Debating gun control with false equivalence

Is there a difference between callous, gutter partisanship and working hand in hand with the victims of a tragedy to make a difference? Some people would say no. But that’s because they choose to debate issues of national importance with fallacious logic and false equivalence.

This week I blogged abut the Arkansas politician who sent out the following tweet while me and the rest of my community were trapped in our homes as police hunted for the at-large suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. The politician, Nate Bell wrote:

I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?

This garbage infuriated thousands of people, including me. We were not cowering. We were not dreaming of holding a gun. We were waiting for the police to do their jobs. And they did.

Some people want to defend Bell by saying liberals are just as guilty of scoring political points in the face of tragedy. Perhaps some liberals are guilty of that, but one commenter on my blog would have me believe that demanding stricter gun control in the wake of tragedies like Newtown is no less repugnant.

Commenter David D. wrote:

How is this different than Pres. Obama using small children from Newport [sic] Connecticut to further his agenda? Do you condone this type of action, so long as it coincides with your personal beliefs, but respond with righteous indignation when someone dare do or say something that hits to the right of your viewpoint?

Let’s assume that David D is referring to Newtown, and not Newport.

Never mind the fact that the parents of those Newtown children who were murdered by a lunatic with an AR-15 are demanding stricter gun control, as are the victims of the Aurora shootings, the Tuscon shootings, the Virginia Tech shootings and many, many more.

Instead, let’s look at David D’s logic. He would have me believe that Bell’s cynical statement about “Boston liberals cowering in their homes” and “wishing” for AR-15s is somehow equivalent to Obama standing up with the parents and siblings of murdered children to demand meaningful gun reform. There is no comparison.

Bell’s statement was a cheap shot at the expense of people who were under siege. Obama’s actions were a response to a demand for reform by the victims and their families.

Describing our people as “cowering” “Boston liberals” was meant as a pejorative slur, and I think Bell knows it. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have deleted the tweet. A truly equivalent statement from the left side of this debate, would be something distasteful and callous. Something such as:

I bet all those police officers who are getting shot at in Watertown right now are wishing we had stricter gun control laws.

Isn’t that disgusting? If someone truly said this in earnest, I would happily condemn him. But I didn’t see such a statement. Did you?

I also expressed my frustration with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s eagerness to withhold the bombing suspect’s Constitutional rights by designating him as an enemy combatant. I asked why Republicans are so eager to defend the Second Amendment while they trample upon the rest of the Bill of Rights.

David D. disagreed with me again.

Let’s turn this around shall we, why is it that Democrats and other liberals [are] so protective of the First Amendment’s free speech, but so blithe about eroding the protections of the rest of the Bill of Rights, especially those rights afforded by the Second Amendment? Why is it that Mr. Bell can write words that so many find offensive, and you can publicly criticize a government official, and neither of you are even the least bit concerned about being yanked from your beds at night and thrown in jail?

Again, this logic crumbles under scrutiny. Liberals are not blithe about the Second Amendment. We just look at the entire text of that amendment and demand intelligent interpretation. The amendment begins:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state…

Liberals do not want to infringe on the right to keep and bear arms. We just think regulation of that right is justified. And none of the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights are completely unfettered by reasonable controls, including the First Amendment that David D. referred to.

As we all know, I cannot stand up in a crowded theater and falsely yell “Fire!” without facing legal consequences. I cannot slander someone without facing legal consequence. I cannot invade the privacy of an individual and publish the results of that violation without facing legal consequences. The right of free expression does not allow for such abuse.

I argue that that owning weapons that are designed to inflict mass casualties, such as an AR-15 with a large-capacity magazine, is an abuse of the Second Amendment that should be curtailed. I do not say that “blithely.” I say that soberly. I say that as a reasonable person who is offering compromise. I am not asking that gun owners give up their hunting rifles and their handguns. I’m asking them to submit to background checks, national gun registries and reasonable restrictions on lethality (assault weapons bans, clip size limits).

David D. also wrote:

I also thank God each day that we don’t live in a perpetual war zone where the need to keep and bear arms is a necessity and not a right.

He is right. We don’t live in a war zone. So why are we armed to the teeth?

