In his recent column (appearing in the Lariat on 2/8/13), columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. uses the word “logic or illogical” three times. Yet, he then engages in a few serious logical fallacies that must be noted.
He argues that we should have a “serious discussion” about gun control, that the existing discussion has descended into “ridiculousness.”
The premise of Pitts’ argument is that the conservative side of the gun control discussion is the side that is “ridiculous,” “fantastical,” and “farfetched.” In leveling these accusations against those “rabid gun advocates” with whom he disagrees, does Pitts not contradict his own thesis, that the gun violence debate is too extreme and full of overreactions?
As far as I can tell, we are having a national, serious discussion on gun control. Dismissing the other side’s points as “irrelevant” to the discussion, as many Democratic congressmen have also done, does not encourage “healthy discussion.”
Instead, Pitts commits the straw man fallacy when he attacks the conservative position, arguing that the Republican position leads to no restrictions on owning “Stinger missiles” or “tanks.” He engages in an ad hominem attack on Gayle Trotter, senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Institute, by insinuating her paranoia through sarcastic comments:
“Trotter has apparently had too many viewings of Jodie Foster in ‘Panic Room’… A ’scary Predator drone’ would rout Trotter’s imaginary bad guys even faster than a ‘scary gun.’ Not to give her any ideas.”
In his final paragraphs, Pitts commits a fallacy of insufficient statistics by citing anecdotes of gun violence in Chicago as a reason to support the new gun control laws. He conveniently leaves out the fact that Chicago already has the strictest gun control laws in the country and has experienced a higher murder rate since the passage of said laws.
If Pitts wants to have a “serious discussion” on gun control, he should take part in the existing debate, rather than declaring himself the arbiter of truth and logic while concurrently breaking those standards. A serious discussion allows free sharing of ideas on both sides.