Some questions can never truly be settled. The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the Star Wars movies. But some people prefer Return of the Jedi. As this is a question of taste, there will never be a final answer (although I think we can all agree that, objectively speaking, The Phantom Menace sucks). Similarly, no religion can ever be “proven” to be the correct answer to life’s spiritual questions. Such questions rest on faith. There’s no way to draw an objective conclusion. But on matters of public policy people can and should be able to negotiate in good faith and draw conclusions based on evidence . . .

I love evidence. As a skeptic what I want on any issue is for someone to convince me. Like all people, I approach any question with my own biases and assumptions. But if someone can give me reliable evidence that contradicts my beliefs I’m willing to modify or even abandon my opinions to make them fit reality. That’s the only reasonable choice.

I joined the NRA when I was 12 and ever since then I can honestly say that no proponent of gun control has ever spoken to me. They have only spoken at me (often to tell me how little I care about dead children). I’d like to change that. In the interest of honest, reasonable debate I’d like to ask some questions of people who are in favor of stricter gun laws. I’d love for anyone on the other side of the divide to offer some answers, offer me some evidence or point out if any of my premises are flawed.

For the sake of this argument, I’m going to avoid Constitutional issues. I’d like to examine gun control strictly from the perspective of someone interested in the pragmatic public good. Right. Q&A time . . .

The first premise for more gun control: it’s too easy for too many people to buy guns. Legal gun sales are currently prohibited for minors, the mentally ill, felons and those guilty of certain misdemeanors.

  1. Whom would you add to that list?
  2. Why would you add them?
  3. What public good is served by adding them?
  4. How will your law succeed in keeping guns out of prohibited hands where others have failed?

The second premise: we should be keeping guns out of the hands of felons. Agreed. Keeping weapons away from felons is an obvious public good. However… it is already illegal for felons to own guns. So . . .

  1. On what do you base the belief that the next law we pass will be the one the felons obey?
  2. Do you take into account the various nations with absolute gun prohibitions that are nonetheless awash in armed criminals?  Why do you think that the experience here would be different if we further restricted guns?
  3. How do you account for the fact that across America, without exception, areas with stricter gun control have more violent crime?

Related to the second premise: some types of guns are suitable only for crime and should be banned. These are generally referred to as “assault weapons”.

  1. What features make a gun particularly desirable for criminals but not for citizens?
  2. Are you aware that these so-called “assault weapons” are functionally identical to so-called “sporting arms”? Are you aware that such rifles are used in crime extremely rarely?
  3. Knowing that would you still want to ban them? Why?
  4. If we banned these weapons and criminals did want them do you think that the same organizations that smuggle cocaine by the ton would be unable to smuggle weapons? If so, why do you think that?

The third premise: guns are designed to kill things, and as such their very presence promotes and encourages violence. It is this rationale that informs the idea of “gun free zones”.

  1. If that’s the case then why do all the high-profile mass shootings happen in “gun free zones”?
  2. If guns encourage violence shouldn’t  schools be peaceful oases while gun shops, police precincts and military bases are knee-deep in blood on a daily basis? Do you make any inference from the fact that they aren’t?
  3. Are you expecting someone who intends murder to respect a sign that says “no guns allowed”?  If not, why pass such laws?
  4. Is it because you distrust your fellow honest citizens? If so, why? Do you have a rational basis for your distrust or is it an emotional reaction?  If it’s emotional, should we really be making laws based on emotion?

Fourth premise: guns are inherently dangerous and fewer guns means a safer society. But for decades now gun ownership has been increasing while negligent discharges and criminal activity have decreased.

  1. Does that matter to you? If not, why not?
  2. If your answer is “one death is too many” then are you also advocating that we ban other non-essential items and activities that “cause” accidental deaths?  Swimming pools, trampolines, fireplaces, and all kinds of sports are involved in many injuries and deaths every year, often with children as victims. Does the “one death is too many” logic apply to them? If not, why not?

