"If guns are outlawed..." remark hardly a fallacy

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

“If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

I’m not going to ask if you’ve heard this. I know damn good and well that you have. Everyone has, even people not really interested in politics, guns, or the Second Amendment in general.


It’s one of those phrases that is designed to be simple, to convey a point about gun control and be easily remembered.

Yet over at Daily Kos, it seems someone has an issue with it. They think it’s a fallacy and they’re going to try to debunk it.

They hide behind cynical platitudes and specious logic — and cling to the NRA’s casuistic fantasy “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” These armchair Rambos dream of that critical moment when they will stride like John Wayne onto danger’s Main Street — and, with a clean and fatal shot, bring peace to the outlaw town.

It is a smug myth. Three hundred and seventy-six heavily armed officers stood by as 19 fourth-graders were slaughtered in Uvalde, TX, even as two teachers died trying to save them.

No, it’s not a smug myth. No one is saying that guns are talismans that ward off evil. Good people with guns have to actually act against bad people with guns.

In Uvalde, they didn’t. Frankly put, they were cowards who went against established protocols in such situation because they were scared of a gun–one that happened to have in their own arsenals–and declined to act.

Let’s keep that in perspective.

The solution to gun violence includes expanding gun regulation. But when the reasonable person says this, the fanatic hears “gun grab.” To complete this straw man fallacy, the gun absolutist whine, “If you make guns illegal, the only people who will have guns will be criminals.”

The gun lobby thinks that is a compelling argument. It is not. It is both a truism and absurd. It is a truism because if you make something illegal, by definition, anyone possessing it is a criminal. And absurd because no serious politician has proposed banning guns.


First, an assault weapon ban is a gun ban. Just because it’s not a total gun ban, don’t pretend it’s not a gun ban. And if you ban AR-15s, only outlaws will have them and that’s a point I’ll get to in a bit.

As for serious politicians and gun bans, Gabby Giffords isn’t a serious politician? She’s said she wants to ban guns.

We’ve also got a group in Colorado that explicitly wants the governor there to ban all guns by decree. Now, I’ll grant you that Sairo Rao isn’t a serious person, but that kind of brings me to an interesting point. The No True Scotsman fallacy.

In other words, “no serious politician” sets up a condition where any example you provide of someone saying they want to ban all guns is met with “but they’re not a serious politician.”

Yet through it all, the author–who calls the quote I started this piece with a fallacy–has missed the point underlying that quote.

In particular, that gun control restricts the actions of the law-abiding but not those of criminals. As a result, it puts the law-abiding at a tactical and strategic disadvantage when faced with a violent criminal.

Criminals find ways to do whatever it is they want to do, but the law-abiding are inhibited from not just owning guns, but defending themselves.

That’s where gun control takes us. It’s where it’s always taken us.


It’s not clever to pretend that you don’t understand what it means or say that no “serious” politician is calling for a gun ban. Especially when we all know that’s the endgame anyway. Every restriction just gives way to still another restriction. You can eat up rights indefinitely until a gun ban is all that’s left.

At best, things get so restrictive that they might as well be banned, which isn’t functionally different and it’s disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

So the author here thinks he’s being clever, but he’s just displaying his ignorance.

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