The Instigator
Pro (for)
10 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

Guns should be legal for home defense in the U.S.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/5/2013 Category: Society
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,211 times Debate No: 36387
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (18)
Votes (3)




The status quo is that in every state guns are now legal for home defense, and the Supreme Court has upheld the right of using guns for self-defense of the home. I will argue that the legality should be maintained. My opponent will argue that the Constitution should be changed, if required, and laws passed to prohibit the use of guns for self-defense in the home.

I will argue that the use of firearms should be subject to reasonable background checks and training requirements, but that generally people who want a gun for the purpose should be able to legally own one.

Currently about 42% of U.S. homes have guns. [1. "Gun Control Facts." By James D. Agresti and Reid K. Smith. Just Facts, September 13, 2010. Revised 2/11/13.]

I'm looking forward to a good debate on the subject.


This opening round is for definitions and acceptance only. I will give the Pro case at the start of the second round.

Standard debate conventions apply. I list them here for the benefit of new debaters and readers. I believe there is nothing tricky or eccentric. Both sides agree to the following rules, and that violating the rules is a conduct violation, with anything contrary to the rules to be ignored by readers judging the debate:

DR 1. All arguments must be made in the debate. Evidence may be cited or linked from the debate, but only in support of arguments made in the debate. Arguments made in Comments are to be ignored.

DR 2. Source links or references must be included within the 8000 characters per round limit of the debate. No links or sources are permitted in comments.

DR 3 Any term not specifically defined before use is to be taken with the ordinary dictionary definition of the term that best fits the context of the debate.

DR 4. No new arguments shall be made in Round 4. Pro may rebut previous arguments using new evidence solely for that purpose, but no new arguments are allowed. Con may not present any new evidence in R4.

DR 5. DDO site rules always apply. Neither side may add or modify rules for the debate once the challenge is accepted.



A good debate? It's more of a grudge match at this stage.

Anyway, I would ask that you kindly refrain from brandishing your constitution at me. The Eighteenth Amendment was repealed, so clearly it is not a sacrosanct document.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks to my opponent for accepting this challenge. I'm looking forward to a good debate.

There is a fundamental right to self-defense

The nature of humans is that they want to survive, to protect their families, and to protect their homes and property. If humans were indifferent to the matter of survival, homo sapiens would have long since gone instinct. That makes the right to self-defense a fundamental right that government is obliged to preserve.

The right to bear arms for self-defense is acknowledged by America's founders. For example:

Resistance to sudden violence for the preservation not only of my person, my limbs, and life, but of my property, is an indisputable right of nature which I never surrendered to the public by the compact of society and which, perhaps, I could not surrender if I would.... John Adams, US. President, Signer of the Declaration [2.]

No [citizen] shall be debarred the use of arms within his own lands. … Thomas Jefferson, US. President, Signer of the Declaration [3.]

Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: first, a right to life; secondly, to liberty; thirdly, to property - together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. Samuel Adams, Signer of the Declaration, "Father of the American Revolution" [4.]

The Federal Constitution reflects the State constitutions “that affirm that 'the right to keep and bear arms' was universally understood to be an individual right. In fact, State constitutions adopted even a century-and-a-half after the Second Amendment still continued to reflect the original understanding.” [5. Barton, David, The Second Amendment, chapter 4] Barton gives many examples of the language in State constitutions, with that of Delaware (1831) being typical:”All men [have] inalienable rights, among which are the rights of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties, [and] of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property.”

Guns are the only practical means of self-defense

Guns are potentially lethal, and for that reason they serve as the most effective means of scaring off criminals. A criminal is far more like to flee a gun than any other common weapon.

“The National Self-Defense Survey was the first survey specifically designed to estimate the frequency of defensive gun uses. It asked all respondents about both their own uses and those of other household members, inquired about all gun types, excluded uses against animals or connected with occupational duties, and limited recall periods to one and five years. Equally importantly, it established, with detailed questioning, whether persons claiming a defensive gun use had actually confronted an adversary (as distinct from, say, merely investigating a suspicious noise in the backyard), actually used their guns in some way, such as, at minimum, threatening their adversaries (as distinct from merely owning or carrying a gun for defensive reasons), and had done so in connection with what they regarded as a specific crime being committed against them. “ [6.]

The survey established that there were 2.5 million defensive uses of guns per year in the period from 1988 to 1996. Since then, at least 15 surveys have confirmed the results. Recently, the Center for Disease Control, charged by President Obama with studying the problem of gun violence, reported “Defensive uses of guns by crime victims is a common occurrence, although the exact number remains disputed. Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year, in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008.” [7.] There is one defective outlying survey.

The right to self-defense with a gun is not absolute. When the Supreme Court struck down the District of Columbia's ban on guns for home defense, it “did not prohibit many existing federal limitations to gun ownership, including limitations for convicted felons and the mentally ill, or limitations preventing the possession of firearms in schools and government buildings.” [8.] I think it is reasonable to require completion of a course in gun safety as a prerequisite to gun purchase. The Supreme Court decision in D.C. vs. Heller affirms the natural right to self defense and provides redundant support for the interpretation of a right to personal self-defense with a gun. [9.]

The benefits of guns outweigh the disadvantages

Many things in modern life require serious tradeoffs. Using automobiles results in 32,000 deaths from accidents each year, a rate of 10.9 per 100,000. The convenience of cars is judged to outweigh the risks. Fuel economy standards have resulted in many more small cars, and “a 500-lb weight reduction of the average car increased annual highway fatalities by 2,200-3,900 and serious injuries by 11,000 to 19,500 per year. USA Today found that 7,700 deaths occurred for every mile per gallon gained in fuel economy standards.” [10.]. Very few people argue that added fuel economy is not worth the death toll. It is not even an issue.

In 2010, total death rate from all accidents was 69.1. [11.]