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2 thoughts on “Debating gun control with false equivalence

  1. Pingback: Is the best argument for unfettered gun ownership fear? | A Readers Feast

  2. In response, let me begin by correcting my previous reply where I stated Newport, but was in fact referring to Newtown, my apologies.

    I’ve read some of the the other replies from the “POLITICAL LOWLIGHTS OF THE MARATHON BOMBER MANHUNT” post, and it seems that several of the replies focused on the exact meaning of a particular word, the semantics, and even the context or perhaps the implied meaning. Another thing I noticed was that I seem to have touched a nerve, so much so that it sparked this post.

    With that said, let me respond to this post, which seems directed entirely at my previous reply, and throw in a few words that perhaps will bring about even more interesting replies.

    First, there’s ignorance. Many people view this word as the equivalent to stupidity, but the dictionary says this:

    ignorance |ˈignərəns|
    noun
    lack of knowledge or information: “he acted in ignorance of basic procedures.”
    PHRASES
    “ignorance is bliss” proverb if you do not know about something, you do not worry about it.
    ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French from Latin ignorantia, from ignorant- ‘not knowing’ (see ignorant) .

    Here’s another word, bias.

    bias |ˈbīəs|
    noun
    prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair: “there was evidence of bias against foreign applicants” “the bias toward younger people in recruitment”
    ORIGIN mid 16th cent. (in the sense ‘oblique line’; also as an adjective meaning ‘oblique’): from French biais, from Provençal, perhaps based on Greek epikarsios ‘oblique.’

    And lastly, viewpoint.

    viewpoint |ˈvjuːpɔɪnt|
    noun
    1 a position giving a good view.
    2 a person’s opinion or point of view: “I do try to put over our viewpoint” “from a purely aesthetic viewpoint, I must say that I dislike the design.”
    viewpoint |ˈvyo͞oˌpoint|
    noun
    another term for point of view.

    I agree with the dictionary in that ignorance is in no way offensive, as I am ignorant on many, many things. I also have a “favor of or against” many things, and have a particular viewpoint on most subjects as well. I say this because I feel that you are very ignorant in regards to gun control and are bias towards Pres. Obama and his actions regarding the Newtown tragedy. This is your viewpoint, and you are entitled to it. I’m sure that your life experiences, you upbringing, your education, and your environment have all been woven together in a way that has formed the basis of why you feel the way you do. This is true of every human being on the planet, it’s why we have a disagreements. This is also why our government is structured in such a manner, with checks and balances and with representatives to (hopefully) enact laws and regulations that represent the desires of their constituency. Simply said, people are different and see things differently. As is the case with you and I.

    I stated that you were ignorant, again, no insult intended, as to gun control. Let me address your comments, where you stated:

    “I argue that that owning weapons that are designed to inflict mass casualties, such as an AR-15 with a large-capacity magazine, is an abuse of the Second Amendment that should be curtailed. I do not say that “blithely.” I say that soberly. I say that as a reasonable person who is offering compromise. I am not asking that gun owners give up their hunting rifles and their handguns. I’m asking them to submit to background checks, national gun registries and reasonable restrictions on lethality (assault weapons bans, clip size limits).”

    I don’t mean to put words in your mouth, as it were, but it appears that you feel the Second Amendment was written to protect our rights in regards to hunting and shooting sports. The Second Amendment was in no way penned with hunting or sports in mind. Hunting was survival at that time and was completely taken for granted as a right. The Second Amendment was written to allow the citizens to protect themselves from evil, be it in the form of a lunatic, or in the form of a corrupt government, foreign or domestic. The Second Amendment was written to protect our right to own what you ignorantly call assault rifles, so that, should the need arise, we can defend ourselves from the same tyranny that the founding fathers faced. Some say that the founding fathers had no way of knowing the future or the technical advancements in firearms and never could have envisioned an AR-15. The fact is that they had the exact same weapons used by the military and law enforcement of the day, there were no differences in their weapons. The average citizen had the ability to procure the same firearms used by the soldiers, and many of the volunteers did just that. Today, we have laws that regulate ownership of the same guns used by our military. You cannot go to the local sporting goods store and purchase a fully automatic assault rifle. You can, however, purchase an AR-15, which is technically not an assault weapon. An assault rifle is defined as a selective fire (selective between automatic, semi-automatic, and burst fire) rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Again, an AR-15 does not have selective fire therefore is not an assault rifle. You mention that weapons designed to inflict mass casualties should be curtailed, yet you then state you are not asking hunters to give up their weapons. Again, a completely ignorant statement. A 12 gauge shotgun has the ability to send far more deadly projectiles down range than any AR-15. A .22 rifle, a favorite among small game hunters, can easily kill at long range, just as an AR-15 does. In regards to large capacity magazines, how does the randomly selected 10 round capacity curtail violence in any way? They use the argument that this will save lives, but give no evidence whatsoever that this is the case. So it’s alright to murder 10 people before reloading, but 30 people is too many, again, without reloading. The number of magazines one crazed madman can carry isn’t limited, only the capacity of each magazine. I say this is utter nonsense as limiting magazine capacity will only mildly inconvenience a lunatic on a shooting spree. It also seems that everyone has forgotten about the tragedy at Columbine, which occurred while the previous weapons ban was in place. People also neglect to mention that even the government’s own studies have shown the previous ban had little or no effect on violence.

