Unless our Dear Reader is just waking from a coma or happens to be a recluse, I think it’s safe to say that very little recap is needed by way of preamble.
For brevity’s sake:
The blogosphere and social media went into overdrive.
The president spoke.
For a solid week, advocates for gun control explored and polished their arguments. Second Amendment advocates, well… Would it be fair to call their activity exploration and polishing?
I’ve tried very hard during this time to avoid painting any groups with a broad brush. People that I know, respect, and love on both the left and the right (and all points in between and beyond the boundaries) have approached this issue from a variety of perspectives. Some of these folks are parents. Some aren’t. They all work in widely different fields. Their incomes run the gamut from poverty to upper middle class. There’s a mix of race, gender, and religion. For all of that diversity, what I find in this small cadre of personal family, friends, and acquaintances is the same thing I found in the media…radical polarization. Gun control or no gun control, that is the question.
Another thing I found was what I might consider “radical dismissiveness.” Granted, there’s nuances. Gun control advocates are looking not only at a mix of particular items to be restricted, but also at the rules governing acquisition of those items and responsibility for gun ownership, as well as a raft of social issues including mental health and our “culture of violence.” Second Amendment proponents have their own set of nuances, ranging from the historical underpinnings of the Second Amendment to their understanding of just what rights are protected by the Constitution of the US of A.
As I see it, the two camps are entrenched, and the chants on both sides are not only deafening but eerily similar.
What do we want? Gun control! When do we want it? Now!
What do we want? Guns! When do we want them? Now!
But watch what happens when you see two people of opposing positions on this issue attempt to discuss it.
Person 1: “I think A because x.”
Person 2: “But B, because y.”
True, there are examples of Person 2 delving into either A or x, but having read, watched, and engaged to a fair degree over this last week, my own experience says that these moments of engagement are the exception, not the norm. For the most part what I see is two sides just patently dismissing each other.
For myself, I thought I already knew where I stood on the issue prior to Sandy Hook. However, when such a stand is held on principle, unchallenged by harsh realities, it’s easy for the view to simply crystallize, to become the default position from which a knee-jerk reaction is launched. What about when harsh reality comes along and serves up twenty tragic funerals for children? The teachers and the shooter’s mother are important, too, but CHILDREN! I don’t know about you, but when my knee-jerk reaction started to unfold, the children were at the center of that impulse.
The problem is that I’m clearly not wired correctly. As soon as my figurative knee started its upward launch, it lost all critical perspective. My literal brain, on the other hand, was having none of that. Even before I read the first blog post, just based on the mere fact of the news, I knew that good, necessary, honest discussion and debate on this subject was going to be a rare commodity. For that matter (at least from my limited perspective), another prediction I made came true. Anyone trying to tease out appropriate thoughts and actions from the morass of disparate historical interpretations, underlying cultural influences, and the facts and figures is going to be excoriated by the opposition for making a case.
That semi-public skinning has taken the form of, “you’re wrong because of a case I can’t make adequately to convert you, but you’re still wrong. And evil. Asshole.” It has taken the form of direct insults. I’m delusional. Naive. I don’t see the big picture. By reason of my own failings as a critical thinker, my reaction was, initially, to entrench. I believe A, and I’m open to B, but if that’s the best that B has to offer I’m sticking with A as the starting point for my exploration of the arguments. To do so puts me squarely in Camp A as I offer up points for consideration. To the extent that I’m willing to consider the points that Camp B offers, I’m challenged by Camp B’s vilification, as though, somehow, this issue has become a new moral litmus test and Camp B has, by virtue of inherent moral supremacy, occupied the high ground from which they dictate the terms of the narrative. Anyone not engaging in the debate on their terms need not apply.
If it’s the case that I should not see Camp B’s position that way, I submit Camp B needs to tone down the treacle and sanctimony.
For one thing, I take no position for granted, though I do lean heavily in favor of one. I can’t recall a moment where someone in either Camp A or B hasn’t presented their case without first stamping it with the all the authority usually reserved for divine revelation. I reserve the right to challenge that kind of arrogation of moral authority as one of the first and foremost privileges of humanity.