All of the above can really be summed up in these four questions:

  1. What public good is your new gun control law intended to accomplish?
  2. Is it the same good some prior law was supposed to accomplish?
  3. Why do you think your new law will succeed where hundreds, if not thousands, have failed before?
  4. If you have no reason to think it will accomplish anything, then why do you want to pass it?

As I said in the beginning, I’m a skeptic. But I want to be convinced. If you have plausible, provable answers to my questions I’m willing to change my opinion. On the other hand, if you can’t answer my questions, maybe you should think about changing yours.

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60 Responses to Throw Down to Gun Control Advocates: Convince Me

  1. I’m unwilling to concede that “keeping weapons away from felons is an obvious public good”. Violent felons, perhaps. But it’s awfully easy to become a felon without doing anything violent — tax evasion, for instance.

    • Having said the above, let me also point out that I love this wording: “On what do you base the belief that the next law we pass will be the one the felons obey?”

    • Not a felony but one of my buddies was arrested (yes, handcuffs and everything) because at one point last spring his grass was too long.

    • Very true. There are many crimes that are classified as a felony that have nothing to do with violent behavior – these people should not be banned from owning guns. On the same note, people who are dishonorably discharged are barred from owning guns (at least here in Ohio, but from my understanding that’s a Federal law) – again, only those who are discharged for violent behavior or other psychological issues should be banned from owning guns. This should also apply to police officers (or any LEO) who is fired due to psychological or violent behavior issues.

      • Your comment just made me think of a certain copper where I live that was caught stealing pills from kids and letting them go so he could give said pills to his girlfriend, Then she dumped his ass and he tried to kill himself. All the while this is happening the copper never had time off no paid vacation nothing. Oh did I mention that he was the D.A.R.E. officer at the local elementary school. It took months of hundreds of citizens voicing their opinions for him to finally be “let go”! And to top all that off if it was a citizen doing this they would be all in the papers and in the news but since it was a “good ol’ boy” they just keep it quiet. We are lucky that he pulled his shit on enough people that the community could get wind of it because his superiors were not going to do a damn thing about it.

    • It seems to me that if a felon has served his time and can be allowed to walk the streets, there’s not much basis to keep guns away from him. If he can’t be trusted with a gun, can we really trust him to, say, drive a car? Or be free at all?

      I know the question makes people squeamish, but doesn’t the same logic apply as with gun free zones? If somebody intends to do harm, is making it a little bit illegaler going to stop them?

  2. I posted a link to this on my FB page. I have some seriously left-wing aquaintances on FB. Let’s see if any of them comment.

  3. I’m guessing the lack of gun-control advocate responses so far is that they are knee deep in research, amassing facts to crush your questions. Or not.

    James – It’s about time you joined the TTAG writer pool. I’m looking forward to more contributions from you!

    • Thank you. Apparently my next post will have to be a proof that Phantom Menace does in fact suck. Or something about guns, whatever.

      • “my next post will have to be a proof that Phantom Menace does in fact suck”

        There are some truths that we hold self evident. That’s one of them.

  4. Hmm – I’m in favor of a common sense gun control, namely:
    1) I’d like to see all judges, politicans, and retirees be classified as violent felons, at least for the purposes of gun ownership and voting rights. Any right or privilege that society strips away from a felon who has done his time, the political classes should give up as a condition of taking the job.
    2) I’d like to see gun laws (and assault laws, and all other relevant laws) changed, so that they apply equally to police, politicians, and regular citizens. Citizens should be denied nothing that police are allowed, and police should be allowed nothing denied to the public. No qualified immunity, no idemnity.

    • “Citizens should be denied nothing that police are allowed, and police should be allowed nothing denied to the public.”

      This. It’s also a great reason for why they need to stop the restrictions on NFA items – allowing the police to have them but not the public just makes it that much easier for the police to bully / oppress the public. They tend to forget that they exist to SERVE the public, not control.

