns, we cannot allow ourselves to ration a constitutional right. Our hypothetical regulation must be narrowly tailored to the interest it intends to serve.

        4. I would still ban the possession or purchase of automatic and semiautomatic weapons (altered or otherwise) by civilians. They are not needed for hunting, target shooting, or personal protection. Doing so does not violate anyone’s right to own firearms; it just puts limits on what they can own. Ditto ammunition. Sure, big game requires high-powered rounds, but very few of them. Limiting the amount that can be purchased does not keep someone from going hunting.

          A lot of gun owners react as though any limits or controls are a violation of their rights. But the Constitution doesn’t say they are entitled to any weapons they want and as many as they want. We need some sanity in this country.

        5. Ah, but here we deviate from the constitution. The 2nd Amendment was designed by our forefathers for, and as, a defense. It was for our safety, personally and nationally. The amendment’s personal protection interpretation has been upheld and expanded by the Supreme Court. The national defense provision is clear in the text. But, what is not widely publicized is our forefather’s belief that the 2nd Amendment was a check against tyranny. So, while we may quibble about the defensive capacity of a single shot firearm in a world of single shot firearms (if that were even possible to maintain), it is these last provisions that upset your worldview.

          For a citizen to be able to stand, forcefully, against a tyrannical government or foreign power, he/she must be armed with something more dangerous than a single shot rifle with limited ammunition. This is a nightmare scenario, to be sure, but one not too dissimilar from the world our founding father’s endured.

          You may think those who assume this belief are a few cards short of a full deck, but it was luminaries the likes of Thomas Jefferson that first spoke these words. You may call me crazy, but I’m in good company.

          And, as a counterpoint to your argument about ammunition and single-shot/semi-auto firearms, target shooting and hunting requires far more ammunition and flexibility than you think. Hunting fowl is a perfect example. Hunters often have semi-auto or pump-action shotguns with quite a few rounds on-hand. How about the farmer who protects his ranch from coyotes? A single shot rifle may be impractical. How about protection against bears of wolves for those outdoorsmen who venture into more wild country? A single shot pistol could be as useless as a flyswatter.

          I hesitate to presume to know your mind on the matter, but your statements regarding hunting and target shooting betray your ignorance of either pursuit. Please don’t take offense – I mean ignorance in the most genuine and textbook sense, Piedtype. It truly appears that you have very little experience with firearms – which, I would think, should be a prerequisite to having a fully formed opinion on the subject, Sir. If I’m wrong, please correct me, but the scenarios above aren’t easily addressed by your regulation.

          Finally, you and I agree wholeheartedly. Many 2nd Amendment activists take offense to the idea of regulating their beloved guns. This specific type of insanity is far too common on both sides. In fact, what you’re suggesting is exactly what causes their psychosis…

          There exists a middle ground between only allowing single shot firearms and allowing fully automatic weapons. This is a robust and healthy debate to be had, but only if both sides can agree to be open minded and honest.

        6. Please don’t assume I know nothing about guns. I was raised around them and was given a .22 rifle for my 12th birthday. As for the limitations of single-shot weapons, I don’t think chambering another round is a hindrance in the situations you mention.

          Hunters using high-powered ammunition for big game don’t need a lot of ammo. And even small game hunters don’t need the amounts the Aurora shooter had. I understand target shooters can go through a lot of ammo because I’ve done it. Still, they don’t need the amounts the Aurora shooter had. Competitive shooters who need a lot can register as such. And I dismiss the idea of needing weapons to fight off the government. Jefferson lived in an era where that was a very real concern; he’d just seen us throw off an oppressive British government. These days, in this country, I think that’s a paranoid, survivalist view.

          btw, it’s ms. or ma’am, not sir.

