Quite some time ago, I realized that much of ‘the debate’ is centered on proving the other side wrong, by citing sources on your own side to show the other side is not telling the whole truth. The problem is that the other side then responds by citing sources on their side, to show that your sources are not telling the whole truth. Of course, all this “they’re not being completely honest” can have some dishonesty mixed in to exaggerate things, eventually degrading everything into “my sources are right, and your sources are wrong”.
How to deal with this conundrum? The answer is surprisingly simple. Just approach the debate with the assumption that every single source on your side, is completely worthless. They are going to spend a lot of effort in casting doubts on sources on your side, so why waste your time in defending them? Of course, that doesn’t mean you just give up.
The other side is fond of starting statements with “According to the CDC…”, so maybe it’s a good idea to take a look at what the CDC is working with. In the old usenet days, the CDC did provide some raw data, but they weren’t too helpful. Now, things are much easier.
The biggest problem with the CDC’s WISQARS system, is that it lumps criminal homicide and justified homicide (such as self-defense) into one category. Even with that limitation, it does provide a handy quick reference about statistics on firearm related deaths (the system also has a section on non-fatal injuries that needed medical treatment). So when the other side makes some claim about children being accidentally shot, you can look up the CDC’s data and provide the actual numbers.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports is another useful source.
The biggest drawback to the UCRs, is that it’s not as handy as the CDC’s WISQARS, so you’ll have to do a little more digging through their numbers.
When the other side makes a claim, look at the source they are citing. If they don’t cite a source, ask for one. Then look for data directly from that source. Quite often, they will take statements or data out of context, and looking at the source will show how they skewed things.
You can also search for other sources on their side, that are making similar claims. Once they start skewing things, you should be able to find contradicting claims on at least some of the topics, because they are each trying to make the ‘out of context’ claims apply to their individual points. Which would be more effective in responding to their quoting a claim from the Brady Campaign? …citing something from the NRA that says their claim is not using the right numbers? …or citing something from the Violence Policy Center that says their claim is not using the right numbers?