The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last week has left 17 students and faculty dead, 15 injured, and the whole country arguing on social media about gun control. I spent a lot of time myself this weekend arguing with people on Facebook, pushing the same arguments over and over. Now I decided to compile my arguments on commonsense gun control in one place, divided into two articles. The title of this article comes from the #WeCallBS hashtag inspired by Florida student Emma Gonzalez’s speech.
So, dear gun owner and anti-gun control activist, to start with I don’t want you to give up your gun. I don’t want any laws that make the government take away your gun. Sorry, I take that back. I actually would prefer a gun free society, where nobody (or a small percentage of the population) owns any guns. Believe me, such societies exist around the world and they are as safe, if not safer than, the society that we live in. But I also understand that dreaming of such a society is unrealistic in this country. So, let us make peace with the fact that the US has more guns than it has people, and that fact is not going to change. At 101 guns per 100 people, US is way above the runner up Serbia (58 per 100). Most probably, you are thinking of buying another gun, or two, to add to your cache in the next month or next year. But let us just think about how we can make our society safer in spite of that.
I started with this Facebook video (embedded below) posted by a friend. The video was framed with the text “This is the best and smartest gun argument I have heard yet” and was widely shared. It had 29+ million views on Facebook when I started writing this, and had crossed 30 million views by the time I finished. It is an easy watch, all of 7 minutes. It had some logical sounding arguments, I watched it, and started to research the subject. I propose you watch it too before reading my views on it.
I generally concentrate on the message and try to not attack the messenger, and so I watched the whole video in right earnest, with an open mind, trying to once again understand the logic against gun regulation. This guy was addressing the Congress, so there was no reason for me to doubt his credentials. The speaker starts amid an applause and in the first 30 seconds of the video you see Paul Ryan listening attentively, later in the video you see Chuck Schumer smiling approvingly, Lindsay Graham, John Kerry, and Eric Holder looking on, and other distinguished members of the Congress and the Obama government, listening, interacting with each other. Well, you get the point that this is a little older video and the speaker is addressing the Congress in the Obama era. The guy’s name, shown in the description of the video, is Bill Whittle. So, I researched him a little for this post and wanted to look for a YouTube video instead, in the hopes that it will be without the “frame” (I hate these frames that reduce the quality of the video, and are generally someone else’s copy of the original video). And I did find one. But what I also discovered there and on his website was that he was calling himself the “Virtual President of the United States”. Remember, this was Obama’s presidency, so you see the need for the Right to create a virtual president. Very soon you realize that this is a fake video interspersed with visuals of these dignitaries appearing as listening to him, when he perhaps was standing in his living room filming this video. So, he gets a 10 on 10 on phoniness and duplicity. The applause, the attentive audience, are all fake.
Let us now turn to his message.
1. Mr. Whittle starts with comparing gun violence with a leopard chasing a gazelle. He says violence is built into human psyche, always will be, and some of us are predators and others are preys. So, the bad guys are like leopards and the good guys are gazelles, and the guns are the latter’s horns. And gun control activists are basically cutting off the gazelle’s horns and making it easy for the predator. Now I don’t know how often the gazelle wins against a leopard in the jungle, but the problem with his argument is that gun regulation aiming to disarm the prey is preposterous. Gun regulation is trying to disarm the predator, making it harder for bad guys to get guns. We are with you, we are okay with good guys to have guns, but help us make it harder for the bad guys and insane people to do so. The only way to do so is to make background checks and mental health checks compulsory for gun purchases. So the gazelle-leopard analogy is nonsensical. It may have made sense if anyone was proposing to disarm everyone but the bad guys.
2. Then our Virtual President reels out some funky numbers, using the predictably asinine tactic of comparing guns with automobiles, knives, hammers, even doctors, and concludes that “studies show” 800,000 to 2 million lives are saved by guns every year. What studies? What is the basis for this claim? Is he saying that many people would have been killed in the country without guns in private hands. Which country bears witness to this data? Read this article, based on actual studies reported by David Hemenway, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Please read the short article, but here is an excerpt:
Almost two-thirds of the people in the U.S. population live in homes without guns, and there is no evidence that the inhabitants of these homes are at greater risk of being robbed, injured or killed by criminals compared with citizens in homes with guns. Instead, the evidence is overwhelming that a gun in the home increases the likelihood not only that a household member will be shot accidentally, but also that someone in the home will die in a suicide or homicide.