        7. Piedtype, I don’t doubt you were raised around firearms, but hunting fowl, defending yourself against dangerous animals, shooting skeet/sporting clays, or other similar activities necessitate a firearm capable of chambering additional rounds quickly. The same could be said of the numerous sporting activities which require semi-auto firearms. To suggest otherwise is to willfully move quickly and permanently back into the arena of ignorance. Much like Zakaria said, “Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but not to his or her own facts.” The fact is that there is a legitimate place for semi-automatic weapons. If this were not the case, their development would have been stopped centuries ago by someone insisting, “You know, I think a single-shot rifle is just as good.”

          Your proposed controls concerning ammunition are equally dubious, Ma’am. Would be mass murderers could easily register as a competitive shooters or buy the ammunition in multiple places. That’s not to say we can’t do more to stop the kind of violence we’ve seen in Aurora, but making it marginally more difficult to purchase ammunition is probably an inefficient method. These sorts of mass murders happen with considerable forethought. Let’s examine other, more effective ways to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

          Concerning your characterization of our founding father’s intentions for the 2nd Amendment, I disagree in the strongest terms.

          Today, you are entirely correct – the need for firearms as a check against tyranny seems paranoid. I’ll even grant you that many people would agree with your perspective. However, the right does not exist for the times when its need is less apparent. Like any precaution, its utility becomes clear when its existence becomes necessary. It will be far too late to reinstate the 2nd Amendment when the citizens of this country need the protection it affords.

          It is these sorts of dismissals that allow 2nd Amendment activists to paint their opposition as unreasonable, irrational, and naive. Which, is a gross mischaracterization, I’ll admit, but not without some justification.

          About the Mr/Ms Ma’am/Sir, I apologize. I shouldn’t have assumed you were a man – my mistake.

        8. As you mentioned earlier, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. If we who don’t use guns are so out of touch with logical ways to better control guns, then I’d suggest knowledgeable gun owners start proposing some stricter controls to regulate themselves. But I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

          In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed our congenial exchange. Thank you.

        9. – “Guess I didn’t say that very well. I just meant that, overall, if fewer people carried guns, there would be fewer homicides by gun.”

          This hoplophobic obsession over which tool is used to commit a murder…rather than with the root cause of murder itself…is a rather childish and shallow-minded approach to the issue. Would homicides by bomb/machete/claw-hammer be preferable in some way to homicides by gun? And why speak of homicides in general, thus lumping justifiable uses of deadly force for purposes of self-defense in with criminal acts? That seems like a rather odd view of things, doesn’t it?

          Not too long ago a young mother and recent widow was lone at home with her infant child when two would-be thieves smashed in her front door. She ran to the back bedroom with her child and retrieved her late husband’s shotgun. As one of the invaders approached her while brandishing a large knife she took aim and fired. The other coward fled the scene, leaving his partner behind to die.

          So, this was a “gun homicide”. Had it gone the other way, and she had been murdered by the miscreant with the knife, would you have considered that to have been a preferable outcome? After all, it would not have been a gun homicide, and that’s what really counts…right?

        10. You’re pointing to such classifications as support for your belief, so it’s disingenuous to attempt to claim that you’re not.

        11. Your anecdotal evidence is a poor basis for a regulatory scheme. I’m an ardent 2nd amendment activist, but you can’t use these kinds of arguments and hope to prevail.

          If people were able to defend their homes and families with hand grenades, would those be allowed as well? The question is rhetorical.

          Furthermore, your gross mischaracterizations of PIEDTYPE’s positions make you sound quarrelsome, not insightful. You do yourself, and the overall cause of the 2nd amendment, a disservice when you treat its defense like a World Wrestling Federation match. The only thing missing at this point is the overblown theatricality and nonsensical arguments… oh wait, nevermind.

        12. – “Your anecdotal evidence is a poor basis for a regulatory scheme.”

          Since I did not point to anecdotal evidence as a basis for a regulatory scheme we can just write your condescending nonsense off as a typical strawman argument. The point – which I thought was blindingly obvious – was the folly of ranting on about “gun homicides”, as though the tool used to kill people was the important issue, and that not differentiating between murders as legitimate uses of deadly force (self-defense, for instance) is utterly ridiculous.

