Gun Control: The New Moral Crusade

Repeal the Second Amendment? We know how this movie ends.

It used to be that the eeriest mass shooting in American history was the one at Sandy Hook Elementary, the slaughter of children just before Christmas, carols rendered as flippant taunts. But last week’s massacre in Las Vegas has proven even more unsettling, and not only because of the crime’s heinous nature. More than a week after Stephen Paddock opened fire into a crowd of concertgoers, we still have no idea why he did it, no history of mental illness or subscription to fetid ideology, just the details of a quotidian if somewhat private life. Into this void have naturally flowed conspiracy theories, setups and second shooters, made more mainstream than usual by the stubborn unavailability of answers.

On the policy front, too, there’s been little consolation. What new laws might have prevented the violence in Vegas? Paddock purchased his weapons legally; he never raised red flags through prior violence or brushes with the law. The usual panaceas—more background checks, clampdowns on “assault weapons,” denying those on the no-fly list access to guns—wouldn’t have stopped Paddock, something that’s been admitted by no less an anti-gun eminence than Senator Dianne Feinstein. Even the flavor of the month, a ban on bump stocks, isn’t likely to make a difference, given that a similar effect can be achieved with a simple belt loop and most firearm crimes are committed with handguns rather than semi-automatic rifles.

What to do if you’re an anti-gun reformer? Two unusually clarifying pieces published in the aftermath of the Vegas carnage have wrangled with that question. David Frum is on deck, but first over to Bret Stephens, the allegedly conservative columnist for the New York Times, who last week took a break from clamoring for the usage of ordnance abroad to advocate against Americans using guns at home. Stephens acknowledges most modest gun control proposals wouldn’t work—instead, he says, we should repeal the Second Amendment and its protections on gun ownership. “Expansive interpretations of the right to bear arms will be the law of the land,” he asserts, “until the ‘right’ itself ceases to be.” He finishes with a contrarian flourish, speculating that even James Madison would today welsh on gun rights.

Stephens’ column is hardly edifying. It doesn’t address how the daunting procedural hurdle of repealing a constitutional amendment would be cleared or how public support for such a move would be marshaled. It also fails to explicate what legislators are supposed to do once the Second Amendment is gone, glossing over that question with a mushy mean: “Gun ownership should never be outlawed…but it doesn’t need a blanket Constitutional protection, either.” Exacting stuff! Still, at least Stephens acknowledges this is all more complex than the left’s usual formulation: commonsense gun laws, popular with the public, congested in Congress thanks to the omnipotent NRA. As he notes, the NRA isn’t really that powerful, and those commonsense reforms wouldn’t accomplish much of anything.

The Second Amendment is a problem for gun controllers, a stout legal bulwark against the change most of them desire. But there’s a sturdier obstacle blocking their path, one identified more forthrightly by David Frum, the former George W. Bush speechwriter and current senior editor at The Atlantic. Frum places himself in agreement with Stephens: “I’ve come around more and more to the gun advocate point of view that there is something artificial and even dishonest about the technocratic approach to gun control.” The reason we have mass shootings, he says, is the availability and mobility of firearms, which his countrymen broadly support. And that popular support is the fly in the gun controllers’ ointment. “Until Americans change their minds about guns,” he concludes, “Americans will die by guns in numbers resembling the casualty figures in Somalia and Honduras more than Britain or Germany.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be the same An End to Evil-coauthoring Frum without some generalities launched out the Kalorama window. This time, it was a subsequent claim on Twitter that the idea of the “responsible gun owner” is a “myth.” (The Southeast D.C. dweller who buys a gun after his house is burgled, irresponsible? Cylons are not this tin-eared.) Nonetheless, Frum’s earlier point is a good and frank and needed one. If modest measures won’t work, then logic dictates gun controllers must back more sweeping reforms, and those will never be enacted by our representative government unless Americans’ bedrock gun culture is somehow cracked apart. Specifically, a ban on handguns, the policy that (setting aside the absurdities of its implementation) would on paper do the most to tamp down violent crime, is opposed by three quarters of the public, according to Gallup. Thirty-nine percent, meanwhile, say they keep guns in their homes. Fifty-nine percent say they’re satisfied with current gun laws, are dissatisfied but support keeping them the way they are, or want to loosen them.

