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By Ryan Le

A common recurring logical fallacy I’ve noticed in online comment threads and public rhetoric used by anti-gunners is the argument from authority. The line of thinking behind this fallacy is as follows:

  • Person A is (claims to be) an authority on subject S.
  • Person A makes claim C about subject S.
  • Therefore, C is true.

Gun control advocates often employ this tactic when they attempt to buy credibility in the eyes of other readers and commenters for themselves and their position by claiming to be gun owners or having experience with firearms. The most profuse example of this fallacy in action is claiming they or a family member is or was in the military or law enforcement.

“I grew up around guns all my life, and my dad was a SEAL-Delta-Marine-SWAT-commando. So I understand that no civilian who isn’t part of the police or military needs these dangerous assault weapons that belong on the battlefield, not the streets.”

“I own guns and believe in the 2nd Amendment. But the NRA doesn’t represent me and sensible gun owners, and they are bullying our politicians into blocking the common-sense laws that we desperately need in this country.”

“I’m a good shot with bolt-action hunting rifles and double-barred shotguns. No one needs an AR-15 with 30 round magazine clips to defend themselves.”

Sound familiar?

Of course, it’s not hard to test the veracity of the “expert” status these self-appointed firearms authorities. Just ask them a couple of questions pertaining to the guns they supposedly own, or their alleged service as an armed member of the military. More often than not, these wise idiots are simply lying about their bona fides. And now, if they falsely claim to be a vet, they’ll be considered violators of the Stolen Valor Act.

Once you’ve confirmed that they aren’t what they’re cracked up to be, fact-check and scrutinize their claims. You’ll probably find that the claims are either subjective, unverifiable or just plain inconsistent with reality. From that point on, you’re done. They have no leg left to stand on.

But, let’s play devil’s advocate – what if these anti-gunners really are who they say they are and their claim to authority is validated?

As it turns out, claiming authority or expertise on a subject is a double-edged sword. While doing so may lend you some credibility to the less-informed members of your audience, it also holds you to a certain standard of knowledge that you are expected to be consistent with. Simply saying that you’re informed or an expert on a topic does not, in any way shape or form, make the burden of proof for your claim go away – it only strengthens it.

The moment you put forth a claim that’s inconsistent with what’s demonstrated and observed in reality, not only is your claim intellectually indefensible, but you have also failed to meet the expected standard of knowledge set for experts in your field. Both your credibility and intellectual honesty are gone – even if you had the proper credentials to begin with. It’s like a Ph.D physicist claiming that gravitational theory is all wrong because an invisible fluffy pink unicorn the force causing masses to attract, assuming that people will believe him because he has the proper credentials – despite the vast majority of academia and mountains of research contradicting him.

Now let’s relate this to the subject of guns. If an anti-gun ex-soldier says civilians shouldn’t have “rapid-firing assault weapons” – and he would know because he allegedly shot them all the time in the military – he’d be shown to be ignorant on multiple levels.

1)     The so-called “rapid fire assault weapons” that antis so fervently want to ban are strictly semi-automatics with virtually the same rate of fire as handguns.

2)     Considering most standard-issue rifles in the U.S. military (and worldwide) have been select-fire for over half a century, the guns that this guy would allegedly have handled were substantially different than those he supports banning.

So not only have this “expert’s” claims been proven patently false, he failed to meet the standard of knowledge he set for himself, and his appeal to authority did him more harm than good. In the end, he had nothing more to run with than a “should” argument based on nothing more than subjective feelings.

Note that the explicit appeal to authority is different from the Dunning-Kruger effect, where the self-illusion of expertise in an area is often implicit. The false claims, ignorance and arrogance do not come pre-packaged with an alleged background to your name. Just because you stayed at a Holiday Inn last night doesn’t mean you can speak intelligently on firearms and their costs and benefits to society.

