Friday, March 25, 2011

Activity 3: Analysis of Letter by Tan Siah Wei (19)

Dear Congressman

I have been so impressed with your past voting record, and I am hoping that you will continue to make excellent decisions on behalf of your state.  As a concerned parent who lost a child to a gun accident, I am writing to urge you to support the gun control legislation that will be on the November ballot.

The first paragraph is partially ethos and pathos. Firstly, he states clearly that he admires the politician, appealing to the politicians emotions, who would be more likely to read if he were being praised in the letter rather than one that only addresses the problem directly. Sure, the president could do that, but John is only a citizen. By showing that he has lost a child, he does not need to express much of his feelings at the start as the politician should know or be able to imagine the citizen's feelings. This is another show of pathos. Also, at the same time, by showing your child had died because of a gun accident, the parent shows to the congressman that he has enough knowledge and experience to talk about such issues.

The problem with guns is fairly straightforward: they make it easy to kill or injure a person. Did you know that, according to the F.B.I., approximately 60 percent of all murder victims in the United States in 1994 (about 16,000 people) were killed with firearms? According to estimates, firearm attacks injured another 70,000 victims, some of whom were left permanently disabled. In 1985 (the latest year for which this particular data is available), the cost of shootings--either by others, through self-inflicted wounds, or in accidents--was estimated to be more than $14 billion nationwide for medical care, long-term disability, and premature death. It is much higher now.

In the second paragraph, he talks about the obvious use of guns to reinforce the reasons as to why his child was killed accidentally, using logos as an introduction. Next, using ethos, he provides extremely detailed facts and figures about fatalities and disabilities by firearms to show his knowledge in the field. By also stating that the cost of treating gun wounds is higher than the cost of a gun indirectly, he uses logos to encourage the congressman to join the gun control legislation to reduce costs from death.

One of the problems with making it easier for citizens to have handguns is that in robberies and assaults, victims are far more likely to die when the perpetrator is armed with a gun than when he or she has another weapon or is unarmed.  Opponents of gun control will say that this does not matter because most criminals buy their guns on the black market.  However, not only do a number of criminals purchase guns legally, but the majority of those that do purchase them on the black market are buying guns that were purchased legally and then stolen—ones that would therefore not be on the black market if our gun control laws were more strict to begin with. Did you know that residents of homes where a gun is present are 5 times more likely to experience a suicide than residents of homes without?  The fact remains that a gun makes it easier to commit suicide in a fit of rage, depression, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

As for the third paragraph, he tries to imply to the politician the danger of a gun compared to other weapons and the risk of death. This is using more ethos. He even uses other's knowledge to add to his own, like the black market actually steals guns to sell, and uses logos and ethos combined to show that if they did not sell guns, then there would be no black market, once again putting all the blame on gun retailers. Using some pathos and logos, he states that having a gun in a home is more dangerous when a person is under mental influence and may just commit suicide with a gun.

Self-defense is commonly cited as a reason to own a gun. This is the explanation given by 20 percent of all gun owners and 40 percent of all handgun owners contacted for a household survey conducted in 1999.  However research has shown that a gun kept in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a member of the household, or friend, than an intruder.  Furthermore, when a civilian tries to use a firearm to resist a violent assault, it actually increases the victim's (civilian’s) risk of injury and death.

He uses mostly logos and ethos in this paragraph. It is true and logical that most people give self-defence as an excuse for owning guns, and the percentage of answers is yet another show of knowledge. By showing the increase in the risk of hurt and death, he repeats his process of ethos (its really getting too much).

A study of 743 gunshot deaths by Dr. Arthur Kellermann and Dr. Donald Reay published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that 84% of these homicides occurred during fights in the home. Only 2 of the 743 gunshot deaths occurring in the home involved an intruder killed during an attempted entry.  The evidence revealed in the Kellermann study is consistent with data reported by the FBI.  In 1993, there were 24,526 people murdered, 13,980 with handguns, yet only 251 justifiable homicides by civilians using handguns.

Names. Big names and numbers for the fifth paragraph. By scrutinizing a study of gunshot deaths by two doctors, then showing that it coordinates with current data from the FBI, he goes into a lot of ethos to once again convince the congressman. While this impressive spread of information would have impressed the recipient at first, the whole show of ethos is starting to get very repetitive.

The reason that I have such an intense interest in this topic is that my son was killed by a gun (not my own) that belonged to a person who only wanted to protect his household, but it fell into the hands of a child by mistake.  Do you want to be responsible for supporting legislation that would make more such incidents occur?

In the sixth paragraph, however, he explains his obsession with gun deaths more clearly, as the reader would probable have forgotten the reason for this letter in the first place. He implies pathos here, which was lacking in the first five paragraphs. He explains his son's death in detail, and even asks a rhetorical question, which implies to the politician that the citizen was indirectly blaming him for his son's death.

Knowing all this, do you really think we can continue to allow citizens to buy guns so easily?  If we continue making it so easy, our nation will continue to have gun-related domestic fatalities.  I believe in our rights as citizens of the United States, especially the right to LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  These rights are unquestionably threatened by making it easy for the common citizen to buy a gun. Please, please vote for stricter laws.

After making his point, he asks another rhetorical question to enforce the many points that he made earlier. Here, he uses a combination of ethos, pathos and logos. After talking about his son's death, it is logical that he would expect the congressman to say no to his rhetorical question. Next is another pinch of ethos/logos, talking about more deaths because guns are so readily available. He uses pathos when he talks about the citizen's right to LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even capitalizing life to emphasize the disrespect a gun wielder has for life. Lastly, by pleading for stricter laws, one can almost imagine him going down on his knees and pleading. This is short sentence of pathos, full of impact.

Yours sincerely

John Simmons

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