The Instigator
Pro (for)
11 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

There is no rational reason for which an American civilian should want to own an assault weapon.

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/15/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,391 times Debate No: 29221
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (30)
Votes (2)




Given the recent political discussion about "assault weapons", and the general lack of such debates here on DDO, I felt it was time to instigate just such a debate.

First, I'll state that this debate is to be taken in good faith. If there is some assertion that is made, it will stand unless challenged. If it is challenged, then the opponent must provide support for the assertion at the earliest possible convenience, and argument from authority/tradition/law is certainly insufficient to such a task.

Respecting the good-faith nature of this debate, "assault weapons" here means any firearm which is capable of the semi-automatic discharge of 7 or more continuous rounds.

"Civilian" here means any indiviual who is not engaged in current military operations, or acting at the time in official police, or performing currently in contracted personnel or property security capacities, or a person acting with unethical intent.

It is, of course, my burden in the initial argument to canvass across the feasible situations in which a civilian may in the course of time have need of a firearm, and show logically or with evidence that no such situation requires an assalt weapon specifically, and that firearms which are not assault weapons are wholely sufficient or even preferable for the task. It is my opponent's burden in the initial argument to contrive a situation in which civilians would necessarily need an assault weapon rather than some other "lesser" for of firearm to service such a rationally expected task.

As per the resolution these must be situations of rational need; one person against overwhelming numbers of armed assailants is not a situation where the civilian would be rational to fight back in, nor is it a situation where just such a civilian is rationally likely to end up. Further, unethical uses of guns (to threaten and/or commit murder, robbery, theft, rape, or any other clearly unethical action) are also excluded; a premise here is that such activities are not rational among a society of persons.

With these understandings in mind, I propose the following rules:
1) First round is acceptance*, second round is argument, third round is rebuttal and additional supporting arguments, fourth round is pure rebuttal and final round is closing.
2) Responses shall be directed towards the previous rounds(s) only.
3) *CON may go first; if CON uses his first round for argument, PRO agrees his last round shall be a blank post. For the purposes of voting and posting "rounds" shall be offset by this one post.
4) No direct "vote pandering". An argument ought stand on its own, without appeals to emotion or ad hominem. The only place it is acceptable is to provide a proposed RFD is at the end of closing, and it must still be free of appeal to emotion, outright lies, or ad-hom attacks.
5) No "sneaky ****erism". This is defined as making declarations to win or troll an argument rather than making an attempt to investigate whether a claim is actually valid or supported by reason. The winning argument here is to be determined as that argument which stands up to reason, not which argument/person people subjectively like more. In accepting, CON agrees that any votes which do not reflect an objective evaluation of the arguments (subjective votes) are invalid and to be ignored during final evaluation, retracted, reported, and/or negated.
6) No extension of argment character space or via gratuitous formatting liberties, except if mutually agreed upon.
7) This is a philosophical debate, and first principles must be mutually accepted if used as a basis of argument. Argument from authority, argument from tradition, and the naturalistic fallacy are all accepted as fallacies by CON.
8) Shared participation is encouraged; while there can only be one formal "PRO" and one formal "CON", any independently supported argument may be advanced and picked up by the formal debators.
9) First principles accepted in this debate must include that: "The universe exists"; "knowledge exists"; "all descriptive models have greater value than any non-descriptive model"; and that "equals OUGHT be treated equally".
Debate Round No. 1


It seems apparent today that firearms are a fact of life in the United States. Between the high availability of firearms among criminal elements and the dauntingly large supply of firearms among the law-abiding civilian population from which such criminal elements may recruit it is apparent that any ban on all firearms would not only be ineffective at promoting the general welfare, but also directly counter to that goal.

Respecting the initial definition of “Civilian”, It seems readily apparent that there are four primary situations in which a firearm might serve: Self defense in the home, self defense on the street, hunting of animals, and violent insurrection against tyrannical government..

