Monday, January 30, 2012

Your Guide to Anti-Rights Propaganda, or There I Fixed It

I've been debating pro-gun web surfers online (and offline) since 1998, and in that time, there has been almost no variation in the tactics they use in trying to support their belief that guns are awesome and make the world a better place. They may change the specific "evidence" they use, but the underlying arguments don't change. No matter how many times the arguments they use have been debunked, they continue to use the same faulty logic over and over again. Here's a quick guide to the most common arguments you're likely to hear...

As often as anti-rights/anti-gun advocates and "progressives" have refused to participate or support public debate, their opinions and fears of a strong society willing to defend its freedoms support the invalidity of their position. 

Ad hominem attacks: This is common with all right-wing argumentation, but is particularly common with gun proponents. Common insults include: Communist, socialist, liberal, liar, extreme, Democrat, etc. Yes, I actually am a few of those things, but even if I were all of them, none of these things belongs in a serious conversation about gun control or gun rights. Attempt to prove your case without namecalling or dismissing someone based on a label and then we can have a serious conversation. And this doesn't get into the more extreme and insulting namecalling that usually includes homophobia, misogyny and profanity.

One of the main ideas of pro-rights advocacy is that those who support and defend the rights of the many and the few also support the individual's choice whether or not to practice said rights. We respect those with opposing views to practice their natural and Constitutional rights as they choose, also refraining from infringing upon others. This is the main point of contention, that those who oppose the liberties of others so actively campaign to deny from others what gives them the freedom to denounce themselves. Simply, opposition to the freedoms of others is an oppressive position. 

Anecdotal evidence: One of the basic rules of science and logic is that one example of anything (or even a few examples) is not proof of anything systematic. Gun owners love to use anecdotal evidence to support their claims and they frequently make broad generalizations and come to definitive conclusions based on individual (or a handful) of incidents, usually of dubious veracity. The entire concept that guns are used more for self defense than they are for crime is based on a "study" that went something like this: "Three people in city A claim to have used guns in self defense, so multiply that times the number of cities in the U.S. and that's how many self-defense instances there are in a year." Completely nonsensical in terms of logic and science.

Professor Lott is often cited as a leader in his field, often disproving and publicly debating anti-rights proponents, leaving them angry and fumbling over their notes on lunacy. 

Conflation of gun crime and non-gun crime: In trying to prove your arguments wrong, they will mix and match the different types of crime as if they are interchangeable, using whatever statistics help make their current argument, regardless of how relevant they are. Gun control proponents argue that gun control lessens gun crime and violent crime and homicide, not other types of crime

It is difficult to refute that violent crime drops as restrictions on gun owners declines, as well as the inverse. We only need to consider the double-digit increases in violent crime in the couple of years following the nearly complete ban on firearms in the UK to see that gun control is simply about control, but actually promotes an increase of the crime it is purported to prevent. Such a sad failure of logic, that. 

Conspiracy thinking: There is widespread conspiratorial thinking among the pro-gun set, arguing that everyone from the Brady Campaign, to the United Nations, to Democrats, to Media Matters, to the Joyce Foundation, is involved in a conspiracy to take away everyone's guns. And probably to kill gun owners on top of that. Or imprison them. Or something. As with most conspiracies, none of it makes any sense and it isn't backed up by any real evidence, it's more about innuendo and guesswork or flights of fancy. And anyone who ever says anything about gun control is part of the conspiracy.

Funny, that's pretty much the usual suspects of the anti-rights/anti-gun proponents. There are a few legislators I'd add, but the author pretty much lays the base quite well. 

Elevated ego: Few people are more righteous in their own beliefs than the anti-gun contingent. They are convinced not only that their arguments are right, but that they are on a mission from God or something. They also are completely convinced that any sentence they utter is proof coming directly from God and that they are always right. And they are always convinced that everything they say should not only convince you that they are right, but that it would make any sane person convinced of their correctness. On top of that, they are the first to toot their own horns about how badly they invalidated everything you said. At least I'll give them this, they stick together and will team up with each other to congratulate each other for how awesome their arguments are.

There, fixed it for you. It's amazing how the author had only one word wrong. He just needed someone with editing and proof reading skills. 

False irrelevancy: It's common for pro-gun people to call any information that isn't very, very recent irrelevant because it's old. But we learned about the rotation of the earth hundreds of years ago and that information is still relevant today. Old information is only irrelevant if it has been proven untrue, which is almost never the case when these arguments are made.

Old information, like the proven connections between dictators and pupil ace disarmament? That's both relevant and historical. 

Fictional constitutional rights: One should never accuse any anti-gun person making a constitutional argument of being a constitutional scholar. They consistently read things into the document that don't exist and reject things that are both in and outside of the document that count as law, since those things don't agree with their agenda. The text of the Second Amendment is: "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." Almost every pro-gun person leaves out the militia clause, which is there. Almost every pro-gun person ignores the words "well regulated," which explicitly authorize gun control. Almost every pro-gun person adds the word individual to this text, despite it not being in there. There is no right here to kill anyone. There is no right here to use guns against the government. There is no right here for anything beyond the right of the collective "people" to bear arms as part of a militia. The Supreme Court changed this interpretation way back in 2008. Because Republican appointees who were activist judges decided that was what it meant. The decision wasn't based on precedent or constitutional text.

