A week ago I posted a short editorial piece explaining an aspect of the gun problem we’re facing in the United States now and the debate raging around it. I explained that, as a result of a perceived sense of heightened danger, a great number of Americans are beginning to feel, justifiably, that our unrestrained gun problems means potential death when spending time in a public place. The response was incredible, with the reception being overwhelmingly positive. However, like anything so polarizing, it drew plenty of negative response as well. Having been following gun control debates for years and especially in recent times, there is an undeniable trend among those speaking on behalf of gun “rights” that was highlighted especially well in this instance.
Granted, it could be argued that these feelings of fear that have risen noticeably since the Aurora, Colorado shootings last year are unjustified – fact is, gun violence, if anything, has been in decline since the 90s (some data, though, says it might be on the rise again). The problem with this line of reasoning is that it ignores the fact that “better” is not the same as acceptable – though there is disparate data regarding rates of gun violence (thanks mostly to NRA efforts to stifle the collection of such information; why do you think that might be?), the Center for Disease Control estimates that there are more than 86 firearm fatalities every single day in the United States (as of 2010), or 31,672 individuals every year.
You’d think that being the nation with the highest rates of gun ownership we’d also be the safest nation on the planet; turns out that’s not quite true. Even if you’d point out that despite that we do not have the highest murder rates by firearm in the world, I’d explain to you that the United States has an infrastructure in the form of police and such that is among the most extensive in the world as well as the fact that the firearm violence being committed in those other countries are most likely being done with American made weapons.
With those points aside, of which I am far from the first to make, I’ve noticed a distinct trend of gun “rights” activists who follow a pattern of argument that will typically include most if not all of the following features: Circuitous logic, hysterical hyperbole, extreme cynicism, severe paranoia, and quite frequently an insulting or even threatening tone apparently derived from a persecution complex. And their arguments almost always revolve around vague generalizations – almost never aimed at any law or proposal in general, just a zero sum game where any change at all to the status quo is equivalent to Kristalnacht. I could write a 100 plus page dissertation on how fundamentally wrong these arguments always are, but it’s been done and would not convince them – as they say, “you can lead a horse to water…”. But for those reading who may fall near this category (and I know you are), this is how you are seen by the rest of the nation and it does not serve your argument well at all.
I’m not one to jump to unfounded generalizations, but there is an undeniable trend here. It’s no secret that the internet draws the most extreme and encourages uninhibited expression of opinions, but this is also our Congressmen and women and NRA president LaPierre making almost exactly the same, irrational, illogical arguments. I feel like it would be easier to find any utilitarian use for a semi-automatic weapon that doesn’t involve killing a human being (a difficult thing to do, no doubt) than to find a logical, level-headed pro-gun advocate claiming things are just fine the way they are now.
Despite this, polls claim that a large majority of gun owners (and even NRA members) actually support some measure of increases firearm restrictions. If this is so, then where are you, Mr. or Ms. Rational Gun Owner? You’ve been noticeably absent from the discussion, allowing these alarmist paranoids to dominate your side of the conversation. If increased gun control were actually as bad and dangerous as these types claim it to be, you’d think a coherent, logical argument would have emerged by now. Subjective though some aspects of the debate may be, there are arguments in this debate which have more practical traction than others, and so far this does not describe those speaking for leaving gun legislation as it is.
Should we keep letting irrationality and paranoid, unfounded fear guide policy that could potentially stem the highly preventable extreme loss of life that occurs every day? We have to ask ourselves if we have the resolve to confront an interest group that is, by its very nature, militant and aggressive. We’ve heard their arguments, we’ve tried doing things their way – gun control is as lax as it has ever been and it’s not working. If guns made us safe we would be. With an estimated 86 deaths a day from gun violence their opinions are no longer relevant – your “freedom” to own tools created with only one use, human death do not supersede 86 individuals’ right to live every single day.
One final thought: It is often said that most gun owners follow the law and are not dangerous to themselves or others, but when you see such the type of irrational, even aggressive arguments I’ve described so frequently in the public, mainstream discourse, it becomes meritorious to wonder whether some of these people are merely looking to use their weapons to their “full potential” and spend their time fantasizing about an insurrection/civil war scenario where they’ll get to scalp liberals en mass. I’d like to think most would agree that these folks should be able to own firearms (but they do). Here’s a small sample of the type of thing I’m describing:
This was a real comment directed at me last week for my previous post on guns. It still amazes me:
And this one has been circulating for a few years. It’s so crass I had to verify that it was real (and it is):
Comments always welcome! Prove me wrong you responsible, reasonable gun owners – speak up for yourselves and make a real, adult argument based in reason and not hysteria and ridiculous hypothetical scenarios. All your over-the-top red-faced self-righteousness does is undercut any arguments you have about the endless law abiding and rational nature of gun owners. I love nothing more than to be pleasantly surprised!