I have reached the conclusion that Americans have enjoyed so much freedom and prosperity for so many years that they have come to take it for granted, and not only fail to see such circumstances as unique in the history of mankind, but as commonplace. And because they assume such has always been the norm, they fail to realize that such prosperity and freedom must be nurtured, cultivated, and defended.
How else can you explain the re-election of Barack Obama, who added more debt in his first three years than the first forty-one presidents combined, and more debt in four years than George W. Bush (not exactly a fiscal conservative) accumulated in eight years? How else to explain the seeming indifference to stratospheric debt levels that keep rising by more than $4 billion per day? We seem to think that America, because it has been the richest and most powerful nation in our lifetimes, will always be such.
Likewise, while the world around us seems in constant turmoil, until the attacks of 9/11 (2001, not the Benghazi attacks that we still have no answers for), Americans felt safe and secure on our homeland, buffered from the violence in Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world that fills our nightly news. But on that day we had our nose bloodied, and we felt vulnerable. Yet for the next eight years under Bush, we had no more attacks on American soil, and we once again slipped back in complacency.
Now, violent attacks are the steady diet of our news media. The Boston Marathon bombing. The ricin letters. Sandy Hook. Aurora. Virginia Tech. Columbine. The Underwear Bomber. The Shoe Bomber. The Times Square Bomber. The Giffords shooting. Suddenly we seem vulnerable again, and in that vulnerability we seek safety and security.
Shootings will continue to make headlines. Recent incidents such as the Aurora, Colorado shooting and events Friday at the Empire State Building continue to put guns and gun rights under a spotlight. One of the latest columns I’ve come across was spawned from the Huffington Post. In it, writer Marian Wright Edelman says she thinks it’s time for “common sense gun control”.
Every time another mass shooting happens in the United States, the debate over gun control comes fleetingly to the forefront — until political fear paralyzes courage and action. Inevitably, some people repeat the argument that the solution to preventing mass shootings is not better gun control laws — even control of assault weapons, which have no place in nonmilitary hands — but getting even more Americans armed. The apparent fantasy result would be something straight out of Hollywood where every single time a bad person stands up with a gun a good person with their own gun would quickly rise up out of the crowd, shoot the bad person, and save the day.
Edelman spends a good bit of time talking about mass shootings, invoking not just Aurora but also Columbine, Virginia Tech, and a host of others. After all, we must prevent these horrible events.
I don’t think anyone believes that these events aren’t horrible. However, I want to point out some things to Edelman. After all, she is writing from a position of emotion, rather than actual facts.
It is a sad trend that after every shooting in this country, there is a group of people who, without fail, rush to use it to make some political point. There’s always the perfunctory debate about gun control, with advocates stating that somehow gun sellers should predict when someone will use the weapon for evil. And when the target is political in any way, one side always uses it to make the case that the other side is “encouraging hate” and thus somehow to blame for the shooter’s actions.
We saw this clearly in the Gabby Giffords shooting, when those on the left tried to tie Jared Loughner’s actions to Tea Party rhetoric and even absurdly to Sarah Palin by posting pictures of a “target map” she had created, clearly referring to taking POLITICAL action against certain incumbents, not violence. Yet this did not stop liberals like Paul Krugman from plainly implying that she and other conservatives were partly to blame for their so-called “incendiary rhetoric”. This is not to say that the language of Palin and Bachmann is not often excessive and overheated, but it is plainly not encouraging violence.
Fast forward to this week, when a gunman decided to take out his disagreement with the Family Research Council by opening fire, wounding a security guard before being wrestled to the ground. Now, it should be known that I vehemently disagree with basically everything the FRC stands for. But never in a million years would I or any other sane person think this warranted violence. It’s clear that the main issue here was a severely imbalanced person who decided that the way to express his feelings was firing a gun at innocent people.
The recent Colorado theater shootings made the news again – tragic, visceral. But it seems that any discussion of guns revolves around a very strong selection bias, where all we see is violence, school shootings, highway snipers. This leaves the conversation incomplete.
These shootings constitute the “seen”. But what if—like economic processes—the issue of gun violence and gun control also has a “not seen” component? And what if the “not seen” is of equal importance as the “seen”? This recalls 19th century French political economist Frederic Bastiat’s famous essay, “That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen”, where Bastiat critiqued contemporary economic thinking by noting that for every economic process that is “seen” there are other equally important processes taking place that are “not seen” (his famous “broken window fallacy”).
There is therefore opportunity to stop viewing the gun control debate only through Constitutionality or even the “seen” and rather, to also address the “unseen.” Currently, most gun arguments are centered on the 2nd Amendment, especially its use of the word “militia.” Did the Founders purposely use “militia” in order to confer only a “collective” right to bear arms, or was the Amendment meant for individuals? The Supreme Court answered this question in its landmark Heller vs District of Columbia case, when the majority found that the Second Amendment indeed applied to individuals.
After a tragedy, there are things that happen. Friends and families of the deceased try to come to terms with the event, journalists try to learn what they can about the event and the people affected by it, and if the tragedy involved a madman with a gun then a politician will scream for gun control.
