Tournament Debate: Gun Rights
Debate Rounds (4)
I will just make a few clarifications for this debate:
1. We are discussing whether we should tighten or restrict gun control (relative to the current degree in the USA), Pro does not need to argue for no restrictions on firearms and Con does not need to argue for total restrictions on firearms.
2. BoP is shared.
3. No semantics
If Pro would like to dispute the above, then I invite him to PM me and I will consider the amendments.
Over to you, Vox Veritas! :)
First of all, I'm going to ask a question. What is a gun? Well, it is a weapon. Technically speaking the very discharge of a firearm is a violent act, even if no living organism is harmed In the process. But, guns can be used for purposes which either harm an organism or do not harm an organism. Guns can, thus, be thought of as a physical manifestation of power.
The idea behind gun control is that human beings, who have violent tendencies, should not be entrusted with this power, which can be used to hurt or kill one another. While human beings are violent, we can be restrained through factors such as the development of a sense of morality, religious belief, fear of legal repercussion, the fear of the other guy shooting back, etc. Thus, the statement that humans are violent isn't necessarily true under all circumstances. Likewise, this power can be used to protect ourselves and others from those who seek to harm us. In this way, power is a double-edged sword, one that need not be feared in the hands of the majority as long as the majority of people are "good".
Also, removing this power from the populace is problematic, because the Government that put such a restriction in place still possesses guns, and more sophisticated weaponry. What results is a power imbalance; the Government has power and the populace does not. As long as the Government is benevolent, this is okay. However, there is no guarantee that this will always be the case. What if, after 2,000 years of being a "good" Government it suddenly corrupts and turns on the populace? What then?
Because Governments also have a potential for evil which cannot be wholly eliminated, there is no logical reason to trust solely the Government with power. It makes about as much sense as the U.S. Federal Government eliminating its own checks and balances so that power may be concentrated in the hands of one branch.
Because neither the populace nor the Government can be trusted entirely, there should be a system of check-and-balance between the populace and the Government. That is, the Government would be powerful enough to handle a minority, but not the majority. The majority will remain good as long as that which society endorses, values, expects, teaches, and enforces is good. In a moral society the majority will be moral. If the majority of people are good, then a minority group of "bad" people will be few in number whenever attempting something bad. Being few in number, bad people can be suppressed by the Government. Likewise, when the Government turns bad, the majority will turn on the Government. Since the Government would not have the power to defeat the majority, it would be defeated and the majority could re-establish a good Government in the place of the corrupted one.
However, the populace's power would rely upon them possessing not only weaponry, but every instrument used by militaries to increase power. This includes logistics, communications, mobility, and the likes.
Thus, I argue that not only do gun laws need to be weakened, but that civilians should have access to much more powerful weaponry than they do. Civilians should have access to assault rifles, rocket launchers, armored vehicles, tanks, fighter and reconnaissance aircraft, advanced communication, armed drones, secure bunkers, advanced early warning systems, and the likes.
An important balance must be preserved between the populace and the Government, with the populace having the upper hand at all times. It is the democratization of power, and it is good. Thank you.
This argument takes the form:
P1: If further regulation of X will save lives, then further regulation of X ought to be implemented
P2: Increased gun control will save lives
C: Increased gun control ought to be implemented.
I will justify this argument by individually justifying its premises.
This is a moral statement, which is to say that we should analyse its ethical veracity in order to ascertain whether it is a justified premise.
We can do this from a couple of different perspectives:
Utilitarian view: Implementation of life-saving regulation will save lives. The losing of one's life, or the risk of losing it, is painful and therefore creates unhappiness. Therefore we ought to implement life-saving regulation.
Deontological view: Killing is an intrinsically immoral act, so if increased regulation will reduce the amount of killing that occurs, then this regulation ought to be implemented.
I could apply the premise to more ethical theories, but the answer will generally be the same. Nevertheless, I commend it to my opponent that he accepts that we ought to save human lives where possible.
Therefore, premise 1 is justified.
This is the most disputed premise, but nevertheless it is still correct.
I will prove it so by appealing to statistical evidence:
Here we can see a distinct negative correlation between murder rate and the extent of gun control. This strongly implies that gun control saves lives.
I am aware that correlation does not necessarily entail causation, but if there is a clear potential link between two variables then it is likely that correlation does imply causation. The fact that firearms are often used as murder weapons demonstrates a clear causal connection between firearm regulation and homicide rate.
As both of my premises have now been verified, the conclusion logically follows that we ought to implement gun control.
