All of today’s arguments against gun control

I’ve seen a lot of stupid arguments against gun control on Twitter and Facebook today. Just for fun, I’ve decided to collect them all together, with my responses, in one place. This is my handy-dandy “All of the arguments” synopsis of Gun Control from today’s event.

“If the guy had killed all those kids by driving a bus off a cliff, would you then argue for mandatory car pooling???”

No, but I would look at increasing the regulations and rules that determine who is allowed to drive school buses.

“In China this kind of thing happens all the time, but with knives and not guns!”

At least 18 children were killed by one person. Do you think he was a ninja? Do you think he was Jason Bourne? Crazy people with less powerful weapons can do less damage before they are stopped.

“This kind of thing never happened when I was a kid, but guns were around back then! What changed?”

Actually, gun-related deaths have been decreasing over time, just as gun ownership has been decreasing over time. The fact that you don’t remember high-profile events like this isn’t a counter-argument against actual statistics.

“If the teachers all had guns, they could have protected the kids better!”

Yes, when you have unexpected shots coming from an unknown source and lots and lots of children around, the best advice is for everyone to start shooting at anything they think looks suspicious. That makes sense.

You can’t blame the gun because the gun isn’t making a choice! It’s just a tool!

Nobody is talking about “blaming” the gun. The issue is preventing harm. You don’t start handing out nuclear weapons to people just because the nuclear weapons “don’t choose to hurt people”.

“Remember that one time in Tennessee when a shooter in a school was stopped because a teacher had a gun?”

One or two examples aren’t proof that something is good policy overall. As they say in commercials: “These results may not be typical.” Overwhelming statistics show that there are more innocent people killed by guns than there are “bad guys” killed by guns.

“It has nothing to do with gun laws. Americans are just violent people!”

There is no evidence of this. The fact that America has more gun violence isn’t evidence that Americans have a more violent disposition.

“People will always be able to get guns somehow! Gun laws can’t stop gun crimes!”

Just because a regulation doesn’t solve a problem completely, doesn’t mean it’s pointless. If a regulation is put in place that just makes it harder for criminals to get guns, and even if that prevents a percentage of gun-related murders, that’s still fewer total gun-related murders. That’s a success.

“Normal, freedom-loving people shouldn’t be inconvenienced because of the crazy acts of a few criminals.”

You don’t really believe this, right? Because you are fine with TSA scanning people at airports. You may even be fine with forcing everyone to get a photo ID to vote. Isn’t that inconveniencing lots of innocent people for the crimes of a few?

“Why should I be punished for other people’s criminal acts?”

Which gun regulation, specifically, is a punishment for you? Are you being punished if you have to wait (for example) 6 months to get a hunting rifle? Why is that punishment? If you know hunting season is coming up, just plan ahead. There are a lot of regulations that we could have in place, that we don’t currently have in place, that don’t fall anywhere near “punishing” people who legitimately want a gun.

“If you make all guns illegal, only criminals will have guns!”

Nobody is talking about making all guns illegal. But making it more difficult to get guns will deter some people from getting guns. Making people wait longer to get a gun means that some crimes of passion won’t happen, because the emotions will have cooled off. Mandatory background checks will mean some criminals will have a harder time getting a gun. Of course there are those who will “do it anyway” and “find a way no matter what”, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t that gray area, in between, of people who will be deterred by tighter restrictions. And even if only some people are deterred, that means fewer gun deaths. That is a success.


Connecticut School Shooting

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  1. Gail says:

    This is the most well thought out response I’ve heard to this horrific act. We not only need to address the gun laws, we need to address the issue of young people (and most of these shooters have been young) reaching this terrible point in their lives. What can we do about that? There is violence all around us – on television, in the movies, in video games. Do they get to the place where they can’t tell what’s real and what’s a television show and they think playing “the Terminator’ would be fun?

  2. Niles Chandler says:

    Yeah, I think “the experts” would concur that it’s pretty unusual for someone to wield a knife against a whole group of people.

    For one thing, the investigators on, say, “Law and Order” (and everybody trusts their judgment, right?), would tell you that multiple stab wounds to one person, with no robbery involved, generally indicates a “crime of passion”– the perp had some violent anger toward that specific victim, rooted in some very personal feeling of betrayal,. By contrast, it’s hard for someone to summon up that amount of visceral physical rage against a whole group of individuals he doesn’t personally know. Carrying it out would require him to translate that rage into aggressive muscular physical action, again and again.

    And because it’s so up-close and personal and dependent on his physical ability, some of the people might be able to interfere with the jabbing or downward slashing motion of his arm, perhaps getting the knife away and maybe even turning it back on him.