It doesn’t generally help me attain clarity when Camp A speaks up and not only does no better but could be argued to have done demonstrably worse, at least as far as addressing the meat and potatoes of the debate.
So, for the time being, I’m still, as ever, on my own as I wrestle with my stance in the debate. I’m tempted to say that we have that in common, but I doubt it. When Camp A speaks, there’s a resounding chorus inside a finely tuned echo chamber. Same thing in Camp B. Each side has its solidarity, so long as lines are toed.
There is one thing that works in my favor as I continue to sort this matter out…time. Regardless of position in the spectrum, I see no reason to believe that any meaningful reforms will happen any time soon. Whatever happens, Obama’s not coming for anyone’s guns by way of some confiscatory policy. Whatever happens, gun owners will remain gun owners, control advocates will continue to advocate, our culture, violent or otherwise, will be resistant to change, and mental health issues public and private will remain unresolved for the time being.
And for the time being, I’m still holding to my initial stance as a point of departure. If that is to change, I will need compelling reason.
I am, for better or ill, starting from the position of being pro-Second Amendment. This stance puts me in a very uncomfortable spot, as Camp B reveals itself to comprise acquaintances, friends, and family, people for whom I hold some measure of fondness, that are happy to vilify those who start in defense of liberty. Camp A, meanwhile, doesn’t help when one of its most visible so-called advocates makes a mockery of the issue by opening his mouth.
Currently, I start with the view that the Second Amendment makes perfectly fine sense as it’s written, though perhaps for all the wrong reasons. Being as yet unschooled in the history of the amendment, however, I find myself relieved and vindicated when I learn of District of Columbia v. Heller:
The Supreme Court held:
(1) The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. Pp. 2–53.
(a) The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 2–22.
(b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court’s interpretation of the operative clause. The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens’ militia would be preserved. Pp. 22–28.
(c) The Court’s interpretation is confirmed by analogous arms-bearing rights in state constitutions that preceded and immediately followed the Second Amendment. Pp. 28–30.
(d) The Second Amendment’s drafting history, while of dubious interpretive worth, reveals three state Second Amendment proposals that unequivocally referred to an individual right to bear arms. Pp. 30–32.
(e) Interpretation of the Second Amendment by scholars, courts and legislators, from immediately after its ratification through the late 19th century also supports the Court’s conclusion. Pp. 32–47.
(f) None of the Court’s precedents forecloses the Court’s interpretation. Neither United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542 , nor Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252 , refutes the individual-rights interpretation. United States v. Miller, 307 U. S. 174 , does not limit the right to keep and bear arms to militia purposes, but rather limits the type of weapon to which the right applies to those used by the militia, i.e., those in common use for lawful purposes. Pp. 47–54.
On the one hand, given that it’s a SCOTUS decision, rightly determined or not, this rendering now holds the most political sway. On the other, there’s contentious debate on the reading. John McIntyre had this to say leading up to the decision. The New Yorker also makes the case that my understanding of the language is entirely wrong, but for different, and deeply political, reasons. In any event, it’s too soon to think I’ve landed squarely in friendly territory just because, in the war between journalists, grammarians, scholars, and jurists, the jurists came down on “my side,” as that same decision goes on to fly in the face of another of my starting positions:
(2) Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons. Pp. 54–56.
That’s right. I’m going out on a huge limb here with this confession. I believe that the right is unlimited. I believe this fully aware that this puts me dead center in Crazy Town, even among many Second Amendment advocates. It helps my cause not at all that the opinion I cheered for one moment was authored by the Justices with whom I most frequently disagree only to find that those same Justices comfortably occupy a disagreeable position once again, rather inconveniently against the very core of my own argument.
