The purpose of this page is to inform people about the second amendment and provide historical, legal, and scientific information to take down various gun arguments. There are a lot of people who are either naive on a topic or are woefully ignorant. People who argue various “pro-gun” stances aren’t any different. The same can apply to various “gun safety” advocated.
However, the “pro-gun” group of people is very vocal in their arguments (ie loud) but that doesn’t mean they are right. Indeed, gun owners make some of the worst historians.
Frankly, this author is sick of hearing the same bullshit spewed out across the internet and it’s time there is a page dedicated to taking apart that bullshit.
Why should you believe me? Well, I am somewhat of an amateur historian. I’ve published a book that required in-depth research. I know how to read and correctly interpret historical information, follow sources around and conduct original research. I have a master’s degree in political science so I know how to evaluate scientific studies for accuracy. I know how to pick apart arguments and find logical fallacies and inconsistencies. I am also a gun owner who owns multiple firearms and who enjoys shooting them so I am familiar with the gun terminology.
Original Purpose of the Second Amendment
The purpose was to protect the people’s constitutionally protected individual right to have a gun as a part of the militia. It was never about being able to own a gun as a mere individual unconnected to the militia. There wasn’t an individual right to own a gun. In fact, owning guns outside of the militia all fell under common law not constitutional law.
Being in the militia was seen as a civic duty. The state govt told you to get a gun and you had to keep it and maintain it and store it. It’s similar to the Swiss militia model of participatory democracy. The founders (especially in Federalist 46) trusted the people with the guns because the roots of support for democracy originate locally and local people control who is in charge of the militia. Local militias can suppress rebellions from below and tyranny from above.
Additionally, after being required to billet Redcoats in their own homes, many didn’t want, and the broke government was unable able to pay for, a standing army. So they set up the militia system where citizens would be required to buy their own guns and accouterments, be trained by the states, and called up as necessary by the Federal government. It was to protect the US from enemies outside of the US or to go to war to gain territory. The Founders didn’t imagine they would not answer the call, but the New York militia refused in the War of 1812. When you read the history of the Civil War you read of the individual states’ units that were called up.
The legacy of that system is the National Guard. The Militia Act of 1903 started the federalization of the system, which eventually led to acts in 1916 where the Fed paid the expenses, and in 1933 all National Guardsmen have been members of both their State National Guard (or militia) and the National Guard of the United States.
Early Firearm Legislation and Control
Ohio 1933 Gun Law required permitting and bonding of certain semi-automatic firearms. See also my Google Doc article on overthrowing the govt is not a right here.
Taxes in Early pre and Colonial America: https://www.hoover.org/research/colonial-roots-american-taxation-1607-1700. Includes references to gunpowder.
Grammar and the Second Amendment Meanings
Argument: Universal Background Checks Would Require Registration
We already have an indirect method of registration. If the Govt wanted to it could track purchases via bank transactions and serial numbers by issuing subpoenas to banks. It could then deduce, using AI and cross-referencing various data tables that you bought a firearm. The data exists as does a way to track purchases. It’s really only a matter of time before we end up with de facto registration.
It could also be a corporation that decides to correlate all this data and sell “firearm data as a service” to the govt or other interested parties.
Additionally, this argument implies Registration of firearms is a bad idea because it leads to confiscation/tyranny. This isn’t inherently true any more than car registration leads to confiscation/tyranny.
Argument: Permitting and Registration is Unconstitutional and/or leads to Tyranny
This argument evolves naturally into Godwin’s Law. There’s nothing inherent about permitting and gun registration that will lead to tyranny. Other western countries have strong permitting processes and yet aren’t controlled by a dictator.
Some will argue that it’s unconstitutional. That’s not inherently true. Permits and gun registration existed at the founding. What were Militia Muster rolls but a list of who owns what guns in what condition? Permits did exist for certain types of people like blacks but any such racial permitting would probably be struck by the supreme court. However, the concept of permitting did exist at the founding.
Argument: Owning Guns Prevents Tyranny and Preserves Freedom
It doesn’t. In fact, just the opposite. Having too many guns can threaten a free state.