Anti-gunners who make the argument from authority often know they aren’t experts on the topic at hand and their opinion is little more than subjective blather. So instead, they claim to be experts because, what better way to mask their ignorance persuade the undecided?

It’s the reason why groups like Moms Demand Action and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence say they have the support of gun owners, military service members, veterans and law enforcement: not because their agenda is consistent with both reality and experience of men and women sworn to protect the Constitution with guns. The reason is simple: they want to appear credible in the eyes of the uninformed.

As a classic of the genre, there’s this “gun owner” in Michael Bloomberg’s ad for his gun control group – trying to give us the impression he’s just another responsible gun owner who favors gun control, all the while violating most of the four rules of gun safety. Mission accomplished.

78 Responses to Why Anti-Gunners Use ‘Arguments From Authority’

  1. ” The greatest dangers to Liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning, but without understanding.” – Justice Louis D. Brandeis

  2. FYI, the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 was struck down by SCOTUS in 2012 as a violation of the First Amendment.

      • Hi, thanks for pointing that out. The information I found pertaining to that turned out to be outdated and incorrect. I’m in the process of having that corrected as we speak. Thanks for pointing that out.

        Oh yeah, another thing — retractions are something anti-gunners never do. Even when they’ve been proven wrong, they’ll pretend it never happened, or worse – fabricate evidence.

        • Infantile behavior. Thoroughly reprehensible. The goal – total disarmament – is held high above the most basic human values.

    • Which is wrong. You can’t impersonate an officer of the law, but you can impersonate a member of the military?

      • A person who impersonates a cop is, in ally likelihood, doing it to commit rape or robbery.

        Impersonating a member of the military does not offer any such criminal opportunities. Now does it make a little more sense?

      • It’s not illegal to lie, unless under oath. Nor should it be illegal. Then you’d have to tell your wife the truth.

  3. if they falsely claim to be a vet, they’ll be considered violators of the Stolen Valor Act.

    Not at all. The Stolen Valor Act only applies if they falsely claim that they received certain military decorations with the intention of obtaining money or other tangible benefit from the false claim. It’s a fraud statute.

    • “…if they falsely claim to be a vet, they’ll be considered violators of the Stolen Valor Act.”

      While the Stolen Valor Act may no longer be the law of the land it should be a matter of honor, not of law. Anyone claiming military status, military service, or undeserved military honors (John Kerry?) should be shamed and vilified at every possible opportunity and by every possible resource.

      The willingness to serve honorably to protect our country, our Constitution and our way of life, and to accept the risks of that service are too important to allow that service to be diminished by false claims of self-serving individuals or groups.

      I served six and one-half years as a 91B10 medic in Germany and CONUS. I did not see combat, but I was ready, willing and prepared should the occasion have demanded. People who claim to have served, and didn’t, or claim a level of service they did not achieve, are the lowest of the low COMMENT DELETEDs I can imagine.

      Too many real men (and women) have trained too hard and risked too much to tolerate for even a moment political charlatans skimming any of their heroism.

  4. You see this all the time in other areas of science or pseudo-science. Astrophysicist A – an expert on string theory – goes off the deep end speaking about cancer cures. Microbiologist B – an authority on cell processes – has “important things” to say about global warming. Even if you ARE an authority in one field doesn’t make you one in another.

    • “Expertise in one field does not carry over to other fields. But experts often think so. The narrower their field of knowledge the more likely they are to think so.” – Robert A, Heinlein, “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long” 1975

    • WORSE: often the first person journalists drag out to comment is… another journalist. It happens on the hour at NPR.

    • Yep, =INFINITY!

      And getting SHOT does not make you an expert on guns. It only shows you ended up in the path of one or more bullets.

  5. I’ve always said when these folks claim expertise, test their knowledge with some questions, then stand back and watch them melt down, call you all sorts of names, and storm off.