I arrived at this starting point from gut instinct and only a smattering of history, so one might think I wouldn’t be terribly attached to it, especially if the cost of saying, “well, yes, Virginia, I do think I have a right to a SCUD missile,” is going to cost me the stink-eye from nearly all parties. But since I am approaching this complex issue from a position of values and principle (same as you, I assume), I’m stuck with this starting point and seemingly absurd assertion until such time as I have solid reason for dispensing with it. To just toss it aside as painfully inconvenient would be intellectual laziness at best, willful blindness and moral terpitude at worst.
So I looked for something about the reasons for the Second Amendment. How did it get into our constitution to begin with? Just my luck, I find the following and set myself up for all manner of ad hominem attacks in the purest sense. The reasoning is wrong because it’s the speaker’s reasoning.
The Heritage of Our Right to Bear Arms by Rep (R-FL) Cliff Stearns
St. Louis University Public Law Review, Gun Control Symposium, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1999: 13
Unfortunately (for me) Stearns only starts out helping my case but so much:
There are three points critical to this discussion ¾ that our legitimate right to own firearms are based on the need for self defense, the need for self support such as hunting, and the need for communal defense (militia). Opponents of the private ownership of firearms seize on the last point as the sole reason for the existence of the Second Amendment. They argue that the United States of America no longer has a militia system, thus negating the [Page 14] right of individuals to own arms. They refuse to see this fundamental right in light of the other needs previously mentioned. In doing so, they ignore the body of historic events that led to the inclusion of the right to bear arms initially in the English Bill of Rights and then the American Bill of Rights a century later.
My primary reason for adhering to a “2nd Amendment because TYRANNY!” position gets chiseled at from the beginning. It’s the point on which the opposition is alleged (supported by an as-yet not-fact-checked Footnote 3) to focus its rebuttal. Worse, Stearns appears to back down on it with a facile, “yes, but defense and hunting” approach. But has he given ground?
Our Second Amendment right to bear arms has its direct antecedent in the English Bill of Rights which compressed the various reasons for owning a firearm into a right as a result of the government’s efforts to disarm its citizens. Events in English history provided many of the seeds that would become the fruit that we know as our Constitutional rights, among them the right to bear arms.
So, unless there are facts to the contrary, the source of our Second Amendment right to bear arms does indeed have a context. Which was?
The English Bill of Rights outlined charges against James II and declared the “true, ancient and indubitable rights” of the English people. Obviously, one of the rights dealt with arms. As originally drafted and approved, the right [Page 17] read this way: “It is necessary for the publick Safety, that the Subjects, which are Protestants, should provide and keep Arms for their common Defence: And that the Arms which have been seized, and taken from them, be restored.” Only a few days later the Bill of Rights was redrafted to read: “That the subjects which are Protestants, may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law.”
What did this change mean? “The original version implied that there was a positive duty to acquire arms for the public good, whereas the amended version made having arms a legal right.” Any English citizen in good standing, meaning a loyal Protestant, now had the right to be armed. Over some 500 years the requirement that citizens be armed evolved into a right, not just for public service in the militia, but also as a matter of individual choice. At the same time the principle purpose of owning a weapon changed from defending against foreign aggression to one of preventing domestic tyranny and individual repression. [emphasis added] The right to own a gun did not depend on participation in any military body, it became an individual prerogative for personal defense.
If only he had done the reader the courtesy of footnoting that bold point rather than leaving it as what appears to be an unsubstantiated assertion.
Even so, finding such a view vindicated from any quarter at least gave me the momentary feeling of sanity. I had not just stumbled into some wild fantasy of my own creation. Seeing the facts at hand, limited though they were, I connected the dots in a way that was not utterly unique. Of course, my luck is such that my vindication came from someone widely seen on the left as part of the wacko right fringe, so there’s no need for the opposition to consider the merits of the historical argument. It’s wrong because Cliff Stearns said it.
No matter. Substantiated or not, when the notion of an unabridged right to bear arms in defense against tyranny is brought up, the predictable retort from gun control advocates essentially boils down to:
This has, in my limited experience, been followed up with what I see as profound defeatism. Folks like myself who honestly believe the Second Amendment is about the prevention of tyranny think…what, exactly? That when imaginary tyrants show up, we’ll spook them with Glocks! This is the quality of commentary received in response to the position I’ve taken. Mockery and straw man fallacies, and this from a left wing (of which I used to consider myself a part before deciding that, without a viable political “home,” I’m just radically independent) that prides itself on facts, fact-checking, and superior reason.
