The Atlantic has a piece up written by a convicted felon serving 28-Life on why we need to tighten our gun control laws. It’s actually a fascinating look inside the mind of a truly damaged person, once you get past the appeals to emotion and incorrect assumptions. You can read the entire article here, and I suggest you do.
What’s most insightful about the article isn’t the arguments for gun control, but rather the fact that despite saying that he accepts responsibility, you never get the feeling that the author really does. Here’s an example:
I’m where I belong. But without a gun I would not have killed (emphasis added). Like most misguided, impulsive youth in America, I was emotionally and socially retarded, with a killing machine on my waist.
It could be argued that I’m cherry picking this one line to make a point, but the problem is that quote comes in the author’s closing argument. He’s wrapping up the article, and trying to make his final point…and that point is that if it wasn’t for those darn guns, he never would have killed anyone. The specificity of his remorse is also interesting, because he suggests that he’s sad for killing the person he went to jail for killing, but still blames the gun for the crime ultimately. He also doesn’t even begin to express remorse for the multitude of other crimes he committed.
So what are we to make of this article? It would be easy to casually dismiss it as “another scumbag for gun control” because in many ways that’s exactly what it is. But doing that runs the risk of closing off any avenues for refuting the powerful emotional argument made by the article. The first time I read through it, I thought pretty much what I wrote above, “here’s another scumbag for gun control”; the second time I read it I realized that this article would resonate very well with the sort of people who we need on our side in the ongoing gun control debate.
That’s the subtle genius of the article. It’s not written for hardcore policy wonks like us, and it’s not written for hardcore gun control advocates, either. It’s squarely aimed at people whose thoughts on gun control are “criminals shouldn’t have guns” and who otherwise don’t have much of an opinion on the whole thing. In other words, the majority of America. It’s a fairly thoughtful and well-written piece, and that makes it most unlike the screeching lunacy you usually get from pro-gun control types. The best way to talk about an article like this quite simply to use facts – the same as always. The facts about straw purchases, gun theft, and even gun crime are on our side. Calmly stating facts (not beating people over the head with them) is always a better response than trying to argue past emotion.