A Slightly More Nuanced, Moderately Less Angry Response to Phil Labonte’s Argument Against Stricter Gun Control Laws


Yesterday, after learning that Phil Labonte had posted a lengthy video online arguing against more stringent gun control laws, I completely lost my shit. I mean, I was mad. I’m not going to apologize for that because if anything is worth being mad about, it’s people continuing to argue that better laws wouldn’t help prevent this kind of senseless violence.

What I will do, though, is offer a more detailed refute to Labonte’s argument. I will attempt to remain calm while doing it and not insult Phil. No promises, though.

“The debate’s frustrating, at least on the Internet, because you’ve got people that don’t know what they’re talking about saying, ‘Do something.’ Well, what is the ‘something’? If it’s just to pass laws, what are you gonna do? What’s the law? So people say, ‘Well, ban the AR-15 [assault rifle].’ Well, [the gunman in the] Virginia Tech [shooting], he used handguns, and there was an assault weapons ban when Columbine was done, and those are just two right off the top of my head that I know they didn’t use an AR-15.”

Cool cool cool. Ban the AR-15 and the handguns and the assault weapons. I’ve seen this idea floating around online a lot recently: let’s try one year with all guns in America banned and see how many mass shootings occur. If it’s less than we average now, the guns stay banned. Otherwise, we go back to having this argument. If you’re so sure that banning these weapons wouldn’t help the issue because it didn’t prevent Columbine, you should have no problem putting your money where your mouth is.

“So then people say, ‘Well, [ban the] semiautomatics. No one needs a rifle. They’re for the military.’ Well, most of your handguns are semiautomatic — most of the modern handguns. Sure, there are revolvers out there, but the vast majority of handguns that people carry or have in their home for self-defense, they’re semiauto. And again, Virginia Tech and Coumbine — semiautomatic handguns. A semiautomatic pistol is gonna be able to do the same thing that a semiautomatic rifle is gonna be able to do.”

Cool cool cool. Ban the semiautomatics altogether then. In fact, let’s just go ahead and ban everything that isn’t, say, a musket. Again, let’s just try it for a year and see what happens. What do you have to lose? Other than your guns, I mean?

“So you try to talk about it and explain that to people, and the only thing they wanna hear is, ‘Okay, we’re gonna do something.’ But what is that something? If the ‘something’ is you wanna ban a certain type of gun, it’s not gonna fix anything, it’s not gonna stop the problems that we have with people attacking soft-target schools and stuff.”

Unless you have a crystal ball or a time machine, your logic is specious. It would be at least worth trying to ban these weapons, wouldn’t it? Because this shit doesn’t happen on a regular basis in countries where they’ve legally banned the guns. So either Americans are a completely different species from other human beings and we have bloodlust in our DNA, or our unmatched access to automatic and semiautomatic weapons is a contributing factor.

“One of the things that drives me nuts about [the latest Florida shooting] is everything failed. The FBI failed, and there was a police officer who was armed on the campus. He wasn’t there. The kid got his guns legally. What do you do when everything goes wrong?”

I concede Phil’s point here. I’m not saying banning these guns would end the problem. I’m saying I strongly believe it would vastly help the problem. That maybe we’d have a mass shooting once every few years instead of once every months. That it might become a genuine outlier, not a regular occurrence.

Whereas Phil seems to think that stricter gun laws would result in 0% fewer gun deaths. That seems a little like arguing that we may as well not have laws against drunk driving since those laws don’t prevent 100% of drunk driving accidents. The logic of it just doesn’t track to me.

“I don’t know that this is gonna help anyone, help their opinion, but if you’re talking about doing something, look, if you’re serious about it, you’re gonna have to be able to amend the Constitution, you’re gonna have to get rid of the Second Amendment, you’re probably gonna have to get rid of 350 million guns. It’s not gonna happen. You’re not gonna get people to turn in their guns.”

So Phil’s argument here is that because a solution might not be 100% effective, it’s 100% not worth investigating. Yes, recalling 350 million guns would be an uphill battle. That doesn’t mean it’s not one worth fighting. It’s trying to stop an epidemic of violence, not using a computer program to try and convince people Labonte can sing. It’s gonna take some work. (I insulted Phil again. Whoops.)

Meanwhile, Phil has made no argument as to why anyone would need these weapons. And this is the circle in we keep going: the pro-gun folks don’t even wanna discuss the possibility of them losing firearms they don’t need.

“People talk about Australia and their confiscation, their buyback, whatever the program… you wanna call it. I think it’s something like two-thirds of the people in Australia just kept their guns and kept quiet about it. I suppose if they go and shoot, they go out in the outback, in the desert or whatever, if they do. I don’t know how they get their ammo or whatever, but they’re still out there. And in America, where there’s way more people and there’s way more guns, you’re gonna have results that you’re less than happy with.”

Okay, but, dude… gun deaths in Australia plummeted after the ban was enacted. Are you seriously gonna try and argue that that’s just a coincidence? Again, I ask: why are you so opposed to even just exploring this option? What is the downside, other than you lose your toys? Are you, I dunno, concerned about the fiscal cost of attempting to recall all those weapons? I mean, at least that would be an argument, not just an unqualified “no.”

And I keep coming back to the issue of why anyone needs these guns in the first place. It’s not for hunting, and it’s not for self-defense. Labonte implies it’s to potentially fight a tyrannical government:

“I’m not saying that I know the answer, ’cause I don’t. But I do know that there are people out there that have ideas that are good and worth listening to, and they’re usually people that understand guns a little bit, there’s people that are actually looking for a solution and understand. A semiauto is a semiauto. If you ban an AR-15, it’s not gonna do anything. And just passing a law just to pass a law isn’t a good idea, especially one that weakens the Bill Of Rights. I think the Bill Of Rights is important. The government has been doing too many things that infringe on people’s rights, and that’s not just about the Second Amendment.

“I’m sure if you follow me on Twitter or on Facebook, you’ve seen me talk about civil asset forfeiture and how horrible I think that program is. I’m not a fan of the Patriot Act. I don’t like the NSA spying. I don’t like the idea of the federal government being able to just snatch up people without due process. And I don’t think that empowering the government to just confiscate guns just because is a good idea. And I understand that nowadays, or specifically now, although it’s not a popular opinion.”

I’ve never quite bought into this argument; it seems to me that the United States government has the resources and technology to crush The People’s Militia and still have time for eighteen rounds of golf after. I don’t buy that a metalcore singer with a machine gun and his buddies will save the day.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong. Let’s just say that a violent uprising against the U.S. goverment wouldn’t be 100% effective, so therefore, by Phil’s logic, no one should ever try it. Thus, we must conclude yet again that it’s unnecessary for civilians to own these guns.

And that, in short, is what really pisses me off about these arguments: no one ever makes any kind of logical assertion as to why it’s vital we keep automatic and semiautomatic weapons on the market. It reads like people willing to sacrifice the lives of others so that they can maintain their hobby. Call me nuts, but that just seems callous.

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