Updated: Mar 18
Recently watched this short excerpt from “The problem with Jon Stewart."
I'm going to start this off by stating flatly that I don't believe Stewart is being malicious against those who own firearms. I believe that he is sincerely trying to help people, and reduce violence in our country and save lives. I do believe that his focus is in the wrong space, and he's bought into this idea that guns are the problem. In other interviews he's said as much, blaming guns for two women who were shot and not the men who did the shooting. The weapon in these instances only matters insofar as the messaging, and this is the critical flaw in his argument.
It's also the critical flaw in any response to those arguments. The adage that "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" is more true than many would like to admit. Leave a loaded gun on your nightstand pointed at your head, and there is a very high probability that you will wake up in the morning. Replace that loaded gun with a serial killer in your bedroom who has a rock, and the likelihood of survival drops precipitously. Firearms are tools, and like any tool they have their intended uses. Some are used to put holes in paper, some are used to put meat on the table, others are used to put evil people in the ground. Yes, that means that many firearms are designed with the intent of harming other people- I admit that point- but that doesn't mean they are purchased or owned so that one can go out and kill people.
They're purchased because the purchaser doesn't want to be killed (or watch those they love get killed) themselves. Even Ghandi is quoted as saying, "If someone is trying to kill you, then it is only reasonable that you shoudl try and kill them back." Granted, I don't know the context of that qoute- he could be advocating for mutual disarmament to save lives for all I know- but suffice to say a pistol in your pocket will do more for you if you're attacked than a cellphone in your hand. At least, if you've trained with it.
But enough of the front loading, lets dive into the episode some, and start breaking down what was said, and how those arguments are flawed.
To start, let's look at how Dahm screws the pooch first, as he did mess up his argument from the word “go." Generally, he failed to achieve any sort of parity with John in the sense that he never attempted to take control of the dialog or rebut Stewart in any way that was worth a damn. He allowed Stewart to steer the course of the conversation, never hammering back at the incorrect summations that were put forth as "facts."
First, he conceded a poorly ideated concept and fallacious argument that “more guns make us safer.” This is a silly proposition much like “more vitamins make us healthier.” Sure, to a degree, this could be true, but it’s not really a point we can prove or disprove. Stats lie in both direction of the point and lacking nuance, these words lose their impact.
To start, how can we even say that more OR less guns makes us safer? Stewarts principle tact here is to drive on the idea that without a registry Cops have a difficult time keeping track of who has what and if they’re allowed to have it. And yeah, he’s right. Totally factually correct. Without a registry, the Cops can’t know who has what and where and in what quantities. Neither can the ATF. He views this as a bug in the system when it's actually a feature.
Let’s use his example of registering to vote to illustrate the point from a Republican perspective. The reason that we want people to register to vote is so that we know who is allowed to vote. Just letting anyone come into the booths and put in their two cents via a vote wouldn’t be good for America. Foreign nationals- maybe under direction from foreign governments- could then just waltz into the voting booth, and effect who runs our country. If you have a problem with Russians influencing the 2016 election, you should LOVE the idea of voter registration (and voter ID). Maybe even background checks, to ensure they aren’t messing around with Russian prostitutes who enjoy scat as an example. We require voter registration to protect the institutions that are meant to protect our way of life.
With regards to registration of firearms, why would the government need a registry of firearms? The only reason, as noted above, is to prevent certain people from owning those arms. Which people? Non-citizens? Criminals? Minors? Minorities? Women? Trans people? Get the right people in power, and the list of “prohibited persons” could be anyone, and could be arbitrarily decided. But you know one group that will never have to comply with any restrictions?
The 1% and criminals (but I repeat myself). The 1% will always have the ability to use force against you for the good of the people. And if they can restrict your usage of force in your own defense- all the better. You (for your safety) will be divested of the ability to exercise violence on your own behalf, but the 1% and criminals (but I repeat myself) will have the ability to use violence against you on their behalf. And by 1%, what I really mean is the political class.
Getting back to the point, more guns don’t necessarily equate to more safety. More guns, in the hands of good moral men and women, makes us safer. If this weren't true, we would disarm the military and the police, and when a shooter appeared, we'd call in counselors and baton wielding heavies to keep the shooter in check until their better nature overcame their base instincts and animal behavior. If we have more guns in the hands of the 1% and criminals (but I repeat myself), we can argue that we’d be less safe. If we had more guns in the hands of immoral and stupid people, the same argument could be made. Owning weapons is a responsibility that MUST be taken seriously if it is to be an effective deterrent to criminal activity.
And this leads to Stewarts off hand remark about the second amendment being “well regulated.”
