Gun fanatics self-refute their own arguments (updated X 2)

Feb 18 2008 Published by under [Politics]

In the wake of the appalling Northern Illinois University tragedy, it has been depressing to see the right-wing gun fanatics making the same tired and irrational arguments against any sort of gun regulation and, even worse, in favor of unrestricted concealed-carry laws on campuses. You can see all of these arguments brought forth by the extremists in the comments section of this post on Carpetbagger.

What astonishes me more than anything is that the extreme views of the gun fanatics make them living refutations of their own arguments. Reasonable people could convince me that there is a good middle ground on gun control, in which law-abiding citizens can own weapons with some restrictions; the fanatics push my temperament much closer to a full ban. This is a shame, because I have a lot of good friends who are gun owners and whom I have literally trusted with my life - I would hate to see crazies shift the gun discussion to the point where no reasonable solutions to gun violence can be found.

In the spirit of trying to push a reasonable discussion on gun violence - or maybe just to rant - I thought I'd refute, again, some of the common refrains of gun fanatics.

  1. Bans on firearms are doomed to fail, just like Prohibition - people will just get them from other sources. No law is perfect: if we required every prohibition in the law to be 100% successful, we would have no laws against anything. Heck, you know that in spite of our laws against murder, people still get murdered all the time? We may as well not have that law in the first place! Any law created, including laws which restrict 'freedoms', must be created in such a way as to maximize societal benefit minimize violations. To paint all legal restrictions with the same broad brush is ridiculously childish.
  2. If there had only students had been allowed to carry guns on campus, the tragedy could have been prevented. This is an idiotic action-movie fantasy which is probably unique to the United States, where the tough-talkers have never actually faced an actual gun. If a shooter walks into a room without warning and opens fire with an automatic handgun, he will likely be able to empty his entire clip before anyone in the line of fire can effectively respond to the attack: A Glock, for instance, can fire 40 rounds per minute. There is also the concern that, for every incident which might be prevented by the presence of additional firearms, a half-dozen other incidents would be created by the presence of those weapons. As a university professor myself, I don't want guns on campus: there are far too many students who, while not violent, might be tempted to use the presence of a weapon as an ill-advised attempt to intimidate the teacher. Even without weapons, threats against teachers are not uncommon.
  3. We need our guns to keep the government from being tyrannical. The only time in the history of the U.S. when the presence of arms amongst the citizenry helped repel a tyrannical government was the Revolutionary War. One could make the argument that the guns have prevented further abuses, but that doesn't explain how dozens of developed countries have representative governments which work just fine without armed citizens. Like pretty much all of Europe.
  4. The Second Amendment says we have the right to individually own any guns we want. Let me put this bluntly: I don't care. I've blogged before about the odd Founding-Father worship in the United States, and this worship seems greatest talking about the second amendment. In the end, though, I only consider a right enunciated in the Constitution to be a valid one if it serves, on the whole, as a positive rule for society. The Constitution was never meant to be a static, religious document: the Bill of Rights itself is a collection of Amendments, or additions, to the Constitution. In other words, if a law is demonstrated to be harmful, we change the law. This doesn't indicate my overall opinion about the validity of the Second Amendment, which I still have mixed feelings about: it simply says that we shouldn't parse the meaning of what a bunch of old men thought and instead ask if that law is functioning in a positive way in today's society. Until gun fanatics try and have a real discussion about the role of firearms in society instead of reciting 'scripture', there is little sense in paying attention to them.

Update: Addendum to point #2: Another problem with allowing everyone to carry guns on campus is this: how do we know that the people carrying on campus won't be 'spree killers' as well? The NIU and VT cases demonstrate that firearms screening can fail spectacularly: fanatics like to pretend that 'concealed carry' laws will somehow magically circumvent this problem and result in only 'lawful' people carrying weapons. It seems a pretty unavoidable conclusion that, until society figures out how to really prevent unbalanced people from obtaining guns, putting more guns in public will only make things worse.

Update #2: Here's another argument I see put forth often:

5.  Crazed killers could just as easily kill a bunch of people with bombs, or poison.  Yes, but they don't.  Killers of the VT/NIU/Columbine type have used guns as their primary and most lethal weapons.  This tells you one of two things: (a) It isn't as easy to acquire and deploy bombs or poison as it is to use guns, or (b) Guns have a unique psychological appeal for spree killers.  I'm guessing that the truth is a little bit of both points.  Both points suggest that making guns less available will reduce the number of these killings.