By failing to understand the history behind the reasons for the text giving a free nation's citizens uninfringed rights to defend themselves and their country, the anti-right folks dismiss the idea that totalitarian regimes like the one the colonies broke free from are a danger to the rights of the individual. Yes, the population not conscribed to current military duty is the militia, expected to take up arms to defend themselves and country at a moment's notice. Well-regulated is the directive of the State's officers, intended to deter potential abuse of authority (think of mayor Bloomberg). The people are to retain the right to keep and bear arms at all times and without infringement, and to take up arms in time of war. 

Geographical nonsense: Every country in the world that has stronger gun control laws has lower rates of gun crime than the U.S., which has weak gun control laws. That's a simple fact and it's the big problem with all anti-gun control arguments, they can't get around this fact, it isn't possible. Another problem is the nonsensical claim that cities and states that have stricter gun control laws haven't eliminated gun crime, so they most not be effective. The reality, of course, is that a strict gun control law in state A is easy to evade if neighboring states B, C, and D all have weaker gun control laws. Guns don't stop at state borders and there is no way to check for them as people cross state lines, that's why gun crime isn't eliminated in those states. However, you do find that states with stricter gun control laws do have lower gun crime rates.

It's funny that the anti-rights set discount the fact that as gun bans (like those in Chicago and DC, and the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban) expire or are found unconstitutional, we also see crime rates drop and gun ownership increase uninfringed. 

Godwin's rule: Whenever they run out of other talking points, pro-gun people fall back on the argument that "Hitler and Stalin took away people's guns, too," suggesting that any gun control argument is aligned with totalitarian dictators and that gun control automatically leads to mass murder by the government.

Gun control in history has proven disastrous for the populace when imposed by tyrannical regimes bent on increasing the State authority at the expense of individual rights. 

"If you outlaw guns, only criminals will have guns": This isn't true, of course, since law enforcement and military would have them, but this is beside the point. It's simply a matter of fact that if fewer guns exist, fewer criminals have them and fewer gun crimes happen.

The failure of logic here is that if criminals and law enforcement are "the only ones" allowed to defend themselves, the population is left unarmed in the crossfire. We only need to look south to Mexico to see how well that has worked. It pretty much lets the narco-terrorists run the nation under threat of force that even the military can not match and must negotiate with. Do we really want that here? It appears that the anti-rights folks do, even if they can't see the forest for the trees. 

Logical gymnastics: Pro-gun people love to use logical fallacies when pointing out the weakness of their opponents arguments. The problem is that they rarely use them correctly and they engage in many others while calling them out in others. The important point, though, is that you can't prove that gun control is a bad thing by pointing out logical fallacies used by proponents of stricter laws. Any individual who argues for something or against something can do a bad job at it and the original premise can still be true. Reality is independent of any individual's or group's understanding of it or ability to argue for or against it.

This argument is very general, but quite true. The author fails to support the position with any real data, though. The reader is left waiting for something of substance, but only perceives a hollow concept of an argument. 

Reinventing the wheel: Every blog post, comment or argument with a pro-gun person has to go back to the very beginning of the debate and re-prove every argument ever, regardless of how many times something has been shown to be true. And if you, personally, can't prove something, they will claim that it isn't true, even if it has been scientifically proven elsewhere. I do not have the time, nor the interest, in proving every fact about the debate every time I say it. Nor should I have to. That's not how intelligent conversation works. Scientists and people interested in truth build off of previous information and previous evidence, they don't start at the beginning every time they broach a subject.

It's hard to argue with opinions when presenting facts. This is why you will find nearly every forum for gun rights debate on the opposing side unwilling to accept even to hear opposition, while most go out of their way to censor and ignore the other side of the argument, leaving readers and viewers seeing only one side of the argument, failing to promote discourse and debate. 

Source hypocrisy: Gun proponents automatically reject any source that comes from a liberal or a pro-gun control source, yet they will endlessly cite pro-gun sources (including Gun Cite), without even a hint of irony or acknowledgement of the hypocrisy of such an argument.

Citing Joyce-funded studies is hardly unbiased research, or even scientific research at all. By failing to follow the scientific method, beginning with a predetermined conclusion and looking for support by hand-picking data, yes, that research has no validity. Any research scientist can attest to that. 

Source rejection: The only valid source to a hoplophobe is one that agrees with them. They automatically reject any evidence that comes from a right-wing or pro-gun source and reject any journalist or scientist who provides evidence that disagrees with them instantly. Unless that same source later agrees with them. Then they'll say it was right all along. Facts and reality are neutral to your argument (or mine). You cannot reject a source based on the fact that they came to a conclusion you don't like.

I like this game. It's more fun when when fewer words need to be reversed. 
These vague arguments are why this article caught my attention. It relies too heavily on emotionally-charged prose, yet fails to present more than a few rational kernels that could lead to discourse, if only the anti-rights folks were so inclined. 

"You'll never stop criminals from getting guns, so gun control laws are ineffective": This one shows a basic misunderstanding of the concept of problem solving. There are few, if any, problems that can be 100% eliminated. That isn't the goal with real-world gun control laws. The goal is to lessen gun crime as much as possible, which is very clearly shown to happen when common sense gun control laws are put into effect.

It is not surprising that those so vocal of their opposition to gun rights are also willing to trample on the rest of our Constitutional rights in their quest. To them, I say "tilt away," just as did Don Quixote. Tit away.

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