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Gun Control Debate on Philadelphia NPR

Melody Zullinger of Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmans Clubs debates Bryan Miller of CeaseFire New Jersey Pennsylvania debate new gun control in Pennsylvania (mp3 podcast) on NPR here in Philadelphia. I have to say, I don’t think Melody made a very good case for our cause. In fact, I think Bryan Miller mopped the floor with her. We have to be better prepared for this kind of thing.

Bryan seems to be big on this “personal privilege” thing. Owning a gun is not a privilege. It’s a constitutional right. Both under the federal and Pennsylvania constitutions. Melody had ample opportunity to turn the tables on Miller, and she dropped the ball every time.

UPDATE: Melody in the comments says:

I won’t deny that I was in way over my head with Miller and I’m sorry I left our side down. When I agreed to be on the program, I had no idea I’d be on with Miller or that it was to be a debate. If I had known so, I would have turned down the offer and tried to find someone else who is a good debater to represent firearm owners.

No hard feelings.  It all worked out the way we wanted in the end.

16 Responses to “Gun Control Debate on Philadelphia NPR”

  1. Jacob says:

    That is why I don’t bother trying to debate these people. There’s nothing to be gained as they will never admit they are wrong, and you run the risk of looking bad if you mess up.

  2. Carteach0 says:

    Not a ‘constitutional right’.

    It’s a constitutionally protected ‘Natural’ right.

    In other words, our rights are not granted by the constitution, but protected by it. We have the human right to self defense whether there is a piece of paper mentioning it or not.

    We as gun owners put this issue in the wrong terms all the time.
    I think we need to move away from the thought of our ‘right to own guns’ which some people just don’t or won’t understand. Many folks don’t understand and don’t care about, or actively oppose, that right.

    The proper way to phrase this is “People have a natural right to self defense, and towards that end they have a right to own the means of self defense.”

    The only way for anti rights activists to counter that is to say people do not have the right to defend themselves. They may perhaps realize how insane this sounds, and then say people have the right to defense, but not the right to it’s means. That’s akin to saying we have a right to breath, as long as we keep our head under the water.

    This issue (gun ownership by citizens) might be a non-issue if couched in different terms. While many people who are not gun owners see no connection to the controversy of gun ownership, nearly everyone understands they have a right to defend themselves from criminal attack.

    Every single time someone speaks about limiting gun ownership, our stock reply should be “WHY do you want to deny people their right to self defense?”

    The anti-rights activists so often state they are not against gun ownership, but for ‘reasonable restrictions’. They say this, but in every case they have proven to really be for elimination of personal gun ownership. If we can link personal gun ownership directly to the right of self defense, limitations become more difficult to justify.

    While the framers of the constitution may have had the peoples defense against their own government in mind when they wrote the bill of rights, that does not resonate in todays world of big government and survival by wealth redistribution. Therefor the idea of defending the people against runaway government is not seen as a viable reason for gun ownership. While some find it the most important reason, many more do not understand, or even oppose, the idea of armed resistance to unjust law.

    The reality is…. if slavery was the law of the land today, people would just knuckle under and pull the plow.

    That said, what most people can agree on is that giving in to criminal attack is bad. Giving in to violent attack is worse than bad, it’s suicide in most cases. People can understand the need, and right, of self defense. Thus, they can also understand needing the means of self defense.

    Most people applaud the little old lady who stands up to the thug, using her weapon to save herself. Few people understand that without that weapon she is not a hero, but a crime statistic in a hospital bed, or worse, a morgue.

    We need to make THAT point clear, and make THAT the debate.

  3. Sebastian says:

    Every single time someone speaks about limiting gun ownership, our stock reply should be “WHY do you want to deny people their right to self defense?”

    To be honest Carteach0, you can’t really argue that way, because most people don’t care about keeping constitutional rights sacrosanct. Bryan Miller will try to sever one-gun-a-month from the constitutional argument, and when he succeeds at doing that, you better be able to make other arguments. Most people believe in a right to bear arms. They will say that. But they also believe one-gun-a-month sounds reasonable. You have to explain it in terms they can relate to why it is not. If you just say “natural rights” then refuse to go any farther, you lose the debate with 90% of people who say they care about constitutional rights, but really don’t.

