Why we disagree on guns

7 min readNov 15, 2017

Every gun related massacre brings out the most predictable and primitive reactions to what is and should be a very nuanced policy discussion. In one outrageously boisterous corner, you have the hysterical elements of the left demanding the immediate implementation of gun regulation that would, by every metric fail to prevent each and every tragedy that has provoked their indignation. In the other corner, you have a reflexively partisan conglomerate of gun rights aficionados who clutch their rifles thinking the more they repeat slogans like ‘molon labe’ and ‘from my cold, dead hands,’ the stronger they make their case. In fact, it does the opposite.

At its core, the gun control debate is a matter of culture. This is why it represents a flashpoint for so much political debate. This culture gap can only be narrowed through a sincere investigation of the facts, and the facts happen to align all on one side.

First and foremost, the policy prescriptions that progressives adamantly insist upon would have done absolutely nothing to prevent the most recent tragedy in Texas nor any other. As is the case with many of the left’s empathetically driven policies, the amount to knee jerk reactions to issues that necessitate a bit more thought than - ban them.

To the disbelief of many casual news consumers. Senator Rubio explained that no measure yet proposed would have stopped any of these tragedies.

The natural response would be to scoff and perhaps point to a shadowy NRA megadonor or ventriloquist pulling the strings of their senator puppet. How could it be that not one of the recent massacres could be prevented by government regulation? The Washington Post then confirmed that reality did, in fact, align with Rubio’s statements, that not a single mass shooting would have been prevented by the commonly cited regulations of “closing gun loopholes” or “banning high capacity magazines.”

This is certainly a depressing chronicle of death and tragedy. But Rubio’s statement stands up to scrutiny — at least for the recent past, as he framed it.

What’s important to understand is that two thirds of gun deaths are by suicide, but they’re lumped in with homicide to sensationalize the matter instead of making that important distinction.

They use the catchall phrase of gun deaths to misleadingly make a case for vaguely defined gun control measures, even while the same measures they propose are already the law in California, which is where three of the last five mass shootings took place. Unless, of course, we ban so-called assault rifles at the federal level. And that brings into question what exactly would we do with the 5 million rifles already in circulation?

Although progressives operate under the delusion that a buyback program would look like Australia’s, the United States is a country in which there are more guns than there are people with a history and tradition steeped in skepticism of government and the rightful enshrinement of arms as a bulwark against such a pernicious force. Not to mention mass shootings were “too rare” in Australia for their absence after the buyback program to be clear, evidence of progress. And in both Australia and Britain, the gun restrictions had an ambiguous effect on other gun related crimes or deaths.

Overall, the effects of Britain’s and Australia’s gun buybacks aren’t as clear as headlines after U.S. mass shootings suggest when urging U.S. officials to follow their lead. Some of the possible positive effects — in particular, a reduction in mass shootings — are hard to measure because the phenomenon itself is rare before and after. When it comes to gun homicides and suicides, neither reform has a clear, positive record.

Nobody should be allowed to have ‘weapons of war’ is repeated ad nauseum and yet the overwhelming majority of gun deaths aren’t in the extraordinarily rare vein of a mass shooting by assault rifle. They are, but the humble Glock used primarily by and against young gang affiliated men. When considering the facts of the matter, you begin to understand that guns aren’t the problem, but rather the culture of criminality afflicting certain communities, the reasons for which are no doubt nested in a larger debate about the war on drugs, culture, etc

But if the so-called epidemic is almost entirely centered around suicides and handguns, why is it that the AR 15 is always getting the brunt of the blame? The reasons are primarily cultural, as the NRA understands. But instead of bridging the divide and shedding light on progressive ignorance, it inflames. It should be said at the outset that the NRA has done excellent work in the defense of the Second Amendment, but in fashioning itself as a cultural extension of Trump or the Republican Party, it does itself a disservice.

Yes, the vast majority of those positively predisposed to guns lean right. This is largely due to the aforementioned cultural reasons. For a person in Texas, it isn’t particularly uncommon to see someone carrying a handgun on their waist, whereas the exact same sight in somewhere like California would ignite panic.

But these cultural phenomenons are irrelevant to the facts. And if metropolitan politicos are presented with such facts, they might be able to push through their culturally ingrained discomfort and understand the truth of the matter. But when NRATV fires off something titled We’re Coming for You New York Times, it reinforces the precise kind of negative stereotypes that amp up metropolitan gun hysteria. It’s obviously silly to take NRA videos as anything more than cringe inducing, childish attempts at pandering to the lowest common denominator of Republicans, but it did not take long for Democrats to exploit this. It opened the door for political opportunists to offer a counter reaction with its absurdly dangerous propositions like New York Congressman Kathleen Rice’ — that we ought to label the NRA a terrorist organization. It hearkens back to a time where top Democrats, like then Vice President Joe Biden likened those in the Tea Party to terrorists. In this instance, they were referring to their hard line stance on spending, but it has been a recurring theme by many on the left to paint the right as a radical fringe, just one gay marriage away from blowing up City Hall. A case study in just how culturally driven this debate would be the progressive argument that we should not base our immigration policy on the statistically insignificant occurrences of radical Islamic terror in the US. Meanwhile, they don’t extend the same logic to gun rights, even while the probability of your dying in a mass shooting is just as unlikely as if you were to be killed by a terrorist.

“One basic problem with how we understand scary news is that our brains care a lot more about stories, and they do about statistics. We’re not very good at math, so we often judge the severity of a risk by how often we encounter it. That’s Bruce Schneier. He’s a security expert who’s written a lot about why our brains overreact to scary news stories. And those stories stick to us more than the data does. So we make risk decisions more based on the stories than the reality. So if we see a bunch of stories about shark attacks, we think shark attacks are common. If we see a story about a plane crash, we will overestimate the risks of flying. We don’t do this because we’re dumb. “It’s a basic psychological problem. News, by definition, is something that almost never happens. But that’s not the way our brains work. If it’s in the news, if it’s talked about, if we hear about it a lot, we confuse that with it being common. And you can see this problem most clearly when it comes to terrorism. The chances of you or someone, you know, dying from terrorism are virtually zero. Terrorism looks scary, but it kills a shockingly low number of Americans. You are way less likely to die from terrorism than you are from choking on food while watching TV also causes us to pursue security measures that sound good but don’t actually make us safer. And Schneier invented a term for it. He calls it security theater. Security theater is a security measure that looks good but doesn’t do anything. And they’re not going to make us safer. But they’re big, they’re public. And there’s a segment of the United States that is scared and sees those things and feels safer. It’s not just that these strategies don’t work. It’s that the opposite of the types of strategies that actually do make us safer if we actually want to be safer. Often the best things to do are the things that don’t make a splash.”

Statistics only seem to matter when it suits your narrative in contemporary politics. When the facts are so evidently aligned with the NRA’s position, is it wise to play to fears rather than to reverse them? Now, more than ever, is a well-reasoned, substantive case for gun rights necessary, and this can only be done by turning the most silly and fear driven ignorance of guns on its head. This is the wiser and more effective path and embodying the caricature drawn up by metropolitan progressives. Any policy interventions that have any hope of solving gun violence in America require a sober, specific approach directed not towards guns themselves, but the afflicted behind them. Anything short of that is likely a fear mongering play at characterizing political opposition as soulless monsters who trade lives or blood money. In the end, we live in one of the most tranquil times in history. Though gun ownership has skyrocketed by 50%. Violent crime, including gun crime, continues to take a nosedive. It’s easy to capitalize on isolated incidents of tragedy for political gain, but crafting actual solutions takes a lot more thought.