Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gun Control: Pragmatism and Principle

Although the occasion of mass killings by lone gunmen remains unpredictable, the reaction of the liberal  media, liberal entertainers, and liberal politicians is anything but unpredictable: repeated calls for a "national conversation" on gun control and the reintroduction of  legislation  to ban specific types of weapons.

Of course, in liberalese, a national conversation means one in which liberals lecture anyone who holds differing views and  attribute to them  the most vile motivations for holding those views. That's why no one took seriously Attorney General Eric Holder's call for a national dialogue on race.

On the question of practicality,  gun control seems not very feasible. The guns used in the Sandy Hook murders were legal under Connecticut law. In addition, we already had a national assault weapons ban in place after 1994. As writer Charles Krauthammer recently pointed out, with so many legal loopholes and 1.5 million so-called assault weapons in circulation, the law had negligible impact. We cannot  police illegal narcotics and illegal aliens; what makes us think we can control guns? (Krauthammer suggests we focus on control of the mentally ill. Other suggest banning schools, which would solve a host of other problems as well.) Short of provision that includes confiscation of privately owned firearms, no future weapons ban is likely to succeed. And that brings up the issue of principle.

On the question of principle,  what is really at stake is our rights. We possess a nature right to self-defense. For the last few hundred years, that means with firearms. This natural right was not given us by the Second Amendment to the Constitution; it is only confirmed by that provision.

In addition, hunting and sport shooting seem innocuous enough not to warrant government intervention.

Not to trivialize the tragedy at Sandy Hook,  crimes involving firearms are one of the costs of freedom.

It is possible that we might reduce the incidence of mass killings with "information control" laws. Surely the anticipation of achieving infamy must reside in the back of the minds of perpetrators of mass killings. Perhaps the knowledge that any potential  acts of savagery would go unreported might discourage them and move potential perpetrators to remain content with their relative obscurity.

A host of other social problems, too, could be solved by taking away freedom. For example, today throughout the world, 35 million people live with HIV and two million die every year from AIDS related causes. This tragedy could have averted if governments world-wide had quarantined carriers when they first identified the disease and its means of transmission. Such a policy conflicted, however, with modern notions of freedom.

Security is almost always a poor substitute for freedom.

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