Additionally, this argument misunderstands how free countries (ie democratic ones) slide into dictatorships. It’s never “one event”, it’s a continuous slide and erosion of norms and constitutional guardrails either by choice or accident. It’s a slow burn that you never really see until it already happens.
We can look at one example, in the US when 110,000 Japanese (along with a comparative handful of Italians and Germans) were put into camps. Gun ownership was around at the time yet this group didn’t resist the clear tyrannical actions.
Also, Yemen and Saudi Arabia are heavily armed countries yet nobody would say there’s a lot of freedom there. Comparatively, Israel sees the same arms rate as Iran yet again nobody would say Iran is the pinnacle of freedom.
Tunisia which has one of the lowest individual arms rates in the World launched a pro-democracy revolution.
Finally, if that is indeed the case, why did the US put down Shay’s Rebellion, The Whiskey Rebellion, Fries Rebellion, Nat Turner’s Rebellion (technical the state of VA did), John Browns Raid, fight the Civil War, and put down the Jan 6th Coup attempt? Why not just let these people do what they want to do and overthrow the govt (federal or state)? The fact that they were not permitted speaks volumes.
So the concept that guns somehow support freedom and prevent tyranny is just a philosophical feel-good statement rather than something grounded in objective reality. It’s bullshit.
Argument: What Law would Prevent it?
This argument doesn’t understand the purpose of laws. No law is going to stop every event. Laws can help reduce the severity, intensity, and duration of an event. Japan with super strict gun control laws has about 20 deaths a year.
To take a parallel event, the US used to have an obscenely high car death rate. We studied it and then implemented various policies such as having plastic construction barrels instead of metal, adding in guardrails, mandating car safety requirements like seat belts, and ensuring the roads don’t bank too high that would cause a car to flip. We still have car deaths but compared with historic highs they are really low.
Yes, gun violence is a multifaceted issue in this country so it’s going to take a variety of approaches to deal with it including new rules and restrictions on who can own what types of firearms.
Additionally, we know domestic abusers have a strong association with firearms. The strong association between firearms, domestic violence (particularly intimate partner homicide), and additional victimization suggests that prioritization of measures to decrease access to firearms to perpetrators of domestic violence may also reduce the incidence of mass shootings
Argument: We should enforce the laws we have!
There is a number, 20,000 that is thrown around by folks who want to imply that we have enough gun laws and we need to enforce them. However, there is no way to know for sure how many gun laws we actually have much less agree on what counts as a “gun law”. It’s a meaningless made-up statistic used to support this argument.
If you also ask folks to drill down to what this looks like, they remain silent because they cannot explain how this works. If a person commits a mass shooting they break multiple laws and if they survive they are arrested and in nearly all cases found guilty and to go prison. That’s doing exactly what the argument says we should do.
In reality, folks use this argument to try to shut debate over “crime control” and prevent further restrictive gun laws that would attempt to control access to weapons before someone commits a criminal act.
Argument: Slippery Slope!
The Slippery Slope Argument: If everything is a slippery slope, then nothing is. Specifically, just because we ban semi-auto rifles (or take any other actions) doesn’t also mean we confiscate them.
It’s like saying “I won’t take my car to get repaired because I worry they may also find I need an oil change”
What this is really about is an “… imagined peril of a multicultural majority running the show. Many countries that do more to protect their citizens against gun violence are more, not less, free than we are. According to the libertarian Cato Institute, 16 countries enjoy a higher level of overall freedom than the United States, and most of them ban or severely restrict ownership of assault weapons. The freedom to have your head blown off in an Applebee’s, to flee in terror from the bang of a backfiring engine, might not be freedom at all.”
Argument: Only a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun
It’s always striking that the NRA stance and those who subscribe to various pro-gun arguments revolve around the need to buy more guns. As in making gun manufacturers richer or ginning up support for various gun services (like concealed carry permits and training). I’m not inherently against either of these but…I do find it curious.
