Destroy Your Rifle Because, Heck, We Gotta Do Something! #OneLess

You’ve probably seen this on social media: some responsible owner of a rifle, probably an AR-15, does a little speech about Parkland and how We Need To Do Something and how Thoughts And Prayers aren’t getting shit done, all the while holding a rifle. They also talk about how much they enjoy shooting, whether for hunting or at the range, and how much they approve of the Second Amendment. Then, as a symbolic gesture of solidarity with gun control advocates, they destroy their rifle so that “there’s one less rifle out there.” There have been several stories about this, and even a hashtag, #OneLess.

For a gun control advocate, this sounds like a ringing endorsement. People are willing to part with their rifles, which they’ve gotten so much enjoyment from, ostensibly because their minds have been recently changed, and drastically so. They now believe that the capability of these weapons to kill large numbers of people quickly is something that is a net danger to society. Further, they feel strongly enough about this view that they’re willing to destroy one or more rather expensive items. Forget the sentimental value or even the safety and security aspect that responsible rifle ownership may bring, think about the monetary investment. An entry level AR goes for around $600 according to a quick search, but can quickly run into the thousands with mods. Have you ever straight up burned several hundred dollars for a cause you believed in?

As a side note, if you click the Shopping tab on Google and search AR-15, it shows no results.

But…

As nice as this seems, is there a downside? It feels a touch virtue-signal-y, doesn’t it. See the above stories, all major publications, perhaps making it sound like it’s much more widespread that it really is. I’m not one to cry #FakeNews, and I certainly wouldn’t suggest that this is completely fabricated. I’m sure there are a number of sincere people that feel strongly, and whether you agree with them or not, you have to acknowledge their dedication. But I want to ask, what are the actual numbers? Further, what number of people doing this warrants a national or international (in the case of the Guardian and other overseas papers) story? The other thing that is making me think is the nature of the story. The story is that people are reacting to another news story in ways that have gone viral. These kinds of stories pre-date social media, but they seem much more prominent now that social media has permeated modern life. I haven’t looked into these questions, maybe I’ll take a closer look in a future post.

Is This Really Helping?

This is like the anti-gun version of those utterly stupid and pointless vids of ppl burning their NFL gear b/c they were taking a “principled stand” against peaceful protests they neither understood nor wanted to understand. Funny, literally all of the people I saw sharing or promoting this view on social media kind of forgot about it a couple months later. Seriously, I saw people disavowing their team using words like shameful and disrespectful to describe their team. I saw people burning their season tickets, and opportunistic people asking, “hey, if you’re not going to use those season tix, pass them this way.” By the time of the Superbowl, everyone had seemed to forgotten about it.

But in this case, destroying a rifle reduces the total number of rifles, so in theory it’s helpful. But aren’t there easier ways to achieve that? In theory, aren’t responsibly cared-for rifles not a significant danger to society? If you’re a responsible owner, you’re already doing the right thing. The idea that your weapon could make its way out of the secure safe that you keep it in and get into the hands of a deranged individual is rather hard to believe.

And Now For Some Whataboutery

In the wake of all these gun destroying vids, there’s this woman. In a three minute video, she spends like two minutes talking about guns and how important it is for people to be safe, and how guns are dangerous. Then, in a move of the most egregious whataboutism, she takes out a hammer and smashes a couple cell phones, saying that cell phones cause more deaths than semiautomatic rifles.

While she might not be wrong, she’s guilty of whataboutery. Changing the subject so as to avoid talking about the actual subject at hand. There’s a big problem with people using their cell phones while they drive. It results in a great number of accidents and fatalities. To point out such a fact is not controversial. However, it’s plainly dishonest to talk about guns for two minutes only to shift over to this talking point.

The conversation is about guns. The vids with regular people in their backyards with a rifle in frame are about guns. Pointing out that cell phones play a part in more fatalities than guns is not helpful to the conversation. Yes people need to pay attention when they’re driving, but to point out such a fact does nothing to help the problem of mass shootings. And we’re talking about mass shootings! Why are you bringing up this other, admittedly serious, but unrelated issue? Are you trying to steer the conversation away from guns? It certainly looks like it. I think this is far worse than any mass media attempt to promote the rifle destroyers. Because in the first case, they’re at least talking about the issue, whereas in the second case, the video maker seeks to shift the conversation away from guns, when it’s obvious to anyone who with a halfway decent understanding of the data that guns are a problem. And talking about cell phones, while true, is not helping that particular cause.