Perhaps the chief problem with the U.S. gun control movement is that its proponents seem to have no idea what they want. Few areas of American public policy debate are as fact-free and as devoid of substantive meaning as the repeated and seemingly endless demands for more gun laws.
Take Washington Post writer Jennifer Rubin, who recently used her column to criticize “Republican Second Amendment absolutists.” Claiming the GOP should “address…guns,” Rubin condemns politicians who refuse to talk about “concrete, reasonable measures to reduce gun violence.” She accuses such politicians of “craven hypocrisy,” and implores lawmakers to “discover a sense of moral obligation” and show “concern and legislative determination” on the topic of gun control.
Notably missing from this column is—wait for it—any specific proposal for “concrete, reasonable measures to reduce gun violence.” It’s not there. There’s not even a vague proposal, not even a half-hearted gesture toward anything resembling a proposal. Generally, if one is seeking a legislative change, one tends to have an idea of what that change would actually be.
This is a perennial feature of gun-control partisans: a great deal of blustery talk about “moral obligation” with virtually no meaningful ideas as to what we are supposed to, you know, do about gun violence.
‘Do Something, Anything, I Don’t Know What’
One can witness the same evasive and empty rhetoric from TV show host Stephen Colbert, who on his show this week implored his viewers to “vote for someone who will do something” about gun violence. What that “something” precisely is, he did not say, although he briefly alluded to a desire to “get rid of the guns,” a truly staggering proposal.
Yet even when they offer specific policy prescriptions, gun control advocates are still generally incapable of advancing any legislative proposals that would target gun violence in any meaningful way. On his Facebook page recently, outraged at another “moment of silence” taking place in the House chambers, California Rep. Ted Lieu called for “reasonable gun safety legislation,” including “a universal background check law…a ban on assault rifles, and a ban on bump stocks.”
A ban on bump stocks does indeed seem reasonable enough (so much so that even the National Rifle Association endorsed a law that would accomplish this), but the other two are, in the context of the American gun violence debate, non sequiturs: a “universal background check law” would not have prevented any of the high-profile mass shootings of the past decade or so, and there is debate over whether such a law would have any measurable effect on American gun violence as a whole.
The proposal for a “ban” on “assault rifles,” meanwhile, is meaningless enough to be laughable: assault rifles are already regulated more or less to the point of practical nonexistence in this country, and in any case, in more than eight decades, assault rifles have only been used in three homicides.
Why Don’t You Have Any Ideas?
This is the general tenor of the gun control debate: either substance-free calls to “do something” or demands for needless and ineffective policy measures. It is necessary to ask: Why do gun control advocates continue to practice such empty and useless bombast? What is the point?
One is tempted to suggest pro-gun control partisans are actually interested in a lot more than “reasonable gun safety legislation.” To a great many people, guns are both frightening and repulsive, things to be disdained and opposed rather than tolerated.
There is a decent chance that the individuals who continue to demand nameless gun control, or who propose gun control measures that really wouldn’t do anything to stop gun violence, are actually interested in a lot more than simple gun control policy. They are very likely more interested in greatly diminishing if not outright eliminating gun rights in American society, and are simply taking an incremental approach to getting there.
Maybe that’s an uncharitable assumption. But then it’s worth stating the question to these types of partisans outright: since your gun control ambitions are either incoherent or purposeless, what, exactly, are you after?
It is time, in other words, for gun control advocates to put up or shut up: they need to be honest about their ultimate ambitions, or else they just need to sit down and stop dealing in rank public dishonesty. If they truly want to “get rid of the guns,” then they should stop putting forward all these pointless half-measures and just come out with it.