In response to any gun-safety messaging like the messaging in the previous article, the MAGA-gun lobby relies on flashy and memorable talking points to try to defeat new gun policies. Below is a list of these talking points, along with how to discredit and rebut them.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
• Not at the Las Vegas concert where armed officers and armed individuals couldn’t thwart the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Not in Uvalde where armed police didn’t prevent the school shooter from killing 19 elementary school kids. Not in Michigan, Parkland, or Louisville either.
• Armed cops, being the best trained to neutralize criminals, are shot or killed by armed criminals regularly. Examples are in Milwaukee, Louisville, or Connecticut.
• In reality, the only thing that stops a good guy with a gun is a bad guy with a gun.
“New gun laws won’t keep criminals from getting guns because criminals don’t follow the law.”
• If criminals don’t follow the law, why not repeal every gun law so toddlers, the mentally ill, and all criminals can legally buy a gun? Why not repeal every law, period?
• If criminals don’t follow the law, why would a border wall keep people from illegally crossing into the country?
• We impose an age restriction for alcohol consumption (21 years) not because it stops all underage drinking but because it makes underage drinking harder.
• While the MAGA-gun lobby prefers weak gun laws that arm criminals who will disarm the law abiding, the rest of us want gun laws that will make it harder for future criminals to be armed.
• The only thing that stops a good guy with a gun is a bad guy with a gun.
“Any new gun law will disarm law-abiding citizens and not criminals.”
• Since weak gun laws arm criminals to terrorize and kill the law-abiding, it’s criminals, and not the government, who are disarming law-abiding citizens
• We need new gun laws that disarm future criminals without disarming the law-abiding.
“An armed citizenry is needed to stop criminals, government tyranny, and government confiscation.“
• When law-abiding citizens can’t save themselves from being disarmed and killed by criminals, the law-abiding are not in the best position to stop potential tyranny or confiscation.
• Just because a criminal hasn’t disarmed you yet doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
“We don’t have private security and armed guards like anti-gun politicians do“.
• Armed security doesn’t mean 100% protection – because, as we’ve seen, the only thing that stops a good guy with a gun is a bad guy with a gun. We saw it in Michigan, Parkland, and Louisville.
• The more the MAGA-gun lobby arms future criminals, the less effective having private security and armed guards will be. The better solution is to pass new laws that make it harder for criminals to get guns.
“We can’t rely on the police – it takes too long for them to respond.“
• Whether police are timely and reliable or not, neither police nor law-abiding individuals can adequately protect themselves when the MAGA-gun lobby arms criminals who disarm and neutralize the law-abiding. Even the best-trained police lose their lives – because the only thing that stops a good guy with a gun is a bad guy with a gun.
“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people .”
• A person with a deadly mind needs a deadly weapon.
• Guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people.
• When criminals have a harder time getting guns, they have a harder time killing.
“The 2nd Amendment is absolute and cannot be restricted, and any new gun law is an infringement on the 2nd Amendment.”
• The MAGA-gun lobby believes that the prefatory clause of the 2nd Amendment, “A well regulated Militia,” is nullified by the 2nd Amendment’s proceeding language, “shall not be infringed.” So the MAGA-gun lobby has effectively rewritten the 2nd Amendment to read “A no regulated Militia,” which has expanded the 2nd Amendment’s scope to arm criminals.
• The 2nd Amendment is already restricted: kids under age 18 can’t legally get a handgun under federal law. Neither can criminals nor the mentally ill.
• In the Heller decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the 2nd Amendment is not absolute and that the 2nd Amendment can be restricted.
“The 2nd Amendment is an enumerated Constitutional right and therefore cannot be compared to any unenumerated rights regulated by the government”
•All enumerated Constitutional rights are qualified with limits. None is absolute. For example, free speech and the right to assembly under the First Amendment are limited. So is Due Process under the 5th and 14th Amendments.
• All unenumerated Constitutional rights have limits, such as the right to privacy under the 4th Amendment, the right to vote, and prior to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that now leaves abortion up to the states, the federal right to abortion.
• Enumerated rights don’t claim greater Constitutional protection over those that are unenumerated.
“Requiring universal background checks is an unnecessary burden and also criminalizes relationships between individuals who know each other.”
• While several states require background checks to be conducted on every individual who is buying or receiving a gun, federal law currently does not require background checks to determine whether there is a criminal record or documented mental health concern on those who engage in certain gun transactions online, at a gun show, or privately between individuals. Similarly, not all states require universal/complete background checks either, allowing criminals to get guns. One estimate shows that at least 20% of guns are transferred without a background check.
• The Sandy Hook school shooter got his guns from his mother. People with close relationships are less inclined to want to admit their loved one has issues.
