How to Debate the ‘Pro-Gun’ Teens (April 2018)


Fact-based reporting by

Rob Roman

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As the teens from MSD High School are leading the fight for sensible gun safety measures in states and Congress, it’s only natural that teens on the pro-gun side will respond in kind. In 2013, just months after the Sandy Hook Atrocity, the Maryland State legislature debated a bill on gun safety.

Sarah Merkle, a 15 year-old teen at the time, testified before the state legislature giving reasons why she was pro-gun and why no gun legislation would alter the situation. The video of her statements instantly went viral video with 2.5 million views on Youtube, and it now has over 10.8 million views.

Here’s the video:


Now, there’s a lot of talk about a fellow student at MSD High School named Kyle Kashuv, 17, who is a gun rights advocate. He feels that his side has not been given a voice. He has appeared on Fox News and has talked to lawmakers in Congress. Kyle wants to debate Cameron Kasky, David Hogg, or any one of the more prominent students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (Parkland, FL) live on TV and social media.

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Kyle Kashuv

So, how do we respond to these arguments when we feel that new gun safety legislation can make a difference when it comes to mass shootings and even general gun violence? Let’s look at Sarah’s arguments one by one.

The heading for the video celebrates that she silenced the opposition with her arguments.

Can they silence you?

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In the video, Sarah Merkle has it all. She’s poised, well-spoken, calm and unassuming. She’s a very responsible and well-educated young woman with a passion for competition shooting. She’s getting involved and standing up for her beliefs. 

Sarah was 15 in the video, had been shooting for 8 years and had been a member of the Maryland Rifle Club and Maryland State Rifle Team since she was 11. They shoot with semi-automatic AR-15s, and her personal rifle is a Bushmaster, the same AR-15 rifle and brand as that used by the Sandy Hook shooter (minus the 30 round magazines and the detachable, adjustable stock).

1) Because of this, “I have become eligible for shooting scholarships” to a wide array of prestigious colleges.

That’s wonderful that she plans to go to college and that her interest in sport shooting / competition shooting can help pay for her education.

2) “Achieving stricter gun control laws would obliterate any opportunity I could have had to attend a decent college on a shooting scholarship.”

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According to the Huffington Post article, Maryland’s “Firearm Safety Act of 2013,” a provision regarding interstate transportation of weapons, could make it harder for Merkle to practice shooting at a range in Delaware.

While this is a legitimate concern, there’s no question that any gun safety legislation can include provisions exempting organized sports from certain restrictions within the bill. A responsible gun owner, or a responsible gun owner’s child should be willing to jump through a few extra hoops, knowing that this will make it more difficult for irresponsible people to get their hands on a killing machine by design, and the go-to rifle for mass shootings.

The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, that has since been repealed, did not ban the AR-15 type rifles or any other semi-automatic rifle (semi-automatic simply means one pull of the trigger fires one round and chambers another), it banned semi-automatic rifles with 2 or more militaristic features. These features are not required for sport shooting, home defense, target shooting or hunting.

Also, let’s take a look at the wide array of prestigious colleges that have a gun competition shooting team:

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Source: Wikipedia

Any new assault weapons ban or restriction on semi-auto rifles with militaristic features could and should leave competition shooters, etc. with their rifles of choice and the ability to practice with them.

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The AR-15 rifle that Sarah is holding was not banned in 1994, and due to the features shown, could not be banned in any Constitutional Assault Weapons Ban.


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An AR-15 style rifle like this was banned in 1994, and could be banned again. Detachable, adjustable stock, high capacity magazine, hand grip on the barrel

3) “Guns are not the problem, people are. Purging our society of violence and murder cannot be done through gun control legislation.”

Sarah Merkle is right about that, but certain types of gun violence and gun murders (mass shootings for example) can be affected by new gun safety legislation by lowering the incidents and the fatalities of mass shootings. The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 did just that, and again, did not specifically ban AR-15 type rifles.

Speaking of control, when applied to general gun violence, overwhelmingly committed with handguns, too many “law abiding gun owners” lose their self-control, and in a fit of rage or excessive fear, shoot unarmed people to death as a first resort rather than a last resort. Michael Dunn comes to mind. While in a car waiting for his wife at a convenience store, this man lost control and ruined his life and ended the life of a teen after an argument over loud music.

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Michael Dunn (left) murdered 17 year-old Jordan Davis (right) on November 23, 2012. He then went on to walk his dog and eat a pizza after fleeing the scene.
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The car that was playing loud music


Sensible gun safety legislation can reduce gun violence and gun murders by separating irresponsible people from the weapon that is the least survivable.

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4) “By signing this legislation … you are liberatimg Americans of their constitutional rights. You are eliminating our ability to protect our lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.”

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Legislation that violates the constitutional rights of Americans would get struck down by the courts. Any reasonable ban or restrictions on assault weapons or guns in general would in no way eliminate or even threaten Sarah Merkle’s constitutional rights or her ability to protect her life, liberty, or her pursuit of happiness.

5) Sarah then resorts to one of the most popular of the 20 discredited arguments against “gun control”.

#7 A ban or further regulation of military style rifles and high capacity magazines will not help save the 500 plus victims killed by handguns each year in Chicago.

