This was originally a Facebook comment in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting that I’ve taken to reprinting here when there’s another mass shooting, like today for the Thousand Oaks shooting. When I reprinted it at the time of the Annapolis Capital Gazette shooting, for the first time I got a substantial amount of replies in disagreement, so now rebuttals to the most popular counterarguments I received are in a lengthy appendix to the reprint text.
I keep saying “it’s proven that the killing can be stopped” and you keep saying, “but we have rights” as if having rights was an end in itself. No, rights are intended to serve a purpose.
They’re for preventing people getting killed!
You keep invoking directly or indirectly one sentence in a document that was written in an era when rifles, pistols, and cannons could hold only one projectile at a time and took minutes to reload. That document also contains the built-in capacity for itself to be updated when its provisions are no longer effective. It is not Holy Writ. It even presented itself as updateable before it was completed: the sentence you’re so fond of is itself an amendment. Do you believe the sentence in question was written ultimately for the protection of guns or for the protection of lives? Because it’s used for protecting only one of the two, these days, and that’s not lives. Therefore it needs updating.
I will not accept any citation of theoretical future insurrection against a government turned hostile (which government, by the way, in that event would use planes or drones to drop bombs, against which your home weaponry is no protection - it’s doing so right now to civilian populations overseas, and it did so during the 20th century in Tulsa and Philadelphia - so good luck storming the capital) because firstly, actual civilian innocent lives being lost in the present are more important than any merely theoretical future; and secondly, that’s not what the Second Amendment was truly about anyhow. The militia it refers to were the nation’s first police forces whose original formation was for the purpose of hunting and killing black people. The only valid (using the term loosely) reason for denying that the Second Amendment now requires amendment itself is that you’re okay with police shootings of people of color. Those US government bombings on US soil I mentioned parenthetically above? Black neighborhoods, residences and businesses, rich and poor. That’s what you’re defending whether or not you know it.
You think your postion is “rights are important” but you aren’t seeing the context, the difference between what you think the rights are for, and how they are instead now actually being utilized. You aren’t seeing the logical fallacy in what you’re saying which is “this right whose purpose is the protection of innocent lives is more important than all the innocent lives that are being destroyed by people exercising this right”. You aren’t seeing that your position ultimately reduces to “lives are less important than guns” but I do and it outrages me wherever I see it.
Even if you were correct that Americans’ minds somehow work differently than the minds of all the people in all the nations where gun law successfully prevents mass shootings (which, by the way, seems disproven by the majority popular support of the gun control legislation that Congress brought after Sandy Hook then voted down), it would only mean that disregard for human life has become the American way. It’s not in me to quietly allow that to stand. While that’s your position there can be no meeting of minds between us, no agreement to disagree. I may give up arguing with you in particular as a bad job, but never mistake that for concession.
The question before us is, “Lives or guns?”, and you keep answering, “Guns.”
[end of reprint]
Popular counterarguments I’ve received:
1. Inquiries as to what form I would give the gun control law I advocate, or how I define “assault weapons”. I would model such laws on the laws that have drastically reduced or have eliminated mass shootings in all nations that have implemented them including, at one time, the United States, and I would use those laws’ definition of what was banned. (I anticipate receiving complaints that this statement is not specific enough to sealion but, because such a law were better drafted by someone with legislative expertise and experience and a research staff than by an unpaid webcartoonist in his off hours, I consider that a feature not a bug.) (I anticipate rebuttals that the previous parenthetical statement constitutes effective admission on my part that I’m too ignorant on the subject to have an opinon at all, but when your toilet’s stopped up and needs a plumber you don’t need to be a plumber to know your toilet’s stopped up and needs a plumber.)
2. Rebuttals seeming to assume that I’m calling for the banning of all guns. Nowhere in the reprint did I call for that. What I called for were two things: the reexamination of the Second Amendment just like any other legislation that’s two and a half centuries old and therefore in need of review, and the implementation in the United States of the solution proven by other nations (and, at one time, by the United States) for the problem of mass shootings which is some manner of national gun control. Now, it may be that the U.S. needs to ban all handguns like some nations, or only some guns like other nations, or ban guns from only certain demographics like known violent crime offenders, and needs even to experiment at first to find out what’s best, I can’t say. And I didn’t say here (for the reason noted parenthetically in the above paragraph). It remains that the loss of life under the status quo is unacceptable to me and to the majority of the nation (the majority who supported the national gun control bill after Sandy Hook which bill failed due to special interest lobbying) and requires action be taken; that’s what I say when I say, “The question is, ‘Lives or guns?’”.