So with this argument, it carries the implication that I need a gun (ie buy one) to stop a bad guy. It also paints human nature in black and white when the reality is we’re all capable at anytime to be both a good guy or a bad guy. It’s literally the duality of man. Sometimes good guys go bad either knowingly or unknowingly (like a Dr. Jekyle and Mr. Hyde scenario).
Sometimes good guys don’t actively intervene in an event and instead turn and run out of fear. Other times having multiple people with guns muddies who is really the bad guy or good guy.
It’s a bullshit argument that seems to carry with it the curious notion that we should all buy guns.
Argument: If we ban guns people will find some other way to hurt and kill
True. Great Britain suffers from knife crime because guns are hard to get. However, the goal is to reduce the duration, intensity, and frequency of an event. America has over 40,000 gun deaths a year so if we ban the selling and manufacturing of semi-autos and require those who have semi-autos to do XYZ things (or else they can sell them to the govt at a market rate) gun deaths would go down.
Would something else like Knife-Crime go up? Probably but if knife crime results in less fear of being in public and in the aggregate have fewer deaths when compared to guns it’s a success.
Argument: The Battle of Athens Proves we Need Guns to Stop Tyranny
This is based on an incident in 1946 in Athens, TN where returning GIs stopped a corrupt election from happening. However, what modern gun supporters are doing is shoehorning our modern gun politics onto a historical event. Firstly, the veterans taking part have a completely different sense of being armed. According to a July 13th, 1996 article:
Retired school principal Harold Powers, 70, who was shot in the face during the gunfight, says he and his comrades at the time had “a completely different point of view” from today’s gun enthusiasts.
“I’m a believer in people being able to have arms,” Mr. Powers says, “but I don’t believe that this type of thing should happen very often in this country.”
Secondly, this is a single event happening at a specific time which is very much unique in US History. To try to stretch and read more into it is just trying to score political points.
Thirdly, the “guns” didn’t do the job. Sure they had some arms from a National Guard Armory but it was really the organizing power of the GIs and their skills that actually won the day. It’s likely the same event would have happened if they didn’t have access to a handful of pistols and rifles. The guns just made the event more economical, easier, and more efficient.
Argument: Guns Needed To Stop KKK
Argument: Battle of Blair Mt. Proves we Need Guns to Stop Corrupt Corporations
Argument: If the Jews were armed there wouldn’t have been a Holocaust.
Jews were less than 1% of Germany and didn’t have high gun ownership, to begin with. Even if they had guns the Red Army lost 7 million men fighting Nazi Germany and the Germans crushed the Warsaw uprising. So to pretend that somehow the Holocaust could be prevented is just absurd.
It attempts to take modern gun politics and place it over a historic event in a completely different county.
It also assumes that owning guns somehow prevents Tyranny.
Argument: Hitler Took the guns
He didn’t. He actually expanded it for his preferred group of people and worked to reduce what little the rest had.
Argument: Well-Regulated meant just well-trained and disciplined.
It went well beyond just being well-trained and disciplined. It meant every essence of the word.
Argument: Red Flag Laws are Unconstitutional
These rest on two premises that they don’t provide due process before you lose your right to own a gun and that any gun restriction is unconstitutional (an absolutist statement that isn’t supported either by the Supreme Court or history).
You can argue that maybe the nuances of the state’s red flag law don’t provide enough but you go in front of a judge and plead your case. It’s like getting a restraining order against someone, only this time it’s about your property. Restraining orders inherently infringe on your right to travel freely but as a society, we say that’s OK.
Additionally, liberty is limited when there is evidence of a threat. For example, felons are barred from owning a gun.
Argument: An Armed Society is a Polite Society
The assumption here is that if everyone is armed, there’s some kind of detente among the populace. That’s not what happens if everyone is armed.
It also implies that humans are rational and that we would avoid conflict when faced with possible death. That’s a poor understanding of how humans actually work. There are plenty of people who are irrational and unable to control their emotions and reach for a gun to use when other methods of expressing anger or frustration are way more appropriate.
It also threatens to turn everyday social misunderstandings into a fight to the death by needlessly escalating them.
