While we obviously have a political bias here, we mostly try to keep out of direct debate. However, when those debates directly affect the topics and focus of this site it’s time we clear some things up. So I’m going to take some common arguments for gun control and counter them with facts. I’m also going to conclude with a clear position. This may be the most formal of posts I write, but that’s only because I feel this issue is so important. Please feel free to add to it in the comments below, but be cordial, civil, and nice. When you have truth on your side you don’t have to resort to name calling. So here we go, my answers in no particular order to gun control objections.
Disclaiimer: While I believe the 2nd Amendment does protect the right of revolution amongst the citizenry this is not a call for violent action. As the Declaration states: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” While that quote is sandwiched by two separate claims to the right and duty to “throw off” abusive government, it is important to note that doing so should not be done for “light and transient causes”. I don’t think we’re at a point where violent revolution is necessary, and I AM NOT CALLING FOR IT. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe that right is reserved for appropriate times.
Continuing, I provide a lot of Wikipedia sources. If that’s enough to cause you to ignore my arguments, then you weren’t willing to listen to them anyways, and that’s ok. We can be honest about that. Just know that Wikipeda has repeatedly been shown to be equal to or above the accuracy of several highly regarded journals and encyclopedias. If you don’t trust the information provided there all the articles provide further, non-wikipedia sources you can check out. So don’t let the sources turn you away, especially when most of them are only for definition purposes anyways.
Common Gun Control Arguments
The Founders Could Never Have Imagined Modern Assault Rifles
This is a very common objection thrown out there. There are several problems with it though. Not the least of which, it insultingly calls the Founders shortsighted in their thinking. Commonly these same people will then invoke these same founders as geniuses ahead of their times on other issues as is convenient. While no one is perfect, it’s a tenuous argument to claim such inconsistency in the founders’ thinking when convenient to one’s one personal arguments.
Furthermore, The founders were aware of such weapons, because such weapons did exist. While they don’t feature the same mechanical sophistication that our modern firearms do, they definitely demonstrated a trend in firearms design, that I would find hard to believe the founders would be unaware of. Below is a video of just one such weapon.
Not only were the founders aware of such weapons, but Thomas Jefferson personally owned two of them. This is just one example of many multiple round firearms available at the time. For others see: the Puckle Gun, and the Nock Gun. While these weren’t readily available, it would be intellectually dishonest to claim the founders weren’t aware of such weapons (after all TJ owned two of the Girandonis), and wouldn’t be able to see the direction arms were headed in. It was only 100 years later that the first truly semi-automatic firearm was patented, but revolvers were on the scene just 50 years later with the first patent in 1835. That’s barely a generation removed from the founders.
SHORT ANSWER: To claim the founders could never have imagined the modern firearms we have today is intellectually dishonest for two reasons. One, there were similar firearms back then, and the founders tended to demonstrate the foresight that would have allowed them to see the industry trend that led to modern firearms. Two, to claim otherwise is apply an inconsistent claim on the intellectual abilities of the founders.
The Second Amendment is About Having Militias and a Military, not Personal Firearm Ownership
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.
This is a claim that has been disproved by the courts, the most recent and clear case being District of Columbia v. Heller. The Supreme Court ruled personal firearm ownership is a right granted by the Second Amendment. While I have problems with this being a solid argument in favor of anything, gun control advocates tend to also be in favor of other issues that are only legal because of Supreme Court rulings and like to pull that out as some sort of trump card for their argument. In which case you can use this ruling as a trump card based on their same logic. It won’t go quite as well, but if we’re going to be consistent, then this case ends the argument on personal gun ownership (though it doesn’t address types of guns, see above and below in this list for those arguments).
A more thorough look at history however, backs up this ruling and the Second Amendment as a guarantor of personal firearm ownership. During the time of the revolution a militia was considered to be made up of any able-bodied military age male. This was further codified in the Militia Act of 1903 which formally organized the National guard and also labeled “all able-bodied men between ages 17 and 45” as part of the Reserved Militia. Given this definition of the Militia and the idea that each member of the militia should be prepared to stand in defense of the “free State”, it stands to reason that not only should all citizens of the country (at the very least those within the limited scope of the Militia Act) have the right to be armed, but also have the DUTY to be armed (something we see in practice in the highly idolized Sweden).
