From the Bureau of ATF: Arguing With #GunSense, Part 1

I like to argue. A lot.

In college, I was invited to join our two-time defending national champion forensics team. Naturally, that involved a trip to D.C., so naturally, I dropped out of school instead.

But I kept arguing.

Except now, I’m not an idiot 20-year-old, and I’ve distilled my focus down to a single issue — the single issue: gun rights.

It’s a good fit.

Too bad it’s mostly a giant waste of time.

After all, the practical outcome of any argument with a #GunSense* advocate is this little beauty right here:


While the above represents perhaps the deepest, most profoundly meaningful treatise on the nature of fundamental human rights and interaction that’s capable of being conveyed in four words or less**, it usually takes an actual living brain on the other side to piece together its multilayered implications.

So Gonzales is and always will be the TL;DR of the never-ending gun debate.

If you’re like me, though, that TL;DR mic drop is considerably less fun than wading waist-deep into the Stupid. You probably view anti-gun zealots on the Internet just as I do: a sort of shooting gallery to test and refine your own logic and internal consistency. They are practice. This series, then, is for you, and in each new part, I’ll be discussing a single debate tactic or gambit typically used by one side against the other. I’ll do my best to present these in order of most to least common, but there’s a distinct ebb and flow to the politics of the day to day that makes that more or less impossible.

Why is this important?

Because even as #GunSense hemorrhages capital and capitols (there is more restored legal support for private firearms carry today than at any time in the last several generations), the ferocious rhetoric of anti-gunners around the country continues to heat up. Much like your typical rifle barrel, the hotter it gets, the less accurate all the blather becomes. As custodians of Gun Culture 2.0, we can’t afford to respond in kind. Rather, we ought to pace ourselves cooly and calmly, refuting every onerous, fallacious claim with unassailable logic, remembering all the while that an argument is only an argument when proper reasoning is the aim. No shooting from the hip here.

So, without further ado, I present:

Argument 1, “The Problem”

  • #GunSense claim: “There is a gun death problem in America.”***
  • Gun Rights response: “Prove it.”

Okay, yes, that’s a pretty TL;DR rebuttal, but it’s just to get things framed up properly. With something as crooked as gun control, that’s sort of a basic necessity, and it’s best handled at the outset. Indeed, for most claims, this one phrase will almost always be a valid first play. More often than not, the grabber will take the bait and cite the number of “gun deaths” from the latest batch of annual statistics. (Note: It would be apprpriate at any time to simply share a telling chart or two demonstrating the US’ declining “gun death” rates even as private arms ownership is at record highs and climbing, but these will be dismissed as “memes” and ignored outright, sourced or not.) After reminding them that suicide makes up two-thirds of the total and is a perfectly lawful natural right, both sides will settle on an average figure of roughly 10,000 to 14,000 such events per year. In 2015, according to this otherwise disingenuous pile of propaganda, there were approximately 13,500 “gun deaths” in the United States.

While there is no way to reliably qualify or quantify what exactly constitutes a statistical “problem,” it is possible, via some basic arithmetic, to put this seemingly large number into perspective.

First, consider the US population. At the time of this writing, there are an estimated 323,461,940 people living in America. To be conservative liberal, round this down to 320 million.

Now, the math (or “maffs,” for our redcoat friends across the pond):

  • 13.5K/320M
    = 0.000042
    = 0.0042%
  • 320M/13.5K
    = 23,703.70
    = 23,704
    = 1:23,704

Unlike the raw “gun death” total the antis like to toss around tethered to hysterical, childlike emotion, the above figures are actually contextually rooted. The first equation reveals that only 0.0042% of the US population is likely to die as a result of “gun violence.” That means, as the second equation shows, that any given person on US soil has a one-in-23,704 chance of being killed “by a gun.” Since so many antigun activists claim that “gun violence” is an “epidemic” that should be “treated like a disease” and “studied by the CDC” (more on that delightful bit of backfire in another post), let’s do that, just this once, for the sake of argument:

In medicine, what is the threshold for a disease to be considered an “epidemic”?

An epidemic is defined thus:

[T]he slow spread of infectious disease to a large number of people in a given population within a short period of time, usually two weeks or less. For example, in meningococcal infections, an attack rate in excess of 15 cases per 100,000 people for two consecutive weeks is considered an epidemic.

