Gun Control Debate 2013: Why Mr. Bhalla’s Article Is Wrong and Counterproductive

I just finished reading Asheesh Bhalla’s article on the gun control debate and walked away feeling frustrated that such an argument might be influencing opinion on gun issues.

I wanted to immediately respond, not because I’m frustrated, but because I think the article contributes to a counter-productive debate about gun control. It is quite offensive that Mr. Bhalla would actually suggest that congressmen are to blame for gun deaths.

Congress is no more responsible for deaths by guns than it is for deaths by cars. Congress could ban motorcycles and cars, which would drastically reduce the overall number of deaths, but it recognizes that cars are functional and are of valuable use in our nation (and not to mention, constitutionally protected). Guns, too, are functional and valuable.

Mr. Bhalla falsely compares gun legislation to the NSA abuse. First of all, it is just annoying that he makes the NSA scandal an issue of partisan politics. We have politicians from both sides coming out both for and against the NSA’s actions, including a Democratic president and Republican speaker of the House who have both defended it. That should be enough to put the partisan blame-shifting to rest. Comparing the two along party lines is not helpful or productive simply because the two do not fall along party lines.

Then, Mr. Bhalla falsely claims, “opponents of gun violence prevention bills think that their right to possess any weapon is absolute.” That could not be more wrong. Show me where any legitimate group has said that. How many nuclear bomb rights activists do you see out there? This is damaging to the conversation and takes a cheap shot at gun-rights advocates by attributing an argument to us that we do not make. In case you hadn’t noticed, there is very little serious talk out there advocating for huge explosive weapons rights. Maybe some fringe gun-rights activists says these kind of things, but the fact that Mr. Bhalla paints us “opponents of gun violence prevention bills” is a gross misunderstanding of the position.

We are not all about possessing weapons. We are about not limiting rights in the name of feel-good legislation in the way that many are. Gun legislation does very little to reduce gun deaths. Take a look at Mexico. The only thing this kind of cheap talk does is pit the two sides against each other. We all need to be anti-violence and not work against one another by blaming the other side of the aisle.

I think the comments section of Mr. Bhalla’s article clearly puts an end to the false data that he presents regarding the supposed “90% of Americans [who] favor background checks.” It is also very harmful to the argument to not read the sources that one cites and instead use them out of context. This oft-cited statistic comes from a question about background checks at gun shows and was phrased like this: “Would you support or oppose a law requiring background checks on people buying guns at gun shows?” Mr. MacBradaigh wrote an article putting an end to the unfair use of this statistic. Additionally, gun shows only represent a small portion of firearms purchases nationwide.

As PolicyMic writer Josh Hill explains, anti-violence and pro-gun are not mutually exclusive positions. Members of Congress can oppose new gun legislation on the grounds that many of these proposed laws are unconstitutional, but they can also point out that such laws won’t do anything to reduce gun violence. Both of those views are respectable and boil down to a difference in opinion about our Constitution. They have nothing to do with being “opposed [to] the previous attempt to pass gun violence prevention measures.”

In the comments section of the article, Mr. Bhalla constructs another straw man: He compares rejecting gun-control measures on the basis that criminals will commit crime either way, with the belief that we should remove all laws because criminals will inevitably break them. This is nothing but a false analogy. Gun laws cannot be equated, as Mr. Bhalla does, to burglary laws. To use the Latin, burglary is mala in se, or wrong in and of itself, while gun ownership is not.

There are plenty of legitimate uses for guns; protection, sport shooting, hunting, etc. This is, yet again, another counter-productive argument that unfairly damages the arguments made by Second Amendment advocates. Plenty of laws already exist, they just aren’t well-enforced.

I believe that we have a problem with violence in this nation. Guns just happen to be a tool used by violent people. Let’s actually come together, not unfairly portray our opponents, and find a path toward reducing violence, wherever it is. This is not something a law can eliminate.

To Mr. Bhalla: Thank you for contributing your thoughts, and please recognize that my words are not aimed at you personally, but rather your argument. I would love to brainstorm with anyone about realistic ideas to reduce violence in our nation. I welcome criticism and debate, for this is what makes our nation great.

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