Thursday, January 10, 2013

The gun control opponents go there.

In the wake of the horrors at Sandy Hook, many gun owners in America have gone off the deep end. Not wanting to acknowledge the clear correlation between gun ownership and gun violence in the US, these individuals have taken to arguing that even a modest attempt to limit the accessibility and availability of drugs guns is tantamount to a fascist takeover of the US. This phenomena is, oddly enough, not just a product of folk on the right wing (as evidenced by the Drudge Report headline) but also folks on the left. For example, Mike Adams, the "Health Ranger" has made a similar claim in a blog post titled, "Obama to follow in footsteps of Hitler, Stalin with 'executive order' disarmament of the American people."

In both cases these authors are guilty of a variety of fallacies. First up is the Slippery Slope fallacy. All these authors are explicitly arguing, "Restrictions on guns today, totalitarian dictatorship tomorrow." In fact, Mike Adams begins his post by making the following claim,
It's official. President Obama is going to march America down the dark halls of history by following in the footsteps of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and all the other gun-grabbing madmen who have exploited fear to achieve the total concentration of power in the hands of dictatorial government.
Adams further goes on to suggest that the Government wants to take everyone's guns so that they can then exterminate the entire population. Lest you think I am strawmanning Adams, here are his own words:
It's all coming out. This is their true agenda: mass murder and / or genocide. Those who support gun disarmament of the American people are supporting mass murder: Michael Moore, Piers Morgan, Biden, Obama, Cuomo... they are all proponents of mass murder. They are the very same kind of people who once supported Hitler and Stalin, and now they're creating a new Hitler in Barack Obama, the would-be dictator who is thrusting America straight into a new civil war.
If we think about the claim here for just a second, it should be clear how absurd it is. Why would the government need to take guns in order to kill the populace (ignoring for a moment the question of why the government would want to eliminate its tax bases)? The US military spends more money than every other military in the world combined. The military has no shortage of extremely powerful weapons (far more powerful than anything even the most hardened gun lover might have). If they wanted to exterminate the population, they could just do it. Why would they need to confiscate guns first? What use is an assault rifle against a tank or a predator drone? For these reasons and others, it is clear that this larger argument is a good example of a slippery slope.

Moving on, these articles are also nice examples of Straw Men in that they seem to be grossly misrepresenting the gun control position. As far as I know, the gun control debates are not about handguns or hunting rifles. The debates are about assault rifles with high capacity magazines. The government is not trying to take everyone's guns away, they are merely debating the possibility of limiting access to devices whose only purpose is killing large numbers of people very quickly. This is obviously a contentious issue for many people, but it is unclear to me what purpose making such weapons available to the general public could possibly serve other than ensuring that people are killed by them. In any case, to claim, as Adams does that the government wants to get all your guns is a straw man.

I will conclude by noting the obvious False Analogy of comparing Obama to Hitler or Stalin. Not much needs be said here, but the situation Obama is confronting today is radically different from the situations confronting Stalin and Hitler. To suggest that there is a similarity between the two is to commit a false analogy. 

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