Taya Kyle’s CNN op-ed is a perfect illustration of why your state legislators are the only people you should be talking to about gun safety.
Back in December, I wrote a post about the 5 steps every supporter of gun safety could take to begin to make a difference. Step 1 was “Don’t feed the trolls.” My argument was – and is – that anyone opposed to licensing and regulating guns and ammo, at least as much as we do with cars and fuel, is just not where gun safety supporters should invest our time and words. On Friday, a competitive sharp-shooter and acclaimed NRA speaker, Taya Kyle, published an op-ed on CNN.com that is a perfect illustration of how pointless it is to engage in a discussion with folks who oppose common sense gun safety laws.
I say “perfect illustration” because Kyle is not some strawman (strawperson?) for gun trolls, she is about the best they have to offer: she attempts to relate to her opponents; her tone is mostly agreeable; she avoids some of the more ludicrous historical revisionism that is normally part of any written or spoken statements by proponents of gun violence. Risible as it may be, Kyle’s op-ed is still the best possible version of someone saying “don’t take away the bang bang toys” that you will find.
Don’t get me wrong – Taya Kyle’s CNN op-ed is complete bullshit, start to finish. It is actually an impressive feat of obfuscation, manipulation, and just outright nonsense. I have decided to excerpt the beginning here and rebut it, point by point, as a way of furthering my own agenda: persuading liberals, progressives, and conservatives who support gun safety to stop arguing with people you know and start calling your legislators, because the former is useless and exhausting while the latter is effective and invigorating.
So let’s get to it! The manipulation starts right at the beginning:
Many of us taking part in the CNN town hall on guns have been touched by someone who chose to do evil.
Notice what she does here? “I am just like these other people.” I admit that I don’t know everyone at the town hall, but I’m guessing nobody else there gave a speech to the NRA-ILA convention in 2013 or had a CNN op-ed ready to go as part of their town hall appearance. It is good to look for common ground, but what Kyle is doing here is actually just setting up the cover for the epic concern trolling that she engages in for the entirety of her op-ed.
I am sharing my thoughts with you because I feel I can relate to people on both sides of the issue of gun control. I have been afraid of guns, I have sworn I would never use a gun on another person and so did not need one, and I have wanted to deny the existence of evil.
I admit to being impressed by how much is packed into each sentence. Kyle claims to be able to relate to people on both sides, but then begins constructing a straw man of the other side of the argument (which is, you know, specifically how you avoid relating to people). Yet even before that sentence ends and the straw man construction begins, she has already revealed herself as a hardcore NRA partisan: she says the issue is gun control. The issue is not gun control! The issue is our public health crisis of gun violence. The issue is valuing human life more than the desire to be allowed to buy bang bang toys without impediment. The issue is human life, how proponents of gun safety value human life, and how proponents of gun violence do not.
Having obfuscated her identity as an NRA partisan and changed the topic from gun violence to gun control, she sets about building the straw man she sees on the other side, which could not be further from the reality of a gun safety proponent like myself. Kyle says she has been afraid of guns, but I am not afraid of guns; I am afraid of the combination of human beings and guns. She says she once swore she would never use a gun on another person and so didn’t need one, whereas I swear I don’t need a gun because I don’t ever hunt for survival and/or don’t live near grizzly bears, not because I spend any time wondering if I want to shoot a human being (dufuq?!?!). I’m not sure what is more disturbing: that she thinks about gun ownership in terms of shooting people, or that she changed her mind about maybe sometime using a gun to shoot a person. I do know that I can’t relate to any part of that.
Then comes the masterstroke of the whole thing: “I have wanted to deny the existence of evil.” That’s it Taya, you got me! It isn’t that I would prefer that someone planning to do evil against first graders only be able to buy a sword instead of them being able to borrow mom’s AR-15, it is that I deny the existence of evil at all. So all I need to do is accept that there is evil and then I will… …be more okay… …giving people – who are sometimes evil… …machines made for killing? Sorry Taya, you lost me again.
I have also become a gun owner, am prepared to defend myself with a firearm, and understand the fear of my freedoms being taken away.
Too bad she doesn’t understand the established fact that owning a gun makes her much more likely to be the victim of gun violence (personally, I would think getting shot is a bigger threat to personal freedom than not being allowed to own a deadly weapon, but whatever).
I have been touched by extreme violence and I have been robbed of the life I always wanted by someone who chose to do evil. Because I have felt, and lived, all of these things, I have spent much time thinking about evil, freedom and not only the world we live in, but the country too.
