Gun Violence: Rebutting Arguments Against Gun Control

News yesterday about yet another shooting at a Highschool, this one in Troutdale Oregon outside of Portland.  But this is just the latest one that we have heard about.  I began checking to see how many shootings have occurred since the Santa Barbara shooting on May 23rd, only a few weeks ago.  What I found was frightening.  The Hartford Currant in CT in the last few days alone report on six shootings.  Another six shootings in Columbus, Ohio.  111 gunshot victims in Philadelphia for the month of May, down from the total in May a year ago. And the New York Times devoted 43 paragraphs detailing shootings from around the country for the weekend of May 30- June 1st.  Each paragraph mentioning three or four incidents  of gun violence from just one weekend.  This article closes with this quote:  According to the Gun Violence Archive7,816 people have been injured by gun violence in America and 4,460 have been killed since Jan. 1, 2014. That number includes 16 police officers killed, 496 children injured or killed and 368 instances of defensive gun use. This is only through June 1st.

I am writing this on June 11th and so many senseless deaths have occurred within the first two weeks of June.  Gun Violence Archive as of June 9th, list an additional 312 deaths from the date of the New York Times story.     Gun violence archive

The question that this butcher sheet asks is how many deaths by gun violence is going to be considered enough that will cause our people to act to reduce these senseless killings. There are multiple arguments that I have heard and frankly they do not make sense to me.  Here are a few of these arguments, do they make sense to you?  The site Listverse attempts to list ten arguments against gun control. I am using another site which takes the listverse arguments and words them in a way to make some simple sense. Here they are with my rebuttal:

10.  There’s still murder in countries where handguns are banned.  This argument attempts to say that because other countries have banned guns and still have murders that we should not ban guns in the USA.  In 2013 the homicide rate in the UK for the entire year was 653.  These deaths are tragic, I won’t deny it.  But we are going to have over 5,000 deaths by gun violence before the end of June this year alone.  Should we not attempt to cut down the number of senseless deaths even if we won’t be able to reduce it to zero?  What this argument is stating is that a life is not worth saving unless we are able to save all lives.  So we shouldn’t even try.  This is not a rational argument.

9. Limiting assault rifles limits your Second Amendment rights. This argument attempts to say if we limit the type of guns that can be owned or limit  the number of rounds an automatic rifle can hold that this is a step towards taking away all of our amendment rights.  It is a slippery slope argument. Slippery slope arguments use the extreme hypothetical scenario to divert attention away from the argument to the hypothetical which cannot be proved to be true.

8.The Second Amendment is not intended for just ordinary home defense.  This argument is a more extreme example of the slippery slope argument. Should the USA military be defeated say by nuclear holocaust and the US overrun by a foreign power, the citizens of the US would be able to rise up and save the day.  It is nonsensical because our fear has already made sure that our military is the superior military in the world, outspending the next eight largest foreign militaries combined; six of whom are considered strong allies. If nuclear holocaust defeats the US, the time we have left will be against each other not some foreign power.  Humans are instinctual animals when frightened to death.  I find that this argument forgets that the opening phrase of the second amendment is about “a well regulated militia being necessary;” individuals having automatic rifles does not a well regulated militia make.

7. Armed civilians help take out the bad guys.  This argument seizes upon one incident of a mass shooting in Austin, TX in 1966 where students grabbed their rifles and were shooting at the sniper along side of the police force. Allegedly the police thanked the students for their assistance.  Vigilantes are not generally helpful to the police force.  The Aurora Colorado Movie Theater shooting would have been far far worse if a civilian in the theater carrying a gun was to begin shooting at the sniper.  More lives would have been lost.  Civilians are not trained in dealing with the full range of issues that a shooting of this magnitude creates.  The police in Austin in 1966 were lucky that innocent lives were not lost because of civilians taking up firearms.  This is not an acceptable solution as it increases the risk of harm to all involved.

6. Shooters will get access to a gun, even with strict gun laws in place. This argument follows the same illogical argument as number 10 above.  The example is that of a highschool student in Germany, where there are strict gun laws, he stole his father’s gun which was not locked away as required by law and used it to kill 15 people.  Yes, tragic case. But the argument is looking at a specific case and extrapolating it to an entire country.  Making gun access harder does in deed reduce gun deaths.  This is fact.  Does it reduce to zero?  No.  But again, should we not limit access because there will be the possibility of a parent not locking their guns away and their child getting it and shooting others?  Makes no sense.  What is a life worth?  How many of the 4,772 deaths that have occurred this year alone could have been avoided if easy access to guns did not exist?  Are we really needing to talk about the value of human life?