Argument: Polling Questions as a result show false support for Universal Background Checks
Some will argue that majorities of gun owners don’t actually support Universal Background Checks (UBS) or other actions because the wording of poll questions isn’t clear. UBS has a high of 70% in some studies.
This is of course, false. Various studies have found that large majorities of gun owners support UBS as well as other actions. It’s clear from the actual questions which are listed in the study they are clear.
Gallup Polling on guns https://news.gallup.com/poll/1645/guns.aspx
Majorities of gun and non-gun owners support restrictions: https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/abs/10.1377/hlthaff.2019.00576?.
See also the image below which shows the wording.
Argument: More Guns Means Less Crime
In fact, just the opposite happens
More guns = more violent crime: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/guns-and-death/. Rand Corp found limited evidence that CC = more violent crime https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/concealed-carry/violent-crime.html
More guns = more crime https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2443681
More guns = more accidents https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/gun-threats-and-self-defense-gun-use/
The data and argument comes from John Lott who is a massive fraud and none of his work is peer reviewed, infact he is barred from submitted academic work because of how egregious it is. He basically ignored data sets that didn’t fit the outcome he wanted.
He also argued that the US has fewer mass shootings compared to the rest of the world. He wrote a study in response to a real peer-reviewed study of mass shootings here. After Lott pitched a fit about not releasing his data set (which he did btw) another academic, Lankford ended up finding out that his data used two different definitions for mass shootings depending on whether they were in the US (a more strict one) or the Rest Of The World (much less strict) in order to make the data set he wanted. Not the first time he has done this.
After Lankford went through the data and corrected the definitions so that they match regardless of the location of the shooting, he found that as long you were consistent with your criteria the USA has more mass shootings than anyone else by an insane margin.
Argument: Defensive Gun Use (DGUs)
Many pro-gun arguments say guns are used for protection at least 2.5M times a year. Inherent in this argument is a utilitarian position that since the “good” of guns outweighs the “bad” we ought to keep guns readily accessible with few restrictions…because they “save” more lives than they “take”.
First of all, where did the figure come from? This figure came from Dr. Gary Kleck, a Criminologist at Florida State University. This was from his study in 1994, the “National Self-Defence Survey”. I’ll give 3 counters to the claim.
Counter 1; The Method
Dr. Gary Kleck (Who I’ll just refer to as “Kleck” for the remainder of this post) telephoned 5000 random US Households in 48 states. And then interviewed them about their DGU experiences and that of other members of their households. They excluded occupational uses with guns (For example; if a Police Officer had used a gun in self-defense whilst on-duty, it was discarded). They then extrapolated these results to the rest of the US Population.
What’s the issue with this method?
Well, of the tens of millions of US Households, 5000 is not a large enough sample group.
In addition, it was simply a telephone interview. To my knowledge, they never made an attempt to verify the validity of any of these instances. Therefore, there is a real possibility that people lied, and considering a sample group of 5000 households, even if 1% of households (50) lied, that’ll massively impact the results once scaled up.
The number of US Households in 1995 was 98 million. [sources: Statista and Infoplease].
Therefore, we can reasonably presume, that if even 1% of households lied in the original 5000, that means (When extrapolated), 980,000 households lied. And considering Kleck claims 2.5m DGUs per year, if even 50% of those households who lied falsely claimed they had defensively used a firearm, that’s still 490,000 households who falsely claimed they had defensively used a firearm. Already slashing the 2.5m figure down by nearly 1 fifth.
Another issue is a simple fact well, the questions are open to interpretation. What one person may interpret as Defensive Gun Use, another might interpret as Aggressive Gun Use.
This is shown in the results;
– In 46.8% of instances, the defender was neither threatened or attacked.
– 5.5% of instances, the defender was both attacked and injured
– 51.9% of instances, the offender was unarmed.
If in 52% of instances the offender was unarmed, was it truly defensive gun use?
If in 47% of instances, the defender was neither threatened or attacked, was it truly defensive gun use?
