Schoolhouse Rock: Prof. David Yamane Breaks Down the Structure of Anti-Gunners’ Arguments



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A recent video provides a great summary of what makes most anti-gun arguments tick these days.

Sociology Professor David Yamane of Wake Forest University is already well-known for his work on Gun Culture 2.0, or the shift in motivations behind gun ownership in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In his latest video, The Standard Model of Explaining the Irrationality of Defensive Gun Ownership, he gives a six-point summary that encapsulates most anti-gun arguments today.

Knowing how these arguments work and what premises they’re built upon can help us not only understand the full argument, but better refute it. Let’s take a look at the six points and some things we can learn from this.

Recognition of Gun Culture 2.0

Most of today’s anti-gun arguments acknowledge the reality of Gun Culture 2.0. In short, this newer, current version of gun culture focuses on self-defense rather than hunting, military service, collecting, other pursuits that “Fudds” are into. There are still fools like Joe Biden who try to focus on hunting, but those arguments often intentionally avoid the self-defense angle as a way of denigrating and discounting it, or as an attempt to split the gun-owning community.

Either way, it’s widely known in anti-gun circles that they have to refute the self-defense argument for gun ownership to win, and can’t simply rely on saying “You don’t need that for hunting” anymore.

Discounts Need For/Utility of Guns In Self-Defense

The obvious counterargument to guns for self-defense is that they aren’t necessary or useful in defense. This argument takes many forms, and they’re too numerous to discuss here, but one good example is the “Why do you need an AR-15?” question that supposedly wins the argument (because they won’t accept any defensive need).

Claim The Opposite is True: That Guns Add Risk

This one is based in flawed academic studies from decades ago. The basic idea is that you’re highly unlikely to need a gun in self defense (because academics and others often undercount defensive gun uses), and that the risks of an accident or having a criminal use the gun against you are far greater than using a gun to defend yourself.

Thus, the argument goes, you shouldn’t own a gun for self-defense…or, the government should actively prevent you from doing so.

Gun Ownership, Therefore, Is Irrational

If the risks outweigh any possible benefit, then gun ownership must be irrational. In other words, individuals aren’t using logic to justify their gun ownership. Pretty simple.

But, if you’re not being rational, anti-gun academics and those who on their work think that something else must explain tens of millions of Americans owning guns. There must be some other ulterior motivation.

Sociologists and Political Scientists’ Alternate Explanation

The laymen’s version of this set of arguments often focuses on genitalia. But while academics no doubt agree with the small penis hypothesis, they tend to avoid it as it’s seen as undignified in and around their ivory towers. Instead, they’ve come up with more complex, but fundamentally similar explanations for what causes individuals to make the fundamentally illogical decision to own firearms  . . .

    • Downward economic mobility
    • Stereotypical/Toxic Masculinity
    • Racism/Racial Resentment

You can basically boil all of this down to “You own guns because you’re weak.”

Psychologists See Gun Ownership as a Maladaptive Coping Mechanism

Looking at the conundrum of widespread gun ownership a little differently, psychologists view it slightly differently, calling it a coping mechanism for problems in your life like…your family getting poorer, insecure masculinity, or racism. In other words, the same motivations as above, just restated slightly differently.

Where These Arguments Break Down

I think Yamane’s analysis here is spot on. These are the bases for almost every argument against civilian gun ownership you see these days. He’s going to be doing several more videos detailing each point over the next few weeks, so he’s worth subscribing and hearing him out.

Recent events, however, aren’t kind to those who use this structure on which to build their anti-gun arguments. The increasing diversity of gun ownership for self-defense has made these claims not only untenable, but even self-contradictory. When gun ownership increases among minorities, women, and the middle class in suburban or exurban areas, the argument that guns are a coping mechanism for poor, rural, white, racist men looks absurd.

It looks even worse when the anti-gun arguments start to expose their own inconsistencies. There are a few people out there who really are insecure white supremacists and/or authoritarian theocrats, and they can be threatening to marginalized groups. So, when anti-gun people tar all gun owners as toxically masculine insecure racists that are menaces to society, they erode their own premise that guns aren’t needed for self-defense.

If they’re really out to get us, then we aren’t paranoid. If insecure racist white men pose a threat to minorities and others — as academics and anti-gun activists increasingly claim — then owning the tools with which to defend ourselves is a perfectly rational response.

Just don’t be surprised when they block you or change the subject when you point out that the anti-gun snake is eating its own tail.

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