If I had the time and wanted to anger about two-thirds of my friends, I could go around Facebook and explain to them why their latest posted anti-gun meme, or latest simple-minded anti-gun cartoon, or furious rant against the NRA, Republicans and “gun nuts,” show them to be ignorant, hysterical, and irresponsible citizens. Maybe I’ll spend a day doing this and see what happens.
The culprits are everywhere, from all backgrounds. These aren’t just my actor friends, who tend to memorize lines with their brains and think with their hearts. It’s many of the lawyers I know too….also journalists, writers, policy-makers—all kinds. As they quote with approval partisan and ignorant anti-gun pundits, actors or elected officials, they also erupt with emotion, counting on a welter of “likes,” “loves” and crying faces from the friends, who uncritically cheer the sentiment without challenging the execrable law and logic. The process repeats over and over, like a rinse cycle, until the original posters are not only convinced that they are right, but that anyone who disagrees is an evil promoter of violence not worthy of human association. I have read, more than once, “If you disagree, keep your opinion to yourself, or I’ll unfriend you.”
I confess, I’ve resisted my natural instinct to take up those dares, because these people are in pain, and, frankly, temporarily deranged. Many of them are gay, an identify personally with the victims. I sympathize with that. They also have a right to their anti-gun opinions, but they are polluting an important debate and making any resolution impossible by being willfully ignorant, and rebelling in it. The lawyers are especially disgracing themselves. Again—it is irresponsible, and it is bad citizenship.
If I were going to be a Facebook vigilante and point out the serious flaws in the various anti-gun rants, my Facebook friends would find more notes like this one, which I left in response to a good friend’s rant against the head of the Gun Owners of America blaming the Orlando shooting on “Gun Free Zones.” My friend wrote…
“I’m willing to entertain just about any argument for gun rights, but this one is SHIT. I will not be convinced that on Sunday evening, even a few, trained, people violating the Gun Free Zone in a dimly lit club, with HUNDREDS of panicked, perhaps inebriated, people running in every direction for their lives, could get a “good shot” to take out the man responsible for this atrocity. I believe the result is called more deaths by “friendly fire.”
I responded in part…
The argument is that murderous shooters will be less likely to come to kill when there is a chance that someone will be armed. This is not “shit”…This is the oldest pro-gun/anti-gun divide of all: the criminals and terrorists aren’t the ones who will follow the gun regulations; law abiding citizens are. That should be obvious. I don’t believe for a moment that one can blame the massacre on ” Gun Free Zones.”…but the argument that a shooting occurred because an area wasn’t a Gun Free Zone is even more silly. Is a terrorist going to say, “Ooops! Can’t slaughter gays in that club—it’s a Gun Free Zone!” Of course not. Might a terrorist choose not to attack a venue where he knows that one or more people might be armed, rather than one where he knows the law-abiding victims will be defenseless? Maybe.
Your point of bias, and it’s a common one, is that the presence of a gun makes one unsafe. The presence of a maniac makes one unsafe. If you happen to have a gun, maybe you’re a bit safer. Agree or not, that isn’t “fucking insane.” What I do think is fucking insane is people allowing emotion to eat their brains all over Facebook. It doesn’t help.
It just doesn’t help. This friend is rational and thoughtful, and I expect him to take my critique in the spirit in which it was offered. I can’t always count on a reasonable response, however, such as from the friends have posted this meme:
Machine guns and automatic weapons are illegal. The meme goes along with the laments of those who believe that the Orlando shooter used an “assault rifle” or a military weapon in the shooting. When you point out that it was not an “assault weapon,” they just shrug the distinction off as an irrelevant detail, and this is a tell. All guns are indistinguishable to many of my friends. Guns are bad, that’s all. This undercuts the lie—and I am now convinced that it is a lie—that they don’t want to ban guns and repeal the Second Amendment.
Ken White wrote perceptively, as he usually does, on why this approach is both dishonest and counter-productive:
I support the argument that the United States should enact a total ban on civilians owning firearms.
Oh, I don’t support the ban. I support the argument.
I support the argument because it’s honest and specific. It doesn’t hide the ball, it doesn’t refuse to define terms, it doesn’t tell rely on telling people they are paranoid or stupid in their concerns about the scope of the ban. The argument proposes a particular solution and will require the advocate to defend it openly…There’s a very good reason to care about what you mean when you argue that “assault weapons” should be banned: the term is infinitely flexible. If you think it inherently means something specific, you haven’t bothered to inform yourself about the issue. “Assault weapon” means whatever the definers decide it should mean. Banning “assault weapons” is the gun version of banning “hate speech” or “disruptive protest” or “dangerous persons” or “interfering with a police officer” — it’s a blank check. And I don’t like handing out blank checks to the government to ban things and jail people…