    I argue that you have fallen into the evil black rifle syndrome, where, since the rifle looks evil, it must be evil. And as good people, we should outlaw evil, therefore the AR-15 must be outlawed. Please don’t let the hype cloud your judgment, an AR-15, just like any other rifle or weapon, is an inanimate object and isn’t inherently good or evil. It is no more or less dangerous than a shotgun or any other rifle when used by a madman.

    When I was young, I, along with most of my male classmates, carried a knife to school. This was a known and accepted practice. I furnished a knife to a teacher in need on many an occasion. Many students also brought guns to school in the form of hunting rifles, which they displayed in the gun racks of their trucks. I have one friend who would bring a shotgun on the bus in the morning, hand it to the bus driver and ask him to hold it until the ride home that afternoon so that he could simply go straight to the woods instead of having to walk home first. We never even considered using these as a weapon. They were merely a tool, and were used as such. The difference in today’s violent society isn’t stricter guns laws or the abundance of AR-15 style rifles. Our problem is that somehow, somewhere, we, as a society have lost something that was present when I was young. I don’t know if it’s our value of life, our self control, or what it is, I’m not qualified to diagnosis the disease. But I do know that banning of guns will not solve the problem, it will only make it worse. One could also argue that gun bans, firearm registration, and a national database are the beginnings of the road to tyranny. Those alive in the 30’s and 40’s might recall that Hitler assured everyone that the government would protect them and that they didn’t need firearms. While I’m not suggesting that Pres. Obama is an evil man, nor am I comparing him to Hitler, the seeds sown by the current administration could very well lead to tyranny if abused by future officials.

    Another point in which you show your ignorance. You stated:

    “Liberals do not want to infringe on the right to keep and bear arms. We just think regulation of that right is justified. And none of the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights are completely unfettered by reasonable controls, including the First Amendment that David D. referred to.
    As we all know, I cannot stand up in a crowded theater and falsely yell “Fire!” without facing legal consequences. I cannot slander someone without facing legal consequence. I cannot invade the privacy of an individual and publish the results of that violation without facing legal consequences. The right of free expression does not allow for such abuse.”

    You say you don’t want to infringe on the right to keep and bear arms yet that is completely and totally what you desire to do. You say that none of the rights are completely unfettered by “reasonable” controls, whose idea of “reasonable” are you basing these controls on, yours, Sen. Feinstein’s, or Pres. Obama’s? My idea of reasonable is that you don’t hurt other people without strong justification, such as self defense or the defense of others. My idea of reasonable is that you give people the rights afforded them under our Constitution and if they abuse those rights, you deal with them accordingly. You cannot legislate utopia! Then you use the example of yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. You absolutely have the ABILITY to yell “Fire!” in anyway you want, but if it endangers other, or causes other problems, you will, or at least should, be held accountable for your actions. The same should apply to firearm ownership. No one has suggested that firearm ownership is without responsibility, same as regulating one’s speech. No one has suggested that it’s A-OK to go on a shooting spree or go around killing innocent people. The freedom of speech is such that if you cause harm, there are consequences, it does not remove your ability to speak harmful words. Yet those in favor of gun control want to figuratively remove our ability to speak the word “Fire!” at all, whether it’s appropriate or not. You would prefer that the government arrive and notify us that there is a fire instead of giving me that ability out of fear that I might abuse it somehow. Banning weapons takes away those weapons, therefore by default is an erosion of my rights, whether you agree or not.

