Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gun opponents are going off half-cocked

In an article critical of Wayne LaPierre's National Rifle Association speech on Friday, Jacob Sullum of declared it was an exception to the way gun control is being debated, which has predominately featured anti-gun advocates using "raw emotionalism and invective pitted against skepticism and an attempt at rational argument."

LaPierre said some silly things, but he did hit the bullseye when he said

The media calls semi automatic firearms "machine guns." They claim these civilian semiautomatic firearms are used by the military. They tell us that the .223 round is one of the most powerful rifle calibers, when all of these claims are factually untrue. They don't what they're talking about.

Nowhere can this battle of raw, uninformed emotion against careful, reasoned restraint be encapsulated as succinctly as this clip of Penn Jillette trying to get a word in against three anti-gun advocates on the Wendy Williams show

Two minutes in Nicole Lapin demands a ban on semi-automatic weapons, as they can "easily be turned into machine guns." She goes on to say that if the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School only had a handgun he would have only been able to kill two people, not 26 people.

It is frustrating to hear such blatant ignorance about basic gun information. Semi-automatic means when the trigger is pulled, one shot is fired and another one is readied. This mans the gun is not fully automatic, like a machine gun, but does not need to be reloaded between each shot like a musket or bolt-action rifle. She was inadvertently asking to ban pistols, shotguns and hunting rifles.

Lapin is not the first anti-gun advocate to swing wild and call for a ban on semi-automatics, thinking it means something else. Chris Matthews of MSNBC also failed to understand what the term means, but didn't let them stop him from making policy regulations on an unknown subject.

I'm not aware of any mass shootings where the shooter modified a semi-automatic rifle into a fully-automatic one, yet Lapin claims this is a major concern. It's also relevant that she doesn't know what an assault rifle is, and mistakenly applies that label to weapons like the one used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

This idea that only having a handgun would have limited the body count to two is inexcusable. Was she asleep during the Fort Hood shooting where 13 people were killed with handguns? Did she miss the Virginia Tech shooting where 32 people were killed with handguns? This is embarrassingly simple. It's also a false dichotomy, as shotguns present a very real danger to the public and have been used in mass shootings.

And those errors were only from the first 30 seconds of the discussion. It did not get any better as it went on. The anti-gun speakers continued to make careless declarations and Jillette stayed calm and responded to as many as he could with reasonable replies.

I'm not mocking people for simple mistakes like calling a magazine a "clip." These errors are massive and I'm calling into question why they should expect to be taken seriously if they can't grasp even basic concepts about guns.

Would you listen to suggested curriculum guidelines for a biology class from someone who doesn't know who Gregor Mendel was? What about a report on the 9-11 terrorist attacks from someone who claims no Jews were killed in the attacks? What about suggestions on where to set the top tax rates from someone who doesn't understand how marginal tax rates work?

That doesn't automatically disprove their views, but it does cast doubt. If they don't understand simple non-controversial elements of a subject, what are the odds they have anything meaningful to contribute about it? Nothing good has ever come from taking these people seriously.

I have no problem having a rational, reality-based discussion with someone about import subjects like gun regulations and restrictions. What we do not need is loud, obnoxious zealots spouting off a bunch of nonsense on a subject they can't be bothered to research.


  1. That clip made my night and made me cry, simultaneously. They were throwing what THEY KNEW to be outrageously false arguments at Penn and, when he would strike them down, they would shamelessly pull out another lame line. Pathetic. And why the ignorant blame on folks with mental conditions? I thought liberals were open-minded.

  2. I hear that the governor of New York mentioned that gun seizures are on the table.

    That is a very stupid and dangerous thing to propose or implement. Attempts to seize guns from people would almost certainly lead to at least a low level armed rebellion. The American Revolution was kicked into gear when the Brits attempted to seize an arms cache.

  3. Do you need to know the specifics? I think the debate can be abstracted away to a debate about weapons. To what extent are you justified in having weapons if I can't trust you to use them responsibly? And to what extent am I justified in having weapons if I can't trust you not to assault me? There's some kind of a conflict of rights or a conflict of interests -- maybe all the rest is a red herring.

    (The same arguments people make about guns could equally apply to nuclear armaments, training in Tai Kwon Do, or the rest. The particulars are just a distraction.)

  4. Alex, welcome to the fold. It's always good to see spirited debate from a new YH&C commenter.

    Why should my right to bear a weapon depend on the whims of your trust? Does that extend to any other right. It gets dangerously close the idea of banning offensive speech. Should we stop people from expressing a view if I can't be sure it won't offend me?