Amitai Etzioni and Bill Clinton

Ronald Huereca
English 125/3DDP
Critique Paper
4/11/2001
Grade: 94%

“Communitarianism, A New Threat for Gun Owners” by Christopher C. Little is about how communitarians are slowly moving up in politics in order to pass stronger gun legislation that adheres to views of Amitai Etzioni. Christopher C. Little opens up his essay stating that a new philosophical approach called communitarianism led by Amitai Etzioni is sweeping through Washington D.C., creating opposition to the political philosophy of the constitution’s framers. Little tries to get the attention of all gun control lobbyists that feel that communitarians are endangering their rights defined in the Constitution. Little tries to expose the views of Etzioni, as well as numerous politicians that he feels share communitarian views that will affect the gun control legislation in the country. Little begins to categorize communitarians as people who argue that rights must be balanced with duties, that public safety should be over liberty, and that the group should be over the individual. However, even though Etzioni’s views are the ones at question, Little accuses others of having communitarian views that are not rightly justified.

Amitai Etzioni, a professor of American studies at George Washington University, is the man apparently behind the communitarians advance towards gun control. Etzioni believes that domestic disarmament, the removal of arms from citizens and police officers, is the best way to go for gun control. Etzioni argues that the Second Amendment only permits a state to maintain a uniformed militia, not for an individual to be able to carry a gun. However, instead of Little attacking only Etzioni in his essay, he attacks numerous politicians for sharing Etzioni’s communitarian views, most notably Bill Clinton. In Littles’ attacks on the politicians, Little commits several logical fallacies as well as false justifications towards Clinton’s views.

Little begins one of his paragraphs with a Composition fallacy, which suggests that a characteristic of an individual is a characteristic of the whole. Little quotes “The Communitarian Reporter” saying that the White House is “seeking to move along communitarian lines.” Little adds that the White House is indeed moving along communitarian lines because of recent speeches and writings showing a communitarian standpoint by Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Vice-President Al-Gore. However, just because Bill Clinton and Al Gore share a communitarian standpoint does not mean the entire White House administration is prepared to move along communitarian lines. Little is grouping a couple of speeches to the entire views of the White House. Little commits the same Composition fallacy when he claims that the ideology of communitarianism is rooted in the White House due to the appointment of communitarian William Galston. Basically Little is saying that since Galston is a communitarian, the entire White House must be moving along communitarian lines.

Further on in the essay, Little commits another fallacy called Division. Divison as a fallacy is a suggestion that since a group as a whole shares a characteristic, all the people within the group share the same characteristic as well. Little states that Bill Clinton believes in the right to keep and bear arms up to the extent of recreational gun use. Etzioni is quoted earlier in the essay stating that he feels that gun owners can have private collections, and that hunting can be permitted as long as the weapons are adequately modified. Little explains that both Clinton and Etzioni share the same beliefs in retrospect to gun control because they both are for ownership of guns as long as the guns are for “recreational” or “sport” use. Little then states that since Etzioni’s views are communitarian, and Bill Clinton shares the same views as Etzioni, then Bill Clinton must be a communitarian as well.

Adding to his argument towards Clinton, Little then explains how Clinton is voicing his concerns towards communitarianism and the right to keep and bear arms. Little quotes Bill Clinton saying that the NRA is fixated on the right to keep and bear arms, and that the NRA is unable to think about the trauma that millions face with guns each year. Little adds that Bill Clinton’s words are supportive of the right to keep and bear arms, however Clinton’s actions depict otherwise. Little states that Clinton’s home state of Arkansas has a long tradition for hunting, which is why Clinton would give lip service for the right to keep and bear arms in order not to lose support of his home state. I believe that the comparison of Clinton’s beliefs to Arkansas’ hunting tradition was irrelevant to the rest of the essay. Throughout the entire essay, Little criticizes the politicians for their actions, their words, and the people that work under them. However, Little throws in this inapt statement that the only reason Bill Clinton would say something good about the right to keep and bear arms is because of his home state and it’s tradition for hunting. I think Little’s statement about Arkansas is unfair because Clinton’s statements should not be held accountable to where he was from.

In conclusion, I feel Little presented a good argument that communitarians are a serious threat to gun owners in his essay. However, I feel Little attacked the wrong people in making his point. His essay should have concentrated mainly on Amitai Etzioni, who according to his essay, is the leader of the communitarian movement for gun control legislation. I felt that Little’s essay would have made a better point had he attacked Etzioni in more detail. Furthermore, I think Little should have left Bill Clinton out of his essay, because Little continually compares Clinton’s views as being the same as Etzioni’s and commits several logical fallacies in the process. Little would have made a much better essay had he elaborated and showed more evidence towards Etzioni’s communitarian views.

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