It’s really hard to talk about guns and gun violence, primarily due to the fact that the NRA has spent an insane amount of money brainwashing American citizens with catchy bumper-sticker type slogans that sound logical, but fall apart upon careful examination.
To make matters worse, gun-prohibitionists often take leave of their senses and attack decent law abiding gun owners who would never consider using their gun to take an innocent life.
In hopes of bridging this gap, I have created a comprehensive list of the most common fallacious arguments used to attack basic control measures, which 90% of Americans believe will make our society a safer place.
Before we begin, let me say that I am a gun owner and I have no issue with citizens owning guns. My father is an antique gun collector. My brother works in a gun store. One of my good friends is a national champion sharp-shooter. But as a passionate proponent of logic and reason, it pains me to see people making emotional arguments masked as logical ones.
If you want to own guns, then you do not need to defend this decision to anyone. You can simply say “I really like guns.” or “My gun makes me feel safer.”
Most reasonable people will not have a problem with this.
The goal of this document is not to discourage people from owning guns, but rather to dismiss with the foolish illogical arguments that proliferate nearly every discussion on this topic, making it virtually impossible to have an intelligent discussion on the matter.
If we are going to talk about guns, let’s use facts and ditch the rhetoric.
Can someone please fire a pistol into the air so that we can get started?
Logicians to your marks…get set…
Fallacious argument #1
If guns are outlawed then only outlaws will have guns.
On its surface this seems like airtight logic. It is absolutely true that gun prohibition will not stop someone who is overwhelmingly committed to obtaining a gun from achieving their goal.
But history shows that gun prohibition makes obtaining a gun EXTREMELY difficult.
As 99% of gun violence is committed in the heat of the moment, any difficulty in acquiring a firearm means that the person who was preparing to commit an act of violence will still be able to do so, using any number of methods.
People will still strike each other with their fists.. They will pick up nearby objects and strike with them when angry. They will stab one another.
If guns were outlawed, then average normal everyday people would not risk incarceration and passion-driven gun violence would drop exponentially, but other types of violence would rise. Still homicide would drop proportionately as people simply are less willing and able to kill one another using such up close and personal methods.
Of course, there is some truth to the outlaws with guns argument. There will always be deviants who will go to great lengths to acquire guns. But in a gun prohibitionist culture, these outlaws would have to have some measure of wealth to make their gun-ownership dreams a reality, as black-market gun prices soar in countries where it is illegal to buy guns.
A quick look at the mass-shooters in America illustrates that there is simply no way that the average spree-shooter could afford to own a gun if forced to pay black-market prices.
In addition to lack of funds being a large obstacle to gun ownership for those with ill intentions, it is also laughable to think of entitled suburban white boys like Adam Lanza, pulling into a dark alley with several thousands dollars in his pocket to buy a black-market AR-15. Even if these spree-shooters had the large amount of cash required to purchase a black-market firearm, it is unlikely that they would have such deep criminal connections and even more unlikely that they would leave the scene of the attempted purchase unharmed.
This is not to say that these shooters would be unable to obtain firearms, but we can all agree that it would certainly be a greater challenge for them and would undoubtedly drastically reduce the number of mass-shootings.
This commonly used fallacious statement would be more apt if it were amended to say
If guns are outlawed then only wealthy outlaws with criminal connections would have guns.
Fallacious argument #2
I need a gun to protect myself from my corrupt government.
Again we find ourselves in agreement. The government is certainly corrupt, but they don’t want you dead. They want you alive, working your entire life away, paying taxes and buying products from the corporations that sponsor their campaigns.
If the government wanted you dead, then your AR-15 or Glock 19 would be of absolutely zero assistance to you. Our military has the most sophisticated weapons and armor the world has ever known. There simply is no civilian weapon that could stand up to their tremendous military might. You could stand in front of an M1A2 SEP and fire thousands of rounds into it without impairing its function whatsoever. You would have even less chance of defending yourself against a drone strike that was absolutely invisible to the naked eye.
This isn’t 1786. You can’t simply load up your musket to defend against the British.
If you want to own a gun, then own a gun.
You don’t need to justify this to anyone.
But for the sake of putting our heads together and figuring out ways to keep guns out of the hands of evil-doers, let’s stop using justifications that don’t make sense in real world practice.
Fallacious argument #3
Well knives and cars kill people! Do you want to outlaw knives and cars too?
Before we tackle this, let’s establish that ANYTHING can be used to kill someone. You could simply pick up a chair and hit them over the head. Personally, if someone is going to murder me, I prefer they use a method such as this, so at least I would have a sporting chance at defending myself.
But, you’re right. Cars and knives can be used to kill people and in fact they are used this way, every single day. The fundamental difference is that cars and knives have other uses besides killing. These things are actual tools that we use to make our daily lives easier. As a society, we all agree to a certain degree of acceptable losses accrued by the misuse of said tools, as a trade-off for the convenience that they provide to our lives.
A gun, on the other hand, only has one purpose. It is an instrument designed to kill or injure.
When a knife is used properly, you get to cut your steak.
When a car is used properly, you get to where you are going faster.
When a gun is used properly, someone or something dies or is injured.
Let’s also add to this the fact that cars and knives lack the killing efficiency of a gun. While it is true that people will use knives and cars to murder people, they will not be nearly as effective as they can be with a gun.
This is not to say that killing or injuring is always bad. Sometimes it is necessary to subdue someone with malicious intent. But let’s not murder common sense in the process.
Let’s conduct a simple thought experiment.
Someone standing 20 feet away from you says that they are going to try to kill you, but because they are a fair and sporting person, they are going to let you decide whether they drive a car at you, charge at you with a knife, or shoot at you with a gun.
Which method gives you the least likelihood of escape or counterattack?
The answer is obvious.
Let’s stop using cars and other useful objects as a comparison to guns. For the reasons listed above, this is an extremely flawed analogy.
Fallacious argument #4
Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.
While it is true that guns are not going to just go around killing people on their own, let’s not be intentionally obtuse just for the sake of trying to win an argument.
While it is definitely true that a gun is unlikely to discharge on it’s own, to eliminate the gun from the equation of gun violence is like someone saying
1+1 does’t equal 2. It equals 1.
It is abundantly obvious that guns are an essential part of the equation of GUN violence.
I am quite confident that even the most ardent Second Amendment advocates are aware of this, but they refuse to acknowledge this point due to an emotional backlash against the media’s manipulative fear-mongering about how the extreme left is constantly threatening to infringe on the rights of responsible gun owners.
We can understand the problem of massive gun-proliferation by imagining a hypothetical scenario in which everyone in America woke up one morning to find out that they had an app on their phones that would murder a nearby person every time they touched it.
Most of us would be appalled by such an app. We would want to immediately remove it from our phones. We would never, in a million years, use the app to kill anyone.
But some would!
And they would use it often!!
And having the app on your phone would offer you zero defense against a person using it with malicious intent, unless you walked around tapping it all the time in an attempt to keep nearby people from pushing the app on their phones.
Returning from the hypothetical realm, we know that this logical fallacy needs to be amended to say.
Guns don’t kill people on their own. But guns in the hands of the wrong people will kill the innocent.
Let’s stop using logical fallacies, in hopes that we can have an intelligent discussion, as a nation, that can result in minimizing gun violence against the innocent.
Fallacious argument #5
The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
There is some truth to this argument as well, but again it has been oversimplified.
We certainly don’t want to be at the mercy of a “bad guy” who has us outgunned. It is incredibly important that we have responsible members of our society who are trained to handle crisis situations or else we could fall victim to armed thugs with malicious intent.
Still, simply owning a gun does not offer much advantage versus “a bad guy with a gun.”
A gun rewards first-strike initiative and mutually assured destruction is not a factor once the aggressor has their gun already trained on you.
Imagine you are a responsible gun-owner, walking to your car one evening, when out steps a desperate man, gun drawn. The man begins telling you to give up your wallet. If you reach for your gun, you will likely be shot immediately. There simply is no time to access your gun when a gun is already trained on you. In the world of guns, he who draws first wins.
But imagine a scenario, where you are in a public place and there is an active shooter. A “good guy with a gun” can save the day, right?
Possible, but unlikely. As the assailant has first-strike initiative and strategic placement advantage, it will more than likely take several good guys with guns (usually in the form of the police) to stop this situation. If another citizen pulls out a gun against an active shooter, this will add to the confusion of the situation, and the good guy will likely be shot when the police arrive.
This is not to say that a “good guy with a gun” should not be allowed to own guns. But it is important to dispel the myth that a well armed populace makes us safer during a mass-shooting.
Guns are excellent for home-protection, but in an active shooter situation, first-strike combined with the superior fire power of the shooter, who usually strikes with a weapon that can spray bullets at a much faster rate than a handgun, makes it all but impossible for a responsible handgun owner to stand their ground, even when properly trained. And adding another gun at the scene usually creates additional confusion for the police and victims alike.
Unfortunately the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is doing everything in our power from keeping him from getting that gun in the first place.
Fallacious argument #6
Gun control doesn’t work. Chicago has incredibly strict gun control laws and they have a huge gun violence problem.
Again there is some measure of truth in the above argument (noticing a pattern yet?)
There’s a saying in Chicago that goes
“Chicago has a serious gun control problem. It’s called Indiana.”
In other words, stricter gun control laws in one city only serve to encourage the importing of guns from neighboring cities with lax gun control.
While getting guns into Australia or Japan may prove to be next to impossible due the obvious challenges of getting guns onto a plane and then past border agents, getting guns into a neighboring city is as easy as loading up your car and driving them in.
Chicago’s gun-control laws are impotent and will remain so unless the same laws are passed as a blanket measure across the entire United States.
Tight gun control laws in an individual city are unlikely to have a major effect. Gun control laws would need to be passed on a national level in order to truly have a noticeable impact.
Fallacious argument #7
What about Switzerland? They are required to own guns and they don’t have a gun violence problem.
The Swiss are NOT required to own guns, but this is a common misconception. Still Switzerland is worth discussing because they are an example of a culture that actually has a well regulated militia. Exploring how Switzerland maintains a gun culture without having excessive gun violence could provide some insight into how Americans could improve our own gun culture.
First it is important to note that it is mandatory to join the military in Switzerland for all able-bodied males. After military training is completed a non-assault weapon may be purchased from the government, by the graduated soldier. As you might imagine this means that every gun owner in Switzerland has a high-degree of gun training and is taught a healthy respect for gun safety.
Swiss citizens are required to undergo a background check for every gun purchase and the Swiss government reserves the right to strip citizens of their guns for criminal offenses.
It is also important to note that being required to have a career in the military makes gun ownership a prestigious honor in Switzerland, versus in America where owning a gun simply means that managed to accrue a few hundred dollars.
Swiss gun owners often speak of a deep sense of Nationalism that comes along with their gun ownership. Whereas in America citizens often speak of needing guns to defend against other Americans, in Switzerland the gun owners speak about using their guns in the event of having to defend their country from invasion.
Switzerland is the embodiment of a well regulated militia.
Gun advocates would be wise to take notes of the differences between the two cultures and our relationship with our firearms.
Fallacious argument #8
What about Hitler? He took away all the guns and look what happened there.
This is a commonly believed myth, when in fact the opposite was true.
After World War I, stiff gun regulations were placed on Germany as part of the sanctions for losing the war. Adolf Hitler actually loosened all gun regulations when he rose to power in 1938.
While it is true that Hitler did ban gun ownership for Jews, he simultaneously allowed all citizens with a hunting license to open carry and lifted regulations on gun and ammo purchases, while simultaneously extending all gun permits to be extended from one year to three years. Hitler’s gun control laws were so lax that German citizens under the age of 18 were allowed to apply for guns and were often successful in obtaining them legally. In other words, the citizens of Germany could have offered an armed resistance to their fascist government, but chose not to. The German citizens were tired of being poor and fell in line behind Adolf Hitler’s message of German superiority. Hitler did not support gun prohibition.
Fallacious argument #9
Well, drugs are illegal and yet we still have a drug problem in America.
The goal of laws is not to eliminate crime, but to limit it.
As we have discussed previously, there will always be those who choose to break the law, which is why it is important to have a criminal justice system. But no one would be so asinine as to suggest that just because some people choose to break laws, that this means that we should just give up entirely on law and order.
There will always be people who will seek to obtain illegal guns, if they are not allowed to obtain them legally.
There is simply no logical reason for making this easier on the criminal element of any civilized society.
Fallacious argument #10
Gun prohibition would never work. With 300 million guns already owned in America, you could never collect them all. I sure as hell wouldn’t give mine up!!
No one is asking you to give up your gun.
But since you brought it up, gun-prohibition actually does work.
It is worth reading up on how Australia accomplished this after the Port Arthur mass shooting of 1996. They enacted sweeping gun reform, offered amnesty to those with illegal guns and began a gun buy back program, offering fair market value to encourage people to sell their guns back to the government for destruction.
This is not to say that everyone in Australia participated in the gun buyback. Approximately 80% resisted and kept their guns. The same would undoubtedly be true in America. It would take decades for the idea of gun prohibition to become a reality. Over time guns break, people die and relatives turn over their deceased loved one’s guns and other guns are ceased when people break laws and there is a search and seizure.
This is not to suggest that America should follow suit and demand gun prohibition. The point is to acknowledge that where gun prohibition has been instituted that it has absolutely worked. It works in Australia, Japan and in every other country where it has been applied.
It is common for people to argue this point by posting a meme laced with false information or by pointing out an exception to the rule where someone actually did get their hands on a gun and used it in a country that practices gun prohibition.
Science is never at the mercy of anecdotal evidence, yet still the unscientifically minded will continue to argue by posting the exception to the rule. For example someone might point out that there was a mass-knifing in China or produce an article that shows how Japan still has six deaths per year from gun violence.
It is difficult to argue with people who are determined to use the exception to the rule as evidence that the rule is incorrect, when no sensible person is trying to make the argument that any method will work 100% of the time. What we are speaking of is minimizing unnecessary gun-violence, while acknowledging that eliminating the problem entirely isn’t feasible.
It’s okay to say that you love your gun, but let’s deal in facts.
Gun prohibition has been proven to work in countries where it was enacted.
Fallacious argument #11
You can’t take away my right to own a gun!! It’s in The Constitution!!
Once again, this is not an article about gun-grabbing, but rather an article about fallacious arguments surrounding American gun culture. But let us remember that The Second Amendment is just that, an amendment. It was an addition to The Constitution by the government of Virginia, because the slaves outnumbered the plantation owners and Virginians were worried about slave rebellions.
The United States Constitution can and will be amended to change with the times. Just as the 21st Amendment overturned the 18th Amendment, an amendment can be passed that would overturn The Second Amendment.
If we are to keep that from happening, responsible gun-owners may want to examine what it means to have a well-regulated militia and also to examine what it means to keep and bear arms.
Obviously there is a limit to this right. American citizens are not allowed to own tanks, rocket launchers or nuclear weapons, for example.
The greatest threat to our Constitutional rights as gun owners is to continue to allow guns to fall into the hands of irresponsible citizens whose actions reflect poorly on those of us who believe that owning a gun is a responsibility to be taken seriously.
I need my gun to hunt and for home protection!!
This is the best argument for owning a gun. It is logical and respectable.
Licensed hunters are an important part of keeping ecosystems balanced and it is my personal belief that every person has an inalienable right to protect their home and personal property.
I would like to take a moment to speak on the subject of clip capacity. Coming from a family of hunters I can say that I have never seen anyone use more than four bullets to take down an animal.
In the event of a home invasion, it is highly unlikely that there will be a need to fire more than a few bullets to thwart the invader(s). If your argument for gun ownership is based around hunting or home protection, I assume that you would be in agreement that we should limit round capacity to between six to ten bullets, as no one needs a military grade weapon that can fire 120 rounds per minute.
I fully support the rights of people to own guns for hunting and self defense, but if those are your actual reasons for gun-ownership then you would have no need for military grade weapons anyway.
These weapons should be reserved for the heroes who are brave enough to enlist and serve in the United States military.
Fallacious argument #12
Okay, you made some great points, but now is not the time to discuss gun control. It’s wrong of you to politicize a tragedy.
Sadly, there is never a time in America where there is not a mass shooting, as America averages more than one mass shooting every day. Mass shootings have become so prevalent that they usually do not even make national news unless they involve ten or more victims. If we wait until there are no mass shooting to have this discussion then we will never have it.
The time is now for responsible gun owners to stop regurgitating fallacious arguments and demand common sense gun control laws that protect their own rights, while keeping guns out of the hands of the worst members of our society.
While it is true that we will never be able to completely eradicate gun violence, it is incumbent upon all law abiding gun owners to do everything they can to keep guns out of the hands of street thugs and the mentally ill.
Hopefully this article will help you have more productive gun discussions with people on all sides of the gun debate.
Using flawed and fallacious arguments belittles us all.