The 10 Bumper-Sticker Gun Debates That Convince Nobody

07/26/2012 04:35 pm ET | Updated Sep 25, 2012
  • Russ Belville Host of The Russ Belville Show on

I'm a guy who grew up in Idaho with a family that very much likes their guns. I was in the National Guard and I have fired automatic weapons and they are really fun. I think everyone who wants most guns should be able to get them.

Yet I also think we can have a vigorous 2nd Amendment even if we require background checks at gun shows, face-to-face ammo sales, and stricter controls on assault weapons and accessories.

So when there is an inevitable mass shooting in America and the talk turns to our globally-rare right of civilians to own firearms, I always seem to find myself assailed as Mr. Citizen Disarmament from the right and Mr. Arm 'Em to the Teeth from the left.

But regardless of where you fall in the gun debates, it's time that we had a real conversation on gun violence in America that goes deeper than the following dumb bumper-sticker arguments that blog comments sections seem to always devolve into:

1) Guns don't kill people; People kill people. Well, that's true of any inanimate tool, isn't it? Guitars don't play songs; People play songs. So what? This is usually followed by a rightie saying "well, if you ban guns, crazies will just (fill in way they'd kill people)" followed by a leftie saying "yeah, but crazies couldn't (fill in way they'd kill people) 71 people in a minute or two!"

I actually agree with the sentiment of "people kill people" -- this is why I like guns. Sometimes, an ambitious and talented sociopath will decide to kill people, and that's why I like well-trained professionals with guns (called "police") to come along and shoot them when necessary.

2) When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. This is the flavor of rightie gun argument that says "Well, no law / the law in effect could not have stopped the shooter, because criminals don't follow the laws!" Put in more restrictions of getting guns and ammo, the theory goes, and all you do is repress the people who actually follow laws. Criminals will just get guns in criminal ways.

I know, it's shocking news that criminals break laws, right? But why not make it more difficult and deter at least the laziest among them? Maybe a background check at a gun show is a bit of a pain in the ass for the law-abiding citizen, but maybe it's also the one additional risk that makes the whackaloon decide against it, or, better yet, it's the check that uncovers his impending postal rampage.

3) Nobody goes hunting deer with an assault rifle! This is the prime leftie argument against weapons like the AR-15, a semi-automatic weapon. They are right; no hunter I know would use one against deer. It probably wouldn't bring it down anyway.

Weapons like that one and most handguns are for killing people. There's nothing wrong with that; some people need killin'. This is where the righties' are right -- the right to live requires the ability to defend your life.

In rural areas, police may be minutes or even hours away. In cities, we're all an extended blackout and a riot away from being unprotected by police. There can be legitimate reasons why a law abiding citizen may need to rapidly kill multiple people at medium-to-long range. I just want the people wishing to express their right at that extreme a level fulfill some pretty high level requirements.

4) Prohibition doesn't work for drugs, why would it work for guns? I get this a lot, given my profession, and it always assumes that prohibition doesn't work. In some cases, it does. Remember quaaludes? If you're under 40, I doubt you do. Methaqualone, or "'ludes," was a recreational sex drug of the 1970's. But it is a synthetic compound and very difficult to manufacture. Its precursor chemicals are hard to come by. So the DEA, in its only success, strictly regulated the precursors and made 'ludes Schedule I.  Nobody could make or grow their own 'ludes and now, nobody does 'ludes anymore.

So why wouldn't the quaaludes model work for guns? Very few of us have the smithing ability to make our own guns. Yes, some would and there'd be a black market in guns and ammo, but that supply would be far less than what gun corporations can mass manufacture and sell. And then we're back to that supply and demand where the 100 whackaloons are competing amongst each other for the much more limited and harder-to-get guns they want.

5) An armed society is a polite society. Yeah, I'm as much a Robert Heinlein fan as the next guy, but if this maxim were true, the United States would be the politest country in the history of the world, when it could very well be the opposite of that.  I think Canada may be the politest country, and they famously don't have gun rights and quintuple-digit annual gun deaths.

(Read the number 6-10 bumper sticker gun debates at The Russ Belville Show blog.)