Gun Control and the Rhetorical Criminal

It seems that with every tragic shooting, the political talking heads (whether professional or novice) bring forth the perennial gun control issue. This post is not meant to take a stance on gun control (or lack thereof). Rather, the purpose of this is to examine a common phrase often used when the gun control debate is raised.

“Criminals will still get guns if guns are illegal.” Or something to the sort. Okay. Yes, criminals, by definition, break the law. So if guns are outlawed and one were to possess a gun, one would be a criminal in some sense.

But what criminals, exactly, are we speaking of? How are they related to these mass shootings? I worked with criminals extensively four to five times a week. Whenever a mass shooting like Columbine, Virginia Tech, the Aurora movie theater, the Connecticut elementary school occurs, those “pesky criminals” mourn and are horrified inasmuch as Mr. Jones next door. But wait, aren’t these the guys with the guns?

See, to a large portion of the men I worked with, mass shootings are gruesome acts which are inexplicable. They show remorse. The typical mass shooter is not the drug dealer or the gang member (although these criminals due share their portion of violence). It is the lone high school kid, the troubled PhD student, the aloof twentysomething. It can be anyone. So who, exactly, are we speaking of when we say that criminals will always possess guns? Because these horrific events seem not to be caused by the drug dealer, but by Mr. Jones’ son. But Mr. Jones’ son has no criminal record. So, who should and should not have guns? I’m confused.

When a controversial issue like gun control arises in conjunction with a tragedy, people tend to exhibit an attitude of “otherness.” Mr. 2nd Amendment says he needs guns to protect against these criminals. Mr. 2nd Amendment asserts guns should instead be removed from the hands of criminals. But what is the line between good, law- abiding citizen and the criminal? And what criminals do we need to protect ourselves against? The “criminal” in the political dialog of the 2nd Amendment is very abstract from the reality I interacted with every day. They are the “others” of the human society – the pawns by which one can advance fallacious reasoning by weak-minded aspiring political commentators. It is easy to pick on the criminal because the criminal embodies some “otherness” than the people who make one feel comfortable.

Wake up. Argue all you want for or against guns. Yet, watch the abstraction of humanity from human beings. These rhetorical criminals are people. And in my experience, they are one’s who mourn with the rest of us. They may indeed be different in some capacity and yes, they have made (and continue, some of them, to make) decisions which are detrimental to themselves and society, but they are indeed part of society. In political discourse, whoever holds the opposing opinion is seen as the enemy. It is of no wonder why little progress is made in discussion. Yet, even worse, the two opposing sides use real people as rhetorical points. This furthers the attitude of “otherness” and perpetuates animosity toward those who we likely have never met.  Take your stand and argue rationally. Further the discuss, but end the use of people as your talking points.

2 thoughts on “Gun Control and the Rhetorical Criminal

    1. michaeldstark says:

      Thank you for your reply. I do not wish to wander off into the gun control debate as it is a side issue to my overall post, but wanted to briefly respond. Thank you for your link and thoughtful comment. While statistics may not lie, there are many surveys available. Here are a few that may interest you (but may not, however, directly oppose your provided stats).


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