Further proof of this below;
When asked Defender’s Perceived Likelihood that Someone Would Have Died Had Gun Not Been Used for Protection, results were:
– 20.8% = “Almost certainly not”
– 19.3% = “Probably not”
– 15.7% = “Almost certainly would have”
In instances of a shooting;
Did offender shoot at defender?
– 4.5% of all incidents
– 26.2% of all incidents where offender had a gun
What the Defender did with the gun;
– Brandished or showed gun in 75.7% of instances
– Verbally referred to gun in 57.6%
– Pointed gun at offender in 49.8%
– Fired gun (Including warning shots) in 23.9%
– Fired gun at offender, trying to shooting the offender in 15.6%
– Wounded or killed offender in 8.3%
Counter 2; Not been repeated in 30 years
Quite simply, the original study was conducted in 1994 and published in 1995. And has not been repeated since.
Counter 3; CDC no longer supports these statistics
Previously, the CDC had posted the 2.5m DGU statistic. It should now be said, the CDC no longer posts this statistic, instead (in relation to Defensive gun use) it simple says;
“Estimates of defensive gun use vary depending on the questions asked, populations studied, timeframe, and other factors related to study design. Given the wide variability in estimates, additional research is necessary to understand defensive gun use prevalence, frequency, circumstances, and outcomes.”
This highlights the fact this study is no longer accepted as fact.
What is a better source for DGUs?
Use the National Crime Victimization Survey, which places the figure of DGUs at closer to 65,000 (see sources below). However, according to the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), the annual amount of DGU incidents is less than 2,000. Very far below the inflated claims of survey estimates. And depending on how you slice the NCVS data DGUs might only be 14k. Indeed, according to a May 2020 report, the Violence Policy Center says between 2013-2017 the nation had 1,272 justifiable homicides.
Now, of course, a common rebuttal to this is to say that DGUs often go unreported, which is certainly a possibility, though it is difficult to quantify exactly how significant the underreporting is, frankly I would find it absurd that anyone could argue that 2.5 million DGUs happen annually when less than 2000 actual confirmed cases of DGUs are actually discovered annually. This would suggest that only 0.08% of DGU cases show up in reports or in the news, which is an unbelievably low rate.
Not to mention that the 2.5 million number, as reported from survey data from Kleck and Gertz, is actually mathematically impossible given current crime data. The idea of there being 2.5 million annual DGUs, according to the Kleck survey data from where the number came from, would require that gun owners use their guns in self-defense in more than 100% of burglaries, which is just straight up impossible. Another funny quirk of surveys that estimate 1 million+ DGUs is that they estimate that the number of rapes in which a woman defended herself with a firearm is more than the total number of rapes
In sum, DGUs are notoriously hard to quantify. They rely mostly on self-reporting surveys and it’s hard to operationalize the meanings of “defensive”, “gun”, and “use”. There’s an argument of folks needing guns for self-defense which I am sympathetic. However, that doesn’t also mean we reduce training requirements or permit ease of access just because someone maybe at some point needs a gun.
One final note is that using a gun as a defensive measure wasn’t beneficial when compared to other actions. According to the study, 38.5% of sdgu (self-defense gun use) victims lost property, and 34.9% of victims who used a weapon other than a gun lost property. Also, after any protective action, 4.2% of victims were injured; after sdgu, 4.1% of victims were injured. These numbers don’t bolster the case that using a gun to protect yourself or your property gives you any greater advantage. Obviously, this study relies on data from one data set and we’ll have to see how it holds-up.
A Call for a Truce in the DGU War. Smith, Tom. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. Vol 87, Issue 4 Summer. 1997. – A somewhat dated article but it points out that trying to figure out how many DGUs happen is hard.
https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/incidence-civilian-defensive-firearm-use | This study cites 65k DGU but it’s 30 years old and was retracted; the only place you can find it is in the archival library with other research that isn’t useable.
Argument: Veterans Should be guarding schools
I’m not opposed to this provided they are trained and prepared as some type of “School Guardian”. However, who pays for this? How does this get implemented across the 100,000+ schools in the US? People say this and have no idea how to actually implement this.