This time, we have none other than President Obama calling for the gun control:
“A lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals,” Mr. Obama said at the annual National Urban League convention in New Orleans. “They belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities.”
“Every day, the number of young people we lose to violence is about the same as the number of people we lost in that movie theater,” Mr. Obama said. “For every Columbine or Virginia Tech,there are dozens gunned down on the streets of Chicago or Atlanta, here in New Orleans. Violence plagues the biggest cities, but it also plagues the smallest towns.”
I guess he thinks he can get it passed now? After all, four years ago he said he wouldn’t try to pass gun control legislation because he didn’t figure he had the votes. Now, he has lost control of one chamber of Congress, with a lot of politicians still battling to keep their seats. Gun control is usually a loser issue for Democrats.
However, Obama clearly believes that the Aurora massacre will swing things his way. He’s using the word “gun owners” to convey the idea that the very people who will be regulated share his belief that an “AK-47” belongs in a soldier’s hands. Well, that may be true in a few places, but I haven’t met too many of those gun owners.
Blogger-in-chief Jason Pye has already written a great post on not giving in to hype and emotion over what happened in Aurora. What happened there was a terrible tragedy, and it was only made worse by baseless accusations and shoddy reporting on “both sides” being multiplied dozens of times over. (Personally, I think ABC’s Brian Ross should be fired for his incredibly inept rush to judgment, trying to pin the tragedy on a Tea Party member who had nothing to do with it, but that’s another post.)
There are just a few points I myself want to make:
Nearly everyone who hasn’t jumped on this political bandwagon or another has jumped on the “Don’t politicize this tragedy!” bandwagon. Doug Mataconis has a very good post on Outside The Beltway about just this, and for the most part, I agree with him. I think it is dirty and disgusting to try and score political points over the deaths of a dozen people, including a six-year old. It’s just wrong, period, and we should be mourning, not trying to use it as evidence in political trench warfare.
Yet, the problem is one of law and order—and one of government’s legitimate functions is the protection of lives and property. Many ask—rightfully so—what can be done to prevent this from happening again, and inevitably, that discussion involves government to some extent. When you have that sort of situation, it’s impossible for it to stay un-politicized. Complaining about it is about as useful as complaining about how bad an Aaron Sorkin feature is. It’s going to be that way.
Most who follow gun laws know that Frank Lautenberg isn’t exactly a friend of the Second Amendment. For those who don’t know this, let this little tidbit educate you on Lautenberg and his latest efforts:
Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg on Monday continued his lead role in advancing gun control legislation in the wake of the Aurora, Colo. mass shooting by introducing a bill to ban the online sale of ammunition.
“If someone wants to purchase deadly ammunition, they should have to come face-to-face with the seller,” Lautenberg stated in his announcement. ”It’s one thing to buy a pair of shoes online, but it should take more than a click of the mouse to amass thousands of rounds of ammunition.”
“The Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act” asserts the following: ammunition will only be sold by licensed dealers; buyers who are not licensed dealers will be required to present photo identification; and licensed dealers must maintain records of ammunition sales and report to officials the sale of more than 1,000 rounds to an unlicensed person. Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York, whose husband was killed and son severely injured in the 1993 Long Island Rail Road mass shooting, has signed on to publicly support the bill.
Lautenberg’s office noted Monday that the shooter who killed 12 and injured 58 in the July 20 attack at the Colorado movie theater purchased upwards of 6,000 rounds of ammunition “anonymously on the internet.”
In the wake of the shooting last week in Aurora, Colorado, Tea Party groups are understandably upset that Brian Ross, an investigative reporter at ABC News, injected movement into news as Americans were still trying to figure out what exactly had happened. This only lends justification to the view of many on the right that the media is stacked against them and is, at least in this case, literally looking for any excuse to make them look bad; even if it’s just conjecture.
And keep in mind that it wasn’t just in this particular instance where the Tea Party has been blamed for murder. As the Washington Examiner notes, there are more recent incidences of the media jumping to conclusions before the dust had cleared.
But the Tea Party movement did find an unlikely defender. On Monday, Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, ripped ABC News a new one, equating what Ross did to “I’m feeling ‘lazy’ button” and calling for his suspension:
There is no question that the event that occured during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado on Friday was a tragedy. Nearly everyone is familar with the shocking and disturbing details of the story by now. Excited movie-goers were looking forward to seeing the final part of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, only to wind up being victims of a senseless shooting by a clearly disturbed young man.
Most of us would have preferred that the weekend be a time to mourn and pray for the families of the 12 people killed and 58 wounded by this madman. Unfortunately, while families of the victims were grieving, policitians and advocacy groups were already railing against guns and calling for more gun control laws. Leftist blogs have already claimed that the AR-15 used in the shooting would have been banned under the Assault Weapons Ban (AWB). However, Right Sphere has debunked this thoroughly.
And, sadly, conspiracy theorists were busy concocting insane tales about how this was a “false flag” operation to gain public support for gun control measures, including the pending treaty with the United Nations.