Have a Fact-Based Gun Debate This Holiday Season

Each year around the holidays pro-gun control organizations put out pamphlets, infographics, and articles on the gun debate to arm like-minded individuals with quick “facts” to help them win the indubitable spats that arise when booze, extended family and politics met at the Thanksgiving (Christmas, Chanukah, etc.) dinner table. Well, I like to respond to these articles because they are often misleading, incomplete or just downright false.

This year I’m going to respond to The Trace’s article called, “Nine Ways to Enjoy a Fact-based Gun Debate With Your Thanksgiving Bird,” written by Evan Defilippis and Devin Hughes.

Instead of copying and pasting their entire article, I chose to grab the initial pro-gun argument they refute, an excerpt from their refutation, and then I respond with my own rebuttal. For maximum clarification, I suggest you read The Trace article first and then check out mine.  You’ll see what I did.

The argument: “Gun-free zones are target practice for sickos.”

Excerpt from Trace: “In our own analysis of 65 active shootings between 2000 and 2013 in public spaces or commercial areas open to pedestrians, we found that 25 of those areas allowed firearms.”

My Rebuttal: Is it true that mass killings only happen in gun-free zones? No. It’s not. But the majority do. Does this mean that madmen, terrorists, gangsters and other evildoers prefer soft targets? I guess that could be answered on a case by case basis.

But the underlying question is not about whether gun-free zones incentivize killers, it’s about whether we as a society want to allow these murderers the ability to kill innocents with impunity?

As you’ll notice from time to time, when the rubber actually meets the road, even the most strident anti-gunner sees the logic in armed civil resistance.

“Your options are run, hide, or fight,” said Washington, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, a longtime supporter of the city’s draconian concealed carry laws, in an interview with Anderson Cooper. “If you’re in a position to try and take the gunman down, to take the gunman out, it’s the best option for saving lives before police can get there.”

“That’s kind of counter-intuitive to what cops always tell people, right? We always tell people, ‘Don’t take action. Call 911. Don’t intervene in the robbery.’ …We’ve never told people, ‘Take action.’ It’s a different… scenario,” Lanier explained.

Bottom line: A society is safer when there are more armed good guys.

The argument: “Mass shootings aren’t a gun problem, they’re a mental health problem.”

Excerpt from Trace: “Less than 4 percent of all types of violent acts are committed by people with a mental illness, who are more a threat to themselves than to others. Outside of gun availability, alcohol abuse has a much stronger relationship with gun violence than mental health does. Indeed, studies find that severe mental illness alone is “statistically unrelated” to violence.”

My rebuttal: It’s true what they say in their response. Most mass killings have stronger ties to alcohol abuse than mental health. But when we talk about the mass shootings that define our time (Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook), the ones that make national headlines, it’s clear that mental health plays a major role.

The real question is where do we want to spend our time, money and resources? As I’ve argued, the real epidemic as it relates to gun violence is in the African American community.

To quote a Pew Study, “A disproportionate share of gun homicide victims are black (55% in 2010, compared with the 13% black share of the population). Whites were 25% of victims but 65% of the population in 2010. Hispanics were 17% of victims and 16% of the population in 2010.”

Compared to their white peers, young black men are five times more likely to be gunned downed. Since most crime is black on black, white on white, Hispanic on Hispanic we have to ask ourselves, honestly, what’s going on in the African-American community? Moreover, what solutions will actually help to reduce the bloodshed?

Is it drug related? Is it alcohol related? Is it gang related? What can we do to help these communities?

The argument: “Background checks don’t reduce gun violence. Criminals don’t follow laws, which only infringe on the rights of law-abiding gun owners.”

Excerpt from Trace: “First, it is true that there’s no conclusive proof that the background check system introduced by the 1993 Brady Act has significantly reduced gun violence.”

My Rebuttal: Well, that initial point just about says it all. However, what I will add is that the existing background check system still needs to be improved.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation has a Fix NICS program that works to increase the “number of prohibiting records states submit to the FBI databases, helping to prevent illegal transfers of firearms to those who are prohibited from owning firearms under current law. Including these missing records will help ensure more accurate and complete background checks.”

Yes, we need to improve the system. But no we do not need universal background checks or a law that requires background checks on all private transfers, including those between family members, neighbors, and longtime friends. It’s tantamount to a tax on the Second Amendment, as FFLs don’t run those checks for free.

The argument: “If tougher gun laws stop gun violence, how do you explain Chicago?”