      • The NFA restrictions just annoy me. Some vary by State. Suppressors, for example, are not allowed by all 50 States. The biggest probelm is the ATF. No surprise there. They state on their website it takes about four months to process the paper work but it only took them three days to cash my check. I called the other day for a status since I am nearing the four month mark. The lady who took my call informed me my paper work arrived April 22nd but was not entered into the system until May 13th. My check cleared on April 25th. Also it now takes 5 months on average to process the paper work now. Really? How long should this take even with a high volume of requests? Let see: Honorably retired from the Navy after 21 years, CCW for six years, never been denied or delayed when purchasing a firearm. Tax dollars at work.

        • At least you can get one. I’d love a suppressor for my new .22 but I live in Illinois and Gun Hating Chicago runs the state so no suppressors for us. I’d love to move to Tennessee but the family business is here. Maybe I’ll expand it to a gun friendly state…

          Edit: I re-read what i wrote and it sounds whiny on my part. Basically, I agree with your post and it’s ridiculous how long it takes and it’s also a joke how much it costs. I really hope AAC’s (i think that’s the name) lobbyist get their wish with the new classification to cut down on the cost.

  5. I would just as soon debate my right to breathe as I would my right to own a gun. And James, no matter how you frame the issues, it will always come to one — will I be allowed the right and the means to defend myself? The gungrabbers say no. That’s what I will never get past.

    Can our laws be made better? No, they cannot. Sorry. Not won’t. Can’t. Not while gungrabbers have any degree of control or input, because they will always seek to exploit that little crack in the door to take away my right to to live independently of them. You cannot make gun laws that are “gungrabber proof.” For them, the right to own a gun is reserved for the “collective.” The individual has no gun rights. See the Heller and McDonald dissents and you will understand the depth of the divide.

    On a more pleasant note, I took a newbie to the range Wednesday night. She was a nurse and has seen gunshot wounds. She respected the gun, had a great time, can’t wait to go back and shoot some more and wants me to train her son to shoot. Chalk one up for the good guys.

  6. “The gungrabbers say no. That’s what I will never get past.”

    I agree with you. What I’m usually trying to accomplish (this post included) is to get the antis to admit that the laws they want to pass have nothing to do with keeping people safe. What they’re really trying to do is legislate their worldview.

    Exposing that is worth the effort, because I think our worldview is better, and I think more people agree with it.

    • Sadly, at the end of the day it just turns into “I’m not listening to you! nananannananananna” and no facts or reason will help convince the zealots. Although I do agree we might be able to have a few people on the fence hop over to our side.

  7. Excellent article, frames the essence of the 2A argument very thoroughly.

    When I read each question, all I see in my head from a gun-grabber opponent is a slack-jawed face going “Uhhhhhhh……”

  8. Great job James, and I want to pit you against Magoo & Mikeb. I’m sure you’ll clean the floor with both of them.

  9. “Whom would you add to that list? Why would you add them? What public good is served by adding them? How will your law succeed in keeping guns out of prohibited hands where others have failed?”

    I would restructure the whole prohibited persons list and base it on political affiliation. Thus:

    Democrats hate guns; so all Democrats are banned from having any weapons.
    Republicans kinda like guns; so all Republicans may have some guns, but are required to get permits from the state.
    Libertarians love guns; so all Libertarians may have all the weapons and explosives they want (no permit/no records)

    See? Easy Peasy.

  10. Under the laws of liberty that the founders envisioned, only those who are incarcerated (ie in a prison or asylum) could be denied their 2A rights under the law. All others, no matter how repugnant, were free to exercise theirs rights as they saw fit so long as they did not infringe on the equal rights of others.

  11. Doubt you’ll get any answers from the anti’s at least not rational ones. That is why I prefer to just call them names.

