Do Civilians Ever Stop Mass Shootings? Plus How to Argue Guns with Your Liberal Friends on Facebook.

Eugene Volokh has compiled a list of recent events where mass shootings have (in some cases possibly) been prevented by armed intervention by civilians. This might turn out to be useful in your arguments with people who don’t agree with this whole gun thing, and I’m sure many of you have found yourself in that situation after the most recent events.

I’ve noticed left-leaning friends on Facebook have gotten more argumentative after this incident than previous events. Perhaps there is frustration over their side of the debate not advancing, and that’s making people more likely to start asserting their points. I only have maybe two friends on Facebook I would classify as hard core gun control supporters. Most of the rest support UBCs and maybe a few other things. You need to deal with each type differently.

The first type is your typical left-leaning moderate, or your more traditional modern liberals. These people haven’t really bought into the hard core progressive-left shibboleth. While they ain’t voting Republican any time soon, they aren’t necessarily embracing thew worst elements of the far left. A lot of tech geeks fall into this category. A key thing I’ve found with this type is they tend to apply reason very well, but the problem is that in the Venn Diagram of reason and the political process, there isn’t any overlap. People of this type correctly understand that compromise is part of the political process, but often don’t understand how it comes about. The political process is not reasonable people coming together to think their way through problems as is the case in most tech environments. To whatever extent reason plays a role in politics, it’s only as a cudgel with which to bash your opponent with in order to look like the stronger man. Compromise in politics is a result of struggle.

A question you’ll often hear from this type is, “How can anyone oppose Universal Background Checks?” What I would point out that there are significant trust issues with the other side. You can point out plenty of examples of their being duplicitous over UBCs, from trying to ban even temporary transfers, to trying to get other issues to hitchhike along, for dismissing our serious concerns, etc. I would avoid arguments against the concept itself, because then you’ll just get dismissed as a zealot and the conversation will be over. What you want to do is try to make them understand the trust issues at work. This is only from one side, of course. I’m sure our opponents could lay down examples of where they thought our side was being duplicitous, but that’s their argument to make, not your’s.

The greater truth here, which I’d never use on a reasonable type with little exposure to politics, is that it’s generally a bad negotiating tactic to come to the table and immediately serve your opponents one of your key positions on a silver platter. Why would we just give up on the UBC issue? Just because some people think that it’s the “right thing to do?” Hell no. This isn’t afternoon tea. We might be able to use that issue later as leverage if we need to avoid something we really don’t want to have imposed on us.

A smart strategy at the negotiating table is that your opponents shouldn’t get movement any of their issues unless they can force movement. In a democratic republic, that comes down to votes of lawmakers, and right now we control that chessboard. We don’t surrender pieces on the board just because someone else thinks we need to take pity on our opponent. That’s a good way to get checkmated down the road, and make no mistake about it, they do intend to checkmate us.

President Obama pointed to Britain and Australia, two countries that engaged in mass confiscation, as examples of what our country needs. Hillary said the Supreme Court got it wrong when it threw out gun bans in DC and Chicago. The game won’t stop just because they took a few pawns and a bishop. They intend to win the game, and the end goal of that is to see you check mated for real. Reasonable people see a lot of strength on our side, and a lot of weakness on theirs, and don’t understand why we can’t just reach an accommodation if our side would just give a little. Make them understand the duplicity of our opponents.

The second type is the strong gun control advocate. These people are often full of facts and figures they got from the left-wing news sites that feed them that shit. You will never convince this type, but that’s not the point of engagement. In fact, this type will generally start to look down on you for denying the power of their science on the impact of guns on society. The fact of the matter is much of what has been fed to them is either propaganda, half-baked nonsense, or outright fabrication. There is plenty of well-researched data on our side, but we also have our share of these things as well. Learn to tell the difference. But no matter what you have to say, it will boil down to dueling studies. This is probably one reason you don’t see NRA funding a lot of pro-gun research. At the end of the day everyone goes off their gut instinct. Your purpose is not to convince these people, but there are two reasons you should argue with this type.

