Debunking Pro-Gun Arguments: “But what about Switzerland”

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Gun enthusiasts are unified around a lot of things (like their odd hatred of people who confuse clip and magazine).  One of those things is making terrible arguments for how guns don’t play a role in societal gun violence.  With that in mind, I’m starting a new feature where I debunk these pro-gun arguments and myths… one at a time.

Today, I take on a recent favorite of the pro-gun community.  It looks like this:

But what about [insert name of city, state, or country]. They have lax gun laws and some of the lowest gun violence rates in the world.

Screenshot 2015-09-11 at 11.28.09 AM

There are a couple of iterations of this argument.  Lately, the focus has been on Switzerland and looks a little something like the picture on the left.

It sure sounds convincing.  Can’t we all agree that arming young cyclists will make us safer?

How to respond?  Well, if you are responding specifically to the Switzerland version of this, just show them this Salon article that discusses how “Switzerland’s high rate of gun ownership is tied to the fact that it does not have a standing army so virtually every male citizen is conscripted into the militia where they receive comprehensive weapons training… and keep their government issued weapons (without ammunition) at home.”

Nine times out of ten, the argument is dishonest from the start.  The city, state, or country doesn’t really have such lax laws or doesn’t really have such a low gun violence Gun Deaths By Staterate.  However, on the off chance they are correct about the law/gun violence rate and they just happened to have found an anomaly, you can show them this chart that illustrates how states with more guns have more gun deaths.

If they say, “well I wasn’t talking about states. I was talking about countries,”  you can just show them this statement from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center that finds that ” across developed countries, where guns are more available, there are more homicides. These results often hold even when the United States is excluded.”

And that will, of course, be the end of the discussion because EVERYONE listens to research and has a healthy respect for logic.

By Ryan C. Martin

PS. I tried to find some gun safety literature showing that you shouldn’t ride a bike with a loaded gun.  Regrettably, all I found was this YouTube video on the best gun for cycling. It seems we have a long way to go….

Click here to see more pro-gun arguments get debunked.

It’s Not Enough

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A few years ago, I taught a class with two police officers standing outside the door to the classroom.  I had received a series of strange and disturbing emails from a student who we discovered had a history of gun-related legal trouble.  Although they were not directly threatening, the emails referenced his gun collection multiple times, and the University and I thought it was best to error on the side of caution.

I didn’t really think the student would show.  If I had really believed that, I would have cancelled class.  I feel an obligation to protect my students under normal circumstances so I would never put them in danger if I had thought there was a high likelihood of his coming for me.  That said, few people ever thinks it will happen to them until it does.

Class that day was nauseating and probably pointless.  The students obviously noticed the two officers as they walked into class and were obviously uncomfortable with whatever was going on.  Every noise that came from the direction of the door was nerve-wracking.  A student came in late that day so the door opened somewhat abruptly a few minutes into class. Several of us startled.  Teaching is usually the best part of my day.  It’s a time when I can tune out everything I have going on and focus only on the students in front of me.  That day, though, was surreal, and sad, and scary, and painful.

When class was over, I went back to my office (still aware of the fact that I wasn’t really any safer now that class was over) and all I could think about was what a ridiculous world we had created.  How is it that we live in a world where students who want to learn and teachers who want to teach have to do so behind armed guards?  How have we let this happen?  How have we done nothing to fix it?

That night, I explained the situation to my wife.  I knew it would scare her even more than it scared me.  She listened while my son sat at the table, eating his dinner.  At just over a year, he was young enough that we could talk about such things around him without his noticing and he got to remain blissfully ignorant of the very real dangers that surround us.  When I explained what was being done to keep everyone safe, she simply said, “It’s not enough.”

I remember how her voice was shaking.  I remember how scared she was.  I remember how she kept glancing at our son as we talked about it.  I remember thinking how insane it all was.  I’m not a police officer, or a fire-fighter, or a soldier, or anyone else whose job comes with inherent risks and who has been trained to deal with those risks.  I’m a teacher.

She was right, of course.  It wasn’t enough.

Don’t get me wrong, the University did everything they could and I am thankful for the police officers who stood outside my classroom and the administrators who supported me and my students.  She’s right, though, that it’s not enough.  We have created a country where people are shot daily- where we live in constant threat of harm- where there have been 45 school shootings in the last nine months.  How is it that the response from America is a collective “meh” and “that’s the cost of freedom”?  How is it that we continue to debate whether or not we’re doing something wrong?  The evidence is right in front of us in the form of hundreds of dead and injured men, women, and children, and millions of people who go to work or school scared every day.  What is the matter with us?  What the hell are we doing?