Notice all the abstract language “evil,” “freedom,” and “the world we live in.” Has she spent any time thinking practically, like maybe about the fact that President Obama’s gun safety policies, if enacted by Congress, would almost certainly have saved her husband’s life? Or maybe something less personal for her, like how the assault weapons ban would have prevented the Newtown massacre (or at least majorly reduced the body count)? Or how better background checks would have stopped the massacre in Charleston? Or how stricter gun laws in Indiana would save lives in Chicago?
Nope! None of that whacky-facty-distracty stuff. Just freedom and evil. This paragraph is just another attempt at “I’m credible and open minded on this topic” from someone who is an outspoken supporter of the NRA and policies that increase gun violence.
There are many facts and statistics people will use to argue both sides of the gun control issue. We can use other countries as examples and we can use crime rates of cities, states and countries. And no matter how thoroughly researched the statistics are, people have an emotional reaction to this issue that almost always overrides the statistics presented, other than this one: The violent crime rate in the United States has gone down substantially in the last 20 years.
I actually, literally LOLed when I read this. Opponents of gun safety, like Kyle here, do not cite relevant statistics to argue their side of the gun violence issue. The violent crime rate is not relevant to the topic of gun violence. It isn’t like saving lives is only important during a crime wave. But again, it doesn’t matter, because Kyle only brings this up to conceal what she did in the previous sentence: she claims that statistics (other than her favorite one) are irrelevant because people have emotional responses. I agree that that is an issue that needs to be addressed, but that isn’t why Kyle brings it up.
Having now excused herself from the burden of proof, because hey we all get some feels on this topic, she continues:
Our fears, though, have gone up, because of the high-profile incidents of mass killings of people caught unaware. Killers have taken lives in churches, schools, hospitals, government buildings, the site of a marathon, the Twin Towers and even a part of a military base where soldiers were known to be unarmed.
What Kyle is trying to get over on you here is the idea that even though there is less crime, we’re more scared, because of high profile incidents. If a parent of one of the 20 Newtown first graders who got slaughtered by a legally acquired AR-15 combat rifle is focusing on how the assault weapons ban would have saved their child’s life, Kyle would tell them to check their optics, because violent crime overall is down. (Another irony here is that if she were correct that people respond less emotionally to that one statistic about the crime rate, then people would not be more afraid of guns now, so… …yeah.)
Also notice how she tries to make these incidents seem similar based on them being high profile. In her review of crime statistics, Kyle seems not to have noticed that we don’t categorize violence based on media coverage: she actually invokes the attack on the World Trade Center – which took a global terror network years to plan and millions of dollars to execute – as if it is in any way relevant to a discussion about gun safety in America. What is she talking about? The conversation is about how a pissed off coworker can goto a store on his lunch break and return to the office with enough firepower to kill several people – and that is assuming he didn’t already have a handgun with a high capacity magazine at home. Or how the same coworker could also make the same trip to the store, but go home and kill himself before he has a chance to think it through or reach out for help. WTF lady, we are talking about guns in our homes and communities. We aren’t talking about al Qaeda.
The rest of Kyle’s screed you can read for yourself, if you want. It is terrible. Like a master concern troll, she phrases the claims she can’t back up as rhetorical questions that can’t be answered. She does this over and over. And this is all my point: by the end of this paragraph, I will have used over 1,200 words to rebut less than 300 of the words written by Kyle. It takes at least a 4:1 ratio of sense to nonsense to even rebut this crap, not counting all the other words I would need to actually make positive points about gun safety.
It just isn’t worth it. If Kyle read this, it would have no impact on her. She would repeat the same irrelevant crime stats and ask the same rhetorical questions. She is not open to reason, she is not interested in relating to a universal concern for human life, she has no concept of the value of public policy in preventing gun violence, and she isn’t even willing to talk to you about gun violence unless you are willing to simultaneously answer for global terrorism (?!?).
I would guess 10% or fewer Americans feel and (un)think about guns like Taya Kyle does. This is how they all are. This is how they will be until they change (or don’t). They have not looked at the facts and reasonably reached a different conclusion than you. Nothing you say makes a difference, because they aren’t listening. They don’t even dialogue, bro. If and when they change, it won’t have to do with a Facebook comment you write or a devastating statistic you unleash on your crazy Aunt Oakley at the next family gathering. They sure as hell won’t be persuaded by one of my blog posts (you may have noticed, I am more than a little abrasive on this topic).
If and when the gun trolls change their minds, it will be after years of gun safety policies making a dramatic difference on the level of gun violence in America. They will wait until the whole thing is over and then pretend they were on the right side of history all along. And that is fine, (I look forward to it!) but it will only happen after there is a 50 state movement to license and regulate firearms. That means you and me and everybody who agrees with us making more phone calls to our state legislators than the 10% of folks like Taya Kyle. So let’s stop talking to gun violence apologists and concern trolls, and start talking to people who actually legislate on the issue.