Today the Obama administration is going to unveil its gun control proposal, and I think I may have to leave Facebook because of it, because I simply don’t think I can take anymore of the stupidity that’s currently plastered over my Wall (or whatever the hell we call it nowadays) over the gun debate that’s raged since the tragedy at Sandy Hook.
So as a benefit to those of you out there rushing to post your favorite gun-meme in response to it, please take a moment and consider not doing it, lest you inadvertently give one of the following…
10 Stupidest Arguments About Gun Control
…presented in no particular order.
10. “Ban all the semiautomatic guns! Who but a sociopath needs them?”
Not only is gun ownership a critical part of our national history that is specifically protected in our Constitution, but there are millions of Americans who are responsible gun owners, who keep their weapons locked and away from others, who use them for hunting to procure food or for recreational sport (such as sharpshooting or skeet shooting). And semiautomatic guns* – the ones that, loosely speaking, fire a single bullet with each pull of the trigger – are pretty much the norm for modern firearms. Gun owners – even the ones with semiautomatic ones – are not necessarily Guns-n-Ammo-readin’, Confederacy-missin’ misanthropes, and it’s a weak position for liberals to paint most of them as such.
On the other hand, for all the actual Guns-n-Ammo-readin’, Confederacy-missin’ misanthropes out there… NO ONE IS COMING TO TAKE ALL YOURS GUNS AWAY! Put your snake flag and your “Obama is a Kenyan Muslim” sign away and stop hyperventilating about it, okay? It ain’t gonna happen.
* I haven’t heard a defense of fully automatic weapons that I’ve ever found compelling, though, and am personally in favor of re-instating the ban on them. Arguments that the previous ban was ineffective, even if justified, do not necessarily mean the law itself was wrong.
9. “We don’t need gun laws. Criminals will always be able to get guns.”
By that same logic, we don’t need speed limits, because speeders will always speed; we don’t need property protection since thieves will always steal; we don’t need laws because bad people will always break them. Fantastic… you’ve just advocated anarchy.
Since you’ve apparently missed the entire point, let me clarify it for you: the purpose of laws is to codify the acceptable/required actions of society, and to detail the societal consequences for violating them. They describe how a society is supposed to behave, and provides the needed institutions for dealing with those outliers who refuse to do so.
But more practically, while no suite of laws will stop the determined sociopath from hurting society, a collection of good and enforceable laws make it (1) less likely the Average Joe will harm society and (2) make it increasingly difficult for the Misaligned Joe to purposefully do so. Some drunks will always get behind the wheel of their car… but three decades of ever-improving laws regarding drinking, driving, and public education about the two have made us all significantly less likely to be the victim of drunk driving.
8. “We don’t need new gun laws. We need to enforce the laws we already have.”
This is a false dichotomy: it’s not one or the other. We certainly need to be more vigilant in enforcing gun laws that are already on the books, but that by no means precludes the consideration of beefing up those laws or enacting new laws that address new concerns, such as closing the notorious “gun show loophole,” mental and/or physical testing as a pre-requisitie to gun ownership, or banning public access to high-capacity magazines.
7. “We don’t need new gun laws because you don’t know the difference between [ automatic / semiautomatic ] or [ clip / magazine ] or [ bullet / cartridge ].”
If your point is that people need to be better educated in the mechanics and language of guns in order to draft effective gun legislation, then I agree that that’s a completely reasonable – nay, requisite – position to have, and kudos to you. Help educate them.
If instead you have no interest in clarifying such distinctions to those ‘Murica-hatin’ liburels, then shut the hell up. Deliberately declining to address the content of an argument by nitpicking semantic gaffes does not demonstrate your superior knowledge of the subject (thereby adding weight to your opinion). Instead, it demonstrates only a complete lack of basic comprehension on your part, and makes your opinion all the easier to ignore.
6. “We don’t need gun laws because… SECOND AMENDMENT!”
The Second Amendment reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Like all Amendments – including the First (arguably more important to a free democracy) – it is not a carte blanche to be writ out in any terms, but a right with restrictions. Even conservative and pro-gun Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who has comically argued that the Framer’s original intent would have allowed citizens access to hand-held rocket-propelled grenade launcher had they existed in the 1700s, agrees: he is on record as saying that Amendment 2 wouldn’t allow you to walk down the street carrying a “head axe.”
On the same topic, unless you’re a Constitutional scholar, keep your theories about original intent to yourself. Anti-gun folks: your arguments that the right to bear arms should only be construed as allowing folks to carry around muskets – not semiautomatic handguns – makes as much sense as saying that the right to free press should only apply to block printing-presses, but not anything printed on a laser printer or on a computer screen.
Pro-gun folks: your argument that the original intent of the Amendment is to ensure citizens are armed against a tyrannical government, and therefore allows citizens to own any weapon needed to fight such tyranny, runs into similar problems. First, the amendment itself is clear that the right to bear arms is connected to maintaining a well-regulated militia, which implies that state governments have the right to decide what weapons may be used and who gets to use them. Second, and more to the point of the Constitution itself, laws written and agreed upon by both houses of Congress, signed into law and enacted by a duly elected President, and upheld as Constitutional by the Supreme Court — yes, even the ones that take away some of Bubba’s prized killin’ guns — are not the acts of a tyrannical government. They’re the acts of a functioning democratic republic. The only thing such laws would be evidence of is how far afield your views were from those of your fellow citizens.
