Simply Stupid

guns

Once again the fertile soil of the gun control debate has yielded a meme of absolute asininity.  My favorite part of this meme is at the end, when the author brazenly asserts that if you don’t understand (and presumably agree with) his point, as expressed in this half-assed meme, then you are an intellectual lightweight.  Well, anonymous author, I beg to disagree.  The gun control debate is not so simple, and anybody who thinks it can be expressed in such simple terms does not really understand it himself.  Of course, I have a sneaking suspicion that many pro-gunners don’t want to understand the intricacies and implications of gun control.  They have a single-minded dedication to a goal (unfettered access to unnecessary firearms) and anything that demonstrates the idiocy of that goal is anathema.

As I’ve said before, I’m not necessarily in favor of banning all guns, but they should be heavily regulated.  Obtaining a firearm ought to be a real chore, similar to getting your driver’s license.  You ought to have to check in regularly to make sure you haven’t lost any of the completely necessary weapons you own.  Even then, I won’t be convinced that putting more guns into the hands of untrained citizens makes for a safer society.  If you want to convince me of that, you’re going to have to do a hell of a lot better than this meme.  Gun advocates, you do yourselves no favors by creating and sharing memes like this one.

Let’s start at the top, shall we?  The bad guys look absolutely ticked that the good guys have guns, which I find comically ludicrous.  Any bad guy who despairs that his life of crime will be derailed by the presence of good guys with guns has only to examine the data.  How many mass shootings – indeed, how many shootings of any kind – have been stopped by an armed citizen?  Spoiler alert: it’s not that many.

The fact is that good guys with guns very rarely stop bad guys with guns.  In fact, according to FBI data, for every “justifiable homicide” (which could arguably be called a good-guys-with-guns scenario) in 2012, there were thirty-four criminal gun homicides, seventy-eight gun suicides, and two accidental gun deaths.  Let me restate that, folks, so the message is not lost: statistically, you are twice as likely to accidentally shoot yourself to death as you are to use your gun to kill a criminal.  Less than one percent of gun-related deaths are caused by a good guy with a gun stopping the commission of a crime.  Sorry, gun advocates, but that argument simply doesn’t hit its target.

Furthermore, if good guys with guns deterred bad guys with guns, then certainly the amount of gun violence would have risen in recent years.  After all, the General Social Survey report entitled Trends in Gun Ownership in the United States, 1972-2014 (PDF) shows that the number of Americans who own guns, or who live in a household with somebody who owns guns, has declined over the past 25 years.  Fewer gun owners = more crime, right?  Well, no.  Gun homicide rates have actually decreased by 49 percent since a peak in 1993, according to the Pew Research Center.

Let’s pull this all together.  The number of people who own guns has been decreasing over the last few decades, as has the rate of gun violence.  I’m not trying to say that A causes B; after all, I understand that correlation is not the same as causation.  But…and this is important, so pay attention, gun advocates…these data do not show that gun violence decreases when there are more gun owners, nor that it increases when there are fewer.  The implication made by the top part of this meme simply is not true.  No matter how often gun advocates parrot the words of Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president, there is no evidence to suggest that good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns.

If you’re a gun advocate and you’re not already frothing mad at me, frantically scrolling down to find the Comment link, perhaps I can push you over the edge with my dissection of the second part of this meme.

If good guys don’t have guns (or if they have to work harder to get them, and are held accountable for what happens to them) then bad guys will have fewer guns.  Allow me to explain how.

A study (PDF) published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice, in 2001, interviewed criminals who were serving time for gun-related crimes.  When asked where they obtained the firearm they carried while committing the crime that landed them in prison, about 40% divulged that they obtained their guns from their social network; i.e. from friends and family.  Another 40% claimed to have obtained a weapon from street or illegal sources.  The “illegal sources” category was not further subdivided, but one presumes that this percentage includes stolen guns.  Not surprisingly, very few criminals obtained their guns through usual legal channels: retail stores, pawn shops, etc.

Aha, the gun advocate might now be saying, that proves that criminals don’t get their guns from legal sources!  Harsh restrictions on law-abiding citizens will do nothing to stop criminals from obtaining weapons.  Well, not so fast.  ATF agent Jay Wachtel, speaking to PBS Frontline, says that stolen guns account for only 10 to 15% of the guns used in crimes.  In other words, 85 to 90% of the guns used in crimes were given to the criminal willingly, often by people who had acquired the guns through legal means.  In some cases a person agrees to purchase a gun for another person who would otherwise be unable to buy one.  In other cases a corrupt gun dealer makes an under-the-table sale to a buyer who wishes to remain anonymous.  In all of those cases, tougher restrictions on the legal sale and trading of guns – and harsher punishments for people who break the rules – would reduce the number of guns that eventually find their way into the hands of criminals.

