Gun rights snowballs

Love this piece from Adam Gopnik.  I suspect this will be the first of many times I link to it.  Gopnik uses the analogy of James Inhofe bringing a snowball onto the Senate floor to somehow disprove global warming to talk about the snowballs of the pro-gun crowd.  There’s six, but these are my favorites (bold is Gopnik):

Snowball No. 1: There is doubt or mystery or uncertainty about whether national gun control can actually limit gun violence. No, there isn’t. The real social science on this, published in professional and, usually, peer-reviewedjournals, is robust and reliable, while fake or ersatz social science that proposes to show the opposite has been debunkedmany, many times. Of course, to say that the social science is settled is exactly not to say that one or two authority figures are in dogmatic possession of the truth—that’s not what makes it science—but that a broad community of people who have taken the trouble to study the evidence and open their data to each other have come to somethingclose to a consensus. More guns mean more homicides. More guns mean more gun massacres. More guns mean more death. Common sense confirms what social science demonstrates: there really have been no gun massacres in Australia since Australia decided to act to stop gun massacres from happening.

Snowball No. 2: Levels of violent crime have been receding in America in recent years, so guns can’t really be a problem. This decline is real—but it is real everywhere in the Western world. The remarkable point is that American gun violence persists at its astonishingly high levels in spite of the general decline in the rich world of violent crime. You have to accept a uniquely narrow view not of human nature but of American character—that Americans are so uniquely violent, so paranoid and hate-filled, so incurably homicidal, that they will keep killing each other no matter what laws exist—to believe that the same simple social restraints that have ended epidemic gun violence elsewhere won’t work here.  It would be more American to be more optimistic about Americans.

Snowball No. 3: Gun laws solve nothing because terrorists, whether in Paris or San Bernardino, aren’t the sort of people who care about or obey them.This snowball might properly be restated as follows: if a pickpocket steals your wallet on the bus, repeal the laws against pickpockets. If terrorists and criminals do still get guns, despite existing gun laws, there is no reason to have gun laws at all. But the goal of good social legislation is not to create impermeable dams that will stop every possible bad behavior; it is to put obstacles in their way…

Snowball No. 6: Gun rights are a necessary hedge against tyranny.Ted Cruzhas been throwing this snowball around quite a bit, strange as it is to hear a senator praise preparations for acts of terrorist sedition. This was, as it happens, exactly the argument of slave owners of 1861, well answered by Lincoln, and then by Grant…

Great stuff.  The whole thing is not all that much longer and definitely worth a read.  I’ve seen a lot of people arguing 1,2, and 3, so I really wanted to have them here.  I’m especially tired of the argument that because gun laws won’t eliminate all gun crime we shouldn’t have them.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to Gun rights snowballs

  1. Jon K says:

    somehow i don’t think you posting this is going to stop the frequency that you see snowballs 1,2, & 3… those snowballs happen to be gospel truth to a certain segment of society. it’s just like supply-side economics and climate change they will continue to have faith no matter how much evidence is produced to dispute their beliefs…

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