In a recent discussion about gun control on Thom Hartmann's program, my opponent suggested that gun control advocates like me really have a cultural aversion to guns. That's a standard ploy for the gun set: when reason isn’t on your side, deploy emotional and personal arguments instead.
"Anti-gun"? I could've brought up my own recreational gun use, or even brought out the firing range pass I carry in my wallet. But I'll admit that I've lost a little of my taste for it as our national killing spree continues unabated. What's more, that would've been disrespectful to the millions of Americans who do have an understandable aversion to guns. Personal habits should have no part in a rational policy discussion.
Now that President Obama has made his initial gun control proposals, the crazy's being ratcheted up to a new level. Rational Americans in all walks of life will be confronted with these kinds of arguments. We're going to need a playbook. Here are 12 responses you can use when you're confronted with some of the standard illogical, irrational and emotionally overheated statements that gun extremists use.
1. I'm not anti-gun, I'm pro-kindergartner.
After Newtown, what person in his right mind thinks it's irrational to propose some common-sense measures to prevent similar tragedies in the future?
2. Saying "If we have gun control only outlaws will have guns" is like saying "If you outlaw drunk driving, only outlaws will drive drunk."
Rush Limbaugh's recent variation on the old "only outlaws will have guns" line went like this: "If you have gun control laws, the law-abiding will be the only people that don’t have guns."
This anti-gun control cliche makes absolutely no sense. We lose our driver's license if we're arrested for drunk driving, or if we commit too many other moving violations. But law-abiding people are free to drive. Gun control laws aren't any different.
3. If dead children are a "distraction," what subjects are important enough to be worthy of your attention?
As Media Matters reports, an increasing number of gun-extremist righties have suggested that attempts to prevent more deaths, including the deaths of young people at Newtown, Aurora, Columbine and elsewhere, are really just a "distraction" from more important matters.
Try convincing the parents of dead kids that their personal tragedies aren't important. And if dead kindergartners don’t deserve your attention, what does?
4. So you've got "Second Amendment" rights? Where's the rest of your militia?
The text of the Second Amendment reads: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Where are the other soldiers? Who’s in charge? And which state are you protecting?
5. Oh, and congratulations on keeping the Lanza kid so "well-regulated."
Along with Crazy New York Hermit Dude, the Columbine killers, the Tucson shooter, and all the other members of your "militia."
6. If I can't drive without decent vision, I shouldn't be able to purchase weapons of mass killing after beating my grandmother to death with a hammer.
Maybe I’m off base here, but that just seems like common sense to me.
7. "Freedom to own a gun"? I have the freedom to own a car. But I don't have the freedom to buy an M1A1 Abrams tank, or the many kinds of rounds -- armor-piercing, incendiary, point detonation, delay, airburst, and shotgun-like antipersonnel tungsten balls -- manufactured for its 120mm smoothbore cannon.
And I'm okay with that.
If our laws had permitted that, I'm pretty sure we would’ve wised up the third or fourth time somebody drove one up to a school, parked in the school bus lane, and started lobbing cannon rounds into the gym, music room, cafeteria, and classrooms -- while fending off law enforcement with a rain of fire from its three auxiliary machine guns.
8. The only other country besides the United States that considers unrestricted gun ownership a fundamental human right is Yemen …
... and Yemen's having second thoughts.
From the UN's Small Arms Survey: "Only two—the United States and Yemen—is ownership of firearms a citizen's basic right. Figures published in the Small Arms Survey 2007 show that the USA and Yemen also have the highest rates of firearms per civilian, with an estimated 90 guns per 100 people in the US, and 55 in Yemen."
There's a slogan for you: "More extreme than Yemen."
9. Why is it that the people who think our "freedom to own guns" is absolute and inflexible are always the first ones to attack our other freedoms -- of speech, of assembly, of worship (a religion other than their own), of privacy -- in the name of national security?
We have the data which shows that our supposed "gun freedom" is causing thousands of needless deaths each year. Most "gun rights" advocates don't care -- and are more than eager to sacrifice other fundamental freedoms even when the evidence suggests it's unnecessary and even wasteful.
Unconstitutional surveillance? Check. Unconstitutional suppression of Wikileaks and other information outlets? Check. Unconstitutional suppression of demonstrators’ rights? Check. Constitutional and rational gun control?
10. You say guns make us safer, but we already have more guns per capita than any other nation on Earth.
We also have the highest gun homicide rate of any developed nation. Our rate is 32 times that of Great Britain's, for example.
Are we safe enough yet?
11. "Recreational gun use"?
Which sports, exactly, require an assault weapon that fires 850 rounds per minute?
And is there any mass-killing capacity that would be too much for your recreational activity? 5,000 rounds per minute? 10,000 rounds per minute? Or is the recreational value of high-speed gunfire infinite and unbounded?
12. Statistics show that states with more guns also have more homicides. Have you considered starting your own state?
That would allow you, for the first time, to use the Second Amendment for its true and stated purpose: to protect the security of a state.
All the other gun extremists could join you there. Wouldn't that be great?
Most of us are getting tired of reading the obituaries of public servants, moviegoers, shoppers, schoolchildren, and other innocent bystanders in our local papers. Now we can be safe, you can be happy -- and Wall Street investors can keep profiting from guns and the misery they cause.
The state of “Guntopia” isn’t a perfect idea. We would worry about your children’s safety -- but then, we already do.