Jacob Sullum

Hours after last Friday's massacre in Aurora, Colo., New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg demanded that the two major parties' presidential candidates explain how they plan to prevent such senseless outbursts of violence.

"No matter where you stand on the Second Amendment, no matter where you stand on guns, we have a right to hear from both of them concretely," Bloomberg said in a radio interview. "What are they going to do about guns?"

Whether you accept the premise that something must be done about guns, of course, might be influenced by where you stand on the Second Amendment and where you stand on guns. But according to Bloomberg, even people who object to gun control on practical or constitutional grounds are morally obliged to support it. Such arrogant illogic may help explain why public support for new gun restrictions has been falling for two decades.

Consider how the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence reacted to news that a man had shot 70 people, 12 of them fatally, at a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises." "This tragedy is another grim reminder that guns are the enablers of mass killers and that our nation pays an unacceptable price for our failure to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people," said the group's president, Dan Gross. "We are outraged."

But outrage is no substitute for rational argument, and the response urged by the Brady Campaign -- a petition demanding that Congress keep guns away from "convicted felons," "convicted domestic abusers," "terrorists" and "people found to be dangerously mentally ill" -- had nothing to do with what happened in Aurora. As far as we know, James Holmes, the 24-year-old former neuroscience graduate student arrested for the murders, has no criminal record, no links to terrorist groups and no psychiatric history that would have disqualified him from owning guns.

Similarly, a New York Times story regretted that Holmes was "unhindered by federal background checks" when he bought ammunition online. Since he passed background checks to buy his pistols, shotgun and rifle, why would a background check for ammunition have stopped him?

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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