• Still, the MAGA-gun lobby wants incomplete background checks that don’t close loopholes, which arms current and future criminals. We need complete (universal) background checks – on all firearm recipients and transactions – to keep guns from criminals.
“Red flag laws confiscate guns from the law-abiding without allowing for due process”
• Red flag laws, or extreme risk protection orders, allow police, family members, or other people close to an individual, who is showing signs of danger, to ask a judge to temporarily separate the individual from his firearms until the individual’s court hearing days later. Depending on the state, judges have granted about 90% of requests.
• The constitutionality of red flag laws has been upheld by courts all over the country because the right to due process for the individual is available and protected.
• After the Parkland high school shooting in 2018, the Republican governor and legislature in Florida enacted red flag laws, bucking opposition from the MAGA-gun lobby. Not one of these politicians lost reelection – nor were they otherwise politically punished by Republican voters.
“Standardizing magazines for civilians means we can’t use larger-capacity magazines for the military, putting us at a disadvantage against a criminal.”
• By keeping civilian magazines to up to 10 rounds, it helps to take the “mass” out of “mass shootings”, as a national news columnist reported. It thus saves lives.
• If you need more than 10 rounds at a time to hit your target, you’ll be dead well before then – because you’re just a bad shot. The MAGA-gun lobby would rather have you dependent on needing a magazine of 30 rounds or more, by which time you’ll be dead, rather than getting you more target practice and hitting your target(s) with less than 10. You’ll never beat an armed criminal by trying to out-magazine him. Simply shooting and sustaining firepower aimlessly without hitting your target won’t keep your target on his heels or from shooting you, especially if you don’t even know where the target is shooting from – like at the Las Vegas country music festival.
• It only takes one or two seconds to change out a magazine. But those seconds make the difference between taking a bullet or ducking from one. At Sandy Hook, the shooter had multiple 30-round magazines. When he stopped to reload, a child in the classroom yelled for his classmates to run, allowing six kids to escape. About two years before Sandy Hook, when then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was among those shot in a mass shooting in Arizona, the gunman was tackled when he stopped to reload, preventing further deaths. A similar thing happened in the Seattle Pacific University shooting in 2014 when the gunman paused to reload and was pepper-sprayed.
“Preserving assault weapons for the military only doesn’t allow law-abiding citizens to have popular semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15.“
• Regardless of how popular certain classes of firearms are, semi-automatic rifles and other assault weapons mow down kids in a classroom within seconds.
• Semi-automatic rifles are weapons of war needed on the battlefield by the military, but not needed in classrooms by criminals, nor in the field by hunters, and not at home by the law-abiding. Plenty of other equally effective firearms for self-defense and sport are available.
“Any proposed new gun law wouldn’t have stopped the most recent shooting.“
• Numerous state gun laws currently on the books would have prevented a shooting in another state where those gun laws don’t exist.
• From 1994-2012, nearly 150 million background checks were conducted nationally, resulting in over two million purchase denials.
• Since Sandy Hook, universal background checks have polled the strongest, year after year without wavering, among all new gun law proposals. In a 2019 poll, 91% of all Americans supported it.
• In 2020, states with red flag laws had six fewer gun deaths per 100,000 residents than states without red flag laws.
• 77% of Americans support red flag laws, including 70% of Republicans and 67% of gun owners, according to a 2019 poll.
• Standardizing civilian magazine capacity to up to 10 rounds: In response to Sandy Hook, Connecticut standardized new civilian magazine capacity to up to 10 rounds. Since, no shooting in Connecticut has resulted in more than three deaths (though criminals still can easily get guns and accessories from states with weaker gun laws).
• Sadly, a similar law did not exist in Florida when 17 were shot and killed at a Parkland high school. The law still does not exist in Florida, nor in Texas where a gunman killed 21 at an elementary school in Uvalde.
• 69% of Americans support this law, including just over half (51%) of Republicans, according to a poll last summer.
• From 1994-2004, a federal law banned the new manufacture and sale of assault weapons. While gun manufacturers exploited loopholes in the law to make assault weapons that got around the law, one of many studies found that while the law was in place, mass shooting deaths (defined in the study as six or more deaths) decreased by 43%. After the law’s expiration in 2004, mass shootings increased right away by 239% as criminals had an easier time getting assault weapons.
• States that have an assault-weapons ban help to prevent deaths from mass shootings more than states that don’t have one.
• 70% of all Americans support an assault weapons ban, according to a poll in 2019, including 55% of Republicans.
“Gun-free zones:” Shootings only happen in gun-free zones. If we allowed guns, the shooting would have been stopped, or the shooter wouldn’t have done it if he knew the people there were armed.
• Shootings happen everywhere — whether it’s in a gun-free zone or not and notably in places where there are armed good guys. The Las Vegas concert shooting in 2017, the Michigan high school shooting in 2021, and the Louisville bank shooting in April all had armed good guys who couldn’t stop the shooter from killing.
