“Let’s turn our pistols into plowshares”

Bishop Wester of Salt Lake City: “The creation of a culture that glorifies guns and encourages individuals to wear dangerous weapons at all times is contrary to the Catholic belief in the sanctity and dignity of human life.”

One aspect of the gun issue gets less attention than it should: The need in a million ways to change our cultural norms regarding responsible gun ownership and use, and the need to reject the presence of military or assault-styled weaponry and accessories in our common civilian life. The Most Rev. John Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City speaks to these issues: 

The Catholic Church advocates for the culture of life, for peace, for building the Kingdom of God on Earth. To do so, we must turn our pistols into plowshares; promoting harmony in our world rather than violence. While individuals may have a limited right to carry a deadly firearm, whether and how to exercise that right is a moral decision that must be made carefully and in accordance with our Catholic belief in the dignity and sanctity of all life….

`Within Catholic teaching, self-defense means a right to protect life using reasonable means. Carrying a firearm as a daily habit is not about protecting life as a matter of self-defense. In fact, carrying a firearm increases the likelihood that the person will use it to threaten or take a life in a moment of anger. Stories abound of people faced with the lifelong regret of reaching too quickly for a firearm in response to a temporary but emotionally charged situation that has nothing to do with self-defense….

More importantly, the creation of a culture that glorifies guns and encourages individuals to wear dangerous weapons at all times is contrary to the Catholic belief in the sanctity and dignity of human life. The Catechism reminds us that “those who renounce violence and bloodshed and, in order to safeguard human rights, make use of those means of defense available to the weakest, bear witness to evangelical charity … They bear witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risks of recourse to violence, with all its destruction and death.”

We live in a society that too-often glorifies guns, glorifies violence.  It’s in our DNA. It’s most obviously-seen in the stupid Facebook videos of Chief Keef or the ostentatiously-armed wing of the Tea Party crowd. It goes far beyond that. There’s a quiet radicalism in Bishop Wester’s words. They command attention.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

56 thoughts on ““Let’s turn our pistols into plowshares””

  1. Good for the Bishop.
    “Swords into ploughshares” was not a far-fetched metaphor at all when it was written (Isaiah 2:4). For thousands of years of pre-gunpowder warfare, lots of edged weapons were abandoned on battlefields. Archaeologists rarely find them. Why? The winning side would usually have recovered some, but wasn’t always in a position to do so, and would have concentrated on the most valuable gear. The rest were collected by local peasants for the local blacksmith to turn into tools, including “ploughshares and pruning hooks”.

  2. Hm, I seem to recall this scene, recounted in countless churches just a few days past, where Peter, who (Like several of the Apostles) apparently goes about armed in Jesus’s prescence as a routine matter, cuts off somebody’s ear when he was accosted, and is criticized not for carrying a sword, but for getting in the way of a prophesy. Implying that if Jesus hadn’t been intended to be captured, it would have been fine.

    Feh, I have no more problem with guns styled to resemble weapons of war, but fuctionally indistinguishable from hunting arms, than I have with the family sedan looking like a race car. Try not to get so hung up on appearances.

    1. I think you should read Bishop Wester’s comments again and more carefully. Not being a Christian of any stripe, the constancy of religious doctrine or of Jesus himself is not important to me. He’s just saying how he thinks Catholics ought to relate to a culture of maximum guns; he thinks it’s not Christian to go around armed to the teeth and ready to snuff out a human in a moment of anger or loss of control. And he is asking for some introspection on the part of Christians such as yourself who habitually carry guns.

  3. I think I have noticed a change in emphasis by the American episcopate since Francis became pope. Their stance in the gender wars–which seemed to define the American episcopate under Benedict–seems to have softened. The episcopate is concentrating much more on issues more congenial to political progressives. I don’t think that Church doctrine is changing all that much, but Church doctrine touches on most aspects of life, and the doctrine emphasized at any particular time is significant. And there is lots of Church doctrine that political progressives should like.

    I suppose that if the bishops keep it up with the guns, our Brett will have to join the Know-Nothing party.

    1. I suppose that if the bishops keep it up, Obama will have to escalate his attack on them; Maybe find some pretext to ban communion wine. I’m sure they could come up with something, churches not having liquor licenses, or sharing the chalice being unhygienic. In any event, I’m confident he’ll find something to piss off all the bishops who aren’t Democrats first, the whole contraception mandate thing seems to be losing it’s sting with that particular clique, and what’s the point of being King if you can’t push tick people off?