Certainly conservatism, which seeks to limit concentrations of power and takes a clear-eyed view of human nature, doesn’t necessarily point towards ever-more privately owned arms, especially if that means one can stockpile arsenals of highly lethal rifles as did Stephen Paddock. Should unreliable man be able to end dozens of lives in a matter of minutes? That’s a question worth pondering. What’s beyond dispute is that shaking America out of its gun hobby would be a radical project indeed, requiring punitive new laws to be enacted, the mass confiscation of weapons, the upturning of tradition—none of which can be accomplished short of a police state without first changing tens of millions of minds. Now, at last, some prominent anti-gun figures are waking up to the magnitude of what they seek; it’s a bucket of cold water to the face, surely.

Stephens and Frum aren’t technocrats calibrating the machine of progress; they’re Wayne Wheeler and Carrie Nation, throwing open our saloon doors and smashing our tumblers. Theirs is a moral crusade against what they perceive to be a national vice. America is sick and only they are enlightened enough to make it better. Perhaps that’s a bit flippant—some of our nation’s best (and worst) work has been done by those who set out to mend grand societal ills—but we should at least stop pretending that the kids-cup prescriptions of a Senator Chris Murphy can ever accomplish his jumbo-size ends. This is a nation with one firearm for every citizen, a thriving outdoorsman culture, a history of violent lawlessness, a frontier, a Second Amendment. Jamming those spokes is going to require a far larger stick than anything that fits through the ludicrously exaggerated “gun show loophole.”

The reason many of us take the (authentically) Madisonian view—in addition to our leeriness over a total government monopoly on arms—is that we reject such a crusade as impractical. We see it as premised on a fundamentally false conception of America, one that glosses over her indelible traditions of individualism and defiance. We worry it will result in more polarization and violence rather than less. We observe, too, that the public has lately grown weary of elite designs on their values, their pronouns, their national anthem—enough to elect Donald Trump in the hopes of making it all stop. Presumably an additional betterment campaign against their guns would be met with the same aggravation and pushback. It’s your move, gentlemen, but is this really where you want to go right now?

Matt Purple is the managing editor of The American Conservative.

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  1. JonF says:

    The Second Amendment was not about “Individualism and defiance”. It was about the hope of the Founders hope that the new nation could get by with a citizen’s militia and would not have to create a standing army. That’s the alpha and omega of it.

  2. Marinevet says:

    Gun control is not a ‘moral’ issue. Gun control is an issue of the rights of the citizens of the United States. A right insured by the second amendment. There is no way we give that up.

  3. KevinS says:

    “Should unreliable man be able to end dozens of lives in a matter of minutes? That’s a question worth pondering.”

    Because the answer might be yes?!?!

    I have no need to ponder that question very long.

  4. Edward Dougherty says:

    Mr. Purple,

    No, the Second Amendment doesn’t need to be repealed. What has happened in the last 50 years is that the NRA and gun rights advocates have distorted the original intent of the Second Amendment and that has produced the unchangable gun culture that we see today, with our society suffering overall as a result. We have come a long way down since United States vs. Miller.

  5. Simon K says:

    If you look at US gun ownership statistics, Non-Hispanic Whites have significantly higher gun ownership rates than African-Americans or Hispanic Americans. Which makes me wonder what long-term impact changing demographics may have on the gun issue. If gun culture is much stronger among non-Hispanic Whites than among other groups, maybe their declining share of the population will eventually lead to less influence for that culture on wider society.

    Most immigrants come from countries with much stricter gun control than the US, and where those measures are popular. While immigrants may adopt US cultural attitudes to guns upon immgirating, I think it is more common for them to retain the attitudes they acquired in their country of origin. So I think that over a few decades, demographic changes will weaken gun culture in the US to the point that it might become feasible to politically defeat it.

    Formally repealing the Second Amendment is a waste of effort. Much more plausible that one day there will be left-wing majority on the Supreme Court who can just turn it back into a dead letter. They’d have to overturn a few precedents to get there, but precedent isn’t binding at that level.

  6. Mr_Mike says:

    In many states, the gun lobby has been on the march, advocating, and often getting things like open-carry, and other pro-gun laws. The gun lobby has been crying wolf for decades on any gun control, and now it seems the wolf is here. The gun lobby, and gun owners are not going to acquiesce.

  7. John says:

    There are two aspects to a call for gun control. One is the sincere desire to reduce the ease of committing widespread violence, the other is to cynically increase the monopoly on violence in society. The first desire is admirable but flawed, the second is repugnant, anti-democratic, and elitist.