  12. Some of the antis’ answers. I know they are tripe, and that statistics, like the Bible, can be twisted to support nearly any contention. I think that they just don’t want more Democrat voters shot by their intended victims, which was the rationale for the Sullivan law.
    3. What public good is served by adding them?
    The antis will claim that making acquisition more difficult, some acts of violence will be prevented, but the number cannot be determined, as proving a negative is nearly impossible.
    4. How will your law succeed in keeping guns out of prohibited hands where others have failed?
    They claim that states with the highest Brady “scores” have less “gun violence,” and that no law is 100% effective. Why make it easy for criminals to get guns? Making it more difficult will cut the number of “gun crimes.”
    1. On what do you base the belief that the next law we pass will be the one the felons obey?
    Hoplophobe response: All laws are disobeyed by some. That doesn’t mean they should be repealed.
    2. Do you take into account the various nations with absolute gun prohibitions that are nonetheless awash in armed criminals? Why do you think that the experience here would be different if we further restricted guns?
    See above
    3. How do you account for the fact that across America, without exception, areas with stricter gun control have more violent crime?
    Gungrabbers say “High crime areas in America are primarily inner cities. Crime is a result of socio/economic factors like racism, unemployment, etc. Guns flow in from areas with ‘weak’ gun laws.”
    1. What features make a gun particularly desirable for criminals but not for citizens?
    Their reply “The military features like barrel shrouds, flash reducers, pistol grips, ‘high’ magazine capacity, etc. make them more effective weapons of mass murder. Those features are used by militaries because they contribute to high rate of fire and make the guns more deadly.”
    2. Are you aware that these so-called “assault weapons” are functionally identical to so-called “sporting arms”? Are you aware that such rifles are used in crime extremely rarely?
    Their reply “Hunting guns have a 5-round capacity and are designed to shot 1 round accurately at a time. These evil bullet hoses are designed for spray fire and have no sporting purpose. You don’t hunt deer with an assault weapon.”

  13. ‘Dangerous’ criminals, as well as ‘dangerous’ crazy people for that matter, belong ‘locked up’ and away from public society – at least until they are proven to be no longer ‘dangerous’. I agree that, while they are ‘dangerous’, criminals and crazy people should not be allowed weapons. With the possible exception for when they start selling weapons in prisons and asylums – the ‘solution’ is not ‘gun control’ but more positive control over known, ‘dangerous’, criminals and crazy people. IOW: keep the killers and the loonies locked the eff’ up (at least, until they are no longer ‘dangerous’) and we’ll have no more need for controlling who buys/owns/carries weapons! …But, instead of discussing how they *DON’T* control the criminals and crazies (that they *know* about – otherwise ‘background checks’ would be useless) – they just want us to let them *check everyone* before they let us buy/carry a gun. The ‘inmates’ are truly running this place.

    • Keeping them locked up is a good idea but will it work for the long term? States (particularly California) are having severe money issues. They cannot afford to keep felons locked away. They have started to release “non- violent felons” back into society. One of the major problems with their plan is violent felons rarely start out violent. They begin to escalate from petty crimes up to more serious felonies. After they leave prison after a short stint, they are better educated in the criminal ways and tend to be much more violent from their time in the prison system.

      It seems to me our penal system is more of an free educational system for felons.

  14. Vanderboegh has it right – You can stomp your foot, hold your breath and turn red, lie through your teeth, try to pass laws that no crook will obey, but WE WILL NOT GIVE UP OUR GUNS. And judging from middle-America’s enthusiasm for gun purchases in the last 10 years, neither will many of THEM.

  15. first off to lower accidential deaths from firearms we need safety training in our schools at a young age this would lessen the mystique of guns. air soft and bb guns would work in the early stages of safety lessons. second our judicial system needs an overhaul it has become bloated and is not working efficentily. the death penalty needs to be used more often. life sentences need to be eliminated. a 3 strike system would be more efficient. strike one, a 2 to 5 year sentence. strike two, a 2 to 5 year sentence. strike three death. if after 3 felony convictions you haven’t figured out what you are doing wrong you need to get out of the gene pool.

  16. This is an excellent, accurate, thought provoking article. As a lifetime NRA member, I have come the conclusion that Liberals are NOT interested in facts at all, rather they operate on emotions or the emotions of others (ie. Politicians). It really boils down to this: “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”.

    Pass all the laws you want, the criminals will just ignore them. The people who will obey them wouldn’t be the ones who would be shooting at innocent people anyway.

