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Defeating the Gun Control Complacency Argument

Defeating the Gun Control Complacency Argument

Even the amount of public pressure brought on by the massacre of primary school students wasn’t enough to force meaningful federal change on guns

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One of the most popular Con arguments at Blue Key was “Complacency,” claiming that if universal background checks (UBCs) are supported that it is less likely that other stronger gun control measures will pass because people will become complacent – thinking that the problem of gun violence is solved– and because advocates of gun control will have less political capital – political “juice”/support available to spend on other gun control arguments.

The link evidence that claims that more limited gun control measures will make people more complacent is strong, but this argument suffers from a number of significant flaws that I will detail in the rest of the essay.

-There is no uniqueness evidence that other more significant gun control measures will be passed in the future

-“Movements” disadvantages are circular, which is why people stopped running them as disadvantages in policy years ago

– There is no comparative evidence that says any measure that could even conceivably pass in the future is more effective than UBCs or would work nation-wide

-While the strong part of the argument, some of the link evidence is suspect

Let’s look at each of these problems in more detail

*The Uniqueness Question

In order to win the complacency argument the Con has to win that stronger gun control measures will emerge in thee status quo in response to movements such as Moms Demand Action that place on legislatures to pass gun control measures.

In the United States, there are two levels of government that could support the passage of gun control measures – the federal level and the state level.

At the federal level, both houses of the Congress and the Presidency are controlled by Republicans who are incredibly opposes to gun control and whose campaigns are heavily supported by the gun lobby. The idea that the current Congress is going to pass gun control measures that are stronger than universal background checks is absurd.

Here are some arguments as to why significant gun control will never occur at the federal level —

(a) The last significant piece of gun control that passed n Congress was in 1994 under the Clinton administration, and when the Congress was also Democratic. No legislation has passed since.

(b) As noted by the Business Insider on October 28, despite public support for gun control legislation, it will not pass

Every major gun control bill proposed since the Las Vegas massacre is losing ground in Congress. There’s been little progress on major gun control legislation introduced into Congress since the deadly massacre in Las Vegas earlier this month. The push to ban bump stocks, implement tougher background checks, and enforce smart gun technology have all fallen by the wayside. A majority of voters support stricter gun laws, but there’s a lack of bipartisan support in Congress. A little more than three weeks after a gunman killed 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas, gun control advocates are still pushing for legislation to help prevent future massacres, but most of the legislation has already stalled in Congress. After it was revealed that the Las Vegas shooter used bump stocks to increase how fast he could shoot, there seemed to be wide bipartisan support for regulating accessories that turn semi-automatic weapons into fully-automatic ones. Even the National Rifle Association, a staunch pro-gun lobby, said it was willing to consider regulating bump stocks. As with many gun control pushes, the effort has already fallen by the wayside despite the support. A Politico poll released in October found that 64% of voters support stricter gun laws, but wide disparities exist between Republicans and Democrats. 83% of Democrats support stricter laws whereas 49% of Republican voters support them. (Business Insider, October 28,

© Interest fades soon after shootings even after massacres of school children

Christian Tilley, 10-31-17, After Deadly Attacks, Global Attention Fades Quickly,

After deadly attacks, global attention fades quickly By Cristen Tilley, Ben Spraggon and Josh Byrd Interactive Digital Storytelling team Updated yesterday at 11:42pm Published Tue at 3:10pm Every time there is a major mass shooting in the United States, there is a flurry of debate about gun control. In the days following the latest — in which one man in Las Vegas killed 58 people and injured more than 500 — US President Donald Trump said it was not the right time to talk about gun laws: “We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes on.” Likewise, other commentators told the public that pushing for debate on guns in the immediate aftermath of a shooting would politicise the deaths. It’s now one month since the Las Vegas shooting. But our saturated media environment means there is a narrow window for debate before the conversation moves on — Google search traffic tells a stark story. 100% searchinterest Jun 1, 2014Oct 22, 2017Sydney siegeCharlie HebdoGarissa Uni attackCharleston shootingParis attackSan Bernardino shootingJakarta bombingBrussels attackNice attackPressure cooker bombBerlin attackLondon attackManchester bombingVegas shooting The phrase “issue-attention cycle” describes the way in which public attention peaks for a short time following an event, and then fades. The story becomes less talked-about, we move on, and the chance to make change disappears until the next time. In years gone by, “media mentions” (the number of times a phrase was used in news articles or reports) were used to demonstrate this effect. But today we have Google Trends data, giving us an insight into what people are thinking about, minus the media filter. When applied to terrorist attacks or shootings that gain global attention — for example ‘Sydney siege’ or ‘Manchester bombing’ — the search data shows the same story again and again. If we focus on US searches following mass shootings, the pattern is similar. And searches for information about ‘gun control’ tend to be much lower than for information about the events themselves. The only shooting to show a different pattern was the 2012 massacre of 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 100% searchinterest SHOOTING GUNCONTROL 1 week2 weeksVirginia techAuroraNewtownNavy YardCharlestonSan BernardinoOrlandoLas Vegas But even the amount of public pressure brought on by the massacre of primary school students wasn’t enough to force meaningful federal change on guns. Perhaps after Las Vegas — the largest mass shooting in modern US history — there would be a huge public push for more regulation? Google Trends data shows various spikes in searches for “gun control” in the United States over the past 10 years. Virginia Tech Obama elected Aurora cinema Newtown Assault weapon ban defeated Obama speech Las Vegas 20072017Gun control searches There was clearly a peak in interest after the Newtown massacre, but much lower peaks in search interest since then, including after Las Vegas. Many of the other peaks coincided with then-president Barack Obama choosing to put it on the national agenda. Mr Obama signed executive orders aimed at restricting gun violence but could not get Congress to pass relevant laws. He grew increasingly frustrated after each mass shooting before signalling in early 2016 that it was up to his successor to carry the baton.

