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Like most liberals, I've uttered sentences like this more than once: "After this, the momentum will finally turn in favor of gun control." And so far, I've been wrong every single time.

This afternoon, I read about a twenty-year old who appears to have killed his mother and also -- and I can't even believe I am typing this -- her entire class of kindergartners.

I've been thinking way too much about this, and decided I'd share the one idea I've had about it. Write it up in case it was a good one, or -- more likely -- let negative comments or ambivalence sentence it to obscurity.

So, below the squiggle is 1) one problem with the basic liberal approach to gun control, and 2) an idea for changing it.

One problem with the way we're arguing gun control

The time has come to stop trying to argue rationally with gun rights absolutists. And by "absolutist" I mean anyone who comes to the topic of gun control with an argument that negates the very possibility of having a discussion. By that I mean:

• if somebody wants to kill you, they will kill you with or without a gun

• it is atheism/video games/liberalism that causes violence so gun control doesn't get to the root cause

• any gun control measure in unconstitutional

• any gun control measure moves us along a slippery slope toward totalitarianism

These are arguments that basically say "I won't talk with you about gun control," and they are all standard NRA talking points. They exist to shut down debate. I see them start to sprout up like mushrooms in the hours after a mass shooting, and while they are all false or misleading, they are also insidiously effective, not in the least because they wear down everyone on our side.

People who make these arguments are zealots. I'm sure some of them actually believe what they're saying. But when faced with people who have a deep abiding religious faith in the importance of not regulating guns, when faced with absolutist arguments like these, liberals tend to clam up and give up. It is sort of our own article of faith: well, people believe what they want they want to believe -- it is a free country. We tend to walk away from absolutists because they seem irrational.

Why we need to change

When you're debating someone and they deny the basic tenets of your position in a way that voids the possibility of having a discussion, you've just lost your voice. It is like having an election and the winner takes power and then cancels all further elections. You can't walk away and let them do that if you really believe that elections are important.

Extreme anti-gun control arguments are like that. They say: we're not negotiating. And then people on the left start saying: "it isn't politically feasible." And we're done.

The thing is that there is a discussion to be had. Many gun rights people are willing to have a discussion. They, more than liberals, know there is a difference between a hunting rifle and a semi-automatic. But we're never going to have that discussion if the gun rights absolutists aren't marginalized.

What we need to do to change this

We need to drive a wedge between the gun rights people who we can negotiate with and the ones that won't even acknowledge our position is at all legitimate.

Gun rights absolutists have shut down the gun control debate. It is gun rights absolutists who have let the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expire, and have prevented the discussion of common sense gun control techniques like banning large capacity ammunition feeding devices and background checks at gun shows. The seven people killed in an Aurora movie theater were killed with a semiautomatic that could have been regulated by an assault weapons ban, and this ingenious diary points out that no, knives empirically don't kill as many schoolchildren as well as weapons that can spit out a hundred rounds before the police arrive. But we can't even get to debate this because no one wants to call the zealots out.

So they should be blamed for each and every mass killing from now on.

Does that sound irrational?  

It isn't. Rational people know that weapons technology has advanced so far that there are just some weapons that increase the amount of killing a deranged person can do. Yet there are bunch of true believers that are keeping us from making public policy to address this basic fact. Do we walk away and say "well, people believe what they want they want to believe"?

Or do we respond like this:

• if somebody wants to kill you, they will kill you with or without a gun

Comments like yours have kept us from having a rational debate about gun control in this country. You have blood on your hands.
• it is atheism/video games/culture that cause violence so gun control doesn't get to the root cause
Comments like yours have kept us from having a rational debate about gun control in this country. You have blood on your hands.
• any gun control measure in unconstitutional
Comments like yours have kept us from having a rational debate about gun control in this country. You have blood on your hands.
• any gun control measure moves us along a slippery slope toward totalitarianism
Comments like yours have kept us from having a rational debate about gun control in this country. You have blood on your hands.
In other words, we need to make it socially unacceptable to for gun rights absolutists to make those arguments.

We need to stigmatize these points of view, call these people out, and get past their stupid debating points so we can talk with the reasonable gun owners.

I know, not a groundbreaking idea, but as I read the comments sections on these stories, I am always surprised that a small set of extreme voices can troll enough to muddy the whole issue (feel this way about climate change, too -- but that's another diary).

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-)

    "Stare at the monster: remark/ How difficult it is to define just what/ Amounts to monstrosity in that/ Very ordinary appearance." - Ted Hughes

    by MarkC on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 07:54:26 PM PST

  •  This is some very good thinking. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MarkC

    People who will not even concede the legitimacy of talking about change when the status quo is killing people do not even belong in the discussion, and should be ostracized from it because they are not responsible, contributing citizens.

    In Roviet Union, money spends YOU.

    by Troubadour on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 08:08:58 PM PST

  •  The blood of your brother cries out to me (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MarkC, blueoasis

    I like where you are coming from here.

