I attended Sunday’s Falcons game at the Georgia Dome. In addition to the usual presentation of our nation’s flag and the singing of The National Anthem, there was a moment of silence. In days gone by, it would have been a public prayer. Instead, we were instructed to be quiet for a moment of reflection on the lives lost last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut. It was brief, but lasted long enough to make me wonder if we didn’t need a longer one, not just at football games, but across the whole country.
I became consciously aware of the shooting just after 1:00 pm Friday, not from the breathless news reports, but while reading Twitter and Facebook. I made the decision not to turn on the television right away. Unfortunately, this has become too familiar that I knew what to expect by doing that. There would be pictures and stories of unimaginable tragedy, told with incomplete and often incorrect information for the first few hours. I decided I could actually postpone reality for a bit, though I pieced together enough thoughts to post a request for “prayers for Connecticut” on my blog at Peach Pundit.
Then I checked out for a couple of hours. It was time for a moment of silence.
Facebook and Twitter are now the rapid response sites for citizen-based commentary during all events. When observing initial reactions there is a one general rule of thumb: You will lose faith in humanity reading knee-jerk responses and political solutions from instant experts while first responders are still trying to treat the wounded and remove bodies.
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.
James Holmes is an evil man. Sick? Quite possibly, but evil none the less. The same can be said of Jared Loughner who is responsible for the Tuscon shooting. The two men, and the events they started, also have something else in common. Both sparked the debate regarding high capacity magazines.
First, let’s clarify something for the non-gun folks who may be reading. Most semi-automatic weapons are designed around specific magazines. For an AR-15 or an AK-47, that is a 30 round magazine. For a 9 mm pistol, it’s usually in the neighborhood of 15 rounds. Those are properly considered standard capacity magazines, not high capacity.
Now that the bit of nomenclature is out of the way, I know that opponents of guns don’t see any reason why someone needs so many rounds in their magazine. Well, let me touch on that one. I probably don’t. On that note though, neither do the vast majority of police officers in this country who could legally secure these so-called “hi capacity” magazines during the Assault Weapon Ban. Law enforcement was exempt from the ban, yet how many officers legally discharge their firearms during the course of their career, not counting range time? Very, very few.
Despite what the movies tell us, police officers find themselves needing to discharge their weapons remarkably few times. Most police officers go their entire careers and never fire their weapons. The same is true for most private gun owners as well.
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.”
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.