Saturday, June 12, 2010

Five "Myths" That Aren't Myths at All

The Washington Post has a pro-gun control article up called, "Five myths about gun control." There's a slight problem with it. None of the five points they attack actually qualifies as a myth. Most are at the very least arguments that can be debated one way or another. The article starts off poorly, by calling a factual statement a myth. 

1. Guns don't kill people, people kill people.Far from being a myth, this oft-repeated slogan is factually correct. Guns are tools. They do not leap out of holsters, or climb down off of walls and kill people. They require a human being to point/aim and pull the trigger. The authors try to argue that the slogan gives rise to misleading ideas. Maybe it does, but it is definitely not a myth.

2. Gun laws affect only law-abiding citizens.This an an argument that points out -- correctly -- that people who obtain guns illegally are already breaking the law, as are those who use guns to commit crimes. Far from being a myth, this statement is substantially correct, in that people who actually follow the law are most affected by gun laws, not people who break the law. Criminals by definition violate the law. The authors make a weak attempt to argue that gun laws have other positive effects at suppressing crime. Again, that may be true, but it doesn't make the statement a myth.

3. When more households have guns for self-defense, crime goes down.This is a debatable point. Naturally the authors claim that their data shows otherwise, but it depends on the study. The statement is not clearly true or false, but depends on all sorts of factors. This makes it a possibly dubious argument, but not a myth.

4. In high-crime urban neighborhoods, guns are as easy to get as fast food.According to the authors, their research in Chicago shows otherwise. Generalizing from some neighborhoods in a single city does not make this statement a myth, except possibly for those specific neighborhoods. The assertion may be a sweeping statement that goes too far, but it may also be substantially correct in some areas as others have argued. Calling it a myth is unjustified and just as much a sweeping overstatement as the original assertion.

5. Repealing Chicago's handgun ban will dramatically increase gun crimes.This is speculation about the future. It may or may not be true, we just don't know until it happens and the results are seen. Calling it a myth is ridiculous.

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