The Gun Debate

If you get angry over this debate, think like a debater

You may think that debaters are trained to be hot-headed blowhards, but the exact opposite is true. Only untrained debaters are typical hot-heads in conversations. Everyone should think like a debater. Everyone. And I’m going to show you how.

President Tears and Fears

Debaters are trained to follow the research, not emotional appeals or fallacious claims.

Contrary to what some believe, debaters are trained to hold their tongues until they thoroughly research the proposition at hand. Before taking an opinion on anything, they scour the news, read expert opinions, and become humble students of those who know more than they do. Really good debaters weed out fallacious claims that tend to sweep up the simple minded.

Perhaps I’m describing you. Please, don’t fall into the temptation to forward the stupid, straw man, hyper-biased meme or quote. Instead, take an hour or two and scour the headlines, read up on what experts say, and use reasonable skills to come to thoroughly studied conclusions.

And be brave enough to let the truth set your prejudices free.

Let me show you how it’s done. Trust me, your political stances will be much more logical, researched and believable. You start by letting research guide you.

The following are what debaters call “cards.” They are pieces of evidence cut from credible sources that serve as evidence to claims. The bolded headline is the claim (called the “tag), and it is followed by a citation and the cut piece of evidence.

Obama Blames and Puts Responsibility for Gun Violence on Congress

The White House. “FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer.”

Some of the gaps in our country’s gun laws can only be fixed through legislation, which is why the President continues to call on Congress to pass the kind of commonsense gun safety reforms supported by a majority of the American people. And while Congress has repeatedly failed to take action and pass laws that would expand background checks and reduce gun violence, today, building on the significant steps that have already been taken over the past several years.

Obama Has Bipartisan Support

Victor Luckerson. “Read Barack Obama’s Speech on New Gun Control Measures.” Time, January 5, 2016.

Two United States Senators — Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, both gun owners, both strong defenders of our Second Amendment rights, both with “A” grades from the NRA – that’s hard to get — worked together in good faith, consulting with folks like our Vice President, who has been a champion on this for a long time, to write a common-sense compromise bill that would have required virtually everyone who buys a gun to get a background check.

Obama Turns Support into Political Fight With Republicans

Victor Luckerson. “Read Barack Obama’s Speech on New Gun Control Measures.” Time, January 5, 2016.

That was it. Pretty common-sense stuff. Ninety percent of Americans supported that idea. Ninety percent of Democrats in the Senate voted for that idea. But it failed because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate voted against that idea.

Obama’s Executive Action Has Only One New Regulation

Gregory Korte (USA TODAY reporter). “Chastened by immigration, Obama shows restraint on guns.” USA Today, January 6, 2016.

As executive actions go, President Obama’s effort to clamp down on illegal guns was relatively restrained. The actions contained no executive orders, the best known and most formal exercise of unilateral presidential authority — only a presidential memorandum asking federal agencies to study smart gun technology. He proposed only one new regulation, a Social Security Administration rule that would allow it to share lists of people on disability with the national background check system.

Executive Actions Are Guides, Not Binding Regulations

Eric Lichtblau and Michael D. Shear (NYT reporters). “Tearful Obama Outlines Steps to Curb Gun Deaths.” The New York Times, January 5, 2016. [brackets added]

A number of the executive actions [President Obama] plans are only suggested “guidance” for federal agencies, not binding regulations. They were framed mostly as clarifying and enforcing existing law, not expanding it. And many of those measures rely on hefty funding increases that a Republican-led Congress is almost certain to reject.

Even the NRA Is Not Impressed

Michael D. Shear and Eric Lichtblau (NYT reporters). “Obama Says He Will Act on Gun Control in Coming Days.” The New York Times, January 5, 2016.

A spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association said on Monday that the organization’s lawyers would look at the president’s proposals more closely to determine if there was anything they might go to court to challenge. But she said that at first glance the plan seemed surprisingly thin. “This is it, really?” asked Jennifer Baker, an official with the N.R.A.’s Washington lobbying arm. “This is what they’ve been hyping for how long now? This is the proposal they’ve spent seven years putting together? They’re not really doing anything.”

Small Link Between Mental Illness and Gun Control

Maria Konnikova (contributor to, where she writes regularly about psychology and science). “Is There a Link Between Mental Health and Gun Violence?” The New Yorker, November 24, 2014.

When it comes to the other types of firearms fatalities, though, it seems fairly clear that the link is quite small and far from predictive. After an incident like Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech, policymakers often strive to improve gun control for the future—and those efforts often focus on mental health and the reporting of prior records, as in the case of Connecticut. But if you look at people like Jaylen Fryberg, Mason Campbell, or Karl Pierson, you see no formal diagnosis of mental illness, and often, no actual signs of instability, either. Even when there are signs, as in Pierson’s case, they often remain undiagnosed: Pierson was sent home from a mental-health evaluation with a clean bill of health. We’ll never know whether counselling could have helped Fryberg. Perhaps it could have. But policymakers should also be focussing on other metrics that may have far more to do with such events than mental illness ever has.

‘Smart Guns’ Are a Long Shot Solution to Gun Safety

Jon Stokes (Technical Writer). Tech Crunch, January 5, 2016. “Why Obama’s Smart Gun Push Will Misfire.”

Unfortunately for the president and other well-intentioned advocates of electronically enabled gun control, the smart gun, in all of its incarnations, is a fantasy. Not only is it impossible to produce a smart gun that gun buyers will actually purchase in large numbers, but even if the technological hurdles could be overcome, the results are sure to drastically disappoint everyone who has been looking to these weapons as some sort of silver bullet that can end gun violence. In fact, many of the popular smart gun ideas that have been proposed could actually make us all less safe.

This was an hour of research. Notice: not one piece of evidence came from hyper-politicized news sites (e.g. Breitbart or HuffPo). Nor did I quote political extremists or presidential candidates. I sought credible, scientific research and the source of any claims himself (e.g. the President). I didn’t bother hearing from the pundits.

Pundits don’t matter as much to debaters. We don’t win debates by clinging to one side of an argument. We win debates by mastering both sides. This is how we’re trained to think. And I think everyone should be trained this way.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • mydadsays

    Good research. Good points. Its sad too few people take the time to do the research and instead believe anything they hear on FOX news!