    The simple fact is that the firearms genie, like the nuclear genie, has been out of the bottle for a very long time now. Anyone who thinks it can be realistically tamped back in should read up on improvised firearms in South Africa. The argument, by the naïve, will be that controlling ammunition will eventually lead to guns becoming useless. This also ignores the human tendency toward ingenuity and improvisation.

    If all else fails, knives and baseball bats are still useful for criminal violence on a personal level. A ban on pointed kitchen knives has been bandied about in England as a solution to stabbings.

    The simple truth, and one which cannot be publicly expressed on a national scale by the elite, is that American society is steeped in violence. We have adopted an “us vs. them” mindset on the foreign stage, have institutionalized violence in our entertainment media and popular metaphors, have an almost Spartan-like expectation of military service to establish social reliability and worth, and find it far more acceptable to show pornographic violence in movies and on TV (while embracing a bizarre dual standard of leftist prudishness and support for pornography). The problem is further exacerbated by the near-religious fervor that is worked up on either side of the political spectrum, where the constituency of one’s political opponents are made into some variety of morlock. Also, don’t forget video games that are immersive combat simulators.

    The current tack of the anti-gun crowd is now to try to make being a gun owner something that will cause people to be pariahs, something along the lines of being a neo-Nazi, but why not instead make the embrace of violence as a virtue be the grounds for being a pariah? Are we so wedded, as a nation, to the notion of violence that it can’t be abandoned? Are we so determined to not tolerate opposing points of view? Are we determined to keep making any solution to a social problem a “war on fill-in-the-blank?” Do we need to have all entertainment be violent?

    I would end with the typical “sadly, I don’t think this is going to change in the near future,” but I don’t believe that it has to be the case. Even as individuals, we can begin rejecting the idea of violent confrontation and violence-ism as being the first thought to everything, and instead start taking a more Christ-like approach toward our fellow human beings and treating the glorification of violence as what it is, a banal and disgusting evil on the same level as the glorification of aberrant and public sexuality.

  8. Johann says:

    Mass shootings are concentrated killings. Mass killings and mass killers are extremely rare. One or two a year out of 325,000,000 people. They are horrific. Plane crashes are also very rare and horrific. They are both horrific because so many die all at once.

    Northeasterners like Frum and Stephens have no say or credibility with gun owners and should just shut up. Anything they say is but confirmation that we need more guns to protect against the likes of them.

  9. mrscracker says:

    At least these folks are being transparent about their end goal instead of using the incremental strategy we usually see when rights are eroded little by little.

  10. tommy this and tommy that says:

    “Bret Stephens, the allegedly conservative columnist for the New York Times, who last week took a break from clamoring for the usage of ordnance abroad to advocate against Americans using guns at home. “

    Heh. Yes, Stephens has nothing against violence per se – he wants America to fight all of Israel’s enemies in the Middle East, for example, no matter how many innocents are killed, no matter how long it takes, no matter what it costs – but because he knows that eventually Americans will rebel at being impoverished and damaged by endlessly fighting, dying, and paying for such wars, he wants to take away our guns.

    Indeed, like all city boy neoconservatives, Frum and Stephens both suffer from a visceral, abiding fear of real Americans. They don’t trust us with guns because they fear that one day we’re going to make them pay for what they did to our country.

  11. Cash says:

    Gun control is for the left what abortion is for the right.

    Women will still get abortions no matter what the law says and just as gun owners will never obey restrictions on their weapons.

    Which is why passing laws that half the population will proudly disobey is a bad idea.

    The best we can get is for right and left to work together to reduce the need for abortions and to keep weapons out of the hands of crazy people.

  12. Jon S says:

    So, in the end, Matt Purple is only capable of saying that inviolate access to guns is well worth the mass murders of fellow Americans and American children. And that this is somehow “conservative”.

    “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

    The “free state” mentioned above means the original 13 states being free from coercion by the federal government. The federal government was not intended to have a standing army. The nation would be defended by the states’ militias. Therefore the federal government could not infringe upon the people’s rights to keep and bear arms.

    But the individual states could and did. As a child growing up in Florida in the ’60’s, still a rock-ribbed southern state at that time, the state had strict restrictions on gun ownership. Handguns could not be owned by citizens. They could be owned by police officers and sheriff’s deputies. Individual could own shotguns and rifles. But they had to be limited to a maximum capacity of 3 shells/bullets. That was the definition of conservative gun policy when I was a kid.

