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I seem to be doing a lot of these pieces lately, maybe because I’m working on testimony opposing the silly-ass bills the Minnesota legislature has been trotting out to “address gun safety.” But someone has to vivisect the antis’ dissection of supposed pro-gun arguments. When I saw Richard (RJ) Eskow’s entry into the field, I just couldn’t let it pass. Optimistically titled 12 rational responses to irrational gun arguments, RJ offers little in the way of substance, relying instead primarily on quips and ad hominem attacks. Best of all, he starts by accusing the pro-2A side of relying on … quips and ad hominem attacks . . .

In a recent discussion about gun control on Thom Hartmann’s program, my opponent suggested that gun control advocates like me really have a cultural aversion to guns. That’s a standard ploy for the gun set: when reason isn’t on your side, deploy emotional and personal arguments instead.

Talk about having things bass ackwards. Dick, we’re the ones who actually do have facts, logic and reason on our side, while the your side relies on emotional appeals, skewed logic and twisted statistics with alarming regularity.

Case in point: I was recently talking gun and civil rights (OK, that’s redundant) with my very liberal sister-in-law and cited some DGU numbers and the Florida permit-holder stats (over 25 years, only 0.007% have had their permit revoked for using a gun in a crime). Her reply to me was somewhat tongue in cheek but also somewhat serious:

 It is at least possible that there are those poor souls who could be won over to your side of the debate by your extensive command of facts and information (although not me; I hate to have “facts” interfere with Truth!)

I believe what Eskow’s opponent meant when he suggested a “cultural aversion” was that many antis (like my sister-in-law) suffer from hoplophobia and so can’t help but react irrationally to guns the same way arachibutyrophobiacs can’t help but react irrationally to an open-faced PB&J sandwich.

Dick does claim that he’s not hoplophobic, trotting out the classic “But I’m a gunny, too!” defense:

“Anti-gun”? I could’ve brought up my own recreational gun use, or even brought out the firing range pass I carry in my wallet. But I’ll admit that I’ve lost a little of my taste for it as our national killing spree continues unabated.

Owning and shooting guns no more makes you pro-gun than owning and driving a Range Rover qualifies you for the Dakar Rally. As for our “national killing spree,” a quick glance at the chart below shows that there ain’t no such animal.


We aren’t quite down to the low of 1962, but the difference is only 0.11 or so, making any claim of some sort of ongoing killing spree patently ridiculous. See what I mean about who has reason on their side and who has to rely on emotional claims?

Now that President Obama has made his initial gun control proposals, the crazy’s being ratcheted up to a new level. Rational Americans in all walks of life will be confronted with these kinds of arguments. We’re going to need a playbook. Here are 12 responses you can use when you’re confronted with some of the standard illogical, irrational and emotionally overheated statements that gun extremists use.

There he is, repeating the meme that it is the antis who are the rational ones in this debate, while we gunnies are just mindless, slavering lunatics. But on with the “rational” responses:

1.     I’m not anti-gun, I’m pro-kindergartner.

Nope, no appeal to raw emotion there.

After Newtown, what person in his right mind thinks it’s irrational to propose some common-sense measures to prevent similar tragedies in the future?

I certainly don’t think it’s irrational to propose measures that actually have a snowball’s chance in hell of preventing similar tragedies in the future; my objection is to the meaningless, feel-good, “let’s do something” claptrap that’s been presented so far.

What possible difference could it have made if the Sandy Hook shooter had to swap magazines three times as often? The most specific number I have seen for shots fired is “50 to 100”, but even if it was 100, limiting magazines to 10 rounds would have added a maximum of 6 magazine changes. Even a marginally competent shooter can swap a mag in less than 2 seconds. The shooting started about 9:35 and ended between 9:46 and 9:49; so even if he was only shooting for 11 minutes and was a slow-ass magazine changer, eliminating normal mags in favor of 10 rounders would have added about 12 seconds (or 1.8%) to the shooting spree. Hardly a game-changer.