Now the counter argument to the above is “Ok, the militia can have arms, so let’s define the militia and leave it there”. Well if we limit gun ownership to those defined in the Militia Act, then we’re discriminating based on gender. So being in favor of equal rights, we expand the definition not pull it back. So everyone between the age of 17 and 45 should have a firearm, a military grade one at that given it’s for their role in the militia. Now we also don’t want to discriminate against the elderly, so let’s expand the right to them also. Ok, so based on the principles of equality, and the Militia only definition we have reasonably expanded the right to have a military grade firearm to everyone.
Now I’ll admit in the gun control debate the above paragraph is a bit tenuous, but that doesn’t mean it’s not reasonable. Regardless, it’s irrelevant, because of a comma. If you read the second amendment you’ll notice a comma after the phrase: “of a free state”. This comma has been heavily debated over the years. One reading takes the phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” and says it’s a clarification of the phrase “A well regulated Militia”. For you English grammar lovers out there that’s what we would call an appositive. Another reading is that this comma acts as a list separator and the second amendment provides for the right of the people to have a well regulated militia and to keep and bear arms. The second reading is the one generally accepted by the Supreme Court, as seen in the ruling above. Which makes sense, since most of the amendments in the bill of rights list several related rights within each amendment. So even with all the talk of what it means to have or be in a militia, the personal right to keep and bear Arms also exists, making all that militia talk irrelevant to the gun control debate.
SHORT ANSWER: The Supreme Court said you have the personal right to keep and bear firearms. You’re part of both the historical and legal definitions of a Militia. Before the Supreme Court affirmed your personal right to own firearms, the Constitution did (at least if you read it correctly and within the context of the other amendments).
We Don’t Want To Ban ALL Guns, Just Military Guns or “Assault Weapons”
First this claim is patently false. The leading advocates of gun control almost without fail always point to Australia and the UK as examples of the ideal form of gun control. Those countries confiscated all firearms and only allow a select few for very limited hunting purposes to be owned. So if those are the examples constantly paraded around by gun control advocates, why wouldn’t one believe that total confiscation is the goal.
Second, if we are to believe only the dangerous guns are to be limited, the definition of dangerous guns is so broad and vague that any gun can eventually fit into it. Especially since ALL guns are dangerous. But so are cars, boats, cows, toys with small parts, relationships, playgrounds, etc. etc. But we don’t ban those things on the grounds that they’re dangerous. So it’s intellectually dishonest for gun control advocates to do so here.
Now it would be intellectually dishonest for me to claim that all gun control advocates propose a total ban or confiscation of guns. They don’t. They tend to focus on so called “assault weapons” or “assault rifles”, with the most common target being the AR-15 platform. The image above describes the problem with this situation best, but let’s talk it out.
- AR in AR-15 does NOT stand for Assault Rifle. It stands for Armalite Rifle. Armalite being the original makers and inventors of the AR platform that later to become known as the M16 and M4 when used by the military.
- Assault Weapon as a term suffers from the same specificity problem as the term dangerous weapon. It’s too broad and isn’t actually an industry term. It’s a term made up by those who oppose gun rights to sway public opinion.
- Those weapons which are commonly accepted to be “Assault Weapons” are not any more dangerous than any other rifle. In fact the round used by the AR-15, the 5.56 NATO or .223 Remington is woefully under powered and under sized when compared to other rifle rounds. There are much more “dangerous” rounds that are fired by the hunting rifles most gun control advocates are willing to let people to own.
Moving back towards the original point, terminology matters, and because many supporters of gun control don’t actually understand gun terminology (simply a matter of education, not intelligence) both sides end up talking past each other. A recent article (WARNING: Profane Language) from PopeHat sums it up well with an analogy to dogs:
Me: I don’t want to take away dog owners’ rights. But we need to do something about Rottweilers.
You: So what do you propose?
Me: I just think that there should be some sort of training or restrictions on owning an attack dog.
You: Wait. What’s an “attack dog?”
Me: You know what I mean. Like military dogs.
You: Huh? Rottweilers aren’t military dogs. In fact “military dogs” isn’t a thing. You mean like German Shepherds?
Me: Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody’s trying to take away your German Shepherds. But civilians shouldn’t own fighting dogs.
You: I have no idea what dogs you’re talking about now.