Con's argument is essentially that civilian-owned firearms would help resist a tyrannical government. I have several points here:
1. Con presents a false dichotomy between the Government and the populace. In reality, the Government is formed of the populace and is elected by them - so the issue of corruption is a lot more complex than simple two-sided conflict between the state and its populace.
2. If the populace did own firearms, and they decided to use them against the Government there would be absolute anarchy. A contemporary example would be the recent Syrian civil war where armed civilians has led to hundreds of disorganised militias causing death and destruction all over Syria. (3)
3. The US government is one of the most stable governments in the world; hence it would be extremely unlikely for it to become corrupt to the extent it would attack its own civilians. Severe corruption (by which I mean that there is a real danger to the population) is virtually unheard of in rich modern democracies.
4. It is impractical to prevent life-saving regulation now out of fear of very unlikely events that may or may not happen in the future. The likelihood that the government would certainly turn corrupt and attack its own civilians is probably around the likelihood that there will be an alien invasion in the next century, even famous physicist Stephen Hawking attested to this probability (4). Yet it is silly to introduce counter-alien invasion legislature in a tenuous attempt to prepare for this vague possibility, especially if doing so would endanger lives. Similar to Con's argument, it is silly to allow citizens to possess firearms, tanks etc... in an attempt to prepare for the small possibility that the government could turn on its citizens, and even if the citizens did fight back it would cause another civil war in all likelihood. More to the point, allowing citizens to possess firearms as well as even deadlier weapons would be likely to increase the homicide rate (as my argument shows).
5. Who defines corruption? Whether it is prudent to use firearms against the government is a subjective decision. An animal rights activist would think it prudent to use firearms against the government if they deemed it necessary to stop animal experimentation. The very essence of a civilian populace is that it doesn't really agree on anything. There is no objective point at which it becomes appropriate to employ firearms against the government.
I have given a cogent argument that demonstrates that we ought to reduce the homicide rate and increasing gun control is a prudent way to accomplish this. It is extremely unlikely that the government would turn corrupt and attack its citizens, so we should not let this stand in the way of legislation that would be far more likely to save lives.
The number of unregistered guns in the United States is unknown, because it is, obviously, undocumented. However, to assume that there are millions of unregistered guns is a reasonable assumption.
In fact, it's soon to get worse.
Imagine: thousands of websites where people with 3D Printers can upload gun designs and, with the click of a button...voila! The level of regulation needed to prevent this would be unconstitutional, frankly.
Of course, without bullets guns are powerless. But the main ingredients in gunpowder are potassium nitrate, sulfur, and charcoal.
Charcoal can be obtained by anyone seeking to have a barbeque or to grill food. 32.5 million tons of sulfur are produced by the United States every year, and it has many commercial uses. Potassium Nitrate is also commercially available, with uses such as "stump remover".
So, all three main ingredients of gunpowder are available. And knowledge of how to use these ingredients to make gunpowder is available on the internet. Even if these products are not made commercially available, a criminal may be able to gain access to them through a black market.
Basically, nothing short of extreme authoritarianism could prevent those who desire guns enough to break the law from having them. Cops cannot be everywhere, and under what you proposed civilians would not have guns. The only surefire way to prevent criminals from having guns is to regularly scan people's minds.
And the end result of that would be...Psycho-Pass for real. Yeah, that didn't work out very well for any of the main characters.
So clearly, it is not feasible to eliminate all guns or to protect the populace sufficiently from those who gain them illegally and desire to hurt others. Until something changes, this is but a pipe-dream.
And of course, many murders don't involve guns at all. So even if all guns were eliminated there would still be murder.
2. Abuse of original intent doesn't mean something is bad
People use guns to hurt others. Though guns are weapons, their basic purpose is to endow the owner with greater power. This greater power can be used for protection, insurance against threats, for the purpose of hunting, just for looking cool, for shooting competitions, for possible use to fight back against an occupation of one's country, etc. The designers of civilian guns did not intend for them to be used for murder. Thus, such a use is an abuse of that gun.
Other things can be abused, such as sex (think rape and child molestation). That does not mean that we should ban sex. In that same way, people should simply use guns in the correct manner. And what is the best way to ensure this? To allow "good" people to defend themselves and to use guns to deter criminals.
In fact, in some cases guns serve only to save lives. For instance, if a muscular criminal without a gun attempts to attack a woman who isn't particularly strong or skilled in martial arts, her only hope is...a gun. In fact, even if they both have guns, at least they're on equal footing and it wouldn't be a plain-out massacre. Factors such as physical strength could be negated, saving the lives of many young unmarried women.
