A Liberal’s Guide to Winning the Gun Debate: Stop Saying These and Start Saying This Instead
Let’s face it, you are reading this because you don’t know much about guns but want to win the debate and win the minds (and votes) of your right-wing peers, or just own them in a debate. You probably don’t own a gun, and likely never fired one. Most of what you know about guns came from movies (which is a terrible place for accurate depictions of the world). Deep down you know you don’t know what you are talking about, but you sure are committed to gun control because it’s the right thing to do, it saves lives. Fear not, this guide is for you. I do know a thing or two about guns, better than many conservatives, and I’m here to help. I will tell you the things to stop saying, because they are losing arguments and make us look bad, not to mention ill-informed, then I will teach you the things you do need to say to have a winning argument. You can’t straw-man their position to win either, you must steal-man it, then break it by turning it on its head. The order will be this: stop saying these things, steal-man their argument, start saying these things.
One of the biggest critiques from the Right is that we don’t know what we are talking about, and that is largely true if you look at gun ownership rates. Many on the Left don’t own guns, for a variety of reasons, which implies that they don’t know, or care to know some of the inner workings of gun culture. Obviously, we need to be informed when we come to debates, which is why I’m writing this. In light of this, there are several things we says that act as tells, revealing we don’t know what we are talking about. By repeating the arguments I present, it will look like you know what you are talking about (even if you don’t). Below I’ll give the phrase, and then a short blurb as to why it is incorrect and makes us look bad.
“The 2nd amendment applies to muskets because that is what they had at the time.”
This one is bad because the logical reasoning would mean that our freedom of speech is confined to pen and parchment and not the internet. It also gives the implication that we are constitutional originalists in the strictest sense, which clearly, we are not. This is not a winning argument, it’s a bad one.
“Fully-semi automatic rifles” and “assault weapons.”
These don’t exist, they aren’t real. It is a buzz word signalling that you don’t know the rules of the game. It is like trying to impress you Harry Potter friends by saying your favorite character is Gandalf. It’s a dead give away that you don’t know what’s happening. Guns are fully automatic (one squeeze of the trigger and all the bullets come out until you release the trigger), semi-automatic (one squeeze of the trigger fires one bullet), or sometimes pump action, lever action, or bold action (these three aren’t super important, but extra points if you throw it into a conversation). Almost all guns are semi-automatic, so saying something is fully-semi automatic is combining two different things. “Assault weapon” is a term we invented to make guns sound scary and convince more people that gun control is necessary for our safety; it worked, except we now believe our own propaganda. The Right knows this, so don’t fall for it, stop referring to rifles as assault weapons.
“Gun show loophole.”
Only say this if you want to annoy the Right, because it is useless after that. We think that by going to a gun show you can buy a gun with no background check. Gun shows are made up of companies who are legally required to perform a background check on all gun purchases, yes even at a gun show. What happens is a private civilian can sell a gun to another civilian without needing a background check (they still can’t sell it to those who cannot legally posses a gun). What happens is a criminal can find a private civilian and see if he sells him a gun, and the easiest place to meet is a gun show. It isn’t a gun show loophole, it’s more of a private sale loophole.
“No one needs an AR-15.”
This one is historically bad. These are the words of dictators long past. For the side that is all about minority rights, we play the devil when we say this. Rights are rights, and the oppressive history of this country came when those in power were able to dictate what one person or one group needed. This country has not lived up to its creed to uphold the rights of all equally, we fall into the same problem when we make this statement. It’s a bill of rights, not a bill of needs, saying this undermines our credibility that we champion the rights of all the oppressed. Not to mention the historically racist past of the KKK denying Blacks guns because, as members of the government and law enforcement, they were able to decide who needed what for protection. This is a phrase we should steer clear of. It is saturated in the blood of the oppressed and tainted with racism.
“We need background checks.”
This is another cause for a facepalm. We actually have background checks. As I said in the gun show loophole section, all companies are required to perform a background check. If you purchase a gun online, it get’s shipped to a gun store where they perform a background check before they hand it over to you. The only way around it is a private sale, which is very rare, and not they way criminals get their guns, because most gun-loving conservatives don’t sell their guns to people they don’t know. Straw purchases can be a problem, and we can solve that the same way we solve the straw purchase of alcohol to minors, we can’t. Without a fascist surveillance state, it is impossible to mend that small of a crack in the system.
Let’s face it, you couldn’t explain what you mean by it, other than it looks like something you saw in a movie, or an Army recruitment ad. Since all the lethality of the gun comes from its inner workings, what does the cosmetic outside have to do with anything? This is an admission that we are afraid of our own ignorance. Jeeps are technically “military-style” vehicles, and military vehicles do a lot more damage than their rifles. “Military-style” doesn’t bring anything of any relevance to the debate. Let’s cut this one out, we looks pathetic repeating it.
These are the most obnoxious things we say that lose us the debate, we need to stop saying them. Never fear, not all is lost, after I steal-man their arguments I will show you what to actually say to counter their arguments.
Their position is that gun ownership is a constitutionally protected right, because, well, it is. Therefore, any laws or regulations that create a burden on ownership violates the constitution. Rights cannot be tossed aside on whims, that is how this country treated Blacks historically during slavery and Jim Crow. Our government decided that rights weren’t that important. When governments have the power to ignore rights, major oppression follows.
They also contend that gun ownership benefits society as a whole, meaning they do more good than harm. Based on the numbers from the CDC, this is true. There are approximately 13,000 homicides each year compared to 500,000–3 million crimes prevented each year because of an armed citizen. Even though the range is large, the low-end estimate is far greater than the number of homicides committed. Because the vast majority of gun violence is committed with handguns, any ban or restriction on rifles wouldn’t make a dent in the number of yearly homicides; this includes mass shootings, which is considered four or more deaths in a shooting. Rifles make up the tiny percentage of guns used for mass shootings. Knives kill more than rifles, hammers, firsts, and feet kill more than rifles. This is all true, which begs the question how banning rifles and AR-15s would alleviate the problem. Persisting on gun control aimed at rifles is barking up the wrong tree. Studies of gun control reducing gun crime is inconclusive at best. Most of the studies don’t have sufficient sample sizes, and those places that show a reduction in gun crime were already experiencing a reduction in gun crime; this includes places like Australia.
I don’t have time to go through every point they make, but that is the steal structure of their argument. Now we can move on to the last part, on how to correctly argue so that we can win. Here is how to win the gun control argument; switch sides and support the 2nd Amendment.