You should also note that these cards say that despite the popular support for gun control measures that Congress will not act on these because there is not enough support by legislatures, proving that the movements are useless.

Of course, perhaps movement pressure could occur at the state level, pressuring state governments to pass significant gun control measures.

Sure, but these state level really has the same problem at the federal level.

  • First, the majority state government chambers and governorships are controlled by Republicans.

Stephen Wolfe, November 14, 2016,, Republicans now dominate state government, with 32 legislatures and 33 governors

Following the 2014 midterm wave, Republicans dominated state legislatures at a rate not seen since the Civil War. Democrats had hoped to rebound in 2016, but thanks in part to Trump’s resilience and widespread Republican gerrymandering, they only made modest gains. Democrats flipped four chambers, but lost control of three, leaving Republicans in charge of 68 state legislative chambers and Democrats just 31.

Republicans are strongly opposed to government control.

© Any example they can cite as to a state adopting some pro gun control measure is an anomoloy, as overall states have been pushing for reductions in gun control laws

Muskal, 2015, (Michael, Los Angeles Times, How Have States Responded to the Gun Control Debate? Los Angeles Times,

The NRA is at work at the state level promoting pro-gun and pro-hunting legislation, said spokeswoman Amy Hunter. “The states continue to pass pro-Second Amendment legislation by a more than a 3-to-1 margin,” she said in an email. According to the group’s count, 33 states approved 98 NRA-backed pro-gun or pro-hunting bills in 2013. That same year, 10 states signed 21 anti-gun bills.

So, generally speaking , the idea that there is some solution to gun violence that is coming in the future that supporting UBCs would trade-off with is absurd.

*The argument is Circular

The problem with movements-style disadvantage is that they are circular. What do I mean by that?   Well, let’s just pretend that somewhere somehow some gun control measure will pass…once that happens, according to the logic of the Con’s argument, the movement will become demobilized. So, as soon as it starts to work, it fails by becoming complacent and demobilizing itself.

*Comparatively, UBCs make more sense

Why? Some arguments

(a) They are nation-wide. As noted in the first essay, the “United States” refers to either the US federal government or the 50 states acting together (or both). So, the Pro can argue that the resolution means the Pro can advocate that UBCs be adopted nation-wide. At best, the Con will be able to win that a few states may adopt some gun control measures in the future.

(b) Persuasive comparison. Hopefully the Pro constructive will be full of reasons that UBCs will reduce gun crime. At best, the Con will offer a few examples of other gun control measures that could be adopted in the future but will likely not have evidence that these measures will even work let alone be better than UBCs.

© They won’t be adopted by a majority of states. Texas, Kentucky, North Carolina adopting strong gun control measures? That’s absurd on its face. And why would Congress agree to strong measures than UBCs when they can’t even agree to UBCs?

*The link evidence

The link evidence that says weaker gun control measures generate “complacency” is good , but it has some limitations that are worth noting, even if answering the link is not your primary strategy against this argument (which I wouldn’t suggest).

First, the cards I heard were from 2008. 2008? I mean if movements were active at pushing gun control measures and only had to fear complacency, why haven’t strong gun control measures been passed since 2008?

Second, some of the cards actually say that advocates pushed multiple measures, including closing the background check loophole, and succeeded at getting a few passed at the same time (In liberal states, of course). If they read this card to try to prove uniqueness, they take out their own internal link.

Third, who currently has political capital to pass gun control legislation? The Democrats are in the minority at almost all levels of government. Republicans oppose even reasonable (bump stock bans) gun control measures.


Generally , I thin it will be easy for the Pro to argue that UBCs are more likely to reduce gun violence than hypoethical and future measures that may or may not pass in a limited number of states in the future, especially since the Con will have no evidence that says these other measures are better than UBCs.

Cross-fire Questions

If you find yourself debating this argument, I suggest asking the following C-X questions.

  1. What “effective” gun control measures that are better than UBCs do you support?
  2. Do you have any evidence that legislatures will enact these national wide in the next even 5 years?
  3. Do you have any evidence Congress will enact any of these measures?
  4. How many states will enact them?
  5. Do you have any evidence that quantifies how large of reduction in gun violence that any of these measures will result in?
  6. If they are radical measures that involve taking away people’s guns, do you have any evidence that the courts won’t strike them down?  This is a good question/argument because in DC vs. Heller (2008, the last major Supreme Court gun case), that Supreme Court said that while reasonable regulations on guns were constitutional, that the government cannot ban guns.  So, at best, any regulation that legislatures will pass in the future can only be modest/reasonable, because it is not possible to have more significantly restrictive gun laws.

Salvaging The Argument

This argument was popular last weekend, so you don’t have to completely give up if you want to win.

First, if you are better than other teams, you will probably beat them. If you can beat them with this argument, you are really good. So, just emphasize raw skills.

Second, in any community, once people start to believe the truth of something, the argument sort of takes on a truth of its own. If this argument was popular and won a lot of debates last weekend, its credibility in the community will be high and you will be able to persuade people with it.

Third, you can sort of create a fake news job. Policy debaters do this when going for politics disadvantages that really aren’t unique. Basically, they read a ton of evidence – short cards – on some point to make it look like something is true. So, have a bunch of evidence that describes all different types of gun control measures that are being debated now at certain levels of government that could pass and string it together the make it look like gun control will actually pass.

Fourth, have something specific, for example, a potential bump stocks ban. Have evidence that says a bump stocks ban will pass now and that (a) bump stock bans reduce gun violence by X amount and that bump stock bans are better than UBCs. Since you will be able to make strong arguments against the workability of UBCs and they won’t be as well prepared to debate the desirability of something like a bump stocks ban.