3. Government-Civilian Balance
My opponent has made the error of believing that a good Government cannot corrupt. This simply is not true; the U.S. Government ended up wiretapping the Democratic Party in the early 1970s, in a scandal known as "Watergate". I think it's fair to say that before the 1970s the U.S. Government was a pretty good one. And to provide another example, if you're a Liberal, you'd consider Guantanamo Bay and the happenings at places like Ferguson and Baltimore, as well as the "corporate interests" in Congress to be blatant signs of Government corruption.
I have already shown that not only is true gun control impossible, but guns have good purposes and they're even necessary for the populace to have.
I await my opponent's response.
CR1 - Guns cannot be controlled?
Pro's argument here is that, since guns can be 3D-printed, we cannot regulate them without 'extreme authoritarianism'.
But this is simply false, why not regulate who owns a 3D printer? They aren't exactly everyday essentials and they are only really used in particular industries. True, at present there is virtually no regulation on 3D printers but this can change and wouldn't be hard to enforce, since 3D printers are highly sophisticated and difficult to make. This is hardly authoritarian.
Considering the statistical evidence I have presented above, it is worth regulating 3D printers in an attempt to reduce the homicide rate. Of course, this is still more speculation because 3D printed guns are still a relative rarity; most people cannot obtain one or would have no need to.
My opponents second argument is totally fallacious. Just because gun control wouldn't be able to eliminate all guns, it does not follow that it ought not be introduced. The fact remains that increasing gun control will probably reduce gun ownership, even if it doesn't eliminate it, and a reduction in gun ownership will be better than no reduction.
Pro's argument uses the same logic as 'we cannot stop theft, therefore we shouldn't try to prevent it'.
Yet this is a blatant non-sequitur.
CR2 - Abuse of guns?
My opponent claims that the basic purpose of guns isn't as a murder weapon - yet this is simply false. The very first firearms were developed in China to use as flamethrowers (1). When firearms were first developed in Europe, they were battle cannons which went on to evolve into handguns (muskets) (2). All which were used in battle and created for battle.
The sole reason these firearms were created and developed was to kill people in more efficient ways. Of course they have other uses such as hunting, 'looking cool' or self-protection; but the basic purpose of guns is to allow their owner to kill other people more efficiently, easily and safely than, say, a longbow or a sword.
Therefore, killing people with firearms isn't abuse of them - because that was what they were made for!
Finally, Pro refers to cases where a young woman would require a gun to protect herself against an assailant.
Firstly, Pro would need to argue cogently that the lives saved in this manner would outweigh the lives saved from increasing gun control, and secondly Pro would then come up against the overwhelming statistics that demonstrate that relaxed gun control correlates with homicide rates.
CR3 - Corruption?
I never denied that the government could be corrupt, all I said was that it is extremely unlikely that the government would become corrupt to the extent at which its citizens would be in danger. Watergate didn't endanger the lives of citizens (at least not in a way that could be avoided by civilian gun-ownership).
My argument stands that it is extremely speculative and unlikely that the government would become corrupt to the extent at which it would attack its own populace, and so we shouldn't prevent life-saving regulation now.
1. Whilst total gun control is impossible, some degree of gun control certainly isn't. And my burden of proof does not entail that I argue for total gun control, only that I argue for some of it.
2. Gun's may have good purposes, but these are detractions from what the basic purpose of guns is. Also, gun control does not rule out licensed gun ownership.
3. Guns are not necessary for the populace to have, otherwise it would be classed as a necessity. Yet most people don't own a gun and live perfectly happy lives that would probably not be improved by owning a gun.
4. It remains very unlikely that guns would ever be needed to defend against a corrupt government that is attacking its citizens.
Besides, there's still the possibility that somebody could simply make their own 3D Printer, considering that blueprints for the technology is probably available by now on the internet.
Of course, gun control would definitely reduce the number of guns available to civilians. But then you'd have repeats of the 2011 Utoya Massacre, where 67 people were killed by gunfire. That's what one wolf let loose among a flock of sheep can accomplish; the shepherd is not constantly present. Imagine a large indoor event where there's no armed security, everyone's disarmed, a shooter enters, and he's prevented the doors from opening. Everyone there would be at the mercy of the shooter, and he could kill everyone there.
Simply put, a few criminals with guns would have their destructive capabilities vastly increased, with no chance of a civilian stopping them. In fact, considering that the number of illegal guns out there would be sky high, the number of deaths prevented would probably be offset by the number of deaths caused.
Next, the purpose of guns. My opponent claims that the original purpose of civilian handguns is for killing. Absolutely; that's why it clearly reads "Go shoot your neighbor" on the box one's gun comes in. Even in the good ole' days (that is, centuries in modern American history prior to 1900), the primary purposes for guns would've been to hunt animals (seeing as how wild animals were a legitimate food source back then) and protecting one's self and one's family from hostiles, be it outlaws or attacking Indians. There are different kinds of guns, used for different purposes. Currently available civilian guns are not intended for killing human beings, though they certainly have the power to accomplish this.