Sarah invokes the Chicago gun laws. She states that more people were killed in Chicago than in the Afghan war during the same time frame. Here, she must be talking about coalition casualties in the Afghan war. She’s not talking about total casualties, or civilian casualties, which are much higher.

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Sarah states that you have a better chance to live as a coalition soldier in a war zone in Afghanistan than you do on the streets of Chicago. But, five years after her speech, what proposals have come from the right, now controlling both houses in Congress and the Presidency, to lower the gun homicide rate in Chicago?

The main problem with the “Chicago” argument is that gun safety legislation aimed at military-style assault weapons is not intended to reduce general gun violence. Its intent is to reduce the incidents and the lethality of mass public shootings.

That’s the same thing as saying that land pollution laws will do nothing to stop water pollution. First, land pollution laws are not aimed at water pollution. Second, some land pollution laws will reduce both, as land pollution sometimes gets into the water.

In the same way, laws aimed at military-style assault weapons and their accessories are not aimed at general gun violence, or the type of gun violence caused by gangs and illegal drugs. However, the Universal Background check plus improvements of existing federal law could help significantly reduce both mass shootings, drug / gang shootings and generalized gun violence.

6) Sarah Merkle goes on to say that barely one percent of those killed in Chicago were killed with a rifle. 3,371 were shot and killed in Chicago from the start of the Afghan war until March 2013, but only 27 in Chicago were killed with a rifle. 98% were killed with a handgun.

As stated above, the intent of the Maryland Bill was to address mass shootings where a troubled person is out to kill the most people in the least amount of time. The bill was not intended to address gang or drug related gun violence.

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Add Parkland to the list


A city with the ‘toughest gun laws’ end up with ‘worst gun violence’?

Rated 4 Pinocchios by the Washington Post Fact Checker.

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More about Chicago and the effectiveness of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban can be found at the end of this article.

7) The 15 year-old then brings up a different argument: On the same day as the Sandy Hook shooting (December 14, 2012), a man in central China stabbed 22 very young children and 1 adult in and around a school.

This is true, however, the troubled man did not have access to a military-style assault weapon and all of the victims survived. All societies have people who will severely injure and murder people, but easy access to weapons intended to kill the most people in the least amount of time greatly enhances their chances of accomplishing their violent goal.

8) Her next argument is that most gun violence happens in low income areas, further regulations will make it more expensive for lower income people to defend themselves.

That’s a good argument. Maybe the NRA can provide cash assistance for lower income people to buy and qualify to purchase guns. But, again, the Maryland Law Sarah was testifying against was not aimed at general or gang / drug gun violence, it was aimed at mass shootings.

Further regulations on firearms in general could put an unfair burden on lower income people, as many regulations do, but that could be addressed in specific legislation proposed by states, localities, and the federal government.

Within this argument that is really a deflection, is a larger philosophical argument. If more lower income people are armed, they will be safer in their neighborhoods. The criminal would be less inclined to perpetrate a crime on people if they are 90% likely to have a firearm on their person, than if they are 90% likely not to have a firearm on their person.

But this implies that criminals will fail to adapt to new situations. If I’m a criminal in a low income neighborhood, and I want to rob people, won’t I be deterred from robbing people because there’s a 90% chance they are armed? Wouldn’t I adapt to the new situation by incapacitating or killing the person instead of just showing a gun to scare them into giving up what I want from them?

9) Now here comes the two Grand Finale arguments: “To abolish or severely limit the right of residents to bear arms … is to essentially defeat the purpose of our own U.S. constitution.”

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This implies that the legislation in question does in fact “abolish or severely limit the rights of (the people) to bear arms”. It does not, nor does any common sense gun safety legislation, including the 1994 AWB. Therefore, the argument is invalid.

10) The 2nd Amendment right to bear arms is the right that gives American citizens the ability to secure their other natural rights. By infringing on the 2nd Amendment rights, this will put all the other rights of American citizens at risk.

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This implies that the U.S. Government or future President, Congress or Federal court would tear up the constitution and eliminate the natural rights of its citizens if it only could, but is prevented from doing so because many people own firearms.

But within the 3 branches of the Federal Government, the Judicial branch is there to assure that laws are in accordance with the constitution. The Executive and Legislative branches are elected directly by the American people. The Constitution or any other natural rights of the people are guaranteed by all American citizens, not by the people who keep and bear firearms.

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Kyle Kashuv wants to debate Cameron Katsky on Gun Rights

More about Chicago

“New York, in fact, has stricter gun laws on the books than Chicago. And guess what? Its homicide numbers are heading toward historic lows. Los Angeles has some pretty tough gun laws too. Its homicide numbers also pale compared with Chicago’s.

Those kinds of details don’t fit the conservative, pro-gun narrative, though. To use New York as a talking point, they’d have to admit that strict gun laws might actually have an impact on homicide rates.”

“One of the things that we don’t want to do is try to create laws that won’t stop these types of things from happening,” (Sarah Huckabee) Sanders said at a news conference. “I think if you look to Chicago where you had over 4,000 victims of gun-related crimes, they have the strictest gun laws in the country and that certainly hasn’t helped there.”

