Defeating the “need” argument

I touched on this briefly yesterday, but today I wanted to expand it into a post all its own. Whenever someone starts ringing the gun control bell, you’ll have the inevitable anti-gun editorials talking about how “no one needs a semi-automatic rifle”, or “no one needs more than 10 rounds” etc.


The pro-gun responses to these arguments usually aren’t that great, because they don’t address the subtle trickery of the question. Usually, the pro-gun response to the question of need is to try and find a justification for the need, or to prove that what the anti-gun twerps are suggestion is just as bad. An example would be arguing that you can change mags on a 10 round gun almost as fast as you can change mags on a 30 round gun, making the capacity limits meaningless because a fast mag change gets you shooting again. Not really an effective argument. Similarly ineffective is trying to justify the need for certain guns and gear based on hypothetical scenarios.

Probably the best answer comes from my friend and Southern Philosophizer, Say Uncle. His usual response is “because F*** you, is why.” Which eloquently sums up the argument that because gun ownership is a Constitutionally protected right, there’s no need for me to justify wanting a gun any more than I need to justify wanting to practice my freedom of religion.

Here’s the thing – lots of people who own guns will never “need” a gun. They own them because they’re fun to shoot, because they want to protect their families, but most of those guns will sit for an entire lifetime and never need to be fired in anger, and that’s a good thing. It would be a very bad time for all of us if we needed our guns on the reg. But need has nothing to do with it, and that’s the important argument.

Gun ownership is a Constitutionally protected right, and that’s the foundation of our arguments and defense. From that ground come all the other reasons to own a gun, self-defense, sport, target shooting, hunting, etc. Not the other way around. By trying to justify our way into gun ownership, we end up playing into the hands of the anti-gunners.


  1. Ummm, yeah. Bill of ‘rights’…not ‘Bill of needs’ or ‘Bill of stuff you can have if I decide you actually need it’.

    And if you want to argue that, focus on the first half and it’s intended meaning (not the current interpretation they like to give due to changes in our language):

    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…”
    Basically, to preserve a free state of the people, the people must be well trained and familiar with their weapons. Under that directive, the people NEED to have common military arms available so that they can maintain their competence with said arms. Good luck getting them to follow that logic through though…

  2. Because it’s not the “Bill Of Needs”!

    I agree. It is a mistake to make a technical argument out of a Constitutionaly protected right. It misses the point. Good article.

    BTW: Nothing like loose rounds and iTunes in your work space. Although I will give you high marks for leaving the beer cans out of the shot.

  3. While you are correct, using that (admittedly tongue in cheek) response is exactly the way to be right while losing everything. There is no magic “rights fairy” who will step in and save us, we live in a system where being right is not enough, you have some popular support.

    We are not going to, nor should we try to, convince ardent anti-gun rights folks of the “rightness” of our position, they simply don’t care. Our audience, no matter who asks the “need” question in whatever venue, is -always- the potential voter who has no strong feelings about gun rights one way or another. They -require- a reasonable answer to why we “need” x, y, or z or they will not support us or, at best and sufficiently, stay neutral and apathetic at the ballot box.

    When we reply with only a “F you, that’s why” we present ourselves as extremists and, worse, unlikeable assholes. We have to win in the court of public opinion, the courts of law will -not- save us.

    We need to expand on and explain the meat of the “F you” position, and it is easy to do. Just begin any discussion of gun rights by noting that self-defense itself is an inalienable human and civil right, and the means to -exercise- that right by all persons, regardless of physical limitations -the right to keep and bear arms- is thus an inalienable human and civil right as well. Use the examples of grandma or grandpa versus a mugger, the pregnant lady with kids, the disabled vet in the wheelchair: examples that are both emotionally resonant -and- directly support your argument.

    We explain how, in our system, it is always -restrictions- that need justification and support, not peaceable free exercise by the law-abiding, preferably using analogies to more “popular” rights that will appeal to and resonate with the undecided.

    We can then give our rational, calm, polite, examples of peaceable, law-abiding needs that -do- exist; again reiterating that even if they didn’t, it is still the job of those (1% elitists, mostly. It is good to casually point that out.) who would “tell normal folks how to live their lives” to justify why their examples of criminals behaving badly should cause law-abiding folks, the listeners friends and neighbors, to have restriction after restriction piled up when none of them seem to actually work.

    Political theory, emotional resonance, calm discussion of facts, and then some defense of “needs”. The anti’s only have the second, and only after a tragedy. The calm rational voice is what wins; let them, as they inevitably will when faced with our calm reason, be the shrill angry defiant assholes who turn off the voters.