In the same year, the rate of accidental deaths from guns was 0.19. [12. calculated from] That includes hunting accidents and others outside of homes. Accidental deaths from automobiles pose seven times the danger to children as guns. Drowning in a home pool and choking each pose more than twice the risk. [13.] Almost three times as many children drown in bathtubs as from all types of firearm accidents. [14. Lott, John, More Guns, Less Crime, p.10]

There are about 25% more suicides in homes that have guns than in homes that do not have guns. The question is what would happen if guns were made illegal in homes. We have learned from drugs that making something illegal does not make it vanish. When Washington, D.C. imposed a strict gun ban, the percentage of suicides due to guns did not drop. [14. op cit p.310] Moreover, while drugs are consumed and must be continuously supplied to users, guns are durable and easy to hide.

But let's imagine that all guns could be made to vanish. Japan has had strict gun bans for many years, yet they have about twice the suicide rate of the U.S. [15.] In Japan, there was a strong tradition from the samurai era to use a sword for suicide, but there is a strict ban on swords as well. Suicide is a cultural and mental health challenge, not an instrumental one. In the U.S., suicidal people think of a gun first, but if there were no guns other methods, like drug overdosing or hanging, would become the first choice.

If armed home self defense were made illegal, a fundamental right of self-defense would be denied. Preserving the rights cherished by Americans is far more important than any marginal cost result. If it happened, a successful ban would likely produce millions more crime victims. With fewer people able to defend themselves, criminals would have a field day. However, homeowners who chose to keep weapons would then become criminals, and the punishment for self-defense could be worse than that for the offending criminals.

Guns should remain legal for home defense.



The Problem of Self-Defence

I think the most satisfactory way to justify self-defence, is the principle of liberty.

“[T]he sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” - J.S. Mill [1]

Your justification of self-defence for an 'objective reason' is flawed, because the desire to live and to protect your family and property can be overcome, suggesting that these are not the foundations you suggest they are, and because being a (great) factor in aiding survival is no reason to consider it moral. A father is presumably not morally justified in killing and eating his infant children over the winter in order to sustain himself until he can start another, more successful, family later. I find then that we must agree on liberty as the justification of self-defence, and so I conclude that self-defence is only justified to the extent that it stops an action which would cause oneself harm.

It seems then that should one find a burglar in your house, one is not permitted to steal his shoes after he is detained. But what can be made of a different situation? Consider: you are sitting outside your house with a gun, as I imagine you Americans enjoy doing, and a little girl approaches you holding an egg. She informs you that due to your campaigning against euthanasia, her dear grandfather is suffering needlessly in his bed, and that she is about to throw the aforementioned egg at you. You inform her that actually, you are not the man she is looking for, but she does not believe you and raises her hand to throw the egg. Now, you do not want egg on you, and so you point your gun at her. She smiles and says that you could never shoot her. It seems then that the only method of guaranteeing that you do not suffer any egg on you is to shoot her immediately so that the egg drops harmlessly to the ground. Is anyone satisfied by that conclusion? I think not, rather, it appears to be the case that you are not permitted to prevent harm to yourself if the harm caused to the aggressor by your method of self-defence is extremely disproportionate to the harm you would suffer.

A slightly less absurd scenario is as follows: you are sitting on your porch, et cetera, but this time you see a youth across the road about to throw a rock at an empty greenhouse. Again, you aim your gun and shout: ‘Stop!’. He turns, but ultimately ignores you and again readies himself for the throw. To prevent damage to the greenhouse, you could of course shoot him, and then stroll over to his body and utter a pithy remark such as ‘Don’t throw stones when you live in a glass house, punk’. This seems similarly outrageous, and I think you will agree. You may claim that in all likelihood the juvenile reprobate would be frightened away by the gun, but it that is not necessarily the case.

From those examples, I propose that the legitimacy of a lethal weapon for self-defence is questionable. Using a gun to defend against crime assumes that either it is justified to make the aggressor fear for his or her life in whatever situation it is, or that it is justified to cause serious and perhaps fatal damage to the aggressor. I will grant these assumptions are justified when the use of a gun is directly proportional, i.e. you may use a gun against someone who you reasonably believe is attempting to kill you, but the rest I think is your burden to prove. How many eggs must be thrown before you can shoot her, Roy?

The Possession of Firearms

Perhaps confusingly, in this section I am going to issue what may seem like two contrary challenges, indeed, Poetaster may call me inconsistent again, but nonetheless it is my duty, and my desire, to investigate every detail the argument you propose.

I gather that your system of background checks is what is written in the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act. [2] I find issue with a few of the restrictions, for I assume, as the name of the act indicates, that preventing violence is the aim of these restrictions, specifically by preventing ‘violent’ people from acquiring firearms. These people must be very violent indeed if you want to take away their “fundamental right” to wield the “only practical means of self-defense” (quoted from you).

On page three of the PDF, I find the following restrictions:
“(iii) is not an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act);
‘‘(iv) has not been adjudicated as a mental defective or been committed to a mental institution;
‘‘(v) is not an alien who is illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
‘‘(vi) has not been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions; and
‘‘(vii) is not a person who, having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced such citizenship;”

I see little evidence that these people are violent, beyond recognising what are in all likelihood unjust stigmas.
Cannabis use appears to prevent someone from purchasing a weapon, but how is a user of cannabis violent? A study in New Zealand concluded that “increasing cannabis use in late adolescence and early adulthood is associated with a range of adverse outcomes in later life. High levels of cannabis use are related to poorer educational outcomes, lower income, greater welfare dependence and unemployment and lower relationship and life satisfaction”. [3] This study did indeed only establish correlation rather than causation, and I am a staunch defender of cannabis, so why am I citing it? Well, for the reason that if cannabis was correlated with any kind of crime other than drug-taking, the study would have certainly mentioned it, considering how in-depth their analysis was. Some drugs may correlate or even cause violent behaviour, but it cannot be said that all illegal drugs do.