    And most people will fail to see the distinction between natural and constitutional rights. In a debate, you don’t have the time to educate people on that.

  4. Sebastian says:

    That is why I don’t bother trying to debate these people. There’s nothing to be gained as they will never admit they are wrong, and you run the risk of looking bad if you mess up.

    What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. You have to debate them, because if you don’t, people don’t get exposed to your arguments, and suddenly their voice is the only voice. But when you go against someone like Bryan Miller, you had best be prepared for a scrap. Melody clearly wasn’t up to debating someone like Bryan, and didn’t seem to have her arguments thought out.

  5. Jacob says:

    Ceasefire is likely little more than a front group funded by a small number of wealthy people and left-leaning foundations and run by professional activists like Miller. Debates just legitimize them and give them a forum to spout their lies. Even if Meoldy won the debate, what would she have gained? Would Miller have admitted he was wrong? Would Ceasefire have given up their agenda? Of course not. People can be exposed to pro-gun arguments outside of debates. There are plenty of new media outlets, blogs, podcasts, internet newspapers, etc. available to get your point across without the risk of looking bad.

  6. Sebastian says:

    There are plenty of new media outlets, blogs, podcasts, internet newspapers, etc. available to get your point across without the risk of looking bad.

    I agree that those are useful, but they don’t reach nearly the audience of the conventional media. What would have been gained if Melody had made a better showing is that people listening might be convinced that our side has good arguments, and our ideas can hold their own with people like Miller’s. I don’t think it’s wise to concede ground to them. If they offer a forum for our ideas, I think it makes sense to take them up on it, even if it means having to tangle with someone like Miller.

  7. Bitter says:

    I’ve gotten a pretty positive story on guns out of NPR before, so it’s not an impossible task. Tough? Yes. But not impossible. There’s absolutely no reason to concede that ground. In fact, I find that sometimes left wing outlets can be the most responsive to female gun owners.

  8. Carteach0 says:

    Sebastion,

    I guess I communicated my point poorly…

    I was actually trying to say something fairly close to what you replied.

    I agree most people don’t care about constitutionally guaranteed rights, and won’t invest any time into protecting them. That is why I think we need to move away from that argument in the realm of public discussion (save it for the courts).

    I think we need to shift the debate away from ‘the right to bear arms’ (which sounds arcane and outdated) to the ‘right of self defense’.
    In the minds of the populace, we need to equate gun control activism with an attack on the personal right of self defense.

    In a debate suddenly framed around self defense, statistics regarding gun ownership take on a whole new meaning.

    In every discussion about ‘gun control’, we need to respond as though it’s only about the right of self defense. In every case, directly replace the words “right to bear arms” and “right to own guns” with the words “right to self defense” and “right to protect our families”.

    Eventually the debate must change course, or the anti-rights activists will respond by saying gun ownership is not about self defense, which opens a discussion that far more people will understand better than a constitutionally protected rights debate, as you perhaps point out.

    Once the debate is shifted to the inerrant right of personal self defense then many of the anti-rights proposals will begin to appear as infringement to people who *don’t* see it as such when it’s only about gun ownership.

    I agree that ‘one gun a month’ restrictions and such will be also be divorced from constitutionally protected rights such as the 2nd amendment. But….. to a non-gun owner the anti-rights arguments are just about people who own guns for fun and hunting, which doesn’t concern them. They don’t equate the restrictions as applying to them. It’s up to us to change the debate and bring it to the doorstep of the target audience in a way they will care about. Make it personal, and make it clear it does infringe on their rights they do care about.
    Everyone believes they have a right to self defense, and a nearly unlimited one once you start discussing it. Any restrictions on that make people nervous….

    On the same note…. I also think……

    We need to stop calling them ‘gun control advocates’, which makes them sound like legal aid officers, and never refer to them as anything other than ‘Anti-Rights activists’, which sounds like another beast entirely. Let them be on the defensive and explain why they are not anti-rights, if they can. Sheer repetition will eventually brand them with that name.