Excerpt from Trace: “Chicago is proof that living next to bad neighbors can lead to bad outcomes. Illinois is bordered by Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky, all of which have weaker gun laws and routinely traffic large number of guns into Chicago.”

My Rebuttal: The people in Chicago are killing the people in Chicago. It has nothing to do with “bad neighbors.” It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that Chicago’s violence problem is fueled by the city’s pervasive gang culture. Eliminate the gangs and it would eliminate much of the violence.

On another note, this “bad neighbors” argument is a slippery slope. It never stops, and it’s a recipe for more and more gun control until total civil disarmament is achieved. Gun control is not working in Chicago. What’s the answer? More gun control in surrounding states. When those states pass harsher gun laws and there’s still violence, the answer is, of course, more gun control.

As I reported last week, this is exactly what leaders are doing in Europe. The gun laws there are already insanely strict. But in light of the Paris attacks (which the existing laws failed to prevent), the EU is proposing even tougher gun laws. It’s insanity. Because it’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

The argument: “If you ban guns, people with just find another way to kill each other or themselves.”

Excerpt from Trace: “Even were people to attempt to kill others and themselves at the same rates if guns didn’t exist, the death rate would still fall precipitously because people would be forced to rely on less lethal means such as knives. This is especially true regarding suicides.”

My Rebuttal: I’m not a fan of the initial argument. While it’s true, it doesn’t cut to the heart of the matter which is that guns are a neutral object. In the hands of a good guy, it’s a tool that can be used to save lives. In the hands of a miscreant, it can be used to wreak havoc.

So, it’s not really about the gun, but about who has it. Our goal should be to arm more good guys and keep guns away from criminals, the mentally ill and those with suicidal ideations.  It’s common sense.  But gun grabbers want to disarm everyone, not just those who are a danger to themselves and others.

Besides, banning all firearms is a pipe dream. It won’t happen. And if the government tried, there would be a revolution.

The argument: “Guns make us safer: Gun owners defend themselves against criminals all the time.”

Excerpt from Trace: “The best empirical evidence to date from the Gun Violence Archive could only find 1,600 verified defensive gun uses (DGUs) in 2014. This means that 99.936 percent of Kleck’s claimed 2.5 million DGUs are nowhere to be found, despite Kleck’s assertion that more than 50 percent of DGUs are reported to the police (meaning there should be a record of them).”

My Rebuttal: A 2013 Centers for Disease Control study stated the following on the subject of DGUs:

Defensive uses of guns by crime victims is a common occurrence, although the exact number remains disputed. Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year, in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008.

It’s impossible to track every DGU or instance where a good guy uses a gun to defend himself or herself. In fact, most media coverage only focuses on DGUs that involve shots actually being fired. But in many cases, no shots are fired and the mere presence of the gun is enough to prevent an incident.

As researcher John Lott notes in his book, “More Guns, Less Crime,” since “in many defensive cases a handgun is simply brandished, and no one is harmed, many defensive uses are never even reported to the police”.

Given this reality, it’s fair to say that the Gun Violence Archive’s data is limited at best.

The argument: “The Paris attacks prove that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Excerpt from Trace: “It isn’t true that the only way to stop an attacker with a gun is to have a gun yourself. Here again the source is the FBI’s report on active shootings, which shows that out of 160 incidents from 2000-2013, 21 were stopped by unarmed individuals.”

My Rebuttal: Yeah, for me, this is an issue of personal choice. Suppose you or someone you loved was in a Paris cafe during the attacks. Would you want to have the means to defend yourself? Would you want your loved one to have the means to defend himself or herself?

Or, would you rather be unarmed? Would you rather have your loved one be unarmed?

I know how I feel about those questions. But to each his own. Who knows, maybe the authors believe that they could have reasoned with the Paris shooters and got them to put down their firearms. After all, it’s worked 21 times in the past. Maybe it would have worked on them too. (Highly doubtful!!!)

The argument: “More guns mean less crime. States with the fewest guns have the most crime.”

Excerpt from Trace: “The research suggesting more guns equals less crime has been thoroughly discredited.”

My Rebuttal: I wrote this last year and it still holds true:

In examining crime and gun ownership data from 2006 to 2011 in Virginia, Thomas R. Baker a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University found a negative relationship between gun sales, which increased 73 percent over those five years and gun-related violent crimes, which fell by 24 percent over the same period.

“While there is a wealth of academic literature attempting to demonstrate the relationship between guns and crime, a very simple and intuitive demonstration of the numbers seems to point away from the premise that more guns leads to more crime, at least in Virginia,” Baker, a criminologist, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2012.