Me: You’re being both picky and obtuse. You know I mean hounds.
You: What the?
Me: OK, maybe not actually ::air quotes:: hounds ::air quotes::. Maybe I have the terminology wrong. I’m not obsessed with vicious dogs like you. But we can identify kinds of dogs that civilians just don’t need to own.
You: Can we?
Essentially we keep talking past each other because we don’t know what we’re talking about. Which relates to the next objection, but first the short answer.
SHORT ANSWER: Assault Weapons is an overly broad term that doesn’t have a real definition. Using it to define the scope of gun control is meaningless.
The Second Amendment Is About Hunting and Not Defense Against Tyrants, Foreign and Domestic
This one is so wrong on it’s face that I don’t even know where to begin with it. First see the point previously made about which rights care confirmed by the Second Amendment. It’s about the “security of a free State”. It’s about defense. Now we can have a fairly healthy discussion about who we’re defending against, but it’s about defense, not hunting. Hunting with a firearm is a nice side effect of the Second Amendment but is not the primary objective of it. There is absolutely no basis for this position. It’s one simply taken by gun control proponents who want to appear to be compromising. Beyond that there are no grounds for such a position. It’s hard to even argue against given that it has no premise, but it’s important to address.
Now let’s move on to the defense part. Before we get there we need to study a little history. The Constitution was designed as a document to limit government power, not citizens’ rights. It’s about granting as little power as possible to the government. While this has not been the trend followed by the courts, legislature, or executive in the last hundred or so years, it was the original intent. The assumption was that individuals could act as they saw fit except in the very limited scopes of power granted to the government. Over the years though the government took more powers upon themselves (did you know the Supreme Court decided it had the power to decide the constitutionality of laws in 1803?). When no one objected the government kept that power and now generations later we just assume the government should have those powers because we know nothing else. The founders, however, had the foresight (see the first objection and rebuttal above) to realize this might happen. It’s why they included the amendment process in the Constitution, and why they first exercised it to implement the Bill of Rights. From the Bill of Rights Institute:
One of the many points of contention between Federalists and Anti-Federalists was the Constitution’s lack of a bill of rights that would place specific limits on government power. Federalists argued that the Constitution did not need a bill of rights, because the people and the states kept any powers not given to the federal government. Anti-Federalists held that a bill of rights was necessary to safeguard individual liberty.
As stated in the quote, many argued that these rights were self-inherent and natural to the people and the states organized by those people. But others realized that if you’re not specific the government will abuse it’s limited power to expand that power, thus necessitating specific declarations of rights. Noticeably, the last of this list (the Tenth Amendment) is a specific statement that powers not expressly given to the government do not belong to them, and expressly belong to the people and the states those people form.
So why the history lesson? Because if you’re going to use historical context you better know what you’re talking about and you better use it correctly or you end up looking like this (also see above for supposed “muskets only claim”:
Specifically in our case, it teaches us that the point of the Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights was to limit government power and to guarantee the rights of the people in the face of potential government tyranny. This is the context of the Bill of Rights and the Second Amendment. It was meant to empower the people in the face of government abuse of power.
Another quick history lesson. In case you didn’t know The Revolution was not won by a vote or a polite conversation. It was won quite simply, by putting bullets into the members of the King’s Army until they decided they didn’t like having bullets put in them anymore. I know that sounds flippant but it’s a purposefully simplified version of The Revolutionary war. If you want to complicate it we can talk about using cannon balls to remove body parts from members of the King’s Army, but the point still remains. The Revolutionary war was won with bullets (and cannonballs).
Finally, I want to add one more bit of context, a couple lines from the Declaration of Independence. While not the “law of the land” the Declaration is the enumeration of natural principles of human government, and is an outline of how those principles were being applied to justify American independence. So to dismiss this document because it’s not the Constitution is, you guessed it, intellectually dishonest, and is tantamount to invalidating the legitimacy of the Republic. If that’s a discussion you want to have fine, but it requires a lot more discussion than the one provided here. Anyways here are the lines:
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends (securing the rights of man), it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security
So given these three historical contexts (ignoring the numerous other writings of the founders that support these contexts) what can we surmise about the intent of the Second Amendment in regards to defense against tyranny? The people have the power and grant it to the government to get the job done. When the government attempts to usurp this power, it is the right and duty of the people to put the government in it’s place, or find a new government. First they should do so through redress (e.g. The Declaration of Independence), and second, if the first doesn’t work, they should use force (e.g. The Revolutionary War). Now to do so they must be able to have the means, and while the First Amendment provides the means for redress, the Second Amendment provides the means for force. Simply put, the people have the right to use force to curtail government abuse, and the right to keep and bear arms to ensure their ability to do so.