    Shutting down debate is a version of the story from Genesis --

    9Then the LORD asked Cain, Where is your brother Abel? He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
    10God then said: What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!
    Anyone who comes out with one of the lines you name is saying, in so many words, "Am I my brother's keeper"?  Because they deny their own complicity in the violence that our current "unlimited guns for nuts" policy engenders.

    And they deserve the same divine rebuke that this callousness gets in the ancient account.

    [I]t is totally not true that Mitt Romney strapped Paul Ryan to the top of a car and drove him to Canada. Stop spreading rumors! -- Gail Collins

    by mbayrob on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 08:20:46 PM PST

  •  No offense, but this is offensive nonsense (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    oldpunk

    I have blood on my hands for telling the truth? Bullshit. I refuse to accept your false accusation.

    Have we learned nothing from drug prohibition? When something is banned, a black market is created and the value for the banned item skyrockets. This draws people into the trade for the profit. Innocent people are criminalized while those determined to get their hands on the item in question will do so. How many new Al Capones have we made with drug prohibition, and how many more will you see created with a gun ban?

    Throwing laws at the problem will change nothing. The perpetrator in this case wasn't legally of age to own guns. He had to steal them, committing murder in the process. The existing law against him having a gun didn't stop him. The law against bringing guns onto school property didn't stop him. The laws against shooting people didn't stop him.

    What law would you create that would work where these others failed? In what way would you force someone determined to break laws to follow this one you have in mind? Laws aren't magic wards that prevent people from doing things.

    The only way to stop this lunatic would have been to physically stop him. That task was made vastly more difficult by the fact that he was the only one armed.

    You do realize that anyone with the proper machine tools can make a firearm, right? The genie that is gun technology cannot be put back in the bottle. Anyone with the right recipe, available on the internet, can mix high explosives in their kitchen sink out of chemicals from the grocery store.

    A "War on Guns" will work about as well as the "War on Drugs" ever did. I am not guilty of anything by pointing out those facts.

    "Is there anybody listening? Is there anyone who sees what's going on? Read between the lines, criticize the words they're selling. Think for yourself, and feel the walls become sand beneath your feet." --Geoff Tate, Queensryche

    by DarthMeow504 on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 02:02:22 AM PST

    •  many years ago-- (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MarkC, oslyn7

      here in the USA, people sometimes fought duels over differences of opinion.  Eventually that fell out of favor, and we don't hear much about duels anymore.  At one time, it was possible to own an actual human being.  As property.  I know, it's kinda surprising.  But again, not as much of that slavery thing going on here in our great country anymore.  

      I suggest to you that laws had something to do with the decline of these two practices.  By no means were laws the only factors, but they were part of the solution.

      I like how you equate gun ownership with addictive drugs.  Myself, I was thinking it must be a little bit like having a secret stash of pornography.  It's in the drawer. Nobody knows about it but you.  You feel better just knowing it's there.  But you can't just leave it alone.  Every now and then you want to take it out and play with it...

      But seriously, guns are not a compelling attractant to as many people.

      Yes it's true, some people will continue to hoard guns and ammo.  Yes it's true, there will continue to be horrific mass shootings.  Yes it's true there will continue to be suicides and gun accidents.  Yes it's true, criminals will continue to have and use guns.  But over time --- if we dismantle the economic incentive to manufacture and sell advanced weaponry, if we make legal gun owners bear more of the societal cost of their hobby, if we start to examine the root causes of gun violence, if more of us simply agree that guns are not cool toys  --- we may be able to see our way to more civility.

      A civil society is what is at stake here.  Arming teachers, which you alluded to in your comment, is not a serious idea.

    •  "Gun ban"? You've proven my point (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      oslyn7

      Numerous times I distinguish between people who want to talk about some controls on guns and people who equate any controls with a "gun ban". So what do you do? You write a reply talking about a "gun ban" not working.

      If you make that move, you're also basically saying, why outlaw murder, since clever people can figure out a way to commit a perfect crime. That's ludicrous.

      And worse, it is immoral. And that's my point in the diary. All your arguments are exactly the kind that I'm talking about. People like you with your "you can't control things with laws!" absolutist arguments are exactly the reason assault weapons got into the hands of Adam Lanza.

      "Stare at the monster: remark/ How difficult it is to define just what/ Amounts to monstrosity in that/ Very ordinary appearance." - Ted Hughes

      by MarkC on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 06:42:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Calling it what it is (0+ / 0-)

        Don't tell me "sensible gun control" is the issue. Don't tell me that people here don't want a ban on guns. "Sensible and sane" is a euphemism, nobody EVER explains what that even means, except "a law that magically keeps bad guys from getting guns". Nobody ever explains how or why that would work.

        It was ALREADY ILLEGAL for this scumbag to own a gun. He had to kill his mother and steal hers. What law would have stopped that?