      I am not impressed when the clergy attempt to use the weight of the church to enforce the doctrines of secular parties. Neither are the laity. In fact, I suspect even the choir aren’t listening to this one.

      1. I’m sorry, Brett, but this seems like a comment written by a visitor from Bizrro World. Why would an article urging Catholics to rethink whether a society in which everyone is armed and on a hair-trigger is a consistent with the teachings of the Catholic and so forth, be an attack on Obama and would cause him to “escalate his attack on them”? Are you saying that Obama is against gun control or favors a society of “maximum guns”? In what sense is the bishop enforcing the doctrines of a secular party as opposed to opining on the teachings or his own church?

        1. No, I’m saying it’s practically inevitable that Obama is going to get around to doing something that will remind those Bishops whose first loyalty isn’t to the Democratic party that he’s not their friend, or even really an ally. He didn’t have to pick that fight on contraception, he chose it. What ever drove him to chose that fight, will cause him to find another affront he can commit, if the sting from the first is fading.

          In the mean while, the laity is quite aware that gun control is a doctrine of the Democratic party, not the Catholic church. They’ve enough experience with political bishops to know when to ignore them.

          1. Isn’t it for the Catholic Church to say what its teachings are and are not? It’s a hierarchical organisation: Bishop Wester carries more weight than Brett, Pope Francis than Bishop Wester. The Pope had experience with men with guns thirty years ago, and did not enjoy it.

          2. In the first place, your explanation makes no sense contextually because in your original comment, you are seemingly relating an anti-“Maximum Guns” stance to an attack on Obama for which he is certain to retaliate. You seem to be implying that Catholic church has no genuine doctrine or values and that their loyalty is somehow to the Democratic Party rather than to something else, which apparently doesn’t involve anything of a theological nature. Yet, in view of the extremely well publicized political orientation of the last Pope and the eager alignment of the American bishops with the Republican Party and the conservative political movement, the evident claim that the bishops are always act simply as political stooges for one party or the other seems remarkably obtuse even by your standards.

            What’s more, your response doesn’t engage with Bishop Wester on theological or moral grounds even though he is careful to anchor his remarks to traditional doctrines (which he cites) including a specific reference to the the catechism. He seems to be making an argument that at least some rethinking of America’s love affair with weaponry is inconsistent with the doctrine’s of his church regarding the sanctity of human life and also, indirectly, with the teaching of Jesus about how a Christian should live his life. In short, he seems to be making a religious statement and not a political one (particularly since it wasn’t so long ago that strict gun control was a doctrine of both of the main political parties in this country).

          3. No, you’re failing to understand: The attacks are proceeding from Obama to the church, not in the other direction.

            I’m saying Obama is a bully, he picked a fight with the Catholic church that he didn’t have to, he went out of his way to get into a fight with them. (The contraceptive mandate was in no way required by the statutory language.) And bullies don’t respond to friendly overtures positively, they take them as evidence that they didn’t hit you hard enough the first time, and look for another way to hurt you.

            I’m saying it’s inevitable that Obama will get around to doing something new to remind the church he’s not their friend, because he’s a guy who WANTS to pick fights with them. Short of the Catholic church remaking itself into a subservient arm of the Democratic party, like the black churches that damn Republicans from the pulpit and order parishioners to vote Democratic, they can’t get on Obama’s good side. He’s only got room for minions and enemies, and they can’t change enough to become his minions. So the attacks will continue.

            And, no, I’m not impressed with the Bishop. Bishops who try to use the church to advance the aims of a secular party are nothing new, and that’s all Wester is doing. But he’s no Reverend Wright, he’ll never do it enough to become Obama’s friend. And Catholics are familiar with the breed, he’s not going to get much traction.

      2. That’s crazy talk.
        Telling the Catholic Church how to conduct their rites inside their own church is very different from setting standards that _all_ employers must follow when providing insurance.

        That the ACA allows exemptions for direct church employees (as opposed to employed by church sponsored entities like hospitals) cuts against your point, in fact.

        So you continue to keep a closed mind, which is nothing new.

