We Need Answers to These Questions First

Another mass shooting inevitably means another assault on the constitutionally mandated, and Supreme Court approved, right to bear arms.  And of course, liberals attempted to shame our political system into doing something, anything to stem the purported tide of violence sweeping across our nation.

FBI ‘Person of Interest’ and Democratic Frontrunner Hillary Clinton on Twitter:

Heartbroken and angry. We must act to stop gun violence, and we cannot wait any longer. Praying for the victims’ families in Virginia. -H

“Independent” Bernie Sanders on his campaign website and Facebook:

The American people are horrified by these never-ending mass shootings. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the innocent victims. As a nation, we must do everything we can to put an end to this awful epidemic of senseless slaughter.

We need a comprehensive approach. We need sensible gun-control legislation which prevents guns from being used by people who should not have them. We must greatly expand and improve our mental health capabilities so individuals and families can get the psychological help they need when they need it. We also have to tone down the incredibly high level of gratuitous violence which permeates our media.

The shouting at each other must end. The hard work of developing good policy must begin.

President Obama, on Facebook, said “Congressional action on gun violence is long overdue.”  He also commented on the apparent parallels to other things we happily regulate until we are blue in the face:

When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different … doesn’t make sense.

For the moment, let’s put aside some things.  Let’s put aside the president’s failed analogy between accidental injuries/death and intentional gun deaths (let’s also ignore the reality that working in a mine and driving a car around aren’t constitutionally enumerated, individual rights).  Let’s put aside the obvious perfidiousness of the liberal attack on Jeb Bush following a statement he made on the Oregon shooting.  Let’s put aside the liberal tendency to blatantly disregard the fact that violent crime, including gun violence, has been decreasing for over 30 years while gun sales have increased and the level of household gun ownership has either remained steady or seen only a small dip.  Let’s put aside the fact that mass violence also happens in other countries.  And finally, let’s put aside that mass violence is sometimes perpetrated with things as innocuous as kitchen knives.

None of these facts are helpful against the liberal narrative.

If “we have to do something(!),” what should we do?  Charles C.W. Cooke, perhaps the greatest commentator that National Review has to offer, put this question to a panel of liberals on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.  Unsurprisingly, the details of proposed legislation were scarce while the indignation was in great supply.  Sure, maybe universal background checks might stop something like this in the future (even though a background check clearly did not stop the Oregon shooter).  Maybe a gross misdemeanor should be in store for those of us that sell guns or make them available to someone which the reasonably prudent person should have known was either mentally unstable or unable to pass their own background check (a variation of what Cooke proposed).  And there’s a strong argument to be made for reforming our mental health system.

But before we do anything more rash than that, we should answer these three questions which we have, so far, failed to ask.

  • Why aren’t conservative proposals considered whenever liberals talk about “common sense” laws to deal with gun violence?

According to a 2012 review of the literature, there were 18 peer-reviewed studies that supported the notion that right-to-carry reduces crime while 10 supported no significant effect and only one supported an increase.  Putting this together with the fact that many of these shooting occur in “gun-free zones” (a liberal nicety that is as naïve as it is false), why isn’t a repeal of this type of legislation on the table?

A recent article spreading the web attempts to explain why, but it misses the mark entirely. First, this man wasn’t even in the same building as the shooter.  He even admits that he was “quite a distance away from the building where this was happening.”  Second, it fails to understand the main ethical responsibility of carrying a firearm: the duty to protect others.  When you carry a firearm, you must accept the fact that using it to defend yourself or others could lead to your own death.  If, by some incredible coincidence, the police came into the building at the exact moment you were engaged with a shooter and you were both shot, that is an eventuality that you should be prepared to endure to protect the innocent from a murderous rampage.

Liberals often mock the idea that ‘only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun.’  And yet, when a bad guy with a gun shows up, they inevitably call the police – because they have guns.

This brings us to our next question.

  • Why are liberals so keen on taking guns away from regular, law-abiding Americans and centralizing them in the hands of people they routinely deride?

We should be clear about one thing when we engage in any debate over guns: liberal gun control is nothing more than gun centralization in the hands of the police and the military.  The question for liberals is not whether guns should be removed from society; the question is how small a group should be left with them when they are done trampling all over the Second Amendment.

And yet, liberals appear to be suffering from serious cognitive dissonance when it comes to this debate.  In one soundbite, they will criticize the police for the latest alleged brutality caught on camera and in the next they will scream at the top of their lungs that these same people are the only people that should have guns.  In one morning show appearance, they will criticize the military for allegedly blowing up a Doctors Without Borders hospital and in the next they will defend their proposal to leave this group as one of the only two groups with guns.

My point is not to criticize the police or the military.  Rather, I find myself wondering why liberals think these two groups should be the only ones allowed to have guns if they also think they make a habit of misusing them.

  • Is decreasing the amount of guns, and, logically, the amount of gun deaths, desirable if it results in increased violent crime overall?

This may seem like the central point of the debate, but hear me out.  According to 2006 data compiled from OECD countries (the most recent comprehensive comparison year available), the United States has a problem when it comes to relative homicide. And yet, that seems to be where our relative problems cease.  Violent crime in other, more civilized (read: have banned guns) countries is quite a bit worse. In some cases, the differences are quite striking.  Rape, robbery, assault resulting in serious bodily injury, and burglary are all similar stories: countries that have effectively banned guns now appear to have a much higher rate of violent crime than the US.

Of course, homicide is a horrible fact of life wherever you are.  And the US does appear to have more than its fair share. But it’s not just about how many people die every year. It’s also about the quality of life for all of the 320+ million people in this country.  It’s a question of utility, the economic measurement of wellbeing.

We would surely be better off with less homicide, but if that requires living in a society with more than 13 times higher reported robberies (Belgium), maybe we should balk at that proposition.  If it means being in a country with more than five times the reported assaults with bodily injuries (Scotland), maybe we should question that course of action.  If it means being in a country with more than two times the reported burglary (Denmark), maybe that’s not a net positive.  If it means living in a country with more than three times the amount of reported rapes (Australia, a liberal paragon of anti-gun hysteria), are we really willing to accept that?

Liberals, of course, find this to be a horrifying conclusion.  But it shouldn’t surprise anyone that questions of utility have as much a place in this debate as they do in any other.


 

As Cooke said, this is an incredibly complex issue.  If we can’t answer these questions, we don’t have enough information yet.  And if we don’t have enough information yet, that should be a red flag.