The president’s emotional plea for us to politicize mass shootings to curb Second Amendment rights was explicitly clear Thursday night. The president cited what he considers to be the facts that support his narrative on the issue of gun violence in America. Namely, that the American people, including gun owners, want stricter gun laws, that it’s easy to obtain firearms, and that the UK and Australia have passed laws that reduced mass shootings.
Let’s start with the polling.
First, the support for gun control has waned since Newtown, with support dropping below 50 percent. Second, 60 percent feel that guns in the home make them safer. Third, the majority of American feel more guns reduce crime. Fourth, as a result, it’s no surprise that 68 percent of Americans feel safer in neighborhoods that are packing heat. Fifth, support for gun rights is at a 25-year high.
As for the ability for one to buy a firearm, it’s true that for years Americans thought it was too easy to buy guns. That’s not the case anymore; 49 percent think it’s just about right, while 41 percent think it’s too easy.
Regarding the UK and Australia, they’re our allies–yes. But that doesn’t mean they’re good at gun policy, nor does it mean we should follow their lead with policies that amount to gun confiscation--something that will be incredibly hard to pull off, and most likely unconstitutional, given that the U.S. has 300-350 million guns housed in over 100 million homes. So, sorry, Mr. President, but we’re not like them. We have a Bill of Rights that prevent us from enacting similar policies over here–for which I am eternally grateful.
As I wrote earlier today, the National Review’s Charles Cooke described this un-serious attitude liberals and anti-gun advocates have regarding solutions to these awful incidents, as if whoever shows they’re the most passionate about stopping mass shootings gets the big, stuffed panda bear in the end. Cooke stressed that this isn’t a competition for who is the most “vexed.” It’s a public policy debate, and the pro-gun control side has nothing to offer that could stop mass shootings. Again, there is a debate on how to prevent the mentally ill from obtaining firearms. The president is right that America isn’t the only nation dealing with how to treat and detect mental illness, but the vast majority of the perpetrators of mass shootings have exhibited serious signs of mental instability.
Adam Lanza, Elliot Rodger, Aaron Alexis, Jared Lee Loughner, and John Russel Houser all committed mass shootings–and all were mentally ill. In some cases, like Alexis, if he had been properly reported, his security clearance would have been revoked and the Navy Yard shooting would have never occurred. It’s a tedious debate that touches upon the right to privacy, federalism, constitutional rights, doctor-patient confidentiality, and to add more to the pile–a comprehensive rundown of mental illnesses that should prohibit one who is afflicted with mental problems from owning firearms. It's quite the Gordian knot regarding policy, but even Alexander the Great was able to untie it. We can do so here. The majority of states voluntarily submit mental health records into the federal National Instant Background Check System [NICS]. How can we improve this, given that it’s not going to be shocking if we find out that the Oregon shooter, Chris Harper-Mercer, was mentally disturbed? Both sides agree on this issue, yet it’s the gun control side that wants to shove this on the periphery so we could either tip-toe around what they really want–gun confiscation–or have another painfully ineffective talking point shouting match over background checks.
Yes, the public is for background checks. I’m for background checks. Almost every law-abiding gun owner supports background checks, but expanding them in the way prescribed by the anti-gun left is neither effective nor smart policy unless it includes something to deal with the mentally ill, and that is going to take some time to debate. At the same time, we know that gun control advocates cling onto this talking point for dear life because it’s the only part of their agenda that polls well. On the other hand, 64 percent do support a gun registry, which is depressing, though gun owners generally oppose this–and they’re the side that’s going to show up at the polls when decision time comes.
Yet, let’s entertain the gun control side’s arguments again, looking to Cato’s Trevor Burrus, who points out how much of the anti-gun left’s agenda is simply unworkable and possibly illegal [emphasis mine]:
Perhaps you think all guns should be confiscated. Okay, tell us how you will do that without stormtroopers roaming the country systematically violating our Fourth Amendment rights in a way that makes Donald Trump’s call for the mass deportation of illegal immigrants look like taking a census.
Or perhaps President Obama’s moral exhortations will work wonders on the American psyche and over the next two months an astounding 90 percent of American firearms are turned over to the government. That still leaves 30 million guns in private hands, and you can imagine how law-abiding those who didn’t turn in their weapons are.
Perhaps you think that all guns should be registered and licensed. Again, explain how you will do that without a battalion of stormtroopers kicking down doors. Sure, some people will voluntarily register their guns, but they are unlikely to be criminals or would-be mass shooters. Canada tried to register guns and eventually gave up. New York’s attempt to register “assault weapons” has been a glorious failure.
Mass shootings should not be the centerpiece of gun-control policy. Mass shooters are motivated, difficult to detect, and commit only a tiny fraction of gun violence in America. Pretending that stopping these psychopaths is a matter of passing “commonsense” laws is just moral grandstanding for cheap political points.
The hard truth is that we have, just as we accept that deaths by automobile accidents, drowning in swimming pools, and industrial accidents are inevitable. This doesn’t mean that there is nothing we can or should do, but the first thing that we must do is to stop pretending that ending mass shootings is merely a matter of “common sense.”
Furthermore, the notion that we’re living in the midst of some gun violence epidemic is absurd. The FBI reported that gun deaths have dropped again this year in every category, though rifles and shotguns have always represented a small proportion of gun-related felonies/homicides, even before the awful 1994 Assault Weapons Ban (via Free Beacon):
The FBI Crime in the United States report found 8,124 murders committed with firearms in 2014, down from 8,454 in 2013. That represents a 3.9 percent drop year over year and the lowest rate of any year included in the report.
The report found that, as in previous years, the vast majority of gun murders were committed with handguns, but all categories of gun murders declined.
Rifles were involved in 248 murders last year, fewer than the number committed with knives, blunt objects, and fists or feet. Three percent of gun murders involved rifles.
The overall murder rate declined by 1.2 percent year over year.
All Thursday night’s remarks showed is that the president is angry, and gave a knee-jerk reaction that could potentially embarrass his administration. As Charles Krauthammer said, “He has no idea what the gun is, how it was obtained, who the person is, and what the person’s motive is.” “What does he do if it turns out he was a terrorist?” We’ll know more in the coming days on Mercer.
As for the call to Americans who change the politics in Washington on this issue, the president noted in Friday’s press conference that the NRA has the advantage; they’re good at what they do (defending our Second Amendment freedoms). The president doesn’t have the votes in Congress because Republicans are in control. They may have some explaining to do on some issues, but when it comes to passing new gun control legislation, they’re firm in their opposition. At the state-level, Republicans are in control of the most state legislative seats since 1920. Nothing is moving on that front, and Democrats have little in the talent pool to fight at the local level for new gun laws. It feels like we’re undefeated on the legal front as well, with case after case ending in pro-Second Amendment victories.
The president says he can’t affect change on this issue alone, but maybe he can–with the sober realization that this argument is over. And the folks who fought for their Second Amendment rights to be respected and expanded have won (for now*).
Last note: The president and anti-gunners know that women are the fastest growing demographic of new gun owners in the country, right? And that women applying for their concealed carry permits has surged 270 percent. You're going to try and tell them their Second Amendment rights, and their right to self-defense, are being curtailed ... good luck with that political campaign. It sure defies stereotypes, huh?
*Public opinion can change, and it’s possible it could happen here. But for now–I’m enjoying the victory lap.