Gun control and the folly of abstract politics

Charles C.W. Cooke at National Review labels this PSA “the worst anti-gun commercial in the history of the United States.”  It’s more like a public disservice announcement, seeing as how it encourages children to commit multiple felony offenses.  I think I’d go so far as to rank it among the worst examples of issue advocacy ever produced, right up there with the classic Church of Global Warming ad that depicted the heads of people who questioned climate-change dogma exploding into clouds of blood and bone, including the heads of children.  Both ads are propelled by a comparable mixture of absolute righteousness and boneheaded ignorance; a pure loathing of dissent coupled with very thin knowledge of the issue these activists claim to be so passionate about.


Let me give Mr. Cooke the floor for a moment to dismantle this idiocy.  He begins by noting that the child’s actions violate the most basic tenets of gun safety, and then gets into the felonies:

Moreover, in the course of his little ploy, the kid breaks pretty much every law on the books. He takes a gun out of his house (not only is this felony burglary, but he’s not old enough to carry a firearm in public); he then takes that gun into a school(that’s against federal and state law); and, finally, he transfers it to a teacher without a background check, thereby breaking the very rule that progressives tell us is necessary to keep us all safe from gun violence. And for what, pray? Typically, anti-gun commercials focus in on a specific safety issue: a lack of trigger locks, or background checks, or safe-storage, for example. This one seems to feature a child who is saying, “I don’t want any guns in the house at all.” This absolute approach is extreme, even for today’s class of wildly incompetent control freaks. Worse, perhaps, the child seems to believe that the public school system exists as a general service that he might use if he wishes to deprive his parents of their constitutional rights — an implication, let’s say, that is unlikely to win many converts.

This sort of foolishness is partially a result of gun-control zealots knowing far less about firearms than the defenders of gun rights do.  It’s an abstract issue for the gun control crowd, but it’s concrete and real to gun owners, and those who take the Second Amendment seriously even though they don’t own any firearms themselves.  (In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I fall into the latter category.)


To a certain extent, this is unsurprising.  Some gun-control proponents are frightened or repulsed by firearms.  Others are entirely ignorant of them, viewing guns as a totem, a symbol in the clash between what they perceive as forces of order and chaos.  They think guns are batteries charged with concentrated evil.  The idea of being able to “fix” crime by simply banning firearms has a powerful dreamlike appeal.  Also, some people embrace gun control for the same reason they identify with the abortion lobby: they just plain dislike the people on the other side.  The redneck gun nut is a reliable figure in liberal comedy, as is the Bible-thumping pro-life hillbilly.

People who have no personal knowledge of firearms may nevertheless follow cultural currents that put them somewhere in the gun-control camp, especially when there’s a big media-energized push for new gun regulations in progress.  Here the Left’s belief in the power of political discussions and legislative drama to shape reality becomes evident.  A new gun law will “fix” crime and make everyone safer, so anyone who opposes that law must be a dangerous trigger-happy rube who doesn’t care about the lives of innocent people, as long as he has a well-stocked gun safe beneath the panoply of animal heads mounted on his wall.  It does not occur to such lightweight gun-control advocates to ask tough questions about how the existing gun laws are working, or whether the enthusiasm of the political class for posturing and passing new laws might be concealing their inability to implement the existing legal code well.


Don’t even try to engage people who think this way with high-minded arguments about the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.  They’ve long ago signed on to ideology that says the Constitution is a “living document” whose restrictions on government power should be cast aside whenever Really Smart People with Really Great Ideas come along.  Those who have decided there’s no good reason for private citizens to own guns aren’t terribly interested in hearing Thomas Jefferson or George Mason’s thoughts on the subject.  We should be enjoying the protection of a high-tech cradle-to-grave maternal society that can fulfill all our needs for security, not heeding the advice of ancients in powdered wigs who needed muskets to defend themselves from grizzly bears and Redcoats and such.

For all of these reasons, advocates for gun rights are likely to be more knowledgeable about both firearms, gun laws, and the principles of gun safety than the more zealous advocates for gun control.  It’s not an abstract totemic issue for people who have invested the time and money needed to train with firearms and own them legally.  They don’t hold their position on guns because of pop-culture noodling, or the desire to thumb their noses at people on the other side of the gun control debate.  (Well, not principally, anyway.  Although not a gun owner myself, I’ve passed some enjoyable afternoons at gun shows, and overheard a few purchases debated on the merits of how unhappy they might make certain prominent liberal politicians.)


On the other hand, if you needed evidence of the nasty totalitarian streak running beneath much of the gun-control lobby, look no further than a videotaped daydream in which children and teachers are used as tools to strip unsuspecting parents of their Constitutional rights, in blatant violation of both safety standards, and laws the anti-gun crowd claims to regard as sacred.



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