Gun Debate Logic: Discerning When Opinions Trump Facts

Generic multi-axis political spectrum chart.

Generic multi-axis political spectrum chart will give you a headache.

In the gun control debate, one will frequently hear opponents of gun control say that there are so many guns and ammo clips and things out there right now that any attempt to control them is futile.  It is essentially an “It’s too late” argument, which is a rather pathetic argument, in my opinion.

More significantly, it doesn’t address the problem as a problem.  In fact it essentially concedes that guns are a problem worthy of regulation, but, darn, we’re too late.  There’s nothing to be done but even the playing field:  More guns!

Now I understand that gun rights supporters fill the political spectrum from left to right.  Even a left-leaning nut such as myself has a shot gun and a rifle.  But the loudest critics of gun control legislation and those most frequently making the “It’s too late” argument, come from the conservative side of the political spectrum.

Let’s look at there “too late” argument.

These are the same people, by virtue of their conservative political credentials, most likely to argue in our current budget policy debates that we must cut debt now and not increase deficit spending.  The argument here is we cannot go further into the hole.

Thinking people would agree, in principle, with the argument that we should not make a problem worse by piling on what is causing the problem in the first place.  So why is one argument valid and the other not?

Well, it has a lot to do with rational engagement with facts.

Never mind that country’s like Australia which did in fact begin to limit access to assault rifles, for example, did see a decline in crimes with those weapons.  That is Australia, gun control critics will argue, and we are not the same.  (But we might become the next economic Greece, however, even though we are not Greece.)

Former Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota spea...

Former Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. Please attribute to Gage Skidmore if used elsewhere. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And never mind that most economist argue in favor of temporarily continuing deficit spending to stimulate economic growth so we can ride economic gains to get control of government debt.  Adding even a dollar to federal debt represents insane irresponsibility.

These contradictions represent selective preferences of opinions over facts.

Facts matter very little in the examples of I am using here.  Compare the two arguments logically the contradiction with facts becomes apparent.

There are not two sides to an argument if one side is arguing from reason and facts and the other is arguing from emotion and opinion.

This is obvious enough — to thinking people, anyway — but I suppose you first must have the ability to discern fact from opinion and logically apply reason to both.

We had a governor here in Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, who liked to say “you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.”  Charming, Tim fancies himself a smart folksy kind of a guy, but entirely off the mark for Tim because, if we believe he understood what he was saying, he didn’t know a fact from an opinion.  Or he was a manipulative little hypocrite.  Take your pick.

Political discourse is a lot about disagreement, of course, but it isn’t exclusively about disagreement.  Politics is about synthesizing compromise and progress.  In fact…where is Hegel when you need him?

English: The portrait of G.W.F. Hegel (1770-18...

G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831)

Hegel might not be the most politically decisive and understood figure in history, but I think good politics is inherently Hegelian.

The process of dialectics is about thesis and anti-thesis, both of which can be legitimately fact-based, but where politics wallow today, however, is something entirely different.

We are getting to a point where our two-party political system is diametrically opposed and ineffective and the solution to that has been a rise in propositions and constitutional amendments being put to a popular vote.  In a nation where our constitution protects the rights of a minority, it is troubling that law making increasingly evades the legislative process and goes to a majority-wins system of either or.  That sort of system threatens the rights and interests of minorities.

We need leadership responsible enough to take facts seriously and argue intelligently.  Ignorance of facts is bad enough, but shutting oneself from wise argument and debate only makes things worse.  If we are unable to reflect on the arguments we make, perhaps we can come back to a more dialectical political process.

In a dialectical process two sides don’t fight until one prevails, they come together to something different and better.  It seems to me that on almost any issue you choose today — including gun rights and our economic policy — there is room for ideas to come together for something different and something better to arise.

But then we need to logically engage facts — and opinions — don’t we?


One thought on “Gun Debate Logic: Discerning When Opinions Trump Facts

  1. Kylie

    Most people interpret the facts to fit their opinion. It’s so frustrating, though, when the pro-gun people don’t even attempt to back themselves up with facts. When I use data, they say annoying things like, “that’s a lot of numbers,” as if that’s an insult.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s