My latest column over at the Daily Beast details how, in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings, Democrats were quick to pounce on the gun control issue. That turned out to be a non sequitur. But even at the time, when the motive was unclear, gun control was only one of a handful of relevant topics that we might have been discussing.
For example, we could have just as easily been discussing mental health (should it be easier to institutionalize someone?) and/or radical Islamism (which, it turned out, was the culprit in this case). Or we might have talked about how we live in a violent culture.
In fact, these other issues — which require much less simplistic solutions than gun control — come closer to addressing the fundamental problems. (The irony never escapes me that liberals are ostensibly intellectual defenders of nuance, yet so many of their positions require simplistic, reductionist thinking.)
The truth is, it’s not that simple. Gun control might make you feel better, but it will do little more. If we are to make a difference, we must simultaneously confront a series of serious and daunting problems. We must walk and chew gum at the same time. And we must admit that we are at least partly at war with a fallen world and with human nature. In other words, we will never fully vanquish the enemy. Murder, for example, will never be completely stamped out. But does this mean we should do nothing?
Radical Islamism is a serious problem that isn’t going way any time soon. In the long run, we will have to find a way to win hearts and minds. But in the short run — in the wake of this attack — it might make since to consider visa reform (as President Obama did mention), questions regarding the wisdom of immigration from from countries with large Islamist communities — and greater scrutiny and restricted travel to such places. It also might be prudent to re-evaluate recent changes to rules governing bulk-collection of telephone metadata.
But even putting aside the problem of radical Islamism, we live in a violent society. Some of this has to do with media selling and glamorizing violence, but not all of it. One example: In my lifetime, 57 million babies have been aborted in America. A much less severe, if telling, example: I am admittedly one of the millions of fans of the NFL (go Redskins, beat Dallas!) — despite the fact that I would not permit my children to play competitively.
We should probably all examine our own hearts. Are we creating a virtuous society that will endure for our children and grandchildren? Or are we living off of the borrowed capital of our more devout and sober forefathers?
The irony here is that, whether we’re talking about terrorism or mental health, or examining the kind of civilization we want our children to inherit, we probably have to become both more rigorous and more compassionate. We must walk a very tight rope. But let’s not kid ourselves, the so-called “gun problem” is merely a symptom of much deeper and more serious issues.
The San Bernardino shooters already lived in a state where the gun laws are far more rigorous than anything we could get nationally. They weren’t on a no-fly list, but even if they were, they didn’t purchase the guns themselves. And lastly, they had a ton of explosives they could have used. Gun control (or confiscation, as some would like) might very well make a big impact in terms of lessening suicides and accidental deaths; it will do nothing to stop murders.
So where does that leave us? There’s nothing wrong with using a certain nasty racial epithet, comedian George Carlin once averred, “It’s the racist asshole who’s using it that you ought to be concerned about.” It is with this same logical reasoning that I will invoke the trite, old cliche that goes like this: Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
We don’t have a gun problem; we have a violence problem.