Christmas is fast approaching, for those of you who do that sort of thing. Many of us are heading to see family, those folks we wouldn't hang out with if it weren't for our shared genetic material. Some of us are dreading the gun-enthusiast cousin or uncle, who we just know is going to blather on about guns loudly and confidently in the hopes of squelching the conversation before it starts.
Last week's gun massacre in Newtown, CT finally forced us to start up that conversation on our nation's gun problem. Some of us have leapt to the solution stage--- many argued for more gun control, and more than a few of us have argued for gun removal. Maybe those are the solution, I don't know, but it's nice to see ideas out there. Still, I want to put first things first: Our country has to admit that we have a problem with guns and that we have to do something about it.
For too long, we've avoided a conversation about this problem. That's because the gun lobby and its supporters know that they're on the losing side of history. So they try to squelch the conversation before it starts. First with manipulation ("it's too soon"), and then with a long litany of fallacious excuses that allow us to sweep the bodies under the rug and put the question off for another day.
And what for? We keep refusing to admit our nation's problem with its guns, because some of us are afraid that the solution to the problem might infringe on their lifestyle.
Most of the excuses are slippery slope fallacies, straw men, or simply built out of sheer paranoia (of a type that ought to get one disqualified from gun ownership, if you ask me).
Getting our country to admit the problem is the first step. Doing so one family at a time will be far more effective than all the TV mouthpieces can ever hope to be. Moreover, I believe that marginalizing the "nuts" will help members of the healthier aspects of gun culture (like hunting or target shooting) to step forward and contribute to the conversation with their knowledge and expertise. Because I for one have had it with the unhealthier gun enthusiasts and their lame excuses.
We've been hearing these excuses for decades. Wayne LaPierre's monumental paean to refusing personal accountability last Friday brought them to the forefront. Despite every shooting involving guns, guns are not a contributing factor to shootings. Like I said, fallacious. So what do we do when our relative opens up his gaping maw of foul fallacy? See below the squiggle.
disclaimer: Before we get started, I know that the excuse-maker in this scenario might not be an actual gun nut. And he might be a woman. Normally I'd use singular they. But this diary is based off a comment I made to someone worried about a male relative, and I didn't change it, for timeliness' sake.
What to do when the excuse-slinging starts?
Fake a yawn. Tell him, blasé, that those are the same lame excuses we've been hearing for decades now. Politicians only put up with them because they were afraid of the gun lobby's effect on their campaigns, not because anybody actually believed them. The pols aren't so afraid anymore, so reform is on the way. Funny how using a gun to kill a bunch of kids can affect people, isn't it? Tell him that if you were him, you'd sell your guns now while there's still a market for them. Then ask him if he wants a refill on his eggnog.
The problem isn't the guns, it's the "bad guys". It's mental illness.
Tell him that these "bad guys" shooting up schools were good guys when they got their guns. If he blames "mental illness", remind him that most shooters (mass or not) are not mentally ill, there's no evidence that this shooter was mentally ill, and that mental illness can happen to anyone at any time, just like any other illness. That said, addressing and destigmatizing mental illness is a noble goal, and we can do that, too.
If there were more armed guards, this would never have happened.
Tell him that Columbine had armed guards, and so did Fort Hood. And besides, if we put guards in schools, they'll just go to theaters. Hospitals. Stadiums. Libraries. And so on. Are we going to put a cop everywhere the public might gather? Is he going to pay the taxes for that? Why not just pay the taxes to buy back the most lethal guns?
Well that's what concealed carry is for/everyone should have a gun
Tell him that fewer Americans buy guns every year (though those that do buy are buying more). Tell him that therefore, having everyone buy a gun is basically a (de facto) government mandate. (I'm assuming he was against mandates when it was Obama's idea.) Tell him that more health insurance is proven to help people; more guns are proven to hurt us.
An armed society is a polite society.
Tell him that a society where everyone is armed is not a society anymore. It's gangland. Which is... not safe at all, actually. And the American people say no to that. It's Somalia. It's any number of places without central authority. Places where, in the real world, we don't actually live. The US has plenty of central authority. And plenty of not-so-central authority.