Second, let’s step back and look at the whole “national killing spree” situation for a minute, shall we? According to Dr. John Lott, 61 out of the 62 mass shootings in the last 30 years have occurred in putatively gun free zones. So 98.4% of mass casualty shootings have a single common factor (besides someone with a gun) and the antis’ response is to blame the guns?

The next “rational response”:

2. Saying “If we have gun control only outlaws will have guns” is like saying “If you outlaw drunk driving, only outlaws will drive drunk.”

No, it’s nothing like that at all. What the (admittedly somewhat simplified) phrase means is that if you ban guns (and make no mistake, we are talking effective gun bans in several states) the law abiding will turn them in or sell them and the thugs won’t.

This anti-gun control cliché makes absolutely no sense. We lose our driver’s license if we’re arrested for drunk driving, or if we commit too many other moving violations. But law-abiding people are free to drive. Gun control laws aren’t any different.

Okay Dick, here in Minnesota they are getting ready to ban mags that carry more than 10 rounds. So please tell me what gun crime/drunk driving analogue have I been arrested for? What firearm/moving violation analogues have I committed that I should lose my owner’s/driver’s license?

You say the law-abiding are free to “drive” (i.e. carry or own scary weapons) but we most assuredly are not. If the mag ban passes and I don’t get all of my magazine out of state, I’m looking at five years in prison for each banned mag. The same for “high cap” mag parts, so if I have a spring that some anti-gun prosecutor thinks is too long, BOOM! Five years, felony record, buh-bye civil rights. Not because I did anything, but because the legislature passed a bill and the governor signed it.

3. If dead children are a “distraction,” what subjects are important enough to be worthy of your attention?

As Media Matters reports, an increasing number of gun-extremist righties have suggested that attempts to prevent more deaths, including the deaths of young people at Newtown, Aurora, Columbine and elsewhere, are really just a “distraction” from more important matters.

Again, if any of the legislation in question actually addressed the issues, I doubt very much that anyone would be calling it a distraction. What is a distraction is spending vast amounts of time talking about an issue which, according to a Pew poll taken the end of January, Americans rank guns as the 18th most important issue out of 21. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 are all economic; strengthening the economy, improving the job situation and reducing the deficit. So, yeah, all this sturm und drang about gun control is a distraction from issues that 72 – 86% of American think really are more important.

4. So you’ve got “Second Amendment” rights? Where’s the rest of your militia?

The text of the Second Amendment reads: “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.”

Where are the other soldiers? Who’s in charge? And which state are you protecting?

As Law School Prof. Joe Olson points out to an ignorant leftie legislator in this video:

I actually had one of my articles cited in Heller. So I know that Judge Scalia is familiar with my work … The Supreme Court did two things in the Heller case that are relative to the discussion … One, in Heller the Supreme Court made very clear that the introductory clause to the Second Amendment is not part of the normative statement, in other words … not part of the rule of law. The rule of law is that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

As for those “other soldiers,” they’re all around you. Your neighbor Fred down the street, the guy who changes the oil in your car, your chiropractor, your pastor, your business partner, your letter carrier.

As a ‘militia of one’ I’m in charge of myself and responsible for my actions. And the “free state” that I’m protecting is the one that we all live in; the one where you don’t have to worry about your neighbor informing on you; the one where you can write what you choose without having to worry about being imprisoned for “defaming the state”; the one where, although being chipped away, you still retain your natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional rights to free speech, free worship, jury trials, etc.

5. Oh, and congratulations on keeping the [Newton shooter’s name redacted] kid so “well-regulated.”

Along with Crazy New York Hermit Dude, the Columbine killers, the Tucson shooter, and all the other members of your “militia.”

News flash, Dick: Sandy Hook shooter got his weapons despite being a prohibited person living in the #4 Brady-ranked state in the nation. And not a single one of New York’s latest round of feel-good laws would have made any difference in his case.

Columbine killers, the same. Yes I know their straw purchaser said she wouldn’t have bought guns for them if she’d had to fill out paperwork, but she said that while testifying in favor of a bill to “close the gun show loophole” and, oddly enough, was never prosecuted for her role in the killings.

