Ever tried red herring?

Some people think gun control is a good idea.  But "gun control" could mean any number of things.  It might mean, for instance, a complete ban on guns.  Some people want that.  It might also mean a ban on military-style weapons.  Seems more sensible to me.  This might make it more difficult for some solitary crazy person to kill a lot of people at once.  You would have thought that, of course, until you consulted history:

(1) THE (NON) EFFECT ON PUBLIC SAFETY: Set aside the fact that criminals don’t obey any law. Set aside too the fact that even if all firearms could be magically disintegrated by appropriate legislation, the murderous would simply use other more time-tested methods of killing. It should not be forgotten that some 7000 were killed in a single day at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 using the available hand weapons, which did not include firearms. At the Civil War battle of Gettysburg in 1863, both sides suffered approximately 51,000 casualties in three days of fighting using primarily single shot, breech loading rifles and muzzle loading cannon quite crude by contemporary standards. Some 5000 horses were also killed. The problem, in 1066, 1863 and today is human nature, not the tools employed.

The little number there will tell you the author of this argument is presenting a convergent case.  The unique ridiculousness of this claim, therefore, may not be representative of the whole argument.  If I were to engage in a bit of weak-manning, I might argue that a person who would advance such a claim doesn't need to be listened to any longer.  But that's not fair play.  You can read the rest of the argument for yourself. 

This one is just uniquely hilarious, as it seems completely to miss the point that high-capacity magazines (assault weapons, etc.) make it easier for lone nutcases to kill a lot of people in a very short amount of time.  It doesn't, of course, end our inhumanity to each other in the form of war.  To invoke this, I think, is a textbook worthy instance of the red herring technique.  In case you're not familiar with that technique, here's another example:

It's not the case that the oil spill caused tons of environmental damage in the Gulf, have you ever tried red herring?  They're excellent and they're on the menu at your local Swedish restaurant. 

link courtesy of balloon juice.

2 thoughts on “Ever tried red herring?”

  1. I do not see this one as a red herring as much as I see it as a false analogy. The author brings up these historical cases were far more people died at the hands of more rudimentary weaponry. However it is not  analogous in one key way, the amount of people involved. At Gettysburg there was almost 170,000 people involved in the fight that created that 51,000 casualties. It was not an individual out there with a muzzle loader, it was an army. Again in Hastings there was about 16,000 people involved in that scene. So how is that anywhere near analogous to a lone gunman in a city square? When a lone gunman when crazy in 1863 how many people died? When a lone swordsman went off the deep end in 1066, how many people died? I bet not as many as when a lone gunman goes off the deep end now-a-days.

  2. Fair enough DCZ, however, I think he's changed the subject from mass casualties from a single individual, to mass casualties from war.  These are not analogous, as you correctly point out, it's a topic shift, however.  People aren't complaining about mass casualties per se, they're talking about mass casualties from high-capacity magazines.

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