Thursday, August 16, 2012

PF 2012 AWB Pro and Con Positions

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

Pro Position
It bothers me the resolution makes reference to a particular piece of legislation which ran its course and has not found support to be reinstated or extended.  It would have been far better, in my opinion, to word the resolution in such a way it refers to a law like the previous bill.  In other words, a more generalized wording such as "the USFG should regulate private ownership of assault weapons".  It will be very problematic trying to argue the relative merits of a generalized ban of assault weapons as I am sure Con teams will cry foul and claim the debate must be limited to the 1994 bill.  Therefore, I would expect the Con will align itself almost exclusively on the grounds which claims the 1994 bill was totally ineffective in preventing assault weapon violence and will happily point out how easily manufacturers could cosmetically alter the weapons to skirt the specifications of the ban.
Given the limitations and assuming Pro will want to stay within the limits established by the resolution wording, Pro will no doubt need to be prepared to address the "effectiveness" argument.  Even if Pro is devastated by Con's attacks on effectiveness of that particular ban to control assault weapons, I think Pro still has plenty of ground.  For one such approach, we can look to the current federal laws which ban illegal drugs.  One could very powerfully argue that current laws are ineffective in controlling the importation, distribution and use of illegal narcotics.  Nevertheless, U.S. legislatures at the state and federal levels continue to support bans on illegal drugs.  Why?  Answering that question could be important in determining why assault weapons should be banned even though the ban is insufficient to control the weapons. Additionally, the negative impact is easily turned around when Pro shows the weapons have had zero effect in reducing crime, or promoting self-defense in the status quo.

1. Semiautomatic Assault Weapons Serve No Legal Purpose
There is simply no legitimate reason to own assault weapons.  Assault weapons are not useful in sports and there are no legitimate studies which show that assault weapons are more effective at providing self-defense than conventional arms.  Typically arguments which assert there are scenarios in which assault weapons may be more effective for personal protection are hypothesizing problems to fit a solution; a solution which is not needed in daily life.

2. Possession of Assault Weapons is Associated With Criminals
Since assault weapons have no legitimate use, one deduces that possession of assault weapons supports illegitimate uses typically associated with criminals or those with extremist ideologies.

3. Easy Access
By allowing easy access to assault weapons, persons who intend to use weapons in a harmful way will have an easier time obtaining them.  Quite often, weapons are stolen or burglarized from people who legally obtained them and these weapons end up in the hands of those intent on using the weapons criminally.

4. Use Of Assault Weapons Produces Harms
Pretty much universally, when assault weapons are used it pretty much always results in negative impacts.

5. Other Nations Ban Assault Weapons
Nearly every other democracy in the world bans assault weapons and these nations are no worse off as a result.  In fact, studies may suggest that the U.S. failure to control its weapons diminishes its status in the eyes of the world. A diminished status has a negative impact on U.S. soft-power.

The Pro position can be summarized thus:
When ever assault weapons are freely available and used to commit horrific crimes, people far and wide will cry out and claim, if only these weapons were banned, perhaps this tragedy would not have happened.  Conversely, when assault weapons are banned, and a tragedy occurs, people never cry out and say, if only assault weapons were available, perhaps this could have been avoided.

The Con Position
As I have said in the previous section, Con can find substantial ground in assuming a position which questions why the ban is necessary and if the Pro makes any claims about reducing crime or violence, pull out all the evidence and studies which refute those claims.  It will be like ...uhm... shooting fish in barrel with a Mac-10.  Even if Pro does not make it that easy, you should still consider the effect such arguments will have on a judge who may be predisposed to thinking that a federal ban on assault weapons may actually be a good idea if it prevents something like we have seen recently in Aurora Colorado.  Besides, simply refuting all Pro arguments with counter-claims, following are some suggested positions.

1. Banning assault weapons does not reduce crimes or violence
This is a generalized argument which holds the such bans in general have little or no effect on crimes or violence and should be supported by studies which predate and post-date the 1994 bill.

2. The ban infringes upon the Constitutional right to bear arms.
This one is self-explanatory and powerful.  Giving up our constitutional freedoms is a slippery-slope to tyranny.

3. This particular bill was not the answer
For this argument it is rather simple to peek into the Congressional record and look at the arguments and discussions held in Congress about this particular bill. Why was it allowed to go sunset (expire)?

4. Strengthen or Enforce Existing Law
This position should argue that strengthening or enforcing existing laws would have more of a positive affect than the assault weapon ban which is potentially unconstitutional in the first place.  For example, increase the penalties for use of such weapons in the commission of a crime or increase enforcement regulating the sale and licensing of the weapons, such as background checks, cool-down periods, etc.

Look for links to evidence in the next post on this topic.

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