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):
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:
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.