I joked on Facebook about writing a book called, “How To Wrestle With Pigs and Not Want To Give Up on the Entire Human Race”, once I figure it out. (In case you don’t know, it’s related to the quote, “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it”.)
As you probably know, there was a(nother) mass shooting this week. Like many people, I feel gun laws need to change. As a result, I went to my representatives’ Facebook pages to like their posts about gun law reform, and to read the comments. (It’s the internet, I know, I shouldn’t read the comments, but I had to.)
I saw a lot of illogical arguments there. On both sides. It got ugly in some cases. People parrot “facts” that they’ve heard without thinking them through or doing any research. Unfortunately, throwing actual research at people doesn’t work to change their minds. I believe the only way to can make any changes is to calmly discuss and point out illogical arguments. And that, is what I tried to do. Some lessons learned:
- Remain calm. No one will listen to your side or open their mind to what you’re saying if you get angry. Especially if you resort to name calling and childish insults. (One person responded to my comment with a GIF of Ralph Wiggum, I’m not even kidding).
- If someone is at one extreme or the other, you likely won’t convince them. Don’t try. Do try to be reasonable and have logical, well-thought out responses, because you MAY convince those less extreme people reading along on the comment thread (or if this is IRL, then those listening). The more sane you seem, sometimes the more angry and irrational the other person seems.
- Find something you agree on. This is a tried and true tactic for really any conversation, and that’s because it works. Many times people just want to be right. Find something they’re right about and tell them before you continue to present your side.
- Rather than outright disagreeing with them, try to poke holes in their argument. If someone says “they’ll just get the guns anyway, more laws don’t work”, don’t argue that that isn’t true. Throwing stats at them or links to articles won’t help. Instead point out the fallacy in that logic. “Okay, so they’ll just illegally get the guns, so we shouldn’t make laws about it. Lots of people ignore traffic laws, should we get rid of those, too? How about murder? People still murder, why make it illegal?”
- Be prepared for the conversation to jump tactics. Once you point out their illogical argument (which they won’t admit), they’ll throw another point at you.
- Be prepared for them to think that ANY gun safety laws mean you want to take away all of their guns. Personally, I believe that is unrealistic and not my aim (see what I did there?). I explain that more gun safety does not have to mean no guns.
Along with all of these conversations I’ve been having, I’ve taken some notes on common pro-gun arguments and here is how I’ve responded (for the record, I’ve actually had several civil conversations that likely didn’t convince the person I spoke with, but hopefully at least made them think):
- The above quotes “they’ll just get guns anyway, more laws won’t work”. Again as I said above, I point out that this argument is illogical as if you take it to it’s conclusion, they are really saying we shouldn’t have any laws in place for anything. For some people that’s exactly what they’ll get to. As I noted with one person, “Ah, so you’re anti-law and anti-government, this isn’t about guns.” For some they’ll admit that we do need some laws, and then will likely change tactics.
- a. Related – They’ll mention the war on drugs and say how you can still get drugs even though they’re illegal. This is when I’ll bring up traffic laws again and say, well they don’t stop all traffic violations, so we should abolish traffic laws, right? Or food safety laws or workplace safety? You get the point.
- “It isn’t the guns, it’s the mental illness”. Again, throwing links and stats typically doesn’t work to refute this. I point out that WE CAN WORK ON BOTH! Getting better gun safety laws doesn’t mean we can’t also work on this country’s mental health care. I then drop in a link to the National Alliance on Mental Illness and explain that I donate regularly. You’d be surprised (or not) how quickly that gets them to move on to their next point.
- “We need better morality”. This can be counteracted similar to point 1 by saying well if we should just do what’s right, then we don’t need murder to be illegal, right? Or child pornography.
- “Give the teachers guns!”. As I brilliantly saw somewhere else on the internet, “we don’t even give teachers pencils, you think we’re gonna pay for guns?”. Also, not all teachers WANT to have guns. Also also, I love teachers, when they’re teaching my kids, but I’m not sure I’d want to see all of them with guns. Just sayin’. Lastly, the most recent school had an armed guard. That didn’t stop the mass shooting, do we really think teachers with guns would do better than an armed guard?
- “Chicago” or something along the lines of “[insert place with strong gun laws that still has crime] still has high rates of gun crimes”. My response is that they are always outliers and exceptions. The majority of states with better gun safety laws have lower gun-related crimes. And if better gun safety laws prevents even SOME mass shootings, then it’s worth it. This doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Yes, there are articles and links and stats and charts that could support my arguments in much stronger ways, BUT I believe pushing too hard will just close them off. Pushing too hard turns off “witnesses” to the conversation. Poke holes. Be rational. Good luck. I think I’ve mostly got the wrestling with pigs part, but I’m still working on the not giving up on the human race part.