The Tucson shooter should have been locked up for the explicit death threats he’d been making around town (there was a reason the sheriff pronounced his name correctly from the get-go). I’m sure the fact that his mom worked for the county had nothing to do with his getting a free pass on felony stalking charges.

And I’m not responsible for other members of my “militia” any more than journalists were responsible for Julius Streicher.

6. If I can’t drive without decent vision, I shouldn’t be able to purchase weapons of mass killing after beating my grandmother to death with a hammer.

To reiterate: The Sandy Hook shooter got his weapons despite being a prohibited person living in the #4 Brady ranked state in the nation, and not a single one of New York’s latest round of feel good laws would have made any difference in his case.

Maybe I’m off base here, but that just seems like common sense to me.

No Dick, “common sense” would be a society in which any person who can’t be trusted with a gun can’t be trusted without a custodian. And always keep in mind that the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional right — subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.

Well at least I managed to get halfway through this batch of bullshit before I realized I was getting waaay too log-winded; so RR’s 7 through 12 will be dealt with in my next polemic.

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  1. I guess it’s just the raw sanctimoniousness & priggish condescension of Dick Eskow toward those whom he deems his moral & intellectual inferiors that is not only infuriating but is unintendedly galvanizing his opposition. Nobody likes being talked down to, & his exalted elected status has made him forget that.

    For his next act Eskow will elevate an AR-15 before the cameras & intone, “No normal person NEEEEEDS an assault weapon!!”

  2. Half of the arguments you have there are equating things like driving and drinking to personal arms. As you pointed out, personal arms are a right. Technically driving and drinking are ALSO a right.

    The reason we have drivers licenses is because we have public roads, and so the usage of those roads are up to the public to determine. You can have your 8-year-old drive your truck around all you want on private land. You don’t need state issued license (for instance) to drive on a race-track (though most will require some other license to prove you understand their rules and regulations).

    I always say, “I’ll cut you a deal. I’ll pay taxes, buy insurance and get a license for my firearms; right after you pay taxes, buy insurance and get a license for your ability to vote or write/post/voice any speech; because I personally don’t think you have a need to vote or voice your opinion. You voting or speaking can’t possibly be good for the children. I’m going to find a group of people who I’m going to train to be superior voters and they’ll deal with all your communication and voting privileges for you. They’re trained for it, you’re clearly incompetent.”

    Sadly, the sarcasm is usually lost on them in their righteous indignation that the US shouldn’t revolve around their irrational feelings.

    • Unfortunately they think they’re already the “superior voters that deal will all communications and voting privileges”.

      They don’t care about the facts on rights because they’re ready to get rid of rights they don’t care about at the drop of a hat. This isn’t about crime or individual protection, it’s about making sure “Sandy Hook never happens again”. Yet again it would be wise to look at history and the millions that died and were forever maimed under the banner of ending all wars, which didn’t end all wars, and ask how many must suffer helplessly this decade before you get the picture? If you don’t want to exercise your constitutional rights don’t, but that doesn’t mean you get to infringe on others.

      It’s really upsetting to think there are people this stupid out there, but that’s more comforting than thinking they’re acting on purpose.

    • I think the “right/privilege” distinction misses an important point. Drunk drivers are dangerous, but not due to any evil intent. Drunk driving causes accidents.

      Laws against drunk driving, rules about speed limits, traffic signals, etc. work to increase public safety because they act on a threat – traffic accidents – that arises between well-meaning actors. None of us wants to hit other people with our cars, so we all follow the rules, and we all stay safe. Crimes of violence are not like traffic accidents. At least one party involved possesses evil intent and has no intention of keeping his victims safe. These are not accidents, they are crimes. You can’t just treat them as accidents because it suits you and pretend you can regulate them out of existence.

  3. The sad thing is some people call this “a common sense approach to gun control”. The gun control crap is dewy enough to grow stuff in.

  4. Bumper sticker logic is the only way they can win and they know it. When I bring up the Florida CCW statistics or the leaked DOJ memo, I’m either met with silence, or an emotional outburst that they don’t even try to dress up as coherent argument.