3. Rebuttals that gun control won’t stop criminals from killing people. That’s off the topic. The topic is not stopping all violence, the topic is stopping mass shootings, for which national gun control is drastically or wholly effective in every nation that has implemented it, including at one time the United States. (My impression that some comments assume I’m calling for total gun ban may only be an artifact of this consistent failure of counterarguments to focus on the topic.) Refusal to implement the known solution to a given problem on the grounds that it’s not a solution for all problems is not rational.
(Also: The presumption that a given argument’s focus on one topic demonstrates indifference in the speaker/writer on any or all other topics is one of the classic logical fallacies. That means, declining to be deflected off topic by the subject of other violent crime in a discussion of mass shootings in comments on my own post about mass shootings does not demonstrate that I don’t care about the victims of other violent crime; it demonstrates and only demonstrates that my post’s topic is mass shootings. That’s the tu quoque logical fallacy, known in these online days as “whataboutism”.)
4. Rebuttals to my discussions of the unexamined racism in the second amendment pointing out, correctly, that gun control since emancipation has often been purposefully biased against black people, as if that were a reason to oppose gun law reform instead of a reason to support it. …or as if I were arguing against racially unbiased gun law, when unexamined racial bias is the only specific complaint I actually make against the second amendment.
5. Rebuttals (not actually rebuttals, deflection attempts) that the first amendment also has not been updated since it was enacted, which means I must want that one reexamined too. It can be difficult to judge tone in writing but I’m reasonably certain comments to this effect are pursuing a gotcha moment, when I’m expected to bluster, “Well, that’s different,” and be caught in a contradiction somehow. But this is, in fact, different. However the reason it’s different is not that I oppose reexamination of free speech rights (as such an attempted gotcha would be predicated on) because I don’t oppose it. The reason it’s different is that reexamination of free speech rights happens, in exactly the manner I’m advocating for gun rights.
Over the last two-plus centuries there’s been plenty of Supreme Court case law on free speech (and obviously these are only cases that weren’t resolved in lower courts). Most SCOTUS free speech case law consists of the striking down of laws that were ruled to violate the first amendment but there have also been innovations in SCOTUS free speech case law. For example, a case from 1969 gave rise to the “imminent danger test” used to this day for determining whether a given sample of hate speech is protected speech or not. Constitutional protection was determined by SCOTUS not to apply to something whose obvious intended and sole purpose is to harm people immediately, quickly, violently, and in large numbers.
I’m going to say that twice: In 1969 constitutional protection was determined by SCOTUS not to apply to something whose obvious intended and sole purpose is to harm people immediately, quickly, violently, and in large numbers.
Of course I support periodic reexamination of the first amendment. I support it as an existing model for what the second amendment stands badly in need of. (More of the Constitution too, possibly, but the topic on the floor is mass shootings.)
It’s the same with the obvious, unabashedly transparent gotcha attempt I also get, “There wasn’t internet technology when the Constitution was written so you must want to get rid of the internet like you want to get rid of modern military grade weapons.” As above, this objection fails because it inadvertently supports my point: internet regulations are being created and struck down all the time. It’s another example of how our laws are meant to work. And of how they generally have worked. Except with gun law.
Same with the counterargument that maintains allowing any restriction at all to our rights is a slippery slope. If it is a slippery slope, we live on that slope already because - as noted in my reprint post - the Constitution was purposefully built by its writers smack in the middle of that slope. Again: feature, not bug. (“Slippery slope”, by the way, is also on all lists I see of common logical fallacies.)
