There is a lot of misunderstanding and bad arguments being used on both sides of the current debate over gun control. It seems to me that much of this is the result of each side so desperately wanting to win political advantage that rather than simply admitting valid points when presented but arguing that the benefits of their own position outweighs that of their opponents’ position, they act as if their opponents have no valid points at all.
So I have compiled this list of arguments that I commonly see and explained why each one represents a misunderstanding and therefore is not helpful to use in the gun debate.
Each bad argument is shown in either purple (for pro gun control arguments) or green (for anti gun control arguments) for skimming the page easier, with my response underneath.
Let me know in the comments or on our Facebook page which parts you agree with, disagree with (and why), or if there are any other bad arguments that you think belong on this list.
“We’re not against the second amendment. No one wants to take away guns for hunting.”
The pro-assault rifle position is not concerned with hunting. Their view is that the 2A was created for the purpose of having a citizenry armed like soldiers so that the people always have a defense against the government. That is what the debate centers around so talking about hunting rifles is irrelevant.
“Prohibition didn’t work with alcohol, so it won’t work with guns either.”
This is a poor argument because it is far easier to make your own beer at home than it is to make your own semi-automatic guns and ammunition. In fact, the latter is essentially impossible given current technology.
“The second amendment was about muskets, not modern firearms!”
The second amendment does not say that it only applies to firearms of a certain technological level. And the words of the founding fathers clearly show that they intended for firearms to serve as a form of protection against government power, which would imply that they would expect citizens to own rifles comparable to the military.
And most importantly, the issue for all sides is really about what policy we really desire, regardless of whether it is explicitly protected by the Constitution or not. So arguing that the 2A is only meant to protect ownership of muskets is ultimately irrelevent and doesn’t address the real subject of debate.
“Gun control can’t work because bad people can just acquire guns on the black market. Criminals don’t obey the law so laws won’t work on them.”
This is a poor argument because guns on the black market do not begin their lives on the black market. They begin at a factory then are shipped to dealers, from which they are stolen or sold legally – or illegally – and thus make their way to illegal markets. So the fewer places where people can acquire guns at all, the fewer guns will be able to be acquired by dangerous people.
Also, not all laws are just words like “don’t steal”. They can also alter or restrict supplies of material goods. So having laws banning certain types of firearms and restricting their sale and availability etc would not be the same as simply leaving things as they already are then saying “don’t shoot people”.. The laws change the availability of guns for both criminals and law abiding people. We can debate whether that is the right policy or not, but one must accept that laws do have the ability to prevent people from acquiring what they want.
The argument that “criminals don’t obey the law so a law won’t stop them” might as well be used to say we shouldn’t bother having laws that make explosives harder to get, or uranium, or anthrax.
If anyone really thinks that it’s so easy to acquire devices that have been banned from civilian use, then I urge them to see how easy it is to get a working rocket launcher, for example, without law enforcement knowing. Or travel to a first-world country with federal bans on certain firearms and try to acquire those weapons. Most people will have a very difficult time doing so. You will take much, much longer to acquire one than if they were available off the shelf in a store, and if there are many people like yourself trying to get one then much fewer of you will succeed. That is the purpose of such laws.
“Having people defend themselves with guns in a mass shooting scenario would just result in more chaos and death!”
We don’t have many examples of what happens when someone tries to shoot up a place where lots of people are armed so that argument is difficult to support. Essentially all the mass shootings that we see occur have happened in places where very few people are armed – or no one is – other than the original shooter. So we don’t have enough evidence to say that it definitely wouldn’t work.
Is it possible to have chaos and accidental casualties if a lot of people are armed and try to defend themselves at once? Yes, but is that chance, and the amount of deaths that would result from it, more or less than how many die when essentially no one can defend themselves with a firearm?
In fact there are a fair number of cases that demonstrate that people with firearms (civilians or off-duty police officers) have been able to quickly take down a shooter and prevent further casualties. They have prevented a situation from even becoming a mass shooting. These cases have not resulted in unintentional deaths or massive firefights. (One theory I have for why this is may be the case is that in real world situations the original shooter is easily identified and the first people to fire back take out the shooter very quickly, unlike in movies where there is an extended shootout for dramatic effect)
“Car accidents kill tons more people than guns do every year. So why don’t you think we should ban cars?”
There are several problems with this comparison.
First, the primary purpose of cars is transportation. They are an integral part of a modern economy so the cost of banning them would be devastating. However the cost of severely restricting or banning firearms would be negligible since they provide no unique benefit in times of peace, and plenty of nation’s economies do fine with such anti-gun laws in place. Because of these things, anti-gun people tend to view guns deaths as absurdly unnecessary because they consider guns to have no benefit or purpose for civilians, unlike cars.
Second, cars do not exist for the purpose of killing; they are not designed to be efficient killing devices. But guns are. When people want to murder someone, they will far more often grab a gun to do it instead of a car. For the car analogy to even make a little sense, cars would need to be used in more murders than guns – not in more accidents.
“The government has tanks, missiles, and helicopters. They would easily steamroll any opposition that only has guns.”
This particular claim is grossly facile and does not account for the evidence of history and the nature of real conflicts wherein lesser-armed forces resisted far greater opponents.
