Alex Jones’ Gun Rant

by Benjamin Studebaker

In a further development of the American cultural harangue over gun violence, radio host Alex Jones got into a rather aggressive argument with British expatriate Piers Morgan. Their argument focused on differences between Britain and the United States, which, conveniently segues into my own previous discussion on gun violence and gun control, which did much in the way of referencing the British case (I have found myself writing other follow up posts to that one–you can find them here and here). Given all of this previous work on the subject, I feel it would be remiss of me if I did not address Jones’ claims and arguments.

First, here is footage of the conversation in full, selections from which I shall reference:

The source of Jones’ invite to appear on Morgan’s show is a petition Jones participated in to have Morgan deported for his pro-control views. Morgan asks Jones why he wishes to see Morgan deported, and the ensuring diatribe flows from there. Jones’ argumentative technique is to make a very large number of claims very quickly and very loudly so that his opponent, Morgan, does not have the opportunity or the necessary time to respond. Fortunately, I do have both the time and opportunity to evaluate the specific things that Jones says. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

Jones:

They’ve taken everybody’s guns but the Swiss and the American people…

The United States has 88 guns per hundred residents while the Swiss have a mere 45. The US figure is the highest guns per capita number in the world–the next highest figure belongs to Serbia, at 58. Jones insinuates that “they” refers to bankers and financiers, but if I am not mistaken, these people, as a group, tend to vote republican, and the republicans support gun rights.

Jones:

The women of India have signed petitions to get firearms because the police can’t and won’t protect them…

There have been around 1,200 requests for firearms by Indian women since the recent rape saga commenced in that country. With a population of over 500 million women, this is a trivial number. While it is true that much needs to be done in India about rape, surely the problem there is not that the women don’t have guns, it’s that India has a sexist culture reinforced by lax law enforcement. The Indian government needs to make reforms in that area, not give Indian women guns that may very well be used against them by their own family members or friends–American women who live in gun-owning households are three times as likely to be themselves murdered as their gunless counterparts.

Jones:

20% crime drop in the last nine years, real violent crime because more guns mean less crime, Britain took the guns 15, 16 years ago, tripling of your overall violent crime…

Nine years ago references 2004, the year the assault weapons ban expired. What Jones neglects to mention is that the US violent crime rate began dropping long before the ban expired, in 1994–the year the ban was imposed. From 2004 on, the rate at which violent crime fell actually begins to slow down, implying the inverse of his conclusion:

As for Britain’s violent crime rate? The ban on hand guns happened in 1997. Even as Britain’s population has grown in the nineties, the total number of incidents has continued to fall:

On this particular point, Jones does not merely mislead, he is simply wrong.

Jones:

Hitler took the guns, Stalin took the guns, Mao took the guns…

This is a case of reductio ad Hitlerum–connecting a policy with Hitler (or any widely recognised bad individual or government) to imply that therefore the policy is bad. To demonstrate the fallacy, let me offer an argument that is just as valid or invalid:

  1. Hitler was a bad man.
  2. Hitler liked to paint.
  3. Painting is bad, and if you paint then you are no different from Hitler.

A connection must be demonstrated between the thing being associated with Hitler and some source or cause as to why Hitler was bad. Jones does not provide that, and Jones leaves out mention of many of the completely benevolent regimes that have, as he puts it, “taken the guns”–namely, according to Jones, every country other than the US and Switzerland. Unless all countries besides the US and Switzerland have some disproportionate tendency to be fascist, this point of Jones’ is irrelevant.

Jones:

1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms…the republic will rise again if you attempt to take our guns

I think it’s hard to argue in any seriousness that states would secede from the union over gun control. But let’s say, for the sake of having fun with the notion, that the red states would. Who wins?

Antagonists Combined GDP (Trillions of Dollars) Combined Manpower (Millions of People)
Blue States 9.8 179.1
Red States 4.8 133.8

Inarguably the red states lose, both because they would lack the funding to best the blue states in an arms race to wield the best military technology currently available and because on top of that, they have fewer people to work with in the first place.

Jones:

number one cause of death is suicide now because they give people suicide mass murder pills

Here Jones is referencing anti-depressant drugs, which have scientifically a mixed record. In many cases they have been shown to get results and help people overcome depression, while simultaneously increasing the risk of suicide in others. It is the task of the psychiatric profession to work out whether prescribing the drugs in any given case is a good idea or not, for psychiatrists are the ones educated on the pills and the effects they have. The rest of us are lay people of no significant expertise whose opinions have no value. Jones has no degree in psychiatry and should leave this problem to those that do.

Jones:

74% of [incidence of gun murder in the US] were gang related, gang bangers shooting each other

The only possible implication of this line is that the life of a gang member is of less value and consequently gun violence is less of a problem than the data implies. To the extent that gang members are less productive members of society due to their employment in criminal activity, this is true, but their gang membership is nonetheless a social problem deriving from our failure to invest in the communities in which they live and in their opportunity. Jones, whose day job is hosting a conservative radio talk show, is only serving to highlight other negative social consequences deriving ultimately from his own ideology.

Jones:

you’ve [England] got hordes of people burning down cities and beating old women’s brains out everyday, they arrest people in England if they defend themselves, that’s on record, my god, you’ve got a total police state, everybody’s fleeing that country

England has the third highest net migration figure in the world and remains a very popular place for people to go to for all kinds of purposes (including myself, presently at the University of Warwick on a Tier IV student visa). The issue with regard to migration in England is not one of “everyone is fleeing” but one of “too many people are coming”:

The incidents Jones references are connected to real things. The 2011 riots happened and occasionally yes, an old woman gets beat up. These are isolated incidents, however–they do not happen constantly or with high frequency. Most countries have, at some time or another, experienced riots, the United States included. Terrible crimes sometimes occur everywhere; that’s anecdotal. What’s important is that, statistically, on average, the UK outperforms the United States across the various crime statistics and that this is directly connected with strong gun control laws in the UK and correspondingly weak laws in the US. It should also be pointed out that British law does permit self-defence–it only bars excessive or unreasonable force. While Britain does have far and away more CCTV cameras per capita than any other country on earth, it is the country that invented most of the liberties much of the western world holds so dear and continues, for the most part, to uphold them. Calling it a “total police state” is quite hyperbolic.

To issue one point in defence of Jones, he does say one thing that, while completely unrelated to the argument he was having with Morgan, did have the virtue of being accurate:

why don’t you [Morgan] go back and face the charges for the hacking scandal? Why did you get fired from the Daily Mirror for making up fake stories?

Morgan was fired from the Daily Mirror after publishing fake photos that had appeared to show British soldiers abusing an Iraqi, and he was implicated by the Leveson inquiry in Britain’s recent phone-hacking scandal. All that said, I remain unpersuaded that he ought to be deported for any reason having to do with his political views on guns and gun violence, an issue upon which Morgan seems to be quite on target with his facts.