Responding to Leonard Pitts Jr.

Pen Book (Response)

(Photo by Jain Basil Aliyas)

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.

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4 responses to “Responding to Leonard Pitts Jr.

  1. it consistently amazes me how people want to go into the weeds to find the one or two mystical unicorns of fantasy and the stumble to get there because they have to close their eyes in order not to see the herd of elephants standig in the clearing… (don’t make too much of the reference to elephants – they’re a literary device, not a reference to Republicans).
    a serious discussion on gun control should start with healthy banter about what’s being done, or perhaps more appropriately, not being done to enforce laws already on the books. just a couple of weeks ago, Vice President Biden, when queried by an NRA lobbyist, actually stated that the federal government didn’t have the time to enforce existing gun laws. (http://www.nraila.org/news-issues/articles/2013/1/biden-says-administration-doesn't-have-time-to-prosecute-people-who-lie-on-background-checks.aspx)
    this, then, highlights a key reason why law-abiding citizens are reluctant to entertain any discussion aimed to enact further restriction on their liberties with regards to owning firearms – there is a good faith expectation on the part of the citizen that the government, lawfully elected, will enforce the laws fairly, justly and without respect to politics, finances, or any other qualifier, and that said lawful government will not exercise or pursue laws and policies that infringe on the rights and liberties of the citizenry nor impinge on their ability to defend themselves.
    oh, yeah… there’s one other thing, too. it’s this pesky document called the Constitution of the United States and it’s the law of the land. there are ten very important add-ons attached to it known as the bill of rights.
    the first amendment guarantees the right to freedom of speech, thus ensuring Mr. Pitts the freedom to spew errant opinion until his fingers cramp or his vocal cords dry out, whichever comes first. the second amendment guarantees the citizens of this nation will be able to defend Mr. Pitts’ exercise of this right – something he’d do well to remember.
    and each member of the federal government, appointed or elected, to include all congressmen, senators, the Vice President and President are sworn by oath to UPHOLD and DEFEND the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic

  2. Where does these guys get their ideas for syllogisms? Comparing gun usage to abortion? Really? Men AND women use guns….I have yet to hear of a man getting an abortion. (Incidentally, I don’t support abortion, and I believe it’s part of EVERY American’s right to free speech to express his view on said subject.) Where is the consistency and seriousness he advocates when you need it? Oh wait…he doesn’t really practice it.

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