“Sanders should listen to U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., who argues that the problem is Chicago being surrounded by red states that have completely surrendered to the pro-gun lobby.”


Note: Sarah Huckabee Sanders is wrong. Chicago does NOT have the nation’s toughest gun laws.

“With no gun stores in Chicago and no background check loopholes for private sales, one thing is clear. The guns being used to kill people on the streets aren’t originating in Chicago. They’re coming from someplace else.”

“When it comes to gun laws, big cities are only as strong as the states that border them. And in Chicago’s case, that’s Indiana. Thanks to Vice President Mike Pence, the former governor, Indiana has some of the weakest gun laws in the nation.

“Law enforcement officials say 60 percent of the guns confiscated on the streets of Chicago come from Indiana, Wisconsin and Mississippi. The other 40 percent come from suburban Cook County and nearby suburbs.”

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“Congress could do something, though. Lawmakers could pass legislation requiring universal background checks. That would close federal loopholes on background checks at gun shows and other private sales.”

“Congress could also limit the number of guns that can be purchased by one person in a period of time. And lawmakers could toughen penalties for straw purchases.”

More on the effectiveness of the 1994 to 2004 Assault Weapons Ban

While there is controversy surrounding the effectiveness of the 1994 AWB, some facts are lost in the shuffle.

First, the AWB was not aimed at general gun violence. It was aimed at reducing the incidents and fatalities of mass shootings. Second, the AWB and proposed Assault Weapons Bans, do not ban all semi-automatic rifles. Third, the AWB was in force for 10 years, really not long enough to assess its effectiveness. However, there were less incidents of and less fatalities from mass shootings during those 10 years.

Because so many military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines were in circulation at the time, the effects of the AWB would take many years to be fully realized.

Politifact tells us that the 3rd of 3 studies done on the effectiveness of the 1994 AWB had “mixed results”.

“Both sides in the gun debate are selectively citing from a series of studies that concluded with a 2004 study led by Christopher S. Koper, “An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003.” That report was the final of three studies of the ban, which was enacted in 1994 as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.”

Koper concluded on January 14, 2004: “The grandfathering provisions in the law meant that the effects of the law would occur only very gradually over time. It seems that those effects were still unfolding when the ban was lifted, and indeed they may not have been fully realized for several more years into the future even if the ban had been extended in 2004.

The evidence is too limited for any firm projections, but it does suggest that long term restrictions on these guns and magazines could potentially produce at least a small reduction in shootings.”

“Koper concluded by saying that “a new ban on large capacity magazines and assault weapons would certainly not be a panacea for gun crime, but it may help to prevent further spread of particularly dangerous weaponry and eventually bring small reductions in some of the most serious and costly gun crimes.”

So, in debating the ‘Pro-Gun Teens’, or anyone for that matter:

Ask them in what way specifically, does sensible gun safety legislation eliminate their ability to protect, or even significantly impact their basic freedoms of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness?

Show them how when it comes to gun violence, overreactive, unsafe, and poorly trained people with guns result in unarmed people getting shot to death all the time. Click here for some examples.

Ask them why they would think that gun safety legislation, designed to reduce the incidents and lethality of mass shootings, would have an impact on street crime in Chicago?

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Ask them why they think that passing a universal background check and closing the internet sales and gun show loopholes, would not help the gun violence problem in Chicago?

If they try to bring up knife murders, or homicides by other means, ask them how 26 people could be killed in 6 minutes by a person armed with a knife?

If they bring up cars, etc., show them how cars are heavily regulated.

Ask them why do they suppose the military style variants of the AR-15 are the most popular weapon in high fatality mass shootings?

Defeat them when they try to use any of the 20 discredited arguments from the Right against sensible gun safety legislation. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people is #13 and the Chicago argument is #7.

Don’t let them say that proposed sensible gun safety legislation somehow violates the Constitution or infringes on the rights of gun owners. All rights come with responsibilities.

If they want to say we are attacking the NRA, tell them it is the leadership being attacked, not the members who are overwhelmingly responsible gun owners. Why do the leaders of the NRA continuously lie, mislead, and deflect?

Can they show how the NRA leaders are serving the members and not the gun manufacturers when they prevent a ban on bump stocks or a Universal Background Check, or closing the loopholes, when these 2 proposals have overwhelming public support?

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Las Vegas October 1, 2017, the shooter used military-style assault rifles, high capacity magazines, and bump stocks approximating automatic fire to rain terror and death on a country music concert  (59 dead, 851 injured, 422 by gunfire). To date, no action has been taken by Congress on bump fire stocks.

Why are gun sales down and gun companies filing for bankruptcy now that, with Republicans in control of Congress and the Presidency, the NRA and others cannot frighten people into buying more guns?

That’s why David Hogg remarked that the NRA used to be about gun training and gun safety. What happened to that?

Ask them how did the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, or a future AWB severely limit their 2nd Amendment rights or defy the Constitution?

Don’t fall into the trap of equating mass shootings and general gun violence.

Don’t let them try to tell you that you want to take away their rights or subvert the Constitution.

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All comments are welcome.