          I have not mischaracterized anyone’s positions. I’ve responded to them in a manner that is completely consistent with the simplistic way in which they’ve been expressed.

          I’ll let the asinine remark about hand grenades speak for itself.

        13. Correction:

          ” not differentiating between murders as legitimate uses of deadly force”

          …should have read…

          ” not differentiating between murders AND legitimate uses of deadly force”

        14. So you think that an innocent victim being stabbed to death by an assailant is a preferable outcome to that innocent individual using a gun in self-defense and killing his/her attacker simply because a gun was used in the latter case?

    1. This happens every time there’s a bad shooting somewhere. But it needs to be discussed and not forgotten because something needs to be done about it. In that sense, I think it’s better than if no one talked about it and the problem just kept growing.

      1. Believe it or not I do agree with you here. It’s just I’m not a gun person, I’m not a violent person and when we discuss guns and homicides whether justified or not I get nervous, scared. It’s important to discuss and share our feelings about it though.

        1. I’m scared people can just get shot with legal guns and said people can get off with no regret, no remorse. Okay what I think I mean is I’m scared of guns, concealed guns, guns of any nature. It’s getting out of control. Seriously I didn’t realize we were suppose to be playing like Hatfield and McCoys here. I didn’t realize that when I go to the movies or grocery store, that I needed to be packing to protect my kids. Hell I don’t think I could even think of picking up a gun, I couldn’t even consider taking another humans life. Well unless MAYBE if someone was harming my kid. But I just have a filter in my brain that says “You aren’t allowed to take anothers life.” I don’t know, it’s just me. ~Shrug~

        2. It’s not just you. You won’t see me carrying a gun everywhere I go just because someone out there somewhere might have one. (It might be different if I knew someone was stalking me personally, or my family.)

        3. Exactly, if I KNEW someone was stalking me or harming my kids in an unpronounceable way then I might be able to THINK about a gun but to just walk into a movie theater or public place and carry one seems unlikely to me. It just seems uncomfortable to me and personally I was kind of hoping that the majority felt that way.

  1. By the way…Zakaria has not only been exposed as dishonest for plagiarizing the writings of others, what original content he DID write was grossly dishonest as well. He attempted to play the usual mispresentation game of directly comparing changes in the “rates” of crimes with the absolute numbers of “gun homicides” (which include non-criminal uses of deadly force). Of course, I’m being generous in identifying that as original writing, as it is really just a regurgitation of the same dishonest rhetorical nonsense that anti-2A forces have been spouting for decades.

      1. Seriously? It’s been all over the news. You could start with the front page of Yahoo!, and then proceed to the NY Times, CNN (where his show has been suspeded), Time Magazine (where the plagiarism occured, and from which he’s received a paltry 1-month suspension for it), etc.

        1. Thanks for the info. I’ve been out of touch for several days and honestly had not heard about the plagiarism thing. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am to learn that yet another of the journalists I used to think so highly of appears to be no better than a lazy college student. Certainly if I’d known this on July 29, I would not have mentioned his article.

  2. But wait! The chart you so admiringly display at the top of this page is even more dishonest. The most recent murder rates for the US and the UK are 4.2 and 1.2, respectively. Granted that is quite a difference. But the chart seeks to dishonestly exaggerate the situation to a ridiculous extent by focusing on “gun homicides”, thus focusing on 71.4% of the US murder rate while simultaneously ignoring 90% of the UK’s.

    Are you really so easily duped by this sort of thing?

        1. The post you’re responding to in this sub-thread has nothing at all to do with the plagiarism in question. It was about the dishonest misrepresentation of data in the chart you have at the top of the page. That point would stand regardless of Mr. Zakaria’s other display of dishonesty.

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