So, there isn’t any conceivable way in which this meme is correct.  There’s no good evidence to suggest that a more heavily-armed American public will deter gun crime, nor can it be argued that disarming honest people will result in more criminals committing crimes with guns.  And for heaven’s sake, you’re not stupid if you disagree with the point this meme is trying to make.

Analogy Failure

Gay Marriage and Guns

If you took the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, in high school, you may remember the analogy questions in the verbal section. An analogy question offers a pair of terms that share some logical relationship, then asks you to identify another pair of terms that share the same relationship. Here’s an example from the Kaplan Test Prep website:

MEDICINE:ILLNESS::

(A) law:anarchy
(B) hunger:thirst
(C) etiquette:discipline
(D) love:treason
(E) stimulant:sensitivity

Medicine is used to prevent illness, in the same way that law is meant to prevent anarchy; hence, answer (A) is the best choice. None of the other choices have the same function/purpose relationship. In any analogy there must be a solid logical connection on both sides. If the logic that binds the analogy is faulty, then the analogy doesn’t work. And if the analogy doesn’t work, you probably shouldn’t use it in a Facebook conversation and then turn it into a meme.

That’s the problem with this meme; the logical connection between Red’s statement and Blue’s statement is weak. Red repeats the gun control mantra: they are not in favor of banning all guns – just the military-grade assault weapons that can kill the most people in the shortest time. Blue responds by arguing that Republicans (which Blue claims not to be) don’t want to ban all marriages, just the ones that ick them out the most. I’m sure Blue is patting himself on the back for his clever argument, but before he feels too proud of himself, Blue should consider that there is a big difference between wanting to prevent the average citizen from purchasing his eighteenth machine gun, and wanting to prevent Adam and Steve from cementing a commitment forged in love.

Now I shouldn’t have to explain the difference, but just in case Blue (or somebody with a similar mindset) wanders across this blog some day – I’ll indulge you. Gay marriage doesn’t kill people. It doesn’t allow one person to kill dozens of people in a matter of seconds. Need proof? Since 2008, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized gay marriage, either by court decision, state legislature, or popular vote. Since 2008, the homicide rate in the United States has declined from 5.4 per 100,000 people to only 4.7. See? Legal gay marriage doesn’t cause murders – it prevents them! (I know: there’s no causal connection between legal gay marriages and decreasing murder rates. It was a joke.)

So when Republicans cast their votes against gay marriage, they’re not really championing a cause that protects the health and safety of United States citizens; they’re just trying to solidify their own biases into law. That’s why the arguments of a gun control proponent do not sound like the arguments of an anti-gay-marriage Republican. Once you scratch the surface, there are vastly different motivations and likely consequences.

It tickles me, though, that Blue – an avowed non-Republican – is improperly using Republican arguments as a weapon to discredit the argument of a gun control proponent. Are Republicans the new Hitler in Internet-based “debates”? There’s an intriguing thought.

People Kill People…With Guns

Guns Dont Kill People

Whenever somebody revives the NRA chestnut “Guns don’t kill people, people do”, I’m reminded of a bit by comedian Eddie Izzard from 1999.

And this is still relevant fourteen years later!

Anyway, it’s funny that Donald K Martin of Windsor Locks noticed that his shotgun had no legs, but failed to notice that it had no arms, hands, or fingers to brace, aim, and fire itself.

Nobody thinks that a gun will kill people when left to itself (unless that gun is actually Megatron in disguise). Mr Martin, in a daft attempt to make gun-control proponents look foolish, has constructed a classic straw man fallacy: misconstrue your opponents’ argument as something impossibly silly, then trash the ridiculous argument your opponent didn’t actually make.

If Mr Martin (or anybody else) is interested in hearing the truth about what gun-control proponents want (instead of the scary lies promulgated by the NRA), here it is: reasonable regulation. That’s all. Nobody’s taking away your lazy shotgun, Mr Martin. We just want to restrict you from selling it to an anonymous customer under a bridge in the shady part of town. We want to create a world in which you cannot lay hands on a military-grade assault weapon unless you actually happen to be in the military. We want to make people safer, including you.

A little bit of common sense on your part wouldn’t hurt either, Mr Martin.


I came across a bunch of anti-evolution memes while wandering aimlessly online. Okay, okay, I was specifically searching for them. In any case, this week will be Stupid Bad Creationist Meme Week, starting tomorrow. Tell all your friends.