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The poisoned well

By Dr. Michael S. Brown
web posted September 10, 2001

Influential political thinkers have written articles suggesting that both sides in the gun control debate should work together and seek some sort of compromise.

Unfortunately, this new initiative faces a very serious problem. The disingenuous tactics of the anti-gun lobby have poisoned the well to such an extent that America's gun owners will never trust them. Supporters of gun rights have many bitter complaints about their opponent's ethics and honesty.

The first involves the true goal of the anti-gun lobby. Most gun control organizations are careful to state publicly that they absolutely, positively do not want to ban private ownership of guns. In reality, this is convincingly contradicted by many quotes from gun control leaders in unguarded moments and is reflected in the chants of their supporters at anti-gun rallies.

The creators of new gun control laws often admit that they will not have a significant impact on crime, yet they are always lauded as "a step in the right direction." Which direction would that be? Here's a clue: The anti-gun lobby stridently proclaims that the Second Amendment has nothing to do with individual rights. Since even the NRA says the amendment allows reasonable regulation, the only reason to attack it is if the eventual goal is complete firearms prohibition.

Advocates of civilian gun ownership have learned the hard way that bargaining with an adversary whose goal is your extinction is called appeasement. Giving up something of value to satisfy your enemy just encourages him to come back for more.

Another problem is the cynical way that anti-gun operatives created pseudo-scientific studies to overstate the dangers of civilian gun ownership. This "junk science" has given gun-related sociological research such a bad name that it will be difficult to find support for future studies.

It has never been proven that restrictive gun laws of any kind have ever reduced crime, suicides or accidents. Crime, in fact, often increases as gun laws are tightened. By pursuing more laws while ignoring the glaring failure of similar laws, the gun controllers appear to have a sinister motive beyond simple public safety.

It is also very difficult to trust organizations that have chosen to influence the public through a long series of misleading labels from "cop killer bullets" to "gun show loophole." Gun owners are still seething with anger over the way that these false labels were picked up and endlessly repeated by an unquestioning media.

As a student of this debate myself, I find it striking how heavily the anti-gun position has been based on misinformation and deceit. Attempts at rational discussion were drowned in emotional rhetoric, deceptive marketing techniques, and fabricated statistics.

The gun control lobby also has a serious penchant for ad hominem attacks. They have attempted to portray gun owners as sociopaths who don't care about human life. Scholars whose research contradicted anti-gun assumptions were subjected to name-calling and character assassination.

One result of these dishonorable tactics was the founding of several new gun rights groups that are much more radical than the NRA. They are well positioned to fight any attempt at compromise.

This poisoned well is the sad legacy of an intense effort to win an ideological struggle at all costs. Until something happens to soften decades of ill will, the chances of the two sides sitting down together and agreeing to anything are nil. ESR

Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist and member of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws.

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Other related articles: (open in a new window)

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    Dr. Michael S. Brown reviews Nation of Cowards by Jeff Snyder and declares it a masterpiece in the field studying the right to keep and bear arms
  • An important moment in the gun wars by Dr. Michael S. Brown (July 9, 2001)
    Can it be? Are Second Amendment activists actually winning the war? Dr. Michael S. Brown says no, but we are forcing the other side to tell the truth
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