The problem is the "criminals" with their "illegal guns"
Tell him that every illegal gun used to be a legal one, so getting rid of legal ones stops that problem.
How are you gonna get rid of all the guns?
Australia and the UK both did successful mandatory buybacks of illegal guns. Neither has had a mass shooting since, and they have had fewer single shootings and suicides. If America can put a man on the moon, I believe that America can surely handle a gun buyback. Doesn't he?
If you ban guns, only "criminals" will have guns.
Tell him that if we ban guns, not only will "criminals" have guns, but police, national guard, and the military will, too.
Tell him that besides, if we ban certain types of guns, and you keep yours, you are no longer law-abiding, but a criminal, and deserve to be treated like one.
The "madmen" will use knives, sticks, anything, if they don't have guns
Save the hypotheticals for law school. These killers, and the non-mass shooters, used guns. All we know for sure is that if they didn't have guns, they wouldn't have shot anyone. The rest is pure speculation to make ourselves feel less guilty.
I don't think we should take away our guns.
Tell him that there is a difference between gun removal and gun control, and that the second is happening no matter what. He should be glad the first one isn't, too. Yet.
But, but the 2nd Amendment!
Tell him we/the courts can interpret the 2nd amendment however we like, just like we do with the other 26. If you want to scare him, point out that Obama will likely appoint 2 justices this term, and with the coming filibuster reform, they'll likely be pro-gun control. Maybe even pro-gun removal. Bwa ha ha ha.
What about all the "criminals" "out there"?
Tell him that him being afraid of a "criminal" is no reason to make normal people afraid of him. Tell him that a 'crazy' person never thinks he's the crazy one. (substitute with creepy, or whatever negative adjective might be most appropriate). Since we're trading fears, we go to majority rules. And most Americans want fewer guns out and about, putting them and their families in danger.
I feel like I need a gun to defend myself
Tell him that his guns are ten times as likely to be used for suicide or homicide as they are for self-defense. And that most of these people were "responsible" gun owners, just like him. Tell him he's like one of those people who drive because they're afraid to fly, even though flying is actually far safer. Being behind the wheel gives the illusion of control, which makes some people feel better. Carrying or owning a gun gives the same illusion, for the same good feelings.
By your logic we should ban cars, too. Cars kill people, right?
Tell him that cars are different from guns because a) cars only kill when things go wrong; guns kill when they are used for their designed purpose. b) we've enacted car control legislation over the last 60 years that has cut deaths to their 1950 levels (not the rate, but the absolute number! The rate is 1/7 of the 1950 rate.) c) we've enacted drunk-driving controls and the rate of DD-deaths has dropped 60% since 1982. d) we did not pretend there wasn't a problem because some drivers were afraid that the solution to the problem would infringe on their lifestyle. We curtailed the dangerous aspects of car and booze culture, and this liberated the safer aspects.
The people need to be armed to protect their liberty
Tell him that a well-regulated militia is not necessary for the security of a free state; we have police and a standing army for that. Some countries don't even have an army. In 1789, police hadn't been invented yet, and the army was nearly non-existent, so they thought they needed a militia. By the war of 1812, they realized the error of their ways.
We shouldn't punish "repsonsible" gun owners because of a few bad apples.
Tell him that every "irresponsible" gun owner used to be a responsible one.
But guns don't kill people; people kill people.
Tell him that if guns don't kill people, they don't protect people, either.
I'd like to see the government try and take my guns/ cold dead hands
Tell him that the government isn't coming for his guns; the American people are. Besides, I'd rather pry a gun from your cold dead hands, than a crayon from the cold, dead hands of yet another shooting victim. Just sayin'.
Tell him that there is literally zero chance that any hobby arsenal can stand up the unparalleled might of the United States Armed Forces. Anyone who tells themselves otherwise is delusional, period. The Vietnamese and Taliban could run to other countries when the action got too hot. He cannot.
The population needs to keep guns to stand up to tyrannical government
Tell him that all the gains in civil rights were won non-violently; that the people fighting liberties were the ones using guns. Tell him that the people of Tunisia overthrew their dictator despite the lowest gun ownership rate in the world. (Not to mention his completely cynical and paranoid lack of faith in American democracy and America itself. Hammer that in.). Tell him that Syria's rebellion got nowhere until army units defected with army weapons.