3. At about 3:00 minutes in the video, Bill Whittle gives the example of Amanda Collins, who was walking to her car in a University parking garage after an evening class at University of Nevada in Reno. She was attacked and raped, and later on her rapist also murdered another woman. Now the point being made is that had Amanda been armed, the rape and the murder would not have happened — and the reason she was not armed was because guns are not allowed on the campus, something that must be changed. I think this is a very tall claim. First of all how many gun owners carry their guns all the time, to work, to school, to church, to a theater, to a restaurant? Do you, the gun owner reading this article, do so? Yes? OK, let us say she did carry her gun, what are the chances that when she was suddenly surprised by the attacker she would have been able to get her gun before he overpowered her. I looked her up and read about her horrific ordeal, which is very tragic. Listen to her describing her ordeal in this video on the “NRA Women” website. The criminal was hiding behind a pickup truck in the garage, jumped her, and overpowered her. So, yes, there was a small possibility that had the school not been a gun free zone, had she carried her gun all the time, had she been able to outwit and outpower the attacker, the tragedy may not have happened. But to take it for granted in the face of so many ifs is to be disingenuous. Not to speak of the other adverse impact people routinely carrying guns in the class, office, theater, restaurant, can have. Also, the assumption here is that had Amanda been armed, she would not only have saved herself she would also have killed the criminal, so that he would not have lived to commit another crime. At this point, the “Virtual President” directs the “Virtual Attorney General” to challenge any gun control laws, blah, blah, blah (you should watch the video – it is hilarious when you realize the audience is fake). I should have caught on the “Virtual” bit in my first watching of the video.
4. With the real Attorney General Eric Holder “attentively listening to his boss”, next Mr. Whittle talks about how the Second Amendment is about saving people from tyranny of the politicians “like us”(ha ha!). At this point, John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and Chuck Schumer “nod their approval”. Obviously, Whittle and the audience are shown together in none of the frames, and the camera never pans from him to the audience. This facade is so funny, it is not funny. He goes on to say that by proposing gun regulation, we are ignoring the constitution and have no legal authority to do so. Even if we ignore the vague nature of the 2nd amendment, there is nothing in it that prevents us from ensuring that proper public safety provisions are built into gun ownership. If the first amendment comes with riders and responsibilities, so does the second. So, how is commonsense regulation negating the constitution in any way?
5. Lastly he takes us around the world and explains how atrocities were committed by governments around the world. The assumption is that if the populations of those countries had been armed, the atrocities would not have happened, or the results would have been different. There is no proof, no precedent of such a happening anywhere. In fact, local militia in most countries he has named have turned on the local population. Just try to imagine the scenario. Nobody knows what chaos will arise if there is a tyrannical government and the population rises in arms against it. Will the public fight the US Army? The police? Who will organize such a revolt? Then, don’t you think our shotguns and AR-15s may not be enough against the “tyrannical” government’s tanks, air power, and nuclear weapons? We seem to be pretending to be living in the civil war era mindset and weaponry. The limited likelihood of this happening is also something that makes this argument the final go-to argument for gun advocates (never gonna happen, so why not use this argument!). But even if we take this argument of protection against tyrannical governments on face value, how will commonsense regulation that prevents criminals and mentally unstable people from having guns weaken the public’s protection against tyranny? If anything, we will be stronger with no guns in the hands of crazies and criminals; won’t we?
So, that is the end of my analysis of Our Virtual President’s anti-gun control speech. If this was the best ever pro-gun argument you had ever heard, try again. If nothing else, think of the duplicity, the cunningness in creating this video with the intention of creating such false impressions and a false narrative. In the meantime, in this era of fake news, whoever uploaded this video to Facebook is laughing all the way to the bank, as millions more watch and share the video and lap up his “speech to the Congress” like simpletons.
Since this was a short 7 minute video, Mr. Bill Whittle didn’t have time to go through some other frequently used arguments in favor of gun ownership or against gun control. For example:
1. People kill people, guns don’t.
2. It’s the culture, the video games, the movies, not guns.
3. But I need it for my self defense and self preservation.
4. AR-15 is not an assault rifle.
5. I need it for hunting.
6. Good guy with a gun vs Bad guy with a gun
7. Bad guys will get guns anyway