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RFD: Gun Debate (taj v. Hayd)

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9/21/2015 1:23:16 AM
Posted: 1 year ago

I write this after a long but productive day at the lake, overlooking gentle waves crashing on beautiful rocks all while writing a paper that in all probability will get published on a very important subject. Needless to say, I've had a good day and I'm in a very good mood. So, when I not only found this debate but found it in the condition that it's in (tied, of course) I felt compelled to vote. I have not read RFD's. As a disclaimer of my many biases with respect to this issue, I am very liberal and I favor sweeping and comprehensive gun reform. I try to make a habit of disclosing my biases on topics because I feel like debaters would like to know; they can determine for themselves if and to what extent bias influenced my decision. Of course, I think of myself as a judge who renders unbiased decisions as much as doing so is possible for any person. Others may disagree, and if they do I'd be curious to learn why.

The issue is whether gun bans would not be very effective in the U.S.A. It is very odd that the resolution is phrased the way it is, in the negative form. A more conventional approach would have been to phrase the resolution something to the effect of "gun bans could be effective in the United States." Nonetheless, the resolution is what it is. PRO must show that a gun ban would not be very effective. CON must show that a gun ban would not not be very effective; or, said another way, could be very effective. The resolution phrased in the double negative does not require that CON show that a gun ban would *as a point of fact* be very effective, only that it could be very effective. The burdens of persuasion are equal, as this is a normative resolution. Based on the resolution, I expect that arguments will be very speculative. This would be a problem if we were in a court of law, but in the halls of DDO anything goes. Nonetheless, because of the resolution's nature I will not deduct for speculation. If other judges have done this, their doing so is in error, because everything associated with this is necessarily speculative, and there is no way not to be speculative.

Now that the resolution is analyzed, we move to the substance of the debate:

PRO opens by talking about the main purpose of a gun ban, which would be, in his view, to reduce violent crime. PRO has five contentions: (1) a gun ban would run counter to gun culture; (2) a gun ban would "not make a huge difference" -which PRO supports by talking about Vermont and the extent to which people in Vermont depend on guns for hunting, and for other reasons; (3) guns are used for self defense; (4) there are a lot of guns in circulation among the American people; and (5) Britain has a higher violent crime rate than the United States.

Recall that the resolution is "Gun bans would not be very effective in the U.S.A." PRO defines, and CON agrees, that they are not debating whether such a ban could be effectively implemented, but whether if implemented it would achieve the desired result, where "the desired result" is a reduction in violent crime. PRO's first contention does not address "the desired result" but instead concerns itself only with the extent to which such a ban would run counter to an extant culture with in the US that relates to guns. This does not advance his burden of persuasion. PRO's second argument addresses his burden of proof in that he says that the a gun ban would not make a huge difference, which addresses his burden or proof, but his evidence does not support his claim, because his evidence supports not implementing a gun ban at all, just like his first argument. These are irrelevant to the resolution as defined by both users. PRO's third argument talks about how guns, if not banned, are useful. This has no bearing on whether a gun ban would actually reduce violent crime, and is thus irrelevant. PRO's fourth argument supports the plain text of the resolution (that a gun ban would not be effective) but where effectiveness means reducing violent crime, again as the parties agreed here, this assumes that such a ban would not be implemented, and again is more a reason why a gun ban should not be implemented at all rather than whether a gun ban if implemented would successfully reduce violent crime, and thus, is irrelevant and like all other arguments prior does not advance his burden of persuasion. PRO's fifth argument contrasts the relative violent crime rates in the United States and Britain. This is functional support for his second argument, that a gun ban wouldn't make much of a difference in the way of reducing violent crime. Thus, PRO has one successful argument from the first round.

CON argues that if guns were banned, (1) suicides would be reduced -and this is supported indirectly by statistical evidence, (2) that a ban would reduce some kinds of gun-related homicide, which is also supported by evidence, and (3) that banning guns would reduce accidents, which is not directly supported by evidence although CON offers some statistics to explain the gravity of gun-related accidents. Recall that CON had to show by persuasive evidence that violent crime would be reduced. Accidents are not crime and are thus irrelevant. However, suicide and gun related homicide are violent crime, and they are directly on point, and supported by evidence. CON leads after the first round.

PRO tries to just talk about "crime" generally as opposed to crime that is violent, which is not good for him because it will allow CON to talk about all robberies, for example, which are facilitated by guns. Because this is however not the burden that the parties agreed to I will for purposes of adjudicating this round only stick to the original BOP (violent crime will be reduced). PRO attempted to require that CON prove that all suicide be reduced, but he does not present evidence that people who do not have guns will try to commit suicide by other means *because they do not have guns.* This is why PRO's rebuttal is weak, because he makes the unsupported assumption that people who would have killed themselves with guns but cannot because they do not have guns would pursue that same end with other means. PRO makes the same mistake with regard to homicide; he assumes that people would kill at the same rate with other means, but he does not offer evidence for that, which acutely constrains the impact of his argument. What PRO should have said with respect to accidents is that they are irrelevant, within the meaning of "effective" that both parties agreed to, but he didn't do that. I will not consider this, though, because it is irrelevant as it is not violent crime.

CON responds in the next round that correctly that discussion of gun culture is irrelevant; undercuts the weak statistical argument that PRO made with respect to non-causation (although does not point out that PRO's argument about Vermont was irrelevant, which he should have); says that firearms were very infrequently used for self defense which almost negates PRO's point but it doesn't matter because self defense is irrelevant; correctly says that the argument about illegal guns is irrelevant; and (5) undercuts the argument with regard to the UK by saying that the UK does not have a gun ban, just really strict gun control, which knocks the foundation out from underneath PRO's second contention as supported by his fifth contention.

This was an objective win for CON, in that he showed that gun ban would be effective at reducing violent crime, and he prevented PRO from making any progress in the way of showing the contrary.