The Misleading Photo And A Senator’s Trauma: Emotions Over Reason In Policymaking And Public Opinion

misleading photo

Here is Senator Diane Feinstein explaining her qualifications to lead the charge on Capital Hill to restrict firearms, after Sen Ted Cruz (R-Tx) implied that she was not sufficiently schooled in the Second Amendment: “I’m not a sixth grader. Senator, I’ve been on the committee for 20 years,” Feinstein said angrily. “I was a mayor for nine years. I walked in, I saw people shot, I’ve looked at bodies that have been shot with these weapons, I’ve seen the bullets that implode. And Sandy Hook youngsters were dismembered… I’m not a lawyer, but after 20 years, I’ve been up close and personal with the Constitution. I have great respect for it.” Her emotional statement echoed her similar response to a challenge during another assault weapon ban debate, twenty years ago, when she was a freshman and could not cite her legislative experience. Then she said,

“I am quite familiar with firearms. I became mayor as a product of assassination. I found my assassinated colleague [Harvey Milk] and put a finger through a bullet hole trying to get a pulse. Senator, I know something about what firearms can do.”

So now we know. Diane Feinstein has reason to know guns can kill people, and has been personally traumatized by them. That is supposed to qualify her as a cool, rational, balanced and fair legislator in deliberations over whether citizens who have never broken the law and don’t intend to can buy the weapons they want to.

In fact, it should be unnecessary to point out, Feinstein’s “qualifications” are actually disqualifications. She is phobic about guns, and has good reason, from her perspective, to hate and fear them. A rational judge with so much accumulated emotion and bias regarding an issue in litigation would almost certainly feel the need to recuse herself from ruling on it, yet in Congress, particularly in the mad—and it is mad—rush to “do something!” about gun violence while the blood of the Sandy Hook massacre is still dripping fresh in voters minds, football season is over, the Final Four haven’t been determined and baseball hasn’t begun, a passion fed by visceral responses and bias is considered a legitimate tool of persuasion.

Insanity.

Allowing leaders to determine laws and policy regarding matters where their judgment is clouded by emotion has led this nation into too many horrors to count. If our seventh President, Andrew Jackson, had been asked why he pursued cruel and relentless policies to persecute Native Americans and banish them from United States soil, he may well have answered, “I am quite familiar with Indians. I grew up where there were lots of them. I knew saw settlers who had been massacred by Indians. Members of my family were killed by the British, who used Indians as their allies and pawns. Senator, I know something about what Indians can do.” We know now that for all the other national issues and crises that Andrew Jackson may have handled wisely, well and even brilliantly, having a man with entrenched antipathy toward Native Americans in charge of national policy toward them at that time in our history led to a human rights disaster. Similarly, If George W. Bush had been asked, prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, why he was so certain that Saddam Hussein posed a deadly threat to the nation he was bound to protect, he well might have answered, “I am quite familiar with Saddam Hussein. My father went to war with him, and Saddam Hussein tried to have my dad killed. My father gave him a second chance when he could have taken him out, and Saddam Hussein double-crossed him, and slaughtered his own people. I know something about what Saddam Hussein can do.”

It is undeniable that this kind of emotional bias often leads to rash and emotional decisions, yet elected officials attempt to build public support for legislative initiatives by creating the same kinds of bias in the public, through such tactics as using maudlin and non-substantive testimony by Gabby Giffords and the fathers of victims in the Sandy Hook shooting to justify banning guns. Disgracefully, news media commentators not only refuse to deplore such tactics but applaud and encourage them, at least when they are directed at a goal that aligns sufficiently with the media’s own policy biases, as opposition to guns surely does. Thus Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a fallen U.S. serviceman whose death unhinged her, was hailed by the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd and others as having “moral authority” to lead opposition to the Iraq occupation. This is an irresponsible way to make policy, and an irresponsible way to conduct nation policy debates. Grief, hysteria, anger, fear and sentimentality are the foes of rational decision-making, yet a Senator like Feinstein can repeatedly cite them as valid qualifications, and get credit from the Washington Post for giving critics “a beatdown.”

Perhaps this is because journalists are shameless in their own use of emotion to manipulate public opinion. In November, the Post and many other news outlets published the heart-bursting photo of a Palestinian man overcome with in grief as he clutched the body of his infant son.  The Washington Post’s caption on the photo said the child had died “after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City,” implying that Israeli bombs were responsible for the child’s death. Palestinians used the photo, shot by an Associated Press photographer, as effective anti-Israeli propaganda, and Israel’s supporters accused the news media of intentionally creating sympathy for Palestinians and antipathy toward Israel, as the photo obviously did. Now, the Post reveals, the explosive photograph should have told a completely different story:

“Nearly four months after the image was circulated worldwide, a U.N. commission has concluded that Israel was not directly responsible for the child’s death. The baby apparently was killed by a Palestinian rocket that fell on his family’s house in Gaza, it said. The rocket, fired by militants in Gaza, was one of hundreds aimed at Israelis during the eight-day conflict.”

In its article about the wrongly captioned photo, as both the Post and the AP issued corrections—-more than three months after it ran—-the Washington Post attributed the mistake to “the fog of war.”  Yes, and the media’s carelessness in its eagerness to play to emotion contributes to that fog, just as the tears of Sandy Hook parents do nothing to clarify the complex—yes, complex—issue of gun violence, and do everything to blur it. The child’s father, we are now told, was a journalist employed by the BBC! So a journalist was the subject of the photograph, the image was obviously going to stir up emotions, and the Post tells us that it was delivered to the public as visceral proof that Israelis were killing the children of innocent Palestinians accidentally? If not “maliciously” or “intentionally,” the more appropriate word is certainly “negligently.”

The news media knows that emotion trumps reasoned analysis, and understands that images are more powerful than words. It has an ethical obligation to check the facts behind such photos thoroughly, and if it cannot be determined that an image conveys what is truthful and factual, the photo, no matter how powerful, should not run. As judges sometimes say when juries have heard prejudicial evidence that should not have been allowed into court, “that bell can’t be unrung.” The corrections being run now are nearly useless. The seeds of emotion have been planted, and once planted, such seeds root firmly. Try telling Diane Feinstein, who “put a finger through a bullet hole trying to get a pulse” of a dying colleague, that Harvey Milk’s death would probably not have been prevented by any of the measures she is proposing. She doesn’t want to hear it, and won’t hear it. Not only are her emotion-based biases entrenched, she regards them as qualifications and credentials, and absurdly, so do a large segment of the public and far too many journalists.

That’s how they make decisions and form their opinions too. It’s just wrong, and ultimately dangerous, because the practice degrades the quality of decisions affecting our lives.

________________________________

Facts: MSNBC, Washington Post (also Graphic)

Sources: Washington Post

37 thoughts on “The Misleading Photo And A Senator’s Trauma: Emotions Over Reason In Policymaking And Public Opinion

  1. Misleading (or not) imagery or photos make their point and garner the momentum to carry the day.

    The Press and Politicians have been unethical in this regard, and will continue to do so.. Why? It works.

