This really is like one of the old horror movies, but scarier, and real. I have no idea what to do about it. The sudden and, though no one wants to admit it, coincidental wave of shooting episodes last month (and bleeding into this one, literally) might as well have been part of a conspiracy to freak-out the American public and cowardly lawmakers into surrendering the Constitutional right to bear arms in self-defense.
As always, our democracy’s Achilles heel is public ignorance, and the anti-gun news media and the usual demagogues have done a bang-up job this time around of both exploiting the ignorance and adding to it. It is especially ironic that the same side of the ideological spectrum taking aim at the First Amendment with its cynical attacks on “disinformation,””misinformation” and “hate speech” are engaging in all three daily, indeed almost hourly, in order to finally crush the Second Amendment rights of law abiding and responsible citizens—so the people who pay no attention to laws anyway will somehow be dissuaded from gun violence.
The escalated assualt is simultaneously dumb, intellectually dishonest and unethical…but effective. And it is coming from all directions all at once, like the fast zombies in “World War Z,” as long as we’re using horror film analogies. In my annoyed and fevered state, I can’t even organize all of it coherently, so I’m going to resort to bullet points for now:
- As I predicted when the Uvalde shooting first was reported, the Barn Door Fallacy is in full swing. The shooter was 18, so banning gun sales to anyone under 21 is one of the most popular “Do something!” measures, because the law will go back in time and stop Ramos from murdering all those kids. That’s because he bought his guns; never mind that Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, was also under 21, and just took his mother’s guns to go on his rampage. Since the privileges and responsibilities of adulthood mostly attach when one turns 18, the sudden conclusion that 18-year-olds are dangerously irresponsible lacks integrity and consistency. Is there a line there, or not? Why there? Why are people allowed to vote for who makes laws when we think they can’t be trusted to obey them? What’s magic about 21? If two or three shooters are over 21 and under 25, will “Do something!” mean that the right to own a gun will be limited again?
The Stupid! It BURNSSSS!
- The lies (disinformation/misinformation/lazy, careless or deliberate confusion of terms and deceit) make fair and informed debate impossible. Semi-automatic rifles are called automatic weapons, “AR-15-style” is used without clarification; “weapons of war” is scary and useful as a cognitive dissonance trigger but meaningless; “assault weapon” has no agreed-upon meaning, other than “bad.” Those who wield this fog of language literally don’t care about meanings and definitions…
- …bringing us to “comprehensive background checks,” another “Do something” trope. What does “comprehensive” mean? Under U.S. law, federally licensed gun dealers, importers and manufacturers must run background checks for all sales to unlicensed buyers. The law bans firearm transfers to anyone convicted of a felony or committed to a mental institution. But a private seller without a federal license doesn’t need to meet the same requirement. “Comprehensive” apparently means making private sales involve background checks as well; it also could involve adding more—much more—details about a purchaser to “check.” Regarding the latter, you don’t have to be paranoid to wonder what those details could entail.
- Regarding the former: how would (or could) a private gun transfer background check law be enforced? Such laws would place a serious burden on the seller. What if I had a cash emergency and wanted to sell my WWII German Luger to a collector friend who had always admired it? Getting the background check would take too much time for my urgent cash needs. I know and trust the collector. If he doesn’t pay, take my gun and shoot up a school, how would the government ever find out about the transaction? Unenforceable laws are deceptive, pretending to be something they are not—effective. That’s unethical.
- In order to pursue the (batty) argument that its the guns and not the sociopathic, law-defying, violent and often crazy people who use them that are the problem, the anti-gun mob is denying that the mental health of shooters is a primary issue. (This goes along, strangely enough, with the “blood on their hands” attacks on Republicans, arguing that they have not supported significant spending on mental health treatment—which continues to be hit-and-miss no matter how much money we throw at it.) Here’s the LA Times:
Blaming mental illness for mass shootings inflicts a damaging stigma on the millions of people who suffer from clinical afflictions, the vast majority of whom are not violent. Extensive research shows the link between mental illness and violent behavior is small and not useful for predicting violent acts; people with diagnosable conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are in fact far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence.
This is Yoo’s Rationalization, “It isn’t what it is,” to the max. People who are not mentally ill do not shoot up schools. They do not go on shooting sprees that are certain to get them killed themselves. They do not shoot people “to get famous.” Mass shooters, like serial killers are, by definition, nuts. Laws are not likely to stop them.
- And then we have “red flag” laws, which the public tends to like in polls because, as with so many of the “do something” measures, respondents have not thought about what they are or mean. These are laws that the government could easily expand to remove rights from citizens who have done nothing illegal, or who have engaged in conduct in the past that has been dealt with and is over with. “Red flag laws” are pre-crime punishment, and should be ruled unconstitutional, though there is no guarantee they would be.
- Polls that do nothing but sum up mass ignorance and manipulated uninformed opinion are being used as authorities. Mother Jones (I know, I know) got all excited about s new poll published by CBS News that “found” that “three quarters of Americans believe we can prevent mass shootings if we prioritize the goal of doing so.” In other words, “Do something!” How do we stop illegal gun violence? “Prioritize it!” Oh! More than climate change? “Well, maybe not more than climate change.” More than inflation? “Well, no, inflation is killing us.” More than fighting “systemic racism”? Oh, no, nothing’s more important than fighting that! More than abortion? “Are you kidding! That’s the most important of all!” So “doing something” about gun violence is, at best, fifth on our list of priorities, even from the perspective of the Left…which means it’s not going to be “prioritized.”
- Meanwhile, the public is being fed lies by the President of the United States. “We should repeal the liability shield that often protects gun manufacturers from being sued for the death and destruction caused by their weapons,” Biden said in his hysterical “do something” speech last week. “They’re the only industry in this country that has that kind of immunity. Imagine. Imagine if the tobacco industry had been immune from being sued, where we’d be today. The gun industry’s special protections are outrageous. It must end.”
Ugh. Cigarettes are a consumer product that caused death and illness to uninformed users who had been deceived by manufacturers. If a driver uses a car to murder someone, can General Motors be sued? No. If someone beats in their wife’s brains with a baseball bat, can Hillerich and Bradsby be sued? No! Manufacturers are liable when their products are faulty and negligently produced. They are not liable, and should not be liable, when a purchaser uses the product illegally or negligently. All products have “that kind of immunity,” but when anti-gun zealots devised the idea of suing gun manufacturers anyway, a 2005 law called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which shields gun companies from lawsuits based on the unlawful acts people commit using their products.
At the risk of repeating myself, “Ugh.” The Great Stupid and the Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck alliance is going to be much harder to fight off than Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf Man.