The Great Gun Debate shows American political discourse at its irrational worst; with both left and right promoting panic and hysteria that distracts attention from the nation’s truly menacing problems. Instead of addressing crushing deficits, economic stagnation, political gridlock, and the erosion of middle-class security, politicians and pundits obsess over gun violence—one of the few challenges where the United States has made dramatic progress in recent years.
How can the president and his supporters work themselves into a self-righteous lather over minor regulatory adjustments that have been tried before with no measurable impact on the rate of firearms crime?
And how can conservatives work themselves into a paranoid lather over minor regulatory adjustments that have been tried before with no significant impact on our constitutional right to keep and bear arms?
There’s no logical reason to believe that a bureaucratic ban on assault rifles—weapons that are currently associated with less than 2 percent of overall murders—will bring about a magnificent, harmonious new day of enhanced public safety or, for that matter, usher in a Fascist nightmare of jack-booted feds stripping law-abiding citizens of their right to self-protection. Enhanced background checks for gun purchasers? They may—or may not—constitute a worthwhile reform, but this modest proposal hardly dictates a sweeping, significant change in American life, for good or for ill.
Why, then, all the passion—on both sides—over an issue that in no way counts as a crisis? And why the ferocious polarization and doomsday rhetoric concerning potential changes with trivial real-world consequences?