For one, you want to signal to other gun people they may be friends with that they are not alone, and that there are people who think the same as they do who can hold their own with people regurgitating left-wing shibboleths about gun control. A lot of these folks you’re trying to reach aren’t even gun owners, but they have a gut agreement with the Second Amendment, but maybe they can’t quite articulate it. I was once one of these people. You need to reach them, and stir within them the desire to explore an issue they maybe just can’t quite articulate right now.

The second reason for engaging this second type is to present arguments to people they may be friends with who aren’t necessarily supporters or detractors. Show that our side is the winning side. People are naturally more attracted to the side that sounds like winners, and seldom want to hitch their horse to a card that isn’t going anywhere. I believe at the end of the day we will be the winners. Have the confidence and command of the issue to bring those kinds of folks with us. The only question I have, really, is how long it will take us to get there.

When arguing with people on social media, in all cases, we need to be the ones who are calm, cool, and collected. Don’t fall for people’s desire to escalate. If they keep flinging pooh at you, it’s better to just disengage. There is a point of diminishing returns, and you should always think, “If this debate were to end right now, who would someone with no dog in this fight think the asshole is?” If the answer is you, you’ve taken it too far. Help your opponent keep digging, but when you can’t continue without looking like the bad guy, it’s time to stop.

If we choose our engagements wisely, we can come out ahead after incidents like this. It’s my sincere belief that gun control is less popular now than it was when Democrats were convincing themselves it was a losing issue. Argue politely, but with confidence, and we will continue to ensure they get nothing.

34 Responses to “Do Civilians Ever Stop Mass Shootings? Plus How to Argue Guns with Your Liberal Friends on Facebook.”

  1. Peter O says:

    Definitely ran into the second type today. Started off with why can’t we do guns like cars, when I posted a couple examples about why they aren’t easier than cars, I immediately literally got the “You just don’t care about dead bodies” line. And a bunch of liks to Joyce and Evertown funded studies.

  2. NotClauswitz says:

    I don’t have any friends on Facebook. I probably know people who do it, but I don’t have a Facebook account and not gonna.

  3. Renegade_Azzy says:

    And then there are the Gawker / Jezebel types, who would love to sit and sip expensive nitro coffee and ironically record your confiscation and arrest on their typewriter.

    People whose zealotry can and will get someone killed. How does one reason with that?

  4. Rasq'uire'laskar says:

    The only nitpick I have is that anti-gunners will likely fling poo at you.

    If they do fling Pooh, show them the picture. You know which one.

  5. Brad says:

    I thought I had a someone who I could reason with, and a posted a link to the Stasi nut who wants the NRA declared a terrorist organization. My intention was to shock his sensibilities by appealing to his sense of decency and empathy. Imagine my surprise when instead of revulsion he readily endorsed the Stasi insanity!

    There is definitely a deep current of crazy out there right now among the gun control proponents. I expect that fever will torpedo the Democrats on election day 2016.

  6. Thirdpower says:

    I have several ‘left wing’ friends who went off the handle on FB. All are intelligent, well-read individuals except when it comes to political talking points.

    One, when questioned politely on the viability of her stance said it was the way she ‘felt’ and wasn’t going to get into a debate about the facts that contradicted her.

    Another likes to portray himself as a ‘leftist radical’ but I think likes the idea of it more than the historical reality. If a real ‘radical leftist’ regime ever took over, he’ld be one of the first of the intelligentsia against the wall. Of course it’s been a few days so he’s moved onto the next buzz-phrase filled topic.

    I just don’t engage anymore.

    • aerodawg says:

      That’s ultimately the problem with leftists. It’s all about how they “feel”. Reality doesn’t matter. They can be shipping you off to the gulag and as long as they “feel” like they’re helping, it’s all good to them.

      There is no point in reasonable discussion with these people. They simply need to be derided, crushed and relegated to the ash heap of history with segregationists and other’s on the wrong side of liberty.

    • Sigivald says:


      I do not engage either, because The Feels do not react to argument well.

      I have better things to do with my time than have someone ignore what I say and call me names because The Feels don’t agree.

      (Contra aerodawg, note that the Right also has the exact same “feel” issue, just often on different topics.

      Ain’t no side owns rationality*.

      * Well, the Effective Altruism guys might come close, but they don’t avoid the issue entirely, especially since the matter of core valuations is not subject to rational decision, fundamentally.

      Also because they make libertarians look like a popular group.)