7 responses so far

  • Personal Demon says:

    Comment on the "Bans on firearms are doomed to fail, just like Prohibition - people will just get them from other sources." argument:

    In addition to your refutation, I would like to point out that, unlike bootleg hooch, semi-automatic hand guns cannot be produced by just any hick with access to corn, sugar, yeast, and a bathtub.

  • PD: Yep, I completely agree. Every 'prohibition' will have a different level of effectiveness, depending on, among other things, how easy it is to 'unlawfully' produce the banned substance. Drugs and alcohol can be produced by pretty much anybody, making it much harder to restrict. Even criminals, however, are using guns which were produced commercially (even if they weren't purchased lawfully).

    Another factor is the willingness of the general population to accept and enforce the ban. Prohibitions on murder are reasonably effective because most people can agree that murder is bad, and are willing to report violations. Prohibitions on alcohol and pot, on the other hand, don't work so well because most people either don't care or are actively against such a ban.

    Again, I should emphasize that I'm not advocating a complete firearms ban: I'm just pointing out that it's damn silly to lump all legal prohibitions together in the same category.

  • Gun Fanatic says:

    Per comment by Personal Demon... Actually, 1 in 3 guns in D.C. used in crime were home made. A hick cannot make one with a bathtub, corn sugar and yeast, but they can with access to some plumbing parts and springs.

    Per the article, While there might be a "concern" that half a dozen problems caused for every one averted it hasn't shown to be true among the general public where guns have been allowed. In CCW states lots of crimes are averted regularly and accidents did not soar after allowing CCW. A university would be no different.

    Gun laws only stop people who follow laws. Isn't it unfair that those who choose to follow the law are penalized by not being able to defend themselves?

    It matters not that some unlawful people will carry guns. Unlawful people already carry guns all the time, including at universities. Permit holders are statistically 5.5 times less likely to commit violent crimes though, according to John Lott.

    Per 5. Somemes they do... Timothy McVeigh, Japanese knife rampages, for example.

    Per 4. IF you don't like the second amendment get it repealed. That is the proper process. If you think its okay to violate constitutional rights why not just throw out the constitution. You wouldn't be okay with people throwing out the fourth amendment for the sake of the betterment of society (increased safety) would you?

  • Gun Fanatic: This is a pretty old thread, so I won't be commenting on it much more. I don't have much reason to believe your facts, though, without any supporting data. A few comments:

    Per Personal Demon: Even if 1 in 3 crimes in DC is from a homemade gun, which I find doubtful, I would much rather have to face a homemade gun than a high caliber semiautomatic or automatic weapon. And why refer just to DC? I'm guessing that the statistic, even if true, doesn't hold up anywhere else.

    Per your comment: "Gun laws only stop people who follow laws." How do you know? In the 'civilized' world, the U.S. tops gun violence statistics. Other western countries have far more draconian rules than the U.S., and all of them have less violence.

    Per 5: "Sometimes they do." Sure. But there's very little bomb violence, compared to the amount of gun violence. That's the point of the argument: it apparently isn't quite as easy, or appealing, to bomb someone as it is to shoot someone. We're never going to eliminate violence, but we can try and find out how to minimize it.

    Per 4: "IF you don’t like the second amendment get it repealed. " Um, you completely missed the point and proved it simultaneously. The amendments are laws, not holy writ. Like all laws, they should be constantly reevaluated, and/or reinterpreted -- that's what the supreme court does all the time. I completely reject your premises that (a) the 2nd amendment allows for unlimited gun possession and (b) it is somehow a right of comparable importance to the fourth amendment. You're trying to protect the 2nd by hiding behind the 4th. Your appeal to 'violating constitutional rights' is simply a rhetorical device to try and avoid discussing the meaning and validity of the amendment.

    As I said, I'm not for banning guns or repealing amendments. I find it ridiculous, however, to claim that increased gun possession has no effect on society as a whole. And I sure don't want more guns in my classroom.

    You haven't really said anything which I feel I didn't answer in my original post. I'm done here.

