Monday, November 8, 2010

The Rhetorical Balance

It isn't, by itself, an insult to say that gun control advocates keep their goals guarded and try to achieve them incrementally. Every political action group, from gun control to gay equality to anti-abortion advocates need to take it step by step. The mainstream doesn't approve of their end goals, so they need to focus on small steps, let them become the new normal, and then get more small steps. It's just simple prudence.

But that kind of incremental progress puts the advocate in a strange place: you need to defend the steps you've already taken while simultaneously presenting them as grossly inadequate. This is very, very difficult for the amateur bloggers who are better at hyperbole than strategy. In the comments to an anti-gun blog post, Anti-Gun Comment Posting Unit Jadegold gives an outstanding example:

Yes, we have some gun laws in this country. Does it amount to gun control? No.

You and I both know that anyone in this country can open up a PennySaver or classified ad and purchase most any firearm. We do not have to provide ID and we can be felons, mentally ill and/or illegal immigrants.

The point is obvious: reconcile the failure of our century's worth of accumulated gun control laws with the anti-gun movement's prescription of more gun control laws. The problem, though, is that by getting emotionally involved and overstating the case, JG has implicitly agreed that the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, the Gun Control Act of 1968, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, and the Gun Free School Zone Act of 1995 do nothing to deter criminals from getting guns.

More skilful anti-gunners have worked out the rhetorical balance, and know how to imply that our current gun control laws work, but that more would work better. It isn't true, but it's far more likely to work than agreeing with gun rights advocates that our current system is pure burden with no advantages.


  1. Yes, we have some gun laws in this country. Does it amount to gun control? No.

    Just had a thought ( I know, unusual for me) -- if what we have doesn't amount to gun control -- let's scrap every single law and start over again.

    Clean slate and we can "compromise" from there.
    Fully automatic weapons - back on the table
    Short barreled rifles and shotguns -- yep, we have them.
    Grenades and light anti-tank weapons -- how much is my budget?

  2. Go take a look at her reaction when I said essentially that: it amounts to "well, I may have said they do no good, but that doesn't mean they're useless, poopyhead."