01/14/2013 06:45 pm ET Updated Mar 15, 2013

Facts Don't Kill Discussion; Slogans Do

The argument that guns don't kill people, people kill people would only make sense if gun control advocates were claiming that the guns had been working on their own.

I understand that people get very nervous when it comes to discussing gun control. The people on both sides of the argument feel threatened. Those who want guns feel threatened by new laws. Those who want stricter gun control feel threatened by guns. And by the people who own them. Which includes most of the people on the other side of the discussion.

I don't like being bullied, though, and the jingoistic arguments against gun control are generally so patently ridiculous that, were we not afraid of the well-armed opposition, debating them would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Which we would not do, because that would involve the casual use of guns to which we are opposed.

Firearms advocates say that if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. While this is technically true, it is also rhetorically null. Since murder is a criminal act, only criminals commit murder. This is not a valid argument for legalizing homicide. It does, however, give us insight into the underlying pathology that makes gun owners so certain that gun ownership is good.

The NRA points the finger at movies and video games as the culprits in gun deaths, but it continues to propagate the cinematic fantasy that gun violence can best be stopped with additional gun violence. In the imaginations of gun owners, a mass murderer opens fire in a crowded theater or a grade school and in heroic fashion, diving sideways in a slow-motion John Woo sequence, a civilian with a properly licensed, legally purchased concealed weapon could fire one shot, stopping the catastrophe as quickly as it started. The myth perpetuated in our entertainments supports this fantasy. Heroes act surely and quickly, harming only villains; it is the nature of art and entertainment that we all put ourselves into the role of the hero.

Gun owners speak of home invasions and their ability to protect themselves and their families, but statistics show that gun ownership increases the chances of injury to those who live in the home with the weapons and home invasion is a fairly rare occurrence. A sense of safety is not the same thing as actual safety. Simple statistics show that people in a room with two guns become more likely to be shot than people in a room with one. People in a room with no guns in it are significantly less likely to be shot than people in a room with one gun in it. Believing that owning a gun makes one less likely to be shot is like saying that owning a car makes one less likely to be in an accident. Not only does it makes no sense, it suggests that one's assessment of reality is so poor that ownership of either a gun OR a car should be summarily contraindicated.

A paranoid world view and a fantasy of vigilantism is not a valid argument against enacting laws that protect the safety of the public. Gun owners, by definition, own guns. I, for one, refuse to let my fear of them silence me.