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RFD for Gun Ban Debate

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9/19/2016 9:19:35 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I'm likely to be a bit harsh with this RFD, though note that I'm not trying to be mean with any of my feedback. I've seen a lot of gun control debates, and perhaps that's coloring my impression of this particular debate. It's not a bad debate, as both sides do have substantive arguments and substantial support for them, but there's a lot going wrong. While I initially intended to produce a short RFD that focused on analysis of the specific arguments, I do feel the need to go through some overviews of the strategies employed and explain why this debate is frustrating me.

To start, I don't know who to vote for at the moment that I write these words. I've had that happen on good debates where there was so much substance for each side that I couldn't make a decision without going through each argument in depth, but that's not the case here. The weight to each side's arguments are all over the place; each side seems to both accept and dismiss the view that loss of life matters most, and there's often little focus dedicated to quantifying and explaining the depth of an impact. Barring a few instances where numbers are presented, there's little means for me to weigh any of the arguments, and even in those, I'm often left scratching my head as to the meaning of those numbers.

That lack of analysis has deep roots in everything throughout the debate. There's scattershot analysis of the sources by both sides, with each throwing out statistics and providing at best limited analysis, often dismissing opposing sources with little to no explanation or examination. Both sides produce a tremendous number of assertions to make their major arguments (yes, even if you produce a lot of sources, that doesn't obviate the need for more), often with little to no warrants. The arguments themselves usually only scratch the surface of a given issue, and each side basically takes the opposing argument at face value, often granting key reasoning when challenging it would offer better opportunities.

I'll go through the debate and explain how each argument had some if not all of these problems.

Starting on Pro's case. Before I get into the arguments proper, I'm going to note the huge elephant in the room: where's the case? Pro and Con pretty much just assume from the outset that this is clear, but that is not so. I'm pretty much assuming from the outset that this is a complete gun ban, but Pro later argues that certain officials and hunters could still have guns, and later she argues that evidence regarding specific weapons bans indicates that those are good, which makes me think that she wants to argue for a more restricted ban. Pro doesn't nail this down, and Con doesn't force her to do so. So immediately, we have a problem: I don't know which if Pro's or Con's arguments actually apply to her case. That's not a good place to start. In some styles of debate, that could force me to default to Con. In this case, I go with the clearest case I'm presented with: a ban on all guns, save for restricted usage by law enforcement and hunters.

1. Crime (I'll address both Pro's and Con's arguments on this point here)

This one becomes such a clusterf*ck. To start, what is crime? It's a very general term, and I don't really get any concision as to what it means throughout the debate. At one point, Con mentions that crime involves theft and homicide, and that there may be effects on one but not on the other. That's true, but it only leads me to question which is affected by the presence of guns. What crimes are reduced, and what crimes are increased, if any? I get scant little on this. Con offers the opposite viewpoint, that guns reduce the incidence of crime, but I get about the same level of analysis from him. Both sides cite a few sources to back up their points, but Con seems uncertain from the outset regarding whether his sources produce anything substantial, and both Pro and Con spend scant little time analyzing what their sources actually say, blipping out short sentences on what their overall meaning and leaving each side to quibble over the details in later rounds.

I end up with little reason to believe that crime as a whole shifts on the basis of gun ownership. Both sides do a lot of comparison with the UK, each using highly suspect correlative data lacking many of the basic warrants that could have made this comparison strong or weakened it. Both sides try to use the incidence of gun ownership as a means to explain the data, but it's unclear why that makes the comparison invalid, and unclear why the reduction in gun ownership actually results in a reduction in crime rates.

What I do buy is the link to homicide rates. Con even concedes the point in a later round, allowing that Pro's source proves this. Both sides pretty much accept that a gun is a deadly weapon and capable of inflicting death more easily than other weapons, so the warrant is tacitly granted. It's unclear what the effect on homicides is, and as such I have little means to weigh this argument. Nonetheless, this is a death toll that factors into the larger debate.