        1. It’s even crazier –
          For the contraceptive thing, it at least served as a way to motivate young folks to vote D.

          What possible electoral benefit would it serve to meddle in Catholic rites directly? Even if he has the motives you assume, a skilled politician like Obama would not do it because 1) It would reduce his power, and 2) It would could never work in our current system of state control of alcohol licensing, 1st amendment right, and 3) Catholic Ds would leave the party.

          Show me you have some ability to re-evaluate your weakest arguments.

      1. Pollack: It’s in our DNA.

        Yes in the sense that humans have lost all serious dentition, lack claws, and of course also lack stingers, pinchers, and cryptic coloration. And too, for the most part, modern men have surrender their bodies to sloth and fat. The American male in particular has evolved into something akin to a fat white grub, lacking all musculature and vitality, and so naturally feels vulnerable in the world. And so these creatures cling to firearms (like babes to a suck bottle) and a ridiculous reading of the Second Amendment. There are very few things on this planet as simultaneously funny, sad, woeful, quaint, pathetic, and dangerous (in an accident prone way) as an armed fat white American male strutting about in XXX large Levis. Except perhaps, one that has also read Ayn Rand, in which case you can throw hubris and smugness and blind certainty into the contemptible mix….

  4. This post, like any post mentioning guns, is pure Brett-fodder, a snare set up to lure him in. I only wish we were all better at snaring him in his own rhetorically circular traps.

    That said, Brett will never see the logic of even a biblical argument that says, “hey, maybe we should have less violence.” Because he seems to truly like the Biblical version of justice: an eye for an eye. He supports not only the Castle doctrine but Stand Your Ground. He supports private individuals with militarized weapons, seemingly withou limit (and certainly no prohibition on semiautomatic rifles with high capacity magazines!) These conversations are futile if the very base assumptions we start with ( that generally reducing the amount of violence is desirable) cannot be agreed upon. Brett will come back and argue, paradoxically, that more instruments of death will somehow lead to a LOWER rate if violence. But no rational person is fooled. He just likes his dang guns.

    1. I’d love for us to have less violence. I used to live in a neighborhood where you didn’t even bother locking the door, and I miss that.

      What I’m not willing to do is confuse “less violence” with “abandoning the capacity for violence”. They’re radically different things.

      And, sure, I know posts like these are “Brett bait”. Frankly, I’d appreciate a more comprehensive discussion of the “fact checking” issue, instead.

        1. You can always choose not to engage, if you think these articles are troll-bait for you.

          Or given this: Frankly, I’d appreciate a more comprehensive discussion of the “fact checking” issue

          Show some entrepreneurial initiative and start a site of your own.
          After all, relying on others to feed you ideas, and then having the gall to complain about their flavor, is a lot like a louse saying the blood it sucks is too salty.

          1. Or even, start a conversation (not a polemic) on the fact-checking issue. I would love to participate in a discussion. But not in a screed.

          2. Hell, the ‘fact checking’ post STARTED as a screed. A “Only Republicans have anything to fear from honest fact checking. Let me demonstrate this by my refusal to admit the WaPo fact checker actually caught Obama in a fib, and using irrelevancies to make my point.” screed.

          3. Around and around in circles. My idea of a discussion is when both participants are actually willing to (and do) learn something. But in the years I’ve been coming here, Brett really hasn’t learned anything, nor budged that much. He goes to other, conservative sites to load up on his argumentative ammo, and then comes over here to fire it off. Repeatedly.

            I’m not sure he’s a troll, exactly. He actually believes what he says. But he’s a stubborn, unyielding conversationalist. He doesn’t see the value in moderate positions–in fact, as he’s said many times, giving an inch means giving up everything. It’s a kind of totalitarian libertarianism that’s increasingly rampant in American (see Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, et al.)

  5. Momma said the pistol is the devil’s right hand, the devil’s right hand, the devil’s right hand. Momma said the pistol is the devil’s right hand.

  6. With all due respect, I think that RFK said the same decades ago, and said it better:

    “Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire. Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others.”

    And about the “moral risks of recourse to violence”:

    “Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily – whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence – whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.”

