I read a new word today.


If you’re a pro-gun-rights type who’s engaged in any degree of debate, you immediately know what it means. But, for everyone else, put simply, it’s a derisive description of the act of correcting someone who makes anti-gun arguments that exhibit factual ignorance or error. The most common one nowadays revolves around the word “assault weapon,” but there are many other examples. Some are a bit picayune, such as when people say “clip” when they mean “magazine.” Others are absolutely fundamental to the debate, such as people talking about “spraying bullets” and meaning that they think the guns they’re denouncing are fully automatic. Or, when people talk about gun show loopholes.

In a normal, rational world, someone who gets facts wrong would appreciate a measured correction, and revisit the opinions that were based on that bad information. But, such is not our world. Many (most, I’d say) people will, once they go public with an opinion, defend that opinion even in the face of stark evidence that they based it on falsehoods. The vaccine-autism link is a classic example. The initial proponent of the idea was outed as a charlatan and a shill, and no credible evidence has ever emerged, yet countless people continue to insist such a link exists.

This is cognitive bias of the worst sort, and in the case of gunsplaining, it’ll be defended by falsely asserting that all gunsplaining is of the picayune sort. I’m sure this is what’s in the mind of most people who want “assault weapons” banned. It’s quite common to see such folks challenged as to what an “assault weapon” actually is, and it’s almost as common to see some sort of “we all know what we’re talking about here” retort, a retort rooted in “I know it when I see it” handwaving.

Indeed, the coiner of “gunsplaining” makes that “it’s all picayune” assertion rather baldly:

Gunsplaining, though, is always done in bad faith. Like mansplaining, it’s less about adding to the discourse than smothering it — with self-appointed authority, and often the thinnest of connection to any real fact.

The definition of “assault weapon” is, however, not picayune. Even ignoring those who still think that civilian AR-15s are full-automatic, the mere fact that different states have different definitions for their “assault weapon” bans makes the definition one of consequence. Nor is it in bad faith to point out things like how small a percentage of homicides are committed with AR-15s, or that 3/4 of mass shootings don’t involve “assault weapons,” or that many rifles that are not “assault weapons” are functionally identical to those hated guns.

But, the substance of such counter-arguments is waved off when someone asserts “gunsplaining.” Using the word “gunsplaining” is indeed meant to echo “mansplaining,” which is supposedly always wrapped up in condescension, patronization, and put-the-woman-in-her-place bad faith. Whether it is or not is kinda beside the point – the assertion itself is meant to shut down debate and wall off any challenges or rebuttals by asserting a form of bigotry. That’s the subtext behind a “gunsplaining” accusation. It implies that the “gunsplainer” has less moral authority on a topic than the “gunsplainee,” just as a mansplainer’s purported condescension makes him a Neanderthal in a world of the enlightened. That moral authority, that sense of “I’m on the correct side of the issue,” is what makes some feel they’re immune to factual challenges, and makes anyone who is on the other side of the debate automatically and irredeemably wrong. And, as noted with vaccines and autism, this is a phenomenon that is found in many hot-button issues of the day.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is the observation by science fiction writer Harlan Ellison:

Everybody has opinions: I have them, you have them. And we are all told from the moment we open our eyes, that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Well, that’s horsepuckey, of course. We are not entitled to our opinions; we are entitled to our informed opinions. Without research, without background, without understanding, it’s nothing. It’s just bibble-babble.

Listening to some anti-gun pundits talk is indeed like listening to babble-babble. Here are a few head-scratchers.

Some of these bullets, as you saw, have an incendiary device on the tip of it, which is a heat seeking device. So, you don’t shoot deer with a bullet that size. If you do you could cook it at the same time. – NY Assemblywoman Patricia Eddington


This is a ghost gun. This right here has the ability with a .30-caliber clip to disperse with 30 bullets within half a second. Thirty magazine clip in half a second. – CA State Senator Kevin de Leon


What’s the efficacy of banning these magazine clips? I will tell you… these are ammunition, they’re bullets. So the people who have those now, they’re going to shoot them, so if you ban them in the future, the number of these high capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won’t be any more available. – CO Congresswoman Diana DeGette


[I]t is easier for a 12- or 13-year-old to purchase a gun, and cheaper, than it is for them to get a book. – President Barack Obama


All these statements are factually incorrect. Grossly so, not in trivial ways. Why would we not challenge them as being wrong? And, why would anyone with a shred of intellectual honesty wave off such challenges with the pejorative term “gunsplaining?”

The answer is, obviously, that they’ve already decided the end-state they desire, and facts, logic, or empirical evidence is utterly irrelevant to that decision. Thus, they defend their ignorance, and they defend the ignorance of all those who agree with them.

Is it any wonder that pro-gun people are digging their heels in over any further infringements on their rights?

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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