Examples of Common “Red Herring” arguments used to divert attention from useful solutions.
- It is a mental health problem. This is by definition certainly true. But recent shooting instances could not always be predicted by the observed mental health of the shooter (Las Vegas shooting was the worst in our history and the shooter would never have been identified as deranged with current standards based on his behavior prior to the shooting). But more importantly there is little help or sympathy at the governmental level for the mental health services where there is often no question of need. The debate over how and who to identify with mental health issues will be endless and is unlikely to produce anything more than a few band aid type changes. There just is too little science to rely on and even less money available to implement existing science and politicians show no signs of increasing this spending. This argument also requires background checks and the failures of current background checks are often sited when these mass murders occur. More regulations, if implemented, require more administration.
- Existing gun legislation keeps law abiding citizens from protecting themselves and others. This is partly behind the current congressional effort to permit anyone with a legal right to carry a gun in their state of origin to carry in any state. There are 12 states with essentially no limits to carrying weapons. Such legislation would seriously threaten those states that do regulate guns*. This is a curious argument that essentially plays into the hands of the gun lobby if for no other reason than it would result in more weapons sales and more profits.
- More armed security guards, more armed teachers, more armed business owners, more armed people everywhere. This argument is also part of the agenda to sell more guns and make more money. However the principle failure in this line of reasoning relates to the fact that guns, particularly lethal examples such as AK-47s and other automatic weapons and their accessories designed to multiply their effectiveness and lethalness are offensive weapons. They give an advantage to the first user that often can’t be overcome by those with weapons for defensive purposes. And very few defensive weapons match the fire power of a well-armed and determined owner of mass casualty weapons..
- Gun regulation is not permitted by the 2nd amendment. The second amendment calls for a “well regulated militia” which the gun lobby and their political allies usually prefer to interpret as “little or no regulation”. The second amendment is not “final” and there may be correctable flaws in the language. That is why the founders provided a mechanism to amend the constitution and/or its amendments. In the case of prohibition, a constitutional amendment was actually abolished.
- Gun regulation means that only criminals would have guns. This statement is a particularity heinous argument as on the surface it appears to be true. Ample evidence exists that many weapons in the hand of those likely to use them for nefarious purposes were obtained through legitimate channels. At the very least fewer criminals would have weapons even if some still managed to find their way into the wrong hands.
- There are too many guns in the hands of citizens. No laws can possibly have much effect on guns that are already out there. This is essentially an argument that says change can not be done and "reducing gun violence" is impossible. Yet much evidence indicates that perpetrators of gun violence are often using weapons only recently acquired, especially when assault weapons are used. So tightening gun purchase requirements could be expected to reduce access to those who should not be acquiring weapons. But more logically, any reduction in gun violence would be welcome. Even if relatively few lives are saved or changed, would this not be worthwhile? But evidence from countries like Australia which cut off easy weapon acquisition suggests there would be big reductions in gun based violence. And in the U.S. during the 10 year assault weapons ban dramatic reductions in gun violence deaths were recorded.*
How Gun Regulation Opponents use “Red Herring” Arguments to Divert Attention to Avoid Simple Common Sense Legislative Solutions.
When confronted with the horrific crimes associated with gun violence, politicians supported by the gun lobby use a form of argument known as a “red herring” argument. A “red herring” argument is an argument that changes the subject and is mainly used to divert attention from a more direct and useful solution that is unpopular with a particular constituency.
*Study On Effects of 1994 Assault Weapons Ban
“You would see drastic reductions in what I call gun massacres” with the return of the 1994 federal assault weapons ban, said Louis Klarevas of the University of Massachusetts at Boston.
For his 2016 book “Rampage Nation,” Klarevas collected data on every gun massacre — which he defines as six or more people shot and killed — for the 50 years before 2016. His aim was to see whether there was any change in the number of gun massacres while the 10-year federal ban on assault weapons was in place.
He calls the results “staggering.” Compared with the 10-year period before the ban, the number of gun massacres during the ban period fell by 37 percent, and the number of people dying from gun massacres fell by 43 percent. But after the ban lapsed in 2004, the numbers shot up again — an astonishing 183 percent increase in massacres and a 239 percent increase in massacre deaths.
The opinion is shared among many researchers who study gun violence for a living. In 2016, for instance, the New York Times asked 32 gun policy expertsto rate the effectiveness of a variety of policy changes to prevent mass shootings. The roster of experts included violence prevention researchers like Harvard’s David Hemenway, as well as more ideologically driven gun rights advocates like John Lott.
On a scale of effectiveness ranging from 1 (not effective) to 10 (highly effective), the expert panel gave an average score of 6.8 to both an assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity magazines, the highest ratings among the nearly 30 policies surveyed.
The killers in recent incidents like Las Vegas, Orlando and Sutherland Springs were each able to walk into a gun shop in the days and months before their attacks, and legally purchase their assault weapons and magazines after passing a standard background check. Under an assault weapons ban, that wouldn’t be possible.
Gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association oppose such bans. They point out that most owners of such weapons are law-abiding citizens, and that the millions of the guns and magazines in circulation would make enforcement of any such ban a challenge. They also note, correctly, that the overwhelming majority of gun homicides are committed with handguns, making the impact of an assault weapons ban on the overall crime rate minimal.
(source: Washington Post Feb 15, 2018)