    Carolyn McCarthy – “it’s that shoulder thing that goes up”
    Diana DeGette – once all the high capacity clips are shot up, there will be no more.
    Michael Bloomerg – after being informed the fully automatic sound he made was not semi-automatic, “Whatever”
    Kevin DeLeon – “thirty caliber clips”

    All “experts” who studied this issue closely. Classic stuff.
    Once exposed, they lose all credibility. Now with Youtube and the internet, these breathtaking displays of “expertise” can be used to undermine their supposed credibility.

  6. I still remember Gen. Wesley Clark agitating against 5.56 rifles, pointing out “those bullets go 3,000 fps! Nobody needs that!” Right. Talk about a low-information-talker. Clearly he hasn’t been hunting…but he’s an expert on rifles. Expert at being a NATO political general? Admittedly.

    • Damn straight! All you really need is a bullet that goes faster than the enemy can run.

      Everybody knows that.

    • I seriously doubt ol’ Wesley knew one end of an M16 from the other unless an NCO handed it to him with instruction.

    • He wasn’t very good at being a political hack since his name is mud in the Democratic Party. The Clintons hate his guts.

  7. We should listen to the bearded guy wearing flannel sitting on the tailgate of a pickup with a shotgun…

    We can all relate to his blue collar look and claims of being a 2nd A supporter.

    I mean look at that worn ball cap, he has to be legit, no way he is a paid actor.

    Background checks for all!

    • I’m still not convinced. Is there any way we could get him to put some chewing tobacco in his mouth and complain about his lousy job and his overbearing boss?

      • It ain’t real unless his wife leaves him, his truck gets repo’d, his farm gets auctioned, and his dog dies…

        Just sayin’.

        • You do know that country music was only invented to depress you so you’d by more beer, right?

    • We tried to find out who the MAIG actor was a while back and all that came of it was some poor real estate agent in West Virginia got digitally tarred and feathered without any proof.

    • I like how his shotgun is pointing down the street, his finger is on the trigger, and kids are playing in the area, this guy has never had any gun handling experience, pretty lame.

  8. Kelly & Giffords. What a sad turn they’ve taken. Disgusting. Was Giffords shot with an AR? No. Was Kelly ever a soldier with a gun? No. Yet low-information-voter will listen to low-information-talker. Life.

    • What happened to Gabby Giffords was unfortunate (although the families of those who perished might say it was less unfortunate). But, last I checked, both she and her former Naval Officer husband took similar oaths of office ‘to support and defend the Constitution of the United States’. The biggest tragedy isn’t her injury…it’s their blatant disregard for the very Constitution they swore to defend. Immediately after the shooting, I felt sorry for both of them. Now I’m disgusted with them. They make me sick.

  9. To the video I ask, as I always to the ignorant of the constitution people. Where in the constitution and more appropriately the second amendment, does it say “criminals and mentally ill” are not allowed the same righ as the rest of us have? Also, does being a criminal or mentally ill remove other rights as well, such as freedom of speech?

  10. Anybody else had just about enough of Mark Kelly? Anybody else have the gut feeling that he’s actually pretty slimey?

    • politician = slimeball
      politician ~ politician’s spouse

      therefore:

      politician’s spouse = slimeball

  11. I trust myself, my fellow vets, my family, and my friends to know about arms and to know how to use them. I do not truth the so-called experts who often are just sperts.

  12. I am a 10 Year Army veteran (I can prove it) and a 20 Veteran Police officer (I can prove that too), and I am a gun owner (I can prove that too).

    I use a military weapon (M4/M16) in 5.56mm. I use it to stop an attack effectively at a safe distance. It was designed for exactly that purpose. It is made for shooting PEOPLE. It can be used for hunting but there are far better firearms for that.
    It is the choice of the individual what they want to use for self defense. In reality larger capacity larger caliber is better for most folks.
    Any veteran who says otherwise is either foolish or a deluded liberal. End of story.

    • 5.56? It may have been “designed for shooting people” but it is really suitable for shooting woodchucks, and the occasional feral dog. It’s a slightly SAAMI overpressure .223, which was a round you trained your 12 year-old daughter to kill prairie-dogs with. Until she moved to a better caliber.

