The Reason editor talks sense on our convulsive reactions to the Sandy Hook massacre. Did you know, for example, that according to federal statistics, there are only half as many violent crimes today as there was 20 years ago, and the rate of gun crime is down by almost that much? I didn’t know that until I read Gillespie’s piece. More:
The general decline in gun-related violence and the inability even of mental health professionals to identify future mass killers should be the essential starting points of any serious policy discussion generated by the absolutely horrific slaughter at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. We should also add a third starting point: Few good policies come from rapid responses to deeply felt injuries. Many of the same people who are now calling for immediate action with regard to gun control recognize that The Patriot Act, rushed through Congress in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, was a terrible piece of legislation that ultimately did nothing to protect Americans even as it vastly expanded the state’s ability to surveil law-abiding citizens. There’s no reason to think that federal, state, or local gun control laws promulgated now would result in anything different.
Want to know something else? The New York Times reports that:
… statistics [indicate] that unlike handguns or shotguns, rifles of any type account for only a fraction of homicides in the United States — of 12,664 murder victims last year, 323 were killed with rifles, according to the F.B.I.’s Uniform Crime Report.
If you were a bad man determined to kill a bunch of people, you wouldn’t need an AR-15 to do it. You could do it with any number of handguns that are perfectly legal.
I continue to be amazed by how so many folks look at guns as talismans of evil. Yesterday afternoon I was at a kid’s party talking to some other fathers about hunting. We have a feral pig problem around here, and one of the dads had killed two wild pigs on his property. People hunt, and eat what they kill. People sometimes have to kill rattlesnakes, or coyotes eating their chickens. Guns are a normal part of life where I live. Gun violence is not. A while back I had a couple of European visitors in my house, and when they found out that I had a gun in the house (one of them asked), they got visibly upset, as if I’d told them that I kept king cobras in my closet. I’m not putting them down, understand; it’s just that it seemed emotionally impossible for them to see guns as anything but purely evil, and to entertain the idea that maybe, just maybe, it’s possible to own them and use them responsibly.
How you make it possible for a responsible homeowner or hunter to own a gun for sport or personal protection, but not possible for Nancy Lanza to do so, I have no idea. You’d have to repeal the Second Amendment, and confiscate everybody’s weapons. Good luck with that. In Connecticut, the mandatory background check and waiting period (which I fully support as commonsense measures) worked in Adam Lanza’s case. He tried to buy a rifle days before the shooting, but left the store when he refused a background check. How does the law keep the hands of someone like Adam Lanza off guns legally purchased? Must everybody give up their guns (if that were possible) because Nancy Lanza may have failed to keep hers out of the hands of her psychotic son?
Not only is it interesting to observe how foolish people can be when caught up in the emotionalism after a horrific event (I’ve done that, and came to regret it), it’s also interesting to see how quick many people are to throw out constitutional protections that they’re not using, or that they don’t see as important. Many of the people who would go to the mat for the First Amendment, no matter what monsters take shelter behind its shield, seem all too eager to throw out the Second Amendment, apparently because it doesn’t mean anything personally to them.