The fact is that armed conflict in the real world is not comparable to a video game battle where two sides face off directly and the one with the greater “power level” automatically wins. Warfare is complicated and involves more factors than the number and advancement of technology or the size of explosives. If it were as simple as that, then the world’s strongest militaries would never have foot soldiers.
A resistance with modern weapons would be closer to a guerrilla war. Historically this method of resistance has been used by fighters, armed mostly with assault rifles, to repel the greatest armies on earth. This was the case with the Viet Cong against the United States, as well as resistance fighters in Afghanistan and Iraq. Regardless of which groups we believe are morally in the right, we must acknowledge that the method works.
So to review this point, the purpose of civilians owning assault rifles is to reduce the imbalance of power between the government and the people. It won’t ever match it, but it does not need to match it. The purpose is just to be able to prevent a regime from being able to do whatever it pleases, because the difference between a population with “No rifles” compared to one “with rifles” in such a situation is like night and day.
(I explain my views on civilians owning assault rifle-type weapons in an article you can view here)
“Guns are banned in Chicago, Detroit, Mexico, etc yet those places have tons of gun violence. That proves gun control doesn’t work!”
U.S. states and cities cannot stop the flow of guns on their own because guns can easily be brought across state borders. If federal law went so far as to prohibit the sale of semi-automatic firearms to civilians anywhere in the U.S. then it would be much more difficult for anyone to acquire guns by any means.
This is because 1) criminals, mass shooters especially, often buy their guns legally, and 2) as mentioned in a previous response: guns on the black market do not begin their lives on the black market. They begin at a factory then are shipped to dealers, from which they are stolen or sold legally – or illegally – and thus make their way to illegal markets. So the fewer places where people can acquire guns at all, the fewer guns will be able to be acquired by dangerous people.
Mexico is a similar story. Guns can easily be carried over the border from the U.S. or South America where guns are abundant. (Mexico and some South American countries also suffer the problem of having a very corrupt police force which helps support violent gangs and cartels)
However, with that said, guns would still be able to make their way into the country and we would still have gun violence. But it really can’t be argued that gun violence wouldn’t be reduced at all, especially mass shootings which are rarely the result of factors like poverty.
So the question is whether the amount we can reduce violence is worth losing our right to defend ourselves with a firearm in the cases where we still need one.
“People would be too scared and confused to use a gun to even be able to defend themselves against a shooter.”
That view seems to be based on assumption. The reality is that there are myriad cases of people defending themselves with firearms after someone else has pulled out a gun agaisnt them or started shooting people in the same room or building.
Remember that while many people indeed will be confused and scared in dangerous situations, we also are evolved to respond to such situations with increased focus. So many of the people who practice drawing and shooting their self defense handgun periodically will certainly be able to respond sufficiently – and as I mentioned the evidence of actual shooting situations proves this.
Also, even if it were true that only a minority of people are able to actually pull out their pistol and defend themselves effectively in these types of scenarios, all that is necessary is for just one person in the area to take down the shooter. So if anything it seems to me that this argument only lends credibility to the view that more people should carry guns.
“Why don’t we just ban knives too? Someone can kill just as many people with a knife as with a gun.”
Guns were invented and are used because they are incredibly effective tools for killing. A knife cannot match it. A gun can be fired repeatedly from a distance and do more damage to a person while using a knife makes the fight more about each person’s strength and self defense skills, and it takes longer to attack each victim.
In fact, that’s a huge reason for why many people like myself support the use of firearms for self defense: they are equalizers. Sof if you use this “knife” argument then you are inadvertently arguing that no one needs a gun for self defense.
And we have examples of what happens when guns are used in a killing spree as compared to knives.
Examples from from the past few years when guns were used:
– 3 dead, 16 injured (Fort Hood, Texas in 2014)
– 12 dead, 3 injured (Washington D.C. in 2013)
– 26 dead (Sandy Hook primary school in 2012).
– 12 dead, 70 injured (Aurora, Colorado in 2012)
– 6 dead, 14 injured (Tuscon, Arizona in 2011)
– 13 dead, 30 injured (Fort Hood, Texas in 2009)
– 32 dead, 17 injured (Virginia Tech university in 2007)
Compare those to these prominent examples from the same time frame when knives were used:
– 0 dead, 23 injured (Pittspurgh, Pennsylvania in 2014)
– 0 dead, 23 injured (Chengping, China in 2012)
– 8 dead, 5 injured (Nanping, China in 2010)
– 0 dead, 28 injured (Taixing, China in 2010)
– 0 dead, 17 injured (Leizhou, China in 2010)
– 9 dead, 11 injured (Hanzhong , China in 2010)
– 4 dead, 16 injured (Zibo, China in 2010)
The number of deaths vary in all these cases but overall it is clear that a knife is a less effective mass murder weapon.
“The National Guard is the modern form of ‘militia’ mentioned in the second amendment. We have the National Guard, so average citizens don’t need guns.”
First, the second amendment does not say that only a well regulated militia can have guns. It says that the right of “the people” to bear arms shall not be infringed; and elsewhere in the Constitution the term “the people” refers to individual rights of citizens, not just collective rights.
Second, the National Guard is a formal organization run by the government. It is not a militia run by the people and thus while it does provide for some of the purposes intended by the founders, such as suppressing insurrections or helping defend against foreign enemies, it does not provide for one of the main purposes that the founders desired: for “the people” to have protection against the federal government and professional forces.