    • In Patrick’s defense, not that he cannot defend himself, obviously, I have to say that the 5.56 cartridge was in fact a variant of the .223 varmint cartridge and was designed for and intended to shoot people.

      It was also designed for and intended to replace the much heavier 30-06 and/or 7.62 NATO rounds when the tactical level of combat shifted from long-range precision shooting to high volume close range tactics. The smaller round allowed a greater number of cartridges to be carried by each soldier.

      If we assume that we do not care one way or the other if the enemy dies, so long as he quits shooting at us, the wound capabilities of the 5.56 make it an excellent round for shooting your average person at fairly close ranges. If our intent is to drop the MoFo where he stands and make sure he never gets up again, 5.56 is not necessarily where we want to be. So yes, it was designed specifically to shoot PEOPLE, but not necessarily to KILL people, that is just an occasional side benefit.

      • I’m an acerbic SOB. I’m fully aware that it takes 12+ people to care for a wounded soldier, as opposed to the zero it takes to abandon a body in theatre.

        That makes the 5.56 round useful against enemies who think and react exactly as we would. Interestingly enough, those aren’t the people we’ve been fighting since Viet Nam and to this very day. Not to mention, in a “police” context, ‘one shot one kill’, is the optimum scenario. There’s no strategic manpower element to the conflict.

        Realistically, I’m happy to see the popularity of the Mattel-1950s-space-toy-popgun-platform-that-pukes-in-it’s-mouth. It at least means more gun owners. Mall Ninjas most of them, but at least more gun owners.

        Yeah, I got my flamesuit on, just like everyone else (even in the DoD) who shows this round to be a joke, which endangers our soldiers.

  13. As the son of a postal worker and a former gas attendant who once met the guy who played Arnold Horshack, I can state, in no uncertain terms, that anti-gun folks get more annoying by the day. And I’d stake my reputation on that.

    • Let me make this clear. I one time hung out for a few minutes in the parking lot of the Palladium with MCA from the Beastie Boys back in the 90’s, and once at Miami International Airport I was present when Brooke Shields and that tennis player guy to whom she was married bypassed the gate and boarded early right next to me. I have witnesses to all of that…I can say with a high degree of certainty that if you need an assault clip shooting anti-tank rifle to kill a deer that you aren’t worth any salt. I have spoken.

    • Sorry Maineuh, I forgot to say that I salute you and your father for his service to this nation and to this nation’s postal customers. As a consumer of petrol products in all their various forms, I want to thank you for your service as a gas station attendant as well. As for Arnold Horshack, it goes without saying that proud patriots everywhere agree that without his example the 1970’s would’ve probably been even more of a bummer.

  14. RULE #3 Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals:

    “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.”

  15. “So not only have this “expert’s” claims been proven patently false, he failed to meet the standard of knowledge he set for himself, and his appeal to authority did him more harm than good.” – Right so figure out how to illustrate that to everyone watching in 140 characters or less and you end a Twitter war.

    I have ended 3 just today on various topics. Know the rules for radicals. Know your enemy. Keep broadcasting the message.

  16. respect has to be earned….

    Stolen Valor should be the law. Enforcement with a public caning seems appropriate.

    resume “enhancement” is a big problem today, let alone the outright lies…

    • We can start with the “Honorable” Senator Blumenthal from the former “Constitution State”…..

  17. The one I hate are the ones I call the ‘expert by tragic accident’. For example:
    I was a shooting victim/survivor or my child/spouse/parent was, therefore I am an expert on gun violence, and I believe we should have _____ (more gun control).

    This is an appeal to emotion and logical fallacies combined. Like, being in a car accident does not make you an expert on automobile accidents. However, they are very hard to attack, because the antis always say, “How dare you attack that poor innocent victim? Hasn’t she/he been through enough pain?”

    Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly are false Experts By Tragic Accident.

  18. They use “arguments from authority” for the same reasons libTards, and republiCons like to use negroes in their propaganda.

    • “negroes”

      Finally. Someone I can ask this question of: what does time travel really feel like?

  19. Mark “The Professional Husband” Kelly is a digusting opportunist who should be ridiculed at every chance.

  20. 1.) Not interested in the opinion of a squid. No inherent knowledge of firearms coming with attending Camp Popeye,
    2.) Not interested in the opinion of a zoomie. No inherent knowledge of firearms comes with roughing it at the Airport Hilton on tdy.
    3.) Not interested in the opinion of any REMF. No inherent knowledge of firearms coming with hanging out at the cantonment area watching the USO shows.

  21. If I encounter a person who is say law enforcement and/or former military who is for gun control, I will simply engage them on the facts.

    Like that Massachusetts Republican Senate candidate who is an ex-Navy SEAL who wrote the article saying he should have supported the Assault Weapons Ban. In it, he talked about how such weapons require special training to use that only people like SEALs have and thus should not be available to ordinary citizens. Now any half-knowledgeable gun rights person could tear him apart in a debate on all of that.

    Or Mark Kelly’s claims about guns and how because he was in the Navy, he is somehow an authority (I do not understand how being a Navy pilot makes one an authority on guns, but whatever). I’d engage him on the facts as well.

    General Patraeus also said that he didn’t think people should have access to “assault weapons.”

    General McChrystal said that, after Newtown: “Assault rifles are for battlefields, not for schools.”

    General Wesley Clarke made his comment someone mentioned above (about the gun firing rounds that go 3,000 fps).

    ALL these people would be made to look like fools up against any reasoned, knowledgeable gun rights person in a debate.

  22. AMAZING ONLY GABBY AND MARK DESERVE TO HAVE GUNS AND PROTECT THEMSELVES WHAT A COUPLE OF POS’S .KEVIN

  23. If we are going to play the whole “logical fallacy” game, we need to be honest with ourselves and admit that our side indulges in plenty of logical fallacies when making our case or responding to the antis.

    Ad hominem is one of the chief fallacies.

    And you can pretty much see every other one at work as well in the comment section on TTAG.

    So, we don’t have much to be proud of either when it comes to using sound logic to refute the other side’s assertions.

  24. you forgot:

    “I’ve been hunting/shooting/masturbating all my life. I support the second amendment. I even know the 3 rules of gun safety. But..” 3???????????????????????? Really???????? These “experts” are so stupid they can’t even manage to use a Google brand Google search engine.

  25. The stuttering, stammering, ventriloquists dummy, Gabby Giffords, and her puppeteer hubby, Mark Kelly, should be more concerned with who belongs to their (Democrat) party than what law-abiding citizens do with their LEGALLY purchased firearms. The fact is Gabby’s shooter, Jared Loughner, a REGISTERED Democrat and Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton supporter, has done what some in his district may consider a great service, his actions have shown the nation just what kind of people his party is comprised of (nut-jobs) and forced the rabidly anti-2nd Amendment former congresswoman and hypocrite from the shadows. In a perfect world the traitorous ex-NASA astronaut, Mark Kelly, would be held to account for his crimes but he’s too busy changing his wife’s soiled diapers and wiping the drool from her chin but no, we are punished by regularly being subjected to seeing this pair, a 21st Century Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen-type team “perform” for the cameras on biased media outlets scheming to deny us our Constitutionally guaranteed rights. I for one become nauseated watching these buffoons as the wooden-headed Gabby sits upon her hubby’s knee “testifying” before state and federal committees mouthing the words Bloomberg and his anti-gun stooges have written for her. Now some may criticize this pair of despicable gun-grabbing despots for setting up a “charity” (to enrich themselves) but someone has to pay for the long surgical gloves used by Mark Kelly to “pull” his wife’s “strings”.

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