Overview:

This mantra is the first obstacle to getting gun rights advocates to change, to seeing that guns might very well have something to do with the problem.

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The gun debate is raging.

Again.

And all I need to really say about this scenario is encapsulated by this meme:

This torturous loop continues because of the inaction of U.S. lawmakers, paid to do nothing by their lobbyists.

But in these arguments, certain methods of argumentation stick out like sore thumbs. One of them, in blindly denying that guns are a problem, is not just to deny they are the main causal factor, but to deny that they are a factor at all.

Republicans, in general (due to the lawmakers having been lobbied by gun organizations, and the GOP electorate having now entwined their identity with gun ownership), will divert attention away from the availability of guns and a pervasive gun culture being in any way contributory to the outlier status that the U.S. has in term of gun deaths. Gun-related suicides, homicides, and mass shootings are so commonplace in America that, in the main, they don’t appear on the news. Even mass shootings only hit the national news when they reach a certain threshold.

A person with extremely problematic mental health with access to only a knife is going to do far less damage to one with access to multiple forms of firearms that are designed to kill lots of people quickly and easily.

In the UK, we are blessed with a lack of gun culture that has meant only one mass shooting in the last 12 years. Now, either we have such incredibly good mental health in this country that no one wants to go out and mass shoot, or there is some other causally effective difference between the U.S. and the UK…

U.S. lawmakers and gun rights advocates ubiquitously present a false dichotomy. Either it is guns or it is not guns.

At all.

As in, guns have absolutely nothing to do with the epidemic problem of gun violence.

I am all for gun control. But I am nuanced, as I am absolutely sure most gun control advocates are. Yes, by all means, work hard to improve equitable mental health services (as I am sure that Republicans fight really hard to do). And work hard to improve any other causal variable involved…(which are…?).

But you’ve got to work on the availability of guns and a pervasive gun culture. As Scientific American (you know, a repository for data-driven writing) states in “The Science Is Clear: Gun Control Saves Lives,” and after presenting evidence to support their conclusion:

We need to become the kind of country that looks at guns for what they are: weapons that kill. And treat them with the kind of respect that insists they be harder to get and safer to use.

And then we need to become the kind of country that says the lives of children are more valuable than the right to weapons that have killed them, time and again. Since Columbine. Since Sandy Hook. Since always.

Yes, you do. And one of the biggest stumbling blocks to becoming that sort of place is the inability to see nuance. It is the inability to recognize that the availability of guns may at least provide some causal determination, even if it isn’t the biggest (which, for the record, I think it does).

Read: Mass shootings in America: Why does the U.S. continue to do nothing

A person with extremely problematic mental health with access to only a knife is going to do far less damage to one with access to multiple forms of firearms that are designed to kill lots of people quickly and easily.

I have previously argued with Second Amendment advocates who have hit me with arguments such as “Well, London has a knife crime epidemic, so…!” Except, a knife crime epidemic is far better than a gun crime epidemic. And that’s the point.

There is absolutely no doubt that the wide availability and use of guns are at least significantly responsible for the fact that the U.S. far outstrips comparable nations in terms of gun deaths. Alas, the sand is warm, and close to hand, and apparently comfortable for head-burying.

Bear in mind, when shouting at the dune created by a plethora of submerged heads, that gun rights defenders almost always live by the mantra that “if guns aren’t 100% the issue, then they’re 0% the issue.”

Our first job, if we want to disabuse defenders of unbridled gun ownership (“well-regulated militia,” anyone?) of the notion that gun control is anathema, then this is the first hurdle to overcome.

Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...