The Slippery Rhetoric of Gun Control

Democrats' push to restrict Second Amendment rights relies on a huge logic gap

Democratic politicians rely on a handful of tried-and-true talking points about gun control: We need commonsense gun laws; the crisis of mass shootings is tied to availability of guns; the NRA has a stranglehold on Congress. But these talking points aren’t verbal shorthand — they’re carefully crafted to obscure the real effort to chip away at Americans’ rights.

Gun Control vs. Gun Safety
For several years now, liberal academics have urged politicians to avoid the term gun control in favor of gun safety:

“In a nation where freedom is among the deepest ideals, control is almost a dirty word, and it is much easier to justify why one is against control than it is to justify why one is against safety,” wrote Cornell University’s Jonathon Schuldt. “Those who are for tougher gun restrictions should favor the ‘gun safety’ frame, which may be especially powerful in the wake of the recent tragedies.”

In just so many words, Schuldt encourages gun-control advocates here to exploit public fear and put their opponents on the defensive: Who wants to argue against gun safety — especially reasonable, commonsense gun safety?

Commonsense Gun Control
Gun-control advocates protest that they have the deepest respect for Second Amendment rights; they just want some commonsense gun laws to protect Americans.

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Leave aside how the terms “commonsense” and “reasonable” assume Second Amendment advocates are unreasonable and lack common sense. The real problem is that Democrats don’t want to keep guns out of the wrong hands — they want to keep guns out of everyone’s hands.

Occasionally a veiled glimpse of the truth will slip out: We just need some commonsense laws, we’re told, but then there’s a quick switch to untrue, inflammatory rhetoric. Only in the United States can someone purchase “military-style” weapons without even a background check, the leftist hack will say.

If we press for specifics, we’re told there’s no reason we can’t curb gun violence when the solution is so obvious — after all, Australia did it.

During a 2015 press event, President Obama lamented America’s unwillingness to take what he described as even the most basic steps to stop mass shootings, and pointed to Australia’s gun policy as a model to be followed. Unfortunately, that’s as specific as he got.

Obama failed to offer any detail about Australia’s 1996 National Agreement on Firearms, which capitalized on national panic after a mass shooting in Tasmania’s Port Arthur. Rammed through parliament only 12 days after the shooting, the NAF was everything but a commonsense, reasonable gun-control measure. It was a massive confiscation and buyback program, coupled with licensing and purchase restrictions requiring citizens to prove a compelling need to own firearms.

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Gun-control advocates praise the NAF, claiming it reduced suicide and homicide rates. But a number of studies indicate it has instead been ruinously expensive and has had no significant impact on gun homicides or suicides.

Either way, the much-vaunted but never-defined “Australian model” for gun control isn’t gun control at all — it’s confiscation.

The Mass Shooting ‘Epidemic’
During the same event in which Obama praised Australia for its approach to gun confiscation, Obama also alluded to the 2015 shooting at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College, tossing out another favorite Democratic trope: The terrifying increase in mass shootings. “This happens every week!” he exclaimed. Others have ratcheted the rhetoric even higher, including The Washington Post, which infamously claimed there’s a mass shooting in the U.S. every day.

Even far-left outlets like Mother Jones quickly refuted this, pointing out it ignores the FBI’s definition of a mass shooting: a single shooting incident causing three or more fatalities, one of which can be the shooter.

The dishonesty goes deeper: Until 2012, the FBI defined a mass shooting as one causing four or more fatalities. That threshold was lowered under the Obama administration just prior to a federal study of mass shooting incidents, ensuring a hefty boost in the numbers before the study was even published.

Even then, the study reveals the vast majority of such shootings occur during robberies, home invasions, gang activity, and other related crimes. The deadliest recent attacks have been directly attributable to Islamic extremism: see Orlando and San Bernardino. The gun-control crowd ignores those, though, concentrating on incidents in which a shooter with a different goal shoots into a public crowd: Seung Hui-Cho at Virginia Tech, Adam Lanza in Sandy Hook, James Holmes in the Aurora theater shooting.

The mass-shooting epidemic rhetoric allows gun-control advocates to invoke the specter of a new Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech on a daily basis. It allows the left to downplay the danger of Islamic extremism, all the while insisting media fatigue keeps us from grasping the full scope of the gun crisis.

In reality, school safety experts estimate that any given student faces a 1 in 2.5 million chance of a violent death at school. U.S. students face far more danger from cafeteria food poisoning or lightning strikes than from rampage shooters.

Make no mistake: Gun-control advocates in Washington don’t want reasonable, commonsense gun policies. They want a fearful, dependent, and disarmed populace.

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