Guns. Other than abortion, there may not be a more sticky wicket through which to maneuver through in American politics. The enshrining of gun rights in our founding documents, written over 200 years ago when guns themselves were far different and inferior to the weapons of today, means that this country may always have a faction that is committed first to their right to own a gun, and then to all other American Ideals.
But what’s come out of the gun debate though are some really insanely stupid examples of rhetoric from the pro-gun side that sometimes sound like erudite positions, but ultimately are nothing more than shiny objects meant to distract us from actually talking about whether certain kinds of weapons have any place being purchased by civilians. Here now, I attempt to debunk all five of the dumbest pro-gun rhetorical arguments out there.
1. “Guns don’t kill people, people do.”
If there was ever an overused, oversimplifying shiny object in a debate, it’s this gem. The implication of course is that in the hands of the average, benevolent gun owner, guns are completely harmless. Which would be true, if it weren’t for the fact that gun accidents still happen. Small children still kill each other while playing with mommy or daddy’s gun. Of course guns kill people. So does cancer, AIDS, or a heart attack. Guns kill. To deny that is to deny their very reason for existence.
I get what pro-gun folks mean when they use this axiom. It’s a way of sticking up for those law-abiding citizens who want to own a gun as part of their protection, or for whatever reason. We can have that discussion, and we can even have a discussion as to what kinds of guns should be okay for people to own “just ‘cuz.” But until we grow up and stop pretending that guns are anything but tools of homicide, regardless of who owns them, we will get nothing done on the subject.
Yes, we can all agree that until a gun rests in a person’s hand and they point that gun at someone and pull the trigger, that gun has done no harm to anyone. That’s not really the point though. In this country we treat things that are fun but still dangerous with a lot of caution. Roller-coasters can’t just be built in your backyard without a lot of money for permits and insurance. Why we can’t have the same level of insurance required for an assault rifle that we do for a roller coaster is a question I simply can’t answer.
2. “Cars kill more people than guns every year!”
Of course they do. But then again, when’s the last time someone loaded up their Studebaker with a thousand rounds of ammunition, broke into a school and used their car to shoot innocent people? It seems to be kind of hard to pick up a car and walk into a corporate building and shoot a few dozen people with it. The point of course is that while a car is most certainly a utility that can be lethal when not operated correctly, but a gun can’t transport you and your family to Costco to stock up on toilet paper and red meat, can it? This is probably the most specious and insanely simplistic argument against gun control there is.
The idea behind it is that we’re supposed to become distracted by the idea of something killing more people than guns, and therefore see guns as being just barely lethal, if at all. Guns are harmless in the eyes of your average gun nut, don’t forget. You know, they’ve been trained and all that jazz. But the argument ignores the simple fact that guns do not have any other purpose than to kill. There are most certainly plenty of law-abiding citizens who own guns that do not ever intend for them to be used on another human being. But it’s not like guns have the ability to distinguish a human target from that of a different member of the animal kingdom.
There are plenty of things that kill more people than firearms do in this country. That doesn’t mean we’re doing enough to keep guns out of criminals’ hands though.
3. “The Second Amendment is there to protect US from the government!”
This could probably be called my very most favorite of all the pro-gun rhetoric. It’s born out of a very simplistic and incomplete view of the Second Amendment itself. It’s a very short burst of language, but from that burst grew America’s thirst for firearms, and perhaps some confusion over what our “right to bear arms” really means. Here’s the actual text:
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.
Everyone always gets hung up on the “militia” or “well-regulated” parts, but you hardly ever see anyone put the amendment both into its historical context, and its own context within the Bill of Rights. When the Second Amendment was written, the Founders had just overthrown an occupying nation that had attempted to disarm the colonists as a way of controlling them. The Founders, many of whom saw a large, standing army like the one we have now as Federal overreach, chose instead to make it an inalienable right to own a firearm, but not so that we can rise up against our government. The Founders figured since they also made Freedom of Speech, Expression, Assembly, and the right to vote (as long as you were white, male and property owning at the time, but that’s for another story) there was no need for an armed revolt.
The Second Amendment is nothing more than an antiquated and obsolete national defense strategy that leaned on the existence of state militias — known as the National Guard to us now — instead of one standing army. Over time the gun lobby has co-opted the Second to mean all sorts of things that just don’t jive with historical record or context. Sure, we can all agree now to have it mean something a little different, but to pretend that the Second was written as some kind of way to ensure we could violently overthrow our president is just inane and frankly completely counter-American in value.
Oh and Obama’s drones kind of make your AR-15 look pretty fucking useless, guy.
4. “Without the Second Amendment you couldn’t have the First!”
Yeah. Total bullshit. For starters, the Second Amendment was written to ensure that the most powerful country in the world, who we had just won our freedom and independence from, could not come back and simply station troops in our homes again. It was also written to ensure that our states would have the requisite firepower needed to defend themselves, should the Brits decide to come back and try for round two. But more importantly than that, it’s quite simply to debunk this silliness.
The First Amendment is what gave us the power to write the Second Amendment. Everything that is contained within the First Amendment is what gave us the balls to write an amendment to our Constitution that gave our citizens rights to arm themselves. This is not something that was done before. You see, the First Amendment, in the end, is the most important amendment. It’s the touchstone for all the other freedoms we enjoy, and it contains everything we fought and died for. But the Second Amendment isn’t needed to protect the First. The Second gets its power from the first. Only a truly free society would allow its citizens to carry weapons. The idea is that an armed populace in a free society had less to worry about because of the power that freedom of expression affords.
Perhaps the founders thought that if people were allowed to speak their minds freely, even to criticize their own government, the need for violent insurrection would be greatly reduced, and therefore armed rebellion wasn’t something they gave much thought to. Clearly though, it’s the First Amendment that makes every other amendment even possible. Therefore the power is not derived from the Second’s ability to make sure we can defend ourselves with guns. The guns derive their power from the words they’re being used to defend, if anything.
5. “If you want to stop gun violence, train everyone how to use a gun and require them to carry one!”
Okay. So let me get this straight. If I suggest that no one not in the armed forces or law enforcement has no need for an assault rifle, and therefore no one should own one, I’m a left-wing extremist wacko. But offering without any irony that the solution to the problem is simply to hand everyone a gun seems, well, stupid. I can debunk this one any number of ways, but I think the easiest and quickest, and truly the only way I need is to talk about cost. Who is going to pay for all those guns?
Do you think gun manufacturers will just give their guns away? Even if they offer them to the U.S. Government at a reduced price, that’s still billions of dollars that would have to be spent, just on the firearms alone. What about ammo? Who’s going to pay the weapons instructors? You know, it’s funny. The same people who suggest moronic solutions like this one are the same ones bitching about how Obamacare is going to tax everyone into oblivion. They’re the same people who think we spend too much on welfare, even though we spend twice as much on corporate welfare.
Government spending is evil, unless it’s spent on guns for the masses. But if anyone really thinks that arming every single citizen is the way to prevent gun violence, then I think either they’ve watched too many westerns, or not enough realistic documentaries about the Old West. Martial Law is no way to live, and when you have a mandate from the government that all citizens own a gun to protect them from the other citizens who are now mandated to have a gun, you have Martial Law.