I have been engaged in the gun-rights battle professionally for nearly 30 years. I started pondering the complexities when I was four or five years old and living in Missoula, Montana. A bumper sticker on a truck stopped at a traffic light in front of my family’s 1973 Ford Pinto depicted an image of a hand clenching a pistol. Seeing the gun made me curious, and my mother explained the words under the image—“From My Cold, Dead Hand.”
I immediately asked why anyone would want to take guns from people. It didn’t make sense. If anything showed that it is possible for gun rights and individual liberty to be embedded in a person’s DNA, this might have been it. Political debate did not exist at that time in my household—this wasn’t a mindset that was learned from my environment.
Private gun debates are all too common today. We have been forced to engage. There is no subject that people are so comfortable debating when they know so little. Emotion fuels them. Borrowing from Ronald Reagan, “They know so much that isn’t so.” Some don’t care about the facts, and others feel they should be anti-gun but can be persuaded by calm, rational, meaningful debate. It is these folks we should seek to persuade in the effort to preserve what is left of essential American freedoms. It is about their hearts and minds. These fence-sitters will decide our fate.
How to Debunk 11 of the Most Common Anti-Gun Arguments
Consistent with the Colion Noir-school of influence in this realm, I have found the best approach to overcoming weak anti-gun arguments is to boil the issues down to basic, irrefutable logic, and demonstrably true facts. Here, I will address 11 of the most common claims made by the gun-control crowd—a number symbolic of their ammunition capacity limitation dreams. When you engage, make your points sharp and concise. Don’t hesitate to ask the rhetorical questions that have the effect of driving home the point.
1) The Second Amendment does not protect an individual’s right to own firearms. It’s about the “militia.”
The “collective right” argument was mercifully put to rest by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2008 Heller case. It first surfaced about 150 years after the Amendment was adopted, which should be your first clue that it might not be legitimate. Wouldn’t it be strange for “people” in the text of the Second Amendment to have a different meaning than “people” used in the First, Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments of the Bill of Rights? It means you, me, and other American citizens.
Mention of the “militia” in the prefatory clause has no bearing on the operative clause enshrining “the right of the people to keep and bear arms…” The prefatory clause is merely an explanation of why the Founders thought the right was important (shield against tyranny). It could have just as easily mentioned the dangers posed by little, green Martians with no effect on the core, God-given right being protected.
2) No right is absolute. You aren’t allowed to yell “fire” in a crowded theater.
The language of the Second Amendment actually uses the words “shall not be infringed.” That’s pretty darn absolute. Despite this, estimates suggest there are more than 20,000 federal, state, and local gun-control laws on the books. Did someone say “absolute?” Those who are tempted to use the “yelling fire in a crowded theater” argument need to think for just a moment.
Gun control is tantamount to the government requiring all people entering a movie theater to wear a muzzle so they are unable to yell fire, even if there is one. We don’t do this in America. We punish those who yell fire without cause. Those of us who oppose gun control want the same treatment. Punish those who use guns recklessly or violently. Don’t preemptively restrict the good guys’ freedom. We are the majority. They are the tiny minority.
3) More guns mean more crime.
This is demonstrably false. According to the FBI, violent crime rates peaked in America in 1991. From that year to 2019, there were 214 million firearms manufactured for the U.S. civilian market. If more guns mean more violent crime, then violent-crime rates would have increased to record highs since 1991, right? This is not what happened, not even close. These rates decreased nearly every single year during this period, as Americans purchased an average of more than 7.5 million guns per year.
Instead of record highs, the country experienced low rates of violence not seen in more than half of a century. It is worth noting that these annual decreases in violence included the years after the 2004 expiration of the so-called “assault weapons” ban. The anti-gun crowd predicted blood would flow deep in the streets. Nope. More guns—even of the scary-looking variety—do not mean more crime.
4) Guns in the hands of criminals are so dangerous and deadly that they must be banned.
Those making this argument simultaneously argue that guns are so ineffective in the hands of law-abiding, good citizens that they should not be owned for self-defense. There is no way to reconcile these contentions, especially when criminals are rarely trained in the use of firearms. The fact is that firearms have been useful for self-defense in the hands of good men and women for hundreds of years. The only thing we can truly control is whether the good people among us have access to them if evil comes calling. Who would ever want to deny the opportunity to be at least on a level playing field with the bad guys?
5) People who think they need guns for protection are paranoid.
Wait, who is paranoid here? Aren’t the gun-control activists the ones who are arguing that the country is so dangerous, and there are so many bad people out there, that we need to surrender a constitutionally protected right? We are simply the ones who want the most effective tools available to respond to the bad people we apparently both agree exist. There are at least 430 million civilian-owned guns in the United States. These are not going to vanish into thin air. Criminals will always have guns. Let us have ours.
