Merriam-Webster defines a “straw man” argument as “a weak or imaginary argument or opponent that is set up to be easily defeated.” Straw men are used frequently in political argumentation. Rather than argue against the point one’s opposition is making, one argues against a slightly altered version of the point, which is more easily defeated.
With the shooting in Oregon, the liberal machine is in overdrive regarding gun violence. Every day, at least one post pops up on my Facebook feed regarding the alleged insanity of Second Amendment advocates. The most recent post I saw set up two straw man arguments, and summarily defeated those arguments. Praise followed.
I’d like to set each argument apart, and dissect it. The wording will be slightly different than the exact post, but the arguments are identical.
1. It defies reason and logic to think that “more people running around with guns” would make us safer. Americans have decided that their so-called right to carry killing machines with zero restrictions is worth more than life.
Using such strong language like “killing machine,” “without restriction,” and “worth more than life” is an argumentative fallacy called “appealing to emotion and fear.” These are incredibly pointed words and phrases that are intended to cloud the mind, thus rendering rational judgement difficult. But let’s strip away the passion, and find the point.
Those who advocate for gun rights want zero restrictions. This is simply incorrect. I myself am a Second Amendment advocate, and I favor restrictions to gun ownership. Violent criminal records and mental instability, for example, should preclude someone from owning a gun. That’s the point of background checks, which we already have in place.
The way we integrate mental health status into the NICS background check system needs to be updated significantly because as of now it’s woefully inadequate. I know, and have heard with my own ears, numerous other gun rights advocates say the same thing. Katie Pavlich, editor of Town Hall, has written many pieces on the subject.
Like myself, Pavlich is a gun rights supporter, who also favors reasonable restrictions that would keep us safe, but not violate the Second Amendment rights of millions of stable, law-abiding Americans.
It is categorically untrue that Second Amendment supporters want absolutely no restrictions. It’s a lie–but a popular one.
2. More guns means more death.
The second argument made is that more guns means more death. This is also patently false. If more guns meant more death, then the nations with the most firearms would automatically have higher gun-related deaths. The Crime Prevention Research Center’s chart of “guns per 100,000 versus homicides” shows no such trend:
Additionally, some of the cities in the United States with the strictest gun control laws have the highest homicide rates, such as Baltimore (34.9 per 100,000) Philadelphia (21.5 per 100,000), and Chicago (18.5 per 100,000). On the other hand, many cities with the least restrictive gun laws have the lowest homicide rates, such as Austin (3.7 per 100,000), El Paso (3.4 per 100,000), and Mesa (3.1 per 100,000).
If more guns means more death, why this trend? As long as we’re on the subject, what about Switzerland.
“Switzerland trails behind only the U.S, Yemen and Serbia in the number of guns per capita; between 2.3 million and 4.5 million military and private firearms are estimated to be in circulation in a country of only 8 million people. Yet, despite the prevalence of guns, the violent-crime rate is low: government figures show about 0.5 gun homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010.”
Lastly, one cannot judge mass shootings based solely on population. The following is a chart of mass shooting deaths per capita. Controlled for population, the United States falls to number six:
It’s these kinds of outrageous and misinformed posts on social media and elsewhere that drag the debate about gun control into the realm of fiction and hysteria. There is certainly a larger discussion to be had regarding how to reduce mass shootings, and gun homicides without infringing on Second Amendment rights–but that’s another story.
Don’t allow hysteria to control the debate. Hit back with logic, and evidence.