5. Gun rights will protect you from a police state.  This slippery slope argument feeds off the “most Americans” do not trust their government paranoia.  “They arm themselves for the possibility of government agents taking away their rights one by one until they live in a police state in which the government is able to do anything it wants because the civilian populace is unarmed and cannot resist. In these terms, any gun control is viewed as a threat to liberty, and though the Constitution guarantees rights, it does not enforce anything. Guns do.”   Have you been within a 100 miles of  border of the US and Mexico?  We already have a police state and the gun toting are right there behind its formation.

4. Rampage shooters like soft targets. This argument suggests that because shooters target places where the probability of there being armed people is low that we should increase the likelihood of people carrying guns being present. They state that shooters are not targeting banks to have their rampage because banks are well armed, but they seem to forget that gun violence at banks happen.  They mention a school in Amarillo, TX where every employee is carrying a gun.  It does not mean that a shooting will never happen there, it does increase the likelihood of turning Amarillo into the OK Corral with a blaze of shots being fired from all sides should a shooting occur.  The deterrence argument is false.  It does not prevent–armed bank robberies are the proof of that.

3. Prohibition didn’t stop alcohol… gun control won’t stop guns. uhm this is silly.  First off,  no one in the US is talking prohibition of guns.  There is no movement to repeal the 2nd amendment or any portion thereof. So this is not a parallel argument. This is a better argument for legalizing marijuana and other street drugs because prohibition of these substances have not stopped the use of recreational drugs. Gun control is not out to stop the existence of guns but to reduce gun violence.  This again is the all or nothing argument that is simply fallacious.

2. Laws don’t apply to criminals.  This is a restatement of number 6 and number 10.  This is the refrain if guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns is nonsense.  Unless you consider our Police and State Troopers, our National Guard, the FBI/CIA/ NSA and our Military to be among the outlaws that will have guns.  It also claims that if someone wanted to find a gun to kill people, they will find one. Okay.  So why should we make it easy for them to find a gun?  The Newtown shooter had easy access to guns, multiple guns.  The example of the German teen above had easy access to guns.  The recent shooting in California, he had easy access to guns.  There seems to be a constant refrain that if we cannot eliminate to absolute zero all gun deaths then we should do nothing.  This is simply irrational thinking of the anti-gun control lobbyists.

1. The world isn’t perfect…   There are already too many guns in the US and therefore we cannot ever, ever control their use?  This is the creme de la creme argument against gun control and is the most nonsensical.  The world  isn’t perfect. Society will never be perfect.  There will always be injustices against people.  There will always be laws that seem unfair.  Should I then surrender to the fates and forego creating a better world for those who come after me?  Is this the way we are to live?  In despair, in fear because we in the US have not been able to figure out how to reduce gun violence to the levels of other civilized industrialized nations in the world?  Really?  This is your bottom line argument, the world isn’t perfect.  So let’s just have everything continue on as it is?

These are headlined as the ten most powerful arguments against gun control. They have to do better than that to convince me that gun control measures are a bad idea.

There is one argument that wasn’t mentioned above. Perhaps because the writers knew it was too silly of an argument but it is one I hear constantly in the south.   The refrain is guns do not kill people, people kill people. A gun lying on a table has no self agency to do much of anything so to make this statement assumes that guns are sentient and self-directed entities. So of course, A gun  is not going to kill someone without someone picking it up and firing it.  But if the gun was not there, that someone would not have access.

I grew up with guns.  My father was a hunter and he had a permit to carry which he did.  He was a life member of the NRA.  He made his own bullets.  I am not opposed to gun ownership.  I simply do not believe that they are necessary for living a quality life in the 21st century.

And I certainly do not believe there is any reason to own an automatic or semi-automatic rifle.  The only purpose these guns have is mass shootings of people–warfare.  And perhaps useful in a zombie apocalypse–which last I knew was complete fantasy of fiction.  Those who insist to carry them are committing themselves to a premeditation to kill people. I cannot find myself around that thought.  And it saddens me that people are that afraid of their neighbors that they have to have a gun in their possession.

The issue of gun violence is a multilayered and complex issue.  We cannot simply point a finger at any one layer and say this is what needs to be done.  Yes, there are mental health issues of the shooters.  Yes, there are gun access issues.  Yes, there are misogyny issues rampant in society. All of these need to be examined and addressed.

To add one more layer we need to address the issue; we also need to learn how to communicate with one another.  We need to learn non-violent communication skills which includes skills on how to deescalate situations even those that have not yet progressed to being physically combative.  This is an emotional maturity that I find increasingly lacking in our culture today.  Emotional maturity was once taught in our congregations as part of faith development and spiritual maturity.  We need to begin offering ways to help people mature so they can reach towards their full potential.  We tend to reach for the quick and dirty solutions which unfortunately result in  horrendous consequences. The real solution will require a cultural change that is mature in its dealing with relational issues.  May we be willing to begin this work.

