It was a bad week for gun advocates in the gun debate.
First, amid a horrifying massacre of little children, NRA executive VP Wayne LaPierre called for more guns in schools.
Soon after, 30,000 Constitution-loving supporters of the Second Amendment petitioned the Federal Government to deport Piers Morgan for speaking on behalf of gun control, raising patriotic questions about their support of any of the other Amendments, most notably the First. Y'know, that one about Free Speech and Freedom of the Press.
And then, the other day, I got a note from a friend who was going nuts having an email exchange with a friend of his, who was claiming that FBI statistics show that more people are killed every year by baseball bats than guns.
What my friend was aski...
Oh, sorry. Yes, I was being serious. Baseball bats. Honest. It seems that there's this Far Right ditto going around that baseball bats kill more Americans than guns, and this is from the FBI.
Yes, I know. I know.
Anyway, my friend was beside himself. He'd tried everything to convince his buddy that it wasn't even close to remotely true. Sent authoritative articles refuting it. Sent links to the FBI website. And of course his friend would hear nothing of it. Because...
Okay, you know how this goes -- this gun-friend then referenced, of all things, a New York Times article which he claimed supported the statistic (though not shockingly, no, the Times article was not sent or linked). And sent a graph from some group named Long Island Firearms that definitively "proved it" (even though, no, the graph doesn't even mention baseball bats). And then quoted from an article saying that FBI stats aren't trustworthy because their information all comes from volunteers.
Yes, right, the FBI is now apparently a volunteer organization. At least to the Far Right. Sort of like Toys for Tots, but less fun.
And additional "facts" were sent -- about concealed weapons. Seemingly, this related to baseball bats somehow. (Ever try to conceal a baseball bat?)
And then the Big Pronouncements were made, standing in for the ipso fact proof. So it has been written, so it shall be done. "According to the FBI the most common weapon used in violent crime is the ubiquitous baseball bat. Let's ban Louiville Sluggers."
You know the dance. We all have gotten such barrages of emails sent from our Right-Wing friends. All quoting voluminous sources that are irrationally unsubstantiated, based on suspicions and paranoias and conspiracies passed along from one ditto to another, AWT. Accepted Without Thinking. All which serve solely to support the irrational theory. And they all end, as this one did, "I'm not making this up!!!"
My friend was beside himself, worn out trying to debate someone who had no intention of discussing anything. Spinning around in circles. Any information my friend presented was seen as a lie from liberal media. Any unsubstantiated "proof" his gun-friend sent was definitive. Did I have any thoughts, my friend pleaded -- before collapsing.
Did I have any thoughts? Oh, my yes. You bet.
Of course I have thoughts:
It's that my friend was involved in a debate he could not make a dent in, and he cannot possibly, conceivably, remotely convince his friend. His friend clearly does not want to be convinced. After all, anyone who makes their argument against gun control based on people killed by baseball bats does not want to hear any argument, their mind is made up, rock-solid, locked up, the key lost. They have foregone the rational thinking process. Guns vs. baseball bats. They are operating on a different level of sentient reality.
Yes, there are many things I would say -- but they are all moot because when someone has no intention of being convinced, facts don't matter. Like all such people, he will find whatever fake-facts he wants that supports this thoughtless theory.
In such situations, there are only two things you can do.
The first is to use the person's own words and turn those words back on them.
I'd start by saying, "Of course I know you didn't make this up. But the person you got this from did."
I would refer to his statement, 'According to the FBI, more people are killed by baseball bats than guns. So, let's ban Louiville Sluggers!," and reply:
"No one responsible is suggesting to Ban All Guns. But for the sake of argument, let's say it's true, that the FBI actually says that Louisville Sluggers actually kill more people than guns.' Then people probably should look into controlling baseball bats!! Except that the reason baseball bats are not controlled is because... baseball bats don't even remotely kill more people than guns."
And I'd also reference his contradictory "logic." Contrary "logic" is always highly prevalent in such exchanges.
I'd point out that one can't quote FBI statistics and then say out of the other side of his mouth that "FBI statistics aren't good." You can't have it both ways. Either FBI statistics are valid, in which case the FBI's own website doesn't show that baseball bats kill more people than guns -- or FBI statistics aren't valid, in which case they shouldn't be quoted as a proving source.
When you have contradictory "logic," it means you don't have an argument. Because your arguments can't be supported by either side.
When someone absolutely, resolutely will not be open to being convinced of a single thing contrary to their belief, then the only other thing that one can do when you can't explain anything to a person is -- don't explain anything. Ask questions instead, and require them to explain, to defend their indefensible position.
I would ask:
How many children do you believe would have died at Sandy Hook Elementary if the mass murderer came with a baseball bat? Would even one child have died? How many would have died at Columbine, at the Aurora movie theater in Colorado, at Virginia Tech, at Gabby Giffords rally, while fighting fires, if the killers showed up with baseball bats? How made would have died there? Any??
If someone broke into your home while you were having dinner, would you prefer that the robber had an assault weapon, or a baseball bat?
If you had a little child at home, would you be more concerned with the child finding a loaded gun or a baseball bat?
If you feel safe because you have a gun to protect yourself from others who have uncontrolled guns, why do you want to allow others to have those very uncontrolled guns which you fear?
If you don't want guns controlled because the Second Amendment in the Constitution grants Americans the right to bear arms -- do you think the Founding Fathers envisioned assault weapons with 30-round clips, considering that they lived in a world of muskets which fired once and took a minute to re-load?
But mostly, above all, I would ask this about the Second Amendment:
Since the Second Amendment begins, "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary..." why do you feel that there should be no "regulation" required, when the Constitution very explicitly states that regulation is actually necessary?
If you are such a literalist of the Constitution, what do you think "well-regulated" means?
Why are you against controlling guns in any manner when the Constitution itself not only says they should be "regulated," but "well-regulated" -- and that it is "necessary"?
Since the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment is based specifically and solely on the necessity of a well-regulated "Militia," how many gun owners do you know who are in militias? Or who have any intention of joining a militia? And how many of them have guns solely because they simply want a gun, something specifically not granted in the Constitution? And what you do actually think of White Supremacist militias?
I'd have a lot of questions. Many more of them. But ultimately, the only thing that I would actually state myself, not as a question asked, nor by quoting others, is:
"Please don't argue with me about the dangers of baseball bats compared to assault weapons with 30-bullet clips. You do yourself a disservice. I think you are much better than that. We can argue true facts and fake-facts all day, but in the end, I believe that if someone was standing before you with a gun pointed at your face, you would wish it was a baseball bat. I believe that if you were in a crowded movie theater and someone began firing with a large-capacity clip, you would wish that the person had a baseball bat.
"If you want to have a serious debate about gun control (not 'banning all guns'), I am happy to do so. But please don't make this an argument about the greater dangers of a baseball bat compared to an AK-47 assault rifle. The issue is far too serious and important."
Robert J. Elisberg's new novel, A Christmas Carol 2: The Return of Scrooge, is available in paperback and ebook edition.