Preventing the mentally ill from acquiring guns does not seem to be an evidence-based decision either. A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that “patients discharged from psychiatric facilities who did not abuse alcohol and illegal drugs had a rate of violence no different than that of their neighbors in the community”. [4] Though this does appear to lend credibility to the first restriction discussed, the violent effect is only certainly caused by alcohol (which apparently is not part of the gun-ownership criteria), as no illegal drugs are named. Moving back to the issue at hand, it seems very clear that mental illness is not alone an indicator of violent behaviour. Furthermore, according to your, and I stress, your logic, crime is prevented by possessing guns. Your gun control strategy here seems to become incoherent, as you withhold guns from the mentally ill, and yet “People with severe mental illnesses, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, are 2 ½ times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population”. [5]

Briefly, I see no reason why illegal immigrants, non-violent criminals, ex-citizens, etc. should be denied weapons.

I am not affirming that guns prevent crime, but arguing that your position seems incoherent. Unfortunately my argument exceeded the character limit, so you will have to wait for more. Oh, and by the way, my challenge to you involving justifying the use of a gun in self-defence is my rebuttal of your claim that 'guns prevent crime', for now, because it is possible that a greater crime is being committed in deterring the original crime.






Debate Round No. 2


There is a fundamental right to self-defense

Con agreed with my contention but argued, citing Mill, that it better justified by the principle of liberty. For the purpose of the debate it doesn't matter how the contention is affirmed, it is enough that we agree that there is such a right. Mill's claim “[T]he sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection.” supports my contention.

But I'm not sure that Mill even disputes the origin of the right. If the right of self-defense derives from the principle of liberty, we then ask why the principle of liberty ought to be valued. I think there is no answer other than that it derives from the nature of mankind. For example, If bees somehow became intelligent, they could not honor a principle of liberty. That's because no bee can survive without the community of the hive. Humans have moral obligations to self, to family, and to community and that make human morality subject to conflicts.

Con challenges the right of self-defense by posing a conflict between survival of the self and survival of the family. Con is correct that a conflict may exist. With some sci-fi imagination, one can hypothesize a conflict between the right of self-defense and the survival of the entire world. We don't have to resolve these extreme moral conflicts because, for this debate, we are only considering the case of self-defense in the home. The question is whether a person has a right to defend himself and his family against intruders, and Con's objections do not undermine the fundamental right to defense in that situation.

Con poses situations wherein lethal force is not justified because the offense against the person is trivial. Indeed, you cannot shoot a girl who threatens to throw an egg at you. But you also cannot strangle her, club her to death, or run her through with a sword. Laws vary by state, but lethal force cannot be used unless a reasonable person in that situation would believe he was in imminent threat of death or great bodily harm. [16.] There is nothing special about guns in those situations, the law always applies to the legitimacy of self-defense.

Many states make a special case for home protection called the “castle doctrine.” The Florida statute, for example, says that it is reasonable to fear great bodily harm if:

The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, ... [17.]

But again, it doesn't matter whether the weapon is a gun or sword or a baseball bat.

A castle doctrine puts more fear into criminals because they know that a homeowner can shoot them without having to argue whether they felt in imminent danger. Many states passed castle doctrine laws after 2000. The effect was that property crimes and burglary rates decreased, and violent crime overall decreased as well. [14. op cit p332]

Background checks are consistent with a right of self defense

Con references a claim made by “Poetaster” that implies background checks are those in the Brady law. However, I made no reference to the Brady law. I only said that firearms should be subject to reasonable background checks and training requirements. I agree with Con that the Brady background checks are excessive. The check on mental competence should be limited to whether the person has been judged by a qualified profession to be unstable to the point of posing a threat to himself or others. A person may have a serious mental condition that poses no threat. Persons convicted of felony are reasonable restricted because recidivism rates are very high, as high as 80%. The reason for denying convicted drug addicts is not that, in most cases, the drug directly causes mental instability. It is because disputes between addicts and illegal drug dealers often turn violent, and because addicts often support their habit through crime. If a particular drug does not pose such dangers, then there should be no restriction as a consequence of it.

Prohibiting these classes of people from buying guns will have little effect on them actually getting a gun if they want one, because guns will always be available illegally. What it accomplishes is that it enables a person with a violent mental condition or other cause to be arrested if they are found in possession of a gun. That's a reasonable protection for society against future crimes.

I also called for a gun safety training requirement. Many localities allow online courses like the one for the District of Columbia. [18.] That is suitable. They cover the basics. Rep. Nancy Pelosi showed and AR-15 to her colleagues by pointing the gun at people with her finger on the trigger. Basic safety is that you don't do that even if you are sure the gun is not loaded.

Con argues that my position is incoherent because I am arguing that self-defense is a fundamental right, but that it is acceptable to limit the availability of guns to the mentally unstable, convicted felons, and those who buy illegal drugs. I agree that there is no unlimited right, but that's true of all rights. We have a right to free speech, but we still have laws against fraud. What it means to be a fundamental right is that the restrictions ought to be as few as reasonably possible, and that the prejudice in evaluating restrictions ought to be in favor of supporting the right.

Law-abiding citizens are careful

Con set up the example “Consider: you are sitting outside your house with a gun, as I imagine you Americans enjoy doing, and a little girl approaches you holding an egg...“, and he asked, “How many eggs must be thrown before you can shoot her, Roy?” The strait answer, of course, is that lethal force cannot be used unless it is reasonable to expect death or great bodily harm. Still, Con is implying that Americans are casual about shooting people. That's reflecting a James Bond stereotype of having a license to kill and using it promiscuously. Oh wait, Bond is British. But you get my point.

The background checks for concealed carry permits are generally slightly more stringent than I have proposed, but they are comparable on average. About five million Americans have concealed carry permits. Lott [14. op cit p 332] summarizes:

From 1990 through July 2008, [Lott] found twenty-three cases where a permit holder committed murder with a gun (twenty of those cases resulted in convictions, and in the other three murderers died at the scene). … [This] amount[s] to slightly more than one murder per year. Permit holders committed murder at 1/182nd the rate of the general public.