    Jews and Muslim Palestinians have both done so, and the public is always gullible enough to swallow… Gun opponents and Gun zealots have both done the same.

    Just hypocritical to point out Palestinians and Diane Feinstein, and not acknowledge the same by their opponents

    • Just hypocritical to point out Palestinians and Diane Feinstein, and not acknowledge the same by their opponents.

      I really object to this, in theory and in this instance. The post, and indeed the blog, is driven by current events. I didn’t cherry pick two incidents to indict liberals—those are the issues that presented themselves. The post did not argue that only liberals do this, and there is nothing in the piece that says so.

      Now, as it happens, the nature of progressive and liberal ideology indeed makes this strategy and tendency more pronounced on the Left. Never mind the fact that illegal immigrants are breaking the laws–think of the hardship of their children! Never mind that the national debt is out of control and threatens vital national priorities, it’s cruel to control entitlement spending! It is not liberals but conservatives who are habitually being tarred as “heartless” and without empathy. When considering crack addict single mothers who are out of work and have children to feed, a conservative is more likely to say, “Why did they have kids they couldn’t afford, why did they use drugs, and why should hard working taxpayers be expected to pay for their mistakes?” and not, “Look at these adorable children and think of their suffering!” Yes, both “sides” appeal to emotion, but the balance you argue for is a false one.

      And you don’t know, apparently, what hypocrisy means, or if you do, you owe me an apology. I am not engaging in a practice I condemn in others, nor am I insincerely criticizing a tactic by one group that I approve of when used by another group. Those would be hypocrisy. You appear to think it’s hypocrisy to criticize, sincerely and legitimately, conduct that happens to be performed by two groups that happen to have ideology in common (Are you actually admitting that the mainstream media does have a leftward bias?) without artificially digging up similar conduct on the other side of the spectrum. That’s not hypocrisy, by any definition…if I had defended conservative emotionalism (if an example had presented itself in the last week) you might have an argument, but I didn’t, and you don’t.

  2. I admit I wanted some modest tweaking in gun laws, but this sensationalism and appeal to emotion is more mob hysteria. I’m worried because the mood is trend is trending towards lynchings, like that NY location list, than anything rational. Yellow journalism at its worst again, when some remember better from both journalism and public debate.

    I’d rather leave the laws the way they are than this mob hysteria. Whatever sells a paper is not the way to live.

    • This is where the tenor of this debate has led me as well. My Dad hated guns, and opposed the NRA; I have never objected to strict gun regulation in principle. But this round has jsut about made me a 2nd Amendment absolutist. The arguments and rhetoric by the President, Feinstein, Kelly, Morgan, Cuomo and the media flacks have been so cynical, manipulative, dishonest, emotion-based and most of all, presumptuous—who the hell is gun-phobic Diane Feinstein to dictate to me or anyone what weapons I “need” to protect my home and family?—that I resent it deeply, and want them to fail.

  3. Great post Jack. I only got tangled in the middle of the Palestinian paragraph where I thought you were transitioning to Sandy Hook. Other than that little trip – it flows very well.

  4. “My opponents are overemotional and that disqualifies them to write legislation” is a pure ad hominem argument.

    Try telling Diane Feinstein, who “put a finger through a bullet hole trying to get a pulse” of a dying colleague, that Harvey Milk’s death would probably not have been prevented by any of the measures she is proposing.

    This is a dishonest argument, because Feinstein never said or implied that she believes Milk’s death would have been prevented by the measures she is proposing.

    When someone specifically asked her if she was aware of the deadly effects of firearms, she responded that she had personally witnessed that effect. I don’t see how it was unreasonable of her to say that in that context. Nothing in the Milk quote you cite implied that she believes Milk’s death in particular would have been prevented under different gun laws.

    It is reasonable, however, to believe that some lives – lives no less valuable than Harvey Milk’s – would be saved by gun control measures. Gun control measures do not need to save 100% of gun violence victims to be justified.

    In fact, it should be unnecessary to point out, Feinstein’s “qualifications” are actually disqualifications.

    No they aren’t.

    First of all, the primary qualification she named – 20+ years as a legislator actively involved in this issue – makes her extremely qualified.

    Secondly – and I’m surprised you don’t already know this – unlike (you say) judges, legislators are not expected to recuse themselves from votes for any reason other than direct financial involvement (and not always then). No one who knows how the Senate works will suggest that Rob Portman, now that his son is out of the closet, is required to recuse himself from all votes regarding gay rights. No one suggests that legislators who tear up when they talk about Jesus should recuse themselves from any votes involving religious rights. More importantly, anyone who attempted to sue over these matters, or to get these congresspeople recalled, would rightly be laughed at.

    In the end, what matters is the content of the legislation. Personal attacks on the motives of people you disagree with are not logically relevant, and they add to everything that’s awful about political discourse. Either you have a strong policy based argument, or you are adding irrelevant noise to the discourse.

    • “This is a dishonest argument, because Feinstein never said or implied that she believes Milk’s death would have been prevented by the measures she is proposing.”

      Then its a completely irrelevant statement. Virtually everything Feinstein said marked her as a emotional, irrational and incoherent. Who is she to say what I “need”? What do bazookas have to do with guns? So she’s been in teh Seante a long time…so what? How does that qualify her regarding the Second Amendment? There are answers to Cruz’s question, but Feinstein had neither the wit nor the erudition to make it.

      She’s biased, and her statements show she’s biased, and worse yet, she thinks its fine to be biased. Yes, unlike the judiciary, biased legislators vote—this is why lobbying and campaign contributions are so effective, and so corrupting. The fact that they can vote doesn’t mean they SHOULD vote, or that opinions that are not well-reasoned, fair or objective deserve respect or deference.

      “First of all, the primary qualification she named – 20+ years as a legislator actively involved in this issue – makes her extremely qualified.”
      Balderdash. She hates guns, and has been trying to ban them for 20 years. Your argument is like saying that Rick Santorum is qualified to determine marriage policy. Length of time dealing with an issue one is pre-biased about because of a trauma is no qualification or credential. She’s obsessed. Ahab was unqualified to captain a whaling ship too. Or was he “extremely qualified” because he had been seeking vengeance for years?

      Your last comment is off-topic. I was writing about using pure emotion to justify any legislation and to warp public opinion about anything—and that’s been the primary tactic on the Sandy Hook train wreck, not facts, and not content. Feinstein can’t show that the hundreds of weapons she would ban and the other measures would stop violence, so she and the rest are just evoking sad stories and tragic victims to make everyone ignore substance, especially people who, like her, are phobic or ignorant about guns other than the fact that they can kill people. It is completely legitimate to flag the emotion-based tactics, because they lead to bad decisions. Your argument now boils down to “the end justifies the means” and consequentialism—emotionalism is OK to sell legislation on an issue that really needs to be analyzed unemotionally if the end legislation passes, you like it, and it works.

      No, it’s not…because it validates a method that will take ratioanality and fact-based analysis out of the process.

      As I wrote to Farm—I have been on the side of gun control, but the conduct of advocates like Feinstein have pushed me to the other side. On the substance, her bill might be fine. She’s not defending it on substance.