    RFK’s speech is more ambitious and also more convincing because he doesn’t paint violence as a single-issue problem: He touches on multiple, real causes, including poverty and racism (the “violence of institutions” paragraph arguably is still one of the most powerful moments of the speech), which makes it more valuable both for its comprehensiveness and for its emotional appeal; while undoubtedly we could get some reduction in violence through suitable gun control legislation, we have plenty more lower-hanging fruit to pick yet. Almost half a century later, the “slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter” is still a chillingly real issue in America; not nearly as severe as back then, but hardly something that we can claim to have overcome.

    1. Of course, we don’t have a *rising* level of violence. For the last twenty years we’ve had a declining level of violence.

      In fact, gee, what a coincidence: The violence peak was about at the peak of gun controller political might, and has been declining with your fortunes ever since. Maybe not causality, but certainly the fact that violent crime rates in the US have been dropping even as concealed carry, castle, and stand your ground laws have spread across the nation doesn’t make the claimed association between carrying guns and violence look very valid.

      1. We had a rising level of violence back in 1968, which was when RFK made the speech (if you missed out on that part, he has been dead for several decades ago, killed by a gun, like his brother, like Martin Luther King; you may also want to perhaps excuse him for not being quite so enthusiastic about gun rights being an unalloyed good after he had to say eulogies for both JFK and MLK).

        Also, I’d be careful about painting everybody who does not agree 100% with you a broad brush. I’m one person who is skeptical about the efficacy of gun control measures (beyond moderate regulation that will not take away your guns), and if you can’t even find common ground with a person who is moderately skeptical about gun control and thinks policy measures should primarily focus on other things, and if you just start foaming at the mouth whenever your button gets pushed, you’ll have a hard time convincing others that your reaction is rational.

        1. Yes, I’m familiar with when he died, and was simply pointing out that he made the speech under different circumstances. Which limits it’s relevance.

          “(beyond moderate regulation that will not take away your guns)” but which would make the job easier for the people who would take them away. Which is something I’ve pointed out before: It doesn’t really matter to me if you, personally, don’t want to take my guns away. (Though people who damned well do will proclaim the exact same thing right up to the moment they’ll go for them, I’ll believe it coming from you.) You want things which would make the job easier for people who DO want to take them away, who were willing to say they wanted to within my memory. And you have no way of preventing them from taking the next step, after you’ve taken yours.

          A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and if you don’t want to go on that journey, you treat every step as though it might BE that first step. Especially when you’ve been dealing with the people waving around travel brochures all your life.

        2. Also, I’d be careful about painting everybody who does not agree 100% with you a broad brush.

          Katja, that might be the beginning of a working definition of an extremist. Because contained within it is the necessary contradiction that makes it so: How can an extremist not paint with a broad brush? The answer is an extremist can’t help but overpaint:

          A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and if you don’t want to go on that journey, you treat every step as though it might BE that first step.

          By the way, notice that I am enlightened enough here to address Katja in the body of this message. That is the person I am addressing. Or put another way, arguing with extremists is futile; it is an utter waste of time. You might as well try to deprogram an Islamic fundamentalist by wagging a Bible under his beard. Which leads me to a fascinating question: “What can a rationalist learn from the postings of an extremist?” After all, everyone reading these gun comment threads is being treated to an uninhibited display of that mania.

          Perhaps everyone will have a different answer for that question. For me, I’ve learned first hand the hopelessness of the extremist mind. It is not a pretty thing. And it does not speak well to the future possibilities of humankind. One thing is for certain: I do not want to have any extremists anywhere near my immediate life. There is an old saying that a winner you invite into your home with a smile, while a loser you give a dollar to and show the door. What do you do with an extremist? I suspect the correct answer is: Don’t even bother to answer the door.

          1. In my experience the amusing thing about extremists is that they construct these closed bubbles of association, so that they can pretend they’re moderates. They must be, almost everybody they associate with agrees with them! (Aside from those annoying extremist trolls, who they really wish would emulate them by only associating with their own kind.)

            In the extremists’ world, 4-5 million member organizations which poll better than the President are “astroturf”, and a movement which is conspicuously NOT membership based, and imploded the moment a billionaire and a couple of foundations decided to spend their money elsewhere, is a mass movement.

            In the extremists’ world, 20 years of spreading political defeats is not evidence their views are unpopular, it just drives interest in an obscure field called “agnotology”. (The science of how people could possibly disagree with me even though I’m obviously right.)