Feeling my oats, I posted the following at Ars Skeptica (my personal blog): Syria: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Syria From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(note: not an erroneous repeat, the above links to my blog post, this links to a Wikipedia article)
Luckily we have “fiscal cliff” to distract us from “gun control” today. Or is that the other way around on other days? I lose track. I’m sure “gun control” will be back in heavy rotation soon enough. I’ll still be radically pro-2nd amendment when it does, because tyranny. Why?Just look at how Syria plays out. Look who gets the official recognition. Look at what it took to get there. We are so fortunate that we don’t have the kind of oppressive government that actually triggers genuine armed insurrection. May we always be so fortunate. There are elements of both left and right ends of the usual political spectrum that think our government is heading in that kind of direction. So I don’t think either side should be especially comfortable with the prospect of an oppressive government led by the two parties of the 1%. Neither the role of oppressed nor oppressor sounds appealing.
And what keeps things civil? The 2nd amendment. The pantomime of “bipartisan government” is only effective as a peacekeeper so long as people remain content with this ruse. The 1% aren’t yet audacious enough to push either side too far. We have tremendous issues to address in this country, and finding a satisfactory compromise position between the left and right is essential to solving those problems, not least of which are poverty and gun violence. I fail to see any rationale for addressing these issues by imposing restrictions on a central American right.
And why would the 1% government hesitate? It has all the time in the world. The world is its counter-insurgency laboratory. To date, nothing short of massacre has ever successfully crushed a wide-spread uprising, and that only for a while. That’s not good for markets. If they ever do think they’ve got it figured out, we’d better hope there is a fierce response, else tyranny will indeed win. Seriously, imagine a state that could not be successfully opposed by its people. I don’t think we’re there yet. I hope we never have to face that risk as anything other than a horrible possibility to be resisted at all costs.
Should you disagree, that’s fine. But I would like to know what you believe a government that could not be opposed would do, given the opportunity.
For a host of perfectly rational reasons, the post received just about no attention at all. It’s just more words poured into a bottomless pit with no echo, no splash, no response. Then I found Kevin Drum’s recent piece at MoJo, If You Want to Regulate Guns, Talk About Guns. Period.
I know that lots of well-meaning people think that movies and videogames really are problematic, and that access to mental health in America is a scandal. And that might well be true. But every minute you spend talking about this stuff is a minute spent doing exactly what the NRA wants you to do. If you want to have any chance at all of passing gun legislation, that’s what you should be talking about. Guns. End of story. The other stuff can wait.
On this point, I agree with him. For all of its abundant idiocy, the NRA’s statement is finely honed idiocy, and I’d be a fool to think it anything other than a cynical misdirection gambit. The quasi-official voice of the so-called gun-nut deliberately avoided any substantial support for key arguments in defense of the Second Amendment, and in doing so evaded legitimate debate in a craven act of philosophical cowardice.
So I took the bait. I threw myself into the lions’ den by posting the following comment on Drum’s article, fully expecting to be demonized, but hoping against hope that in exploring the issue I would learn something.
Okay, so let’s talk about guns. Take a look at Syria and spend a moment considering the ramifications:
IMHO, the NRA would have done a better service to emphasize exactly why we have a right to bear arms. Defense against tyranny is but one of those reasons, but is central to the history of that right’s inclusion in our Bill of Rights. Funny thing is, Rachel Maddow had the notion of rights completely correct when it was about gay marriage. Suddenly, they need to be voted on. Would a little consistency from the so-called left be too much to ask?