      • Then its a completely irrelevant statement.

        No, it wasn’t. The statement was a direct response to someone saying that she wasn’t aware of firearm’s “deadly characteristics”; pointing out that she has personal experience with firearms’ deadly characteristics was a direct and relevant reply.

        Your argument is like saying that Rick Santorum is qualified to determine marriage policy.

        Santorum is qualified to determine marriage policy, at the federal level – or at least he was, from 2001 through 2007. He achieved the primary qualification, which is being legitimately elected to the legislature.

        But he’s also someone who thought seriously (if not well) about marriage and family issues, not someone who voted on marriage capriciously, dishonestly, cynically, or in return for a campaign contribution. From the point of view of the right-wing Christian political caucus, he was a very reasonable choice to be a leader of marriage-related legislation. His involvement and passion for the issues didn’t disqualify him, and shouldn’t have “disqualified” him.

        (None of that means I don’t passionately disagree with Santorum on marriage. But in a democracy, people can disagree and nonetheless be “qualified.”)

        Length of time dealing with an issue one is pre-biased about because of a trauma is no qualification or credential. She’s obsessed.

        Length of time dealing with an issue legislatively is certainly a qualification. The rest of your statement is pure ad hom. 20+ years dealing with an issue legislatively is a qualification; whether or not one has suffered a trauma does not magically make it not a qualification. Legislators are not required to be blank slates when they enter the legislature. On the contrary, they are supposed to be open and forthright about their views during elections.

        Feinstein can’t show that the hundreds of weapons she would ban and the other measures would stop violence…

        This is an unreasonable standard. No law can “stop violence,” nor can the effect of any legislation be shown with completely certainty prior to the legislation being passed.

        A more legitimate question is, is it reasonable to think that the law could reduce violence or the effects of violence? In this case, it seems reasonable to say that yes. The assault weapons ban would not stop all violence, but it could save the lives of some people who would otherwise die.

        so she and the rest are just evoking sad stories and tragic victims to make everyone ignore substance

        What DF and other gun control advocates in the Senate have used when advocating for this and other bills is a mix of appeals, including emotional appeals, but also include citations to academic studies, testimony by experts, and of course logic. You may not agree with those studies, those experts, or those logical arguments, but it is ignorant to claim that they didn’t exist at all. (Have you read the transcript of the testimony given at the February hearings on this bill?)

        It is completely legitimate to flag the emotion-based tactics, because they lead to bad decisions.

        You haven’t even come close to proving that, and many intelligent people would disagree with you. Aristotle, for instance, argued that emotional appeals (pathos) was an essential part of a good argument, alongside other appeals such as logic.

        I think that the “emotions have no validity” approach is wrongheaded, for several reasons. First of all, some emotions are valuable and give us important information. Compassion and empathy are among humanity’s best traits, and are legitimate factors in determining what we need to accomplish legislatively. A legislature without compassion and empathy would ignore important problems and undervalue human life.

        Second of all, all sides feel and use emotion in arguments – including the pro-gun side.

        Third, it’s desirable for legislators to be responsive to the passions of the public (although legislators should of course leaven that passion with other considerations, such as logic, the Constitution, evidence, etc). That doesn’t always produce perfect outcomes, but Democracy isn’t a perfect system; it’s just better than the alternatives.

        Two final points:

        1) If the arguments, taken as a whole, genuinely were nothing but emotion, I’d agree with you that would be a problem. However, that is not the case. It is impossible to read the transcripts without seeing examples of multiple kinds of argumentation coming from both sides.

        2) Your accusation that I said “the ends justify the means” is inaccurate – I said nothing of the sort – and suggests that you’re arguing by rote against a fictional argument in your head, rather than reading what I actually wrote.

        • Taking the objections out of order:

          You said that the fact that appeals to emotion were being used didn’t matter if the bill was good on its merits. That is indeed an ends-justifies-the-means argument. Aristotle was talking about means of rhetoric–methodology, not validity. Since emotionalism blocks, distorts and interferes with reason and logic, I’m stunned—amused?—that you would try to make the argument that it is a valid and ethical means of persuasion if actual quality of decision-making, rather than victory, is the objective. Yes, this crap works. It is still manipulative and a way to avoid facts, not to give them proper weight.

          Santorum was and is hopelessly biased regarding marriage–by his faith and by his bogotry, just as a white supremacist and fundamentalist would be biased regarding multi-racial marriage. The fact the he has the authority to make decisions does not mean he’s qualified.

          Feinstein answered a question about her familiarity with firearms by saying that she’s seen dead people. She couldn’t tell a thing about the calibre, the weapon, the ammo, its proper use or anything else by seeing a body, other than the fact that guns kill. We all know that. She may never have shot a gun, loaded one, or held one for anything but a photo op. It is like some one saying that they are an expert on baseball because they were next to someone who caught a foul ball.

          I didn’t mention it, but Feinstein’s comments about her Constitutional expertise are equally dim. The day before, she stated that as a legislator she didn’t have to worry about Constitutionality, that this is the courts’ job. That is commonly expressed Democratic ( and non-lawyer) crap, but crap nonetheless. The oath of office requires legislators to uphold the law, which means making a good faith effort not to violate the Constitution rather than trying to slip in anything the courts might let through. I wrote about this during the 2010 election cycle.

          “Second of all, all sides feel and use emotion in arguments – including the pro-gun side.”
          Everybody does it. This time around, the emotion-based, “think of the children!” “just one child!” appeals have been shameless and offensive. The pro-gun side has fudged the facts, but the anti-gun forces are all about weeping.


          “Third, it’s desirable for legislators to be responsive to the passions of the public..
          .”
          No, it is not. They are there to filter out the passion of the public and make good laws with integrity and long term validity. Unless you like lynch mobs, riots and panic.

          Your argument that as long as some substance is mixed in with the distracting, manipulative emotion like Gabby Giffords’ 3rd grade level appeals is exactly like saying that if there’s some nutrition in shit, then eating shit is good for you. The point is that the facts get buried and minimized in all the sentiment. We are NOT talking about gun control to prevent more Sandy Hooks—there aren’t going to be many Sandy Hooks no matter what, and if there is another one, gun control probably won’t prevent it. If people are making that facile, silly, dishonest argument—and they are—then Feinstein’s emotive tactic is pushing bad logic, and bad policies flow from bad logic. And my reading of Aristotle says that he’d agree 100%.

          • re: Ends/Means. Okay, I see where the misunderstanding arose. As far as I can guess, you’re referring to this:

            In the end, what matters is the content of the legislation. Personal attacks on the motives of people you disagree with are not logically relevant, and they add to everything that’s awful about political discourse.

            I can see how that can be unclear.

            I wasn’t saying or intending “it’s okay to use emotion because the ends are all that count,” and it didn’t occur to me that the paragraph could be read that way. I was saying “arguing that someone you disagree with is motivated by bias and trauma doesn’t count as an argument against legislation.” Sorry that wasn’t clearer.

