As if we needed more bodies to remind us that the Second Amendment is a mixed blessing.
As if we needed another lunatic to surface and shamelessly slaughter students trying to better themselves. This time it was in Oregon, but the aftermath that followed was the same — before the dead were buried America’s cyclical, circus-like gun control debate was reignited. A sea of fury followed, and with it the flotsam and jetsam of shortsighted solutions, all aimed at doing “something.”
The left has longed looked to Washington to fix the country’s perceived “gun problem.” The right, however, has remained wary of legislation that would likely do little to curtail further violence while doing plenty to infringe upon individual liberties, in terms of guns or anything else for that matter.
Consider the recent 113th Congress, dubbed one of the “least productive” in history, a label for which Speaker Boehner shouldered much of the blame. Turns out he just couldn’t pass enough laws to quench the legislative thirst of the left and the media.
But as Republican Congressman Jim Renacci’s then-Press Secretary Shawn Ryan explained to the Washington Post:
“I also think it’s important to note that “productive” is a relative term. A small government conservative or a libertarian might argue that the Congress that legislates least, governs best. In other words, just because we aren’t passing legislation doesn’t mean we aren’t being productive.”
The idea that it’s impossible to legislate lunacy, that no law will prevent a madman from wreaking havoc on an unwitting public, seems like common sense.to conservatives.
Yet it seems no amount of common sense can infiltrate America’s discussion over the right to bear arms. Hence the slew of ill-designed proposals being bandied about to curb gun violence, particularly in terms of mass shootings, all of which will do little or nothing to stop those bent on mayhem.
Background checks? Besides being mass murderers, Colorado shooter James Holmes, Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza, and Oregon shooter Chris Harper-Mercer all have something else in common: the guns they used to wreak their havoc were all purchased legally, and no proposed background check legislation would have prevented their sell.
Liability insurance? This measure would have been wholly insufficient to alter the outcome at Sandy Hook (for which it is frequently cited), or anywhere else for that matter. Fining gun owners for not properly storing their firearms won’t stop anyone determined to seek retribution, and it certainly won’t bring the victims back. But don’t tell that to Hillary Clinton, who recently attacked Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on the debate stage for his defense of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a bill designed to protect gun dealers and manufacturers from litigation in the wake of tragedies such as the one in Oregon. When Sanders insisted that the measure was “large and complicated,” Clinton retorted: “I voted against it. I was in the Senate at the same time. It wasn’t that complicated to me.”
But that’s just it—it’s far more complicated than simply suing those you disagree with. Political expediency has no place in the debate over peoples’ lives and the Constitution.
An assault weapons ban? Besides ignoring the facts that 80 percent of gun-related murders are committed by handguns, and that in 2012 the death toll from all types of rifles totaled 322 deaths, a tragic yet surprisingly modest number, this proposal also fails to account for the basic physical realities inherent in mass shootings: when a crowd is cornered by a man with a gun, the rate of bullets flying from the barrel might have some effect on the overall casualty count, but it will likely be marginal. Americans must ask themselves if this marginal benefit trumps the right of the thousands of law abiding citizens to legally own similar firearms.
After all, for those citizens, these weapons could very well save more lives than were taken by the firing rates of Holmes, Lanza, and Harper-Mercer. Put yourself in post-Katrina New Orleans, and the need for assault weapons quickly transcends expedient policy.
But beyond these numerous “solutions,” there is another, more troubling dimension to this debate — what if the premise that America’s gun laws, or lack thereof, were to blame was flawed?
Consider, for instance, Politifact’s “mostly false” verdict for Obama’s declaration that America was unique in the frequency of its mass shootings. Or the recent finding that when it comes to mass shootings per capita, America ranks fifth in the world.
Anyone that follows the news knows that America isn’t alone when it comes to the horror of mass shootings. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a problem, but it does mean our laws are likely not be the whole problem, and that solutions aimed at those laws may be misdirected.
And that this race to legislate that which cannot be legislated is ill-considered, the sort of thing Reagan likely had in mind when he declared: “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” Our 40th president understood well that not all laws were good laws; that the fix was often worse than the fracture.
But that won’t stop the predictable criticism that “doing nothing” is complicity in the crime itself.
In this case, however, doing nothing may indeed be the best answer. That is until the law-lovers can reach into their magic bag and propose an effective policy that doesn’t erase the Second Amendment of the Constitution.
Until then, stay tuned for more political theatre and further demonization of those that contemplate policy before rushing to pass it.