Demand a Better Argument

A gun-control advocacy group produced in 2012 a graphic, emotional plea for ending gun violence in a PSA video featuring the well-known faces of beloved Hollywood celebrities. One after another, the celebrities come together before the camera to convince the public to “Demand a Plan” to stop gun violence. No solutions are offered, and in fact, no arguments are presented at all. All you see is a long line-up of celebrities referring to tragic events that monopolized the mainstream news media and attempted to galvanize the public against the accessibility and availability of firearms. The viewer is expected to accept the deep conviction and passion of the featured celebrities regarding gun control. Click Here to See: “Demand a Plan” PSA on YouTube

In a pithy rebuttal, a video response is now going viral. An impassioned video editor combined the original PSA with clips of the speaking celebrities followed by scenes from the movies that made each of them rich and famous – all scenes showing the same celebrities who are Demanding a Plan wielding guns and wreaking havoc. Click Here to See: Video Rebuttal to “Demand a Plan” PSA on YouTube

The juxtaposition comparing what they say with what they do is eye-opening, although it may be construed to suggest that violence in movies is the problem. It may be a problem, but most law-abiding gun owners know that movie violence does not create gun violence, and would agree that it is people, not guns or movies, that create the violence. In other words, it’s the nut behind the butt.

The bottom line, of course, is that neither appeal makes a substantive argument.

While it’s true that we are in need of balanced discussion regarding solutions to gun violence, we are hard-pressed to find rational, well-considered – substantive – arguments on either side of the debate.

There are myriad articles rife with vague or suggested references to statistics, numbers, and opinions presented as ‘factual’ both for and against gun control. As indicated by the number of impassioned videos available, perhaps the most that can be said about the debate is that it has tremendous entertainment value.

But there is a caveat: when either side makes claims are not publicly supported by substantive argument but rather defended via epithets and appeals to some purportedly overwhelming consensus, the chances are high that, objectively speaking, the actual facts will not stand up to scrutiny.

Balanced views of gun control are not easy to find, but attempts have been made. Consider the following treatment of the subject as presented by Penn Gillette and his silent, yet animated, partner Teller in this episode of their television show as long ago as 2009, aptly named – and abbreviated here – “BS!” Be advised that the following video was intended for a mature audience who can merely wince and withstand the barrage of coarse language without apoplexy.

Click here to See: A More Balanced Discussion of Gun Control Issues on LiveLeak

So Penn and Teller capitalize on the entertainment value of the debate, but don’t overlook the fact that they manage to slip in snippets of substantial argument.