The sad reality, though, is that I’ve lost hope that it will ever be different.  Even the most simple and meaningless suggestions for curbing gun violence are met with vitriol.  Every legislator who gives a speech on it is hailed as un-American before the speech is even finished, and the social web is littered with nonsense before the victims are even named.  There will probably be another shooting today or tomorrow and the cycle will repeat, and at some point in my life, I’ll probably have to teach another class with police protection.

Anger Management Tip: Figure out why

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Thinking_ManOne of the first things you should do when you’re angry is sort out why you are feeling that way.  Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it isn’t.  Sometimes, it’s complicated. Sometimes it’s reasonable to get angry but you’re feeling much angrier than most people would in that circumstance.

We all have different hot-button issues.  For some, it’s being slowed down.  For others, it’s not being recognized for their work.  Trying to figure out why you’re feeling a certain way and what it says about you can go a really long way to helping you deal with your anger.

Anger Management Tip: Think About the Desired Outcome… and How to Get There

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We usually get mad because there’s a problem.  We want things to be different than they are and we get angry when we decide that someone is to blame for that difference.

A good way to manage anger then is to think about how we want things to be and what we can do, if anything, to make things how we want.  Are you angry about the way you’re being treated by a friend or family member?  Is there anything you can do to get them to treat you differently?  Are you angry about how long it takes your kids to get out the door to school each morning?  Are there ways you can work with them to solve that problem?

Note that the way to the desired outcome is rarely to yell, scream, or swear at people.  There’s nothing wrong with a good rant every now and then, but usually the solution to an angering problem is some sort of level-headed focus on the solution.

Answers to Seven Questions About Anger

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Last week, I asked people on Facebook and Twitter seven quick questions, including one about how they handled things the last time they were angry (those stories are scattered throughout) about their anger via an anonymous survey. More than 100 people responded.

Here’s what I found:

1. Most People Get Angry Once a Week or More.

Get Angry

 Anger Story: Drunken (both of us) argument with my wife. I yelled a lot and punched a hole in a door.

2. Physical Fights Are Common.

Phyical Fights

Anger Story: Being hurt by someone very close to me. I vented about the situation to my close friends, but I often find myself ruminating over the thoughts as well. Eventually I just sucked it up and moved on without this person in my life anymore.

 3. Most People Don’t Argue Online.

Argue online

Anger Story: I held it in.

4. People Ruminate More Than Anything Else.


Anger Story: The only incident I can recall is from a month ago. I found out my ex-boyfriend had been dishonest with me about something (which has been a pattern) so I texted him immediately. I expressed that I was very upset and that I was tired of him repeatedly being thoughtless about my feelings and being disrespectful toward me. That was about the extent of it….I really try to stay calm and express myself in a neutral, calm way when I am angry.

5. But Plenty of People Seek Out Support Too.


Anger Story: Someone at work second guessed be despite me being a supervisor. Talked it out with her. It was awkward as hell, and I wish I could have beat her ass.

6. About 1 in 6 People Think They Have an Anger Problem.


Anger Story: At my husband, I gave myself space within our home (went upstairs) to cool off and we talked it through a few hours later.

Survey: Are You An Angry Thinker?

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ACS SurveyThe Angry Cognitions Scale (Martin & Dahlen, 2007) measures five types of angry thoughts: Overgeneralizing, Catastrophic Evaluating, Inflammatory Labeling, Misattributing Causation, and Demandingness. There’s also an Adaptive Thoughts Scale designed to measure those types of thoughts that are less likely to lead to maladaptive anger. We’ll give you your scores and provide you with information about how those scores compare to others who took the test.

One More Reason Why Suppressing Anger is Bad For You

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Anger suppression, when we feel angry but don’t express it, has long been associated anger_mainwith a variety of psychological and physical health problems.  Recent research, though, shows that it also might be associated with aggression and violence. A 2015 study in Psychology of Violence looked at 64 criminal offenders who were asked to complete measures related to anger, other emotions, verbal attention, and past aggression.  The findings showed “that participants reporting difficulty attending to their emotions had more extensive histories of aggression than those who did not report such difficulties” (Robertson, Daffern, & Bucks, 2015, p 74).  In other words, those participants who suppressed their anger rather than finding some healthy outlet were more likely to be aggressive or violent.

According to the authors, a failure to attend to emotions (what they call “overregulation”) leads to violence in several ways including an increase in general negative affect, encouraging a more superficial thought process, decreasing the quality of interpersonal relationships, preventing resolution of any problems, and leading to an increase in physiological arousal.

What then is the solution?  The authors suggest that an important way to control aggressive behavior while angry is to attend to the anger rather than attempting to avoid it.