    Unfortunately, the 14th amendment overrode state’s rights in this arena with federal rights. And the second amendment now applied to individuals, not the states (or so it has been interpreted by the activist supreme court). And we are left leaving our women and children exposed to the pure evil of the gun manufacturer’s profits and their twisted acolytes.

    Simply return to the laws of the past that made this a great country.

  13. Scott McConnell says:

    Smart piece, and really nicely written

  14. Allen says:

    I suggest a compromise: when the Left completely outlaws all abortion in America, I will voluntarily turn in my guns. It’s not that liberals oppose violent death, they just oppose it when it’s not done in or just outside the womb.

  15. Tom S. says:

    Fake populism and straw men here. Those who favor gun control will happily settle for considerably less. The ability to enforce existing legislation, treatment of firearms similar to that of motor vehicles (perhaps in exchange for nationwide conceal carry), government funding of research, may issue instead of shall issue pending background check, people on watch lists/restraining orders banned from purchasing, etc.

    If, several generations down the road, gun ownership is akin to what smoking is today, that will be fine. Note that public attitudes would then be similar to what they were before the NRA switched from education to political advocacy in the 1960s-70s.

  16. b. says:

    The “Second Amendment” scam puts the lie in “origina-liest” constitutional argumeddling. It was a concession to plantation states who feared that their right to maintain slave patrols would be abridged. The idea that militias would in any way deter government overreach was refuted the moment Washington set out to put down the second “Tea Party”, the Whiskey rebellion.

    It will be educating to see as media-driven adoption of vehicular mass killing attempts being to proliferate, terrorist or otherwise, how much the gap between car regulation and gun regulation continues to widen. If one wants to make a case for the right to personal gun ownership, on the merits instead of some inventive read of an obsolete amendment to the Constitution, that is certainly reasonable. It is equally reasonable to recognize that private or corporate ownership of potentially dangerous goods and machinery – vehicles, explosives, guns etc. – should come with mechanisms such as registration, background checks, mandatory training and licensing. The same factions of published opinion that deride concerns about a bloated, costly and counter-productive “turn-key tyranny” surveillance apparat with “If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear” apparently find themselves in hysterical panic at the thought that the same government should know about, and track, ownership of guns.

    If this editorial is the best case you could make, maybe there is no good argument you could think of?

  17. Buckeye Conservative says:

    Beautifully written comments! In my opinion there is no way the 2nd Amendment could be repealed unless Article V is first changed so that amendments to the Constitution would be made by majority vote of the citizens. Were that to happen it might be possible that the east and west coast liberal progressives could do it. Lacking that, fly over America will prevail.

  18. Jennifer says:

    If 80% of gun homicide in this country is committed with illegal handguns, how is making them more illegal going to solve this? I’d be more open to this type of drastic solution if it even pretended to address the actual problem. A ban on guns will go the way of the drug war. Making opiates even more illegal didn’t seem to fix the problem.

  19. Ken T says:

    There is no need to repeal the 2nd Amendment. All that is needed is to end the insane insistence that, unlike every other word of the entire Constitution the 2nd stands alone as being absolute with no restrictions. There is no other right in the Constitution that is claimed to have that property. The right to free speech does not permit you to commit slander. The right to freedom of religion does not permit you to perform human sacrifice. The point is that every exercise of one person’s rights can come into conflict with another person’s rights. At which point it is clearly recognized that the State has the authority to draw the boundaries. Nothing in the Constitution gives one person the right to cause harm to another.

    Thus, the right to bear arms does not grant the right to possess weapons whose only purpose is to cause mass harm. This has nothing to do with self-defense, it has nothing to do with hunting, it has nothing to do with recreational target shooting. Your right to bear arms does not supersede my right not to be shot.

  20. Gene Ralno says:

    I’m sure glad Bret Stephens doesn’t get to choose what we need. He’s a “Tory” and seems to prefer a boss, endowed with royal powers. I’m thinking he’d shackle everyone, just to keep them in compliance with his wishes of course. And perhaps based on his judgement, he might occasionally let us out for a bowl of gruel. There’s a side of me that would like to see it happen because we’d have a war and it would be a very short one.

  21. Longago says:

    I am old enough to remember when there were no background checks, waiting periods or age limits to buy guns . . . no Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms . . . no licensing of gun dealers . . . when the Sears Christmas catalog was filled with page after page of firearms that people could order through the mail and have delivered to their homes . . . when my high school and many others had shooting teams . . . and when we did not have events like Vegas and Sandy Hook and Columbine.