            In short, yes, there are extremists here, and I enjoy arguing with them.

            Though I will grant some of my views are extreme, I think I’m not an “extremist” because I’m fully aware when my views are not mainstream, and I don’t go out of my way to avoid associating with people who disagree with me. (Quite the contrary.) Call me a self-aware outlier…

          2. For all my disagreements with Brett, I would strongly disagree with labeling him as an extremist. It takes more than unwavering belief in a position one holds dear to become one; I have had my share of strong, visceral reactions (often ones that I regretted later) to statements that seemed to assault values that I consider fundamental. I don’t think that makes me an extremist; it just makes me human.

          3. Katja: For all my disagreements with Brett, I would strongly disagree with labeling him as an extremist.

            Brett: In short, yes, there are extremists here, and I enjoy arguing with them.

            Sounds like you two need to talk this out.

          4. Well, they’re not everybody here. A lot of the people who comment here are merely, like me, self-aware outliers, free from the delusion their views are actually popular, but aspiring to make them so. (Almost everybody here, including me, is an outlier of some sort in their views, the chief variation being whether they admit it.)

            But then you get the folks who genuinely think absurd things, like the NRA being “astroturf”, and the Brady center not. Yeah, I’d call them “extremists”, though a different word would be better, since there’s nothing wrong as such with holding extreme views.

            Mark, he’s a special case: In some respects he appears to be struggling to become one, (His frequent hackishness has a forced quality to it.) and this saddens me. When he doesn’t note a partisan salience to an issue, I find him to be quite reasonable even where I disagree with him. But then he’ll just casually throw out the most vile or absurd claim, then act like the moron he isn’t in defending it. Feels like a pose to me.

          5. “….since there’s nothing wrong as such with holding extreme views.” I’d argue that it depends what your extreme views are in service of. An extreme view that promotes active neglect of others or violence against others (such as Timothy McVeigh, et al) is very different from being an extreme vegetarian, or an extreme pacifist.

            But in general all totalitarianisms are bad. And I see a totalitarian libertarianism surging in the US. Being a visionary outlier is a great thing. But that’s very different from being simply an outlier willing to accept behaviors or conditions that the majority of humanity think are, well, inhumane. Being an outlier on cruelty, or violence, or antipathy toward the poor/the unfortunate/the suffering seem to me not to be badges one should want to wear.

          6. “…totalitarian libertarianism…”

            You must have a misapprehension of the meaning of one or both of these words.

          7. Yes, a totalitarian libertarianism? Which viciously refrains from ruling you? Which not only refuses to violate your rights, but won’t let anyone else violate them?

            I don’t know which is more hilarious, the notion of totalitarian libertarianism, or the notion that libertarianism has that much clout in our drug war and regulatory state.

          8. Brett:

            Most NRA members support comprehensive background checks. That fact alone doesn’t make the NRA astroturf, but it does mean that the NRA isn’t simply representing the views of its members. It’s financiers, which include some large corporate interests, benefit from laxer gun controls than its members support.

          9. Dillian, if I want to know what NRA members think on a subject, I do not go to gun controllers. How the hell do they even manage to poll NRA members, lacking access to the membership list? Granted, we’re over 1% of the population, so you could get a decent sample of NRA members by a random poll of, say, 1-200 thousand people. Leaving severe methodological issues with getting an accurate response from a group that was that small a percentage of the sample. Assumping the people doing the poll were even trying to be accurate…

            As it happens, the NRA conducted a poll of it’s own membership, and found quite the opposite result. Who am I to believe, the polsters who know who is a member, or the polsters who don’t?

            Let’s hear the details of how your poll was conducted, to explain why we should believe it over the NRA’s own poll of it’s own membership.

          10. Brett, given that comprehensive background checks poll at 90 percent in the general population, there’s no reason to disbelieve the polls of NRA members or gun owners. When something polls at 90 percent, you are going to have a hard time finding any group of millions of people who oppose it.

            You have a serious epistemic closure problem. You can’t just go through life that whenever a fact is inconvenient to your worldview it must have been made up by liberals. And your citation to an NRA poll (which isn’t even actually a citation; you don’t link to it)– which actually DOES raise obvious issues of bias that the polls of professional polling agencies do not raise– shows this.