Michigan has more violence than average, so it is an interesting case.

Six years after new rules made it much easier to get a license to carry concealed weapons, the number of Michiganders legally packing heat has increased more than six-fold. But ... The incidence of violent crime in Michigan in the six years since the law went into effect has been, on average, below the rate of the previous six years. The overall incidence of death from firearms, including suicide and accidents, also has declined. [14. op cit p 234, quoting an article in the Detroit Free Press]

A concealed carry permit allows the gun owner to be in many situations more difficult to evaluate than when a criminal is breaking into a home. The supposedly gun-happy citizens show remarkable restraint even in those cases.

The US has a significant criminal class that use guns as part of their crimes. Criminals are not affected by gun laws and don't worry about legal requirements to buy a gun. A legal prohibition only suppresses the ability of honest people to defend themselves.



As no new evidence may be introduced in the final round, this will be a primarily scientific round from me.

“Guns will always be available illegally”

Living in the United Kingdom, I find this difficult to accept. British crime films are in fact typically quite clear on the difficulty in obtaining firearms – in Snatch, a gang attempt to use replicas to carry out a robbery, in Kidulthood, the guns in the film are all badly converted blank firing revolvers.

I admit, that is not real evidence, so here are some hard facts (as opposed to the statistics you use, which I will discuss later):

Between April 2010 and May 2011 there were 11,227 recorded offences involving firearms, broken down by weapon type:
• Long-barrelled shotgun = 406
• Sawn-off shotgun = 202
• Handgun = 3,105
• Rifle = 74
• Imitation firearm = 1,610
• Unidentified firearm = 957
• Other firearm = 670
• Air weapons = 4,203

N.B. ‘Other firearm’ includes 223 uses of CS gas, 118 uses of pepper spray and 149 uses of stun guns
So, that gives us 6,303 crimes committed using weapons that Americans would laugh at – non-firing replicas, air weapons, pepper spray, etc. This compares quite starkly to 4,924 crimes committed using ‘real’ guns. [1] This is corroborated by the findings of police detectives:

“A comparative shortage of guns in circulation has triggered a price spike in the underworld firearms market, according to detectives.”

“Police in the West Midlands have reported the emergence on the streets of more antique weapons using home-made ammunition and more sharing of weapons between gangs to counter the shortages.” [2]

So yes, there are illegal guns in my country, but they are far from easy to obtain. Furthermore, it is likely that quite a significant proportion of those guns are converted from blank firing guns. Japan too has succeeded in controlling weapons – with some of the strictest gun control in the world, they saw only two gun deaths in 2006. [3]

Even in America, the amount of truly ‘illegal’ guns is over-estimated. Of the last sixty-two mass shootings carried out in America, forty-nine of them were carried out using legally acquired weaponry, twelve by illegally acquired weaponry, and one killer used weapons from an ‘unknown’ source. [4] Clearly, mass-murderers are usually quite capable of legally acquiring the weapons they want to use. When they do have to resort to illegal weapons though, you will find that the majority of illegal weapons in America come from a legal source. Jay Wachtel, from the ATF, describes the most common sources of illegal weapons: in first place is the straw purchase, in second is a corrupt Federal Firearm Licensee, and in third place comes the unlicensed street dealer, whom is likely to have obtained his weapons by purchasing from a licensed dealer. [5] Guns are sold legally within the United States only to be then illegally sold to American criminals, and so the idea that the black market of weapons is completely detached from the legal trade seems to be a fantasy.

Guns and Self-Defence

A study by A. L. Kellerman et al investigating "the relative frequency with which guns in the home are used to injure or kill in self-defense, compared with the number of times these weapons are involved in an unintentional injury, suicide attempt, or criminal assault or homicide" found that from 626 shootings at residences, that "every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides."[6] Eliminating police shootings, this gives a final figure of 3.3% of shootings being intentionally carried out by law-abiding citizens.

So, what about instances where guns are not fired? You cite an impressive figure, however:
“One check on the credibility of these DGU estimates is made possible by the detailed follow-up questions included in both these surveys... From the NSPOF, we estimate that 322,000 used a gun to defend against a would-be rapist. But that is more than the total number of rapes and attempted rapes estimated from the best available source, the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)!6.... Our closer examination of the DGU reports in the NSPOF suggests that almost half of the incidents appear to contain some internal inconsistency, or otherwise do not make sense"[7]
The same analysis further comments that a significant number of respondents were likely pro-gun, and so potentially lied, while an even bigger problem was likely ‘telescoping’, which is recalling events that happened over a year ago as happening less than 12 months ago. The point was also made that a number of respondents were likely senile, delusional and / or intoxicated.

Furthermore, a different analysis of two surveys criticised the uses themselves, which is what I was referring to when I questioned the shooting of that egg-throwing wretch. They concluded:
“Even after excluding many reported firearm victimisations, far more survey respondents report having been threatened for intimidated with a gun than having used a gun to protect themselves. A majority of the reported self-defence gun uses were rated as probably illegal by a majority of judges. This was so even under the assumption that the respondent had a permit to own and carry the gun, and that the respondent had described the event honestly” [8] – which if I may say so, is an optimistic approach.

I find the ‘castle doctrine’ is immoral, in fact, you refute it yourself. You say yourself that “lethal force cannot be used unless a reasonable person in that situation would believe he was in imminent threat of death or great bodily harm”. In America, 28% of burglaries are committed with people in the residence, and of that 28%, 25% involve violence, but of these violent burglaries, only 9% resulted in serious injury (N.B. I had to perform some of these calculations approximately using the data provided). [9] The castle doctrine permits shooting a burglar under any circumstance, yet the chance of this shooting being justifiable (according to you) is tiny – only 2.5% of burglaries committed while someone was at home led to serious injury. Does it at least serve as a deterrent? It seems not: “Results indicate the laws do not deter burglary, robbery, or aggravated assault. In contrast, they lead to a statistically significant 8 percent net increase in the number of reported murders and non-negligent manslaughters.”[10]

What Do I Suggest?