5. “We don’t need guns laws because… HITLER!”
Seriously, if you’re going to quote-mine or photobomb Hitler (or Stalin or Mao or whoever), you’ve lost the argument. It’s reductio ad Hitlerum, and it’s an ad hominem fallacy: asserting that just because a opinion is held by a bad person, the opinion must therefore be bad. Hitler also said “Tell the truth and fear no one;” should we therefore conclude that telling the truth – you know, the Ninth Commandement – is a bad idea?
4. “We don’t need gun laws because… CONSPIRACY!”
Discrepancies in eye-witness details, inconsistencies in initial reports, and grainy photos of people who vaguely look similar are not proof of a conspiracy… they’re facts of life. Sandy Hook was an inconceivable tragedy, not some re-enactment of Watchmen. The idea that Sandy Hook was faked or staged is not only absurd on the face of all rational thought – Occam’s Razor is not the thing you use to cut out your tinfoil hats – but an insult to its victims and heroes.
But even if – and there’s nothing to even remotely support this “if” – even if this shooting was a conspiracy orchestrated by a cabal of insidious operatives bent on destroying the Second Amendment (because that sure sounds like a reasonable conclusion to draw from the facts)… So. What?
Unless your argument is that every single one of the sadly routine mass-shootings in recent U.S. history has also been a part of this cover-up, then the problem of public safety and gun control is still an issue that warrants being addressed.
3. “Knives/bats/hammers/cars kill more people than guns! Why all the hate over guns?”
This is almost certainly true, but the only reason to bring this up is to derail the conversation by deliberately shifting the focus off the matter at hand. Knives and bats and hammers and cars are specifically designed for other purposes, and become weapons only by the intent of their users; guns are quite specifically weapons, and are designed quite specifically to kill (or at least seriously fuck up) a living thing.
More to the point, on the very same day as the Sandy Hook massacre, half a world away in China, a man went into a school armed with a knife and stabbed 22 children and a teacher. Do you know how many people died as a result of the attack?
That’s why there’s concern about guns. The next time a guy walks into a crowded movie theater or school armed with a bag of hammers and proceeds to kill several dozen people with them, I will be glad to consider hammer control legislation as well.
2. “We need more guns, not less guns. An armed society is a safe society.”
Internationally speaking, this is easily verifiable as being false. In 1996, after a 35-person gun rampage in Tasmania, Australia enacted some of the strictest gun laws in the world. Since 1996, there have been no mass shootings since, and the gun homicide rate in the country is 1 murder per 1,000,000 people; the rate in the US is 32 times higher. Similar findings hold in Britain, in Canada, in Japan, and so on*.
* There is a counterargument: Switzerland is one of the safest countries on Earth, and yet has one of the highest gun ownership rates on the planet. However, Switzerland also has mandatory state-sponsored militia service and training: the average Swiss citizen has been rigorously trained in the safe and effective use of handguns, and the weapons they carry are in fact most likely loaners from the government as part of their military service. Moreover, Swiss citizens can only carry weapons outside if they have a state-issued permit, which are typically only given to citizens currently in the military, military training, or a security occupation.
More tellingly, research in the United States from the CDC (or rather, its NCICP subgroup) as to whether more-armed communities are safer than less-armed ones, or measuring the benefit-risk ratio of having guns in the home or on the street have been all but blocked by the NRA since the mid-1990s.
* Also, as an aside, the quote “an armed society is a polite society,” so beloved of NRA officials and gun-toting types, is taken from Robert Heinlein’s 1942 novel Beyond This Horizon, in which the “polite society” in question consists of genetically -culled supermen who practice eugenics and solve all their social issues by dueling to the death. Yeah, that‘s a society worth emulating… but now I’m treading dangerously close to reductio ad Hitlerum.
1. “The only thing to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
This is usually followed up by stories (THAT THE “MAINSTREAM” MEDIA DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW, of course) of average Joes or Janes who, upon witnessing a gunman entering a populated place, proceeds to shoot the gunman and save the day. Except that they’re never average Joes and Janes. They’re off-duty police officers or security guards. They’re people who have been trained and instructed – and regularly evaluated even – in the use of firearms. A more correct statement would replace “a good guy with a gun” with “a guy good with a gun,” and those are emphatically not the same thing.
A similar sentiment is the statement that “If there had been just one more person with a gun there, then maybe the massacre wouldn’t have happen.” This hypothetical might me true, but it fails to take into account the unarguable fact that “If there had been exactly one less person with a gun there, then the massacre wouldn’t have happened at all.”
So please, express your opinion on the gun debate… just don’t be a face-palming moron when you do.
I just finished catching up on old Daily Show episodes, and the January 8 episode is perfect for this topic.