The debate about gun control is an important debate to have, however, many common errors arise in the reasoning used in this debate. One type of an error in reasoning is called a fallacy, read about fallacies here and here. Below, I’ve provided some examples of common fallacious arguments used in the gun debate:
The constitution gives us rights to guns,
So we ought to have rights to guns.
Naturalistic Fallacy: claims about what ought to be on the basis of statements about what is.
The founding fathers wanted us to have guns,
so we ought to have guns.
Genetic fallacy – where a conclusion is suggested based solely on something or someone’s origin rather than its current meaning or context.
Historian’s fallacy – occurs when one assumes that decision makers of the past viewed events from the same perspective and having the same information as those subsequently analyzing the decision.
historian’s fallacy may argue that the current style of weapons would (or would not) be allowed by the founders.
The Constitution gives me a right,
so there are no limits to that right.
Non sequitur: it does not follow.
Here are examples of limits on Free Speech: “child pornography laws, speech that incites imminent lawless action, and regulation of commercial speech such as advertising. Within these limited areas, other limitations on free speech balance rights to free speech and other rights, such as rights for authors over their works (copyright), protection from imminent or potential violence against particular persons, and restrictions on the use of untruths to harm others (slander).”
The terrorist watch list is flawed,
so people on it should not be banned from owning guns.
False dilemma (false dichotomy, fallacy of bifurcation, black-or-white fallacy) – two alternative statements are held to be the only possible options, when in reality, there are more.
One can argue that we both ban those people from owning guns and fix the watch list simultaneously.
The 2nd amendment guarantees me the right to arms,
so I can have any kind of weapon I want.
The 2nd amendment says arms are necessary to the security of a free state,
so any limits on arms means we no longer live in a free state.
Etymological fallacy – which reasons that the original or historical meaning of a word or phrase is necessarily similar to its actual present-day usage.
The 2nd amendment states: A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
So debate using the terms regulated, militia, arms etc. can be fallacious.
We don’t know all the negative consequences of potential gun control,
so we shouldn’t enact any gun control.
“It is common for arguments which commit this fallacy to omit any specifics about exactly how, or how badly, a proposed solution is claimed to fall short of acceptability, expressing the rejection only in vague terms. Alternatively, it may be combined with the fallacy of misleading vividness, when a specific example of a solution’s failure is described in emotionally powerful detail but base rates are ignored.”
A lot more people die of heart disease (or some other cause) than because of guns,
so we shouldn’t try and fix gun deaths.
The probability of dying in a mass shooting is low,
so we shouldn’t do anything about mass shooting.
Fallacy of relative privation (“not as bad as”) –
Dismissing an argument or complaint due to the existence of more important problems in the world, regardless of whether those problems bear relevance to the initial argument.
Just because something has a low probability doesn’t mean you should not take steps to be prepared/ do something about it. Being killed by a drunk driver is a relativity low risk, but there are things we do to try and prevent them.
We’ll never be able to keep all people from getting guns illegally,
so we shouldn’t do anything about it.
We’ll never be able to stop all mass shootings,
so we shouldn’t do anything about it.
Nirvana fallacy: It does not follow that if a proposed solution is not perfect, then we should do nothing.
example: These anti-drunk driving ad campaigns are not going to work. People are still going to drink and drive no matter what.
Complete eradication of drunk driving is not the expected outcome. The goal is reduction.