Bad Meme, Bad (Cars are like guns edition)

If you are like me, your social networks have been blowing up with Gun Memes. These are snappy little captions meant to show to absolute stupidity of gun control, or the wisdom of those who do not. They really don’t do either. Over the next month or so please allow me to explore some of my favorites. Today’s meme is:


What I like to Call: “But Cars kill people, too.”

This was, for me, the most interesting and unusual of memes. I guess someone on Fox must have started this (its the news channel I don’t follow, and this has not figured on any of the others I do watch). The argument goes like this:

A) Cars kill people in accidents everyday.
B) We don’t ban cars.
C) Therefore we should not ban guns.

First, let me say this for the record: cars don’t kill people, people kill people. If you are going to argue elsewhere that instruments do not factor into the actions of people; then you probably shouldn’t get to do the same to support your case. It just seems like you’re making the rules up as you go along. Couldn’t resist the slam, sorry.

Point A exhibits what we call the problem of category confusion. Cars are not like guns. The entire purpose of a car is a total good. It’s gets people or things from point a to point b. That is it’s purpose. The purpose of a gun is a net bad. A gun exists to kill things. Granted sometimes those things need to be killed, but in the end the purpose of a gun is to kill (a bad for both the thing being killed and/or the society that must deal with the death). One could run this argument without the category confusion with say, knives (but even those have a mitigating good purpose).

Point B presents its own confusion with a false argument. Yes, we do not ban cars as a matter of transportation; but we have many regulations regarding their use (speed limits, traffic lights, drunk driving laws). These regulations are actually enforced as anyone who has been pulled over by a cop or passed through a sobriety checkpoint can attest. When I worked at the DuPage County Courthouse researching crime, everyday I processed 10 to 15 drunk driving arrests. Everyday I saw 20 to 25 traffic violations. As the use of cars rose, we as a country decided that deaths from auto accidents was unacceptable, so we began to institute real regulation and enforcement of those regulations into place. As we have done so, accidents have gone down. True, we cannot stop every person from violating the law; but we can and do punish offenders. True, when these things happen we can point to the fact that we have been doing something to make it harder to kill people with your car.

All of this confusion is leading to concluding error is Point B. Here is the problem is that Point A + Point B do not equal Point C. The geometry of the argument is like saying 2 + A = 4 (where A =A). In fact one might propose that the following argument could be reworked in the following way:

A. Cars are used as instruments in the deaths of innocent Americans.
B. Guns are used as instruments in the death of innocent Americans.
C. For the greater good, we have agreed to regulate the use of cars (to minimize this potential misuse) and to punish offenders.
D. For the greater good, we should agree to regulate the use of guns (to minimize this potential misuse), and to punish offenders.

There is no category confusion as I have stipulated how the metaphor works. Second I have not created a false argument. And this is the kicker: most of us are not arguing that we ban all guns. We recognize that guns have a value. We recognize the important place guns have in our society and that protections exist in our best documents (the 2nd Amendement). The argument is for more regulation. We want to make it harder to kill people. We want to limit access to the kinds of guns that can kill multiple people before anyone can respond. We want to do what MADD did in the 1980s (those halcyon years when Americans were free and America belonged to the right people). We want to see realistic legislation passed and enforced to make gun violence less a part of American life. It fact along these lines someone might post the following meme:



See no one is saying ban cars or guns. Just maybe, I don’t know, regulate them like we do cars. Now if you want to argue about that regulation go ahead. Let’s just not besmirch each other’s intelligence with false logic, category confusion, and non-existent arguments. Or we can keep posting stupid inane memes to FB to prove our lack thereof. Your move.

EDITORS NOTE: Please keep your besmirchments of my intelligence related the issue I have raised as I will be dealing with some other memes later. 



Add yours →

  1. Don’t let this be Obama’s Reichstag-burning moment! Subway shovings prove the problem is not guns but nuts. It was Mario Cuomo who dumped the nuts on the subway to embarass Reagan’s tax cuts. Then he also refused to close the bathhouses, causing the AIDS epidemic.

  2. Unsanitary Jesus 01/08/2013 — 8:58 am

    This is not the type of logical, calm, adult conversation I had in mind. More than one logical problem with this comment. Not to mention one heck of a jump in the rhetorical flow. Sigh.

  3. Regulating guns exactly like cars is a great idea. Lets see, anyone can purchase a car, regardless of age, mental malfunction or criminal history. They can take that car home and use it within their property boundaries without any government intervention. They can take that car to any other property, and with permission, use it without government intervention. In fact, only when the car is used on public property do age restrictions, licensing and insurance come into play. All cars are treated equally, even it is is faster than other cars, or has a spoiler, or is painted black, or a military used them once upon a time.

    If you want to use your car on public property all that is required is a written test on a third grade level and a cursory demonstration of car control. That and a minimum amount of liability insurance, an you are good to hurl your killing machine down the highway at random.

    So, if this was applied to guns…No background checks, no age restriction, no restriction on sales whatsoever. If you want to carry your gun on public property, you must be 16, pass a multiple choice written test, not shoot yourself in front of the examiner at the range and carry a $350/year insurance policy. No guns would be banned, regardless of how many rounds they can fire, nor how fast, even if they look dangerous or are military surplus.

    I’m sold…where do we sign up?

  4. Rickman Cubed 03/27/2015 — 8:07 am

    Bet you think you got me. But surprise. My goal is not to take away people’s rights or their guns. My goal is to see people use their rights (and guns) responsibly. Like we do our cars.

  5. Da Chamberlain 06/16/2015 — 2:53 pm

    I thought people already regulate guns like they regulate cars.

  6. As much as I love guns, I agree with everything on that chart, minus the “registration”, “liability insurance”, and “periodic inspection” bits, and I’ll tell you why.

    While I would say registration is a good idea, it can be abused far too easily. I know this is an extreme example, but one of the reasons Nazi Germany had such an easy time strolling through Europe is because they checked gun registration records and either confiscated the registered owners’ guns or killed them if they resisted. Granted, there are far more guns in the US, and if anyone tried that here they would more likely be making a catastrophic mistake, but even if that power happens to not be our own government, I somehow doubt peoples’ resolve to actually fight against it. It’s a psychological defense mechanism; if tumultuous times arise you’re more likely to listen to and confide in authority, as long as they don’t appear overtly hostile.

    While I can see where one would be going with the idea of having insurance on a gun, it’s kinda like having insurance against bubonic plague. You could lump injuries due to firearms into three categories. Injuries due to malfunction, which are extremely rare and entirely preventable if you know what you’re doing, accidental injuries, which while less rare are still completely preventable, and purposeful injuries, in which case who the fuck cares if the person has insurance?

    As far as inspection goes, you can do that at home. Cars aren’t so simple. They’ve got a lot more moving parts, along with several electrical elements, which as far as I know no gun that has ever been made has had. Inspecting a gun is as simple as doing a field strip and looking for any visible signs of damage. Pitting, rust, excessive wear, jamming, etc. As a general rule, it’s a lot easier to tell when something is going wrong with a gun than with a car, so is it really necessary to have a gun inspected by a legally recognized entity as opposed to yourself, and then take it to get repaired as necessary?

    I do still agree that those who want a gun should have to be trained, tested, screened, etc. I’m a little on the fence about registration, and I hadn’t even thought of the ideas of insuring and periodically having a gun inspected, both of which are… superfluous.

  7. Rickman Cubed 07/07/2015 — 12:35 pm

    But we do have insurance against the Bubonic Plague. I do. It’s with Cigna.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: