COLUMN: Logic, mythology and laziness in the gun control debate



Among those who believe, however broadly, that something should be done to curb gun violence in this country, few are in total agreement.

People have widely differing ideas and opinions on the matter. I believe everyone, regardless of ideology, brings only their best intentions to the debate.

There’s a myth that all gun owners, fearing a “tyrannical government,” stockpile military weapons. Likewise, another myth espouses the want to round-up “all the guns” and dispose of them, Constitution be damned. Each side, so the mythology holds, foams at the mouth at the very mention of the other.

These dangerous myths represent only the fringe ends of the ideological spectrum. We must avoid lazily using these outliers as caricatures of their respective sides, as doing so deprives people of their humanity. It makes the “opposing team” easier to hate.

People get so fired up because gun violence hits everybody on the same gut level. It’s an emotionally charged issue. We are thus inclined, on all sides, to argue with pathos almost by default. All sides of the debate do this to their own detriment.

We all agree that reducing gun violence in the United States is good. Thousands of years of thought have agreed on a set of argumentative principles to help guide us to a solution: logic. Our society is built around the concept that reasoning is either valid or fallacious. Take a look:

Jane Doe asserts: “An assault weapons ban is one step we could take to reduce gun violence,” to which John Doe replies with the perennial favorite: “The claim is false; bad guys will always find a way to do bad things.”

John’s “bad guys do bad things” line of reasoning, while logically valid, is an irrelevant conclusion that fails to address Jane’s claim. Jane never claimed an assault weapons ban would prevent all bad guys from doing bad things; therefore, John’s reasoning is useless in this context.

Instead, John could press Jane on her claim. Since the burden of proof is hers, Jane ought to have statistical evidence backing her assertion. Providing she does, John must devise a valid line of reasoning to counter her argument effectively. This process is how good ideas are born.

Don’t approach this or any other issue lazily. There’s a blueprint for how to discuss this stuff. Using it leads to more productive outcomes. Let’s stick to it.


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