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Loaded Rhetoric

posted: 5.10.13 by Donna Winchell

It seems like every week these days the topic of argument and the headlines brings me back to the controversy over gun control. There is just so much rhetoric out there–both in the objective sense of the term “rhetoric” and in the derogatory sense, as in “empty rhetoric.”  In working on my chapter on logical fallacies, I find a gold mine of examples. I also find frightening examples of the power of rhetoric.

This example of the slippery slope fallacy could have come from another century, but it’s from just last month:

      No one thought that the authorities of your state would pass laws making criminals out of the previously law-abiding — but they did. If they catch you violating their unconstitutional laws, they will — when they please — send armed men to work their will upon you. And people — innocent of any crime save the one these tyrants created — will die resisting them.

If you are tempted to think that no one would take this writer seriously, think again. It’s from a militiaman who in 2010 issued this call to arms:

      “So, if you wish to send a message that Pelosi and her party [that they] cannot fail to hear, break their windows. Break them NOW. Break them and run to break again. Break them under cover of night. Break them in broad daylight. Break them and await arrest in willful, principled civil disobedience. Break them with rocks. Break them with slingshots. Break them with baseball bats. But BREAK THEM.”

And they did:

      In the days that followed, glass windows and doors were shattered at local Democratic Party offices and the district offices of House Democrats from Arizona to Kansas to New York. At least 10 Democratic lawmakers reported death threats, incidents of harassment or vandalism at their offices over the past week, and the FBI and Capitol Police [were] offering lawmakers increased protection.

No one died in those attacks. Then recently a two-year-old was shot and killed in Kentucky by her five-year-old brother. Clearly the parents were negligent. I would argue that any parent who buys a gun for a five-year-old is negligent. But my point is that the Crickett gun that was used was marketed to and for children. You could check out their visual rhetoric on their web site, but except for an opening picture of a young boy with a rifle, all of the pictures of little boys and girls–and babies–with rifles have been taken down, including a number showing little girls with hot pink rifles designed especially for them. Except on the history page, there are no longer references to “My First Rifle” or the other models of youth rifles, “Crickett” and “Davey Crickett.” Their Facebook page is gone also. Their attorney says  that it is “not an appropriate time to continue the debate about gun control.”

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