I suggest that the status quo is deeply flawed, and that stricter gun control is needed. I am opposed to the idea that someone can buy, broadly speaking, any weapon they want with a quick background check and minimal control for the purpose of home defence, which of course anyone can claim as their motive. Stricter gun control has been shown to reduce gun deaths even in America [11], adjusting for the other influencing factors. Gun ownership to me seems to be a socially constructed crutch, or even a fetish, with 7.9 guns being the average number owned. [12]

I am currently satisfied with my opponent’s concession regarding the limitation self-defence, so I will not discuss liberty for the moment. I have no space.

[5] ]

Yes, I had to resort to tinyurl.
Debate Round No. 3


There is a fundamental right to self-defense

I cited the American founders, Jefferson's “No [citizen] shall be debarred the use of arms within his own lands....” I acknowledged “the right of self-defense is not absolute” and pointed to the Supreme Court's decision that while the right to defend one's home could not be infringed, there could be gun free zones elsewhere. Con said that Locke derived the right of self-defense from a right to liberty, which is fine with me. Con then dropped discussion of rights, saying I had conceded something.

I didn't. We are talking about defense of one's home and family. It is not a question of weighing the harm that might be dealt to the person breaking and entering against the harm the criminal might do to you and your family. The right of self-defense takes precedence.

Con pronounces the castle doctrine immoral. I suspect he misunderstands the doctrine. In all cases of self defense, both in the home and outside of it, a jury must decide that the person using lethal force reasonably believed he was under threat of great bodily harm. The castle doctrine says that there is a legal presumption that if a criminal breaks into your home – not wanders in because you left the door open – that there is a reasonable presumption of threat of harm. The presumption can still be overcome. If the person breaking and entering is reasonably identified as posing no threat, then the presumption is overcome. For example, if its a sunny day and the homeowner sees that the person breaking and entering is an unarmed child, then use of potentially lethal force is unreasonable. The doctrine only has effect when there is doubt, as with an unidentified break-in at night.

The castle doctrine is a fine point of law. Some states have it and some do not. The resolution is whether there are any circumstances when a homeowner should be allowed to legally possess a gun for self-defense.

Guns are the only practical means of self-defense

One might argue that while there is a right to self-defense, that guns could be banned in favor of some other means of self-defense. I argued that there is now no practical alternative to guns. That's what the Supreme Court ruled in the Washington DC case that voided the District's prohibition on guns. Con did not contest this point, and did not offer any alternative effective means of self-defense.

I believe that once Con grants a fundamental right to self-defense and further grants that guns are the only realistic means of self-defense, then the resolution is affirmed. You cannot have a right to self-defense and then ban the only means of asserting the right. It would be like affirming a right to free speech while denying all use of communications media. Con seems to recognize this situation. At the end of the last round he didn't assert that all guns should be illegal for home defense, but rather only asserted that there ought to be more restrictions.

I will continue with the practical arguments, although they cannot deny the resolution.

The benefits of guns outweigh the disadvantages

Con dropped my arguments that banning guns would have a negligible effect on suicide rates. Japan has twice the suicide rate with a strict gun ban, and the suicide rate in Washington DC was unchanged by a gun ban.

Con dropped my argument that accidental deaths from guns are way below the levels of other hazards that are not banned.

Con argued a fundamental right was inconsistent with background checks and safety training. I argued that minimal restrictions can be placed upon fundamental rights, so long as they are not a significant impediment to practicing the right. That's true of all fundamental rights. However, the resolution is to completely abolish the right by making self-defense illegal.

Illegality would not eliminate guns

In the last round, Con argued that he if guns are made illegal in the US they will not be available illegally. He cites evidence that guns have became scarce in the UK and Japan after being made illegal, so he imagines that might be the case in the US as well. He did not respond to my previous argument that drugs have been made illegal in the U.S. and despite vigorous attempts at enforcement there are plenty of illegal drugs available. Nations differ in the forces of cultural and tradition at work. Drugs are illegal in Japan, and sure enough there are few illegal drugs available illegally there. Not so in the US. I pointed out that drugs are an easier problem in the sense that a continuous supply is required, while guns are durable.

During the civil war in Northern Ireland, large numbers of illegal arms were smuggled into the U.K., despite vigorous enforcement attempts. It cannot therefore be the case that enforcement is easy. The problem has to with what the society as a whole wants and tolerates.

Con argues that in the US most guns ultimately come from legal sources. Even if broadly banned in the U.S, most guns would still ultimately derive from legal sources. Russia and South Africa are two sources of export, for example, and guns are not hard to get in Canada. Our debate is about guns for home defense. The probability of total gun ban in the U.S. is zero because hunting is so common, and so is use for protection from animals. People hunt for basic food in Alaska, parts of the northern Rockies, and in the rural South. In Alaska, people carry a 45 pistol to go to the bathroom – the bathroom being an outhouse and Alaska having 50,000 bears. In my area in California, a man shot a mountain lion perched in a tree above a school bus stop; the event merited only a single paragraph in the local paper.

There are now about 300 million legal guns in the U.S., and with most unlicensed there is no prospect of rounding them up.

Studies show effective deterrence

The data I cited on defensive use of firearms was prepared by the Center for Disease Control at the request of President Obama. There have been more than a dozen studies of the use of weapons for self-defense, and the CDC concluded that defensive use, mostly to scare off criminals, vastly out numbered offensive use. The CDC study is likely because the CDC is expert in statistical analysis, has no apparent prejudices, and looked at all of the surveys done in the field. If they do have a bias, it would likely be an anti-gun bias in trying to please a liberal president. Con did not address the CDC study.

Con cites criticism the DGU. I have no idea what that is. The criticism is that more rapes are claimed to be deterred than were reported in a separate crime victims study. Many of these surveys depend upon just how questions are asked. A deterred rapes may be significantly under reported in a victims survey.