    As a responsible firearm owner, I take offense to those that lump me in the same group as mindless killers. I have never once harmed an innocent person with a firearm, and can confidently say that I will never intentionally harm an innocent person. I have been 12 feet from the President of the United States while in possession of a firearm, with the full knowledge of the Secret Service. They asked that I be there, knew I had a gun, and felt no concern whatsoever about me being there with a gun. I was there on a detail to help guard the President, and whether I agreed with his politics or not, I would have taken whatever steps necessary to protect him, including putting myself in danger. I would feel the same way about you in that, despite the fact we disagree, I feel that all human life is precious and deserves to be preserved. Yet I get the impression that you are afraid of me owning a gun, especially one that looks evil. What are you afraid of? I strongly agree that crazy people shouldn’t have guns. They shouldn’t have knives or bombs or any item that can be used to harm others. But why should my rights be infringed upon because of your fear?

    Another point you made, you stated that “We were not cowering. We were not dreaming of holding a gun. We were waiting for the police to do their jobs. And they did.” My response to that is that your statement is as broad as Mr. Bell’s in that you cannot speak for everyone is Boston. While you may not have been cowering, some may have, I don’t know and neither do you. This is an emotional statement lashing out at someone who you feel has offended you and is based no more in fact than the word’s of Nate Bell. You also said you were waiting for the police to do their job, and they did, quite well might I add. However, what if the police didn’t do their job? What if they never arrived? You, as so many others, take the police for granted. I’m a big fan of law enforcement, but I also know the limitations. The Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcement officers are not responsible for your safety, you are. Such cases as Castle Rock v. Gonzales argue that the police cannot always protect the citizens and cannot be held accountable if bad things happen.

    You also apparently speak for all the families and friends of those involved in the Newtown and Aurora when you stated:

    “Never mind the fact that the parents of those Newtown children who were murdered by a lunatic with an AR-15 are demanding stricter gun control, as are the victims of the Aurora shootings, the Tuscon shootings, the Virginia Tech shootings and many, many more.”

    Some are demanding stricter gun control, not all, as your statement would have readers believe. I can’t say that I feel their pain, because I can’t imagine what they must be going through. Their grief, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are correct in their viewpoint. If Adam Lanza were alive and they asked that the lunatic be strung up without a trial, would you automatically agree with those views? I personally would like to be alone in a room with Mr. Lanza for 5 minutes. I would really like to dish out some home-grown justice, but I also know that this is an emotional response and not a legal or correct one. Like all other criminals, he would have rights, and justifiably so. But he, again, like so many other lunatics, cowardly took his own life.

    Many will also use the argument that, if we can save just one life, it’s worth the erosion of our rights. Those who make such asinine remarks are usually wanting to limit a right that really doesn’t impact them very much. For a person who doesn’t own a firearm, it’s very easy to give up something that has no personal impact on them. However, if they were really interested in saving lives, they would be rallying to ban automobiles, cigarettes, alcohol, just to name a few. Yet no one seems ready to give up the SUV just yet. In 2011, there were 323 persons killed with what you call assault rifles. In that same year, 32,367 persons were killed in automobile accidents. I’ll let you do the math, but I personally see a huge difference in lives lost. Is convenience more important than human life? Is it that those people feel automobiles are necessary, but guns are not? Where is this imaginary line that separates the value of life with our quality of life?

    One last note, perhaps you should read some of the writings by Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman in which he speaks of sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. I won’t go into his writings in depth, but most people are considered sheep, not the derogatory stereotype of mindless sheep, but of kind beings that mean no harm to anyone. They simply want to live and let live, and this is a good thing. I believe you fall into this category. I wish our society were such that only sheep were present. However, this is not the case, wolves are alive and well. And as long as wolves exist, the need for the sheepdog will exist.

    I’ll close with a quote from Benjamin Franklin, who said “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” While you may desire to vote away my right to keep and bear arms, I’ll kindly respond with this simple phrase – Molon Labe.

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