  1. Self Defense in the Home

    1. Few to no rounds need ever be fired to adequately defend.
      1. Violent crime is most likely to be committed by a single assailant[1][2].
      2. Very few cases require shooting at an offender, and shooting at them is almost always sufficient to provoke retreat, even when defenders do not hit anything [2]. There is no reason to believe more shots available would be more effective.
      3. Large numbers of attackers are rare [2].
      4. The majority of armed offenders generally do not carry firearms [2][3].
      5. A rational person would not engage in reckless ineffective weapon discharges, as shall be detailed in section V(A).

    2. As such, no assault weapon is likely to ever be necessary for the purposes of home defense.

  2. Self Defense on the Street

    1. Few to no rounds need ever be fired to adequately defend in the vast majority of situations.
      1. See points above for self defense in the home; they apply here as well, except likely with a slightly higher instance of larger numbers of assailants.

    2. Carrying assault weapons in public for civilians terrifies and terrorizes the population and disturbs the peace[4].

    3. Allowing assault weapons in public for civilians prevents the ability to discern an approaching active shooter from a normal civilian, as shall be detailed in section V(B).

    4. Civilians are not expected in and should not expect to participate in extended firefights; such situations are exceedingly rare[2]. This is a primary reason why organizations such as the police and military and personnel and property security companies exist in the first place: to provide training, ensure quality of personnel, and to both accept and limit liability.

  3. Hunting of Animals

    1. Very few rounds are ever needed in any given “short” timespan.
      1. If you cannot hit an animal on your first 1-2 shots, it is likely to already be too late for that opportunity; gunshots generally scare away game for a reasonably long period of time, allowing reloading to take place.
      2. If attacked by an apex predator such as a bear, puma, etc., if you can’t put it down with ~4-5 rounds of whatever you’re firing, it’s probably already too late.

    2. A lever-action, pump action, or bolt action rifle with fixed maximum capacity can take down a prey animal as effectively as a magazine-fed semi-automatic rifle.

  4. Initiating Violent Insurgency Against Tyrannical Government(s)

    1. Insurrection is about asymmetrical warfare. It is a situation where “tactical” confrontations are the least desirable outcome. It is not about killing lots of people; it is about killing the right people. If you end up in the sights of the enemy, you’re already doing it wrong. Bolt action, lever action, pump action, or similar hand-worked actions are sufficient to serve the purpose of selective fire, and even actively encourage that goal by forcing the use of carefulness and skill.

    2. Asymmetric combat requires AVOIDING regular combat. Assault Weapons stand out particularly, and only serve as a “Please shoot/imprison/torture me, I’m a rebel” sign for one to hang off of their shoulder or on their belt.

    3. Home defense points continue to serve here; if you and your rebel friends cannot effect a defensive goal with 3-6 shots, you’re cruising for 2 in the chest and one in the head. An ungainly assault weapon laden with bullets will only be reliable for getting you dead with less opportunity to fight back as your ears ring and bleed from the breaching charge used to open the door, or as your eyes sting with CS gas they deploy into the room. Assuming they didn’t just level your place with a drone strike.

    4. Asymmetric conflict is about forcing attrition. Assault weapons encourage the rapid waste of limited ammunition. The other side will have more men, more rounds, more weapons, and more training. The goal is initially to make them hemorrhage those resources and their morale with minimal application of your own. Regular armies are for once you begin to take their weapons and you take their bullets, once the population is on board and after asymmetric fighting has yielded its dividends.

    5. It is not rational yet to begin stocking for such conflicts, as per V(C) below.

  5. Desires for Assault Weapons are NOT Rational

    1. An inability to hit what you are aiming at also implies an inability to guarantee NOT hitting what you are NOT aiming at, when it is also in that general vicinity. This creates an unacceptable level of risk and it is my contention that it is irrational to force such a risk upon others.

    2. It is irrational to wish to confound the ability of law enforcement to monitor and take down potential imminent threats to the public welfare. Either the police must waste time and effort confirming all false positives to catch all true positives, or the police must risk allowing true positives.

    3. The government is not attempting to take away the class of weapons particularly useful for rebellion, nor is the liberal left attempting to take away the ability of the people to represent their interests nor attempting to take away any thing that could rationally be called liberty. Further, the logic of IV(B) applies right now as well; ownership now reveals a desire or preparedness to participate in rebellion.

    4. Anyone can “go off the deep end”.
      1. The majority of murders happen as a result of argument rather than felonious intent however the assailant still tends to seek a firearm when available [5].
      2. When a mass murder happens, the assailants use the weapons most easily accessed.
      3. It is clearly an irrational course of action for a person to subject others to additional risks when they themselves “go off the deep end”.

  6. Conclusions

    1. Owning an assault weapon is particularly useless for home defense,
    2. Owning an assault weapon is particularly useless for defense on the street,
    3. Owning an assault weapon is particularly useless for hunting,
    4. Owning an assault weapon right now is particularly useless for the violent overthrow of our government,
    5. The desire to own an assault weapon for the above purposes is largely irrational,
    6. The above purposes account for the rational applications of civilian firearms,
    7. Therefore there is no rational reason for which a civilian should want to own an assault weapon.

[1] Stolzenberg, L., & D'alessio, S. J. (2008). Co-Offending and the Age-Crime Curve. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 45(1), 65-86. Retrieved from
[2] Kleck, G., & Gertz, M. (1995). Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense With a Gun. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (Northwestern), 86(1), 150. Retrieved from
[3] NCVS Criminal Victimization 2009, table 10
[4] youtube video

Copyright (C) 2012 Andrew Kathan

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation A copy of the license is available at

*the full text is behind a paywall; limited quotation is available upon request via comments.


JJ_Diaz forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


Wow. So, that was disappointing. If JJ can submit his argument in his next round, I would be glad to shorten the debate by this one round. Otherwise I rest my case


JJ_Diaz forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


I rest my case.


JJ_Diaz forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4


See above


JJ_Diaz forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
30 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by likespeace 5 years ago
The related debate is over. Feel free to stop by and vote--especially if you agree there are rational reasons for at least some civilians to own a standard hand gun with 6-15 bullets. ;)
Posted by likespeace 5 years ago
I'm sorry your opponent poofed. As you can already see, your third debate on this topic will be much more.. lively.. as I strongly disagre with your resolution. ;)
Posted by likespeace 5 years ago
Fritz - Nah, I'd want a ray gun! That, or some good 'ol fashioned germs.
Posted by FritzStammberger 5 years ago
if their were inbound extra terrestrial reptilian child eaters you would want an assault rifle.
Posted by RoyLatham 5 years ago
You have cleared up my misconception that an "assault weapon" is hat is commonly thought to be an assault weapon, but rather is any semi-automatic with more than seven shots. Therefore you must establish that anyone, not just the police, carrying a pistol with more than seven shots will terrorize the public.

You did not address or dispute my main point, which is your assertion that events you consider rare can be ignored. That's a fatal defect in your whole case.

"Terrifying the public" is an advantage of an assault weapon that you discount, but it's important in the cases that you discount as rare. Korean storekeepers in Los Angeles defended their stores in the riots of the 1960s. A "terrifying" weapon would be important. A recent news story told of woman with a pistol who shot a home invader 5 time with a pistol and only scared him off. either more shots or a scary weapon would have been needed, especially if there were more than one.

You are quite correct that I'm not an expert on firearms. I just look at the ads from sporting goods stores, an it's clear that the 0.223 ammo is cheaper than the hunting rifle equivalent. The .223 round is a higher velocity charge Yes, it's cheaper than plain 22 caliber, but wile it's possible to learn to shoot with a bolt action rifle, it's also clear people do not want to do so. They want a larger magazine. That's reasonable.
Posted by Jarhyn 5 years ago
Roy, you continue to fail to read the debate resolution; it does not matter that police carry "assault weapons" in public; as stated in the preamble, this is about civilians not police; police have an expectation and even a duty to participate in firefights, and I even mention that in section II(D), and I will go back to it if JJ wishes to make an issue of it. If JJ wises to pick up any of your arguments, however flawed they may be, that is up to him... however I'm not about to argue with you here, as you clearly know nothing about firearms or the things that even you consider "assault weapons"; Assault weapons under your own definition DO NOT fire .22 rounds, they fire .223 or .308 rounds, also known as 5.56 NATO rounds and 7.62 NATO. .22 caliber refers primarily to .22 rimfire, a round primarily used by kids to shoot squirrels. You can buy 100 .22 rimfire rounds for 13 dollars. Cheap indeed, at 13 cents per round. The .223 round, conversely costs about 65 cents per round on the cheap end. .308 is even more expensive, at almost a dollar per round.