2. Suicide

Honestly, I'm baffled as to how this one got out of control. Pro argues that firearm ownership results in larger death tolls from suicides, and while reading her argument provides no decipherable clues as to why firearms lead more people to attempt and succeed in suicide, it's pretty much granted across the board that suicide rates are higher among gun owners. So this should have been a clean win for Pro.

Then I get this liberty argument from Con, and we stop being so clear. It's not even because this argument is particularly good; Con practically provides the obvious response himself on his defense point, stating that "one life is important" and that lives being lost in any amount is a huge problem. Frankly, I would have bought that response outright since Con doesn't provide any reasons why liberty is important (more on that later). Instead, what I get from Pro is yet more assertion: it's cowardly to commit suicide, and that stress can be handled better. Even if I buy that (and Con doesn't do much to dissuade me), it means nothing. How do I weigh cowardice? How do I weigh handling stress better? For that matter, how would banning guns ensure that people handle stress better? Why does a lower incidence of suicide mean people will become more capable of handling that stress?

Both sides give me more questions than answers, and I'm still buying the bulk of the initial reasoning here, but I'm no longer sure that these lives are as bad to lose as others discussed in this debate. As Con argues, they want to die, so their value to society is reduced to some degree. That contradicts his one life point, but both sides seem to have forgotten that that point existed, so I don't see that as a huge problem. The loss to liberty has no comparable impact, nor does the "we should push people not to be cowards" point, despite each side conceding these arguments. Word of advice: take the time to explain why your points are important. It doesn't matter how hard you're winning a point if it's negligible to the outcome of the debate. I'll return to this several times.

For now, I'll skip the defense arguments, since those are chiefly on Con's side of the debate, though I will briefly note that in an attempt to pre-mitigate Con's argument, Pro is shooting herself in the foot here (pun intended).
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9/19/2016 9:19:59 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
3. Accidental shootings

Another pretty straightforward argument that becomes incredibly convoluted for no good reason. It's clear from the outset that we have a problem: children live in households where they have access to guns, and accidental shootings are a thing that kills people. It would have been nice to get some numbers from Pro, though Con ends up doing that himself later in the debate. Regardless, from the outset, it's clear that there's some life loss and some general loss of safety in schools and among children specifically. I don't know why the latter two impacts are things I should weigh more heavily " the emphasis on schools and children is never validated by any explanation of why these things should matter more than just accidental shootings in general " but they are there.

The responses to this point are, at least, direct. I don't particularly love throwing random counterplans out there, but at least this one is explained: push for better gun storage (not sure if this is a requirement) and require gun licenses. There are a lot of problems with this counterplan. Not all households have a gun safe and it's unclear whether or not Con is requiring them to buy one. It's also not clear what the gun licenses actually do beyond provide some unknown screening process. How does that increase gun storage safety? Con asserts it does, but doesn't explain how. He also argues for parental responsibility, but again, I see no obvious weight for this point. Why would implementing a gun ban do harm to that responsibility? Why should I care that we're giving their responsibility a pass?

There's a dynamic between this and defense that is little explored throughout the debate, and it comes from the counterplan. I'll get to this more on the defense point, but there's a bit of push and pull between gun safety and defense of the household. Pro actually talks about this, though not in much detail: if a gun is in a safe, it takes longer to get out, which means it's less useful for defense of the household. Con's response is that it can still be used and is used in status quo, but his case requires some pretty dramatic shifts from that status quo, so the point still stands.

Nonetheless, I do view the counterplan as potentially mitigating Pro's argument about accidental shootings, albeit I only have a vague idea of how it does so and what it's actually doing. The numbers Con presents seem rather low, but once again, they are life loss. Those will go down to some unknown degree, but they will still exist. So this point is still going for Pro.

Onto Con's case.

1. The Framework

This was" not a framework. All you did here was tell us what the focus of your case would be, not why we as voters should prefer the impacts you"re garnering. A framework is not an outline for arguments to come " it"s meant to be an opportunity for you to terminalize the impacts that we"re going to see and explain why they are superior. I feel like this is a common theme in your case: there"s a lot of good ideas there, and a mess of reasons why I might prefer them, but almost none of those reasons are ever stated. If you"re going to present a framework, then use it to accomplish something. This is just wasted space, even with the definitions.