6. Rebuttals suggesting or stating that contriving somehow to place the proverbial “good guy with a gun” on the scene of a mass shooting shall prevent/should have prevented it. Usually it’s a variation on a statement of willingness and eagerness in the genuinely admirable goal of defending themselves, their loved ones and neighbors, and their rights with their assault rifles; insisting that the question isn’t “Lives or guns?” but something like “Lives defended with guns or lives left undefended?”. This appears to be the only proposed alternate solution to the problem of mass shooting deaths in opposition to national gun control law.
(The only proposed alternate solution besides doing nothing, under the counterargument that we don’t need any gun law because violent crime rates are dropping. I guess everyone’s meant to just wait in an orderly fashion for the random slaughter of innocents to eventually stop? Gun crime stats may be falling, but mass shooting deaths are rising, and that’s why the whole of violent crime is a whole separate topic. Anyway, the CDC says gun related deaths have most recently been rising - at least in, surprise surprise, open carry states [citation below].)
How the presence of a good guy with a gun would have been/will be arranged ahead of time in any given specific case past or future hasn’t been made clear to me. But one commenter did ask me whether I knew of any “successful” mass shootings where a good guy with a gun was present. For that I have answers. These are just the examples of which I already knew without doing any research (I researched anyway and there are citations below):
After the shooting at the Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, the mayor stated there were many armed civilians present, who did not draw or use their firearms. The official position on that, paraphrased: “Good! They’d only have made themselves appear to law enforcement that they were our target.”
There was a “good guy with a gun” at the Parkland, Florida school shooting. Not an armed civilian who happened to be nearby, a trained uniformed county sheriff department law enforcement offical stationed there from a division charged with serving and protecting the schools specifically. He was recorded on camera when the shooting started going up to the building’s entrance and standing there outside for the duration.
I anticipate being accused of cherrypicking data for making answer to a specific request for specific examples of specifically this kind of thing. But, while I was looking around collecting citations for those events, I also found a 2014 FBI study that tells us mass shooters are stopped more often by unarmed civilians than by armed civilians. That’s a national statistic documented and released by civil law enforcement authority, not a cherrypicking. And while the report, in its own words, “support[s] the importance of training and exercises - not only for law enforcement but also for citizens”, it distinguishes between that and prevention, stating also, “seeking to avoid these tragedies is clearly the best result.”
A good guy with a gun does not constitute needed and recommended prevention for mass shootings in the eyes of federal law enforcement authority.
Finally, the good guy with a gun argument is a logical fallacy in its inception. The logic statement form “if you or someone else on the scene of your mass shooting had had a gun, then you wouldn’t have got shot” is the same logic statement form as “if you dressed differently, then you wouldn’t have got raped”. This is a logical fallacy because people’s right not to have crimes committed against them isn’t legally, morally, or factually contingent on their own behavior. The logic of the “good guy with a gun” argument places responsibility for the consequences of the actions of the mass shooters elsewhere than on the shooters, and that’s why it’s a logical fallacy and why it fails to constitute prevention.
mass shooting deaths risinghttp://time.com/4965022/deadliest-mass-shooting-us-history/
gun homicides rising per CDChttps://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/homicides-using-guns-31-percent-cdc-finds-n895366
7. “Correlation is not causation.” If even if there’s no causation in this case, when correlation saves lives, the lives are still saved.
8. “'Lives or guns’? I choose guns.” Here I deliberately evoke the no-meeting-of-minds clause in the reprint post for declining to engage with you which is nevertheless not to be mistaken by you as any kind of concession.
9. [New since Tree of Life Synagogue] “You sound like a Nazi.” Another fallacy:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_gun_control_argument
10 (conclusion). My stance is: nationally banning at least military grade assault weapons is an effective solution to the problem of mass shootings, its effectiveness proven and documented for the purpose in every case it’s been implemented including formerly the United States, and therefore it needs to be reimplemented in the United States. The second amendment needs to start being treated the same way every other law/right in the United States is treated in terms of review and update against constantly developing status quo and technology. No counterargument to the statements in my reprint yet brought to my attention either 1) provides a proven alternative for mass shooting prevention than the proven solution I advocate 2) fails to amount to answering, “Lives or guns?”, with, “Guns.” (Except “You called me racist!” which is untrue; what I called you was ignorant about racism.)