To claim otherwise is preposterous. You would have to ignore that the men who wrote the Second Amendment had just successfully used their Arms to secure a Free State from an oppressive government. They didn’t create their country from the ethereal primordial goop of proto-countries. They had a government they found oppressive and used their inherent right to bear arms to put off that government and form a new one. To claim that they didn’t intend for future generations to have the same power and ability is again to ignore the very context in which this country was founded.
It is clear that defense against domestic tyranny is included in the purpose for the Second Amendment.
As for foreign tyranny, I believe the same principles apply. To prevent unjust rule, governments must not have the monopoly on force.
SHORT ANSWER: Hunting is a side effect of the Second Amendment. Given clear historical contexts including the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, the Second Amendment is primarily meant to protect the ability of the American people to exercise the right of self governance and “throw off” a tyrannical government, domestic or otherwise.
Well If We Take These Interpretations of the Second Amendment Seriously We Should Just Let Everyone Have a Nuclear Bomb!
This is a fallacious use of an occasionally valid logic technique known as reductio ad absurdum. Click the link and read, but the basics are taking an argument to it’s farthest logical conclusions to show how absurd the argument is. The problem with this technique is that the conclusions have to follow from the actual arguments of your opponents, otherwise it’s a logical fallacy. Too often supporters of gun control will setup straw man arguments then follow those to the end to create ridiculous logical conclusions. This is one of those times.
Using the previous claim that the Second Amendment is to protect the ability of citizens to fight a tyrannical government, advocates of gun control will then argue that since the U.S. Government has nuclear capabilities, supporters of gun rights ultimately believe that individual citizens should have nuclear capabilities also. This is a fallacious argument and relies on a couple of false assumptions.
The first one is that the U.S. Government would use nuclear warheads to win a war. It hasn’t done so since 1945 and with good reason. They’re overkill and lead to more problems then they solve. The Government has much more effective ways of winning a war.
The second one is that even effective superior firepower does not mean you’ll always win. Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan all show that there are many factors beyond superior firepower and training that go into winning a war, and that guerrilla tactics can be particularly effective against conventional forces (also demonstrated by The Revolutionary War).
So no, most proponents of gun rights don’t believe everyone should have the ability to launch a nuke. We believe that people should have a fighting chance, and should be able to at least meet a basic level of self defense.
SHORT ANSWER: No we don’t want nukes, we just want effective ways to defend ourselves, and effective is not always defined by who has the larger bomb.
The following 4 arguments are pretty brief so they don’t get a short answer summary.
We Have To Keep Guns From Criminals!
This may be the most often stated argument for gun control. I probably should have addressed it higher up, but simply put it’s poor reasoning. Of course everyone thinks we should keep guns from criminals. There’s a simple problem with that though. By definition a criminal is one who does not follow the law and has been convicted of such. If by definition such an individual does not follow the law, it reasonably follows that they won’t follow gun laws either. If a criminal wants a firearm they will obtain one. This has unfortunately been borne out in city’s like Chicago where gun control is strictest and crime is highest, and also in San Bernardino where the two firearms used were illegal in California, a state which rates an A- in gun control laws from the Brady Campaign. Strict laws, which according to proponents should’ve prevented this kind of violence, did nothing to prevent it. This is because criminals don’t care about the law by definition. All laws will do is keep those who are law abiding citizens under powered in the battle against those who aren’t law abiding citizens (i.e. criminals).
But The Terrorist Watch List!