  17. So, this has been up for four days and the only rebuttal it’s generated is from a couple of “Phantom Menace” fans.

    Duly noted, anti-2A types. Next time you want to wail that the gun nuts won’t listen to you remember that one of us asked you some very simple, very direct questions… and you refused to answer.

    • Maybe they found the premise boring and tendentious. You ask a number of “questions” that aren’t really questions at all, only highly dubious assertions. Who would want to sort through all that blabbering just to attempt a conversation?

      • Please note: this is exactly the sort of non-answer that proves my point.

        I attempted to start a conversation in good faith, you responded with an insult. And an illogical insult, at that. If you didn’t read the post how do you know I made dubious assertions?

        If you like, you can put up a similarly themed post from the anti- side of the fence and I promise I’ll not only “sort through the blabbering”, I’ll utterly dismember it.

      • No, your essay is not in good faith. Not even close. Now that you’re written it, have you bothered to read it? You set up one straw man argument after another, then knock them over. Wow, that was riveting. Seriously, could you be any more pedantic and condescending?

        • “No, your essay is not in good faith.”

          Ok, I can now add “mind reading” to your list of amazing powers. Cool.

          Now I have to ask, did you read it? Because it says very clearly:
          “I’d love for anyone on the other side of the divide to offer some answers, offer me some evidence or point out if any of my premises are flawed.”

          What I laid out is a distillation of the various arguments I’ve heard over the decades. If I’m wrong then do what I asked and show me where I’m wrong along with some proof. Or put up your side of the story and I’ll answer it. But right now all you’re doing is posting insults. Which is really rich, by the way, coming from the guy who whines incessently about how rudely treated he is around here.

          And the way I see it, every insult you put up in lieu of an argument is one more admission that I’m right.

        • Oh, and by the way….

          pe·dan·tic   /pəˈdæntɪk/ [puh-dan-tik]
          –adjective
          1. ostentatious in one’s learning.
          2. overly concerned with minute details or formalisms, especially in teaching.

          Nothing in my post can reasonably be called pedantic. If you want to put on airs of superiority you should avoid using words you don’t understand.

        • This is simple. To be in good faith, your exercise would need to present the opposite viewpoint fairly and honestly. You missed by a mile.

        • Magoo, I’m completely dumbfounded that you can’t understand this simple point:

          I wasn’t trying to present the other side of the argument, I’m asking the people who do believe in it to present it !

          Honestly, how can you not understand that? Is it that difficult a concept? The title of the post is “Convince Me”, for pete’s sake! I’ve laid out your arguments as I understand them, as they’ve been presented to me for decades by hundreds of people, and asking gun control advocates to either defend those arguments or present ones that I haven’t yet heard.

          But don’t let that faze you. Posting one insult after another is a much more effective way of making your points.

        • Shrug. Now you’re only talking in circles. Your essay sets up straw men and then argues with the straw men. That’s a bad faith argument.No getting around it.

          Oh, and you quoted the dictionary to demonstrate how so not pedantic you are.Now that’s comedy.

        • I still fail to see how asking questions (questions you refuse to answer, by the way) constitutes a strawman argument. But then, you historically have a pretty spotty concept logical fallacies so I’ll let it go. You seem also not to understand circular reasoning.

          Taking those deficiences into account here, just for you is an edited version of the post:

          Will some advocate of stricter gun control laws please describe for me :
          1) your goal in passing such laws
          2) the rationale behind the goal
          3) the data on which you base the assumption that your law will accomplish your goal.

          There you go. Completely strawman free, even by your standards. Now, care to put forth an actual argument for a change? I suspect not but stand ready to be proven wrong.

        • Oh, and you quoted the dictionary to demonstrate how so not pedantic you are.Now that’s comedy.”

          If only you’d actually read the definition this attempt at a zinger might have made some sense.

  18. I posted this today on this post (http://thetruthaboutguns.com/2011/09/brad-kozak/concealed-carry-playing-the-odds/comment-page-1/#comment-75717), but it really also belongs here. I think JJ Swiontek’s comment above sort of acts as an anecdotal example.