2. The Second Amendment

I"m having a hard time understanding what Con was trying to accomplish with this point. I feel like if I squint really hard at it, I can see a point somewhere in the background, but it"s just not at all clear. Con immediately abandons the obvious route of explaining why this amendment is important, and then abandons the secondary route of explaining why basic liberty of ownership is important. You kind of get there later on an entirely different point, but here, there"s almost nothing. The only point Con tries to make is that a law is a law, and that people should follow it. I agree that a law is a law, but I don"t know why people should follow it.

Pro tells me bad laws shouldn"t be followed, and while she"s not doing much to explain why this is a bad law (note: I really don"t like that either of you is characterizing this as a law " it"s in the Bill of Rights, it goes a little deeper than a law), I don"t have any particular reason to view it as good. I don"t see the harm in negating this law on any level, as Con tells me absolutely nothing about what it means to ignore a law that"s on the books. I can see where arguments along those lines could have come from, but I"m not going to give you those points if you don"t tell me what they are. Lacking that, this point just seems moot. There"s no impact to not following the law in this argument, no matter what Socrates said.

3. Defense

This is the major focus of the debate, probably because it has the biggest numbers. Honestly, I can see why that would be the case, but I"m still not sure what those numbers mean. Con makes a lot of assumptions to derive his numbers, and those end up being close to some of Pro"s, so I"m told to buy them, which I guess I do. Pro, I don"t know why you gave him these numbers. They did nothing to benefit your point, and you"re just giving him impact by doing this.

But that"s about the only thing that"s clear here, as I don"t get any kind of dive into what those numbers actually break out to in any meaningful way. Going back to a point I made earlier, what is crime? Hell, what is self-defense? What are they defending themselves from? Why is lost property as a result of theft important? How does that loss compare to loss of life? Both sides pretty much assume that more self-defense is good, though I can think of at least a few reasons why that might be up for debate. Really, the only thing either side debates is just how often self-defense actually occurs and how effective it is.

It"s the latter point that somewhat undercuts this argument. Remember earlier when I said that there"s a dynamic between reducing the number of accidental shootings and increasing the capacity for self-defense? Pro pointed out that, if you have a gun in a safe or in a high place that"s not easily accessible, it reduces the capacity to use that gun for self-defense. Con shrugs this off and says they could still be used, but when this point is dependent on the numbers being big, this is a problem. It tells me that the number of people who would actually be able to use their guns for defense goes down. Con"s other counterplan plank, which regards the usage of licenses, also reduces the amount of gun owners out there, which would similarly reduce the number of instances of self-defense. Top that off with a concession that, yes, criminals would have fewer guns in a post-gun ban world, and we have a problem. I don"t know how much any of these will reduce the number of self-defense instances by, but it must be substantial. And considering this is the strongest point in the debate, that"s a big deal. Con keeps trying to throw example scenarios at this in an attempt to beat it back, but anecdotes do nothing to counter the logical reductions in the capacity for self-defense. So I"m left to think about how much self-defense Con is actually winning here, and what that means.
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9/19/2016 9:21:12 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
4. Gun Culture

I"m going to start sounding like a broken record, but what does this mean? Both of you go back and forth on whether or not American loves guns, but can anyone tell me why I should care about that? Hunters will be able to use guns, but I buy that some people will be upset. I don"t know how many of them there are, and I don"t know how they will express their anger, but sure, they"ll be upset. Now, how do I weigh that? What does "taking away their culture" do to them? I"m given no solid reason to vote on this basis. There"s a point to be made here, and Con eventually gets to it, arguing that people will fight to keep their guns, but that"s just an assertion with a nebulous impact. Why won"t that "fight" just involve picketing or political means? Why must it invariably be violent? Pro only says that it won"t happen, which is even less of a warranted assertion, but there"s just nothing here to make me believe in Con"s story. Maybe violence will happen. Maybe it won"t. I"m buying a light impact with almost no probability built in.

