Friday, August 17, 2012

PF 2012 AWB Blowing Open the Pro Debate

For part 1 of this topic, click here
For other Public Forum Debate topics, click here

When one begins to research a topic such as the Federal Assault Weapons Ban there is a strong tendency to do what I have done. Dig deeply into in the provisions of the bill and examine its impacts. As this research unfolded, and I expressed discontent the topic dealt with this specific piece of legislation, I realized as I am sure many of you have, this resolution is going to be very tough for Pro if some really strong impacts resulting from bill passage could not be found. I looked and found marginal positive impacts arising perhaps just slightly above the clutter of statistical random chance and noise. I posted the best, easily accessible, evidence I could find.

Somewhere in the course of metaphorically banging my head against the wall and wallowing in pity for my Pro debaters, a thought pierced my skull as if fired from a semiautomatic AK. We have examined the "what" of the resolution, but we have not examined the "how". The who is Congress, the what is the AWB, the where is the U.S., the when is now, and the how is... renew.

What is Renew?
Merriam-Webster has a definition, "to make like new : restore to freshness, vigor, or perfection". Bam!

Suddenly it occurred to me. There is a sense of creation in the term; reinvigorate, restoration, make it better, perfect it. I now realized the key to Pro is not in the who, what, where or when. It may very well be in the how.

How Does Congress Do The How?
In my zeal to understand the 'what' I ignored the 'how'. Having seen Merriam-Webster's definition of "renew" I began to wonder, what is Congress' definition of renew, so I went looking for the Congressional Member's Instruction Manual chapter, "How to Renew a Bill". Well, there may be one out there, but it seemed hopeless to wade through 1000s of documents and procedural manuals to find it so I tried another tact. Let's see what happens when Congress renews other bills, such as the Voting Rights Act and the U.S.A. Patriot Act to name a few, and sure enough, what I found was Congress also reads the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Almost Without exception, "renew a bill" in Congress means, amend, revise, improve, attach riders and so on. In most cases, renew does not mean, simply resurrect and vote. It means, resurrect, rework and vote. Ultimately, Congressional renewal means, my Public Forum debaters have had a substantial limitation lifted from their shoulders because they were no longer required to defend renewal of the flawed version of the bill, rather they can advocate renewing a revamped, spiffy and functional version of the bill.

Its Not Policy Debate - but...
Okay. It is good to remember PF is NOT policy debate. We do not have to advocate a policy nor talk about funding. We don't have to face politics disadvantages or talk about Obama's political capital. In fact, NFL's rule 6 for Public Forum Debate states in part, "...Neither the pro or con side is permitted to offer a plan or counterplan; rather, they should offer reasoning to support a position of advocacy. Debaters may offer generalized, practical solutions."

Next Steps
Those of you that are now chuckling, and thinking to yourselves, "We're way ahead of you", I will only say I am glad I too have realized what you already knew and now, thanks to my unexplainable desire to share my failures and successes, everyone else knows as well. So now it is time to 'renew' our research, and see what kind of evidence can be found to put some fire-power into Pro's gun-belts.  Hopefully there will more on this topic later.

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