This was was updated to clarify an argument.
A Straw Man Sighting.
There’s an epidemic in this country. No, not the flu, but a disease that cripples its victims’ abilities to make fallacy free arguments. This disease has hit the American people hard of late. Since the tragic Newton massacre, no one has been safe from this disease. Pundits, politicians, lobby groups, and impromptu watercooler discussion groups have fallen like flies. Really this affliction has affected any national debate for what seems like the entire existence of politics. Abortion, gun control, gay marriage – you name it and the major arguments are based not on fact but on a host of frail, one dimensional foundations.
“If you support gay marriage then you must be gay.”
“If you support gun rights then you must be a crazy stockpiling militiaman.”
“If the Jews had had machine guns, Hitler never would have come to power.”
The NRA has fallen to the classic fallacy – comparing apples to oranges – in a shameless 30 second video where it asks loudly “Are the president’s kids more important than yours?” And then, assuming the answer to be an immediate red-necked “AW HELL NO”, it continues on to question why the President is against armed security in schools when his children are protected by tax-payer funded secret service.
(If the video does not work click here).
Let’s rewind that for a second. Is the President of the United State’s family more important than my own? Maybe not, but are they in more inherent danger than my family every single day that he’s in office? Let me hear a HELL YES! The President is a very public target on a huge spectrum of dangerous threats from terrorists to whack jobs trying to impress their favorite actress.
In response to being called cowardly by the White House an NRA spokesman said, “Whoever thinks the ad is about [President] Obama’s daughters are missing the point completely or they’re trying to change the subject.”
Apple: The President and his family are highly likely to be the target of a specific attack. Government intelligence does its best to stomp on that potential, but cracks are always slipped through.
Orange: The American populace, including our children, is highly unlikely to come under a specific attack. Again, government intelligence does its best to weed out the mass attacks but it’s the scary truth that we are vulnerable. Weapons are easy to get; Unlikely targets (libraries, grocery stores, your cul-de-sac) are unguarded sitting ducks. I am not going to feel safer if there is an armed gunman on every corner in this country. Guns can only stop a physical threat. Stronger mental health nets, better school programs (art and music classes, more efficient administrations, less crowded classrooms), and gun safety campaigns will do more to prevent the disenfranchised from becoming threats to our society than any gun toting, hall prowling guard has the chance to.
The US Government wastes an insane amount of money on lost causes.
I find it perfectly reasonable that the President has armed security for his family (and I didn’t hear the NRA complaining about it when Bush was in the White House). I do not find it reasonable that by arming teachers we are making our schools safer. These meta-physical wars – on drugs, on terrorism, on the slim chance that you’ll be shot by a crazy gunman rather than killed in a car crash – will never be won with armed response. We may spend billions of dollars on drug raids, we may kill Bin Laden, we may put armed guards in schools, but for every head you cut off another will grow in its place and sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.
As the pen is mightier than the sword, the only long term solutions will come from well educated, well thought out, and efficiently carried out responses. As the Daily Show’s John Stewart correctly points out, we did not dramatically decrease drunk driving by outlawing alcohol. We enacted serious campaigns to educate the public about drunk driving and enforced severe repercussions for offenders. How do we combat teenage parenthood and STDs? Widespread public sex-ed campaigns and easy access information and protection (some places are still working on the easy access part, but you get the idea).
So what will it take for our politicians and lobbyists to shut up, take a step back, and realize that the death penalty is expensive; wars are expensive; fighting terrorist mindsets with guns is not only idiotic but playing into their delusions; keeping abortion legal is good for society. Need I go on?!
The White House published a 23 item Gun Violence Reduction to-do list today. Many of the points directly tackle mental health background checks. Notably point 7: Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
I’m not a gun enthusiast, so I’m not going to squeal indignantly if the government decides to go ahead and outlaw semi-automatic guns for the public market outright. But I hope that we put the most effort into efforts like item 7. I would rather spend $4 billion dollars on a campaign like this than in putting more guns willingly in our schools.
Like I said, I’m a big believer in logic beating brawn every time. Our fabled heroes made a habit out of it.