The slaughter of the innocents in schools has revived once again the argument that guns are responsible for these pathetic deaths.
If, it is argued, the firearms so basely used has magazines holding less ammunition, then the killings would have produced a lower body count. Such reasoning is obscene and demeans the memory of those so tragically slain.
For the pedantic, such an argument is known as the post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy. We can see its use by others but not by ourselves, It is a fallacy of causation, like “Because firearms with large ammunition magazine capacity were used to kill the children, the guns, and their magazines, were the cause of the deaths of the children.”
This fallacy of reasoning promises to once again infect the American debate on the issue of guns and on the ownership thereof. If, it is argued, guns of certain types (or all guns), and magazines of certain types (or all magazines), and certain types of ammunition (or all ammunition) were to be banned, then there would be no more school murders by maniacs. If, it is falsely reasoned, such weapons had been banned before the horror, the children would not have been murdered.
The argument is hydra-headed and should be rejected by rational people. The availability of the firearm, the magazines, and the ammunition used have absolutely nothing to do with the perceived notions of some that such availability caused, or permitted, the insane actions of the killer. And the corollary belief that, without such availability, so many would not now mourn the irreparable loss caused, they believe, by the gun, the magazine, and the ammunition, is dangerous defective.
Some of this fallacious argument is grounded in lack of knowledge and some in just plain lies.
One such assertion is that no one “needs” a weapon of the sort used. The need for such is irrelevant. It is lawful to own one, or several, such. And this right is firmly grounded in the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. One could perhaps argue incorrectly that this guarantee is a bad idea. But it is a guarantee nevertheless. The way to abolish it is not to argue that the 2nd Amendment is something that it is not, but rather to repeal the amendment. And, in so doing, to lay down a welcome mat for tyrants.
The weapon involved in the recent school carnage has been incorrectly called an “assault rifle.” Decisions of the magnitude urged should not stand on the incorrect use of this emotionally weighted term.
An assault rifle has, by its most basic definition, the ability to fire, and to keep firing, bullets so long as the trigger is depressed. The trigger can be pulled once, and held back until three, or whatever, shots have been fired. When the trigger is released, the gun quits firing. This is not the weapon under attack, for such assault rifles have been unlawful for most private ownership for many years—ever since it was concluded by the ancestors of today’s gun-banners that banning such firearms would prevent mass killings.
The firearm used was not an assault rifle, but was rather a “semi-automatic rifle.” This also has a precise meaning. A semi-automatic rifle, or handgun, is one that can fire once each time the trigger is depressed and can continue to fire a shot with each trigger pull until the “magazine” holding the cartridges is empty. To fire three shots the trigger would have to be pulled three times.
Some semi-automatic rifles have been made to look like true assault rifles. But they are not assault rifles because they are not capable of full automatic fire. They are no more assault rifles than a cap gun is a Colt .45.
The debate to come will also feature various statistics designed to show that the post hoc logical fallacy of the gun-banners’ argument is not a logical fallacy. All such attempts will fail, because the gun has nothing to do with the way in which it is used. If one wants to play with statistics, it can be shown that crime in America has actually gone down since the repeal of the last gun ban. It can also be shown that violent crime has gone down wherever it has been made lawful for citizens to carry concealed deadly weapons.
And blaming and banning guns is simply not the solution. Such actions obscure the real, and largely unknown, reason or reasons why such killers do as they do. President Lincoln was killed by a single shot from a single shot Derringer. No one blamed, or tried to ban, Derringers. Many people, including children, were killed in Oklahoma City by a truck bomb filled with fertilizer. No one blamed, or tried to ban, fertilizer. We do not blame water for murders by drowning.
The act is the problem, not the means of its accomplishment. We do not blame matches for arson. We do not blame alcoholism on alcohol. And we should not blame insane murders on guns.
To do so avoids looking for the true reasons—perhaps reasons we would rather not hear—and puts an ineffective bandage on an open wound that will erupt again with knives, clubs, and rocks.
Edwin Kagin, © 2013.