• Importantly, when President Trump speaks at the annual gun lobby/NRA Convention, the NRA turns the convention into a gun-free zone, disarming all NRA members and attendees. It’s an admission that the armed guards protecting Trump (good guys with guns) don’t believe they can stop a bad guy with a gun. Similarly, when Florida governor Ron DeSantis campaigns across the country, his events have been gun-free zones with guns banned for attendees. In other words, Republicans and the MAGA-gun lobby support “gun control” when it benefits them. The hypocrisy surprises hardly anyone.
• The only thing that stops a good guy with a gun is a bad guy with a gun.
“The problem is mental health, not a lack of gun laws.“
• Plenty of people with mental health issues don’t commit gun violence, in part because they don’t or can’t access a gun.
• In 2017, Republicans allowed the mentally ill to more easily access guns, revoking a Democratic-enacted regulation that would have made it harder.
• Addressing mental health needs to be part of the solution but not the only solution.
“Instead of passing new gun laws, enforce the gun laws already on the books.”
• If you don’t want new gun laws, why do you support the enforcement of current gun laws?
• You once lobbied against the gun policies that eventually became law over your opposition. And now you want them enforced?
• While current gun laws on the books need to be enforced, they are incomplete, making it easy to arm criminals who will disarm the law-abiding. New gun laws need to be passed to address these loopholes.
“Chicago, as well as cities and states with the toughest gun laws, still have violent gun crimes in their jurisdictions.“
• Chicago is borderless. The city is open to criminals who get their guns from nearby states with loose gun laws, like Indiana, and then commit violent crimes in Chicago.
• As strong as a state like Connecticut’s gun laws are, criminals still illegally bring in guns obtained from states with weaker gun laws.
“Passing new laws is a step closer to registration and confiscation.”
• Regulation doesn’t equal confiscation.
• The MAGA-gun lobby, and not the government, is disarming the law-abiding by arming criminals – who then confiscate guns, and lives, from the law-abiding.
“What’s next – banning knives, bats, and cars?”
• Guns aren’t comparable to any other weapon. Nothing is more deadly than a gun, and nothing is faster or more lethal from a distance than a bullet. There’s a reason why police, military, hunters, and even criminals prefer guns over knives, baseball bats, and cars.
• Each device has a different primary purpose: knives are for cutting, bats are for hitting (a baseball), cars are for driving, and guns are for killing (self defense or sport).
• In a mass stabbing in Las Vegas last year, two people were killed. At a holiday parade in Wisconsin the year before, a driver drove his SUV into parade watchers, killing six. Compare these incidents to either the Sandy Hook school shooting where the gunman used his assault weapon (AR-15) to kill 26 or to the Uvalde school shooting where 19 were killed by the gunman and his AR-15.
“You’re politicizing the shooting: anti-gun liberals use tragedies to ram through anti-gun legislation.“
• What actually politicizes a shooting is proposing policies that don’t work (like focusing on mental health only) – or to deflect from solutions that do (like red flag laws).
• Stopping armed criminals from killing kids is politicization only to those in the MAGA-gun lobby who prefer liberty for criminals over life for the law-abiding.
“The 2nd Amendment protects all of our other constitutional rights and liberties.“
• When weak gun laws enabled by the MAGA-gun lobby make it easy for criminals to get guns and disarm the law-abiding, the law-abiding have neither 2nd Amendment rights nor any other rights.
• You can’t have liberty without life.
While gun-safety advocates and the MAGA-gun lobby alike believe that the actions of one bad actor can directly impact and harm others, the MAGA-gun lobby diverges in how it applies this principle. Rather than focusing on curbing mass shootings in schools, the MAGA-Gun Lobby is focused on curbing who can be transgender in school. They’ve begun to forcefully advocate for banning: not banning easy access of guns for criminals but rather banning discussion of a student’s transgender parent. In other words, to the MAGA-Gun Lobby, mass shooters can be allowed in schools as long as the shooters aren’t being transgender about it. Similarly, for conservatives within the MAGA movement who want to ban abortion, they’re fine with forcing kids to be born only to later be killed in a school shooting.
In effect, the MAGA-gun lobby has its policy priorities backward, with the vast majority of us having rejected what they stand for. We disagree that the liberty of criminals is more important than the life of kids. Poll after poll in red states are now showing a majority of residents, including a majority of Republicans, agree with us and want new and stronger gun laws. So for those of us who want to preserve the 2nd Amendment for the law-abiding only, let’s use the messaging above to keep talking to our neighbors, family, friends, classmates, and colleagues so that they, like us, become a single-issue voter on gun safety and vote for candidates who prioritize kids over criminals.
Riju Das is a Connecticut attorney.