Token Dissonance

Black & gay, young & conservative. A Southern gentleman writes about life and politics after Yale


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Tragedy and Conscience

You might think a tragedy, like the unconscionable horror that just happened in Colorado, would be an occasion for people to come together. You would probably expect commiseration, reflection, and grieving. And yes, you would demand serious and thoughtful conversations about how we might prevent further horrors and failures in our current system. Some enlightened minds at The New Yorker, however, would never waste a good tragedy on silly things like respect or decency. I’ll spare you the need to read the whole thing:

The truth is made worse by the reality that no one—really no one—anywhere on the political spectrum has the courage to speak out about the madness of unleashed guns and what they do to American life. That includes the President, whose consoling message managed to avoid the issue of why these killings take place. Of course, we don’t know, and perhaps never will, what exactly “made him” do what he did; but we know how he did it. Those who fight for the right of every madman and every criminal to have as many people-killing weapons as they want share moral responsibility for what happened last night—as they will when it happens again. And it will happen againOnly in America.

I can think of few things more mature and enlightened than accusing responsible American gun-owners of a vast conspiracy to perpetuate mass murder. Well done, sir.

But seriously, let’s pretend that article was in perfectly good taste, and Mr. Gopnik is as thoughtful as he is reasonable and articulate. His argument boils down to the familiar diatribe against the Second Amendment: get rid of guns, and we’ll all be safer.

This may sound nice (to some people) in theory, but in reality, it’s more akin to throwing water on a gas fire. We cannot eliminate the illegal gun market. Insofar as it exists, criminals will always have guns. For some reason, many of the same people who would contest the previous sentences would wax didactic—without irony—about the invidious failure of the war on drugs. Most would remind us about how criminality results directly from this neo-Prohibition. Yet as surely as there will always be a market for drugs—legal and not—there will always be people who want guns. And they will get them.

So let’s be blunt: these tragedies tend to occur in places where guns are either not allowed or not expected—think every school shooting, from Columbine to Virginia Tech, and the Ft. Hood tragedy. (Private firearms are not allowed on U.S. military bases.) Likewise, crime at the University of Colorado—which resisted the state’s concealed-carry law—has risen 35% since 2004. At the same time, Colorado State University—which complied with the law—experienced  a 60% drop in crime. In Kennesaw, Georgia, where private gun-ownership has been mandatory for three decades, the crime rate has remained disproportionately low.

We don’t know how things might have gone differently if other people had been armed during these nightmares. But we do know that guns aren’t going anywhere, and we need to stop blaming our societal problems—which are many and growing—on guns or any other convenient targets. Instead, we should have serious discussions about serious issues and respect the integrity of reasonable people to be able to defend themselves and their families responsibly.

But in case it isn’t clear: our constitutional rights are not open for debate.

Update: This thoughtful article from the other side makes a great point that is often overlooked in politics: sometimes you know a position is right but expect and demand that your candidate(s) not advocate it because they would needlessly lose elections. Whether you like it or not, the gun control debate is pretty much dead in America.