Why Gun Violence Prevention Advocates Should Drop the Language of “Common Sense”

As I noted yesterday, I was a guest recently on the Texas Public Radio live call-in program “The Source.”

Throughout the show, the host David Martin Davies referred to “common sense” gun laws and fortunately, before the show ended, I was able to formulate a thought in response:

If we want to build some consensus, one of the things we shouldn’t talk about is common sense reform. Because what you’re saying if you use that term – which is a political term, it’s not a descriptive or analytical term – is that if you disagree with me, then you don’t have common sense. And that’s going to be a non-starter.

I later reiterated: “‘Common sense’ is a political term, it’s rhetorical, and it’s divisive.”To Davies’s question of what term we should use instead when a large proportion of the American population agrees on a particular policy proposal, I said,

We could say “widely agreed upon.” Something like that. Because then someone could say, “I guess I’m in the minority on that.” Instead of, “If you don’t agree with me, you don’t even have common sense.” That’s dismissive.”

I don’t know whether he changed his tune in the long run, but in the moment he agreed with this point. Which is something.

Maybe others trafficking in this language will agree as well?


  1. I wish I could triply-like this blog post! I’ve said the same for years.

    A variant of “If you disagree with me, then you don’t have common sense” is “If you don’t agree with me, then you are nonsensical.” This is not only dismissive, it’s portraying one’s rhetorical opponent as both stupid and/or mentally ill.

    If one’s arguments can’t stand on their merits without adding “it’s just common sense,” then one’s arguments are lacking merits.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. The problem is that, for the Left, a significant feature of Leftist thought is that they ARE superior to the rest of us uneducated rubes. They’ve gone to the right schools and can mouth all the right phrases. Our disagreement with them is prima facie evidence of not only our lack of education, but our lack of moral fitness. Asking them to give up that assumed moral superiority is asking them to give up their central motivating emotion. We rubes have been offered a chance in school to adopt the one true way that they adopted, and the fact we haven’t proves conclusively that we are not among the Elect.

    They would no more concern themselves with our thoughts on our civil rights than they would concern themselves with a plant’s thoughts on its watering schedule.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. It seems to me as though ringing up the “common sense” argument is a variant on the Appeal to Authority fallacy. Better to say “consensus” or something a little less loaded and insulting. As you said on the air, that phrase is a non-starter.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. And you’ve basically given the reasons why they WON’T give up the phrase. Ever since Aurora and Sandy Hook, they’ve been throwing around worse phrases – that the blood of the dead is on the NRA’s hands, and on the hands of everyone who “stands in the way of commonsense gun law reform”.

    So you’re basically saying to give up the phrase for doing EXACTLY what they intend, which is about like telling someone who likes to get high to give up marijuana because it gets them high.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If it weren’t a deliberate, calculated choice of phrasing by the small number of anti-gun rights activists/thought leaders who drive gun conyrol in this country I’d see an appeal to reason working. But they can’t give it up, their lack of fact and logic-based arguments means framing the discussion in terms of appeals to “concensus” and emotion are all they have. Any time they try to lay out an purely fact-based, much less logically valid, argument they lose. And they know it.

    Now, individuals who are not in the anti-rights “inner circle,” the majority of Americans who, largely due to a complicit media shaping the narrative in favor of gun control, reflexively support crafted pro-control polling and the like, are often reachable on an individual level. Once they run through (and you politely refute) their trained litany of anti-gun talking points, anyway.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Great job not accepting the premise and for shining a light on the subliminal dig, David!

    I told you about a year ago about a book I edited. I asked the author to cite you on a few things I suggested be included in the book (which he did, and they were)
    I can’t remember if I sent you the copy I promised!

    The book is entirely about the discussion-defining phrases and false narratives such as the (very effective “common sense” one you brilliantly caught), how to spot them, how to counter them and how to effectively go on the offense in rationally defining the discussion.

    The title is ‘Good Gun, Bad Guy’ by Dan Wos.

    If you never got your copy, please let me know.


    Liked by 2 people

  7. I posted something like the point of this post on the mttg blog and the person who made the comment about common sense comment posted back “huh?”. I wish would have had this post to link to then.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Great post. They just want you to be “reasonable” about “common sense” gun control – so “…if we could save just one life it will be worth it.” You know that I’ve read too many anti-gun editorials in my life here in NJ.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Make that The Democratic People’s Republic of New Jersey Tom and explains what you are reading sir. All of those are part of the leftist narrative of gun control leading to the agenda of gun confiscation.


  9. 5 Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America? It is indeed, moms.

    Join the NRA. Or the Liberal Gun Club. Or at least quit the clubs for Non-Sense.


  10. To me it boils down to what the left considers common sense, I consider Tyranny. It’s just that simple.


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