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4 Comments

  1. The problem with this article is your use of the term “gun control” as if that was a known, well defined term. One reason that gun owners- nearly all of whom want quite a few “gun control” measures- and “gun control” activists can’t get together is that so often the “reasonable gun control measures” turn out to be things that will outlaw even revolvers and bolt-action rifles. (This is not an exaggeration) Whether this happens because people misused technical terms in ignorance, or whether the “mistake” was a deliberate one as feared by many gun owners, it is no longer possible to discuss “gun control” in general terms- one must be specific about what one is proposing.

    Response: I think definition of terms is a valid criticism. The list I am rebutting also uses the term generically so it is difficult to know what that writer defines as gun control. I have not read anyone define “gun control” in strict operative terms, so my use of the term is more of the same. However, in several of the last paragraphs I imply my definition of gun control, yet I agree I did not explicitly state it as my definition of the term. I do not know what gun owners you are talking to ascertain the claim that “nearly all of whom want quite a few ‘gun control’ measures.” The gun owners I speak with bristle at the thought of regulations like increased waiting periods, more scrutiny in background checks, and banning automatic weapons–none of which would result in outlawing revolvers and bolt-action rifles. And I do not agree with your claim that “the reasonable gun control measures” will result in outlawing all guns. There simply is no evidence that I have found for such a claim other than the unwarranted fear that it would.

  2. This is spot on Fred. The other argument I hear all the time…”you can use a car to kill people are we going to outlaw all cars” drives me up a wall. I don’t think I can ever understand the logic of this level of fear.

    • I never said “… “the reasonable gun control measures” will result in outlawing all guns.”- are you confusing me with another? But your own reply includes the kind of loose language that scares gun owners. You speak of “banning automatic weapons”- automatic weapons have been banned since 1934, with that ban being strengthened twice since. If you meant to say “banning SEMI-automatic weapons- the only thing that would have made sense in context- then you’re speaking of banning more than half of all firearms made in the last 100 years. The newest New York gun control law had to be modified because of misusing terms- for example, it outlawed “clips” of more than seven rounds, which would indeed have outlawed many types of revolvers that have 8-12 round cylinders, and use “Moon clips”; it outlawed guns capable of accepting magazines of more than 8 rounds- which is every firearm ever made with detachable magazines, including the bolt action target rifle I tried out for the Olympics with.

      As to your other proposals, well, the recent California shooter that was the impetus for the current round of blog posts and essays had purchased his guns six month ago- how long a waiting period had you had in mind? He passed three background checks- how much more scrutiny did you have in mind?

      You wrote and I quote: “so often the ‘reasonable gun control measures’ turn out to be things that will outlaw even revolvers and bolt-action rifles. (This is not an exaggeration).” That to me reads that ‘reasonable gun control measures’ will result in banning all guns. It might not be what you meant, but that is how I read it. I still agree with your first comment that there is no definitive definition of the term gun control. We seem unable to define what we are talking about between the two of us. In Alabama where I live there are no waiting periods for purchase of a firearm. If I desired a gun I could have one within the hour. And we have had more than our share of mass shootings over the last several decades, including one in Tuscaloosa a few years ago. Regarding the specific situation in California, the background check apparently did not examine closely enough the mental health issues–of course there is the additional concern that his therapist was convinced he was not a threat. It is a complicated multi-layered issue. The difficulty includes the desire to fix the nitty gritty specifics of each episode which cannot be done. This issue is not a technical problem it is an adaptive one–of which a complete cultural shift is required. How about we begin with teaching to honor the life of each person?

  3. I applaud your intentions, but I think more suffering would result from the state’s attempt to place further limitations on gun ownership, excluding any efforts intended to keep certain of the mentally ill from owning them.

    In defending and promoting your view, you should incorporate figures indicating the frequency at which people use firearms for self defense, rather than only focusing on the criminal use of firearms. Doing so would be more fair and could strengthen your argument.

    Any attempts by the state to further restrict firearm ownership surely would be met with violent resistance, and the amount of guns (even of the sort you object to), already among the population is so vast that the state probably would have to implement extremely intrusive, costly and ultimately unsuccessful measures to try to get them off the streets.

    When police contemplate entering someone’s property for whatever reason — even if it’s just a welfare check — they take into account the possibility that the resident or property owner is armed. To me, this is a healthy thing. It is good that arned officers of the state have to reckon with an armed citizenry, as the state through its military and police cause much more suffering than lone criminals, even more than those who committ mass shootings. There must be checks on state power, and a well-arned citizenry is just one such check.
    The state is hardly making more ethical use of seni-automatic firearms than citizens. At home and abroad, armed officers and soldiers of the state have been causing much suffering. If you want to focus on reducing gun violence, find a way to make the state less violent.


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