            * * *

            Regarding “consequentialism” (in general, not regarding this specific news story), I’m a “partial consequentialist.” I think an eye to consequences is necessary but not sufficient for seeing the ethics of an act. Consequences aren’t everything, but if we don’t care about consequences at all, we become that person who tell the Nazis where Anne Frank is hiding because lying is wrong.

            * * *

            She may never have shot a gun, loaded one, or held one for anything but a photo op.

            She owned a licensed revolver which she carried daily for years, back when she was a San Francisco politician. Lots of pro-gun folks have called her a hypocrite for being a gun control advocate who is an ex-gun owner, although I don’t think that makes any logical sense. (Nor would it be hypocritical if a current gun owner favored gun control, actually.)

            * * *

            This time around, the emotion-based, “think of the children!” “just one child!” appeals have been shameless and offensive.

            It’s not shameless or offensive to be appalled at gun deaths (including but not limited to child deaths); it’s not shameless or offensive to ask what we can do to reduce gun deaths; and it’s not shameless or offensive to appeal to the legitimate and reasonable belief of most Americans that we should try and reduce gun deaths.

            And if it WERE shameless and offensive to talk about the issue of gun deaths – which it is not – then surely dramatic tales of mothers trapped with only a semi-automatic rifle to protect their innocent children from attacking thugs would also qualify as shameless and offensive. (See the Republican testimony at the hearing for the automatic rifle ban for one of many examples of this very emotional pro-gun argument.)

            The day before, she stated that as a legislator she didn’t have to worry about Constitutionality

            Link or it didn’t happen.

            “Third, it’s desirable for legislators to be responsive to the passions of the public…”
            No, it is not. They are there to filter out the passion of the public and make good laws with integrity and long term validity.

            Which is very similar to saying “although legislators should of course leaven that passion with other considerations, such as logic, the Constitution, evidence, etc” – which was the rest of the very same sentence you’re responding to.

            It’s elitist and anti-democratic to think that legislators should be indifferent to what the public wants. Legislators shouldn’t be slaves to the public’s desires, but neither should they think themselves as above the public.

            Your argument that as long as some substance is mixed in with the distracting, manipulative emotion like Gabby Giffords’ 3rd grade level appeals is exactly like saying that if there’s some nutrition in shit, then eating shit is good for you.

            All emotions aren’t bad for policy. Some emotions – such as hate and contempt – are bad for policy. But compassion and empathy are positive and make policy better. (Although yes, they should be part of the mix, not the whole cake.)

            If you think compassion and empathy are shit, then you’re mistaken.

            The point is that the facts get buried and minimized in all the sentiment.

            You’re not very credible when you say this, since you have zero interest in fact-based discussions. Your only interest is in slamming pro-gun people; that is very nearly all you ever do on this issue.

            We are NOT talking about gun control to prevent more Sandy Hooks—there aren’t going to be many Sandy Hooks no matter what, and if there is another one, gun control probably won’t prevent it.

            Well, obviously there will never again be a shooting exactly like the Sandy Hook shooting of 2012. But also obviously, there will be more school shootings in the future, if the last twenty years are any indication.

            There is nothing that we know of that we can do in public policy to prevent that. The claim is not that if we pass this law, no school shootings will ever happen again.

            But it is plausible that in the long run we can reduce the frequency of school shootings, and make it less likely that body counts will be as high, by making the most effective mass-slaughter technologies less easily accessible.

            And more importantly, in my opinion, is what we can do to reduce the gun deaths that are less dramatic but more frequent and numerous. The assault weapons ban won’t address these deaths, but some other proposals would. And, again, the issue isn’t stopping gun deaths entirely – no one thinks that’s possible – but reducing them on the margin.

            • I wasn’t saying or intending “it’s okay to use emotion because the ends are all that count,” and it didn’t occur to me that the paragraph could be read that way.

              I read it as the ends justifies the means.

              I was saying “arguing that someone you disagree with is motivated by bias and trauma doesn’t count as an argument against legislation.”

              But it does count as an argument. I’m sorry, but you are flat out wrong. Any argument based on emotion and not reason is automatically unreliable. By extension any legislation that originates from emotion ought be disregarded by any civil society as transient, knee-jerk, unproductive and ultimately unjust. By association, any legislation that is supported by emotional arguments (even if ‘rational’ arguments are drummed up later) ought to be immediately suspect.

              This time around, the emotion-based, “think of the children!” “just one child!” appeals have been shameless and offensive.

              It’s not shameless or offensive to be appalled at gun deaths (including but not limited to child deaths); it’s not shameless or offensive to ask what we can do to reduce gun deaths; and it’s not shameless or offensive to appeal to the legitimate and reasonable belief of most Americans that we should try and reduce gun deaths.

              And if it WERE shameless and offensive to talk about the issue of gun deaths – which it is not – then surely dramatic tales of mothers trapped with only a semi-automatic rifle to protect their innocent children from attacking thugs would also qualify as shameless and offensive. (See the Republican testimony at the hearing for the automatic rifle ban for one of many examples of this very emotional pro-gun argument.)

              When Law X is being pushed via the argument “think of the children”, but Law X won’t do a damn thing to protect children, because those children are being killed by people who will not follow law X anyway, that IS an emotional appeal.

              When Law X is being opposed via the argument “think of law abiding citizen’s protecting their families”, and Law X will keep them from doing so, because law abiding citizen’s would follow the disarming law, that IS a rational appeal.

              There is a distinct difference.

              “Third, it’s desirable for legislators to be responsive to the passions of the public…”
              No, it is not. They are there to filter out the passion of the public and make good laws with integrity and long term validity.

              Which is very similar to saying “although legislators should of course leaven that passion with other considerations, such as logic, the Constitution, evidence, etc” – which was the rest of the very same sentence you’re responding to.

              Please, totally different. Filtering out the passion (what Jack said) is completely different than considering the passion along with other factors (what you said). Your explanation is just obfuscation.

              It’s elitist and anti-democratic to think that legislators should be indifferent to what the public wants. Legislators shouldn’t be slaves to the public’s desires, but neither should they think themselves as above the public.

              Now you are irresponsibly muddling terminology. Of course legislators should pay attention to what the public wants. But if the public is being guided by emotion, or having their emotions played with by say the media or activists who are using the same malicious debate techniques you advocate, then damn right the legislators must be LEADERS and look past the emotion.

              Among other reasons, our system was set up to slow down anything being pushed by an emotional mob.

              All emotions aren’t bad for policy. Some emotions – such as hate and contempt – are bad for policy. But compassion and empathy are positive and make policy better. (Although yes, they should be part of the mix, not the whole cake.)

              Yes, they are. They betray that an idea has not come about because of a rational process. Compassion and empathy are easily manipulated to get alot of bad stuff through. Emotion-based policy can never be trusted to be just.

              If you think compassion and empathy are shit, then you’re mistaken.

              You’re making an emotional appeal right there.

              There is nothing that we know of that we can do in public policy to prevent that. The claim is not that if we pass this law, no school shootings will ever happen again.

              Funny then that it is so utilized to support the law. See how dirty and irresponsible and subversive emotional appeals are? If Law X isn’t mean to address Heinous Crime Y, then don’t use Heinous Crime Y to support Law X, use actual rational and reasonable means to support Law X.

