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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after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/15/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,328 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 11 through 20 records.
Posted by Jarhyn 5 years ago
I mention specifically semi-automatic magazine-fed rifles, which are specifically assault weapons. A removable magazine (which in modern firearms is generally of arbitrary size) combined with a semi-automatic action would clearly qualify as an assault weapon under the definition. I mention rifles specifically because rifles are generally what is used for hunting. Further, I have not excluded the set of all shotguns. As per the good-faith of the debate, I am referring to "rounds", not "projectiles". As it stands, my argument does not deny the utility of shotguns which fire less than seven rounds semi-automatically.

Further, my argument is not that shotguns are useless in hunting, only that certain varieties of shotgun (if they existed at all) bring nothing to the table of hunting, and DO bring something to the table in terms of deadlyness when used after someone goes "off the deep end". I could certainly have made a special case against shotguns which might fire more than three rounds semi-automatically, but I did not.
Posted by likespeace 5 years ago
jmare, this is an in-progress debate. Since the goal is, in part, to determine who better argued the topic, it may be best to withold most personal arguments/rebuttals until it ends. Alternatively, you can always create your own debate wherein you take on Jarhyn directly. :)
Posted by jmare 5 years ago
Here's some thoughts on your arguments; I won't post sources as I'm not officially debating the point but I will try to stick to evidence that should be fairly common knowledge.

Home defense:
While there is statistical evidence supporting your claims, one cannot disregard the concept of intimidation when engaged in personal defense. An assault weapon, disregarding your extremely broad definition in favor of the more traditional definition, i.e. military style rifles, is psychologically more intimidating when compared to a handgun or, arguably, a shotgun. If displaying a weapon is occasionally enough to deter an assault without resorting to deadly force, then having the most intimidating weapon available is rationally desirable.

And while large numbers of attackers may be statistically rare, it does happen. In matters of personal defense, the rational course is to be able to defend against such threats as situations such as these have dire consequences.

If a rational person would not engage in the reckless discharge of a firearm, is it not also reasonable to assume that a rational person would take the time to learn proper weapon handling and train with the weapon they plan to entrust their personal safety?

Hunting of animals:
Given that your definition of an assault weapon would include certain styles of shotgun, I disagree that assault weapons would be useless in hunting. It also appears that you have ignored bird hunting, in which shotguns are the preferred weapon.

You also appear to be changing your definition of assault weapon in point B. Your stated definition is any firearm capable of firing semi-automatically 7 or more rounds, yet in point B you specifically mention semi-automatic rifles.

Defense against tyrannical government:
Asymmetrical warfare includes direct action engagements. You appear to be equating asymmetrical warfare with a sniper campaign.

*I will continue this in the next comment*
Posted by Jarhyn 5 years ago
Oh, hi, Texan, Apparently you have failed to understand what you have read; it may serve you to read the resolution or discussion up until now. Have I said the government should tell people what they should or should not want? I don't believe I have. My argument, which I am currently in the process of reviewing before posting, is that REASON AND RATIONAL THOUGHT should inform what people SHOULD want, as the rationality behind a desire is a good measure of whether someone should act upon that desire.

As far as weapons go, "weapon" is a noun, not an adjective, and the guns which are the topic of discussion ARE weapons categorically; I doubt anyone here other than perhaps you are arguing that fact. Your attempt at making a semantic argument is quaint and cute, but it is ultimately tiring. I've described what "assault weapon" is in my round 1 challenge, however by using your logic a baseball bat is not an object, as both words describe only how the object is used... after all, the leg of a coffee table may be used to strike a baseball for the purposes of playing that game. If we all failed to use phrases to describe some class of thing based on the general purpose for which it is designed, we would be reduced to technical descriptions of objects such as "a narrowly tapering cylinder of wood, which at the the wide end terminates, and whose taper at the narrow end straightens to parallel for some specific length and then terminates with a knob" though I much prefer allowing "baseball bat" to suffice.
Posted by Texan42 5 years ago
So you're willing to allow the government to tell you what you should and should not want? Are you a subject (slave) or a free citizen? There is also no rational reason for which an American civilian should want a Ferrari, a Big Mac, or plastic surgery. When are we going to outlaw those?