        You know goddamned good and well that it's about a "War on Guns" and that it will end the same way the War on Drugs is going now and how Prohibition did before. But it's about an emotional reaction, a need to "do something" about an issue that upsets us all but has no solution.

        But hey, go right ahead and say what your "sensible and sane gun control" law would be and how it would prevent things like this. No magical thinking, no pretending a law is a magic ward that stops people who are determined to do something from doing it anyway. Give specifics. Detail how it would work.

        Because prohibition sure as hell doesn't.

        "Is there anybody listening? Is there anyone who sees what's going on? Read between the lines, criticize the words they're selling. Think for yourself, and feel the walls become sand beneath your feet." --Geoff Tate, Queensryche

        by DarthMeow504 on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 12:27:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  sane control of semiautomatics (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Oh Mary Oh

          would have kept the mom from acquiring guns that would have killed so many people.

          It would have saved lives.

          Your sophistry is literally killing children. You need to look in the mirror and realize your Libertarian fantasies might bolster your ego as a principled individualist or something, but actual people stop believing such slippery slope arguments at age 14.

          "Stare at the monster: remark/ How difficult it is to define just what/ Amounts to monstrosity in that/ Very ordinary appearance." - Ted Hughes

          by MarkC on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 08:54:01 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  So your solution is to disarm the law-abiding? (0+ / 0-)

            So what you're saying here is preventing a legal citizen with no criminal record and no mental health issues would have kept her from having guns that could have been stolen from her.

            Aside from the blatant violation of the rights and liberties of free citizens that entails, that doesn't at all address the issue of actually preventing a determined criminal from getting his hands on whatever he wants.

            But let's follow this path and see where it leads, shall we? Ok, so you've disarmed law-abiding citizens, or limited the type of guns they can purchase. That's what your "sane control of semi-automatics" accomplishes. Then what?

            We already know where this ends. We saw it with alcohol Prohibition, we see it with the War on Drugs now. You create a black market, criminalize ordinary citizens, spend money and law enforcement resources in a never ending "War on Guns", enrich some criminal entrepreneurs, and still not kept guns out of the hands of criminals.

            In the 80s, it was all about banning automatic weapons. In the 90s, it was all about banning "assault style" rifles. Now people want to ban all semi-automatics. So when the next massacre happens with illegal weapons, you'll go after revolvers next? Make any gun that holds more than one bullet at a time illegal? Do you really think that's going to stop criminals?

            Have the gun laws we already have stopped any of these massacres? What makes you think passing more laws against what is already illegal going to accomplish?

            "Is there anybody listening? Is there anyone who sees what's going on? Read between the lines, criticize the words they're selling. Think for yourself, and feel the walls become sand beneath your feet." --Geoff Tate, Queensryche

            by DarthMeow504 on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 03:35:40 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I sure hope the NRA pays you enough (0+ / 0-)

              to keep posting the same thing over and over again.

              "Stare at the monster: remark/ How difficult it is to define just what/ Amounts to monstrosity in that/ Very ordinary appearance." - Ted Hughes

              by MarkC on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 09:36:12 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Ad hominem (0+ / 0-)

                Calling me a paid shill does nothing to address the point. I keep saying it because NOBODY HAS GIVEN AN ANSWER. Can you? Deflecting the issue won't change it.

                PROHIBITION DOES NOT WORK. How many times are we gonna try and fail the same bullshit? How many more innocent civilians will you criminalize this time, how many more Al Capones will you create? How long will it take to reverse the fiasco this time?

                Throwing more laws at what is already illegal won't solve jack shit. It's just a knee-jerk reaction to satisfy the need to do something, anything in the face of a nightmare. But feel-good nonsolutions won't help anything and we'll be right back here the next time having the same argument.

                Prohibition causes more problems than it solves. We KNOW this. Ask anyone invested in the drug policy issue. You don't want to accept that. You want to somehow, anyhow magically create a world without guns where nothing bad happens.

                If there was a magic wand, I'd be all for using that thing. Get rid of the guns with it. But said magic wand DOES NOT EXIST. Your proposed solution will not do what it sets out to do. You can shoot the messenger all you want but it doesn't change the facts. What you're wanting to do does not and will not work, and we have overwhelming evidence to prove it. So stop with the damned magical thinking and come up with something that actually will work, if you can. I'll back you on it. What I will not do is support a proven failure to satisfy an emotional need to take action even if that action is proven ineffective.

                I'll quote Dave Mustaine again, because the words are still true:

                "If there's a new way, I'll be the first in line / But it'd better work this time!"

                "Is there anybody listening? Is there anyone who sees what's going on? Read between the lines, criticize the words they're selling. Think for yourself, and feel the walls become sand beneath your feet." --Geoff Tate, Queensryche

                by DarthMeow504 on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 03:08:39 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

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