How to rebut common pro-gun arguments

The standard pro-gun tactic when arguing against gun laws is to change the subject. Whatever else you say, bring the debate back to the specific legislation on the table.

Pro-gun argument:  “The Second Amendment forbids the proposed gun law.”

Say . . .

I support the 2nd Amendment. Hunting and shooting are part of our national heritage. But the Supreme Court ruled, just five years ago, that reasonable gun laws are constitutional. Justice Scalia’s majority opinion explicitly upheld the current ban on possession of guns by felons and there is no constitutional distinction between having that ban and enforcing it with a background check. He also affirmed the ban on sawed-off shotguns and there is no constitutional distinction between that ban and one on semiautomatic assault weapons or large-capacity magazines. Legally, there is no question that modest gun laws like these do not violate the 2nd Amendment. 

Why . . .

The 2008 Supreme Court opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller guarantees Americans the right to have a handgun in the home for self-protection. But at the same time, Justice Scalia went out of his way to add that “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” And he explicitly reaffirmed the Supreme Court’s 1939 U.S. v. Miller opinion that upheld a law banning sawed-off shotguns (the same law bans machineguns, silencers and grenades) and also agreed that Congress has the power to prohibit “dangerous and unusual weapons.”

Pro-gun argument:  “The assault weapon law wouldn’t have stopped Newtown” or other claims that one particular law wouldn’t have prevented one particular crime.

Say . . .

But we don’t make any laws that way. The law against murder doesn’t stop all murders; we don’t expect it to. The law that lowered the blood alcohol level for driving didn’t stop all drunk driving; we didn’t expect it to. The question is not whether this law would have certainly stopped any particular crime, it is whether our communities would be safer with this law.

Pro-gun argument:  “This proposed law puts us on a slippery slope that will lead to worse laws down the road.”

Say . . .

You could make that argument against any law. Why not claim we shouldn’t have driver’s licenses because it might lead to bicycling licenses, walking licenses, and the confiscation of cars? All you’re doing is suggesting you can’t find a good argument against the actual proposal. Can we get back to the issue—why do you think we should be selling these guns and magazines to any adult, no questions asked? 

Pro-gun argument:  “The gun law in Switzerland/Israel/elsewhere proves…”

Say . . .

There is no country on earth that is even remotely similar to the U.S. on guns. We have five percent of the world’s population and we own nearly half of the world’s civilian guns. Our gun murder rate is 20 times higher than other developed nations. All you’re doing here is suggesting you won't address our nation’s problem. Can we get back to the issue—why do you think we should be selling these guns and magazines to any adult, no questions asked? 

Why . . .

The claim that strong gun laws in Australia and Britain failed to reduce gun crime is simply false. The claim that military weapons are widely available in Switzerland and Israel is also false—those nations have strong gun restrictions. Talking about other countries is a tactic to sidetrack the debate. None of these countries have our problem and none of their laws are reasonably similar to the legislation being debated here. Don’t let the debate go down a rabbit hole; stick to the problem in this country and the proposed solutions here.

Pro-gun argument:  “That gun law will inhibit the right to self-defense.”

Say . . .

I support the right to self-defense and nothing in this legislation would prevent law-abiding citizens from defending themselves with a gun. Without assault weapons, Americans will still have thousands of guns to choose from. Can we get back to the issue—why do you think we should be selling these guns and magazines to any adult, no questions asked? 

Pro-gun argument:  “We should provide armed guards/do something about mental health/make parents take responsibility/ban violent video games instead.”

Say . . .

We should make our communities safer. If you’ve got a good proposal, that’s fine. But this is not an either-or debate; one policy does not exclude another. Can we get back to the issue—why do you think we should be selling these guns and magazines to any adult, no questions asked? 

Why . . .

You can scoff about arming teachers later. Don’t let them sidetrack the debate!

Pro-gun argument:  “There are already lots of gun laws on the books, so let’s enforce the law.”

Say . . .

I agree that curent laws should be enforced to make our communities safer. We have a law that says felons are prohibited from buying guns. The only way to enforce that law is to require a criminal background check before every gun sale. In addition, we can both enforce existing law and strengthen it, which is what we need to do. This is not an either-or debate.  Can we get back to the issue—why do you think we should be selling these guns and magazines to any adult, no questions asked? 

Pro-gun argument:  “The answer to gun violence is to have more guns. An armed society is a polite society.”

Say . . .

The states with the highest gun ownership rates have more gun violenceby far! But more important, this legislation will not prevent law-abiding Americans from buying or owning guns. The point is irrelevant. Let's get back to the real debate.

Why . . .

It is clearly true that having more guns causes more gun murders and more gun deaths (the latter includes suicides and accidents); see Myth #2 here. You can also say the Harvard School of Public Health shows that more guns cause more murders. But again, this is an attempt to move the debate in an irrelevant direction. Don’t let it go there.

Pro-gun argument:  “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Say . . .

It just doesn’t work. Columbine High School had an armed deputy sheriff. Virginia Tech had an entire police force, including a SWAT team. At the Tucson shooting, not only was there an armed civilian who failed to stop the shooter, but he almost shot one of the brave unarmed people who tackled and disarmed the shooter. The Fort Hood massacre happened at a military base filled with soldiers. President Reagan and his press secretary Jim Brady were surrounded by armed police and Secret Service, and yet both were shot. Let's get back to the real debate. 

Why . . .

You could also say that in all the mass shootings over the past 30 years, not one of them was stopped by a civilian with a gun. But again, the important thing is to return the debate to the actual legislation. Nothing in that legislation prevents any “good guy” from getting a gun.

Pro-gun argument:  “I’m right about this—look it up on Wikipedia.”

Say . . .

The gun lobby has made it a project to alter almost every Wikipedia page that mentions guns or gun laws. Usually Wikipedia is a great resource, but crowd-sourcing breaks down when it’s under constant attack. 

Pro-gun argument:  “Gun laws are fascist.”  

Say . . .

Actually Hitler loosened restrictions on guns. But you know, talking about Hitler or fascism makes it sound like you can’t make a relevant argument. Let’s get back to the issue—why do you think we should be selling these guns and magazines to any adult, no questions asked? 

Why . . .

You can read a debunking of the Hitler myth here. There is also a phony Hitler quote that the pro-gun advocates often use. It’s false, but more important, totally irrelevant.

NEXT:  Sources for more detailed talking points

 

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