  • Middle ground says:

    1st thing, MAJOR bump, I was mulling around the internet and saw this, and needed to point out one fact, and don't complain that I could have emailed you, which I didn't feel like doing.

    first, and only, order of business... and I quote "Even if 1 in 3 crimes in DC is from a homemade gun, which I find doubtful, I would much rather have to face a homemade gun than a high caliber semiautomatic or automatic weapon."

    It's funny because the simplest firearm to make, besides a single shot pen gun, is a fully automatic 9mm submachine gun, which can be produced using only a drill, a hacksaw, files of various sizes, and various metal parts that are easily accessible to anybody.

    If you don't believe me, and for some reason feel the need to check what I just told you, an Englishman by the surname of Luty wrote a book "Expedient Homemade Firearms: the 9mm SubMachine gun" you can take a gander at the detailed material list, and schematics that only an incompetent fool couldn't follow. After reading it, you realize how simple it would be for somebody to do this, although it would take a few days work I presume. *I DO NOT RECOMMEND BUILDING THAT GUN, unless you like being in prison and paying $250,000 in fines*

    also YES I know automatic firearms are illegal, and this book just goes to show people like you how easily people could have fully automatic machine guns, so now would you prefer someone having a homemade firearm pointed at your face? Personally I would never want to be in such a situation, but it really does raise your awareness, now doesnt it?

  • Bender226 says:

    Well this article has absolutely no credibility whatsoever. Point number 5 could not be more off thus is a terrible argument that puts your entire point in the trash. First of all, you mention that bombs and such do not kill people, such as with VT/NIU/Columbine, but you fail to mention that Columbine was in fact, a bombing that failed. They did put bombs in the school, and had they gone off it would killed more along the lines of 500 people who were in the cafeteria with the bombs when they were supposed to go off, when the awful terrible evil guns killed 13 people instead of 500 or so. It was only by luck that the bomb builders were incompetent that it did not kill more, and were also incompetent with firearms which if they hadn't been many more would have died. Perhaps you have forgotten what happens when someone attempts a bombing and succeeds, like the Oklahoma city bombing. When was the last time a gunman killed 168 people and injured 680+ at once. By your logic we should ban fertilizer and racing fuel, that's all Timothy Mcveigh used. Or theres the world trade center bombing which killed 6 but injured 1042 people. Shall I bring up 911, no guns, just some box cutters to hijack and plane and crash it into some buildings and killed 2973 and injured over 6000. Your argument absolutely falls flat on its face and you have done exactly what you accuse the gun fanatics of doing: self refutation. All you have proven is that murderers exist in many forms and use many methods to do evil, going back to one of the most used and fundamental arguments, guns don't kill people, people do.

    Your other arguments are just if not more worthless than 5, 5 was just easy to pick apart due to not knowing your facts. If you are going to make discussion about firearms or any other subject, you should use the correct terminology so you sound like you at least have an idea as to what you are talking about. Guns do not use "clips", they use magazines, this is rudimentary gun knowledge unless one of the gunman you speak of used an M1 Garand which I don't recall ever happening. And yes, for no. 2 it is just an action movie fantasy... because nobody who goes to college is a military veteran or police officer who knows how to use a firearm and has experience in combat killing people and they have a better chance unarmed against a criminal shooter with typically no more experience than a ccw holder. All you have to do is look up the Appalachian Law school shooting to debunk your failed argument here.

    I'm done debunking this crap article, typical of a college professor though, armchair thinking at its best with no real world experience whatsoever, and clearly knows nothing about firearms, and I'm somewhat surprised you didn't call the Glock the plastic pistol while you were at it. Nothing against academics or professors, they have their place in education and scientific research, but for political arguments you might as well go to any given commie forum. Next time you argue for the violation of the bill of rights, you should come up with some better arguments, the constitution was meant to be changed, but not easily and not without good reason, and you sir are very much without good reason.

    • Wow... irrelevant insults, cherry-picked examples which prove nothing at all, indication of complete misunderstanding of the original post, bizarre anger at a college professor -- it must be a right-wing moron!

      Just to rebut the only thing resembling substance in your rant:

      Number of gun homicides in the U.S. in 2005: 10,000 (this doesn't include injuries or suicides, either)

      This is much, much more than 9/11 or Oklahoma City.

      Number of bombing homicides in the U.S. in 2005: 0

      Don't bother coming back, moron.