  9. Jacob says:

    It’s not a matter of conceding NPR, it’s recognizing that debates themselves don’t accomplish much of anything.

    Back in ’95 both NRA and HCI made a big deal out of Sarah Brady and Tanya Metaska scheduling a series of online debates with audience participation on Compuserve and AOL. I was at the first one on CI$. After both were introduced, the moderators opened the floor for questions. Brady was immediately pelted with a flood of questions which she refused to answer. This went on for maybe 10 minutes before Sarah signed off without comment. The same thing happened on AOL. The 3rd debate on CI$ was then cancelled. By any measure Sarah got spanked. What did it accomplish? Aside from a good laugh not much. Sarah is still around peddling the same lies while NRA continues to do their thing. What would have happened if Melody did better? It’s pretty safe to say that Miller would continue on as before. The goal is to defeat people like Miller and there’s no way to do that in a debate forum.

  10. Sebastian says:

    I think it’s a mistake to focus on the messenger, in this case Miller and Brady. The effect of defeating her in the debate was pushing her message off the new online media. They have, by this point, effectively lost that media, with little hope they’ll make much in the way of inroads because of their lack of grass roots.

    You’re right to point out that Miller will keep on going, but if he was successfully debated, people on the fence, or who aren’t sure where they stand on the issue, might go one way or another. It’s important to get our message out there, even to hostile audiences. Even talking to gun control advocates, it’s worthwhile to have good arguments, so you can at least not motivate that side to work too hard against you, or to rank that issue high up on their political calculus.

    You’ll never convince zealots like Brady or Miller, but you can’t concede media space to them no matter how obstinate their support of their own agenda will be. Otherwise their voice is the only one out there.

  11. MichaelG says:

    I think that we need to coop the term pro-life. We are pro-life because we support the right to defend life.

    I’ve said it before here and I’ll say it again, Sebastion, please stop using the phrase constitutional right. There are rights, that predate the constitution. There are constitutional prohibitions and controls on the government’s delegated powers to infringe upon those rights. There are not, have not, never been, constitutional rights. The lazy use of words is like the lazy use of protections, they leave you open to being f#$%ked.

  12. Sebastian says:

    I’ve said it before here and I’ll say it again, Sebastion, please stop using the phrase constitutional right. There are rights, that predate the constitution. There are constitutional prohibitions and controls on the government’s delegated powers to infringe upon those rights. There are not, have not, never been, constitutional rights. The lazy use of words is like the lazy use of protections, they leave you open to being f#$%ked.

    Constitutional rights are the vernacular, and are understood by the majority of the population. Whether we win or lose aren’t going to hinge on whether we call them natural or constitutional rights. 99% of the people out there, even people who care deeply for individual freedom, aren’t going to fret too much over the semantics.

  13. MelodyZ says:

    I won’t deny that I was in way over my head with Miller and I’m sorry I left our side down. When I agreed to be on the program, I had no idea I’d be on with Miller or that it was to be a debate. If I had known so, I would have turned down the offer and tried to find someone else who is a good debater to represent firearm owners.

    As to MichaelG’s comments on “Constitutional Rights”, you should all read Rep. Leach’s comentary in today’s Inquirer.
    http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/11881542.html

    Melody Zullinger, Executive Director
    PA Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs
    http://www.pfsc.org

  14. Sebastian says:

    Don’t worry about it Melody, you guys are still doing a lot of good work, and it all turned out the way we wanted it to in the end.

    I updated the post with your response.

  15. Melodyl says:

    Melody Z:

    Girlfriend smile you did just fine. Sugar you got “Sucker Punched” but held your own. It’s happened to me before
    Had you some warning, I am sure that you would have prepared, and slaughtered him.

    Melody L

  16. Sebastian says:

    Thanks for the link to the article. I’ve posted about it, and shot off an e-mail to Rep Leach outlining some of the points I made in my post.

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