Con cites Kellerman. The study compares the rare event of a self-defense shooting in the home with more common events like suicides. [19.] There were only seven cases of self-defense shootings in the study, so the ratios are misleading. The study shows that citizens are careful, and that guns are usually used to scare off criminals rather than shoot them.

Con cites Cheng and Hoekstra. That paper confuses castle doctrine laws with stand-your-ground laws and mixes data from non-confrontational crimes unlikely to be affected. “Cheng and Hoekstra suggested these laws affect crime rates. If true, the data show adopting all three “castle doctrine” laws causes a noticeable decrease in violent crime. “ [20. ]

Con charges that gun ownership is a “crutch, or even a fetish.” No it's just cultural. Shooting is the national sport of Switzerland. About 30% of Swiss households have guns, compared to about 42% in the U.S. The Swiss have far more fully automatic weapons. They openly carry guns to the various shooting festivals and consider it a sign of wholesome living. [21.] They have a non-violent society. Guns do not cause violence.


Con may not introduce new arguments or evidence in his final round. [DR 4]



A Fundamental Right?

Liberty is valued because “over himself, over his body and mind, the individual is sovereign”. [1]

Your discussion of rights is unsatisfactory. From your bee example, it can only be inferred that you think that humans have moral obligations to their families because they can survive without them. What obligation does a son have to a father who did nothing more than impregnate his mother? More germane is that you defended self-defence thus: ‘humans could not survive without it’ and ‘it is human nature’. My survival might depend on killing and eating my healthier friend, yet clearly that’s immoral. Likewise, ‘human nature’ meaning ‘typical behaviour’ is no basis for morality, as it is an appeal to nature. ‘Extreme’ examples serve to bring conflicts to attention.

You contradict yourself: you say “the right of self-defense is not absolute”, and follow with “It is not a question of weighing the harm that might be dealt to the person breaking and entering against the harm the criminal might do to you and your family”. Your first statement asserts limitations, while your second claims that no matter how little harm is intended you may use any amount of force to prevent it. Ultimately, you provide neither a sound nor a coherent argument.

Practical Self-Defence

Supreme Court rulings have bearing on the law, but not on morality, for what is lawful is not always moral, and vice-versa. Your assertion here is ridiculous, as you allege that human beings had no ‘realistic’ means of self-defence before Colt, and no means of speaking freely before Twitter. Putting that aside, let us consider the evidence already presented.

Your evidence proves that people claim to have used guns in self-defence many times. My response was to provide evidence that the number of defensive gun uses (DGUs) was likely inflated, that the majority of the uses were probably illegal, and that more people report being intimidated by guns than using them in self-defence. You responded that the CDC is a reliable source, and that it is reasonable to think that the most reliable study on the number of rapes in America is so much less reliable than surveys on gun use that the latter can claim that more attempted rapes are prevented by guns than the former claims are both attempted and carried out.

I believe an appropriate analogy is that of a man suffering hypothermia. He feels bad, so he drinks some vodka, as while this may be the only realistic way of him ‘feeling better’, it will only worsen his hypothermia, which is the cause of his misery. To respond to crime by arming civilians who appear to use their guns to break the law rather than to enforce it is similarly absurd. Notice there is nothing intrinsically wrong with owning a gun or drinking vodka, but we cannot ignore the context (that guns are used aggressively rather than defensively).

Examining the FBI data used in your source ( I am not introducing new evidence) regarding Cheng / Hoekstra, I notice a few discrepancies. The author claims that “burglary increased between 2000 and 2010”[2], which is a shameful trick. The number of burglaries increased, but the burglary rate decreased from 728.8 to 699.6. [3] He also claims that the largest fall in homicide rate was -0.40, occurring in states which adopted castle doctrine; however, the national fall in homicide rate was a full -1.0 from 2006 to 2010 (according to his table, the national decrease should have been -0.23). Seeing as his data contradicts the data he supposed retrieved his data from, I see no reason to think his criticism of Cheng / Hoekstra is compelling. Finally, violent crime has been decreasing since 1991, when the FBI records shown begin. The proportion of gun-owners has been falling in the US since 1973. [4]

The fact that I cannot introduce new evidence hinders my ability to respond to your Swiss example, but I can say (using your source) that in Switzerland guns are kept for target-shooting and because they are required to as part of the national militia (apparently I am not allowed to add that there are great restrictions on possessing ammunition). In America, guns are kept in large numbers by a few men who are afraid of being victimised by criminals, and by criminals. If the Swiss do not keep guns to deter criminals, then they hardly support your contention.

Illegality of Guns (prepare for rhetorical questions)

I provided solid evidence that in countries with strict gun control, guns are very difficult to obtain illegally. Your response was to shift the issue to drugs, which are not difficult to obtain. Despite having proven that this is comparing apples and oranges, I shall explain: have you considered that drugs are easy to manufacture (or grow), that they are easier to smuggle than guns, and that more profit can be obtained by selling drugs than guns? I do not think evidence is required, this is common sense. I can grow cannabis in my house, but I cannot manufacture guns. I can smuggle drugs in my body – I doubt I could the same with guns. You yourself say that guns are durable. Will I make more money selling a drug dealer one gun, or repeat shipments of drugs? Furthermore, if drugs are legalised, the demand for illegal weapons will drop sharply as the scale of organised crime drops.

Of course, if there is a giant demand for guns by relatively wealthy groups (as there was in Ireland), there will be a greater monetary incentive to smuggle in weapons, but this is an unusual circumstance.

In areas where there is a large threat from wildlife, then this should be considered when inhabitants apply for gun permits. I also feel there are surely weapons more suited to fighting off a bear and less suited to violent crime than a handgun. Your last remark there seems rather petty – are you claiming that even if you agreed that there should be strict gun control, you would not bother do anything about it? I realise there are a lot of guns in America, but I’m certain your authorities are competent enough to reduce this number over time.