Hitler/Mao/Stalin had gun control
Totalitarian dictatorships have enacted gun control and removal. But so have peaceful democracies. Neither turned into the other as a result--- the dictatorships kept on being dictatorships. The democracies kept on being democracies. We have a democracy now. If we disarm ourselves, we'll still have a democracy. Tell him to cut the theatrics.
Everyone has a gun in Switzerland, and they don't have as much violence
Tell him that Swiss men with military rifles in their house are all reservists who train regularly. They don't have the ammo for their rifles, or they have it under seal, and they are not allowed to use the rifles if someone breaks in. Tell him that ever since Israel made its reservists keep their guns at the base, servicemen suicide has dropped 60%.
Canada has a gun culture, too. They don't have the violence we have. Thus the problem is the people.
Tell him that the fact that other countries have guns and no violence only tells you that other countries can handle their guns, and we can't.
Tell him that the problem isn't just guns; it's Americans with guns. You have to get rid of one or the other, but you can't get rid of the Americans. So there's no other choice, I'm afraid. Unless he wants to move to another country.
Banning guns won't stop all gun violence
Tell him that no law stops all the behavior it means to (we have rape laws, and yet there are still rapes). But nobody is that naive except in NRA pamphlets; the laws reduce the unwanted behavior.
Guns aren't the necessary factor for shootings
Tell him that for all the shootings, all over the world, there is only one thing they ALL have in common, and it isn't video games. (Two things if you count the victims being human.)
It's the violent movies and video games
Tell him that we used to watch real-life violence as entertainment--- in sport (boxing, cockfighting, dogfighting), comedy (three stooges, tom and jerry), and the civic arena (hangings, firing squads, lynchings). Besides, even if movies and video games did make us want to shoot people, it's nothing but guns that give us the ability.
Tell him that if there's anything wrong with the media, it's that it feeds the delusion that a lone gunman is the solution to all of life's problems. Even when that lone gunman is a cop or a soldier, they generally are "loose cannons" who don't play by society's rules (Die Hard, 48 Hrs, Dirty Harry, etc). This delusional fantasy is at the heart of the unhealthy aspects of gun culture, even finding its way into our legislation (Make My Day laws, etc). In the real world, we don't live on the lawless frontier anymore, and the vast majority of us will never experience anything remotely resembling one. See the comment above about risk assessment. [Note: This is just one of a long list of delusions that underpin conservative ideology, but that's for another diary].
Chicago/DC has strict gun laws, and high gun crime.
Tell him that cities pass strict gun laws because they had high gun violence first, not the other way around. That's why many cities even in the Wild West straight up banned guns in the city limits.
Tell him that states with more guns have higher rates of murder, suicide, and assault deaths.
We shouldn't pass legislation based on kneejerk emotional reactions to tragedy
Tell him you and the majority of Americans have felt this way for decades, we've only been silenced by the conversational bullying of the NRA and its lapdogs. What he's afraid of is our pent-up frustration and anger finally being released. Tell him it's like a reservoir that filled up behind a dam... all the gun violence put cracks in the dam, and the Newtown gun massacre broke the dam. You can't put the water back in the reservoir.
Whew, that's a long diary. But then again, the gun lobby and its parrots have come up with a LOT of excuses over the years. And I'm sure I've left some out.
You can mix it up with your family member, or you can just defuse it all and tell him to pass the ham already, because this is SO boring. Most importantly, don't get riled up. Keep your cool. Make him get all in a huff. You won't convince him of anything (any more than he would you). But it's not him you're aiming for, it's the audience. Not just those needing convincing, but those who agree but maintain the NRA-imposed silence on this issue, and will come up to you later and thank you for standing up.
Help burst the dam a little more, and let the floodwaters wash away everything the NRA has built to stand in the way of our nation's progress.
P.S I wholeheartedly welcome contributions from gun owners and enthusiasts who have something to offer besides the same old excuses. Many of you have already written stirring diaries to that effect. These have offered refreshing and insightful contributions to this conversation, which is going to happen now, no matter what: The delaying excuses we've seen over the last decades just don't cut it anymore.