    If lax gun control is a major factor in these horrific crimes, there should have been more of them many decades ago, when there were almost no gun control laws compared to today.

    Laws do not stop criminal conduct; laws define conduct that is criminal. If laws could stop criminal conduct, the laws against murder should have been enough to stop the Vegas shooter

    If the laws against murder and their harsh penalties could not stop the Vegas shooter and do not stop the thousands of gang-bangers who run around Chicago, Baltimore and other cities terrorizing entire neighborhoods as they sell their banned narcotics, there’s no way more gun control laws will stop them.

  22. grumpy realist says:

    In short: there ain’t nothing we can do about Americans shooting down each other because it’s too hard a problem to deal with. Oh, and because of freedom.

    Someone once pointed out that the real change has been in the gun culture. It used to be that kids grew up with guns out in the country and they were used for hunting (deer, rabbits, and vermin.) Everyone was pretty commonsensical about guns. Those using them knew enough not to be jerks about them and treated them as dangerous, but useful pieces of machinery.

    Now the loudmouths in the gun debate are those salivating over their military knock-off with the laser spotter and the infra-red scope because of “protecting mah FREEDUM against the gummint!” and telling each other conspiracy stories such as Jade Helm and chemical contrails. The gun is no more a tool; it’s a holy relic to amass more and more of and to belligerently wave in the faces of other people to demonstrate your “rights”. (What rights? Rights to scare other people?) And the NRA doesn’t care because they’re now nothing more than a front for the gun companies and the only aim they have is to sell as much firepower as possible.

  23. collin says:

    I am not one for gun control but why are guns so important to the right? Modern society does not benefit from an armed society in general. The US is better off with less citizens being armed over the last 25 years which is not because of gun control. It is because less citizens feel the need for arms.

    Also any thoughts on the number of guns owned as there is vast difference of a person with one/two guns versus 20 guns?

  24. MM says:

    Let me get this straight…

    * According to the most recent CDC data and firearm estimates, in the U.S. annually there are:

    – 33,000 firearm-related fatalities, 2/3 of which are suicides
    – 75,000 firearm-related injuries

    Which computes to:
    – 6,250 injuries per month
    – 1,750 suicides per month
    – 900 homicides per month

    Based on 356 million firearms in private ownership, that comes to 0.0003 deaths/injuries per firearm per year.

    * According to the most recent NSC data and vehicle estimates, in the U.S. annually there are:

    – 38,000 vehicular fatalities
    – 4,400,000 sustained (meaning serious, requiring medical attention) vehicular injuries

    Which computes to:
    – 365,000 injuries per month
    – 3,200 deaths per month

    Based on 264 million registered vehicles, that comes to 0.0168 deaths/injuries per vehicle per year.

    So… leaving aside extraordinary mass shooters, assuming there’s a gun epidemic in the U.S., I’d like to know from anybody on the Left, why do I never hear about an auto epidemic?

    Because if there is a general gun epidemic, logically, there has to be an epidemic, whatever that means, with respect to the ownership and use of vehicles on the order of 50x bigger than guns, given the deaths and injuries occurring every year.

    Clearly, the federal government needs to step in and regulate and restrict everyone’s driving privileges, currently under state authority, because obviously not enough is being done to address this far more serious issue.

    Anybody?

  25. EarlyBird says:

    Very good, honest article on gun control. And I give credit to Stephens and Frum for their honesty too. Our debate over this issue is far too dishonest and/or based in ignorance.

    After every mass shooting (bi-monthly now?) reasonable people say that we should have reasonable gun control policies. Amen! But then you ask “what, specifically, do you want to do?” and it’s a list of tweaks and fringe curtailments on types of weapons, amounts of ammunition, nudges and adjustments here and there – or worse, totally emotional responses about “assault rifles” which is just another way to say any black, scary looking semi-auto rifle, as opposed to grandpa’s trusty semi-auto hunting rifle which, however less scary looking, is just as deadly as the “assault” rifle – all which don’t pass the giggle test in terms of actually reducing murder or suicide by gun. On these grounds the 2nd Amendment absolutists are correct, that all you would manage to do is reduce access to guns by the sane, decent and law abiding.

    It’s either a.) we repeal the 2nd Amendment and make guns illegal, and send hordes of armed police to confiscate existing millions of guns, or, b.) accept that we will live with these kinds of regular atrocities. And while we’re being honest I’ll throw in c.) if we accept either be ready to accept a security state if not an outright police state.

