Gun control advocates use false dichotomy to push regulation

Gun control advocates use false dichotomy to push regulation
San Jose Police Department via AP

For a while this summer, Tennessee was the big story in the gun world. The special session following the deadly shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville was bound to have that effect.

The special session was meant to pass gun control but ultimately didn’t.

That has angered a lot of people. They wanted new gun laws and were sure they would get them. After all, even Tennessee’s Republican governor wanted at least something.

They got none, though, so now it’s time for the recriminations to begin. Unsurprisingly, we’re seeing some appeals to emotion in an effort to try and push the issue.

It starts with a headline that reads: “Why are gun rights more important to some than the right to turn 10?”

It doesn’t get better, either.

Why do the people in our society who have the capacity to take action to prevent tragedies like the Covenant School shooting do nothing or, God forbid, do worse with senseless laws that undeniably guarantee more horror, anguish and fear?

People in their 60s at a small Christian school on a cool spring morning have a right to their lives. So do all the 9-year-olds alive today. Surely their right to just live, to celebrate another birthday, to grow up, to experience all this precious life has to offer eclipses the meaningless right to acquire machines for mass death, to look cool in a Christmas card photo or to rack up more votes from a “base” whose own opportunity to experience gun violence firsthand may come sooner than they can imagine.

This is all predicated on a false dichotomy–an informal logical fallacy that provides an artificially limited pool of choices to try and present their preferred option as the only viable choice.

No one thinks nine-year-olds don’t deserve to grow up. That’s not even a topic of discussion, yet we’re routinely told that we either give up some bit of our rights or we’re essentially saying kids should be murdered.

Obviously, I have issues with that claim.

See, people do have a right to life. That’s why we have laws on the books to try and protect it and to punish those who don’t respect that right.

Yet gun control is an infringement on the rights of others, and when you look at what happened in Nashville, I fail to see how any gun control would have stopped it. Oh, sure, the killer’s mom might have gotten a red flag order, but I’m skeptical of that claim. It’s easy to put all the pieces together after the fact, but even in states that have such orders, we still see mass shootings.

An assault weapon ban would have been meaningless since the killer used a firearm that likely would have survived most such bans.

So at the end of the day, most gun control laws wouldn’t have stopped the horrific events from happening. What it might do, though, is make it that much harder for someone else to protect their life or the life of their nine-year-old.

It’s never been about “pass gun control or let people die.” Reality is far too nuanced for that. Every law passed creates an intended consequence. With gun control, it may well end up resulting in more people being hurt or killed in the long run.

While it feels like a cold kind of calculus, the truth is that we have to make the decisions based on what saves the most lives over time.

We know that over 1.6 million people report using a firearm to defend themselves annually, as of the last survey done. That’s so many more than those who lose their lives to firearms. While each of those is a tragedy, a lot more people live to turn 10 because of the right to keep and bear arms.