      • HSR47 says:

        Always engage. If you don’t, you give them the monopoly on the medium. That in turn means that they, and likely their friends/associates will never see a contrary opinion advocated by anything other than a caricature.

        That doesn’t mean that you have to sit around and get into a long back and forth discussion, you just need to lay the seeds for third parties to see that we are the reasonable parties on this issue, and that the political left is on the wrong side of history. Again.

  7. Bill Twist says:

    Perhaps one of the winningest things you can do is stick to verifiable facts. I’ve found that pretty much inevitably, if you do that and the conversation goes on long enough, the other side will violate Markley’s Law (A variant of Godwin’s Law: As an online discussion of gun owners’ rights grows longer, the probability of an ad hominem attack involving penis size approaches 1).

    When that happens, my response is “I bring data, you bring d*ck jokes”.

    • Sigivald says:

      Or as SaysUncle puts it, “obviously compensating for the size of her penis”.

      Posting a link to his posts tagged that would work, if they were using reason rather than emotion.

      But they aren’t.

  8. FiftycalTX says:

    And I would like to remind everyone of the “success” of the homosexual movement in getting homosexual marriage recognized. They did it by staying in everyone’s face. Gun owners must keep lawful carry and open carry in everyone’s face. Otherwise lies, like “there are fewer gun owners now than 10 years ago”, will become accepted “truth”.

    • HSR47 says:

      In all that though, it’s important to keep in mind that the gaystapo* has had the uncritical support of a sympathetic media for at least the last 5-10 years, and general support for significantly longer.

      By comparison, that would be like the left’s reductio ad absurdum representation of radical second-amendment activists (e.g. “the government should give everyone nukes to keep in their basements” and similar) having a similar degree of support.

      With that amount of fawning media attention, you could get the public to support pretty much anything.

      *The extreme of the “gay rights” movement in many cases seems to be motivated more by their desire to stick it to their political opponents than they are by their actual desire to effectively advocate for the movement.

  9. I tend not to engage in arguments on social media, mostly because I am not a sociable person. However, I would like to comment.

    First, Bill Twist is right. Do some research and make yourself a list of verified and verifiable facts and stick to them. Your opponent WILL try to invalidate your claims. When they can’t, if they are open minded, you MIGHT start them thinking (this is rare); however, usually they will just choose to ignore them. The up-side is that your facts might reach someone in the undecided audience. If they look and find you are BS-ing them… well, you have FAILED and lost (possibly forever) a potential ally.

    Second, Make a consorted effort to remain calm, and maintain the appearance of being calm. A very common Lib-Prog trick is to write you off as being angry and/or violent. Do not fall for this trap if you can help it. I have recently seen this used on a very level headed, sincere, pro-gun proponent to an amazing effect. He got the anti to admit that she didn’t know a thing about what she was talking about. He got her to admit that she had absolutely no basis for her position other than “feelings”… then he made one (vaguely) sarcastic remark and WHAM! After that it was “why are you so angry? you are making me afraid… we are having a polite discussion, why are you being so mean? are you sure someone like you should own guns?” Dude didn’t even see it coming and didn’t have a response.

    • Divemedic says:

      He only thought he was making headway. Antis do not run with facts and logic. They run with feelings. This is an anti’s way of winning a debate- they talk about how they feel something, and how the other person in the debate iw mean for being the one who caused those bad feelings.

      • Oh, I wasn’t saying he was changing the anti’s mind, but that isn’t what the exercise is about anyway. You might as well try to change the tide. Your target audience should be the undecided and/or any observers who don’t already strongly identify with whichever side they have picked. Those are the ones who can be swayed.

    • Sigivald says:

      (Nitpick: Concerted.

      Consorted, well… I’m not sure how that would work, and I find having a consort usually makes me less calm.

      In a good way.)

  10. Bram says:

    It isn’t just civilians. Military bases are absolutely gun-free zones for all personnel except the MPs. And 2 of our recent mass-shootings have been on military bases.

    Does anyone think that we would have had 13 dead, 33 wounded at Fort Hood if more of the Soldiers on base were armed?

    If the Marines and Sailors at the DC Naval Yard were armed, would another 13 people be dead? There was literally a platoon of unarmed Marines in the next building on lock-down.