Suicide and Accidental Death

I ‘dropped’ these points because they do not seem to be relevant. I’m certain that trousers and staircases cause thousands of fatalities a year, yet these things don’t particularly assist with committing crime or intimidating people (although one would look a tad silly attempting to scare someone without any trousers on). Perhaps guns do not have any effect on suicide rates, but nonetheless they appear to be used for that purpose quite frequently (see Kellerman). Either this qualifies as ‘misuse’, in which case your argument is weakened, and if not then we should provide people with methods of committing suicide that do not allow you to kill people.

To Conclude

Roy is lucky that I provided him with a rational basis for justifying self-defence (liberty), as he provided only contradictory intuitions and the rulings of other people. He proceeded to assert that you cannot defend yourself against crime without a gun, which he chose to base on the number of DGUs. I showed that he could not use the results of those surveys as justification, and that guns worsen the problem of crime. He relies heavily on the claim that all weapons are equal in their ability to assist crime, while saying that only guns can prevent crime. He claimed that guns will always be available illegally, but ignored that they really aren’t in places such as the UK and Japan.

Roy had to defend the status quo; he failed to provide a compelling defence of any kind. I identified several problems caused by America’s lack of gun control and proposed a radical tightening of them (perhaps incrementally), and provided evidence of how this would cause improvement.

I am a defender of freedom, but you demand to perpetuate an aggressive and violent culture. America does not have it right with guns.

[1] (p.18)
Debate Round No. 4
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Wocambs 4 years ago
I wish I could be more stoic about things, but the way I see it, I would be happy if I won, and so presumably I should be unhappy to lose.

Indeed, this doesn't actually prove who is right or wrong; however, this is an issue I am unsure of. If we were debating civil rights, drug legalisation, euthanasia or the validity of certain existentialist concepts I would be far less inclined to become aggravated, on account of my faith in myself on these issues, whereas 'gun rights' is an issue I have only recently become interested in (primarily due to the prevalence of those in favour on this site), and one on which I am quite desperate to have my views validated. The intellectual vogue in America does seem to be in favour of gun rights, and on the face of it owning a fully-automatic assault rifle doesn't intrinsically hurt anyone; this leads to uncertainty on my part, and so criticism of my position will bite far more deeply than on most other issues.

Oh, and Roy voted heavily against me on a previous debate I had, causing me to lose (also on guns), which is why I suggested it was a grudge match. I seem to have missed the opportunity for retribution, although I hasten to add that my uncertainty is over whether my position on guns is correct. There is no doubt in my mind that I tore his argument asunder.
Posted by LevelWithMe 4 years ago
"-votebombing: Is a practice on DDO where a member puts all of his votes towards one member either because he agrees with that member or because he wants that member to win. Never, ever votebomb, and if you feel it is necessary to put all 7 votes towards one member, make sure to leave a Reason For Decision (RFD) that explains your reasoning."

No, it wouldn't be considered vote bombing. Both voters only provided 3 points each, in one area, and provided a RFD in their votes.

I don't think it's either fair or practical that persons who hold the Pro or Con position of a resolution. You're going to have less people voting, and don't see anything particularly wrong with people raising objections or defenses to the arguments presented. There's a reason for the agreed with before/after portion of the voting, and ideally voters will identify themselves(as I readily have). Ideally voters will provide this information for non-voters(to include the debaters) to take with whatever scrutiny they see fit; and, in a more perfect world than that, non-voters would examine the debate and the votes with their RFD on their merit alone(instead of the source).

But, all of that's irrelevant. Winning or losing the debate doesn't make one person right or the other wrong(something you seem to agree with). The results of the debate are simply an indicator of how well you persuaded your audience and/or shows room for improvement(S&G, conduct, sourcing, organization, est). There's no prize for whoever ends up with the most points. You don't have to care about how well you persuade those who take the other position. You can choose to focus on rallying the troops or taking the input from those on the fence. That's your prerogative. There's really no point in calling foul over some arbitrary number on the internet with no real meaning.
Posted by Wocambs 4 years ago
I didn't introduce any new lines of argument, I responded to the ones you started. The person who introduced new lines of argument is actually you - you stated that there are too many guns for them to possibly be rounded up, which was not previously raised, you stated that wildlife posed a threat that could only be dealt with by guns, which was not previously raised, and you introduced Switzerland, which was not previously raised. Everything I discussed was raised by you. I really have no idea how you can claim that I violated the rules.

I hardly think I'm attacking the voters. They are raising criticisms which I am responding to; I'm defending myself. It has also not escaped my notice that both voters are already strongly in favour of 'gun rights'. Does it count as 'vote-bombing' if you have a debate on the merits of feminism and only feminists vote?
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
wocombs. The phrase "No new arguments may be made in R4." means "No new arguments may be made in R4." Pro cannot make new arguments, and Con cannot make new arguments. Pro is allowed to introduce new evidence to rebut Cons arguments in R3, that's all.

The alternative is to allow Con to introduce wholly new lines of arguments in the final round, with Pro having no opportunity to respond to them in the debate. The rule follows academic debate. In the final round, the debaters mainly give their chart of the debate, pointing out points dropped and rebuttals found insufficient.

The challenge was perfectly clear in allowing reasonable restrictions on ownership. The resolution is understood in the context of the challenge. It's the same logic that the Supreme court used to rule that the Preamble to the US Constitution cannot be used to invalidate the body of of the Constitution. You introduced the notion of total ban on guns by arguing that if guns were completely illegal, criminals would not be able to buy them. If guns are legally available for other purposes, that argument fails.

One of the main reason people don't vote on debates is that they have to suffer the abuse that you are giving voters on this debate. I think it's okay to continue discussing the issues, but not to attack the voters. There is an exception. If you think you are being vote bombed, you can post the debate in the forum thread and see if others will agree.
Posted by Wocambs 4 years ago
There really was very little space to propose any ideas. What I tried to suggest during the debate is that the number of civilians with access to weapons should be drastically reduced and that the types of weapons permitted should be narrowed. Seeing as Roy's definition of 'legal for home-defence' is "people who want a gun for the purpose should be able to legally own one" I feel your criticism that I lost sight of the debate rather silly. Did you read his preamble?

