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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

If We Talked about Animal Control like Gun Control

Attacks dogs! Like Rottweilers. And hounds. Or whatever.

Ken White has a wonderful piece on the meta-discourse of gun control at Popehat. He notes that many proponents of “common sense” gun laws can’t seem to specify just what guns they want banned or why. Some of this might be tactical ambiguity to avoid having to defend any specific proposal.

But another common feature of the gun control debate — the inability of many activists to speak with even minimal literacy about firearms — suggests a bigger problem: proponents of gun control don’t even know what they are proposing.

I routinely see journalists and politicians conflate semi-automatics, automatics, and machine guns, confuse clips and magazines, and, of course, casually refer to “assault weapons” as though there was any accepted definition of that phrase.

Worse still, they don’t even understand why this matters.

By way of analogy, White imagines how a conversation about breed-specific animal control laws would go if we talked about dogs like we do guns:

It’s hard to grasp the reaction of someone who understands gun terminology to someone who doesn’t. So imagine we’re going through one of our periodic moral panics over dogs and I’m trying to persuade you that there should be restrictions on, say, Rottweilers.

Me: I don’t want to take away dog owners’ rights. But we need to do something about Rottweilers.

You: So what do you propose?

Me: I just think that there should be some sort of training or restrictions on owning an attack dog.

You: Wait. What’s an “attack dog”?

Me: You know what I mean. Like military dogs.

You: Huh? Rottweilers aren’t military dogs. In fact “military dogs” isn’t a thing. You mean like German Shepherds?

Me: Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody’s trying to take away your German Shepherds. But civilians shouldn’t own fighting dogs.

You: I have no idea what dogs you’re talking about now.

Me: You’re being both picky and obtuse. You know I mean hounds.

You: What the fuck.

Me: OK, maybe not actually ::air quotes:: hounds ::air quotes::. Maybe I have the terminology wrong. I’m not obsessed with vicious dogs like you. But we can identify kinds of dogs that civilians just don’t need to own.

You: Can we?


Read the whole thing here — it’s worth it.

Here’s a bonus quote on the “no-fly, no-gun” proposal:

Last night the President of the United States — the President of the United States — suggested that people should be deprived of Second Amendment rights if the government, using secret criteria, in a secret process using secret facts, puts them onto a list that is almost entirely free of due process or judicial review.

Because we’re afraid, because they could be dangerous was his only justification; he didn’t engage the due process issue at all. But he was merely sauntering down a smooth, comfortable, well-lit road paved by most Republicans and Democrats before him since the rise of “tough on crime” rhetoric and especially since 9/11.

The President — and other Democrats — may hope that Americans will trust progressives not to overreach in restricting rights. That hope is patently misplaced… In the Great War on Terror and the Great War on Drugs, they’re like Bill Murray in Stripes: mildly counter-cultural and occasionally a little mouthy but enthusiastically using the same weapons in the same fight against the same perceived enemy.

  • Daniel Bier is the executive editor of The Skeptical Libertarian.