The Five Silliest Pro-Gun Arguments, And Why They’re Wrong
After every mass shooting, those of us who want the slaughter to end are inevitably greeted with the same trite responses from people who somehow can’t see that a society armed to the teeth is, quite literally, deadly. Each time I hear these responses I become angrier. Not only are they obviously false, but their falsity is costing lives.
Let’s first acknowledge that the vast majority of gun owners are “law abiding citizens” who never have and would likely never use their guns to harm others. But, this doesn’t matter. When thousands of our fellow citizens die from gun violence each year there is a problem; the right to own a gun simply does not supersede the right to live. In fact, if anything, this is the primary fallacy, just because most gun owners don’t commit murder, we are okay with the 11,000 or so gun deaths that do happen annually. Because that seems right….?
With that in mind, let’s debunk some of these fallacies which keep us from saving lives.
1. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. According to Mother Jones, there isn’t a single instance in the last 30 years of a good guy with a gun stopping a bad guy with a gun, at least not when it comes to the major shootings that happen weekly in our country. Despite the fact that there are as many guns as people in America, the armed vigilantes of Wayne LaPierre mythology just keep failing to show up and stop the violence as we’re told they will.
Perhaps that’s because the ONLY thing the NRA gets right — that most gun owners aren’t criminals — is offset by what is left unsaid in that statement, that most gun owners are also not trained to skillfully navigate the chaos of a mass shooting and save the day. Or perhaps even those who are recognize the dangers inherent in such a move. Whatever the reason, the bad guys with guns keep showing up, but the good guys with guns do not.
2. The bad guys get guns anyhow. This is only true because there are already so many guns out there. In societies where the gun to person ratio isn’t 1:1, the data is oh-so-different. Compared with our peer group of nations, the numbers are actually staggering. In other advanced, industrial nations the percentage of murders by firearms are far lower, as are the rates of gun ownership. In other words, fewer guns translates to fewer gun deaths. Sometimes intuition is corroborated by data.
In most other advanced nations the bad guys that end up with guns are organized crime groups, and let’s be honest: if the mob is after you, you got problems a few guns ain’t gonna fix.
3. It’s a mental health issue. This one sounds good because it’s easy for rational people to imagine that they would never commit deeds of mass murder. There must be something wrong with such people, right? While it is true that people with mental health disorders are more likely to commit crime, they still represent a minority of all criminals.
But the most damning part of throwing mental health patients under the bus is that’s the whole crux of the pro-gun argument don’t let the actions of a few individuals impede the right of law-abiding citizens is built on the premise that we shouldn’t let those few individuals have guns. So why not have universal background checks to screen for people with mental illness? This begs the question: Where is the funding to help treat mental illness? Absent those two steps, this argument is exactly what those who use it mean for it to be, a distraction from the real issue, which is still that 3/4 of gun murderers do not have a documented mental health issue.
4. Getting rid of guns won’t stop people from committing crime. No, getting rid of guns won’t stop people from committing crime. But it will make killing much more difficult. Pro-gun folks love to point out that cars, knives, or baseball bats could be weapons. Fair enough, but under that logic I wonder if those same people would support sending our military into combat armed with baseball bats.
It’s true that anything can be a weapon. The Boston Marathon bombers used a crock pot. Your hands and feet are weapons, and potentially lethal ones, which gets to the point: lethality. Gun are designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill. They’re well designed killing machines with a much higher degree of lethality than bats, cars, or crock pots.
So no, a gun is not equivalent to a criminal. Limiting access to guns won’t end crime, but it will limit deaths, especially the types of mass murders to which we’ve seemingly become numb. You don’t kill 10 people with a baseball bat in a public setting. Someone once tried to pull a “gotcha” on me with this by pointing out that a man in China attacked a school and injured 22 students with a knife. Injured, as in no one died. There’s the difference: limiting guns doesn’t necessarily limit crime, but it does save lives.
Lowering crime is a massively complex issue. Limiting gun deaths is quite simple.
5. Guns keep us safe from a meddlesome, authoritarian government. It seems as though many of the pro-gun folks have dropped this argument because they realize how silly it is. Look at it this way, if you’re even able to read this then the most effective weapon with which to destroy your life — if not necessarily end it — is a cyber tool that can wipe out your bank accounts, steal your identity, and spy on your every move. It’s nearly 2016, there’s not going to be a 1776 style stand off in which “we the people” line up facing Uncle Sam and trade volleys until one side breaks. No gun that can be purchased legally is stopping a Sherman Tank or a Blackhawk Helicopter.
In conclusion, the one inescapable fact that the pro-gun side simply can’t get around is that America is the only advanced nation in which these types of crimes happen. There is crime in Britain, there is poverty in France, and there are mental health patients in Japan. But all of these societies treat guns with a dose of sanity rather than willy-nilly allowing and encouraging people to own multiple weapons with few to no strings attached. As a result fewer people in these societies are killed by guns. Crime rates may be similar or even higher, but there are fewer deaths because there are fewer guns.
It really is that simple. Guns are killing machines, and even though most gun owners aren’t killers, the more killing machines we put into the world — and the less responsible we are with them as a society — the more people die as a result. We live this daily in our country and we’ve tried every conceivable (and fallible) argument to convince ourselves that guns aren’t the problem. It’s time to admit and address the problem.