6) We should adopt gun control if it “saves just one life.”
Gun control laws of every kind have been studied by the U.S. Justice Department, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Academy of Sciences, among other federal entities, and no law has been found to have a statistically significant impact on violent crime rates. In other words, gun-control laws do not save lives. It is worth mentioning that these research entities most often begin with a bias toward supporting more gun control.
Would gun-control proponents support a national speed limit of five miles per hour? It would irrefutably save thousands of innocent lives each year, not just one. More than 35,000 people are killed in traffic accidents every year. Of course, they would not because it would be inconvenient for them. They might not own guns, but they do own cars. This example more than any other puts to rest the “just one life” lie. The fact is that rights and privileges always have their costs, but the benefits, including the ability to defend ourselves and crime-deterrence effects, outweigh these costs.
7) Those seeking more gun control are motivated by safety not the centralization of power.
This may be true of some, but it is not true of career politicians and activists. For them, it is all about stripping power from the people and placing it with the government. The best evidence of this is the unrelenting push for an “assault rifle” ban. FBI reports show that rifles of any kind (including those “hunting guns” even Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi say they do not want to ban) accounted for a total of 297 murders in 2018. This is a representative number year-to-year, in a country of 330 million people.
Twice as many are killed with knives, and three times as many are killed with hands and feet each year. If this were not about taking power, the energy would be spent on measures that would truly save lives without stripping people of their rights. Let’s talk about dramatically increasing efforts to stop fentanyl trafficking, including extremely harsh penalties for traffickers. The total number of drug overdose deaths in America last year exceeded 100,000.
8) FBI statistics show that only a few hundred criminals are killed by armed citizens every year. Clearly, guns don’t provide any real means of self-defense.
The goal of self-defense is not to kill an attacker. It is to stop the attack. Concentrating on a mere body count of dead criminals is to totally disregard the amazing restraint shown by the hundreds of thousands of Americans who use guns to defend themselves and their families every year. Guns are rarely discharged in self-defense instances. Fortunately, the mere presentation or threat of gun use is almost always enough to encourage an attacker to find something safer to do. Then, of course, there are the many attackers wounded by civilian gun owners, but not killed. The annual number of justifiable homicides by law enforcement is roughly similar to those killed by civilians, but disarming the police is still not a mainstream sentiment in the U.S.
9) Only law enforcement officers are competent enough to be trusted with firearms.
The best competitive shooters across every city, county, and state are almost all civilians. How is this possible if only law enforcement officers can be good with their guns? When law enforcement officers display true skills and efficiency with their firearms, civilians are known to overwhelm them with praise for their willingness to take the initiative to go above and beyond standard on-the-job training, which is too often lacking, especially in big departments. When elected officials make this claim about their constituents, the stench of elitism is stomach-churning.
10) Americans are too dangerous, violent, and unpredictable to be trusted to carry firearms in public.
There are 22 million citizens licensed to carry concealed handguns in the U.S. Law-abiding gun owners in 21 states carry without any license whatsoever. In other words, more than 100 million Americans may legally carry firearms in public every day. If these people were causing problems, states would be moving to restrict their laws. None has made a serious effort to do so in decades.
In Texas in 2018, there were 1.4 million residents licensed to carry a concealed handgun. The Texas Department of Public Safety keeps detailed data on these people. That year, only 163 were convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crime of any kind, no matter how insignificant. This is a conviction rate of 11.5 per 100,000 when the rate for the general population in the U.S. is 3,813 per 100,000. This is verifiable data brought to light by the esteemed researcher John Lott.
If these 1.4 million people constituted “Texas License Holder City,” it would be the safest large city in the world, and it wouldn’t even be a close call. This would be a city the size of Dallas or San Diego where the cops and courts wouldn’t have anything to do. The jails and prisons would be empty. Concealed carry license holders are the most law-abiding significant sub-population in the country. These laws are arguably the most successful social science experiments in history. The experience in Texas is no exception.
11) No one needs an AR-15 for self-defense. As the maxim goes, it’s a “bill of rights,” not a “bill of needs.”
If others are able to determine what we need to exercise our rights, they would have no meaning at all. Do we allow others to tell us exactly what we “need” to say in order to exercise our First Amendment right to free speech? It is no one’s prerogative to determine what we “need” to defend ourselves or our families. If military and law enforcement always prefer to use their version of the AR-15, not handguns or shotguns, to go after bad guys in dangerous situations, it is absolutely inappropriate for the government to deny me or other good Americans these, same most effective tools.