              Oh wait, if rational/reasonable means aren’t convincing the people, then guess what, it either means NO rational/reasonabl means exist OR the people value other things over what the pushers of Law X value…. didn’t you above so crow on about what the people want being supreme? Only in this case it would have value. If the people can’t be convinced via reason, then you’ve got no leg to stand on other than unjust activism.

              But it is plausible that in the long run we can reduce the frequency of school shootings, and make it less likely that body counts will be as high, by making the most effective mass-slaughter technologies less easily accessible.

              The nature of solving the societal problem of crime is best attacked by creating laws addressing Motive, not creating laws addressing Means. Motive is what drives a criminal to value a particular heinous act over things society values, like discipline and altruism. Motive is what shows there is something else wrong in society. Cutting off the Means will not solve the fact that the societal ill pushing the Motive of a criminal is not solved, and that individual will still seek an outlet for that crime. Problem not solved.

              And, again, the issue isn’t stopping gun deaths entirely – no one thinks that’s possible – but reducing them on the margin.

              This betrays more that it isn’t about saving lives, but about getting rid of guns. Passing laws that only hurt the law abiding will do crap for saving lives. Addressing the plagues that are affecting the Nation’s mental composition is the only solution (only that one is harder). It’s way easier to blame guns (even though it won’t work).

              • But it does count as an argument. I’m sorry, but you are flat out wrong.

                You’re right, it technically is an argument. But it’s a terrible argument, so wrong that there’s a famous logical fallacy, argumentum ad hominem, describing it.

                The reason ad hominems are illogical is because few arguments are unique to the person making it. Therefore, to genuinely rebut an argument (or show that legislation is bad), it is necessary to address the argument itself, rather than the person making the argument.

                When Law X is being pushed via the argument “think of the children”, but Law X won’t do a damn thing to protect children, because those children are being killed by people who will not follow law X anyway, that IS an emotional appeal.

                By “emotional appeal,” you seem to mean “any policy argument that Texagg04 thinks is mistaken.” However, contrary to what your argument implies, it’s possible for a reasonable person to not agree with you about everything. Because someone disagrees with you does not mean that their argument consists of nothing but emotion.

                Now, to address your argument:

                So are you saying that wouldn’t effect public safety at all if we made drunk driving legal? After all, many people drive drunk despite the law.

                But of course, a law doesn’t have to be 100% effective in order to improve public safety. It only has to have some effect. If just some people are deterred from drunk driving – either directly (they themselves choose not to drive drunk) or indirectly (bartenders are deterred from providing alcohol to people who they believe are going to drive) – then laws against drunk driving improve public safety, even though they do not prevent 100% of drunk driving.

                Contrary to your argument, laws are not effective only insofar as criminals are willing to voluntarily follow the law. For instance, either few or no mass shootings in the US have ever involved a fully automatic firearm. This isn’t because mass murderers are too law-abiding to use a fully automatic firearm; it’s because the laws against fully automatic firearms have effectively made them difficult to acquire.

                That doesn’t mean that fully automatic firearms are impossible to acquire (there are private collectors who own them). But the typical mass shooter is neither wealthy, nor especially intelligent. And it takes more intelligence and wealth to acquire illegal firearms than it does to buy something at a gun show or to steal your mother’s legal firearms.

                Let’s consider just one part of Feinstein’s proposed law – the banning of high-capacity gun magazines. Passing the law won’t eliminate illegal high-capacity magazines, but they will make them more difficult and expensive to acquire, unless the laws of supply and demand have ceased to function. Why is illogical to think that making high-capacity gun magazines more difficult and expensive to acquire, is likely to reduce the number of casualties in future mass shootings?

                The claim is not that if we pass this law, no school shootings will ever happen again.

                Funny then that it is so utilized to support the law.

                I don’t believe you can name a single high-level proponent of gun control laws – such as a Democratic Senator, or President Obama – who has said that if gun control laws are passed, no school shootings will ever happen again.

                Prove me wrong: provide a direct quote with a link.

                (I just read all of the testimony at the hearing in support of Feinstein’s law. Not a single person there made the claim that you’re describing.)

                The nature of solving the societal problem of crime is best attacked by creating laws addressing Motive, not creating laws addressing Means.

                I’d be interested in hearing more about this. What would be an example of a law (or proposed law) addressing gun violence by addressing motives?

                In any case, however, I think your argument is irrelevant, because we are not obliged to choose only way way of trying to reduce gun violence, nor would such an approach be logical. It would make more sense to use more than one approach, so that we could be more effective.

                I certainly agree that gun control laws aren’t the only means we should be using to try and reduce criminal violence. Two other approaches that I also favor would be legalizing many currently illegal drugs, and spending money to mitigate lead in residential areas (childhood lead poisoning is highly correlated with criminal violence).

                And, again, the issue isn’t stopping gun deaths entirely – no one thinks that’s possible – but reducing them on the margin.

                This betrays more that it isn’t about saving lives, but about getting rid of guns.

                I’m honestly confused by why you’d say this.

                Imagine that there are an average of 10 gun deaths a year in our small town, and we pass a law that successfully reduces gun deaths on the margin, so that there are now only 8 gun deaths a year, on average.

                Why would supporting such a law not be about saving lives?

                • But of course, a law doesn’t have to be 100% effective in order to improve public safety. It only has to have some effect. If just some people are deterred from drunk driving – either directly (they themselves choose not to drive drunk) or indirectly (bartenders are deterred from providing alcohol to people who they believe are going to drive) – then laws against drunk driving improve public safety, even though they do not prevent 100% of drunk driving.

                  Laws aimed at drunk driving target drunk drivers.

                  The laws at issue impose prior restraints on non-criminals.

                • You’re right, it technically is an argument. But it’s a terrible argument, so wrong that there’s a famous logical fallacy, argumentum ad hominem, describing it.

                  The reason ad hominems are illogical is because few arguments are unique to the person making it. Therefore, to genuinely rebut an argument (or show that legislation is bad), it is necessary to address the argument itself, rather than the person making the argument.

                  You need to brush up on your fallacies. You have no idea what an ad hominem is. Calling an argument emotional IS addressing the argument itself, not the person.

                  When Law X is being pushed via the argument “think of the children”, but Law X won’t do a damn thing to protect children, because those children are being killed by people who will not follow law X anyway, that IS an emotional appeal.

                  By “emotional appeal,” you seem to mean “any policy argument that Texagg04 thinks is mistaken.” However, contrary to what your argument implies, it’s possible for a reasonable person to not agree with you about everything. Because someone disagrees with you does not mean that their argument consists of nothing but emotion.

                  I didn’t say that, I demonstrated how that particular argument IS emotional. I won’t demonstrate it again, you can re-read. You are only grasping for straws now.

                  So are you saying that wouldn’t effect public safety at all if we made drunk driving legal? After all, many people drive drunk despite the law.