The aforementioned “15 per 100K” rate is the most-cited baseline I can find regarding infectious diseases, so let’s go with that. For “gun violence” to be an actual epidemic, the US would need to experience a whopping 3200 “gun deaths” per week. All. Year. Long.

Since there aren’t anywhere near 166,400 “gun deaths” each year in America, “epidemic” is right out.

Hell, by medical standards, even Chiraq’s “gun death” rate is well below the necessary threshold. There were 445 “gun deaths” in Chicago throughout all of 2015. For “gun deaths” to be an epidemic there, there’d need to be 405 per week (for at least two weeks in a row). Not. Even. Close.

Clearly, “gun deaths” are not an epidemic. The bigger question, then, is: Are “gun deaths” even statistically significant?

You already know the answer.

Most mathematical models define statistical significance as at least five percent (0.05) of a given sample/population, but this can vary down to one percent depending on the area of study. From the initial calculations above, “gun deaths” occur at a rate of 0.0042% (0.000042), which is several orders of magnitude beneath either threshold for statistical significance.

In other words, US “gun deaths” are statistically insignificant.

If at this point the target of your overwhelming scientific acumen is still trying to argue (“Tell that to their families!” is not an argument, albeit I’ll write about how to handle that sometime down the road), he or she will posit that it doesn’t matter. He or she will insist that 13,500 “gun deaths” are simply and self-evidently “too many.”


Here’s your trump card: Respectfully ask them what number of “gun deaths” would be “juuust right.” The savvy-ish remainder will give up here, but a few morons may grasp at straws and, perhaps, cut the number in half.


Now you bust out this link (or, better yet even, its CDC source) and proceed to explain how approximately 80% of all “gun murders” are committed by known violent criminals against other known violent criminals (usually in gang- or drug-related events). Be sure to ask why it’s a “problem” that hoodlums and gangbangers are killing each other. Since there is no viable answer for this (unless it comes from the smelliest, flower-in-their-hairiest, most emaciated hippie on the face of the Earth), you can successfully and legitimately reframe the argument around the new number of “gun deaths” of innocents: 2700.

Reworking the original math, that leaves us with:

  • 2.7K/320M
    = 0.0000084
    = 0.00084%
  • 320M/2.7K
    = 118,518.52
    = 118,519
    = 1:118,519

In the US, “gun deaths” of innocent people are even less of a “problem,” way less of a epidemiological imperative, and way, way more statistically insignificant.


But dont despair — the antigun parrot will come to the conclusion that “even one gun death is too many.”

Congratulations, you’ve won the debate.

But #GunSense will never give up, so we won’t either. I just need to decide whether to cover “militia” or “nukes” next week.

*Linguistically speaking, #GunSense is a blending of the term “gun control” and the word “nonsense.” Logically speaking, it’s a redundant, pathetic portmanteau, more French**** in spirit than even the word that describes it.

**Technically, “molon labe” gets the same point across in only two words, but that serf language, like most serf things, is dead and irrelevant.

***#GunSense drones will almost always say “gun violence problem” when they actually mean “gun death problem,” as all of their citations will invariably focus only on deaths rather than total casualties. For the one antigun activist you ever meet that actually gives a shit about the people who dont die from their wounds, you might want to adjust this article’s math a bit. Obviously, this will not change the thrust of the argument’s general conclusions.

****I will stop***** ridiculing the French continent the moment its subjects sack up and wrest power back from the overlords that disarmed them.


17 Replies to “From the Bureau of ATF: Arguing With #GunSense, Part 1”

  1. For context: according to the statistics in this post, risk of death from being shot falls right between drowning and falling over. Unless you’re not a criminal, in which case, drowning is more likely.

    And yet, the #1 killer in America, Heart Disease, is now under social protection with warnings about it falling under “fat shaming.”

    [edit]By the way Miguel, now that you have a few more writers on staff, would you consider moving the byline to the top of a post, so we don’t have to scroll all the way to the bottom to see who’s writing the series?


    1. If you are reading front page instead of individual article, the design puts the by-line in the bottom. Individual post view puts it on top… The designers idea of fun?