It’s not often I encourage people to read the comments section at any website, as they tend to bring out the worst in people. In this case, if you have the stomach for it, I fully encourage you to do so. Did I maintain the full measure of equanimity I sought? No. I still have those failings. Old habits are hard to change, but I think that if you’ve read any of my previous screeds you’d see evidence of an effort in the right direction. But I challenge you to justify the quality of speech received in turn. The nature of the ensuing discussion took on, with precious little exception, exactly the turn I would have expected…moral grandstanding hand in hand with demonization of “the other” (practically a mortal sin when perpetrated by right wing trolls) and just about total aversion to the subject as I raised it, unless you count intellectual dishonesty, canned ideological talking points, logical fallacy, and hatefulness a head-on confrontation with ideas.
As for my desire to learn something, I was not disappointed. When the subject of militias came up, I tossed out what I thought I knew and received valuable historical resources for reference, namely the Militia Act of 1792 and an article, The Root Reforms and the National Guard by William M. Donnelly. My reading list grows, as does the number of points for due consideration.
Having made it only that far before getting my ass handed to me on a platter (I’m Adam Lanza, after all), having already seen the cherry-picking of data in other comment-thread conversations, and having limited time to engage in pointless, mindless bickering, I didn’t even bother to throw in another element of the conversation about guns we must have…the data presented by the pro-gun lobby by way of Gun Owners of America. Oh, lordy, I just went there. Caveat #1: the data is from 2004, so this is more than a touch out of date. Honestly, I haven’t looked that hard yet for more current data. Caveat #2: I have yet to fact check a single point of it. My case in presenting this information is simply this…to hear all the facts and figures dropped glibly amid a flurry of talking points, one would suspect that only gun control advocates have data, and that if there is any other data, that clearly only gun control data is somehow valid and worthy of consideration. I have yet to see a gun control advocacy position that takes on this conflicting data head to head. If it’s easy to de-bunk, I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough, but I would think it behooves all parties to consider all the data rationally, rather than dismissing the rest offhandedly.
Funny thing is, I remember something recently in the news where someone of prominence (earned or otherwise) dismissed nearly half the electorate. Now who was that again? Oh, right. That didn’t work out for him so well, did it?
Could it be that it’s only acceptable to marginalize nearly half the nation if one does it from the centrist left?
I realize it’s far too late to make a long story short. In my perverse way, that’s actually part of the point. I come into this debate acknowledging the limitations of my understanding. Rightly or wrongly, I’m making an earnest attempt to actually learn about the substantive issues underlying the current debate. Thus far, only a week in, I’ve discovered that the position I take is not entirely devoid of reason and yet sustains heavy, perhaps even legitimate, criticism from an historical perspective. I am making this effort because this debate is at least as important to me as it is to anyone else with a stake in it.
Along the way, I’m learning to be disgusted by more than a few facets of our modern political life, as well as some of my own behaviors.
For one, hubris is an ugly thing. There’s more than enough of that going around to poison all the wells, as far as I can tell.
For another, the hypocrisy from the so-called left is thicker than a London fog of late. The right has its fair share of problems, and when they’ve gotten on my nerves I haven’t been bashful in the least when it came time to share my opinions. I’m not going to back down now just because the hypocrites are sitting on the other side of some imaginary aisle.
I can handle being called a fucking imbecile by some stranger trolling MoJo. That won’t cost me a single wink of sleep. I have a harder time with being condescended to by peers and friends.
I fail to see where calling out the falsity of claims that .223 ammunition is high-powered by demonstrating the huge diversity of calibers is getting lost in the weeds, so to speak. To falsely claim that .223 ammunition is somehow, without justification and without highlighting differences within that caliber, “powerful” is to open the door for equally disingenuous slippery slope arguments for control of all of the far more “powerful” ammo available. Perhaps noticing the foot lodged in the door is just in poor taste on my part.
I fail to see how emphasizing a concern for the general welfare and common defense of 311 million Americans is failing to see the “big picture” just because I don’t give in to the momentary whims of emotional appeal. Yes, a dead child is a tragedy. Twenty of them is 20x moreso. Gun deaths are tragedies in general. Here, from a solidly left-wing source, is a citation of FBI 2011 crime data: in 2011, guns were used to murder 8,583 people living in the United States. That is 8,583 tragedies. 119 of those tragedies were the deaths of children 12 or younger.
