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Gun Control Advocates Need To Find Some Better Arguments

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After the horrifying slaying of two journalists on live TV, there was predictable shouting about the need for gun control. And we’re still getting nowhere.


After the horrifying slaying of two journalists on live television, there was the predictable shouting about guns. One thing’s for sure: there’s always minimal time spent considering why individuals are capable of such evil and much time spent trying to pin that evil on some easily digestible political target: video games, maybe unfettered racism, but more probably, the NRA, which facilitates carnage, we’re told, for profit and fun.

But mostly it’s about the guns themselves—as if they possessed the ability to induce otherwise peaceful people to engage in vile and wicked acts.  And whenever there is a tragic shooting, rather than simply arguing for the one proposal that could plausibly stop shootings, the mass confiscation of guns, we have to game out exactly what left is talking about.

“What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism,” said President Obama yesterday. It is true. Utterly irrelevant, but true. We are blessed not to have rampant terrorism in this nation, but in places where terrorists do roam, innocent people without guns submissively kneel to be beheaded. So I suppose the president, inadvertently, makes a pretty good argument in favor of the Second Amendment.

But Obama is right, there are a lot of things more people die from than gun-related incidents. Like vehicular deaths. And in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof, after laying out three scary out-of-context “data” points to soften up his targets, takes this on. “Gun proponents often say things to me like: “What about cars? They kill, too, but we don’t try to ban them!”

So Kristof says we should treat guns like cars. Vehicular deaths have fallen 95 percent (he goes all the way back to 1921 to offer his reader full impact). He writes that America should aim to reduce gun homicides by a third of that decline.

Now, deaths due to cars have fallen so precipitously due to technological advances and education, not the regulations he cites—but that’s a story for another day. What Kristof fails to point out is that gun deaths have similarly fallen—by 50 percent since 1993. So his “aim” is lower than the actual drop in gun deaths over the past thirty years. This, despite the fact that there are millions of more guns in the hands of Americans.

If your answer to this is, well, all crime has fallen, then you’re conceding it’s not the guns but some broader trends in society that are causing violent crime.

Others point out that most gun deaths are suicides, so it’s the guns that are the problem, even if firearm violence floats with crime trends. Yes, the gun suicide rate has been higher than the gun homicide rate since at least 1981, according to Pew. If this is the problem, then you’re admitting that the nation has to improve its mental-health care, not tighten its gun laws. Unless the argument is that suicidal people have only one way to end their lives.

Kristof, then, as most gun control advocates do, offers the preposterous notion that guns are unregulated.

The lesson from the ongoing carnage is not that we need a modern prohibition (that would raise constitutional issues and be impossible politically), but that we should address gun deaths as a public health crisis. To protect the public, we regulate toys and mutual funds, ladders and swimming pools. Shouldn’t we regulate guns as seriously as we regulate toys?

The most significant point to be extracted from the above paragraph is that we have far too many regulation on toys, mutual funds, ladders and swimming pools. But also, that none of those items have a special protection in the Constitution. None of them are necessary to facilitate freedom. But mostly, that the proposition that guns are unregulated is preposterous.

We have federal licenses for gun dealers. We have mandated background checks, for all purchases from all gun dealers. For all purchases across state lines. Yet, Kristof says we need so-called universal background checks with more rigorous screening, even though such regulations would not have stopped any of the recent shootings. He says he wants limits on gun purchases to one a month so that we can reduce trafficking, but that would not have stopped any of the recent horrifying crimes, either. He says he wants safe storage requirements and longer waiting periods and he lays out a bunch of restriction that either criminals would not follow or have nothing to do with the recent shootings in the country.

What he means to say is that he believes we need a modern prohibition. Because, in the end, like almost everyone who wants to pass a slew of gun laws, he lands on the Australian buyback program as the model. A buyback program that was a mandatory confiscation program. If that’s what you want, why didn’t you say so at the start?