He went on to say that “while it’s difficult to make a direct causal link [that more guns are resulting in less crime], the numbers certainly present that that’s a real possibility.”

What is plainly obvious, however, is that the opposite is not true. That is more guns do not create more crime.

“It’s mathematically not possible, because the relationship is a negative relationship – they’re moving in the opposite direction,” Baker said. “So the only thing it could be is that more guns are causing less crime.”

“From my personal point of view, I would say the data is pretty overwhelming,” Baker added. “But we’re pretty cautious in the social sciences in talking about causality. We only talk in probabilities.”

The argument: “Concealed carry holders are more law-abiding than the average citizen.”

Excerpt from Trace: “To get a concealed carry license, gun owners must pass a background check. This means that concealed carry holders are, by definition, more law-abiding than the “average citizen,” since the “average citizen” includes violent criminals who can’t pass background checks.”

My Rebuttal: With this response the authors were sort of arguing with themselves. Like they said, by definition, CCW holders are more law-abiding than the “average citizen.” So, it’s a factually true statement. I don’t see what the problem is?

They go on to suggest that since most CCW holders are middle-aged white men that a demographic comparison to a population of middle-aged white men without permits should be done to really determine whether CCW holders are more law-abiding.

But again, because CCWs have to pass a background check I suspect that the bottom line finding would be the same: CCW holders are more law-abiding than the average citizen.


Hopefully, my rebuttals have helped to give you some ammunition going into this holiday season. If you have anything you’d like to add to the debate, please do so in the comment section below! And happy debating!

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Ryan November 28, 2015, 11:39 pm

    To the last argument, i’ve also seen statistics that show that CCW holders have a lower rate of criminality than police officers.

  • Tom Horn November 27, 2015, 5:13 pm

    Defilippis and Hughes lost my respect for their intelligence back at: “alcohol abuse has a much stronger relationship with gun violence than mental health does.” Alcohol is a “mental health” problem, and not in any way separate from mental illness.

    Defilippis and Hughes: “Firearms make it easy to kill people, efficiently, effectively, and at a distance.” Yeah, and firearms make it easier to PROTECT people, efficiently, effectively, and at a distance. Ask the military or law enforcement if you don’t believe me.

    And, their “Paris Attack” argument does not need any response. It is ridiculous. Ask the seven murder victims found face down in a walk-in refrigerator of Browns Chicken, Palatine, IL, January, 3, 1993 why they didn’t just run away and call the police? Unfortunately, it takes two people with intelligent, reasoning, rational brains to have a fact based debate. Won’t work between a human, and a sheeple.

  • Mark Wynn November 27, 2015, 12:40 pm

    Thanks. This is highly useful and I’ve copied it to my desktop to use when appropriate.

  • FALPhil November 27, 2015, 8:20 am

    While I can appreciate Blannelberry’s sentiment and desire to get the facts out on the table, this op-ed is next to useless for almost all conversations except those with like-minded people who already know these facts. The problem is that the arguments are rhetorical statements, and Blannelberry’s responses are in the form of dialectic. Blannelberry makes the same mistake that all logical, analytical people make. You cannot successfully argue against the rhetoric with dialectic. It just is not possible. This fact (and it is proven over and over every day) is an anathema to people who think and make decisions in a logical fashion. However, if they would apply that same logic and analytic ability to the type of situation and the process of these “debates”, they would detect a distinct pattern and derive an effective strategy for handling it.

    The best thing you can do in a situation where someone already has their mind made up, I have found, is to agree and amplify. In other words, take the argument to its logical conclusion while expanding the parameters of the argument to the worst case scenario, fantastic or not. Eventually what happens is that the person staking out the rhetorical position comes to a point where he realizes that his position falls apart, and he corrects himself.

    When one tries to combat rhetoric with dialectic, one will never win, and in most cases one will lose. There is a good book about this on Amazon, called “SJWs Always Lie” by Vox Day. If you want to win the “debate”, this is a great primer on technique.

    • Tom Horn November 27, 2015, 6:15 pm

      Guess I should have read your post, before posting and repeating what you said: Won’t work between a human (dialectical mind), and a sheeple (rhetorical mind).

      I’m intrigued. Wish you would have included an example of how to, “agree and amplify… take the argument to its logical conclusion while expanding the parameters of the argument to the worst case scenario.” as it applies to one of Defilippis and Hughes’ arguments. Book sounds good, will look into it.

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