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VPC’s Thanksgiving Turkey
How the Gun Control Group
Cooks Up “Proof” Against Handguns

by Sean Oberle

November 19, 2001

Gasp! Self-defense with a handgun can be dangerous and (stop the presses!) firearm experts know this! Such false shock sets the tone of the newest propaganda from Violence Policy Center (VPC), Unintended Consequences, released November 19. This “study” supposedly shows that the firearms industry keeps people in the dark about the dangers allegedly revealed even by pro-gun experts. 

But boiled down to its key elements, VPC’s propaganda consists of nothing more than one logical fallacy repeated for 90 pages to support a second logical fallacy. VPC repeats non sequitur arguments to support an over-riding straw man argument.

1) Non Sequitur: This Latin phrase means “does not follow,” and a non sequitur fallacy involves jumping to conclusions that do not follow logically from the evidence presented. For 90 pages, VPC bases non sequitur conclusions on the words of pro-gun writers.

For example, VPC claims that:

“Statements by numerous pro-gun self-defense experts demonstrate that for entirely practical reasons handguns in particular are a dangerous choice for all but a tiny minority of exceptionally well-trained people who maintain their skills with regular and intensive practice. For example, firearms instructor and respected pro-gun author Massad Ayoob defines who ought to be allowed to own and carry a handgun. He states: ‘...the license to carry concealed, deadly weapons in public is not a right but a privilege. To be worthy of this privilege, one must be both discreet and competent with the weapon. The gun-carrying man who lacks either attribute is a walking time bomb.’”

It is a non sequitur for VPC to conclude that Ayoob’s statement that “one must be both discreet and competent” means that only “a tiny minority of exceptionally well-trained people” can use handguns in self-defense. Ayoob says nothing of the sort. He does not define the number of people who are discrete and competent — he simply makes a logical and responsible statement about how gun owners should behave. If Ayoob ever has expressed the opinion that only a minority is qualified for self-defense with a handgun, VPC does not provide any evidence of his having done so.

Furthermore, VPC claims:

“However, even if the firearm owner is well-trained in gun handling skills, [Chris] Bird points out an even greater problem rarely discussed by self-defense advocates—mainly how ill-suited handguns are for self-defense. Bird writes: ‘A handgun is the hardest firearm to shoot accurately, and, even when you hit what you are shooting at, your target doesn't vaporize in a red mist like on television.’”

No, Bird does not suggest that handguns are ill-suited for self defense. He simply observes the well known fact that short-barreled firearms are harder to aim than long-barreled firearms and warns that people should not expect the situations to play out like they do in the fantasy of television. Warning about likely challenges and possible misperceptions is not the same thing as asserting that handguns are ill-suited for self defense. If Bird ever has expressed the opinion that handguns are ill-suited for self defense, VPC does not provide any evidence of his having done so.

Do you see the pattern? VPC takes the responsible and logical warnings of pro-gun writers and uses these warnings to jump to illogical conclusions. In fact, while I’m not going to repeat each one, VPC makes such non sequitur conclusions through-out the 90 pages to support the over-riding logical fallacy of its "study," a straw man argument.

2) Straw Man Argument: This fallacy involves pretending that someone holds a position or does something in order to attack the make-believe position or activity. In this case, VPC pretends that the firearm industry ignores or downplays the warnings of experts like Ayoob and Bird. 

However, the firearm industry does not ignore what these experts say. Rather, VPC has distorted what the experts say. If anything, the firearm industry ignores VPC’s distortions.

In any event, I’ll leave you with a warning of my own: VPC has done a disservice to firearm safety by distorting valid warnings into absurd statements that a logical person rejects. Do not let your logical rejection of VPC’s distortions make you reject the warnings themselves. The warnings have merit. Handgun ownership does come with challenges and dangers. Be educated. Be prepared. Be responsible. Separate the valid warnings from the propaganda and heed the warnings.

Sean Oberle is a Featured Writer and gun control analyst for He can be reached at View other articles from him at

Related Reading

Other Lies and Distortions from Violence Policy Center

Lies and Distortions from the Brady Campaign

Lies, Distortions and Illegal Practices of the Million Mom March


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After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. — William Burroughs, 1992

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