Recent arguments for gun control: irrational and ignorant

Since the well-publicized and heinous mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary and at a movie theater in Aurora, we have been bombarded with calls for all sorts of gun control measures, false characterizations and lies about guns, gun owners and so-called “Second Amendment supporters.” These arguments propagated for gun control often contain childish logic, irrational motivation, or are based in ignorance of the facts at hand.

The suddenly vogue term ‘assault weapon’ is a misnomer, and its use obfuscates the debate over the proper legislative action needed to a crippling degree. A true assault weapon is a fully-automatic, military issue weapon. They are and have been illegal for a number of years. ‘Assault weapon’ is a nonsense term often used to describe semi-automatic weapons with a removable clip and/or features similar to a true assault rifle. The features similar to include (but are not limited to) folding stocks, pistol grips, flash suppressors, or bayonets. The difference between a legal AR-15 and an illegal (under proposed assault weapons bans) AR-15 would have made absolutely no difference in the lethality of the weapon used in Sandy Hook or Colorado.

The reality is that the “assault weapons” ban as proposed would not have prevented carnage at any of the recent mass shootings.  Even if AR-15’s were completely banned, the shooters could have very well used other weapons – the Sandy Hook shooter also had two high-powered pistols and a shotgun with him. The argument that the assault weapons ban is “for the kids” is a ludicrous and offensive evocation of the memories the deceased.

Assault weapons that are legally obtained are almost never used in the commission of crime or homicide. According to reports by the CDC, legally obtained firearms of any kind are almost never used. Of all gun deaths, close to 66% are suicides. Of the remaining 33 percent, 80 percent are gang related. The claim that we have a ‘gun problem’ in this country is a childish one, because it simply sees the gun deaths and evokes a knee-jerk reaction.

Instead, all we hear are emotional calls to ‘end the gun violence’ and ‘save the children’ by banning assault weapons or limiting clip size. (What people forget is the Tucson shooter was thwarted when he attempted to replace his extended magazine in his PISTOL and was unable to do so quickly because they are unwieldy and difficult to operate, especially under pressure.)

What we have is a severe gang violence and mental health issue in this country. Blaming guns is again a simplistic argument that falters under scrutiny. By all accounts, the UK is somewhat similar country to the United States, except that guns are for the most part non-existent. The UK has a paltry number of gun deaths per year. However, they also have a shockingly high number of violent crimes – rapes, beatings, robberies —  a higher rate than the US (and significantly higher than in will-issue, concealed-carry States). Their violent crime rate is so high that Great Britain was named the most violent nation in the EU, by the EU! Violent crime spiked after the gun ban went into effect – so sure they have very few gun deaths, but one must ask, is it worth the jump in rape, beatings, and armed robbery that is going to result?

While the Obama Administration lays blame for gun deaths at the feet of lawful gun owners, they themselves have stoked the flames of the gang homicide problem. The same administration that sold firearms (that would be illegal firearms under the proposed assault weapons ban) in operation “Fast and Furious” to drug traffickers – those that commit a bulk of gun murders in this country – is telling law-abiding citizens who don’t commit crimes that they should not have access to the same weapons being sold to criminals. The same Administration which has said “weapons of war have no place on our streets,” is watching as tanks and other weapons of war are sold to the police and other Executive agencies.

In his remarks on the White House’s proposal to combat gun violence, President Obama said, “If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there’s even one life that can be saved, we’ve got an obligation to try.” This statement comes in the wake of the death of hundreds of innocent civilians, including two American citizens, one of whom was a teenager. We hear these calls for banning the weaponry available to law abiding American citizens, because it could save one life, but the Obama Administration says that the killing of an American teenager was OK because he had an irresponsible father? Hypocrisy at the least.

The recent string of mass shootings indicates a crisis of mental health and law enforcement. Statistically, the high number of gun murders is directly attributable to illegally-obtained firearms. As such, none of the proposed legislative efforts – the assault weapons ban, magazine limits, gun show loopholes – will have any palpable effect on the issues at hand. Rather than simply reducing the number of firearms in circulation, we need to create laws which maximize safe ownership and limit illegal or dangerous gun ownership. I believe the solution lies in strengthening our mental health system, allowing for those with certain mental conditions to be reported to the background check system, creating a quasi-private but legally-binding gun sale system.

