I apologize for the length of this two-part entry, but the preponderance of fact- and reasoning-free anti-gun hysteria in the wake of the Oregon shooting has even exceeded Sandy Hook levels, a development I didn’t think was possible. An emotional national reaction to such a tragedy is fine, and natural, as long as it doesn’t stampede policy-makers and make the public dumber and more ignorant than they already are regarding basic rights, the reasons for them, and the limits of law and government. This post and its earlier installment are offered to catalogue, in part, the ethics carnage, and perhaps to save some readers time when they are confronted with a usually sane friend or family member who begins ranting about how “ridiculous” it is that this “problem” hasn’t been “solved” and how it’s all the fault of the NRA and bribed politicians, because if Australia can do it, why can’t we? In my experience, however, the angry anti-gun zealots—yes, you can still be a zealot and talk about “common sense solutions” if they are either not sensible or not solutions—don’t want to hear facts or reason. People have died, guns are bad, and why can’t we stop it? The same people also tend to think we can stop prejudice, poverty, risk, inequality, war, and the effects of mankind living on the planet. They also rank “Imagine” among the most profound songs ever written.
Here are the rest of the points:
V. Another Facebook friend published this chart…
…and said that it showed that “states with fewer gun regulations had frequent gun related murders than those with more regulations. It doesn’t show that. It shows, for example, that Vermont, Maine and North Dakota have few regulations and low gun murder rates. I know him well–he’s an honest man. But he saw what he wanted to see, not what was actually on the chart. Meanwhile, everyone “liked” his post.
VI. I know I’ve made this observation before, but it still drives me crazy. I just had another argument over it with my sister, and she hung up on me. Obama and the hoard leaps on this shooting to once again lobby for “common sense” gun controls that most agree wouldn’t have stopped this shooting. There is , I would say, an obvious, ethical and logical disconnect there. If the measures being sought would not have stopped this shooting, why all the angry, “blood on your hands,” “how long will this go on” rhetoric? The clear and misleading message is that the shooting would have or might have been stopped if only, if only, but when the substantive recommendations are listed they have little or nothing to do with the incident itself. Why do smart people tolerate this? The shooter’s father–who, by the way, shares at least as much culpability for the Oregon shooting as anyone, and a lot more than the NRA, gave an interview in which he blamed the shooting on the fact that the law allowed his son to acquire 13 guns:
“How on Earth could he compile 13 guns? How can that happen?” Ian Mercer said on CNN. “They talk about gun laws, they talk about gun control. Every time something like this happens, they talk about it, and nothing is done. I’m not trying to say that that’s what to blame for what happened. [ That’s exactly what you are saying…] But if Chris had not been able to get a hold of 13 guns, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Huh? His son, who was so well raised to respect human life, Christians, and the proper use of firearms, did all his shooting with one gun, not thirteen. There is no reason to believe that if he had only been able to buy one gun, his rampage wouldn’t have occurred. Meanwhile, the progressive Talking Points Memo headlined Mercer’s remarks, “Ore. Shooter’s Dad: If He Hadn’t Had Access To The Guns, It Wouldn’t Have Happened.”
Ya think? Similar headlines: “Police conclude that if the pool had been drained, nobody would have drowned in it!” …“Hollywood coroner: ‘If Mama Cass had been fasting, she wouldn’t have choked on a sandwich’,” and ” Mayor of Amity: “If that Great Wgite had been a tuna, the little Kittner boy would be alive today.” This is called “confirmation bias.”
VII. I keep reading that the NRA is “scaremongering” by suggesting—to “gun nuts,” presumably—that Obama and the anti-gun lobby want not merely to regulate guns but to eliminate them. As I wrote in a previous post, this is simply a logical conclusion, based on the fact that the tragic events that prompt these periodic outburst of gun-hate unmoored to reality can only be even theoretically prevented by eliminating guns and also restricting the rights of Americans before they do anything violent—pre-crime. It is also justified by the fact that gun-regulation supporters, including President Obama, keep citing Australia as a model for U.S. policy—where they confiscated the guns. (They also have no Bill of Rights and a lot of kangaroos—you know: identical to the U.S.)
“We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings,” the President said last week. “Friends of ours, allies of ours — Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it.”
The facts don’t support that. In fact, it is hard to see how the confiscation had any impact at all. The rates of gun violence were going down before the draconian ban, and they kept going down at the same rate. It is like the old joke about the guy who keeps snapping his fingers, and is asked why he does it.
“Keeps the elephants away!” the loony says.
“But there are no elephants within 10,000 miles of here!” his companion protests.
“See?” says the Snapper. “It works!”
