Can Your Students Write the Opposing Argument to This Gun Control Essay?

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Will you teach students the art of persuasion this year? Can they argue against something they believe in?

As a longtime writing teacher, I found it useful to challenge students to argue against something they favor. For example, most of my middle schoolers were eager to persuade me and others that gun control is a good idea.

When I asked them to write the opposing argument to an essay like the one below, things became very interesting. If the topic is too sensitive, choose something like school uniforms, but make them argue in favor of unis. Then, watch the sparks fly.

America: It’s Time to Break up With Guns

By Anna Turner

Growing up in gun-touting, camo-wearing, deer-hunting Indiana (my hometown hosted the NRA’s annual convention), I’ve heard every argument against gun control. Before I go any further, I’d like to debunk these arguments:

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” This is a very astute point: People do kill people. But why make it easier for them to obtain weapons with which to kill people? There will always be murderers ready to forge a blood-stained path — we don’t need to pave it for them with access to guns and a culture that, not only enables, but encourages gun use.

“Criminals will still sell guns. You can’t get rid of them.” There will always be a black market for drugs, weapons, human organs, etc. But when drugs are on the black market, they become a one-way ticket to prison. They become a dark horse, a risk that isn’t always worth it. As a society, we need to enforce the idea that guns are illegal and, to be blunt, bad. Right now, we are a society that says, “guns are awesome! Everyone should have ten!” It would be a lot easier to minimize the number of firearms if the word “gun” were synonymous with “prison bunk bed” instead of “kick-ass American awesomeness.”

“How will I protect my family if I don’t have a gun?” Assuming you have a gun solely for protection, you most likely keep it locked up, hidden away. If someone breaks into your home, what are the chances that you will be able to retrieve said weapon from your sneaky hiding place, a) without making noise, and b) in the short amount of time you’ll have before the intruder sees you? You should focus more on calling 911, because then you might actually protect your family. Or, and here’s a crazy idea, buy better locks for your doors and windows.

“Guns aren’t the only weapons. If someone wants to kill, they’ll kill. Are you gonna make knives illegal, too?” A long-fire gun can kill a person in less than one second. A knife takes more time, and there is a better chance for the victim to alert someone to what is happening. So, yes, other weapons exist. But none are as deadly as a pulled trigger. We can’t stop murder, but if we can make it harder to commit, that’s a good thing.

“I shouldn’t have to give up my gun because some crazy person shot up a bunch of kids. That has nothing to do with me.” I challenge you to look in the eyes of a mother who has lost her child in a shooting spree, and tell her this. Tell her that her child’s death means nothing and will change nothing because you, as a gun owner, will change nothing.

Following the Isla Vista shooting in 2014, congress approved a $19.5 million budget to heighten background check measures on gun sales. While this is a step in the right direction, it can only be enforced on legal gun sales monitored by the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) and does nothing for illegal gun sales. While it may slow legal gun sales, that doesn’t necessarily mean guns won’t get into the wrong hands.

Other Countries and Gun Violence

Perhaps we should look to countries with minimal gun violence and take a lesson, because whatever they’re doing seems to be working:

  • Japan has as few as two firearm-related deaths per year, due largely in part to near-complete banning of firearm-ownership. According to the Center for Disease Control’s 2010 data, America has 11,078 firearm-related deaths per year.
  • Australia, whose less than 1 in 100,000 firearms mortality is 10% that of the United States’ 10 in 100,000 (according to, turned its gun culture around by banning rapid-firing long guns and initiating a gun buy-back program.
  • United Kingdom has one of the lowest firearm homicide rates in the world (39 killed in 2011, as opposed to the United States’ 8,853 firearm homicides in 2011), and some point to its low gun ownership numbers: only 6.72 firearms per 100 people.

While it helps to look for inspiration from other countries, the root of the problem lies in America’s view of guns. We need to change how we see these weapons if we want the firearm violence to end. The reason eradicating gun violence seems impossible is because we make it impossible. Until guns are something we can live without, gun violence will always be something we have to live with.

It seems silly that we stand idly by as our country’s children and innocent adults are being senselessly murdered, silly that we do nothing to fix our obsession with guns. Americans continue to sit on the sidelines as mass shootings become a thing of regularity. We gasp, we cry, we mourn, we vow “never again,” but what are we as a country doing to put an end to these homicides and an end to our love affair with firearms?

It’s time for gun owners to stop being selfish. It’s time to realize that you living without a gun could mean our children living without gun violence.

America, it’s time to break up with guns.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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