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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Bullshit Narrative 4 "If We Outlaw Guns, Only Outlaws Will Have Guns."/"Criminals Don't Obey Laws."

Listen, this is fucking rich coming predominantly from the same group of folks that have twisted themselves into pretzels to criminalize sex work, abortion, drugs that are as mild as alcohol, and even First Amendment civil protest.

First of all, logically, the first phrasing of this is meaningless. It's something called a tautology. It's got a little play on words to make it sound clever, but it is essentially the same as saying "If you use soap to wash your hands before you eat, the only germs that will still be there will be the ones not affected by your soap." Of COURSE that's true. But it doesn't say a damned thing about whether it worked. If the outlawing of semi automatic rifles takes us from 1 in every 15 Americans owning one to 1 in every 500, that's hardly a failure.

But it is also a deep post hoc fallacy. "He did it, therefore no law could have prevented it." A clever chiasmus wording does not a sound argument make.

This narrative demonstrates a breathtaking lack of awareness of how basic, fundamental laws work. When we make something contraband, we know it's still going to be out there...just not as much. We don't just pass a law making things illegal but still keep the fucking things available at every local Walmart...except now it's illegal; we also pass other laws around the whole market to create "chokepoints" that cut down on the means and opportunity of someone being able to get their hands on the items if motive outweighs illegality as a deterrent. Within a few years parts start to break down and be irreplaceable. Ammo isn't available. People don't want to risk the punishment if they get caught.

Technically nothing is stopping me from running through a Starbucks with a war rhinoceros either, but as I begin to contemplate the logistics of such a plan (availability of rhinos, availability of rhino armor, likelihood of making it to Starbucks before being apprehended), I realize it would probably be really hard to pull off and I'd rather play Shadows of Mordor. 

If I could pick up what I needed on my way home from work tomorrow, I might be more inclined to ideate this plan.

I know I could get a lawn dart if I wanted to. YOU know I could get a lawn dart. Hell, I could probably design and build a lawn dart if I cared enough. (I don't actually want a lawn dart, but they're out there, even though they're illegal.) But we don't just throw up our hands and say "Oh well. It's still possible to get lawn darts. Guess all laws are useless. Might as well stock them at the local CVS." I know I might get arrested for trying and the price will be really high and I can't just go to the lawn dart store that orders them from the lawn dart factory and that is the same thing that happens when laws make anything contraband.

Lastly, it's an absurd, ridiculous, ludicrous claim. It's like standing in front of one's neighborhood composed of nothing but blue houses and saying that painting houses blue simply won't work. There are several other countries that stopped this bullshit in its tracks or at least cut it down by passing laws. These laws absolutely DO work and saying they don't is being deliberately obtuse.

I'm not saying these laws are right or you shouldn't have guns. I'm saying this ARGUMENT is awful.

All these "can't put the toothpaste back in the tube" arguments try to envision a world where the only legal change is that a switch is just flipped in some room from "legal" to "illegal," and suddenly there is a flooded black market and tons of hidden weapons. And yeah...you know what? Some of that's going to happen. But acting like buyback programs and outlawing parts and ammo and seizing weapons that are found in the course of other searches or whatever won't have an impact in five to ten years is absolutely the pinnacle of tactical mendacity. It's not like "The Black Market™" has an outlet store in the strip mall on Fifth St.

Bullshit rating: Big Steaming Pile


  1. Though I always read your blog, Chris, I sometimes sigh when noting the length of them. This one was, I am happy to note, shorter by far in my experience. My response to the illogical argument of "if we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns" has always been a question. "So why should we make it easier for them to get them?"

  2. Not looking to be argumentative, because I’m a big supporter of you and your work, although I’d like to politely elaborate on what right-wingers really mean. I hope you’re alright with me disagreeing with you, because personally I find cognitive dissonance to be healthy.

    Moving on, the problem with guns is that, like hardcore drugs, there is a massive underground market for them. Having checked out the black gun market myself on Torrent, I found that black-market guns are slightly more expensive than legal ones, but overall easier to obtain. They usually run about $100 more than legal firearms.

    A $200 handgun can be purchased illegally for about $300 on the black market, and it’s shockingly easy to access. And of course there’s no background check. While outlawing firearms seems like it would stop some shootings (not all, but some), I don’t think that’s true—because I have reason to believe more shootings are prevented from legal gun owners defending people than would be stopped by outlawing guns. I don’t particularly like the NRA that much but one part I did like from the magazines my dad used to read when I was little was the “Armed Citizen” segment, which features short blurbs about numerous conceal carry owners stopping robberies and homicides.

    If the world was a vacuum with no other context, I would agree that outlawing firearms would stop some shootings, as the extra cost of illegal firearms would prevent some criminals from buying them, but considering the hundreds if not thousands of shootings prevented annually by gun owners, I think there would be more shootings, not less. Also many shooters are specifically targeting gun-free zones on purpose, because they know no one in the crowd will have a gun on them. A gun ban would be similar to the war on drugs, which is fruitless and horribly ineffective.

    I hope you let this comment go up, I really like you and would like to have an engaging exchange of ideas.

    1. I would be interested to know what your reasons for believing more shootings are prevented by legal gun owners than would be stopped by outlawing guns. I've seen a lot of anecdotes about "if I hadn't had my gun" (and those would be your numerous stories), but every actual STUDY that gets done with statistical analysis instead of an emotional appeal with a one-shot story goes the other way.

      And....your observations on the ease of getting guns are really making my point right now. They are legal. And easy to get. And if they were NOT legal and not easy to get then fewer people would get them. Not ZERO people because that is always going to be the case, but why make anything illegal ever? Because it reduces the numbers.

      I do agree with your point about drugs. Because we haven't really fought a war on drugs. We have supported it with one hand and fought it with the other. And we've never really "fought" it in a way that might put the DEA out of business. A better analogy would be cuban cigars or candy cigarettes. Yes, you can get them but they are notoriously hard to find and expensive and not worth it to most people.

      There are a whole series of these and the rest will be going up in the coming weeks and months. Again, I find guns to be a complicated issue, but most of the arguments around them to be very poorly thought out.

  3. I am just now finding your posts. It is incredibly hard to make a convincing case that common things are easier to get, and uncommon things are harder to get. Another point most "responsible" gun owners don't consider is that their guns are an important supply source for criminals. An estimated 380,000 guns are stolen every year. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that number would go down by a lot over time if there weren't as many guns out there in the first place. Also, a note to gun owners: stop leaving your guns lying around, and when your guns get stolen from your car, at least quit going on Nextdoor to whine about it. (This also brings to mind little kids that get their hands on guns, but I'm not going further into that now.)