                  But of course, a law doesn’t have to be 100% effective in order to improve public safety. It only has to have some effect. If just some people are deterred from drunk driving – either directly (they themselves choose not to drive drunk) or indirectly (bartenders are deterred from providing alcohol to people who they believe are going to drive) – then laws against drunk driving improve public safety, even though they do not prevent 100% of drunk driving.

                  straw man or False analogy. Your pick.

                  To be analogous, the gun laws, the hyperbolic fear mongerers are pushing, would equate to an law (in addition to driving drunk) to be illegal to drink beer or illegal to drink liquor. Only makes behavior law abiding and responsible people can manage effectively, while not solving the problem of those who won’t care. Therefore patently unjust.

                  Contrary to your argument, laws are not effective only insofar as criminals are willing to voluntarily follow the law. For instance, either few or no mass shootings in the US have ever involved a fully automatic firearm. This isn’t because mass murderers are too law-abiding to use a fully automatic firearm; it’s because the laws against fully automatic firearms have effectively made them difficult to acquire.

                  Boils down to what we value as society. If we are willing to cede our civic duty, liberty and virtue over what will ultimately be an impotent law, then sure, makes tons of sense.

                  That doesn’t mean that fully automatic firearms are impossible to acquire (there are private collectors who own them). But the typical mass shooter is neither wealthy, nor especially intelligent. And it takes more intelligence and wealth to acquire illegal firearms than it does to buy something at a gun show or to steal your mother’s legal firearms.

                  Good, make guns too damn expensive for anyone but the wealthy to own. That’s real democratic.

                  Let’s consider just one part of Feinstein’s proposed law – the banning of high-capacity gun magazines. Passing the law won’t eliminate illegal high-capacity magazines, but they will make them more difficult and expensive to acquire, unless the laws of supply and demand have ceased to function. Why is illogical to think that making high-capacity gun magazines more difficult and expensive to acquire, is likely to reduce the number of casualties in future mass shootings?

                  If you’ve ever fired a gun in your life, you’d know that will make no damn difference to a bad person out to kill a bunch of *defenseless* people. It will make a hell of lot of difference to someone trying to stop a bad person trying to kill them.

                  I don’t believe you can name a single high-level proponent of gun control laws – such as a Democratic Senator, or President Obama – who has said that if gun control laws are passed, no school shootings will ever happen again.

                  Prove me wrong: provide a direct quote with a link.

                  Don’t play dumb games. You’ve seen the news and implications of the Sandy Hook hearings. This is immature of you.

                  I’d be interested in hearing more about this. What would be an example of a law (or proposed law) addressing gun violence by addressing motives?

                  Well, for starters: the act of murder is against the law. It elevates a criminal’s motive to live over his motive to kill. For some this is enough of a deterrent, for others it isn’t. Once you start creating laws that attack a specific inanimate object, you go ahead and create criminals of millions of law abiding citizens, while doing nothing to stop the motivation of the actual criminals.

                  It would make more sense to use more than one approach, so that we could be more effective.

                  Not any other approaches involve infringing on the civil liberties of law abiding citizens. That you leftists will never understand this baffles rational people.

                  • Texaggo:

                    Re ad hom, see my response to Jack.

                    My point about drunk driving – and I could also have used laws against murder, or against private ownership of fully automatic firearms, or against robbery, etc etc etc, as my example – is that is is never the case that the legitimacy of a law requires 100% compliance with the law. Laws against murder aren’t bad public policy because they don’t prevent 100% of murders.

                    A net gain to public safety is enough to justify a law. There is no requirement that laws be 100% effective; if there were, then we couldn’t have any laws at all.

                    Good, make guns too damn expensive for anyone but the wealthy to own. That’s real democratic.

                    Please stay on topic. The legislation in question does not ban “guns” in general; it bans only so called “assault weapons,” as defined in the bill, and magazines that hold more than ten bullets.

                    It’s true that if the legislation is effective, then in the long term the forces of supply and demand will make these guns and magazines much more expensive and harder to acquire. So what? Democracy doesn’t mean that we all have a right to afford everything we want to buy.

                    Regarding banning high capacity magazines, you wrote:

                    If you’ve ever fired a gun in your life, you’d know that will make no damn difference to a bad person out to kill a bunch of *defenseless* people. It will make a hell of lot of difference to someone trying to stop a bad person trying to kill them.

                    Looking at how some actual mass shootings have played out shows that you are mistaken.

                    First of all, bystanders are not always “defenseless.” In the Tucson shooting, for example, the shooter was charged by bystanders and defeated when he was forced to pause to change his now-empty 33-round magazine. If the murderer in Tucson had gotten off fewer shots, he would have done less damage. How can you be certain those same bystanders wouldn’t have charged and defeated him during the pause if he had been using a 10-round magazine instead?

                    There are also documented cases of people successfully fleeing and escaping while shooters pause to change magazines; if shooters have to change their magazines more often, that would create more opportunities to escape for some people. (Obviously, skilled magazine users can change a magazine very quickly, but homicidal mass shooters are often not that competent, especially when under pressure).

                    Don’t play dumb games. You’ve seen the news and implications of the Sandy Hook hearings. This is immature of you.

                    Asking you to back up your claims with evidence is not a “game”; it is the basis of honest debate. Either you can back up your claims with facts, including links to direct quotes, or you cannot.

                    Not any other approaches involve infringing on the civil liberties of law abiding citizens. That you leftists will never understand this baffles rational people.

                    I think we’d be better off if we could debate in respectful terms, rather than implying that the other is irrational. I’m treating you with respect and civility; please do the same for me.

                    Regarding “civil liberties,” you’re assuming what is at issue. Even the Holder decision said that some restrictions on guns and gun ownership are legitimate and Constitutional. I think that the legislation we’ve seen come out of committee recently are Constitutional. But of course, only time and future Court decisions will tell us for sure.

                    Sorry, but the law doesn’t exist with only one purpose (to save lives). It exists for many purposes.

                    I agree. However, you seem to have forgotten the context of my argument. Earlier, when I wrote “the issue isn’t stopping gun deaths entirely, but reducing them on the margin,” you said “This betrays more that it isn’t about saving lives, but about getting rid of guns.”

                    So you’re saying that when people pass legislation intended to reduce gun deaths on the margin, they betray that their real goal isn’t saving lives, but getting rid of guns. I don’t think that follows logically – it seems self-evident that one possible purpose of a law intended to reduce deaths on the margin, is to reduce deaths on the margin.

                    Thanks for the discussion.

                    • “My point about drunk driving – and I could also have used laws against murder, or against private ownership of fully automatic firearms,” -Amp

                      No you can’t as the laws aren’t analogous. For all intents and purposes, there are two main categories of laws: Those that attempt to set aside what are considered to be inherent or inalienable rights, such as life, property, liberty, but meting out punishment to those individuals who trespass against another’s said rights. Laws against murder fall into that category, as do laws against theft or vandalism.

                      Secondly, there are laws that attempt to do as you speak of: work away the margins of actions that don’t violate another person’s rights, but could lead to an instance in which the person could violate the rights of another. Laws against drunk driving or against firearm ownership fall into that category.

