Americans between Gun Rights and Vigilantism
The article “What Should America Do about Gun Violence?” is a speech by Wayne LaPierre delivered before the Senate Judiciary Committee in connection with the school shootings on December 14, 2012. The speaker is the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Vice President and the author of the famous book Guns, Crime and Freedom in which he demonstrates the connection between the crimes reduction and the law-obedient citizens’ right to possess semi-automatic weapons. In such a way, the mentioned shootings provoked the need to revise either the governmental instruments that control crimes and weapons’ use or the social position concerning the Americans’ right to have weapons in general. Wayne LaPierre as a gun rights advocate tries to make the senators share the worldview of the NRA members and in this way prevent some legal consequences that would negatively affect Americans’ gun rights. The main idea of the speech is that the governmental strategies to reduce crimes through the weapons’ control are much less effective than those by the NRA; therefore, the government should not make legal obstacles for the NRA’s activity.
The speaker claims that the American Government should “be honest about what works and what doesn’t work” (LaPierre 501). In this point, he contraposes the governmental gun policy to the educational activity of the NRA and provides some pieces of evidence demonstrating that the NRA both has more experience in gun violence prevention and provides effective policy such as the educational project “Eddie Eagle” (LaPierre 501). At the same time, the speaker tries to show that gun control policy provided by the American Government is as ineffective as the American healthcare system related to possible psychical disorders identification for those people who want to possess weapons. LaPierre appeals to the statistical data and illustratively describes the situation through the need of the NRA’s dominance in the USA regarding gun control and gun violence prevention (501).
LaPierre’s speech includes bright examples of the main argumentative elements such as ethos, logos, and pathos. Thus, the speaker claims that his general intention is to preserve the Americans’ “safety and protection as a God-given, fundamental rights” (LaPierre 502). He also pays attention to the importance of children’s safety and demonstrates the examples of the NRA’s successful policy oriented at its realization (LaPierre 501). In this way, the speaker provides information that characterizes his organization’s as well as his own position appropriate for the audience. LaPierre strengthens this effect by the logical element of the speech providing some enthymemes. For example, he claims that governmental gun control affects only the law-obedient citizens while the criminals will continue their activity. That is why increasing gun control measures would only limit the Americans’ means to protect themselves. LaPierre’s argumentation is also very pathetical because he tries to persuade the audience that his claims concern the most important values of free society (502). The speaker also appeals to the readers’ personal feelings when he speaks about the importance of children’s safety, creates a humanized image of his organization listing the members of NRA as “moms and dads and sons and daughters” (LaPierre 501). In such a way, the speaker looks very persuasive.
Besides all positive aspects of the discussed speech, it is rather one-sided because of LaPierre’s intention to protect the interests of NRA instead of provide the in-depth analysis of the situation that provoked his speech. Certainly, it is very important to allow the law-obedient citizens to protect themselves with guns. To some degree, it may reduce gun violence because the criminals would fear to attack possibly armed people. As LaPierre claims (501), the same concerns the importance of the specific education provided by NRA. Besides, there is another side of the issue best demonstrated by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). According to the official site of the coalition, the NRA increases gun control because people who have the right to possess and carry arms always can take justice into their hands instead of allowing the government to resolve the problems (“Guns in Public”). It is clear that one of the reasons for any government’s existence is to prevent citizens from vigilantism through the state’s license to provide justice. Thus, the activists of CSGV list six mass shootings in the USA (in 2009) committed by concealed handgun permit holders – as a result, four victims died (“Mass Shootings by Concealed Handgun Permit Holders in 2009”). Such illustrative examples show that extending gun rights may increase gun violence because of the accessibility of weapons. Through the comparison of the arguments provided by the activists of gun control and gun rights, it is clear that those who want to allow people possess guns treat most of Americans as law-obedient, responsible individuals. In contrast, the proponents of gun control consider that everyone who possesses a gun can become a murderer or criminal in some situations. Thus, LaPierre operates with an idealized image of people.
The speech by Wayne LaPierre is a bright example of a persuasive text the main aim of which is to provide the audience with a fragmented, one-sided interpretation of the issue under the cover of a deep research connected with the speaker’s concern for his listeners. At the same time, LaPierre is partly right because his point of view is neglected by his opponents. In this way, the deep understanding of the issue demands the equal respect to both sides.
“Guns in Public”. Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. 2015. Web. 07 Mar 2016.
LaPierre, Wayne. “What Should America Do about Gun Violence?” In Elements of Argument: A Text and Reader, Eleventh Edition. Eds. Annette T Rottenberg, Donna Haisty Winchell. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2015. 501-502. Print.
“Mass Shootings by Concealed Handgun Permit Holders in 2009”. Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. 2013. Web. 07 Mar 2016.