In the wake of every mass shooting in this country the forces of gun control and gun proliferation meet on the battlefields of social media and cable news networks to lob rhetorical missiles at each other. One perennial argument offered by those in the latter category is what I have termed the “evil will prevail” argument. This is the rationale shared and articulated by many on the political right when asked why they routinely drag their feet on gun control measures. It goes something like this: we can have all the laws and security precautions imaginable and yet bad people set on committing acts of violence will always find ways to circumvent those laws and precautions. Therefore, the argument goes, there is no need to rush into legislating or even prioritizing gun violence as a point of discussion for the country. In other words, because we can’t be 100% successful there is little point in making even the slightest effort.
Of course, to anyone with a functioning prefrontal cortex the absurdity of this reasoning is obvious as accepting this premise effectively undermines the entire basis of government. Hearing this argument from lawmakers and state leaders only increases the vacuousness of the assertion. If we follow this line of thought to its conclusion, we’re forced to question why we bother with laws at all. If drug dealers are going to sell in spite of laws against it, why has the political right been so vocal in pushing and expanding this country’s decades long “war on drugs”? What gun culture apologists either fail or refuse to realize is that reason isn’t something you can apply only when discussing your position or idea. Reason is not limited to a single context or thesis — it has to hold up when applied across multiple contexts and theses.
Of course the goal of these “representatives” is not to offer a well-reasoned and rhetorically sound position within a proper debate setting — their goal is to promote a narrative and sell a philosophy shared by their political and business supporters. Their objective is to push a slogan, not engage in a spirited discourse with the aim of arriving at some solution, When a lawmaker, governor or special interest lackey tells us to take a moment and not rush into anything because evil will find a way, remind them that we are under no delusion that regulations will completely eliminate gun violence in our streets and schools, but that we do believe reducing that violence is worthy of action. We will not accept this defeatist “all or nothing” excuse from our state and national leaders and if that is the best or only reason they can offer, we will replace those leaders.