We all need to use proper terminology in this debate. The object of discussion is a "firearm." The words "assault" and "weapon" both describe how you use the object. A rock, a frying pan, and a baseball bat can all be assault weapons. It is not possible to ban all possible assault weapons. But it IS possible for responsible adults to legally carry firearms and shoot these morons as soon as they start shooting innocent people. Most of them shoot themselves as soon as they see any resistance, anyway. The problem is not the firearm; it is the erosion of integrity and basic morality in our society.
Posted by Jarhyn 5 years ago
So, likespeace, sorry about that. Most all of that was directed at roy's ignorant statements about the nature of various weapons features, and WHY they are "assault features".

I'm thinking at this point I'm going to wait for Subutai before I start any more assault weapons debates, but should he follow through you have proposed two subjects, namely detatchable magazines capable of loading more than 7 rounds, and pistol grips. I'm admittedly kind of interested to see how you would defend the rationality of a pistol grip on any weapon which is for hunting. In my experience, pistol grips are one of the more important features of weapons used in violence, particularly in the instigation of it rather than defense from it.
Posted by Jarhyn 5 years ago
The differentiation between "weapon" and "assault weapon" is used by people such as myself who advocate for the acceptability and even the usefulness of some class of weapon, but who wish to elucidate SOME particular type as unacceptable because of it's usefulness in committing heinous crimes, while simultaneously being unnecessary to the previously noted acceptability of a weapon. As such the phrase "assault weapon" is applied rightly to any weapon which falls into that second category; it is not a distortion to recognize that some weapons which happen to be handguns are in fact such assault weapons. Even the previous assault weapons ban of 1994 explicitly recognized that pistols may be assault weapons. That such weapons are ordinary is a damnation against the society that it allowed such dangerous and unnecessary objects to become so commonplace. You have NO ground to stand upon, Roy.
Posted by likespeace 5 years ago
Jaryhyn, that depends on your definition of an assault weapon, of course. I have no interest in defending flash suppressors nor telescoping/folding stocks nor grenade launchers. I do have an interest in defending magazine capacities exceeding seven rounds and shotguns with pistol grips, especially if the claim is that there is no rational reason an American civilian should want to own of those, even given the caveat that we exclude "obviously" unethical actions.
Posted by Jarhyn 5 years ago
Further, as a veteran with extensive experience in handling and using weapons, both "assault" varieties, and otherwise, I can easily defend the sufficiency of features which you claim to be purely cosmetic to be both unnecessary and detrimental to the general welfare if allowed on commercially available weapons.

Such features, which are CLEARLY STATED NOT TO BE THE SUBJECT OF THIS DEBATE, include flash suppressors, pistol grips for rifles (and grips designed to be functional as pistol grips), grenade launchers (for firing rifle grenades), and telescoping/folding stocks, and threaded barrels (for attaching sound suppressors or barrel extensions). Even the presence of a detachable magazine is arguably an "assault feature" on both handguns and rifles.

Each and every one of those features has a function, and each and every such function is exclusively geared towards enabling a rifle to be effectively used in urban environments against people, and are unnecessary for the acceptable civilian uses of a weapon. Flash suppressors allow barrel stability during sustained fire. Pistol grips on rifles allow bringing the rifle to bear rapidly against adversaries, and more rapid aiming for situations of COMBAT. features like barrel threads or rifle-grenade fittings are self-evident in their malicious intent. Folding stocks are for close-quarters carbine use, and while they are quite SILLY on non-carbines, I've still seen people use them; such a feature is like putting a can opener on telephone, and it makes no sense whatsoever to plan to defend a home against invasion with a rifle.
Posted by RoyLatham 5 years ago
I see, an ordinary pistol is an assault weapon, and that's in no way a distortion of the assault weapon issue. Got it.
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.