  2. Excellent stuff. I was under the impression, though, that suicide is typically illegal. ( Yeah, I know, go figure. )

    And Miguel, I second CWG’s suggestion. A byline at the top would be nice.


  3. Great post.

    Comment regarding the “nukes” argument.
    #gunsense: “Where does it stop? Should people be allowed to own nuclear bombs?”
    Me: “If they are going to use those bombs in a law abiding and responsible manner, why not? The problem is not the gun, it is the illegal/irresponsible use of the gun. Same thing applies regardless of the tool used.”


    1. I like to point out how a nuclear warhead delivers 3 trillion times the energy of a .223 round. A spit wad is closer in energy to an AR-15 than an AR is to a nuke. Then I offer a compromise to split the difference.


  4. For clarity, you may want to put typical gunsense idiot quotes in Comic Sans, or color code them.

    Good write-up, I agree, Gonzalez is always on standby, but publicly embarrassing the graboids is good to keep them meek.


  5. I believe there’s a small problem with the numbers. 13,500 represents the approximate total number of murders in the U.S. The number of “gun murders” is about 2/3 that, or between 9,000 and 9,500 (the rest are murder by baseball bat, hands/feet/fists, hammers, knives, etc.). (And according to the FBI, murders in the U.S. as of 2011 number below 13K, and murders-by-firearm well below 9K.

    (I know it’s kind of a nit-pick, but there’s no sense conceding to the antis that “gun death” is a bigger “problem” than it is.)

    Other than that, your post is spot-on!


    1. You’re right.

      The yearly avg (over last decade or so) is around 9500 “gun murders,” or ~60% of all murders. I am intentionally using the #GunSense community’s own cited numbers as linked (same reason I rounded down genpop — to give their figures the maximum possible impact per their absurd agenda), and those have ~13,500 as the 2015 total estimate of “gun deaths” (excepting suicides, amazingly). I assume this figure has a few questionable projections/assumptions built in, and I also assume it includes accidents, manslaughter, DGUs, and LE-involved shootings. That’s why it’s “gun deaths” and not “gun murders,” I think. Pretty disingenuous, but it’s fun to use their own stats to crush them. Also, it might help avoid the fingers-in-ears reaction they give when something rigorous like Kleck’s DGU study is cited.

      As for total annual murders in US (all methods), that sits somewhere around 14K. So yeah, the link claiming 13.5 is stretching things. Generally in debate, I’ll use “~9500” and be done with it. Cut that by 80% to eliminate criminal v. criminal, and the numbers are even more insignificant.

      I should have been more clear about the massive buffer (and why I used it) with that too-large figure.


  6. Excellent article and I look forward to more in the future. I, too, have attempted the debating of gun control (gunsense) that some “Disarmanuts” advocate for. When I debate them, I try to pick out a person that has an actual argument instead of the shrills that just throw profanity around. I am always respectful in both my tone and verbiage and most of the time it is responded to in like kind.

    Although I find when asked a specific question about one of their statement in a direct manner, more times than not they will cherry-pick their replies to skirt around a specific topic. Most of these control advocates merely parrot talking points and outright inaccuracies from sites like MDA, CSGV and the like. (Too bad I cannot expose those sites for their blatant lies since providing facts, statistics and data even in a respectable manner gets one banned from their pages).

    If I could ask these people just one question, I guess it would be why they are classifying a subset of violence. I mean, why are they only concerned about gun-violence when violence period should be their concern? Is violent acts perpetrated with a firearm their only fearful concern? They are concerned about or aware of violence by physical force or in number of actors against a victim? How about physical harm against women by a stronger assailant? Nope, they don’t even blink an eye on those statistics. But when they are spoon fed the horrors of violence conducted with a firearm by the likes of Bloomberg and Watts they take the torch and run with it like a town crier to anyone willing to listen. Their pages are an echo chamber all clucking to each other on how to deprive others of a person choice (firearm ownership) merely because they don’t like it and neither should you.

    Again, excellent article and I will try to up my prowess during debates by having statistics and numbers bookmarked where I can insert them and let the adversary try to counter it.


    1. I have a few theories on why #GunSense focuses only on the “gun violence” subset. That’ll be a fun article. Thanks for the idea.



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