The Conversation About Guns: Can We?

More of This

There are many kinds of guns, and many ways to categorize them. There are many accessories. There are many ways to license, train, and certify owners. There are many enforcement strategies for laws. There are many ways to restrict the gun buying population, each with pros and cons. There are several laws currently being discussed in Congress, four in the top viewed on Talk about any of these compared to current laws. Bring up pros and cons using relevant facts. Use meaningful comparisons when talking about policies in other places. Do your best to observe the Principle of Charity. Congratulations, you’re actually having the Conversation About Guns.

There are also ways to protect schools that could be implemented. There are many ways to fix mental health, and by extension health care in general, that could be implemented. There are cultural problems which may or may not involve technology that could be partially responsible for mental health problems. Any of these could be thought of as Solutions that should accompany, but definitely not replace, the Conversation About Guns.
Less of This
Bring up the ages of student protesters. Bring up the fact that some, but definitely not all, protests were sanctioned by the schools. Accuse someone of being a “crisis actor.” Accuse students of being coached by parents or CNN when they appear on TV. Assert that some of those calling for gun legislation have inadequate knowledge of guns. Bring up obesity. Bring up texting and driving. Tell students to, instead of protesting, “just be nice to the weird kid” as though you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a teen in the volatile but ultimately meaningless High School social hierarchy. Tell students that their opinion doesn’t count because Tide Pods were a viral meme that many joked about but very few actually went through with eating. Talk about how you’re really going to withstand the US Armed Forces with your little home arsenal in the event of some martial law situation. Talk about how other countries have gun deaths. Talk about how other countries have violence. Talk about how other countries have guns. Talk about violent countries having strict gun laws without acknowledging other factors. Talk about how Australia’s ban didn’t completely stop shooting deaths, therefore it wasn’t effective, even though mass shootings (the relevant category of crime) are greatly reduced. Talk about a mass stabbing that took place in 2014, but don’t mention that it was carried out by ten people or that it happened in China. Talk about truck attacks. Talk about a terrorist stabbing attack in FL that resulted in one death and how hypocritical that the media isn’t reporting on it, while sharing a link to a national media source. Cite the 2nd Amendment, capitalizing SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED to let people know you mean business before expressing that you do not wish to discuss the matter further. Talk about how God isn’t allowed in school, as though that were true or relevant. Talk about how violent media are to blame for school shootings. Talk about how the MSM love mass shootings. Talk about how companies refusing to give breaks to NRA members is unfair. Compare that to bakers refusing to bake same sex wedding cakes. Talk about poor parenting as though it were a one size fits all solution. Talk about beating children as a practice that would have prevented the most recent or all school shootings. Talk about how violent Chicago or some other major city is, and mention that they have “strict gun control,” while ignoring all other factors that make the crime rates much higher. Incorrectly point out that protesters are asking for fewer rights rather than more. Bring up abortion as though those statistics count the same as other death stats. Talk about the misuse of “assault,” and how it’s a scare word used by the gun-ignorant.
Talk about any of the above, and you are preventing progress in the Conversation About Guns. You are not helping. At best, you’re misguidedly trying to raise awareness of another issue. That issue may be a real problem that we should consider , and it may even be something you feel strongly about. Maybe you did just wake up this morning and decide that you wanted to crusade against texting and driving. OK, benefit of the doubt. However, if, on your crusade, you use the pretense of the Conversation About Guns to draw people in, now you’re doing something dishonest. You’re giving pro-gun people, the people that will do anything to avoid actually having the Conversation About Guns, an out. At worst, you’re doing it on purpose because you know you don’t want to have the Conversation About Guns.
This article is less of a call for specific policies, and more of a sincere request for people to try to approach the subject reasonably. I’ve been seeing almost nothing but items from the second section here on social media, and I’m really dismayed at the state of discourse. Wherever you’re at on this or any issue, try to operate in good faith. There are sincere people out there who want to hear different opinions on the issue. The whole reason for this post is that the opinions that people are sharing about guns is overwhelmingly off topic, or fallacious in some other way.
If you believe a certain thing, you are probably pretty good at pointing out where opponents to your position are putting forth bad arguments. People often have trouble doing this to their own position. They see something supporting their position or narrative and they’ll insta-like and probably share it if they’re so inclined, without looking for inconsistencies in the argument presented. Likewise, they’ll be quick to scrutinize something that doesn’t fit with their beliefs. If they feel strongly enough about it, they might endeavor to correct poor misguided OP.
Since I discovered /r/magicskyfairy, I’ve learned quite a bit about how to look at my own positions with a more critical eye. For those not aware, /r/magicskyfairy is a subreddit dedicated to taking the piss out of neckbeard atheism, that hardcore brand of atheism and anti-theism that regards all believers as ignorant morons, glorifies science communicators such as Sagan, and celebrates a lifestyle full of STEM, marijuana, and socially progressive politics. When I first stumbled upon it, I was kind of horrified, I kept saying, “hey, that’s not fair,” before I realized what the point of it all was. It allowed me to, just for a second, imagine what some of these memes look like to sincere believers who don’t fit the paradigm they seem to describe. It’s really unfair and shitty to have your own position misrepresented, so why should I do that to others? Since then, I’ve tried to have a more charitable view, or at least, not to take cheap, “lmao fundies r dumb!” shots. I’m still working on it, apparently.
Anyway, to sum up, try to stay on topic if you’re going to weigh in on things. Be aware of your own ability to engage in faulty thinking, and be kind to those you disagree with.