Which picture is bigger?
As I’ve said before, if we disagree, that’s fine. Come at me with with reasoned argument. I’ll do my best to fairly consider the argument and return the favor. But don’t fucking trivialize my perspective. If I’m wrong that the interests of 311 million people trump those of 8,583, or 80,000, 800,000, or even 8,000,000, then show me. Last I checked, that’s good, solid liberal thinking.
I’m sick and tired of the intellectual dishonesty that’s being bandied about on all sides, naturally, but maybe because I consider myself part of the “disaffected left” I take special umbrage when “liberals” lay it on thick. I pick on this particular post because it sums up nicely, in one spot, the issues that have really chapped my hide this last week. To watch MSNBC each evening is to have a wide-bore syringe filled with this mental toxin jammed straight into one’s brain. Maybe that works for the partisan cheering section, but MSNBC in particular has laid to rest any concerns I’ve had about false equivalency. The sheer magnitude of party machinery propaganda spewing from that parade of Democratic hacks is easily the equal of that pouring out of Fox. It’s the difference between grape or cherry Kool-Aid.
The author makes it clear early on that there are two well-developed camps in this issue. On the one hand, there are decent people, people of good conscience like himself, that were merely venting their frustration that “yet again innocent lives had to be sacrificed on the altar of guns.” On the other hand, there’s everyone else who had the temerity to engage in any of his summary bullet points. Altar of guns? What is with these self-appointed arbiters of good conscience, with their alternating trivialization and demonization of some poorly defined “other?” Seriously. I’ve lost count of the references to gun fetishists and gun nuts with their big, black artificial penises (guns) that I’ve encountered. Do they really imagine that everyone who disagrees with them on this issue are just so many one-dimensional demonic caricatures? The same crowd that cries foul when the right engages in any kind of broad-brush characterizations (and often justly so) simply does not have room to reply in kind without becoming hypocrites.
Bad people said that December 14 was, as a matter of simple decorum, not the time to talk about gun control. I’m sorry if the left can’t manage its messaging any better. I’m sorry if the agenda-setters lose sight of their big issues in the midst of the 24/7 “news” barrage they help create. I’m sorry that before I could even write a proper piece regarding the collective memory hole Kasandra Perkins got tossed into while the media issued a frequent chorus of “oh, poor Belcher” twenty children and six adults were brutally gunned down by a madman. Where I can agree with the author of After Newtown is that the time for the discussion was any of the countless times before that. But I maintain that the issue would be just as relevant, just as important, just as urgent if the bodies could at least be laid to rest first. He goes on to say that the correct time is “as soon as possible,” and why? Because that’s when we “stand a chance at preventing further massacres.” That sounds awfully political to me, never mind that, two paragraphs later, he says talking about gun control when children are gunned down isn’t politicizing.
Remember when the GOP latched on to White House talking points about Benghazi. Four Americans serving their country weren’t even in the ground yet when the Republican assault on the Obama administration began. And what did the left call it? Politicizing. It doesn’t matter in that scenario, or in the Sandy Hook case, whether there is substance to the clamor. Burials, folks. Can’t we at least have the burials first? As for Benghazi, at least it turns out there was something to the outcry, even if the right is rather selective about who they castigate for intelligence failures or which Rice they tear down for speaking from bad information to the UN.
Guess what it is when opportunistic cause-vultures jump onto a stack of dead bodies as a bully pulpit? Politicizing. If you’re doing that and you can’t see it for what it is, I submit that you’re not applying the same standards to yourself as you do to your opposition. That merely makes one a hypocrite. If you’re doing that and you know you’re doing it while mouthing “it’s not politicizing,” I’m sorry to inform you of this, but that actually makes you a liar.