While a good argument can be put together that someone can learn good marksmanship with a .22 rimfire rifle, however, such learning does not require a semi-automatic rifle! In fact learning marksmanship with a .22 bolt action, lever action, or pump action would be far better, as it requires all the elements of good marksmanship for every shot.

Now, if you care to highlight your ignorance and ill-informed opinions further, please do it elsewhere.
Posted by jmare 5 years ago
*Continued (I apologize for the delay, work intruded.)

While sniper operations can be useful in asymmetrical warfare, archaic weapon designs, e.g., lever action, revolvers, bolt action, etc, are ineffective when engaging in ambush operations which is also a part of asymmetrical warfare. To effectively ambush an enemy force, especially a modern military force, you would need weaponry capable of penetrating body armor, providing suppressing and covering fire, and the ability to fire more than just a few rounds as the lull in fire created by constantly reloading a clumsy weapon will give the enemy force ample time to rout the ambush.

I'm confused. In the debate, you call assault weapons "ungainly" yet in the comments here you say that the features of assault weapons are designed to enable the weapon to be effectively employed in combat. It can't be both, either it's ungainly in combat or it's designed to be effective in combat.


No desire beyond the necessities for survival and procreation are truly rational. And if an individual is truly rational, he/she would take the time to physically and mentally prepare himself/herself to use any weapon they acquired.
Posted by RoyLatham 5 years ago
The debate rules solicit comments while the debate is in progress. Odd, but I'll go along.

Where is the link to [4]?

Pro is correct that his challenge says that it is only about semi-automatic weapons that fire more than seven shots without reloading. I was confused by the grossly misleading title of the debate. Pro also is confused, apparently, because he says that carrying an assault weapon in public terrorizes the populace. An assault weapon by the definition of the debate can be an ordinary pistol. Police carrying pistols do not terrorize the public. So even while debating, he is apparently thinking about something else.

Pro's premise is that if something is rare there is no need to guard against it. Mass shootings are rare, so by the premise there is no need to guard against them. Hence there is no reason to prohibit assault weapons, given that anything rare should be ignored.

The logic is inherently faulty. Tornadoes are rare, therefore by the premise, there is no need for tornado storm cellars. Since there are disadvantages to tornado cellars --cost, danger of falling or being trapped, misuse-- it is therefore rational by the premise to ban such cellars. The rational reason for them is "rare" and some disadvantages can be named. The fallacy in supposing that rare events can ignored applies to fires, health emergencies, anything insured, and so forth.

The main reason that people buy what we ordinarily call assault rifles is that they are fairly cheap, reliable, accurate, the 22 caliber ammo is cheap, and the large magazine holds a lot of rounds. This makes them very good rifles for target practice, which is what people actually do with them. It takes a lot of practice to shoot accurately. Pro grants he need to shoot accurately. Yes, it is possible to learn to shoot well with a seven-round weapon, but that plays on the semantics of "need." Could you get to work by horseback or do you "need" a car? Need covers "need" for reasonable efficiency.
Posted by likespeace 5 years ago
Jarhyn, thanks, I missed this.

"Shared participation is encouraged; while there can only be one formal "PRO" and one formal "CON", any independently supported argument may be advanced and picked up by the formal debators."
Posted by Jarhyn 5 years ago
Also, likespeace, I have no problem with him contributing to jj in comments, as per rule 8.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by LatentDebater 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: Idiot debater for con. Had zero reason to vote him.
Vote Placed by 1Devilsadvocate 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro clearly absolutly destroyed con. With his well presented arguments. In the future conced rather than prolong the debate. Conduct for pro.