          11. “Brett, given that comprehensive background checks poll at 90 percent in the general population, there’s no reason to disbelieve the polls of NRA members or gun owners.”

            IOW, you’re assuming that the NRA is lying about it’s poll of it’s own membership, based on the assumption that NRA members must be representative of the general population on a subject related to firearms? That’s the extent of your argument? You don’t, maybe, see some tiny problems with that? Wonder if maybe NRA members and the general population maybe, just maybe, systematically differ in their opinions about gun related subjects?

            And you think *I’m* showing some kind of cognitive failure here?

            Again, how does anybody but the NRA poll NRA members, given that the NRA doesn’t share it’s membership list? What was the methodology here? Hell, just direct me to the actual poll, so I can see how it was worded.

          12. here’s a link to a set of polling data conducted by the luntz organization in 2012 for the organization mayors against illegal guns. that came up with the result that 74% of current or former nra members believed that background checks should be required for all gun purchases. the poll appears to have been taken of a sample of 945 gun owners half of whom, apparently, self-identified as being either a current or lapsed member of the nra–

            http://www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/downloads/pdf/poll-07-24-2012.pdf

            where is the link to that poll you were talking about?

          13. Technically, the ‘link’ I used was something like, “www.issueofTheRiflemanthatjustcameinthemail.com”; I’m a life member, I get the magazine and read it. But I will try to find an actual link to it.

            Following your link, I find general results, and the closest thing to “methodology” was this statement:

            “We polled 945 gun owners nationwide (margin of error +3%) in May 2012.
            The sample was divided evenly by gun owners who were current or lapsed members of the NRA, and non-NRA gun owners.”

            Actual NRA members comprise a bit over 1% of the population, maybe 3-4% of gun owners. So, poll 945 gun owners, and you might capture, generously, 40 actual NRA members. Yet they claim they wound up with more like half the sample being NRA members. That doesn’t ring any alarm bells with you?.

          14. as a matter of fact it didn’t. it doesn’t say they started out with a list of 945 gun owners it says they polled 945 gun owners and set up the sample to match up equal numbers of nra and non-nra gun owners. my working assumption was that they started with a much larger list and set up the sample from there. of course if you assume bad faith then you would be led from there to fraudulent data.

            again, the answer to your original question is

            by self-identification.

          15. What I’m trying to say here, if I’m being unclear, is this:

            If you poll a random sample of gun owners, and 50% of them claim to be NRA members, then you know for an absolute fact your poll is utterly FUBAR, because NRA members, you know independently, are not 50% of gun owners, they are more like 5% of gun owners.

          16. Well, of course I assume bad faith: They’re not my allies, they’re your’s, so I’m allowed to notice how many of Bloomberg’s gang are, for instance, criminals.

            They’re scum, and I don’t have to pretend otherwise.

          17. and all i’m saying here, if it’s not clear, is that if you’re trying to poll a paired group then you’re necessarily going to start with a much larger group than the ones who end up being surveyed to make sure you have the same number in each subgroup. unfortunately nothing i’ve been able to find on the internet has told me whether the luntz group used the method i describe or the method you describe. if i could find where they made the claim that half of the first 945 gun owners they talked to were either current or former nra members then i would provide a link to that and agree with you that something is wrong with that. if i could find where the made the claim that that they paired nra and non-nra from a much larger list of gun owners i would provide a link to that and leave it to you to deal with the cognitive dissonance that would provide you.

            in the face of ambiguity, all i can do is go back to paired polling methodology in other instances which is as i described and say that the poll is suggestive without being conclusive. in the face of ambiguity all you can do, apparently, is argue that the poll must be fraudulent.

          18. Based on what they say, they polled under 1000 gun owners, and roughly half of them ended up being NRA members. Which is implausible unless you’re polling people at the NRA annual convention…

            The generous assumption is that they did not accurately describe their methodology, and actually polled a much larger group, to arrive at a reasonable sample of NRA members. This would require initially polling something on the order of 50,000 people, to get enough NRA members to reach the level of statistical significance they’re claiming.

            But when you’re using self-reported membership in a group, you run in to problems which you don’t run into when you’re in possession of an actual membership list, and can directly poll that group, the way the NRA can. (Polls of the general population routinely have 3-4 times as many people self-reporting as NRA members than really are.) So, given the group capable of doing things in a reliable way, and the people who have to do them in the way prone to error, why reject the people with the membership list?

