I can’t think of a more divisive subject in recent American discourse than the so-called “gun control debate”. First, it’s not a debate. It’s an extremely emotionally-charged subject and rational discussion tends to get drowned in the politics and blame-assignment. There can be no debate without rational thought and discourse. And this lack of rational discourse is completely understandable as rational thought is likely the last thing in the minds of victims and their families. Their lives have been torn inside out and upside down from a moment to the next. The issue is the thousands who were not affected directly or indirectly by one of these horrible attacks who use appeal-to-emotion, ad-hominem and straw man fallacies to move their anti-gun agenda. And worse are yet the politicians who pander and exploit these tragedies for their gain.
Need For Rational Dialog
If we, as a country, really want to create sensical policies that will have the most impact, we need to clarify our stance and minimize the emotionally-charged language that helps no one and only elicits a negative allergic reaction on the other side. Some of the most notable examples are:
Assault Weapon/Rifle: this is a rhetorical and intellectually dishonest term intended to instill fear and vilify these firearms. Additionally, there is no such a thing neatly defined as an “assault weapon”. Definitions vary wildly and some pertain to civilian use, some include military use. Simply put it’s an emotionally-charged term which will weaken your position.
NRA/Gun-nuts: the gun community has changed rather dramatically in the last 10–15 years. The new generation of gun owners are more demographically diverse (even though it’s still clearly white/male dominated). This same generation has repeatedly and openly repudiated the NRA comments and politics. Pitting all gun owners and enthusiasts together with the NRA and its supporters is very likely to derail your argument(s).
Libturd/Snowflake: this is a common ad-hominem and pejorative used to derail uncomfortable conversations or data brought in by someone who’s in favor of stricter gun laws (regardless of their political affiliation, but specially left-leaning folks). It’s caustic and if you use it your argument will be severely weakened.
“But the second amendment”/”No infringe”: these are “truthy” terms used to flippantly dismiss any calls for changes in gun regulation. They are “truthy” because while the second amendment does indeed recognize the right of citizens to own and bear arms, it also provides language for regulation thereof:
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
Data Within Context
One of the biggest issues, in my opinion, when it comes to rational debate is the liberal misuse of data context. For example, it’s completely true yet completely meaningless for the debate to say that car-accident deaths, cancer deaths, and heart disease are all orders of magnitude larger than deaths caused by firearms. In fact, some will point out, firearm deaths aren’t even in the top 5 causes of death in the united states. Again, the assertion is correct while not directly relevant to the discussion.
So what are some relevant statistics? Let’s take a look (all data available from the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS):
Out of 46,062 total — not per year — deaths caused by firearms from 2003 through 2016 (inclusive):
- 25,645 (~56%) are suicide
- 17,668 (~38%) are homicide
- 28,728 (~62%) by handgun
- 3,384 (~7%) by rifle
- 4,503 (~10%) by shotgun
To re-iterate the numbers above are cumulative, not per year. An immediately relevant statistic: only about 7 percent of all firearm-related deaths were caused by rifles (of any kind: hunting, military-style, bolt-action, lever action, semi-automatic, etc.). For the sake of thoroughness let’s compare some of these numbers to other violence-related deaths in the same period as above:
- Total deaths by blunt object, hand, or feet: 2,804
- Total deaths by knife or piecing object: 5,031
Notable here is there were about 48% more deaths by stabbing than there were deaths by rifles.
My missive is simple. Both sides need to tone down their rhetoric. Both sides need to actually engage on debate. As a country we need to look at these numbers with cool heads and work on solutions that benefits the country. We need to keep politicians in check and make sure their pandering doesn’t get in the way to meaningful gun control reform. We have hard numbers and as shown above we can read the numbers in context. If the intent of gun control legislation is to reduce the number of deaths, rifles (of any kind) should not be the prime target — not by a long shot. If you want meaningful and highest impact we should be considering further regulating handguns, not rifles or shotguns, but it would take “an act of God” (i.e. abolishing the second amendment) to do so. Finally, we can’t let sporadic tragic events skew our perception and skew our posture toward addressing the gun violence problem.