“A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The emphasis is mine, and here’s why. The militia is what is to be “well regulated,” but that doesn’t mean “restricted” or “run” or “managed” by the government. “Well regulated” in this context has to do with the actual running of a militia. If a McDonald’s is “well regulated,” that has nothing to do with the health department, and everything to do with the McDonald’s being run efficiently and effectively. A “well regulated” McDonald’s is very good at making food for customers and that’s it.
Likewise, a “well regulated” militia has good order and discipline and can do the job of defending the local populace from aggression. What this statement is saying is that militias are meant to TRAIN TOGETHER. This has nothing to do with the restriction of arms by a centralized authority or any authority. John is making a statement to make it seem like the second amendment says things that it doesn’t. Now, I’m not going to assume that John is stupid (he’s most definitely not), nor am I going to assume that he’s being deceitful (I think he believes what he says). I’ll just assume that he’s mistaken (because I honestly think John is trying to do the right thing here) and that Dahm missed a moment to educate the non-elected talking head on what the second amendment is about.
Now, getting to the "drag queen story hour" example that the piece ends on, that's not really a checkmate by any stretch. Saying that children shouldn't be exposed to certain things- like a man dressed up as a caricature of a woman- is analogous, but not how Stewart thinks it is. There are plenty of laws on the books revolving around negligent exposure of minors to weapons. Safe storage laws are an easy example. "A person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor who negligently stores or leaves a loaded firearm in a location where the person knows, or reasonably should know, that a child is likely to gain access, unless reasonable action is taken to secure the firearm against access by the child."
That's my state. A law, protecting kids from incidental exposure to something dangerous, exists. Could we argue it's an infringement? Sure, we most definitely could. But is it an infringement we can understand? Again, sure. Especially given that kids don't fully grasp the dangers that firearms represent if handled incorrectly. Same thing with electrical sockets, plastic bags, power tools, knives, pedophile priests- we could go on.
That same thing applies to media and art. No one reading or listening to this (I hope) would argue that a kid should be allowed to view a burlesque show even with parental consent. Drag is burlesque. Drag Queens are burlesque performers. Burlesque is adult entertainment. Ergo drag queens are adult entertainers. Going off Stewart's logic, Drag Queen story hour should be illegal as the drag queens are dressed in their stage attire. Would it be acceptable for a stripper to read books to kids in their work attire? Is that an infringement of the drag queens first amendment rights? Sure. Is it one we can understand? Yeah. Why? Because children don't understand adult entertainment, and early exposure to such things can have a deleterious effect on healthy psychological growth.
The why in this instance is important to fully grasp the reason these two things are analogous, but not equal. Normalizing sexual behaviors to children at a young age runs the risk of them being victimized by predatory adults. Children cannot meaningfully consent, and making sexual acts “a normal and healthy thing” opens the door for pedophiles to take advantage of impressionable children for their own benefit.
This is not a good thing, and so Drag Queen story hour isn’t really analogous to restrictions on firearms ownership. One is meant to be used as a tool of the 1% and criminals (but I repeat myself) to control the people via violence, and the other is opening the door to predatory groomers to have their way with kids. We should restrict one because the 1% and criminals aren’t to be trusted, and the other because it’s an opening for morally abhorrent and degenerate behavior.
Safe storage laws, however, are meant to prevent children from accessing potentially dangerous tools in acknoledgement of their youth and inexperience with the world. Children can handle and use firearms in the presence of their parents because their parents are teaching them how to use and respect them. Just like a hammer, saw, drill, or paper cutter, a child can use one if they are being supervised by an adult who is instructing them in the proper use, and they shouldn't be cut loose to use such tools without supervision until after they have proved to their parents that they understand and appreciate what they are using.
Adding a parent to the drag queen and strip club examples doesn't make things better- it makes them worse. Children should not be exposed to sexual (or violent) content at a young age. Their brains aren't ready to handle that- especially at the ages some of these kids are being not only exposed to, but actively convinced to participate in. So, shutting drag queen story hours isn't a free speech issue I think is a problem. Drag queens can still do drag queen stuff- just without children present.
But that is a topic for a different post.
Stewart’s wrong here. Dahm is right- but flubbed his interview with the style and grace of a train in Ohio. Neither person won the debate, but only one was arguing in the correct direction. I would ask Stewart to educate himself a little more on the second amendment and why it exists. I understand his passion to protect people from harm- that's what motivates me to advocate for the second amendment so vigorously. I'm sure there's a middle ground somewhere we can agree on, but his insistence that we register all the guns isn't a path I think we should follow for the reasons noted above.
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below. I’d like to see what you think .
As always, if you found this at least interesting, share it with your friends to start the conversation. Dialog is important. We should always keep a dialog going as a result. Do so.
Battle Specter, out.