  26. swb says:

    RE: MM

    Seriously? Do you have any idea how many federal regulations there are on autos? If you are going to use that comparison to argue against federal gun regulation you are going to be in a pretty weak position. This comment thread should get amusing…

  27. EarlyBird says:

    MM, your argument that death by gun in America is no big deal as statistically compared to death by car, is utterly tone deaf, and reminds me of liberals’ glib response to the natural fears which arise from terrorist acts. Murder is massively more damaging emotionally, individually and socially than death by car accident. Interview the family who lost a loved one by murder (by gun or other means) and another family who lose a loved one by way of auto accident, and you’ll instantly see how your argument is missing the forest for the trees. Let’s keep it real.

  28. EarlyBird says:

    Sorry, didn’t mean to make my previous post all bold, as if I was yelling.

  29. Sam B says:

    This is pretty flimsy. Just compare to all the copious arguments that defenders of slavery made in the 1840s-50s — “it’s unrealistic,” “too much opposition,” “too costly,” “too divisive.” All of those things were true, but they were also deflections–avoiding the question of whether it was morally necessary to abolish slavery despite those obstacles.

    Once again, The American Conservative seems to be the only publication where the comments tend to be more intelligent than the articles. (Not to say that the articles are not often very good as well.)

  30. mrscracker says:

    grumpy realist,
    My children grew up that way-shooting varmints with a .22 & occasionally hunting deer. And some of my grandchildren are doing the same.
    I actually recently purchased a firearm with a laser light.
    An older gentleman at a firing range told me that when a would-be assailant see’s that laser dot on them, they generally make tracks.
    I’d much rather scare someone away than take their life.
    Now coyotes are a different matter….
    🙂

  31. mrscracker says:

    MM:
    “Clearly, the federal government needs to step in and regulate and restrict everyone’s driving privileges, currently under state authority, because obviously not enough is being done to address this far more serious issue.”
    *************
    I’m not in favor of fed. govt stepping in to take over state laws, but goodness, someone needs to do something where we live.
    My son was almost killed by a drunk driver a couple years ago. It was her 5th DWI arrest.
    I can understand a mistake being made once- Mardi Gras & all- but five times??
    And she’s not unique. I see local news articles on a regular basis about drivers being arrested under the influence for the 4th & 5th time.
    I’m thankful my son’s almost-killer had insurance, but why would an insurance company want to enable someone like that to get back on the roads in the first place?
    It’s a puzzlement to me.
    And yes, I worry about things like that far more often than mass shootings. Count the number of bars & honky tonks you drive past on your way home & add up the odds of being taken out. It’s scary.

  32. Kent says:

    @MM,

    “Anybody?”

    I’ll take a stab and speak for the left, though I am far more conservative.

    The government absolutely does regulate and restrict everyone’s driving privileges. There is also a an entire federal bureaucracy dedicated to reducing traffic injuries/fatalaties: the National Highway Safety Transportation Authority (NHSTA). Over the years, “the left” has pushed the federal government quite successfully, against the interests and lobbying of the auto manufacturers, to improve safety. Today we have far better structural support, air bags, seat belts, gas tanks that don’t explode that all reduce the rate of injury and death. And the left is always pushing for more access to alternative modes of transportation: trains/subways, good bus systems, bike trails, etc… to reduce the number of autos on the road. However, there is enormous inertia in society. And most folks are just willing to accept the risks. Especially since the risks are not really discussed in a way people can understand.

    So I believe the left would say that applying a similar level of safety regulation to the ownership of firearms might produce a similar improvement in overall death rates. Of course, the right, would never be willing to compromise an inch.

  33. herbert herbertsen says:

    The piece is long on reasons why gun control is not a fight worth having, short on reasons why it would be bad policy. This reflects dual-edged the reality–the left or the Democratic party definitely WOULD be idiots if they committed themselves to substantially more gun control. But that’s because the gun-nuts are indeed nuts, writing off tens of thousands of killings and suicides as an acceptable price to pay for their hobby and their weird fantasies. You’ve won this one, boys, fair and square. Hope you’re proud.

  34. Clyde Schechter says:

    John already said most of what I wanted to say about this. I’ll just add a few short comments.

    If the cultural change about violence that he foresees, and that he and I both hope for, does come about, passing gun control laws will become politically feasible, but it will also then be unnecessary.

    I think it is fair to say that the only countries that can and do have enforceable gun control laws are the ones that have no need of them anyway.

