The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Worst Advice Column Ever Written?

Instructor Andy Sweeney works with a member of The Well Armed Woman Shooting Chapters at GAT Guns in East Dundee, Illinois, in 2015. (Jim Young/Reuters)

From Live Well Nebraska comes the most amusingly hysterical and extraordinarily ignorant advice column I have read in a long while. It consists of a question, posed by a man writing as “Dumbfounded Father,” and a response, offered by “syndicated columnist” Amy Dickinson. At no point in the exchange does either person range within a country mile of reality.

Dumbfounded Father begins his question as such:

Dear Amy: This week, I discovered that my intelligent, hard-working, responsible 24-year-old daughter (who lives with me) is a gun owner!

What, exactly, is the purpose of this description of his daughter? Is the implication that an intelligent, hardworking, and responsible person should not own a gun? Would the purchase be more understandable if it had been made by a stupid, lazy, and reckless person? Is it that women should not own guns (long live the patriarchy!)? Or should gun-owners be older, perhaps. He doesn’t say.

It gets worse from there:

And it’s not a normal gun, either — it is a 40-caliber semi-automatic, and she has hollow-point bullets to go with it.

It is difficult to think of a more normal gun than a 40-caliber semi-automatic pistol. If there is such a thing as a normal gun in American life, it is this one. Likewise, there is nothing especially scary about hollow-point bullets, more on which later.

He continues:

Amy, this is the kind of weapon a criminal would possess! She says it is for emergencies. There have only been two home invasions in our neighborhood in the last 11 years.

A 40-caliber semi-automatic is in no way the kind of weapon a criminal would possess. Hell, what does that even mean? Millions of Americans possess 40-caliber semi-automatic pistols. Tens of millions possess near-identical handguns in 9mm, .357 SIG, and .45 ACP, among others. There’s nothing remotely criminal about those guns, or about the people who own them.

As for his she says it is for emergencies part. If that’s what she says, then why not believe her? She’s an adult, isn’t she?


I’ve given her three choices: She can either give her weapon to me, sell it or move out in three weeks.

Give the weapon to me is an odd thing to write after this is the kind of weapon a criminal would possess — as, for that matter is, sell it (to whom: a criminal?). But the move out in three weeks part takes the cake, given that he follows it up with:

I love my daughter and would be so sad for her to move into a place that she would hardly be able to afford

The position thus far, then, is: My daughter has bought a gun for emergencies. This is irrational because we live in a safe area that has hosted only — only! — two home invasions in the past decade. In consequence, I will force her to live in a place that is more dangerous.


Dumbfounded’s question then goes fully off the rails:

but now I have to lock my bedroom door at night because I don’t know what she’s going to do.

Has there ever been a better illustration of the weird belief that the mere act of owning a firearm turns even intelligent, hard-working, responsible people into murderous psychopaths? The questioner is is talking about his own daughter. He doesn’t know what she’s going to do? He has to lock his bedroom door at night? Good Lord, man.

He concludes:

Now she says that I don’t trust her, and is barely speaking to me. How can I convince her to stop endangering us?

Well, yeah.

Amy’s response, which could have been calm and rational and tethered to reality, is arguably even worse. She writes:

Dear Dumbfounded: According to my research, possessing hollow-point bullets is illegal in 11 states; is it legal in your state to own this sort of exploding ammunition?

It is remarkable enough that a sentence that begins according to my research finishes with the characterization of hollow-point bullets as exploding ammunition. Hollow-point bullets are not exploding ammunition. They are normal bullets designed to expand on impact — which does more damage to the target and provides extra stopping power, but also makes them less likely to pass through walls or otherwise cause collateral damage.

As for the is it legal in your state to own this sort of exploding ammunition question . . . does Amy also believe that Dumbfounded’s daughter is exhibiting criminal tendencies? It’s hard to see any other implication. If it is not legal to own hollow-points in Dumbfounded’s state, his daughter must have (a) left her state; (b) bought the ammunition in another state, and (c) returned to her state in violation of the law. Does that sound likely? Or is it more likely that she was told by the guy in the gun store that hollow-points are recommended for home defense?

(Writing at Live Well Nebraska, Amy gets a lot of questions from out of state, does she?)

Amy then continues with some random statistics she Googled, a reiteration of Dumbfounded’s initial question, and some choice insinuation:

In a report published in 2015, researchers at the University of Chicago found that 31 percent of households reported having a firearm in 2014, down from about 48 percent in 1980.

According to this study, there are more guns, but concentrated in fewer households. Why must your household be one of them?

Where did your daughter get this weapon and ammunition? Has she received any safety training or certification? (Accidental gun death is a substantial risk of owning a gun.) Is she perhaps engaged in another activity outside of your household that exposes her to increased risks and makes her believe she needs to have a weapon?

And then, rather than asking, “Do you really think that your daughter intends to hurt you, you lunatic? she accepts Dumbfounded’s premise and tries to alarm him even further:

I have news for you: A locked bedroom door is no match for this weaponry; as I write this, just five days ago a father in South Carolina tragically shot and killed his own 23-year-old daughter through a closed door — when he mistook her for an intruder.

That is a sad story. But it remains the case that the likelihood of Dumbfounded’s daughter hunting him down through his locked bedroom door — intentionally, or otherwise — is close to nil. By contrast, there are between tens of thousands (on the extreme low end of the estimates) and millions (on the high end) of defensive gun uses each year. For some reason, that didn’t show up in Amy’s research.

But then it wouldn’t, would it? In her conclusion, Amy gives the game away:

I agree with your ultimatum; I also weep that there is yet another (likely unsafe) gun owner in this country.

Or, put another way: Your daughter shouldn’t have a gun, and that she does makes me weep; now that she has a gun, she will cease to be responsible and become likely unsafe, or even criminal; and you should kick her out of your house as a result.

Lovely stuff, guys.

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