    “I feel like I’m entering the lion’s den here, but I wanted to address something that’s a little off topic. I’m what some (including my college Politics professor) would call a bleeding heart hippy, a pinko-commie-liberal. In terms of my political leanings, socially I generally wind up on the left side of the aisle. And there was a time I didn’t understand why anyone would want to own a gun, for all of the idiotic reasons you and your fellow authors have written about (specifically here, http://thetruthaboutguns.com/2011/08/james-felix/throw-down-to-gun-control-advocates-convince-me/, and here, http://thetruthaboutguns.com/2011/08/robert-farago/a-psychiatrist-examines-the-anti-gun-mentality-and-what-you-can-do-about-it/)

    Now, I’ve lived in the south for a little over a decade, and a few Christmas’s ago my significant other took me out to his family’s farm for some mistletoe hunting. I was petrified at first, because I just kept imagining misfires and accidents. Obviously, nothing happened except we were able to bring home from fresh mistletoe for the big family dinner party. A few months later we went back, and he let me shoot his 22 gauge shotgun. I saw how he handled the weapons, how knowledgeable he was about safety, and I began to fear, not his negligence, but my own. Besides that though, it was just fun. We’ve been back a few times, and I’m starting to become more familiar and comfortable with his firearms. And a few weeks ago, I actually accepted a position with a company that manufactures accessories for firearms, mostly (semi)automatic rifles.

    All this is to say that I was that person who hated guns. I was that ignorant person who believed that less gun control meant more violence. I was that person who believed anyone who owned a firearm was a “gun nut”, and that the second amendment was antiquated. I’m not that person anymore.

    So what’s the point to this comment? You told an anecdote about your safety fears, your protection of your daughter, and that’s a great thing to tell your readers. But you made a comment about the President, basically apropos of nothing. It was just a snide little comment. And this is your blog, and that’s totally fine. And I’m not offended by what you said and even understand any anger or resentment towards the administration. However, I think that that is the problem when pro-2nd amendment folks try to convince the other side. Political leanings which seem vaguely hostile sort of bleed into the rhetoric, and it makes the other side less comfortable. And obviously that happens A LOT across the board, across the aisle, and it’s certainly not just an issue for pro-2nd amendment arguments.

    I had a GREAT introduction into firearms. It was a positive experience, and I think that’s the most important way to convince anyone who is anti-2nd amendment. But for my job, I’ve started reading tons of gun-related blogs, watching tons of gun-related TV, and what appeals to me most are the things that stick to the task at hand, and don’t venture off into full-on GOP or Conservative or Right Leaning territory (and I know these aren’t synonyms, but you get my drift). I do hate the political party structure that we have in our country, which pits us on teams – if I’m left I must clearly love this specific set of issues, and if you’re right you must clearly love this specific set of issues, and never the twain shall meet. That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms, but basically my point is that, if you are going to try to educate or convince the other side, then gun rights and gun culture needs to be its own island. Does that make sense?

    I’m not chastising you (as if I had the right) or saying you shouldn’t express your opinions or dissatisfaction with the current political climate or administration. But because outside of this, I’ve read several posts in the last few weeks specifically on TTAG about anti-2nd amendment rights, I felt I should speak up and just point out one flaw that I’ve noticed in the pro-2nd amendment’s lobbying efforts.”

    All of that being said, I appreciate the way in which you presented your argument and have actually referenced it a few times in defense of my new position when speaking to some of my (very rabidly) anti-gun rights friends.

  19. I’m not seeing a lot of (or any really) antis responding, so I’ll reply on their behalf.

    1.What public good is your new gun control law intended to accomplish? I will get reelected, whether it passes or not.
    2.Is it the same good some prior law was supposed to accomplish? We’re closing the “loopholes” created in the prior legislation.
    3.Why do you think your new law will succeed where hundreds, if not thousands, have failed before? The Brady center for (insert snark here) supports this legislation so it must be good.
    4.If you have no reason to think it will accomplish anything, then why do you want to pass it? We have to do something, won’t you think of the children?

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