It's hard to tell how many people on the web are writing comments arguing against any kind of gun control. There may be hundreds, or maybe only one. Many of these posts use the same arguments. It's suspicious that so many of them have good grammar and spelling, because many commenters have neither. They appear to be copying talking points, just as climate change deniers parrot the same points, then move on when the latest on is debunked. How many fraudulent claims need to be debunked before people stop believing the next one?
In the same way, gun violence deniers hit the same points over and over again:
Stage 1. Gun violence is not a problem. This point works much of the time, but the deniers have a hard time defending it when 23 children are killed in a school, or 12 office workers and police are killed on a US navy base. Then, the deniers move on to stage 2 of their denialism.
Stage 2. OK, Gun violence is a problem, but there's a very simple solution: Everyone should carry a gun wherever they go, to church, to work, to school. This excuse works because many people are looking for revenge after the latest binge of senseless murders. But this excuse fails when a man armed with a shotgun breaks into a naval base and kills 12 people before he himself is killed by police. Surely the answer is not so simple.
Stage 3. Gun violence is a problem, but there is no solution so we'll just have to live with it. This opinion is currently being heavily defended by the NRA. One of their favorite tactics is to flood the internet with pro-gun violence posts. This approach, a form of trolling, reminds me of a denial of service attack, where hackers send thousands of fake messages to a website, forcing the website to shut down. Only people who have no real confidence in their message and are at the same time utterly unscrupulous, would use this tactic, but that's the NRA in a nutshell. But the argument that there is no solution is easily disproved because there are numerous countries where gun control measures have been adopted and the murder rate has declined. For example, the murder rate in the US is 27 times higher than that of Australia.
Stage 4. Gun violence is a problem. Solutions that have worked in other countries will not work in the US, either because the US is unique (exceptional) in the world. Australia, for example is said to have suffered urban violence in recent years. Statistics do not show any increase in the murder rate due to urban violence in Australia. Stories told of other countries with low murder rates turn out to be exaggerated or made up entirely.
Stage 5. Gun violence is a problem, but we can do nothing to stop it because the US constitution guarantees Americans the right to keep and bear arms. The Constitution, however, does not guarantee the right of Americans to kill each other with guns. In District of Columbia v. Heller, (554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, but that
nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.1
Since Heller, the NRA has persisted in passing ever more lenient gun violence laws. Each new law increases the likelihood for sudden death at the hands of enraged gunmen. The NRA has taken its anti-democratic tactics to new levels with contributions from obscenely rich men. Our only hope of sane gun violence policy in this country is that the Supreme Court decided Heller by only one vote. A future, less ideologically hidebound court, will certainly reverse that course.
NB: As I have indicated, the NRA has tried to stifle opposition to its views. If you agree with the opinions expressed in this post, please circulate it to your friends and, by so doing, help end the NRA's reign of terror over the corrupt and cowardly politicians who currently inhabit the Capitol and our statehouses.
1. DC v. Heller, Opinion of the Court, p. 54.