It’s been 5 days since a disturbed individual carried a high-capacity mass-casualty rifle into a school in Florida and committed one of the most violent crimes in American history, killing 17 and wounding many more. The event has sparked the usual reaction of dividing most of the nation into camps:
- Second Amendment opponents who want it repealed altogether,
- Weapons limitations advocates asking for “assault rifles” or anything more powerful and efficient than a handgun to be banned,
- Mental health reform advocates, and
- Gun rights apologists who refuse to bend on any gun control measures, citing their personal freedoms.
While there are certainly caveats here, and many people who are in multiple camps — for instance, most call for improvements in mental health care regardless of their gun stance — these are the 4 main categories I’ve personally observed people to fall into. Of these groups, there is one whose members seem to rely on memes and analogies the most in order to get their point across — a method that doesn’t serve well for someone trying to win an argument. Let’s take a look.
The following are true examples of arguments I’ve encountered over the past few days from gun apologists, and how I’ve responded. These are tactics that gun apologists are using all over the internet, and the only ones they’re convincing with these arguments is each other. They’re just awful.
Since this is obviously not a real story (I hope), I won’t comment on what an irresponsible example of gun safety it is. All this is, is an illustration that a gun is an inanimate object. I’m pretty sure we all know that already. But it doesn’t hold up. While yes, a gun needs a person to pull the trigger, it’s also designed to make that human more efficient at killing something, which is where the problem lies. For instance, I could make the same argument for cars. Cars don’t transport people, people transport people (driverless cars aside). My car has been parked in my driveway all day and has transported no people on its own. But if I want to go somewhere, it sure as hell helps me travel as many miles as possible in a short amount of time. The point is, I could travel on my own, using my own two legs, and be very inefficient at it. But when I use a tool specifically designed to maximize my impact, I become much more efficient. It’s that efficiency at killing people that gun control advocates are trying to address. Sure, a school shooter could walk into a school with no weapons and start beating people to death with his bare hands. But would he be able to kill 17 people in a matter of minutes, or would he be stopped pretty quickly, possibly even killing no one?
So here’s another stupid analogy that gun apologists think helps them drop the mic and walk away. It obviously refers to passing tighter gun control laws, and that those laws would only punish “law-abiding gun owners.” News flash: 100% of mass shooters have their guns taken away AFTER they become a mass shooter. That’s not preventative. Gun control advocates are trying to prevent the next tragedy. We help prevent drunk driving by passing laws and taking other action to prevent it — restricting licenses for people with a dangerous driving past, setting up checkpoints to randomly test drivers for blood-alcohol content, and in some states, making bars liable for DWI damages if found to be negligent. These are actions that are taken to help thwart drunk drivers from causing accidents before they happen, and they’ve been effective. There’s no reason we can’t make an attempt to prevent mass shootings as well, including inconveniencing “law-abiding gun owners” by limiting the types of weapons they can own or their efficiency. We sure as hell don’t respond to drunk driving with nonsense like, “The only thing that will stop a drunk driver with a car is a sober driver in a bigger, armored car.”
Here’s another analogy that I’ve seen in online conversations:
“100,000 people die per year from medical mistakes, dwarfing the stats for guns and alcohol-related death combined …. should we take away prescription pads?”
Actually, according to Johns Hopkins, that number is closer to 250,000. Regardless, it’s another analogy that doesn’t hold water. When people die from medical mistakes, does half the country say “let’s not do anything about it” and fight against all suggestions of reform? No. Is there a pro-medical-mistakes lobby who donates millions to political candidates so they’ll legislate in the lobby’s favor? No. When we discover errors in medical treatment, we investigate the causes. If lessons can be learned, then changes can be made, oversight can be improved, and we can we work on not repeating those errors to prevent future deaths. And we certainly can’t attribute medical errors to prescription pads. Medical errors are commonly defined as anything from surgical complications that go unrecognized, to mix-ups with the doses or types of medications patients receive, to diagnostic errors, and plain old poor judgment. Prescription pads do far more good than harm. Can we say the same thing for civilian-owned AR-15s? Doubtful.
Here’s a news story from 2014 that gun apologists use to “prove” that banning guns won’t end mass casualty violence. While they’re right that banning guns (or even certain types of guns) surely wouldn’t end attacks altogether, it would severely limit an individual’s efficiency. Gun apologists actually prove this point by sharing this. In the China attack, 10 attackers killed 29 people. That’s 2.9 per attacker, in a very crowded area. In Las Vegas, it took just one shooter to double the fatalities of the China attack, and the assailant didn’t even have to approach any of his victims. The Vegas shooter killed 58 people from a hotel window. 58:1 vs 2.9:1. You don’t have to be a mathematician to realize which weapon is deadlier. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take my chances against a “mass stabber” over a mass shooter any day of the week.
This is basically the same as the knife argument above. This isn’t about end-of-year tallies. It’s about efficiency, and it’s also about victim demographics. Of the 400 cases each year (which is actually attributed to all blunt objects per FBI statistics, not just hammers), how many were innocent school children? My money is on “less than 17.” I’d venture a guess that of the 400, there weren’t any mass casualty events via hammer. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ll take my chances against a “mass hammer-swinger” over a dude with a semi-auto rifle. It’s just too goddamn easy to shoot up a movie theater, school, or concert. Can we at least try to make it harder somehow? It may be your constitutional right to own a firearm, but nowhere in the constitution or case law does it say you’re free to own any weapon you want.
So here’s the problem. Gun apologists are always presenting themselves and their comrades as “law-abiding citizens.” Do you know who else was a law-abiding citizen the day before they committed their first crime? Nearly every mass shooter. I find myself having to explain this a lot when in these types of conversations. Feel free to do the same. I’ve found it to be pretty effective, and it’s even made some gun apologists stop and think for a moment. It’s quite simple but revealing. I’ve even created the meme below, since the idiotic “drop a meme and walk away victoriously” tactic seems to be so popular with gun apologists. Might as well address them in their own language.
Here’s to hoping change happens quickly, so we don’t have to have the same conversation a dozen more times before 2018 is done.
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