Public Speaking Can Be Taught

straw man walking?

The position taken by my classmate was that there was no way to teach someone how to be a good public speaker. It is just not a skill that can be learned. According to him, you either were good at it or you weren’t and that is that.
I did not get to completely destroy him with rhetoric, as I was fully prepared to do. I used pro athletes as an analogy. Pro athletes are the elite in their sport, and end up having presence in the media. As a result, they have to be able to speak on television and sound good. They don’t need to be great orators, but they definitely need to speak well enough to appear on camera. I asked if he thought that professional athletes who speak on television were born good speakers, or were they coached and instructed in how to improve their speech. He responded infuriatingly by avoiding the question altogether and attacking my premise, “They’re not good speakers.”
How do you like that for missing the point completely? I suppose, if you knew you were on an untenable position, you would want to avoid directly answering a question that exposes the fallacy of your claim.

what do they say about arguing with fools?

Actually, he did say something just after that that sounded very contradictory to his original claim. I pounced on the Gotcha opportunity. It should have been victory, but it wasn’t victory. I was jumping on a defenseless man who didn’t recognize the fact he was being attacked. There was no capitulation, no statement of, “Gee, I guess you’re right, people can be taught public speaking.” I can’t feel good about exposing his failed logic if there is not recognition. I let it go after it was clear that the professor was not going to allow the discussion about that particular idea continue. 

was it me?
Avoiding the topic, failing to concede when you are clearly beaten. Now that I reflect, it would seem that it was not a fair fight. Or was it? Did I communicate my ideas clearly and concisely? Was I a dick? Did I engage in intellectually dishonest tactics? I don’t remember anyone else weighing in or really caring about what this guy said. I don’t understand how the room doesn’t come to a grinding halt when he says this. It wasn’t just muttered once and let drop. He said, “I wouldn’t teach a class on public speaking,” the professor replied, “You wouldn’t, but people can be trained to do public speaking, right?” She gave him this out, this chance to save himself. ” No, I don’t think public speaking can be taught.” In a room full of people who had just recently done a class on lesson presentation where they had to get in the front of the room and speak, they all heard what he had to say, it appeared, without batting an eye. OK, maybe an eye was batted, but the uproar that should have erupted, did not.
Did I misunderstand? Did I take his statement the wrong way? Does he mean that the very greatest of public speakers have natural gifts that make them the best, natural gifts that are not taught?

jumping through hoops.

I don’t understand and that’s why it’s sticking with me. The rest of the class has been together for a semester already, maybe they know that when ol’ Mike gets to proclamatin’ that the best thing to do is just let him meander and eventually he’ll come back to the barn.

I was in an online class with this group, that is how I’ve gotten to know them. The problem with the online class was that nobody wanted to disagree. It was required to make so many posts, and so many comments on posts, so to fill the comment requirement people would typically just agree with other people rather than have a conversation. As we all know, the internet is home to many ridiculous debates, with tactics that range from childish to hate-crime level offensive. However, there are places, few and far between though they may be, where respectful discourse happens.


Disagreeing forces others to come up with something better than, “I’ve always thought that,” or “because I say so.” The problem I think, is this idea that the professor explained. In order to achieve something, like a diploma, or a certificate or a qualification, there are times when you may ask what the point of this activity is. Obstacles, such as “doing a research paper” and “posting a certain number of posts and comments” are simply “hoops” that must be jumped through in order to achieve the goal. I agree.

but not everything is a hoop.

Extending the hoop metaphor is problematic. What if you look at your job that way? Not just the parts where you put a cover sheet on your TPS reports because if you don’t you’ll hear about it from eight different people, but every aspect? Is there a part of your job or your field of study or your sport or your family where you do the thing because you care about it and do the thing as though you care about it? Think of an accomplishment that is unequivocal, that stands the test of time as a magnificent, monumental achievement in sport, science, philosophy, culture, or art. Think of Van Gogh. Think of Einstein. Lincoln. Jordan. Think of Copernicus declaring truths in a time when people were burned for saying them. Were any of them jumping through hoops? Think of the most important thing in your life. Think of an activity associated with that thing. Do you jump through hoops in that activity?

choose your battles. or do they choose you?

I don’t always disagree and take someone to task over everything they say that I don’t completely agree with. I needed to call him on his completely flawed thinking. This felt to me less like a matter of opinion and more like someone brazenly saying something like, “The Earth is flat. I can’t be convinced otherwise.” You’re majoring in Workforce Education, a major that can lead to careers in educating adults, and you’re going to sit there and say that you’re either a good speaker or you’re not? I couldn’t help it. I’m passionate about learning and teaching. It is, in my opinion, the future. We are living longer, we are having less career security, and we are developing new things faster and faster all the time. Those who want to participate will learn. Those who don’t want to learn will fall by the wayside.