Also, if original intent was what mattered, then pacifists everywhere should shun the internet as a tool of the military-industrial complex.
Finally, my opponent addresses Government corruption. The reason that it is such a matter of concern is that it's permanent. Seeing as how the vast majority of Americans believe in Evolution, I'll use Evolution as my analogy. According to the theory of Evolution, Species A, which is extremely primitive but able to reproduce, appears. There have been countless "attempts" by nature before this to create lasting life, but this one "sticks" for billions of years because it meets the requirements needed to survive indefinitely (that is, this life form's descendants). Only a global extinction event that could make Earth like Mars could end life after it "sticks".
In this same manner, a Government that is able to assert total control over its populace will "stick" (that is, remain in power) indefinitely, for billions of years and possibly until the end of time itself. It would be, in every sense of the word, permanent; only some significant external factor could end it. That's why Authoritarianism in a technologically advanced era is exceptionally dangerous. That is why it must be prevented at all costs. The best way to accomplish this is to ensure that there is not a power imbalance between the capabilities of the populace and the Government.
My opponent has stated that it (the Government's sufficiently detract corruption) won't happen; maybe in the short term it won't. But over the course of millennia, eventually it will. And when it does, you can be sure that it will "stick" forever if there's a major power imbalance when this occurs.
Before I end this, I'd like to note one more thing. A sufficiently moral populace will mean a "good" majority that will be able to keep the bad apple members of the populace in check. An armed populace enforces justice; a good majority will be protected by its power which it has through weaponry. A bad majority will destroy itself, and rightfully so.
Firstly, I would like to point out that I never said we should ban 3D printing, all I said was that we should regulate who owns them so that it wouldn't be possible for criminals to mass-produce 3D printed firearms. Again, this isn't 'extreme authoritarianism'.
Of course someone could make their own 3D printer, but remember that these are highly sophisticated industrial robots that would require an immense amount of skill and technology to build.
The logic is fallacious anyhow, to use an analogy; people can build nuclear bombs (if they knew how/had the materials), yet it is a non-sequitur that we should therefore not regulate who owns nuclear bombs.
My opponent goes on to cite the case of the 2011 Utoya Massacre, but he forgets all the massacres that have been allowed to happen because of a lack of gun control. Out of all the massacres in the USA since 1982, the vast majority of the time the perpetrator has obtained their gun legally (1). It stands to reason that if gun control was increased, then less potential murderers would be able to obtain guns and hence there would be less gun massacres.
Purpose of guns
Con is confusing what a gun is made for and what a gun should be used for. A bomb is made to be blown up, but that does not mean that we should blow it up. Most people accept that a gun shouldn't be used to kill people, but that does not escape the fact that this is the primary purpose of guns, it is what they are made for. Anyone can see this by examining the development of firearms since medieval China.
I agree that guns can be used for different purposes, and if that is the case then there is nothing stopping them from obtaining a gun license. Gun control promotes the usage of licensing, and if one doesn't plan to use their gun dangerously, then there should be nothing stopping them from obtaining a license for it.
My opponent states that:
'a Government that is able to assert total control over its populace will "stick" (that is, remain in power) indefinitely, for billions of years and possibly until the end of time itself'
Which is evidently incorrect. The USSR was one of the most authoritarian states the world has ever seen, yet that did not 'stick'.
The reason for this is that other governments would seek to step in and end the authoritarianism, either indirectly or directly, so the chances of the USA becoming totally authoritarian and remaining so indefinitely are minuscule, considering pretty much the whole rest of the world would object to it.
It is farcical to prevent life-saving regulation now in order to plan for what will happen millennia in the future. We have no idea what the world will be like in 100 years and so it is foolhardy to pretend that we do.
Finally, Pro ends by saying:
'A sufficiently moral populace will mean a "good" majority that will be able to keep the bad apple members of the populace in check. An armed populace enforces justice; a good majority will be protected by its power which it has through weaponry. A bad majority will destroy itself, and rightfully so.'
Yet this calls to mind the fact that US society has had effectively no gun control for 200+ years and there is still plenty of crime and 'bad apples' within society. It is clear that gun ownership of the moral majority does nothing to prevent the acts of the immoral minority, otherwise US society would be a veritable paradise which it certainly is not.
Ultimately, these fallacies arise when people attempt to categorise people into the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys', despite it rarely being as simple as that.
I would like to thank my opponent for this debate, I have enjoyed it a lot and I hope he has too :)
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