            Here’s the NRA’s poll: NRA-ILA Survey finds NRA members united. Note the rather more extensive info on methodology and actual phrasing of questions provided.

          19. thanks for the link.

            while i agree that the poll you link to has certainly doen a better job of describing their methodology i note that they did not ask respondents whether they would favor or oppose background checks on all gun sales. again. like the poll i pointed to i find this one suggestive but not conclusive.

          20. I’ll have to admit the poll was not quite as on point as I recalled, having read it several days earlier. However, it certainly doesn’t sound like a portrait of a membership at odds with the organization’s stances, leaving the idea that 80-90% of NRA members disagree with the organization on a wide range of gun control issues rather dubious.

          21. if by “I’ll have to admit the poll was not quite as on point as I recalled, having read it several days earlier.” you mean that none of the questions on the two polls are comparable, then we can share a rare moment of agreement 😀

          22. No, seriously, different questions aside for a moment: Does that NRA poll of membership look to you, even the tiniest bit, like the group Bloomberg’s gang claim to have polled?

            Does it seem to you realistic that you can square the political fortunes of the gun control movement over the last twenty years, with even the general American population being as favorably disposed towards gun control as your poll claims NRA members are?

            Does all of this really pass a basic reality check?

          23. i’m sorry mr. bellmore, i’m not biting. it may be suggestive of the possibility you automatically infer but, in my opinion, the lines of questioning are too different to make such a sweepingly dogmatic inference as you do. the questions are too inconsistent from each other to do that.

          24. My “dogmatic” inference that the MAIG poll is utter BS isn’t based on that reality check, it’s based on BEING an NRA member, associating with them, and long experience dealing with gun controllers and their habitual mendacity.

            I understand that, as they’re your political allies, you’re sort of precluded from noticing that they’re the scum of the Earth, who lie whenever their lips are moving.

            I’m simply asking that you take that reality check as a reason to not dogmatically assume that their polll is accurate, but to instead question it. You really ought to, the American poltical landscape would look very different if those numbers were remotely accurate.

          25. your angry, hectoring tone does not improve your argument, sir.

            i live in texas, i can walk down the 6th grade hall in my school and talk to 5 nra members–2 of them life members. i have numerous cousins who are nra members. if anything, i probably live closer to the heart of nra country than you do. in my conversations with them, i have found very little opposition to closing the gun show loophole by requiring background checks on all purchases of firearms while simultaneously finding definitive opposition to gun registration and assault weapons bans. that’s why i have no reason to doubt that particular result on the luntz poll or those results on the nra poll. to put it another way, my intelligence guided by my experience gives me no reason to believe that the results on the two polls are dramatically, or even noticeably, inconsistent.

            one other thing, the luntz group primarily polls for the republican party and major corporations. they are no friends of mine.

          26. Ok, clearly you’re not inclined to draw any conclusions, or even be influenced a bit, by the fact that the one side gives all the methodological details of how they conducted their poll, and the other just a vague description. Or think there’s anything fishy about a poll claiming that what ought to be the most opposed to gun control segment of society is supportive of it, but gun control keeps losing political fights anyway. If only we could take away the NRA leadership’s diabolical mind control ray projector!

            As for me, one of my civil rights is under attack, yet again, by people who, prior to the election denied any interest in doing anything of the sort, and I think I’m quite justified in being angry.

            And in hectoring people who think not sharing methodology doesn’t impune a poll, and that Mayors Against Illegal Guns, (All of them if they have their way.) is better able to poll NRA members than the NRA.

            I’ve said it before: I like arguments, but I don’t think either side in this one is going to win over the other, we just start from too different of fundamental premises. Eventually one side is going to defeat the other, with the losing side pissed as hell, and then things may get really exciting, and I’m not really looking forward to that.

        3. let me boil this down to its essentials– neither poll has results that are out of line with my experiences of the opinions of actual members of the nra that i know. if your experiences of the opinions of nra members whom you know are at variance with the results of either poll then i can certainly understand your skepticism. if you could find a way to attribute my conclusions to the sum total of my experiences rather than assuming that i am somehow trolling you for malignant purposes i would appreciate the hell out of it.

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