Anyway, I really don't see how he met his burden of proof. His argument was essentially that people should be allowed to defend themselves (which he could not defend adequately), and that guns are the only means of self-defence (which surely refutes itself, even more when I showed that they are used aggressively to such a great extent...).
Posted by Wocambs 4 years ago
"DR 4. No new arguments shall be made in Round 4. Pro may rebut previous arguments using new evidence solely for that purpose, but no new arguments are allowed. Con may not present any new evidence in R4."

My understanding of this is: 'Con may rebut previous arguments, but he may not use any new evidence in R4'. I feel I adhered to these rules, as all of my source were previously used and I did not raise any new issues. You seem have an exceptional talent for complaining about 'bad conduct' which never occurred.

Are you afraid to lose? Well, don't worry, that's not going to happen. I feel I dismantled your arguments, but still... confirmation bias.
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
Wocombs, That's right you cannot present new arguments in the final round. That was in the rules you agreed to. In the Pro final round, I get to rebut the arguments you presented in R3, and to also summarize the debate. Summarizing the debate includes pointing out arguments that are claimed to be unrefuted, and the points and counters presented. You can also point out issues of debate rules. Pro has to do the R3 rebuttal, plus his summary in his one round. Con has the advantage of going last, and can point out anything in the debate where he believes he ended up with the better argument. If Pro makes a new argument, something not a rebuttal but a new point entirely, then that can be addressed by Con. Those are the generally accepted rules of debate. It doesn't matter if they are generally accepted, because I spelled them out as part of the challenge. To be sure, there is often a dispute as to what constitutes a new argument. The readers get to judge that.

For whatever reasons, Con statistically wins significantly more debates than Pro on DDO. Con doesn't need the additional advantage of raising new arguments that Pro has no opportunity to refute within the debate.
Posted by LevelWithMe 4 years ago
Feel free to defend yourself in the comments, but I'm not going to argue with you. I gave my reasoning. You don't have to agree with the judgement, but it's there, regardless.

This isn't my debate. Given that neither side conceded the debate(as in most cases), they will both almost certainly disagree with votes providing points to their opponents. I'd have way too many informal debates on my hands if I argued at length with every Pro or Con I disagreed with. I don't intend to start trend now.

You've already got Roy to debate with, and it wouldn't appear he's left after the debate's conclusion. Enjoy his company.
Posted by Wocambs 4 years ago
Oh, so 'presenting new arguments' means that you're the one who gets the last word in. I have to merely acknowledge the arguments you present in the last round and meekly summarise. Shouldn't all of this be ignored? It could go on forever otherwise.

I think you'll find that they retracted 99% of that ammunition, at least wikipedia tells me this, and that "There is a regulatory requirement that ammunition sold at ranges must be used there." Can ammunition be sold elsewhere? I don't know, perhaps it can. What I was attempting to get at is that there is a fundamental difference in the way the Swiss and the Americans view weapons, and that it is therefore reasonable to think that they are used differently. I haven't really looked at Switzerland, perhaps they have problems that are glossed over by the NRA who use the Swiss as an example.

I don't think what you're saying about alcohol and drugs is relevant at all really. I did provide more than enough evidence to show that guns are not 'available to anyone who wants them' in the UK and Japan. Talk about the oranges all you like, but those apples can be controlled.

Also, there was obviously no way I was going to argue that guns should just be made illegal for anyone outside of the police / armed forces to own. I clearly stated that your background checks were insufficient...

Strawmen? Seeing as he was defending the status quo I thought it was quite reasonable to criticise the status quo, which is the Brady laws (to my knowledge). Roy said you couldn't shoot the girl, because that was disproportionate, but that you didn't have to weigh the harms done to the aggressor against the harms the aggressor would do you to. This is clearly a contradiction. More convincing arguments? He had to rely on me to provide justification for the foundation of his whole argument - that self-defence is justified.
Posted by LevelWithMe 4 years ago
Excuse S&G errors in my vote. I had a lot of editing to do after I reached the character limit in the RFD, and it would appear that I was not as attentive in doing so as I originally believed. It would seem that there are ways to edit/change your vote on this website, but I haven't found any information on this(and/or I could be wrong, given my limited time as a user here).

I would have made a comment based RFD, but I felt I would feel compelled to go at length unnecessarily, and the current RFD seemed sufficient to establish that it wasn't a poor vote by the rules and standards of this website. Whether or not it was a poor vote, otherwise, is another matter.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by bsh1 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: This was an excellent debate. I thought Con treaded too close to making new points in the final round. I also felt that many of Pro's points were dropped, though I liked the gist of what Con was arguing. In terms of direct and effective clash, Pro takes the debate.
Vote Placed by Mikal 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Arguments to Pro. Con seemed to derail some of Pros main points during the debate. Also from what I noticed, the question at hand was whether or not Guns should be legal for home defense. A lot of cons argument revolved around stricter gun control and he actually specifically stated this in his closing statement. Whether or not there should be a stricter regulation on the purchase is not the question of this debate, it is whether they should be legal at all. I think Con lost site of this in some ways, while Pro managed to meet his BOP. S n G is tied along with sources.
Vote Placed by LevelWithMe 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Conduct: The same. The Con at time seemed to make the debate too personal and/or had a hostile nature, he kept his actual arguments relatively professional. Thus, it was not enough to concede a point. S&G: No noteworthy errors. Argument: Con made strawman of Pro's position(s) on multiple occasions, addressing arguments not actually made, and inferring clauses Pro had made when reaching conclusions, due to a lack of context/attention or assumption on their part based on lack of information for clarification(something that could have been discussed outside of rounds). Examples of this are to include Brady law subject and a lack of clarity of quotation, such as contentions raise over the Pro's statement "the right of self-defense is not absolute". Sources: The sources used were generally reliable and used to great extent by both sides. Source contentions were largely about how to interpret data presented, not their reliability.