    By contrast, the gun is essentially an extremely powerful machine… and when you put it in the hand of the shooter, it becomes a physical extension of him (as McLuhan might say), so in his mind HE becomes an extremely powerful machine– and machines don’t have to care about other people’s emotions or suffering… or their own.

    Yet, in the case of this school shooting, it wasn’t EXTREMELY “distant and anonymized” (not like setting off a bomb when one is outside the building): if early reports are correct (admittedly a big “if”), he shot most of the children at near-point-blank range. That would give him one thing he wanted, up-close evidence of his personal power– but at the same time, having “become the gun”, having “become” a machine, he didn’t have to feel any guilt about the carnage and horror right in front of him (or so he hoped). In his mind, he, like the gun in his hand, was now a cold, cool, impersonal killing tool, and that “invincibility” was supposed to block out his awareness of his own personal weaknesses, fears, emotional pain, and vulnerability. That’s the appeal of the gun, right there. Dirty Harry can stand back a few feet from his victim, point his big long barrel, and pretend to be a stern, judgmental god.

    (In the end, though, it probably didn’t accomplish that for the school shooter, or only for a few minutes, which may be why he shot himself. The “high” didn’t last, he wasn’t able to escape from himself, the cold reality of his crime was sinking in, and he couldn’t take it.)

    To anyone out there who thinks this is all irrelevant psychobabble, I’ll say this: Why would you think it’s unnecessary to understand what motivates people to commit these heinous acts? Don’t you see that the only way to prevent it from happening again is to figure out what’s in the perpetrator’s mind? You have to know your enemy in order to defeat him. You have to take the time and effort to figure out what drives him, why these acts appeal to him. So it’s not fair that we should have to do that? Too bad. That’s the reality.

  3. Niles Chandler says:

    The argument that “If he didn’t have a gun, he still would have done it, using a knife, or a bomb, or whatever” doesn’t hold water. “There are many ways to kill a lot of people” doesn’t apply here. People who say that are missing the whole point. Even if he COULD have killed so many people so fast with a knife (or “driving a bus off a cliff”), he wouldn’t have tried, since that kind of killing wouldn’t have given him what he wanted.

    Stop and think. Why did this guy– and these shooters are almost invariably male– why did he do it? (Those who respond “I don’t CARE why!” are saying they are not interested in preventing more of these mass murders. “Oh, he was just crazy” is another cop-out.)

    “Well, obviously, he did it because he wanted to kill a lot of people.”

    Nope. That is not the reason.

    He did it because he wanted to kill a lot of people IN THAT EXACT WAY– with a gun in his hand, hoping to achieve a pathetic feeling of “omnipotence” (dare we say potency?) from being able to blow someone away at every pull of his trigger– BLAM, BLAM, BLAM, take THAT!

    Remember the failed graduate student who shot up the movie theater? He was a science whiz. He could easily have devised and built a bomb that would have killed everyone in the building or even more. That kind of scientific “accomplishment” would have fed his damaged professional ego, too. But no. He chose to strap on a bunch of guns and go shooting– because the shooting was the whole point. That specific method is inseparable from the act itself. For these guys, only The Gun will give them the feeling they want: the feeling of supreme one-on-one power. BLAM, BLAM, BLAM! That’s the motivation that drives them.

    Does it have anything to do with the gunman attempting to make up for his lack of “potency” (physical or otherwise) by pulling out a phallic symbol and firing it at anyone he chooses? Maybe, maybe not, but nobody should simply scoff at that idea and push it aside– not if they sincerely want to figure out why these shootings keep happening. The shooters almost always ARE male, and people who dismiss that fact as unimportant are trying to hide from something they don’t want to know– even if they’re not sure what it is.

    In any case, even if these mass murderers “could find some other way to do it,” they DON’T. The gun is what they WANT to use. It’s what made the whole idea so attractive to them in the first place.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      I agree with this… and although I’ll admit that it’s always a little iffy to engage in speculative arm-chair psychology, I think that as long as people are speculating about “what is going on in the mind the murderer” anyway, it makes sense to be a little more realistic about it — just as you’ve talked about, here.

      Along the same lines, I’ve always suspected that many of the types of people who would open fire on a crowd of innocent people (whether movie-goers or school children or whoever) are out-and-out cowards. If they actually had to perform murders one-by-one, with their own hands (say, for example, with a knife) they’d never do it. It’s only appealing to do it with a gun because it’s distant and anonymized when you are shooting a gun. You aren’t dealing with a human’s blood being LITERALLY on your hands.