Stupid, Faulty Reasoning on Gun Registration Infects my Facebook Page

I'm back, your friendly neighborhood liberal gun owner.

Over the last few days, my Facebook page has been overrun by comments and memes devoted to protecting my second amendment rights. As a gun owner and someone who's generally a fan of rights, that's fine, but I'm really struggling not to post rude comments on the pages of my friends. Note: My friends are not stupid people. In general, they post silly, light-hearted pictures or clever memes that make me laugh. But in the last few days I've seen multiple variations on this theme:

"Criminals don't register their guns." Ergo, we should not strengthen our registration system.

In some versions of this, President Obama is pictured and called various names. In one he is writing the phrase on a chalkboard while wearing a dunce cap.

My friends, before you put the dunce cap on someone else's head, please pull the pointy end out of your own eye. Because this is simply the dumbest argument I can think of against any kind of regulation. You are hurting your own cause. Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Please.

Murderers do not obey the laws that criminalize killing people. Should we, therefore, make murder legal? Rapist do not follow the law. Should we take that crime off the books? Most people (myself included) drive over the speed limit from time to time. Do you think we should take down all the speed limit signs and let people zip through school zones at a hundred miles per hour?

Laws do not prevent all crime. Laws reduce crime and allow the justice system to punish violators of those laws. Reducing gun crimes and punishing people who use guns in crimes should both be positions responsible gun owners should support, both as a matter of morality and as good strategy to maintain their own right to bear arms. 

Look, there are legitimate arguments that could be made regarding registration schemes. You could argue that regulations are only as strong as their enforcement, and you don't think they'll be enforced. You could argue that registration won't completely end gun crime (except that no reasonable person is claiming that it will).  You could argue that the right to bear arms is so universal and unassailable that it should not be limited even if a prospective owner is a felon or has been diagnosed as dangerously, violently mentally ill. That's a loser of an argument, I think, but at least it's philosophically defensible. You could even argue that you're afraid of a giant conspiracy to confiscate all guns which hasn't materialized or even been proposed, but which makes you reluctant to give an inch. I understand that's where some gun owners are coming from, though it does beg the question: Why are the most heavily armed people the most frightened? Whatever your argument, and no matter how loosely it connects to reality, it should at least follow logically from your premises. So don't argue that we shouldn't have rules because some people will break them. That's... well, not to be indelicate, but that's just dumb.

Guess what, fellow gun owners and second amendment supporters? We can't afford to be dumb. Maybe the NRA can afford it. Sure, there are lots of true believers in the NRA, but the decisions of the NRA leadership lately show that the organization is more concerned about selling memberships, getting press, and frothing up their base than they are in protecting gun rights in the long term. The NRA could have been reaching out to urban, liberal America, trying to show that they are reasonable. They were wise to push back by pointing to mental health rather than letting the debate be about types of guns, but between their vitriol about the U.N. Small Arms Ban, their commercial calling the President names and bring up his kids, and their absolutist position against expanded registration, it seems like they are making the same mistake the Republican Party has been making over the last few decades; they're doubling down on the far-right wing, rural, white men. This is about as smart a strategy as trying to conquer Russia in the winter or marching your empire's army in Afghanistan. If gun rights groups can only hold on to conservative, rural whites, they will simply be outvoted. Responsible gun owners who want to stay responsible gun owners need to go out of their way to show urban-dwelling liberals that they are, in fact, responsible. People who live in cities think of guns predominantly as the weapons of criminals and not the tools of hunters or people who want to defend themselves because they live more than five minutes from a police station. I know this from personal experience. When I lived in San Diego, my only experience related to guns was seeing a body surrounded by police tape in front of my junior high. Is it any wonder I grew up thinking guns were evil? It wasn't until I moved to a small town and got to know a lot of responsible gun owners that my feelings about guns changed.

Now, gun rights advocates will say I am advocating caving in to the anti-gun folks. Yep. Pick your battles, guys. Second amendment absolutism isn't even supported by the second amendment itself. We've had decades of fights about whether the amendment extended to individuals, we finally get a president who is a democrat and says he believes it does extend to individuals, and instead of calling that a victory, some people want to paint him as the Confiscator-in-Chief. You got a win, but even if Obama is willing to be generous (liberal, some might say) with his interpretation of some confusing language in a way that we gun owners appreciate, we can't deny the fact that the amendment explicitly says "well regulated." You can't expect him (or any sensible person) to interpret "well regulated" to mean "completely unregulated." (And I know about the argument that the militia is supposed to be well regulated but the individual right that's never mentioned is somehow exempt. That's a bridge too far, guys.) Look, if you're worried Obama might sign an assault weapons ban (you know, the kind Mitt Romney signed when he was the governor of Massachusetts), then make that your fight, but when the majority of NRA members agree that the gun show and private party sales loophole should be closed, take advantage of that and show people who are leery about guns that gun owners are reasonable. Fight to make it possible and even easy to transfer the ownership of a gun to someone else who can pass a background check. Fight to make sure guns don't have to be turned over to the government when the original owner dies, but can be willed to the next of kin who can pass the background check. Fight to make sure the definition of mental illness isn't so broad that people with no propensity for violence or self-harm are prevented from getting guns. But don't fight to put guns in the hands of criminals or the violent mentally ill based on obviously, painfully inept lack of reasoning. You will just push the growing urban, liberal majority to think you're dangerous kooks until they have the numbers to repeal the second amendment.

And you know whose fault that will be, responsible gun owners? Ours. If our arguments are dumb.