Over the past few weeks, we've posted a few articles about the lazy splattering of text over images we call "memes," particularly the outrageously fraudulent ones posted by people who hate migrants in Europe. We also took a look at the images made by pro-gun activists, which contained fewer outright lies, but still spewed plenty of bullshit. The creators of all of these memes showed very little interest in things like honesty or context, instead cherry-picking facts to maximise the impact of their trolling.
But the gun people are winning. According to a brand new Gallup poll, the NRA is viewed favourably by 58 percent of Americans. Liberals like columnist Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times are all but admitting defeat, calling the left's gun control efforts "poorly designed." Kristof notes that "brazen talk about banning guns just sparked a backlash that empowered the National Rifle Association." Those on the left can't seem to win this argument, and, judging from what's online, they seem to be settling for a lot of hard-line sloganeering.
So after taking a nice, long look at what the pro-gun right is posting on Facebook, we decided to turn the spotlight on anti-gun memes. They're not a bunch of outright lies, but many of them are full of the same bad logic, cherry-picked facts, and, well, bullshit, as the ones created by their opponents. Here's what we found:
Liability Insurance Would Crush the Gun Business
At least one congress person has quixotically proposed an insurance requirement for gun owners. But the idea that the gun industry would crumble as a result of such a measure is highly unlikely.
According to Justin Sydnor, an associate professor of actuarial science, risk management, and insurance at the University of Wisconsin's School of Business, liability coverage in the event that your gun is used to commit a crime would affect the buying habits of gun collectors. "If that type of coverage were to be required, my guess is that it would be fairly expensive and substantially raise the cost of gun ownership," he told VICE.
But Sydnor also points out that even if such a mandate were to go into effect, it's unlikely to make a night-and-day difference in gun violence since insurance companies already deal with guns. "If you have home insurance and, for example, were sued for accidentally shooting someone while cleaning it, your insurance would likely cover that liability," Sydnor said.
So would more insurance headaches bother the gun industry? Probably – everything bothers the gun industry. Would it cause a tidal change in the economics of guns in the US? That's doubtful.
People Who Oppose Gun Control Are Unreasonable
This can't be fact checked. But it is bullshit.
This is still the kind of us-vs-them nonsense that keeps people on opposite sides of this issue from ever seriously communicating with each other. Along similar lines, the Huffington Post ran an article late last month with the title. "This Is How The Pro-Gun Crowd Sounds To … Well, Normal People." It's easy to see the issue in those terms if your Facebook feed is one of those ideological echo chambers so often decried by thinkpiece writers.
It might surprise some liberals to learn that many of those who oppose stricter gun laws are normal, at least in America. Some polls say they make up about half of all Americans, or about 160,000,000 people. Other polls put the number of staunch gun control opponents lower, at only 33 percent, or about 105 million people. In either case, that's a lot of people to write off as "neither reasonable nor sensible." Should this enormous contingent of mentally incompetent Americans be under some kind of medical supervision? You see the problem there…
If you need proof that opponents of gun control can be reasonable and sane, a good place to look might be conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. Say what you will about his opinion that gun control can be likened to prohibition (or some of his other opinions), Douthat clearly has a fleshed-out argument, and it makes him someone to be reasoned with.
Or you can just call people who own guns unreasonable, never discuss gun violence with them, and also definitely never change any laws.
Obama Hasn't Taken Away Any Guns
In a sense, this is true: Generalissimo Obama hasn't sent jackbooted thugs to the homes of gun owners to render them unarmed and docile for the big socialist takeover of America. But are there rooms containing guns seized by law enforcement agencies controlled by President Obama? Yes, there probably are.
Federal law enforcement can and does take guns away from people all the time, even when the guns are legal and weren't used to hurt anyone. It's part of the process in law enforcement known as asset forfeiture, and it has happened a great deal under Obama – although earlier this year the Justice Department did scale the practice back a little.
Gun seizures like these really annoy gun owners. So if you're planning to claim that Obama has never confiscated anyone's guns, you will likely be contradicted, and the person who argues with you will be pedantic, but also correct.
Instead, it's more useful to point out what Obama himself will admit: none of his efforts to do something about gun violence have succeeded.
The Second Amendment Is Being Abused
This is neither true nor false, but without context it's still bullshit.
In this cartoon, the right to bear arms kicks in only if you belong to a well-regulated militia, but the person with the red marker, presumably a gun industry executive or just a pro-gun activist, has altered the Second Amendment over time, allowing people who aren't in militias to get guns.
But "militia" is a somewhat loosely-defined term. It can be very formal, and mean National Guard-affiliated state militias like the New York Guard, or the Texas State Guard , but that would be a strangely narrow definition. Otherwise the argument seems to suggest it was the framers' intention to protect the gun ownership of people like Norman Olson and his unsanctioned and somewhat scary Michigan Militia, and that's surely not correct.
Either way, that just doesn't seem to be how judges have interpreted this right for pretty much as long as there's been a Second Amendment to interpret.
As early as 1886, when some legal disputes involving militias made it to the Supreme Court – like in the Presser vs. Illinois case – judges have ruled that militias should be regulated, and guns less so. That's in keeping with the letter of the law: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
The phrase "a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state," is basically an explanation, and laws don't typically have little explanations at the beginning. More importantly, there doesn't seem to be very much a judge can do with that explanation. Imagine if the law against murder said "Since it makes Baby Jesus sad, it's now illegal to kill someone." You can't really do much with the Baby Jesus part, but that second part stands on its own.
Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has suggested an amendment to the Second Amendment, that would take the militia part and inject it into the more legally potent part of the law. His version would read: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed."
Good luck to anyone trying to put that into the Constitution any time soon.
Ronald Reagan's Assassin Got Past Armed Guards, so Arming Guards Is Useless
Back in May, there was an event in Texas where free speech advocates were planning to draw the Prophet Mohammed. Some Islamist radicals – I guess the word "terrorists" fits – showed up with assault rifles, apparently to shoot the attendees, but one quick-drawing, sharp-shooting security officer busted out a handgun, and fatally shot both of them. The officer's actions probably saved lives.
In the Reagan example, a deranged, Jodie-Foster loving gunman emptied a revolver in the general direction of the president, and one of the bullets caught him in the lung. The lesson America learned was that we shouldn't let the president near crowds that hadn't been through security screenings.
In isolation, neither example proves anything. But invoking Reagan's near-mortal wounding to prove guns don't keep anyone safe is like when people say diplomacy doesn't work because it didn't stop World War II.
People Get Off from Shooting Guns
Yeah, guns are obvious phallic symbols – it doesn't take much creativity to see the connection between shooting bullets and shooting sperm, or the connection between cocking a pump-action shotgun and jerking off. But beyond jokes, and beyond the psychosexual connection to guns, some people really have an overt sexual fixation on guns.
For instance here's a link to some people who were photographing themselves having kinky sex, and then the guy busted out his Smith & Wesson, pointed it at his female companion's head, and "forced" her to do stuff at gunpoint. Granted, that's the kind of recklessness the BDSM community discourages – but at the same time, these were two apparently consenting adults.
So if you're going to call someone an "ammosexual" – which I guess is funny because it sounds a little like "homosexual"? – you're either entering well-trodden territory that gun owners already know about, or you're shaming people about what gets them off. Neither seems very useful in this debate.
Follow Mike Pearl on Twitter.