More to the point, it’s just a band-aid and doesn’t actually solve the underlying issues.
Additionally, see the “we should arm teachers” argument below as inherent in using vets to guard schools assumes it acts as a deterrent. When that most likely isn’t the case.
Argument: We should arm teachers
Not opposed but it’s not a solution to the problem. This argument is built on the idea that the shooter would be deterred from entering as the shooter values his/her life so much that they don’t enter. That’s, in most cases, the exact opposite of what happens. The shooter is in so much pain that they want to hurt as many as possible before they die by cop. In addition, these people are wearing armor so it’s unlikely an armed teacher is going to make any difference from a motivated individual clad in protective gear.
Argument: The NRA is a Civil Rights Organization
Well since the Heller case established an individual right to own a gun, this is an agreeable argument. However, it assumes all Civil Rights are somehow good for society to have. That’s not inherently the case. Note that the ACLU also supports the second amendment but only under a specific interpretation (not the individual rights one that Scalia made up).
Furthermore, just because something is a civil right doesn’t also mean it’s limitless. Reasonable restrictions can be placed on the ownership of firearms. Even Scalia in the Heller case agreed.
Argument: Mandatory Gun Ownership Kennesaw, GA
The law was never enforced and was never really mandatory as it had huge carve-outs. It’s also impossible to determine the impacts of said law on the small town as data collection for the variables needed during the time didn’t exist. So it’s unclear if the law had any impact on anything.
It’s just something tossed around to make people feel good about guns.
https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/kennesaw-gun-law/ which quotes the sheriff at the time along with an NYT article.
Hunting and the Second Amendment
Controlling Slaves and the Second Amendment
Court Briefs and Legal Analysis of Cases
The Supreme Court’s Thirty-Five Other Gun Cases: What the Supreme Court Has Said About the Second Amendment. Kopel, David. Saint Louis University Public Law Review, vol 18 No 1 Gun Control, Article 8. 1999
Public Safety and the Right to Bear Arms
Guns And the Right to Self Defense
Right to Carry Laws
My article on Permitless Carry here
Buying a Gun In Another Country
Chicago and Baltimore Gun Violence
Second Amendment History
The Militia and the Second Amendment
Book review of the above: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/50663
Of Arms and the Militia: Gun Regulation by Defifining “Ordinary Military Equipment” by Curtis, Edward. Touro Law Review. Vol 37, No. 3. 2021 – Argues that the state could define “ordinary military equipment” the militia uses to exclude semi-auto guns.
Selling Guns on Facebook
People sell guns on Facebook and use creative means to get around censors. See: https://www.wsj.com/articles/gun-sellers-use-new-tactic-to-deal-on-facebook-marketplace-11598270872.
Banning Firearms Reduces Murder and Suicide
Argument: Madison in Federalist 46
Some gun folks who make mention of the federalist papers such as Federalist 46. In it, Madison says we need militias “…officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence … the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.”
Madison is saying that unregulated vigilantes with unregulated weapons are a threat to us. The point is that the 2A, nowhere, refers to people outside a regulated group with officers appointed by a government subordinate to the affections and confidence of the citizens in the community raising the militia. This is further supported in other areas of the Consitution whereby the militia is the one group who has guns in Article 1, Section 8 clauses 15 and 16.
In both the Federalist paper and the constitution, Madison tells you that the regulations are necessary for the security of a free State.
Hamilton has a different hot take in Federalist 29. As do Samuel Bryan and Luther Martin in the Anti-Federalist Papers.
What can be done?
Well, we know what works.
Waiting periods reduce death:
Eliminating Stand Your Ground laws reduce death:
Child Access Prevention Laws are effective at reducing death:
Gun Accidents can be prevented with gun control:
Stronger Concealed Carry Standards are Linked to Lower Gun Homicide Rates:
Background checks that use federal, state, local, and military data are effective:
Suicide rates are decreased by risk-based firearm seizure laws:
Mandated training programs are effective: