The Illogic of a Passionate President

obama-spockPresident Obama has finally taken action on gun violence. Billed as one of the most cerebral presidents in history – jokingly compared to Spock on more than one occasion – he has apparently gotten in touch with his human half. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and numerous other news outlets ran photos of an emotional president fed up with gun violence and ready to take action. The problem is not that we should doubt the sincerity of his emotions, but that we should question the logic of his actions. Here are five reasons why the president’s actions on gun violence frustrates his critics on both the left and right. Continue reading

Guns In the Garden of Eden

Paradise spoiled yet again.

Paradise spoiled yet again.

Schools Should Not Be Afraid of Armed Guards

In 2008, I moved back to Texas after living some 20 years on the East Coast. Eager to contrast the two cultures, I did not always find the differences I expected, but on the matter of guns I was not disappointed. Apart from occasional references to hunting, my East Coast conversations had rarely revolved around guns. I didn’t know of anyone in my neighborhood just outside Philadelphia who even owned a gun, much less wanted to talk about firearms. Doubtless the story was different in Philadelphia proper, but even there the dominant urban Democratic culture had long since embraced gun control, and educated opinion, for what it was worth, took the same side. Here in Houston, by contrast, guns seem to be an almost daily topic of conversation, among all classes. I have brought little more than Yankee ignorance to these discussions. “I used to be a native Texan,” I recently told my gun-owning neighbor, apologetically. Continue reading

Fear and Ignorance at the NRA Convention


The National Rifle Association is holding its annual meeting in Houston this weekend.  It’s about twenty minutes from where I sit.  I won’t be going.  That’s not a political statement.  To the contrary, I am an NRA member.  I just hate fighting crowds and they are expecting 70,000 people to turn out for the convention.  And of course, there are the protesters outside the convention hall.

Protesting the NRA these days has become very fashionable.  This past week in Houston, a school district canceled a gun safety program on its campus when it found out that the curriculum was provided by the NRA.  It was a knee-jerk reaction to be sure, but indicative of a larger problem in the gun control debate. The problem is that many people have a negative response to guns, and it’s an emotional response fueled by ignorance, lack of exposure, and fear.  I understand that.  Lack of familiarity always makes people uncomfortable.  Snakes are scary.  Dark places are scary.  Meeting new people can be scary.  Lack of familiarity with guns can make them scary too.  Continue reading

Ad Misericordiam and Machine Gun Preacher

ImageOne of my favorite elements of teaching Logic is finding good and bad reasoning out “in the wild” as I like to say. Looking at argument forms or fallacies in the classroom is not unlike looking at pathogens or organisms in a lab. Finding them in their native environment is, for academics like me, something of a thrill. I just finished teaching a module on common logical fallacies (argumentation that contains characteristic errors) and, as usual, found myself staring at the real thing. The fallacy is Argumentum ad Misericordiam – the appeal to pity.

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