5. Economy

This is really the only straightforward argument coming from either side, and it"s pretty blatant, so I don"t know why it becomes confusing later on in the debate. Manufacture and sale of guns generates a decent amount of money for the U.S. That money is beneficial. Ergo, if we ban guns, that money either disappears or is reduced. Pro does argue that most of those sales go to countries outside the U.S., and I could see how that mitigates the argument, but this would still likely be reduced and even Pro admits that many gun companies will close up shop. So I"m buying some substantial economic loss and some job loss. Sure, they could potentially relocate to other jobs if the process of the ban is slow, but that doesn"t erase the economic harm and it"s not a certainty anyway.

The problem with this point is the same as with all of the others: what does it matter? How do I compare several billion dollars lost to the economy to thousands of lives lost? I don"t have a means to do that. Con just kept throwing the numbers out there in an attempt to make his argument strong, but without any comparison of impacts, it just feels like one more thing to add to the pile. What makes it worse is that Con really just doesn"t talk much about what forming a black market means and why that, in and of itself, is damaging. All I get is mitigation on the results of a ban and perhaps a slightly greater harm to defense. It"s a missed opportunity.

6. Waste of Time

And the record keeps spinning. What is this point accomplishing? It shows me that there"s a large number of guns in the U.S., and that people will still get them illegally. Didn"t the black market point say as much? Why does the number of guns make that worse? Pro could have dismissed this whole argument by stating that she would include a buyback system where most of these weapons would be melted down or stored securely in government facilities. Why does the current number of weapons make a ban less likely to work? Because people will hide them? Because they will glut the black market and keep prices down? I don"t see how this is distinct from your previous point, and it"s not helping you any more than that did.


Both sides are just not doing enough with the tools they have. There are plenty of missed opportunities here to make this debate simple, but both sides reject every one in favor of overly quoting their opponent and restating much of the same points over and over again. Without much in the way of weighing analysis, you"re basically forcing your judges to make decisions on what matters, which means large swaths of the debate that you thought were important disappear into the background.

And that"s the case here. I favor impacts where fewer people die, so arguments about impact to the economy, harms to gun culture, losses to liberty, going against the law, and being less cowardly get tossed. I"m buying that job loss might lead to life loss, but Con doesn"t give me any of the link structure for that, and lacking any associated numbers makes that impossible to weigh. So I toss that, too.

That leaves me with all of Pro"s arguments and one of Con"s: defense.

I"ve already explained how hard each of these is to weigh. Neither of you are making any sort of comparison easy, even on this basic level. Con has the biggest numbers, but they"re undercut by some pretty severe mitigation that he"s supercharging with his counterplans, and I don"t get a clear link between instances of self-defense and lives saved. Pro"s crime argument has basically the same problems, except that it doesn"t even have clear-cut numbers that are tying homicides to gun ownership directly. The suicides argument is undercut by the value those lives actually have, but more importantly by the lack of analysis as to how much suicide rates could potentially be cut by if we did ban guns. The accidental deaths argument has a more solid number, but it"s low and not particularly well analyzed.

It"s all a mess, and honestly, I could have picked either side easily. The reason I"m choosing Pro is that I feel like she creates more opportunities for me to vote for her. Her arguments all relate to what appears to be the strongest impact in the debate. Both sides fail on weighing analysis, so that undercuts both of your points, but Con"s the only one actively shaving off the meat of his link story. Pro isn"t doing herself any favors, but at least the links are generally agreed to be there, and both sides accept that lives are lost as a result of gun ownership. It might not be clear that those lives outweigh the potential loss of life from a lack of means for self-defense against criminals with guns, but at least I"m certain that there"s death prevention on her side. I can"t say the same for Con, so that's how I vote.

Forgot to post the link at the top, so I'll do it here.

This is an RFD for the debate between fire_wings and missmozart given here:
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9/19/2016 9:37:37 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Thank you whiteflame for your RFD. I think it will definitely help both myself and Feu to improve our debating in the future :)

Also, many thanks for bothering to read all the tedious and long comments of our debate!
"Bonjour" -Feu

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