    Guns are, in some sense, like other forms of technology. They can be used for good or bad purposes, and the net impact depends more on who owns them and what they do with them than on the technology itself. Ultimately, the problem we have is our culture of violence. Yes, guns amplify the lethality, but, at this point, there is no feasible way to reverse that situation.

  35. Bruce Lafranchi says:

    Here’s a radical proposal: lets start by disarming all peace officers (the police). Arming them supports the narrative that guns provide “protection”; but guns don’t “protect” they kill. Lets spend our time educating people that guns are designed for killing, that might change people’s mindset over time.

  36. Tom S. says:

    MM:

    It would be great if we regulated firearms as we do motor vehicles. Excellent suggestion!

  37. Rossbach says:

    Simon K says:

    “So I think that over a few decades, demographic changes will weaken gun culture in the US to the point that it might become feasible to politically defeat it.”

    I agree. In fact, not only will it weaken the “gun culture”; it will also weaken the “free speech culture” and all the other cultures enumerated in the Bill of Rights. This is, and always has been, the real purpose of replacing the historic American nation with Third World immigrants. The Left is correct; America will not be the same with different people in it.

  38. EarlyBird says:

    Johann wrote, wrongly: “…Mass killings and mass killers are extremely rare. One or two a year out of 325,000,000 people. They are horrific. Plane crashes are also very rare and horrific. They are both horrific because so many die all at once.

    It’s not merely the numbers of dead which makes mass murder horrific. It is the evil at the heart of these atrocities which makes them horrific. I’m tired of these silly arguments which compare numbers of people dying by accident or disease with numbers of people dying by violence, and basically saying there is no problem here, move along. It’s an amoral statement.

  39. kevin on the left says:

    “So… leaving aside extraordinary mass shooters, assuming there’s a gun epidemic in the U.S., I’d like to know from anybody on the Left, why do I never hear about an auto epidemic”

    Leaving aside the dubious comparison (the benefit- costs caclulus of guns and cars are not at all similar), this comment brilliantly refutes itself. Seat belts, ABS systems, speed limits, mandatory insurance schemes, drunk driving laws are all government measures
    meant to regulate cars, often introduced due to pressure from the “left.” By all means, let’s treat guns like cars!

  40. MM says:

    @Kent

    A couple of questions, then:

    1) Do we or do we not have an epidemic of auto-related deaths and injuries in the U.S.?

    2) Considering that federal regulation and restriction of driving is already in place and easier than firearm regulation, why are there more deaths and 60x more serious injuries than firearms?

    3) Do you support the federal government taking away individuals’ licenses and vehicles for the purpose of reducing auto-related deaths and injuries?

    Thanks!

  41. MM says:

    Swb and EarlyBird

    I’d like you both to quote where I argued against gun control.

    And thank you for conspicuously avoiding my point about the “epidemic” rhetoric, which was the only salient one I made.

    Emotional responses that avoid the facts presented… I thought only conservatives were accused of that sort of thing.

    I’ll continue to wait for a compelling argument that firearms are an “epidemic” in American while vehicles aren’t.

  42. MM says:

    EarlyBird: “Let’s keep it real.”

    I guess victims of drunk drivers do not factor into your thinking. Charming…

  43. J Harlan says:

    Anyone calling for more gun control (there are already thousands of laws. Notions that the 2nd Amendment is inviolable are wrong) should look at the results in Canada, Australia and the UK. All have lower gun homicide rates than the US but all had lower rates before their most strict regulations were en-placed and have about the same rates now as before their latest laws.

    What to take from this? People who think they need firearms for their defence or for aggression don’t disarm. The result is most gun laws are theatrical. They appear to make society safer but simply make collecting and target shooting more expensive.

  44. connecticut farmer says:

    Gun control is a cosmetic solution. A band-aid which ultimately solves nothing. It’s what people do when they cannot or will not acknowledge that the problems in this country are deep-seated and possibly immune to any solution because after 240 years we still don’t know who the hell we are nor the hell kind of country we want. On the other hand, after all is said and done, maybe that IS the way we want it.

  45. MM says:

    @Kevin on the Left/Tom S.

    For the record, I’m fine with states passing whatever licensing restrictions they deem necessary for gun ownership.

    The federal government doesn’t license vehicle drivers. It doesn’t revoke licenses or possess vehicles for bad behavior. It doesn’t limit the number or type of vehicles someone can own. It doesn’t even mandate automobile insurance, nor can it officially enforce a national maximum speed limit.