    1. “When we reply with only a “F you, that’s why” we present ourselves as extremists and, worse, unlikeable assholes.”
      Agreed, we are not responsibly and respectfully representing All Legal Gun Owners.

  4. When some anti-2a type hits me with the ‘why do you need (fill in the blank)?’ regarding any gun, I reply with the following: ‘I reject the entire premise of your question. I don’t have to justify, to you or anyone, the free exercise of my constitutional rights under the bill of rights!’

  5. “Need” is a fickle word. Do you really “need” more then food, water, and shelter? If so, then what’s your baseline for need? “Need” to live? “Need” to succeed? “Need” to be happy? All of a sudden the definition of “need” is looking pretty flexible.

    On top of that, the “need” argument is a logical fallacy. As a society, we’ve decided on the second amendment. This puts the burden of proof of on the “don’t need” arguments as opposed to the “need” argument. Basically, It’s the “because, f*** you” thing. I don’t need to prove why I need it, because we have a social/civil contract agreeing on the right to bear arms. You need to prove why I don’t need it.

    And finally – The reason I “need” a modern semi-automatic rifle (with a 30 round magazine) is because I believe it is the best defensive tool commonly available. Pure and simple. I personally believe it has the best combination of size, weight, recoil, shootability, firepower, and capacity. This is the argument I most often use.

    Shotguns and handguns are good alternatives, but IMO they have deficiencies where the modern semi-automatic rifles does not. I believe modern carbines offer the perfect combination. Any negatives are far outweighed by the positives.

  6. I usually manage to piss people off when I tell them that “Why do you need ____?” is an invalid question in a free society.

    In basic training, our drill sergeant listed for us the things we needed. The list was short.

    I like to ask why they need so many pairs of shoes, a car that goes more than 55, a car at all if they live near a bus stop, etc.

    I suppose I could take the leftist tactic when asked “Why do you need ___?” and yell FASCIST! But they wouldn’t get it.

  7. Do people need 50 pairs of shoes, triple bacon cheeseburgers, or cars capable of going 200mph? No, but how come we aren’t asking these same questions to other potentially dangerous things in this world? Justifying need is just plain garbage as far as an argument goes. Heart disease kills more people in this country than guns could ever do. Why don’t we start mandating strict dieting and exercise for all citizens? Doing so would save millions of lives and reduce medical costs by billions.

  8. Whenever I hear the “need” question, I think, well, why does someone “need” a Porsche? Why does someone “need” a big screen tv? Why does someone (women) “need” huge closets of shoes and clothes? Why does someone need the latest phone or car or outfit or or or? It’s not about Need. It’s a Want, plain and simple.

    1. the first two are compensation for … the third and forth is because she can…

  9. I recently had a conversation with a co-worker, a fellow Federal agent, US Army infantry vet, AR-15 owner and Benelli M4 owner. He stated that ‘civilians’ should only be allowed to own the types of firearms that existed when the 2ndA was enacted, i.e., flintlock muzzleloaders. I threw it back at him, saying, ‘but you own an evil black rifle/assault weapon and an assault shotgun.’. He responded by saying that it’s OK for him to own it because he was an Army vet and a LEO. I reminded him that he bought those weapons as a civilian and not as duty weapons. He had no response.

    I further told him that by his logic, he could only exercisr his 1stA freedom of speech rights by using only the methods of communication available when tge BoR was enacted, i.e., town square barker, pamphlets, newsletters delivered by hand, and only in the old kings english of the late 18th century. He told me to F off and then walked away. What an enlightened, open minded liberal.

  10. I think it’s less than useful to end it at that, though. “Need” is a good starting point – there’s all sorts of things we don’t need that we shouldn’t ban, regardless of the constitutional argument. What need should be is a shifting of the burden of evidence.

    Regardless of whether I need something, you need a good reason to take it away. Show me the studies that prove taking away large capacity magazines will have any impact on crime. They don’t exist. It is a basic abuse of government to take things away from people without strong empirical evidence of any good.

    There is at least a justifiable argument for pistol bans (wrongheaded, but justifiable). There is no evidence of any good done by a magazine capacity ban, and so therefore it doesn’t pass the sniff test to ban anything, regardless of need.

    1. What’s the justifiable reason to ban pistols? Because illegally obtained weapons are used by criminals? Even if the pistol was legally obtained, if it is used unjustifiably, the pistol doesn’t need to be banned; the person that uses it unjustifiably does.

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