Thursday, June 20, 2013

Love, Debates, and People Being Wrong On The Internet

You can't change anyone. You can't get anyone to abandon their position and take up yours. Its not because they are stupid, its not because they need to "wake up" and its not because you just aren't persuasive enough. People just don't change.

Unless they want to.

See it doesn't matter how great your blog post is, or how awesome that captioned image of Obama you just posted to Facebook is, you aren't going to change anyone's mind (let alone their heart) with it. People are stubborn. We're subject to such things as confirmation bias, the backfire effect, and cognitive inertia. We are defensive and reactionary, and there's not much that other people can do about it.

You can make your opponent look stupid by lampooning their position, that just makes them defensive. You can make your opponent look evil by claiming the moral high ground, that just makes them angry. You can can debate your opponent and counter every point they offer, that just makes them determined to do better next time. No change of mind or heart will occur.

So what do we do?

You love them. The best way to get someone to pay attention to your ideas is to love that person. Its easy to ignore someone who is attacking you, its much harder to ignore the person bandaging your wounds. Its hard to deny the goodness of the worldview held by a saint.

When Proverbs 25:21 says to feed your enemies, and verse 22 follows by saying that by doing so you'll "heap burning coals upon his head" that's not to say that you'll be getting some sort of strange revenge over your enemies. Fire purifies, and the coals will purify your enemy's head, i.e., your kindness, your love, will win him over.

Admittedly it feels much better to ridicule or win a debate, but if that's the path you take you already have your reward. If you love your opponent you may win yourself a new brother. It takes time, and consistency, and turning the other cheek, but it is the only way to effect real change in another person. You can't debate someone into seeing the light! You can't ridicule a sinner into a saint!

So show people love. You may not win them over now, or ever depending on the hardness of their heart, but its the only way to even have a shot.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thank you NRA?

A criminal in prison recently wrote a letter thanking the NRA for "protecting my ability to easily obtain [guns] through its opposition to universal background checks." Quite predictably, this has caused quite the reaction. He goes on to say how he intends to buy a gun at a gun show once he is released.

If we want to think critically about this we need to point out a few things:

1) Under current law it is illegal for a felon to even possess a firearm. This mean that even without "universal" background checks Mr. Bornman cannot buy or even touch a firearm legally!

2) FFLs at gun shows MUST submit NICS checks. Bornman cannot legally purchase a firearm from a FFL holder, regardless of whether or not the FFL holder in question is selling at a gun show or a store front.

3) It is already illegal to sell a firearm to a felon privately. Remember point one? This is related but a little different. While private sales are currently legal (in most, but not all states) it is still illegal to sell a firearm to a felon.

4) Laws do not enforce themselves. With the above three points taken into account, we can clearly see that It is already illegal for Bornman to buy a firearm. Adding a "universal" background check law to this list would only make an illegal activity "more illegal." It would not prevent Bornman, whom clearly has no regard for the law, from obtaining a firearm illegally. It would however prevent law abiding Americans from exercising an essential civil liberty.

5) If Bornman is writing so openly about his plans to break the law and possibly hurt people, why ever let him out of prison? His letter may have more to say about our criminal justice system than it does about gun control.

So what do we make of Bornman's letter? A few things. I think its clear he's the type of individual who likes poking the hornet's nest. He has a history of writing such letters. And though I suspect that's all this is, disarmed victims are easier to deal with from his perspective so it makes sense for him to villainize the NRA.

To summarize, the argument implicit in Bornman's letter is that universal background checks would prevent criminals from getting guns. This is clearly false, no law can enforce itself. Background checks are only as good as the information in them, and even the complete ban of certain products has not prevented their sale on the black market. To blame crime on the lack of a universal background check law, and thus place responsibility on the NRA for opposing it, is disingenuous.

It does, however, stir up the hornet's nest.