This is something that has come up recently. I’m not sure if it’s last ditch effort to seem like they’re doing something, or if it’s simply a backdoor power grab. The terrorist watch list being used in background checks is a bad idea. Not because we should allow terrorists to have firearms (which the President himself implied was our reasoning), but because of something called the Fifth Amendment. Once again we invoke the Bill of Rights and a principle called due process. Simply put, if you are accused of a crime you are not guilty of said crime until a reasonable and due process has taken place to demonstrate such. Anyone can simply be put on the list for any number of reasons, you are never notified unless you try to fly, and getting off the list is unreasonably difficult if not impossible. There is no due process involved. At best the terrorist watch list is poorly constructed list of suspects, not criminals, at worst it’s an all to easy way for bureaucrats to strip you of your Second Amendment rights (if proponents of this gun control method get their way). If those on the list were criminals they would’ve been arrested and convicted. Until they are, they are innocent citizens of this country and as such have the full right to bear arms. That right cannot be stripped because someone thinks they might do something.
P.S. As a side note those involved in recent terror attacks on U.S. soil were not on the watch list. This method would not have stopped them.
A Shotgun Is Enough for Self Defense
See the above argument about dogs. Those who advocate for gun control often lack a grasp on the basics of firearms, much less an understanding of effective self defense techniques. Even in the industry there are daily arguments over what’s the most effective way to defend yourself and your home. I’ll admit, I’m one of the guys who is a major advocate for shotguns in home defense. But it’s not my place to enforce that view through threat of force (ironic, huh?). Everyone has the right to decide for themselves the best way to defend family, property, and self. No one gets to decide for someone else whether it should be a taser, a handgun, silly string, a frying pan, or anything else. This is especially the case when those who are attempting to do the deciding don’t know what they’re talking about.
Let’s Regulate Guns Like We Regulate Cars
Driving a car is a privilege not a right. That statement alone should counter this argument. You can’t compare the two. My right to defend myself should not be regulated by those whom I may potentially have to defend myself against. It’s that simple. But I will offer this olive branch to supporters of gun control. I’m ok with talking about solutions to gun crime. I’m ok with talking about background checks (they can be done without creating de facto registrations, or violating privacy rights). I’m ok with requiring training for certain weapons to be used (so long as these decisions are made with input from industry experts, not anyone who’s twitter has enough followers to merit a hashtag from the President). I’m willing to make some compromises. But this brings us to an important discussion we need to have that doesn’t fit in anyone of these claims or their rebuttals.
RIGHTS. What are they and how should we look at them?
We need to have a discussion about rights. Rights are things we should be allowed to do independent of their moral standing as right or wrong. One of the blessings and curses of freedom is that for doing the right thing to mean anything it requires the right to do the wrong thing in it’s place. Of course there are limits to this, but those are usually determined by looking at the effect on others rights. We also have to look at what’s really a right and what’s really not. The term right is thrown around so much in our PC culture that it’s almost lost all meaning, and we need to restore that meaning before we can have any effective discussion.
Let me give you an example. Should I have the right to say whatever I want? Many would say yes. Should I yell fire in a crowded theatre? No, but is it my right to? Yes. But we have laws in place limiting that right. I understand that and in many cases support limitations that don’t affect the core purpose of any given right. I also believe that certain rights are inalienable and stand free from limitations. One of those is the right to defense of self, family, and property. As long as that right is not infringed then we can talk about compromises. But remember to determine if you’re infringing on the right of defense you have to take into account the abilities of possible offenders, as well as the knowledge of experts on the topic. Those who support gun control often do neither. They ignore the fact that criminals will still have semi-automatic guns, and ridicule the NRA even though it represents a very large portion of this country. Once that ignorance and rhetoric ends the discussions of compromise that gun control advocates claim they want will be able to begin.
I want to end with one final rebuttal to gun control. Ask the proponents a simple question: How do they plan to enforce it? Ask nicely? If after asking nicely people refuse to give up their guns, then what? The inevitable conclusion is that guns will be required to enforce gun control. Stefan Molyneux puts it best as to why this is problematic.
I know this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the arguments proponents of gun control make. I didn’t even begin to discuss the statistics (maybe in another post). But they’re the ones I come across the most so I figured I would address them all in one place. So please, share this with your family and friends. Most people are simply in favor of gun control because they’re uneducated on the issue, not because they’re stupid. There are highly intelligent people who support all different degrees of gun control and just need to be educated on the history and technical details of the industry. Almost always, if they’re honest with themselves, they’ll come around after learning the truth about the issue.
Please add the arguments you’ve seen in the comments below and we’ll discuss together how to counter them. And as always, STAY AWESOME!