    The states do all of these things. And yet we still have 38,000 deaths per year, of which about 10,000, almost as many as firearm homicides incidentally, are specifically alcohol-related. Add to that an astonishing 4.4 million serious injuries every year.

    Since guns *aren’t* regulated as strictly, one would think there’d be a hell of a lot more injuries, and it’s not even close.

    But I’m still waiting for a straight answer from any of you guys:

    Does America have an auto “epidemic” of preventable deaths and injuries on par with firearms, based on simple government statistics, yes or no?

    Ideological answers will not be accepted.

  46. Kent says:

    @MM,

    A couple of questions, then:

    1) Do we or do we not have an epidemic of auto-related deaths and injuries in the U.S.?

    Yes!

    2) Considering that federal regulation and restriction of driving is already in place and easier than firearm regulation, why are there more deaths and 60x more serious injuries than firearms?

    Because we use our autos so much more. I’m probably in mine an hour a day Mon – Fri and some on the weekends too. However, I only use my guns (shotgun and rifle) a few hours a year (in terms of actually aiming at something and pulling the trigger).

    3) Do you support the federal government taking away individuals’ licenses and vehicles for the purpose of reducing auto-related deaths and injuries?

    Absolutely. I have a younger sister with a severe for of epilepsy. She simply isn’t physically or mentally capable of safely handling an automobile. That doesn’t mean we should take away everyone’s rights. The same as this fellow in Vegas. He wasn’t mentally capable of safely using firearms. He should not have been allowed to have them. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

    Thanks!

    Your welcome!

  47. James from Durham says:

    At some point enough Americans will have been killed to make them think that guns aren’t so great. At that point, the last American standing will put down his weapon.

    I am less worried about the Americans being shot than the soldiers and weapons they send to other parts of the world.

  48. Alex (the one that likes Ike) says:

    Simon K,

    If you look at US gun ownership statistics, Non-Hispanic Whites have significantly higher gun ownership rates than African-Americans or Hispanic Americans. Which makes me wonder what long-term impact changing demographics may have on the gun issue. If gun culture is much stronger among non-Hispanic Whites than among other groups, maybe their declining share of the population will eventually lead to less influence for that culture on wider society.

    Most immigrants come from countries with much stricter gun control than the US, and where those measures are popular. While immigrants may adopt US cultural attitudes to guns upon immgirating, I think it is more common for them to retain the attitudes they acquired in their country of origin. So I think that over a few decades, demographic changes will weaken gun culture in the US to the point that it might become feasible to politically defeat it.

    Formally repealing the Second Amendment is a waste of effort. Much more plausible that one day there will be left-wing majority on the Supreme Court who can just turn it back into a dead letter. They’d have to overturn a few precedents to get there, but precedent isn’t binding at that level.

    Seeing the frequency of violent revolutions and civil wars in the history of Latin America from where Hispanics come, I’d say desine sperare qui hic intras.

    ***

    Ken T,

    The right to free speech does not permit you to commit slander.

    Hmmm… The MSM must certainly be unaware of that.

    ***

    herbert herbertsen,

    But that’s because the gun-nuts are indeed nuts, writing off tens of thousands of killings and suicides as an acceptable price to pay for their hobby and their weird fantasies.

    Well, I know that progressives are tone-deaf to the fact that the overwhelming majority of gun crimes are committed using illegal guns, but suicides? Seriously? Now read this and see how low the US is in both suicide rate lists:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate

  49. VikingLS says:

    “Thus, the right to bear arms does not grant the right to possess weapons whose only purpose is to cause mass harm. This has nothing to do with self-defense, it has nothing to do with hunting, it has nothing to do with recreational target shooting. Your right to bear arms does not supersede my right not to be shot.”

    The 2nd Amendment is not about self-defense, hunting, or target shooting.

    Your right not to be shot is already protected by law, as is your right not to be stabbed or even hit by a car.

  50. VikingLS says:

    I think the point of the car comparison is that the automobile is a deadly and destructive machine that most of us are so comfortable with we accept an epidemic of preventable automobile deaths and open violation of the laws we have as a regular part of modern life. We could save lives by lowering the speed limit, enforcing the limits we have, and go to a zero BAC on drunk driving. We just don’t because we enjoy things about where they are with cars.

    Firearms, on the other hand, are not a big part of many people’s lives. Thus it is a lot easier to be afraid of them and to resent other people for owning them.

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