                      However that is a tricky category to truly consider. Once you tread into that category you begin weighing an *assumed* necessary infringement on inalienable rights in order to *hopefully* reduce *potential* infringement of other inalienable rights. It is dangerous territory, rife with misrepresentation by do-gooders who would rather advance their own personal agendas than actually pursue goodness and what is right.

                      There had better be AMPLE proof, not sporadic *sensational* proof, but substantive AMPLE proof that certain private behavior DOES lead to other criminal activity. Drunk driving and drug use fit that standard.

                      When you expand the definition to include ownership of an item leading to criminal activity you need EVEN greater risk or hazard to warrant limitation of ownership. Why we don’t allow private ownership of grenades? The Hazard is clearly massive in comparison to an individual liberty.

                      But, no, the *rare* and sensational reports you hear of a mass killer getting a hold of firearms is not enough to warrant the limitations.

                      “A net gain to public safety is enough to justify a law.” -Amp

                      Petty dictators, soft dictatorships and the slow ‘drone-ification’ of Europe have all used that justification. No, a simple “net gain” to public safety is NOT *enough* to justify a law. Otherwise we could legislate ourselves into lives not worth living under that justification (and many societies have, and paid for it dearly).

                      “Please stay on topic.” -Amp

                      The comment was completely on topic. You implied that a way to limit gun ownership is to legislate them heavily enough to make them too expensive for the criminally minded to own. Unfortunately that also makes them too expensive for the very people who are most targeted by crime to afford for self-defense.

                      “bans only so called “assault weapons,”” -Amp

                      The definition of so-called ‘assault weapons’ has been demonstrated to be absolutely laughable.

                      “magazines that hold more than ten bullets.” -Amp

                      I won’t re-demonstrate why that is laughable as well.

                      “Democracy doesn’t mean that we all have a right to afford everything we want to buy.” -Amp

                      No, but a fair democracy operates in a free market, a free market tends to push prices down to make things affordable and people, yes, have to earn money to afford them. Your comment is patently absurd, because I never said, nor implied, a ‘right’ to afford something, but there is something wrong with manufacturing a scenario through legislation to make it impossible to own something. If an item is truly *wrong* to own, then ban it outright, don’t be devious about it.

                      “Looking at how some actual mass shootings have played out shows that you are mistaken.
                      First of all, bystanders are not always “defenseless.”” -Amp

                      Congrats, you listed ONE instance in which unarmed bystanders reacted by tackling the assailant. Do we need to drum out the past 30+ years of instances in which unarmed bystanders reacted by cowering and begging for mercy before being murdered? Do we? History doesn’t favor your assertion; you are the one who is mistaken.

                      I can think of two other instances when bystanders didn’t cower and beg, the Oregon shooting (where the assailant was dissuaded from further assault, by a law abiding gun-owner) and a Texas community college shooting (where the assailant was dissuaded from further assault, by a law abiding gun-owner). Never mind the crime in homes dissuaded by the same.

                      “ the Holder decision said that some restrictions on guns and gun ownership are legitimate and Constitutional.”

                      A Democrat decided that a Democrat policy is legitimate and Constitutional? I would have never expected that…

                      “it seems self-evident that one possible purpose of a law intended to reduce deaths on the margin, is to reduce deaths on the margin.” -Amp

                      Already discussed in my opening paragraphs.

                      Funny thing of course, were such a law put in place to supposedly reduce gun-deaths and therefore deaths overall, it would naturally occur that more law-abiding defenseless people would die as a result of non-law-abiding murderers killing them. The gun-deaths not going down would only spur on more calls for legislations (equally impotent though it would be). How’s strict gun control working for Chi-town?

                • Imagine that there are an average of 10 gun deaths a year in our small town, and we pass a law that successfully reduces gun deaths on the margin, so that there are now only 8 gun deaths a year, on average.

                  Why would supporting such a law not be about saving lives?

                  Completely loaded question. It depends very greatly on the nature of the law passed whether or not it is worth it. Sorry, but the law doesn’t exist with only one purpose (to save lives). It exists for many purposes.

                  We could pass a million onerous laws that tacitly reduce death if that is the object of government (which it isn’t). Let’s pass laws that make sure a person’s meals are chosen for them from birth to death, that makes sure a person’s sleep schedule is chosen for them from birth to death, that makes sure a person’s profession is chosen for them, to make sure a person’s human interactions are chosen for them, to make sure a person’s movements across their city are chosen for them, to makes sure a person’s exercise habits are chosen for them, to make sure a person’s hobbies and past times are chosen for them.

                  Because hell, if we can save just one life that way, then it is worth it. Never mind making life impossible to actually live without being a brainless drone.

                  You Leftists baffle me. We aren’t ants.

                    • Careful, out will come the rebuttal:

                      Well enterprising young thugs will drive hours across state lines to purchase from places like Kentucky and Indiana where firearms flow like Whiske….er water.

                      They just go buy their guns from places where there are lax gun laws!

                      (of course, those places subsequently also have low violent crime rates also….)

                      To which a hyper-gun-control nut let me know, “well, gun crime is, what we like to call in statistics, multi-factorial….”

                      Oh…. in other words when the data doesn’t support their assertion, things are more complicated than we can understand fully.

                      But when just one isolated statistic supports their assertion? Holy cow! Grounds for sweeping legislation!!!!

            • Now that we are on the same page regarding what bothered me about the first part of your statement, you can show me where my post provoked the second. (“Personal attacks on the motives of people you disagree with are not logically relevant, and they add to everything that’s awful about political discourse.”) I don’t believe I attacked Feinstein’s motives at all. I see nothing wrong with her motives whatsoever. I have two problems with what she is doing, however: 1) She is, like most of the anti-gun side, making raw emotional appeals the primary, not only, but primary tactic, and 2) Her objectivity is so compromised that she is incapable of making a fair or objective argument. People who are thus handicapped shouldn’t make policy.


              Compassion, charity, kindness and empathy
              are not, in my analysis, emotions, because they are virtues: we know that applying them to human conduct, balanced by other considerations and virtues, leads to a better civilization. These virtues can be, should be, and are properly used by choice, practice and habit, not reflex, because they are not always appropriate. Ethics is about choices, balancing and analysis. Because it may nor be fair or responsible to be guided by these values over everything else, they must be tempered by circumstance. I see Feinstein and others appealing to very different emotions that aren’t virtues at all, but rather intentional and dangerous impediments to reason: sorrow, grief, regret, anger, fear, panic, sentimentality, hate and desperation.

              • Thanks for this thoughtful comment, jack.

                I’ve got a ton of work today, so I will have to put off responding until tomorrow or tonight. But in the meanwhile, could you please clarify this?

                “Compassion, charity, kindness and empathy are not, in my analysis, virtues, because they are virtues…”

                I think that you must have accidentally transposed “virtues” for another word there? My guess would be that you’re saying that they are not emotions because they are virtues, but I’d rather not guess.

                Thanks again.

              • And as virtues, they must be given equal weight to all other virtues – prudence, justice, responsibility, universality, efficiency, economy, fairness, and trust all come to mind in this instance. (And legally speaking, constitutionality.) When you start disregarding one virtue in favor of another because the first tells you that it’s a bad idea, you’re shifting the scales to achieve a desired outcome, not testing to see how well a policy meets all the standards across the board.