VIII. The hateful rhetoric focused on the NRA at times like these is unfair, and ignorant. Of course the organization is extreme, because organizations that exist to protect rights must by their nature be vigilant against incremental incursions on the rights they protect. They stake out the extreme defense against extreme opponents of those rights and the citizens they protect. In this the NRA is no different from the NARAL, or the Baseball Players Association, or the Sierra Club, NOW, or the ACLU, just as important to the public policy debate, and exactly as worthy of respect.
IX. The news media, as it always is on this issue, has thrown objectivity out the window. Even though the actual text of what Jeb Bush said about immediately demanding “action” after every disaster was made available, reporters still state, as Alisyn Camorata did this morning, that Bush callously shrugged off the Oregon shooting with “Stuff happens,” which he did not. Pundits, meanwhile, including prominent columnists, have filed countless op-eds that say nothing more profound, or less hysterical, than “WE GOTTA DO SOMETHING!!! ARGHHHHH!” Ruth Marcus, for example, a member of the Washington Post editorial board, offered a column with a headline that could stand as a parody of the whole theme offered by the anti-gun lobby: Is this the mass shooting that will finally shame us into acting? Because “acting” is what matters, apparently, not what the action is. Marcus notes, after listing some arguably reasonable gun regulations,
“Of course, enacting reasonable gun measures would not have stopped all of these. Still, you tell the parents of 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, killed in Tucson, that limits on oversized ammunition magazines are not justified; Jared Loughner got off 31 shots before being stopped when he paused to reload.”
No, in fact reasonable gun measures wouldn’t have stopped most of the mass shootings, and it’s telling, don’t you think, that Marcus had to go back to 2011 to find a feature of a mass shooting that might have been affected by a proposed regulation? Not only that, but she stooped to the cheap “ask the parents of the victim” tactic. Yes, the parents of a child victim will often be willing to accept a benign dictatorship if it would bring back their child—that’s why it is always grandstanding and appealing to conflicted interests when such parents are called to testify.
And yes, I understand how difficult it would be. This is a matter of changing the culture and norms of an entire society. It would take time.
But the incremental approach is not succeeding. It sets increasingly modest goals, increasingly polite goals: close a loophole here, restrict a particularly lethal weapon there. Talk about gun safety and public health. Say “reform,” not “control.”
Every time there is a mass shooting, gun-control advocates argue again for legislation. But almost every time, opponents can argue that this shooter wouldn’t have been blocked from buying a gun, or that this gun would not have been on anyone’s banned list — and so why waste time (and political capital) on irrelevant restrictions?
To be clear, I believe the NRA is wrong on this, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is right. Modest restrictions can help and have helped. The one-gun-a-month law can reduce crime. The gun-show loophole should be closed, and closing it would prevent some criminals from obtaining weapons. Every gun in a home with children should have a trigger lock.
But how many members of Congress will risk their jobs for modest, incremental reform that may or may not show up as a blip on the following year’s murder statistics? We’ve learned the answer to that question.Fine, you say, but then why would those same members commit political suicide by embracing something bigger?
They won’t, of course. Congress will not lead this change. There has to be a cultural shift. Only then will Congress and the Supreme Court follow.
As we’ve seen over the past 15 years with same-sex marriage, such deep cultural change is difficult — and possible. Wyatt Earp, the frontier mentality, prying my cold dead fingers — I get all that. But Australia was a pioneer nation, too, and gave up its guns. Societies change, populations evolve.
And people are not immune, over time, to reason. Given how guns decimate poor black communities every day — not just when there are mass shootings, but every day — this is a civil rights issue. Given how many small children shoot themselves or their siblings accidentally, it is a family issue. Given the suicides that could be prevented, it is a mental health issue. On average 55 Americans shoot themselves to death every day. Every day!
The Supreme Court, which has misread the Second Amendment in its recent decisions, would have to revisit the issue. The court has corrected itself before, and if public opinion shifts it could correct itself again. If it did not, the Constitution would have to be amended.
It sounds hard, I know. But it’s possible that if we started talking more honestly about the most logical, long-term goal, public opinion would begin to shift and the short-term gains would become more, not less likely, as the NRA had to play defense. We might end up with a safer country.
I respect Hyatt for clearly stating a position that is usually stated in only code and lies, and for comprehending that culture and values are the impediments to what he wants. For the record, he is still naive and mistaken on several points, including the last: anyone who believes any populace is “safer” when the only weapons are held by the military and the police has either ignored the lessons of history, or think the U.S. is immune to them. He’s wrong that the Supreme Court “misread” the Second Amendment. He’s wrong that removing guns would significant lower suicide rates—I have had three cousins, an uncle, a college room mate and another college friends take their own lives, and not one of them used a gun. Like everyone else, he’s wrong to equate Australia with the U.S., especially culturally and historically. His proposed regulations are reasonable, but they won’t stop mass killings, and changing a pro-gun culture that is as deeply established as ours would require school indoctrination, which people like me will fight to the death, and First Amendment restrictions that must not be permitted. The popular culture reinforces the usefulness of guns to good people, heroic people, and victims. How does Meryl Streep save her husband and child from evil Kevin Bacon in “The River Wild”? She shoots him. How does Quaker pacifist Grace Kelly save her man from certain death in “High Noon”? She shoots the villain. How does Indiana Jones defeat that sword wielding warrior in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”? He shoots him. How does Bruce Willis dispatch Hans in “Die Hard”? BANG.