Don’t conflate our mental health and gang-related gun problems with gun ownership. And also do not stand on the graves of the victims to gain moral high ground. Such posturing is hypocritical and makes reasonable discussion impossible.

2 Responses

  1. Joost Ziff says:

    I’ll disclaim everything I say with the fact that I am but a mere philosophy major, so I have no idea whether my political analysis is correct. That being said, I would like to point you to this article: http://blog.skepticallibertarian.com/2013/01/12/fact-checking-ben-swann-is-the-uk-really-5-times-more-violent-than-the-us/

    I have no idea whether these statistics and the analysis of them are true but in any case I think it shows that comparing the UK to the US is not quite that simple.

    I do agree I think with you that the assault weapon ban might be a bit arbitrary when it comes to the real issues of gun violence, but I think your proclivity to make it a ‘criminal’ vs ‘honest citizen’ way of looking at it is insufficient. I think (and you are free to disagree) that since criminality is partly caused by large structural issues by poverty and lack of education. I think targeted government funded social programs would go a long way to helping those issues.

    But this ignores the fact that although violence in the U.S. is falling that the U.S. is still a weirdly violent place for a first world country. Instead of comparing the U.S. with the U.K., a country with its own silly structural problems, how about comparing it to the Scandinavian countries (plus maybe my home country the Netherlands)? These countries run like butter I think partly because of their strong social programs. There is no need to go in an arms race with criminals in these countries partly because the crime rates are so low, yet this is precisely the kind of argument you go for in the U.S. Isn’t that a little fucked up? A citizenry should in a first world country not feel the need to purchase guns just to feel safe.

    Look, I am not under the illusion that outlawing or restricting guns will necessarily solve the U.S.’s violence problem, but I find it unfortunate that guns are so linked with enabling ‘freedom’ in this country. It seems a little, how can I put it nicely, wild. There are plenty of first world countries that are free ‘enough’ to not require gun ownership to maintain that state. It’s just sad that the U.S. feels it cannot do without guns (as the 2nd amendment seems to say), especially since it apparently increases the suicide rate by quite a bit (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/gun-ownership-and-use/). The U.S. is one of greatest countries to have ever existed, if not the greatest (and I really mean that). Culturally, economically and scientifically it holds complete control (for better, in most cases). Why can’t it seem to fix its own structural issues?

  2. Your support involving the UK is very misleading.

    1) What is considered violent crime for the UK is not the same as what is considered violent crime for the US. So, you are comparing apples to oranges.

    “The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports defines a “violent crime” as one of four specific offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The British Home Office, by contrast, has a substantially different definition of violent crime. The British definition includes all “crimes against the person,” including simple assaults, all robberies, and all “sexual offenses,” as opposed to the FBI, which only counts aggravated assaults and “forcible rapes.”

    http://blog.skepticallibertarian.com/2013/01/12/fact-checking-ben-swann-is-the-uk-really-5-times-more-violent-than-the-us/ and references therein

    2) If you actually look at the full set of data from the Crime Survey of England and Wales, instead of citing a 12 year old article from a British tabloid (even Wikipedia discourages citing the Daily Mail; I would hope a college newspaper like The Clerk encourages its writers to avoid dubious sources), both violent crime and all crime peaked in 1995, before the Firearms Act of 1997 (the nearly-universal ban on privately owned handguns in the UK) was passed. Since 1995, incidents of violent/all crime have been steadily falling.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2013/feb/07/crime-statistics-england-wales-violent-sexual-offences

    3) According to the non-partisan Annenberg Public Policy Center / Factcheck.org, there is NO causal relationship between handgun ownership and the murder rate. They appear to be correlated, but it’s not possible to statistically prove cause-effect. Your suggestion otherwise is spurious.

    http://www.factcheck.org/2008/03/violent-crimes-and-handgun-ownership/

    There are plenty of reasonable and well-supported arguments to make against these bills without resorting to poorly-sourced data and belittling supporters by calling them childish and ignorant.

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