    • HSR47 says:

      Immediate armed responses to those events would likely have reduced the overall amount of damage done, but they likely would not have prevented them altogether.

      Ultimately though, the issue runs deeper; The real question is not whether an immediate armed response by those nearby would reduce the amount of damage done by a shooter: The real question is whether the possibility of an immediate armed response would discourage these murderers — for so many of them, it’s about notoriety, which in turn is directly correlated with body count. If they know they can’t get a high enough body count to gain serious notoriety, they will likely find another outlet, or at least another tool.

  11. Matthew Carberry says:

    Stuart is right. On social media like twitter every post an anti replies to exposes your argument to their followers. It’s an unseen/acknowledged audience. They are the ones you stick with calm, reasoned -minimal- arguments for. For instance I stick with the lack of evidence that gun rights increase crime rather than pushing into them decreasing it. Not making things worse generally, while allowing individual defense, is a sufficient argument and it avoids citing to Lott as his name usually devolves the argument into his credibility.

    You have to understand the outs the antis have been programmed to use to change the subject when losing and deny them to them by sticking to your game plan. Eventually they will resort to name-calling or blocking, and you win the argument in the mind of anyone remotely susceptible to reason.

    • Ian Argent says:

      This is where Volohk conspiring at the WaPo is useful – the URL isn’t one that can be written off as “Faux News.”

    • N.M says:

      Do you think that gun control advocates are simply irrational people? Or that their feelings get in the way?

      • Ian Argent says:

        Yes. and Yes. Because Humans are irrational people and their feelings get in the way.

        Just because you can’t make the horse drink once you’ve led them to water, it doesn’t mean he won’t when you get him there.

        I’ve engaged a couple of people on “why is the Republican Congress preventing CDC from researching gun violence?!?!?!” issue just recently, and got them to stop and think about a couple underlying assumptions of that. People don’t usually examine their underlying biases unless forced to. I’ve changed minds before and expect to do so again.

        • Matthew Carberry says:

          “No CDC funding = no research” is one of my favorite arguments to encounter, as it can be illustrated as false on a number of levels. When they open with it they lose credibility with any rational observers on everything they say thereafter.

      • Matthew Carberry says:

        Many GC advocates have been educated solely, albeit unknowingly, in critical theory based on post-modernist philosophy. There is no objective truth, only subjective, and formal logic and internal consistency are merely constructs themselves, not universal rules for how to find even subjective truth.

        When logical thinkers find an internal inconsistency in an argument, that means the argument is invalid and the premises need to be reexamined. For critical theory thinkers that means logic itself is flawed as their premises by definition are as true as any others.

  12. KG says:

    I’m pretty convinced by the evidence of Australia that lowering society’s access to guns probably decreases mass shootings significantly, and marginally so deaths/shooting. You can’t really argue against the fact that they’ve had 2 mass shootings in 17 years after the semi-auto ban (and none with semi-auto rifles) and 10 in the 13 years before the ban. The frequency of mass shootings has definitely gone down. Mass violence as a whole, however, remains just as frequent, and the number of people who die per act of mass violence has only marginally decreased since the ban. People in Australia have switched to non-ban firearms, bats, knives, hammers, swords etc. to commit mass violence.

    I think the takeaway is that you can prevent mass shootings but not mass violence itself by banning certain kinds of guns. The deaths/shooting decrease is probably because the upper bound of the statistic is capped (you can’t have negative deaths/shooting) if people cannot access the weapons which are most convenient for a mass shooter. Let’s be honest here: AR pattern rifles are easy to use, have low recoil, high mag capacity, and are more lethal than handguns, the best tool for a mass shooter.

    While a rational, calculating person could find a way to obtain an AR pattern rifle in Australia illegally post-ban, most mass killers are lazy, lack self-control, and have low IQs. When they snap, they kill with whatever they have close at hand. If they can’t access semi-auto rifles, they use less lethal alternatives. Although most of the time their kill count isn’t affected by the weapon they choose, the occasional person who kills 40 people definitely affects the deaths/shooting statistics.

    • Matthew Carberry says:

      So the takeaway is, after decades of continuing enforcement, tens (hundreds?) of millions spent, and millions of innocent people stripped of their property, Aus has managed no real net gain in overall public safety.