How does Rick and his band of survivors get through every single episode of “The Walking Dead” when zombies attack?
You guessed it.
Hey, good luck with your plan, Fred, but I’m rooting against it, and I think you are going to be deeply disappointed.
XI. Finally, I must address Facebook. It’s a veritable gun hate orgy out there, with people threatening to defriend as evil anyone who stands up to their delusions, and delusions they are. All of the misleading statistics and examples that I have mentioned are repeated ad nauseum—Australia, the NRA, “civilized nations,” states with more gun laws. But there are many more.
- Many thought Jon Stewart successor Trevor Noah was worth quoting with his illogical suggestion that opposing abortion is inconsistent with refusing to surrender the Second Amendment. You see, Noah, you dim wit, abortion intentionally and legally kills innocents; when guns do it, it’s illegal. And once someone tries to harm you, it’s too late to abort him. The carnage from abortion far, far exceeds gun deaths, here and world-wide, and there is usually a non-fatal alternative to abortion. It’s a terrible analogy, and not a very funny one, either. Then there’s this…
- Speaking of terrible analogies: this has been posted by people whose IQ indicates they know better. I doubt that I need to explain all of the ways this is silly—there are so many. Here are a few: Training shooters would stop a lot of accidental deaths, but might make mass killings worse. Felons can get a driving license with ease; so can people with mental illness problems. The problem with guns is not usually the integrity of the equipment. What, exactly, would a written gun test be about that was relevant to using it? Most of all, all of those driving and car regulations haven’t stopped deaths that are roughly equal to gun deaths, but nobody is clamoring to ban cars.
- Several have written, to a flood of “likes,” that gun owners should be required by law to store guns unloaded in a locked compartment and ammunition in a separate room. Of course, a previously sane gun owner who goes Sweeney Todd will just unlock the gun and load it, and toddle off to infamy. This measure doesn’t address the problem that is prompting the anger. Even more absurdly, nobody seem to realize that this measure is either unenforceable, or enforceable only by diminished of the Fourth Amendment. If police can barge in and check compliance with gun laws, why not compliance with drug laws? Child safety laws?
- Moreover, the progressives who want gun confiscation if they can get it are often the same ideological fantasists who want to release blacks convicted of crimes just to reduce “over-incarceration.” Many gun control measures will fall most harshly on blacks: as A. Barton Hinkle noted at Reason,New York’s stop-and-frisk policy, derided a profiling (which it was), was one of the most effective gun control policies in the country. American Interest points out:
“Moreover, all the evidence suggests that stricter gun laws would fall disproportionately on the same people who have always bear the brunt of tough criminal justice policies. The Washington Post‘s Radley Balko noted last year that “47.3 percent of those convicted for federal gun crimes were black — a racial disparity larger than any other class of federal crimes, including drug crimes.” According to the Bureau of Labor of Justice statistics, state, local, and federal governments arrested black people for gun crimes at a five times higher rate than they arrested whites. More than three out of four gun arrests were in urban areas. So people who empathize with the message of the Black Lives Matter movement—that young, black men in America’s cities are treated unfairly by the criminal justice system and that mass incarceration has devastated too many communities—should think further about what the draconian gun policies they pine for would actually entail.”
- Perhaps the worst argument, and one of the most popular, is the statement that the right to own guns should be subordinated to “the right to be safe.” Leaving aside the fact that for many Americans owning guns does make them feel safer, and the insistence of third parties that they don’t “need’ guns to feel safe in an intrusion, there is no such right.
There is nothing wrong with posting bad theories and arguments on Facebook, but posting them with a declaration that anyone who disagrees is an accessory to murder and not fit for human companionship is just an invitation to ignorance.
At this point, the anti-gun movement, which is what the gun control movement has allowed itself to become, will not get the “dialogue” it says it wants until it starts being truthful, stops relying on emotion, and is willing to abandon gun confiscation and the de facto banning of private gun ownership as its real agenda. This could begin by a Presidential address in which President Obama directly rejects gun-banning as undesirable and unAmerican, asserts that it is neither necessary nor prudent to do confiscate guns, apologizes for demonizing those who have sought to exercise and preserve their Second Amendment rights, and stating that his goal is to work with the NRA and others to address ways that reduce illegal and unintended gun violence without infringing on the rights of law-abiding Americans to purchase and keep the arms they believe are necessary for their legal needs.
This won’t happen, of course.
And that’s not the fault of the NRA either.