The author has never heard anyone who says, “now is not the time” suggest a good time because (as I have often done myself) he cynically imputes motive to the opposition. “Their” failure to bring up debate “they’d” rather not have is a moral failing on “their” part. Yet again, the left simply cannot take responsibility for managing its own calendar and messaging. How’s this for an idea? Bring it up when the current slate of massacre victims is laid to rest, perhaps during a time when you’d otherwise ignore all of the other deaths that would just happen to be convenient to the cause? If you bring it up (it’s your agenda, after all) when nobody remarkable dies, or nobody dies remarkably, it’s a no-harm, no-foul kind of moment for you. After all, black murder’s not news, and you’ve worked hard to change that, right? No? Then spare us the righteous indignation.
For that matter, since the crux of the issue appears to be preventability, the distinction between massacre and tragedy, where’s this author’s policy prescription? You know, one that would have prevented these (or any other) deaths? Where’s the argument to support the missing assertion? Where’s the reasoned debate when someone disagrees? Can’t find it? That’s probably because there’s this magic wand with “gun control” engraved on it being waved around willy-nilly. Who needs facts and arguments when you’ve got a sparkly Feel-Good wand?
Another moment where I just about agree with the above author is when he takes issue with the claim, “anything can be a weapon in the wrong hands.” He’s right. Guns are exceptionally good at their intended function. But, as is usually the case when this point comes up, the issue the left absolutely does not want to engage in these politically charged moments, lest it muddy their gun control messaging, is intent and the causes of that intent. The claim is made that anything less, in this case, less than an assault rifle (undefined) would be less effective. That may or may not be the case. I’m certain that, with evil intent, a madman could dispense with quite a number of innocent lives with a mere hammer. Maybe 10 lives lost would be more acceptable, 5 more palatable, so long as those deaths are caused with an acceptably inefficient means of murder. No? Then how is wrong to bring up this point while evading the underlying causes? If my own cynical guess is correct, it’s because those causes are wildly complex and neither the political capital nor will exist to do anything substantial about them. But gun control? Give ’em a body count high enough and innocent enough and maybe they can get the will and the capital together if the timing is right. It won’t matter if their magic bullet actually achieves the desired results. They’ll have scored their political points while the underlying causes rage on.
He generously gives partial credit for derailing the necessary gun control debate with mental health. How kind of him. He fairly points out that the odds of getting a political solution to a mental health problem is even less than that of getting meaningful gun control passed. Gee, why might that be? The child-killing drone strike president, elected by the gun control crowd, didn’t even muscle universal coverage onto the negotiating table. Centrist Dems (read: the majority of them, see also, DINO) have moved far enough to the right that President Obama, a self-avowed “moderate Republican” where his policy positions are concerned, gets complicity from his Congressional Democratic cohort on everything from a two-tiered justice system to erosions of civil liberty that would make Bush II blush, all the while mouthing platitudes and shoveling actual liberals under the bus.
After that, our humble author nails two in a row, at least until one starts picking apart the logical fallacies used to support the second basic argument of arming everyone. LaPierre’s suggestion that the teachers should be armed was, to put it bluntly, just plain hot air and stupidity mixed in equal measure. And clearly, everyone being armed, in itself, won’t be enough to prevent future massacres. That only works if “everyone” happens to be in the right place at the right time with the right degree of preparedness, training, and skill. Since that’s not going to happen, it’s hardly a policy prescription in the context of massacre prevention. On the other hand, this facile treatment of the argument doesn’t even begin to address guns used in crime prevention. We’ll never know how many deaths were prevented, because that’s just not the way history unfolded in those circumstances. At some point I’m going to need to look up more current data than that provided in the Kleck study from 1993, but for the sake of argument, consider: 8,583 firearm homicides in 2011 (see above). If firearms are still used in defense against crime 2.5 million times per year, only 0.34% of those incidents leading to the prevention of a homicide would result in a societal break-even.
The left often makes a valid pro-life argument. If the goal of the pro-life movement is to reduce the number of abortions, increased women’s health services, access to birth control, and fewer restrictions on abortion actually yield a lower abortion rate and should thus be desirable in terms of the net numbers. Good luck getting the other side to play ball with that. The same reasoning may well apply here, but in reverse. Until these two sides can sit across from each other, engaged in legitimate debate, we may never know. I haven’t yet seen anyone on the left address this point of a potential net decrease in firearm homicide perhaps correlating to looser gun laws.
After that, our author, wrapped in the mantle of gun control piety, throws out any pretext at intellectual integrity. First, the remaining wastebasket category is “bullshit.” Disagree, and it’s bullshit. His prescription for bullshit? Debunking. His proposed tools of debunking? Rebuttals, not debunking. I guess actual debunking might have been too much to expect. Then it’s on to the falsehood cloaked in emotional appeal. He’s disgusted that we give the right to mow down children. Come again? No, sorry, Dave. Nobody has done any such thing. I challenge anyone to find a single credible source indicating that such a right has ever been bestowed. Murder remains murder. Murder remains criminal. There is no right to crime. This kind of outright lie only serves to agitate the base and demonize “the other.” This fictional right-to-murder is apparently apparently exercised with “automatic weapons.” Which would that be, the “assault rifle” that was only “assault-y” in appearance, and that lacked an automatic fire option? Or the Glock? If the goalposts are being moved from “assault rifles that aren’t actually assault rifles” to “automatic handguns,” one should have the courage of their convictions and say so, so that we can see what demands are really being placed on the table.
Further, we as a morally bankrupt nation will then stand up and say anything to ensure nothing prevents this from happening again. We don’t know what will prevent madman from committing mayhem and murder. On the other hand, Second Amendment advocates are for self defense (remember, only 0.34% of those 2.5 million annual incidents need to prevent firearm homicide to break even) and defense against tyranny. I predict that point will only be soundly mocked rather than addressed. After all, mockery is so much simpler than addressing the fact that, by the end of President Obama’s second term, we’ll have lived through no less than 16 years of government encroachment on civil liberties in defense of 1% interests. In spite of that, it remains unimaginable to the Believers of Their Own PR, the Drinkers of Left-Flavored Kool-Aid, that we could ever have anything like tyranny here in America. They can’t even imagine what it looks like. They can’t look to other nations and see how many suffer and die and think for a moment that, not only could it happen here, but that they could be the ones to vote it into power. Reframe that as the institution of Dominionism and “Christian Sharia” and they get it all too well because then their hands are clean. No worries. We shouldn’t be permitted (as though rights were granted rather than inherent) to defend against that, either.
From there, he just wraps up with more sanctimonious twaddle. In a way, I’m grateful that he encapsulated all these points in one convenient place for me. It’s spared me countless additional links and you perhaps a few thousand more words in this post. Want more “sanctimonious twaddle?” You won’t have to look long, hard, or far. Pick a mainstream or MSNBC pundit, hell, pick a blogger at my personal favorite site, one to which I have contributed and hope to contribute to again, Scholars & Rogues, and you won’t have to look far to see this same kind shallow and glib attack without recourse to anything even remotely like an impartial search for a well-reasoned solution to this incredibly complex social ill.
As for me, I tentatively remain pro-Second Amendment while I do the hard work of reading more, learning more, and trying to be certain that my own well-intended and impassioned bullshit doesn’t get in the way of reason. One thing I won’t be doing is getting lost in the weeds of comment sections and empty debate. My own failings in this matter are not so much of intent, but of limitations in my knowledge and my talent at making a compelling argument. What I absolutely do not mean to do is become just another mouther of canned talking points wrapped in hollow emotional appeals and unsound reasoning.
Finally, if I have run far afield here, I can only apologize. At 6900+ words, this post has been as much personal exploration and catharsis as anything. I know that I’ve left loose ends and incomplete arguments in my wake, and I hope to remedy this in time. What I have done, however, is throw down a gauntlet. If you’ve been at all offended by my approach, might I suggest you ask if the shoe fits? Or perhaps whether you are the goose or the gander? The vast majority of us could stand to make the improvements I seek to make in myself. I only hold up for your the same mirror into which I peer.
Image credit: SS-1 Scud missile on its MAZ-543P-TEL by David Holt, licensed under Creative Commons.