Tag Archives: Gun control

Guns & Ammo

Dick Metcalf, an editor at Guns & Ammo of all places, argued in an editorial for the fairly obvious (well, at least to most people) claim that even constitutionally guaranteed rights–such the rights to freedom of religion and to a well-regulated militia–ought to be, er, regulated some (but not very much). Not every instance of speech is allowed; to use the author’s example, you cannot shout “fire” in a crowded theater.

Metcalf’s argument didn’t sit well with the Guns&Ammo crowd.  You can view selected responses here.  It would be charitable to nut pick them.  Why bother anyway, in response to their many reasonable interventions, Guns & Ammo fired Dick Metcalf.

Not surprising that a bunch of gun fanatics would turn to the ad baculum.

Some analogies are are like propositions that aren’t true

Sometimes when you make an analogy, you really just show how little you understand. Or, perhaps, how little you want to.  Charles Cooke at NRO thinks that taxing ammunition at a higher rate, perhaps at 50%, is not just bad economic policy, but is an infringement on basic rights.  He makes this point with an analogy.

When it comes to our basic rights, the rule of thumb is that as little as possible should be put in the way of their exercise. The Second Amendment is often treated differently from the other component parts of the Bill of Rights, but it damn well shouldn’t be. Unless you consider that the right to bear arms is less important in a republic than is the right to vote — which I most decidedly do notthen putting a special tax on firearms is no less outrageous than putting a tax on voting. Why one but not the other?

Notice, first, that this is an argument that, as we say in philosophy, proves too much.  If we’re really to take the conclusion seriously, then it should be that we shouldn’t tax gun or ammunition purchases at all.  If there’s no taxing voting, then there’s no taxing guns and gun-related stuff.   His argument isn’t one that proves that we shouldn’t tax ammo at a high rate, it’s that we shouldn’t tax it at all.

Second, notice that Cooke thinks that gun-rights are more important than voting rights.  I wonder what he thinks of Canada.  A real democracy? Germany or England?  If you click his link, there’s a paywall for the whole article — but he does answer one question.  With another question.  To the challenge why does he need military style firearms?  His reply is:

A better question: “Why don’t you want me to have one?”

Yep.  His argument is pretty much that his possession of a firearm ensures that his voting rights can’t be taken away.  Seriously, though, who’s he gonna shoot if his voter registration card doesn’t get recognized at the polling station?

Third, and finally, isn’t the difference between voting and buying guns and bullets is that with the latter, you’re purchasing a product?  It’s a financial exchange of goods and money, one that the government can tax as necessary.  It’s not that the argument by analogy proves too much, it’s that the analogy isn’t appropriately framed.

Guns are people too

Fig. 1: an apt analogy for gun control

Unsurprisingly, there has been some talk recently about whether to ban certain types of firearms.  This produced the following comment from a former president of the National Rifle Association:

“And they even admit this is about banning the ugliest guns, it’s about cosmetics and it has nothing to do about how a firearm works,” host Ginny Simone said toward the end of the segment.

“Well, you know, banning people and things because of the way they look went out a long time ago,” Hammer responded. “But here they are again. The color of a gun. The way it looks. It’s just bad politics.”

People and things?

via Balloon Juice.

Phylum stuff

As overlord, I'd make sure we had an empirically-driven discussion about gun violence, the kind an insurance adjuster would have–to start, at least.  We can also talk about rights, and the second amendment, and constitutional originalism and all of that. 

It's going to be difficult to have that discussion, because a lot of people are influenced by that guy, the Reverend James Dobson (via Huffington Post):

Our country really does seem in complete disarray. I'm not talking politically, I'm not talking about the result of the November sixth election; I am saying that something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God.

I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn't exist, or he's irrelevant to me and we have killed 54 million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences, too.

And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the scripture and on God almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that's what's going on.

When was God's judgement not falling on us?  When the hell was that?  Tell me so I can know the difference.  

Dobson was positively Cartesian, however, compared to this fellow from Tennessee:

Morris insisted that “humanism” in schools taught Lanza that he was God and “he can just go blow away anybody he wants.”

“When I got in high school, man, I started learning all this kingdom, phylum stuff, all this junk about evolution,” he recalled. “And I want to tell you what evolution teaches — here’s the bottom line — that you’re an animal. That’s what it teaches. So, you’re an animal, you can act like an animal. Amen.”

“So, here you are, you’re an animal and you’re a god! So, what are we going to teach you about in school? Well, we can teach you about sex, we can teach you how to rebel to you parents, we can teach you how to be a homo! But we’re definitely not going to teach you about the word of God! Amen.”

I think God's punishment will continue.

Well, if they didn’t have the guns…

Just as predictable as the question about whether we need stronger gun controls follows after a public shooting spree, there is the predictable response from conservatives that guns don't kill people, evil/crazy/bad people kill people, so stop with gun control. (See John's earlier link to the Onion article on this point).  Here's Thomas Sowell, over at National Review Online:

Do countries with strong gun-control laws have lower murder rates? Only if you cherry-pick the data…. Britain is a country with stronger gun-control laws and lower murder rates than the United States. But Mexico, Russia, and Brazil are also countries with stronger gun-control laws than the United States — and their murder rates are much higher than ours….

This is the old bait-and-switch, isn't it?  (Otherwise known as red herring)  The question about gun control laws, at least under these circumstances, is whether it's a good idea to have assault weapons available, as with them, public shooting sprees are very, very destructive.  It's not about whether the murder rate will go down.  If you want to murder someone, you'll likely do it with a gun or without.  But if you want to go on a spree of violence, you'll do that with a gun or without, too.  The point of the question is that with the latter, the with the gun option, the public spree of violence kills more people.  Sowell's point about homicide is just beside the point.  Well, at least he's not running the if there were more people with guns, this wouldn't happen line (see, John Lott for that one).

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.