The Rules of the Gun [Control] Debate

David Frum, who has mastered the art of psychological projection, presents a an asinine parable and cynical “rules” for running the gun control debate. This man clearly has mental health issues.

Frum’s little parable, meant to represent the problem of “gun violence,” purports a town which has stupidly built itself in a locale guaranteed to suffer repeated natural disasters. The sensible folk of the town think everything should be raised up on stilts to avoid flooding, while the pro-gun reactionary do-nothings object to preparation because it won’t stop floods.

The reality of the “gun violence” problem is that 1) it’s man-made by a relatively few bad guys, and 2) the pro-gun folks don’t object to taking measures to protect themselves. In Frum’s water-logged village, we’d be the folks putting up our own houses on stilts, pilings, and mounds, while the anti-flood violence idiots like From pass laws designating the town a flood-free zone.

Frum’s “rules” illustrate the usual problems of irrationality on the part of victims disarmers.

Frum’s Rule 1. “The measures to be debated must bear some relationship to the massacre that triggered the debate. If the killer acquired his weapons illegally, it’s out of bounds to point out how lethally easy it is to buy weapons legally. If the killer lacked a criminal record, it’s out of bounds to talk about the inadequacy of federal background checks. The topic for debate is not, iWhy do so many Americans die from gunfire?’ but ‘What one legal change would have prevented this most recent atrocity?'”

My Rule 1a. If you are proposing a solution to a specific incident, the proposal should address characteristics of that incident.

My Rule 1b. General discussion of the many sordid causes of “gun violence” is a separate conversation.

Frum’s Rule 2. “The debate must focus on unusual weapons and accessories: bump stocks, for example, the villain of the moment. Even the NRA has proclaimed itself open to some regulation of these devices. After the 2012 mass shooting in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, attention turned to large capacity magazines. What is out of bounds is discussion of weapons as in themselves a danger to human life and public safety.”

My Rule 2a. See My Rule 1a.

My Rule 2b. Any proposed solution must included a cost:benefit analysis, and not be based on the unicorn wishes of just one party.

My Rule 2c. Firearms are not a natural disaster; they are man-made tools, which must be manipulated by an external force — like a person — to do anything, good or bad.

Frum’s Rule 3. “The debate must always honor the “responsible gun owners” who buy weapons for reasonable self-defense. Under Rule 1, these responsible persons are presumed to constitute the great majority of gun owners. It’s out of bounds to ask for some proof of this claimed responsibility, some form of training for example. It’s far out of bounds to propose measures that might impinge on owners: the alcohol or drug tests for example that are so often recommended for food stamp recipients or teen drivers.”

My Rule 3. Since there are 55-120+ million gun owners, and the human race has not been rendered extinct in the US, one should start with the assumption that most gun owners are not murderous lunatics bound and determined to kill everything; if we were, you’d know… not know it because everyone would already be dead.

Frum’s Rule 4. “Gun ownership is always to be discussed as a rational choice motivated by reasonable concerns for personal safety. No matter how blatantly gun advocates appeal to fears and fantasies—Sean Hannity musing aloud on national TV about how he with a gun in his hands could have saved the day in Las Vegas if only he had been there—nobody other than a lefty blogger may notice that this debate is about race and sex, not personal security. It’s out of bounds to observe that ‘Chicago’ is shorthand for ‘we only have gun crime because of black people’ or how often ‘I want to protect my family” is code for ‘I need to prove to my girlfriend who’s really boss.'”

My Rule 4. Assume parties in the discussion mean what they say unless you have evidence to the contrary. An automatic assumption that ‘Chicago’ must be a racist codeword — in face of demographics of Chicago criminals — or that the only possible reason to have a defensive weapon is to abuse women says much more about the person who believes only that than it says about most lawful gun owners.

From there, Frum devolves into “discussion.”

“A requirement that gun owners carry insurance would not only protect potential accident victims—including gun owners, since many gun accidents are self-inflicted—against economic loss.”

We did that. You folks called it “murder insurance” and tried to stop it. Make up your minds.

As for preemptively-prove-your-innocence (“background”) checks: If they work, then lawful gun owners have already proved themselves “responsible gun owners” (FR3). If they don’t, then stop demanding something that doesn’t work and come up with something that would.

My Rule 5. There is no “gun violence” problem. There is a violence problem, most prevalent in certain economic/geographic demographics.

If a doctor conducted a study to determine if a chemical caused a certain cancer, and found that cancer in just 0.00124% of regular users of that chemical, he’d discard that hypothesis and go looking for another cause.

0.00124% happens to be the estimated number of lawful gun owners who are murderers in any given year.

Clearly, while guns are used, they aren’t the cause. People kill with guns, knives, clubs, cars, fists, feet… If guns are removed, the cause will remain until addressed and fixed; murderers will simply use one of the myriad other methods available, as they have through history.

My Rule 6. If you ignore the underlying cause and only treat symptoms, you will never cure the disease.


* Note the original URL.


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3 thoughts on “The Rules of the Gun [Control] Debate”

    1. To expand:

      1. Stay on topic. If we’re discussing what could have been done to prevent a particular tragedy, we need to stick with those particulars. New restrictions on “Saturday night specials” or “50-caliber rifles”, for example, would not have prevented the Las Vegas shooting, or the Aurora theater, or Sandy Hook, etc., since small, inexpensive handguns and large-bore rifles were not used in any of those.

      Similarly, talking about expanding PPYI checks isn’t necessarily out-of-bounds, but you must first demonstrate that expanding them could/would have halted the retail purchase of at least one of the weapons actually used (Sutherland Springs, TX, is out; NICS worked as designed. That cretin should not have passed the check, but that is a failure of the DOD, not the FBI or NICS. There’s no legislative PPYI expansion that can fix “bad or incomplete data”). But also be ready to argue how PPYI checks — at their core — are not a “prior restraint” on the exercise of a Constitutionally-protected civil right, similar to requiring all movie-goers to wear ball-gags so that nobody can shout “Fire!” unless they can prove beforehand they’ve never done so.

      2. Facts. No suppositions (reasonable thought experiments are OK; “No True Scotsman” arguments are not), no anecdotes (the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”), no wild claims not supported by actual events or research. Logic using fact as the starting point is fine, but the more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinary the evidence must be to support it. And restating an already-debunked “fact” using different words does NOT make a new fact.

      3. Civility. Assume arguments and comments are made in good faith unless otherwise demonstrated. No name-calling, no ad hominem attacks, no one-liners about gun owners’ (or gun grabbers’) genitalia (see #2 above; you want to make claims about my junk? I can virtually guarantee you haven’t seen it, so be ready to provide extraordinary evidence!), and no baseless accusations of various “isms” (again, extraordinary evidence). No shouting down or talking over your opponent, especially after you’ve asked him/her a question (looking at you, Piers Morgan!).

      That about covers it. 🙂

  1. To enhance #2, Facts.

    I would not expect someone to have extreme knowledge, such as a gun smith, but I expect an opponent to have minimal knowledge for any technical considerations. For example, if they propose to ban silencers, they need to know that they reduce the report from a guaranteed hearing damage volume to still dangerously loud. Basing their arguments on what movies show is too lazy. The same goes for smart guns and James Bond.

    This is my pet peeve…that gun contol advocates seem to take pride in a total ignorance of firearms. It seems like they would get cooties from doing any research on it.

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