Email #67, Subject: “no evidence”?

You recently defended your vote to strike a regulation that barred the mentally disabled from owning guns because: “There is no evidence suggesting that those receiving disability benefits from Social Security are a threat to public safety.” While this is, to the best of my knowledge, true, I was surprised by your use of this reasoning. There is also no evidence suggesting that Syrian refugees are a threat to public safety. When the 9th Circuit judges reviewing the President’s immigration ban specifically questioned whether there was any evidence of increased risk, the administration’s lawyers had none.

Despite this lack of evidence, you have outspokenly supported the President’s ban on seven Muslim-majority nations. The ban included even individuals who have already been vetted and hold green cards. Since there is no evidence suggesting that green-card holders from the seven Muslim-majority nations are a threat to public safety, why do you support the ban?

In the case of the mentally disabled, you use evidence of a threat as your criterion. For green-card holders and refuges, you do not. This creates the appearance of meaningless rhetoric. In the case of the mentally disabled it appears that you referred to the absence of evidence only because it sounded good, not because it was the actual basis for your decision. If it were your basis, you would also be opposing the Muslim ban, which you are not. Alternatively, you could ignore the absence of evidence to endorse both the ban and the rule preventing the mentally disabled from owning guns. That would be consistent too. But that is not your position either.

You instead maintain a contradictory attitude toward evidence. This implies that evidence is meaningless to you. You evoke it when it’s convenient and ignore it when it is inconvenient. This is the norm of advertising not of responsible governance.

Could you please issue a statement identifying in which situations evidence is relevant to you?

Chris Gavaler


Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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