During the school year, I take the time to teach logical fallacies. It’s all part of what I do with critical thinking, a much needed skill in these days of fake news. Recently, the National Rifle Association has been using logical fallacies (and big bucks) to argue its case against reasonable gun control.
In the wake of the Parkland massacre, and numerous other shootings before that, there have been renewed cries for more gun control. In response, NRA President Wayne LaPierre said that any effort to enact stricter gun control laws will “make us less free.” He even went so far as to accuse those in favor of gun control as being socialists and “If they seize power...our American freedoms can be lost.”
This type of fallacy is called a black or white fallacy, all or nothing. It’s used to eliminate any possibility of a middle ground. It’s also used to polarize the argument, to reduce it to such extreme terms that it’s impossible to compromise, which is exactly what the NRA wants.
Extreme rhetoric will not solve the problem, but dialogue and compromise will be a good start. Polls consistently show that most Americans – even those who own guns – are in favor of tighter gun laws, including a ban on assault weapons, the kind used in the Parkland shooting.
I am a gun owner and I don’t feel threatened at all by stricter gun laws. I do feel, however, the NRA is no longer representing sportsmen as it did when I was growing up.
The NRA uses another logical fallacy – the slippery slope – to argue against stricter gun laws. This one features the idea that once something is started, it will slide off a slippery slope into chaos. That’s simply not true and there are recent precedents to prove it.
The Brady Bill (which was opposed by the NRA) was passed in 1993 and enacted in 1998. It provides for federal background checks for the purchase of firearms. Despite its drawbacks, it has prevented the purchase of firearms by 1.2 million people. Since its implementation, no one has come for my guns or taken away my freedom to own one.
The federal assault weapons ban took effect in 1994 and lasted until 2004. In that decade, there were 12 assault weapon incidents that led to a total of 89 deaths. Since it was allowed to expire in 2004, there have been 34 incidents involving assault weapons with more than 300 deaths as of 2014. That total doesn’t include the recent Las Vegas or Parkland attacks.
Action on gun control legislation is difficult simply because of the power the NRA wields in Washington and in state capitals. The Pulitzer Prize winning website Politifact, a non-partisan fact checking organization, estimates that since 1998, the NRA has spent more than $203 million dollars on political influence, through “...candidate and party contributions, independent expenditures, and lobbying…”
I’ve often wondered why this is happening, but I know the simple answer is to follow the money. The gun industry has poured millions of dollars into the coffers of the NRA and allowed it to do its lobbying work. Profit, it seems, is more important than lives.
Since 1968, 1.4 million Americans have died from gun violence. Ninety-six of our fellow citizens will die today and 222 people will be wounded. Seven children and teens will die from gunshot wounds today. Forty will be shot and survive. (see http://www.bradycampaign.org.)
This isn’t rhetoric. It’s not a fallacy. It’s facts. That’s what we need to be talking about. Common sense dictates that something has to be done, and I believe we have a window of opportunity here.
President Obama was powerless to do anything about gun control with all the forces working against him despite the fact everyone told me he was coming after my guns. President Trump, I believe, is a different story. I think he can get it done, and with all the problems of his presidency, this could be his lasting legacy. We, the people, need to put pressure on our congressmen to give him the votes he needs.
If we allow the money and the fallacies to prevent reasonable gun control, our nation will eventually bleed to death.