                If a policy satisfies compassion, but is not prudent, fair, just, or trustworthy, it’s a bad policy. And never trust anyone who claims ‘those other things aren’t important – it’s the EMOTION that’s important.’ (Feel free to exchange any virtue for any other above – it’ll still be a true statement.)

                • Ethics requires prioritizing virtues, because ethical conflicts are common. Each cluster of virtues has at least one that undermines ethics if given too much priority: loyalty is an obvious example.

                • When you start disregarding one virtue in favor of another because the first tells you that it’s a bad idea, you’re shifting the scales to achieve a desired outcome,

                  That really depends. It is actually a useful tool for determining how you weight various virtues.

                  If your decision is guided by how you think your weigh your virtues, then the outcome is grossly what you know instinctively is the right answer, you can use that as an evaluative tool to re-assess how you weight various virtues.

                  In the military, we used a Decision Matrix, which aided us in evaluating and selecting *optimum* courses of action when a plethora of factors guided the decision.

                  Each course of action was evaluated across a range of common principles and assigned a number per principle of how well each course of action adhered to that principle. Then each principle was given a weight, depending on how important adherence to that particular principle was.

                  After all the multiplication and then addition, we’d ideally know what the ‘right’ course of action is.

                  Sometimes the math said different from what our gut reaction was. We would usually stick with the gut reaction, forcing us to go back and fudge the evaluation numbers: what this did was not ‘cheating’ but really an introspective tool in determining what we considered fundamentally more important per situation.

                  I think what you described above is analogous to that and presents us with a great means of determining what we really consider important and what we ought to consider important and allows us to guage where we are as a culture.

              • Now that we are on the same page regarding what bothered me about the first part of your statement, you can show me where my post provoked the second.

                Your argument is that Fienstein was “traumatized” – your word – by an experience, and that this is the motivation for her gun control advocacy. You say she is “phobic” (thank you for your diagnosis, doctor) and that she “hates” and “fears” guns. Your point in bringing this up is to claim that she is “disqualified” from making arguments on this subject.

                All of that is attacking the alleged motivations of the person making the argument (or in this case, the person proposing the legislation), rather than attacking the argument itself. It is classic ad hominem .

                Regarding “emotions vs virtues,” I don’t see these as mutually exclusive descriptors – is love an emotion or a virtue? Surely, it is both – but it’s also far afield from our central argument.

                It’s not a bad argument or a dishonest argument to discuss WHY a proposed piece of legislation matters. I understand why you and other gun advocates would prefer that the deaths of children never be discussed. Most ordinary Americans don’t find your true argument – “the deaths are worth it” – a satisfactory response to tragedy.

                But you have no right to demand that Americans join you in fatalistically assuming that nothing can ever be done to reduce the casualties. You have no right to demand that the rest of us never mention some of the worst tragedies to ever take place on American soil – not even when introducing legislation intended to make those tragedies less frequent and deadly – merely because you prefer that they never be talked about. You have no right to demand that the rest of us join you in holding access to guns above all other virtues.

                It is not wrong for Americans to care about child deaths. It is not unfair or dishonest for Senators to say what their bills are in response to, nor is it dishonest to propose to reduce a problem at the margins rather than completely solve it. It is not wrong to talk about well-known public events merely because you and the NRA don’t want them talked about, ever.

                “You should shut up! The argument you are making is unfair and is making people stupid!” is what all your fine words boil down to, Jack. It is the plaintive, emotional complaint of someone who doesn’t have a logical argument on the merits.

                • But I do have a logical argument on the merits, because, as you manage to have missed somehow, I’m far from a second amendment absolutist. I think there are good, logical, fact-based reasons to severely regulate or even ban some kinds of weapons. But not because I stuck my finger in a colleagues bullet wound. Not to save “one child.” Not to prevent “more Sandy Hooks.”

                  The hysterical approach is offensive. I have no problem with Feinstein’s motivations—presumably her motivations are to save lives and avoid violence, the same as mine. You are confusing bias with motivation. Motivations are goals, biases interfere with independent thought, and thus lead to poor decisions. She is biased. She shows it by resorting to loaded, traumatic images when challenged, rather than facts.

                  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve never challenged the motivations of anyone advocating stricter gun control. If I argued that it was a secret plot to disarm Americans and enslave them, that would be attacking the motivations. My objection to the tactic of fear-mongering and appealing to emotion from Feinstein is that it’s a lousy way to make a case, side-stepping logic and facts to appeal to sentiment. Feinstein sounds hysterical when she talks about guns, and apparently thinks that’s responsible public service. If seeing Harvey Milk prejudiced her against gun for life, as her comments indicate, then she shouldn’t be part of the argument. And, you know, it’s not very effective either.

    • One addendum: Your characterization of what I wrote is misleading. I didn’t say that being emotional was a disqualifier. I said the being driven by emotion and visceral responses was bias. Martin Luther King was emotional, but he was using reasoned arguments. If your first argument for bringing gun control legislation is “I saw a man die from gunshot wounds!!!”—I’m sorry, but you have nothing to contribute.

    • I can only focus on one part of your wall o’ stupid, because I’m about to go get exceedingly drunk…

      It is reasonable, however, to believe that some lives – lives no less valuable than Harvey Milk’s – would be saved by gun control measures. Gun control measures do not need to save 100% of gun violence victims to be justified.

      To start with no, he wouldn’t have been saved, unless you ban handguns, because Milk was shot with a handgun, not the weapons that DiFi seeks – or at least currently admits to seeking – to ban.

      Next point is your pointless, mind-blowingly stupid “if it saves one life” argument. By your logic we should first ban blunt objects, since those are used more often to murder someone than a gun. Then, if we want to start thinking of “the children”, we should ban hotdogs and swimming pools.

      I will use small words so you don’t get confused by what I’m about to say…

      MY rights do not depend on other people. Period. The 2nd Amendment has been abused far enough – it wasn’t intended for hunting or self defense, it was intended so that there would be a well-armed populace to rise up against the government. Numerous Founding Fathers said as much, and Jefferson went so far as to hope that there was a popular insurrection every 20 years!

      Your entire argument assumes that EVERYONE will follow the law – unless you are a complete moron, even YOU know that isn’t the case.

  5. There are plenty of veterans who have been what firearms can do; to them, to their buddies and to their enemies- by them! Yet among these (myself included) support for these anti-2nd Amendment measures is conspicuously lacking. Why? Perhaps we also understand better than most what happens when the guntoting minions of tyranny take over a town or village of unarmed people and enforce their will. GIs also understand the idiocy of those who think that offering a hippie flower to a rampaging criminal is any substitute for shooting him down before he can inflict more harm.

    Feinstein understands nothing. She lives behind locked doors in a guarded residence where the Summer of Love carries on. Not only does she not understand the Constitution and its rationale, she doesn’t even understand love. Love happens when a man on the street sees children in dire peril of their lives from a crazed, heavily armed assailant and shoots the S.O.B. Greater love hath no man…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.