    • I worry that most people can’t be bothered with a good argument anymore. If people won’t even stop and sit down for a meal, why would they bother hashing out an insightful conversation?

      • Heck with arguments, I can hardly get people to hold eye contact for more than half a sentence in a regular discussion anymore. The American attention span is dead.

  5. Clarification for number 6: Grandmother killer was from NY. His neighbor bought guns for him a few years before he killed 2 firefighters. Which just proves the point some people will break whatever law they choose, just because they can.

  6. Eskow is one of the worst of the crappy hacks who pollute HuffPo. One bright spot of the site is that there’s a large crew of fact-driven pro-gun commenters there who often outnumber the emotional anti-rights commenters.

  7. Bruce, you keep saying these articles get too long but they seem to fly by for me. Sun Tzu would call you a clever fighter.

  8. The drunk-driving comparison completely misses the point of the “outlaw” statement. He compares possession of something (bearing arms) with a complex action (consuming alcohol and driving a motorized vehicle).

    Outlaw statements like this already divert from the fact that the Bill of Rights reminds us that we are born with the right to bear arms and that the government is not to interfere with it. However, these unfalsifiable statements are useful (when concise) to engage people in a little critical thinking.

    Let’s try switching it up a little to see what happens:
    “If you outlaw alcohol, only outlaws will have alcohol.”
    “If you outlaw shooting people in the face with a gun, only outlaws will shoot people in the face with guns.”

    One statement makes you ponder the foolishness of outlawing something that, in the case of alcohol (and guns in the original), is deeply engrained in human nature and culture with a long history of use. The other statement is too cluttered to be useful of proving anything but itself.

    We’ve been down prohibition road already. We couldn’t possibly be dumb enough to make that trip again. Oh, wait…

    • What his statement really suffers from is an absolute lack of logic. If you drive drunk, they take away your license and say you can’t drive, even send you to jail. Myabe even impound your car. But they don’t take away everyone else’s cars. But with gun control, they want to take all the guns away so spree killings can’t happen.

      • I’d only add that when they take away your DL, it certainly doesn’t take away your ability to drive anyway.

  9. The pithy soundbites are the most frustrating part of talking to my anti-gun acquaintances. Another great post, Bruce. I always look forward to seeing your articles.

  10. 10 USC § 311 – Militia: composition and classes
    (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
    (b) The classes of the militia are—
    (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
    (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

  11. That’s time I’ll never get back. I knew I should have stopped reading at “bumper sticker logic”.
    Just thinking about responding to Eskow makes me feel stupid. He must have been on something potent when composing his debunkitation.

  12. Bruce, love your articles and the respectful & factual way you break down irrational arguments. Just a quick assist here: in point 6 Eskow is referring to the 2012 Webster NY whacko, not the Sandy Hook shooter. In anycase, Eskow is arguing that he should not have been able to obtain weapons and that we should create a law against it. What Eskow misses, is that (as a convicted felon) he WAS unable to legally purchase & possess firearms and used an (illegal) straw purchaser. What’s his suggestion? More laws? Maybe if he was breaking 2 or 3 or 10 laws he wouldn’t have done it. Should we get the President to sign an executive order making straw purchases “MORE” illegal than they already are?

  13. Pardon my cynicism, but the actual masterminds behind the Gun Control (or Gun Prohibition) movement know that none of these measures will reduce the criminal misuse of firearms. Their plan is to create rules and requirements that are either impossible or prohibitively expensive to implement, while selling these as “reasonable and common sense” measures to a gullible public. The reason being is that they have a disdain for firearms, and that they have a moral imperative to disarm the public.

  14. “I,m not anti-gun, I,m pro Kindergartner”. “I,m not pro-Zyklon-B, I,m anti Pelvic Ashtray”. You stupid, effing, libtards.
    Liberalism is a mental disorder.

  15. Aside from the author’s opinion, that was one of the worst pieces of writing, technically speaking, I’ve seen published. I wrote the Salon editor a short note expressing my astonishment and disapproval of them publishing anything so poorly written, even if they agree with the author’s opinion.

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