Human Events Blog

The magic of gun control

Newark’s Democratic mayor, Cory Booker, raised some eyebrows by describing the post-Newtown media mania for gun control as a “false debate,” on last Sunday’s edition of ABC’s “This Week.”  As reported by the Newark Star-Ledger:

“I don’t know if anybody here has seen somebody shot. I have,” Booker said during a round-table discussion on the show, hosted by George Stephanopoulos. “I don’t know if anybody here has had to put their hand in somebody’s chest and try to stop the bleeding so somebody doesn’t die. I have. And the what frustrates me about this debate is it’s a false debate. It’s a false debate.

This is a convenient trick to try to divide our country more. Most of us in America, including gun owners, agree on things that would stop the kind of carnage that’s going on in cities all over America.”

“I’m tired of the political debates,” he added. “They’re not necessary. I’m tired of the ideological positions. We don’t even need to visit them. Let’s stick to the pragmatic center where all Americans believe the same thing and let’s pass legislation that would make America safer.”

Booker pushed for stronger background checks on people looking to purchase guns and said a key way to curb gun violence is to shut down secondary markets.

I’m not afraid of law-abiding citizens who buy a gun,” he said. “Buy the guns you want. What the problem is in America right now is that a terrorist person who is on the no-fly list could go into the secondary market today and buy a weapon.”

“Criminals are killing people,” the mayor added. “Not law-abiding gun owners.”

(Emphases mine.)  The second highlighted comment, about his trust of law-abiding gun owners, has gotten more attention, but Booker’s comment about the deliberately divisive nature of the gun-control debate is more explosive, coming as it does from a prominent Democrat mayor poised for a run at the Senate.  He’s going even further than calling gun-control zealots – almost all of whom are Democrats, or allied politically with Booker’s party – silly or misguided.  He’s calling them mendacious, dishonest, and ultimately dangerous.

Hopefully Booker can stand a bit of rain on the one-man contrarian Democrat parade he’s trying to lead across the talk shows, because it must be noted that the “pragmatic centrist” solutions he mentioned about have no more to do with Adam Lanza and the Newtown horror than the “false debate” he decries.  Lanza did not get in line behind no-fly-listed terrorists to buy his guns on the “secondary market.”  Whether or not legislation directed at such markets would “make America safer” is debatable, but it most certainly would not have made America “safer” from Lanza.

The relentless drive to score first downs in an abstract political football game is part of the “false debate” Booker decries.  This explains some of the nearly universal media hunger for gun control laws, as chronicled by Byron York at the Washington Examiner:

It’s not just the ranters on the left, like MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, who recently called National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre “the lobbyist for mass murderers.” O’Donnell is a controversialist who says things like that all the time. So is CNN’s Piers Morgan, who told the Gun Owners of America chief Larry Pratt, “You are an unbelievably stupid man” and “You shame your country.”

More notable are the ostensibly straight-news journalists who have come down on the side of stronger gun control. For example, when a Republican congressman, Georgia’s Jack Kingston, argued on MSNBC recently that tough gun control laws haven’t prevented mass shootings in some European countries, the network’s anchor, Thomas Roberts, responded, “So, we need to just be complacent in the fact that we can send our children to school to be assassinated?

Earlier, while reporting from Connecticut, a CNN anchor, Don Lemon, burst into an impromptu appeal for action. “We need to get guns and bullets and automatic weapons off the streets,” Lemon said. “They should only be available to police officers and to hunt al-Qaeda and the Taliban and not hunt elementary school children.”

Really, Mr. Lemon?  The only conceivable uses for firearms are (a) law enforcement, (b) terrorist-slaying, and (c) hunting down school children?  Ask the armed security officers at CNN if they can think of a few other purposes for guns.  While you’re at it, ask the CNN research department to Google up some stories of law-abiding gun owners using their weapons to stop or discourage criminal assaults.

As York notes, even most straight-news reporters clearly view themselves as driven partisans in Cory Booker’s false debate. They view the NRA as an enemy to be defeated, both on this issue and because it’s an effective opponent of the Democrat Party that most reporters belong to.  That’s why so many of them spun on a dime to describe Wayne LaPierre’s idea of enhancing armed security protection at school as “crazy,” even though yesterday’s Democrats, including President Bill Clinton, advanced similar proposals.  Today the Party is interested in nothing but gun control, and whatever alternatives its political enemies suggest must be assaulted in the strongest possible terms, even if they are broadly compatible with the Party’s positions from a decade ago.

The quote from Thomas Roberts of MSNBC illustrates the other driving force behind media enthusiasm for new gun control laws: they believe laws are magic.  The government “addresses” problems by passing laws.  For Big Government enthusiasts, there is talismanic, supernatural power behind these laws.  If you don’t support empowering government to deal with a problem, you don’t “care” about the problem.  By extension, all of society’s problems are caused by excessive liberty, which is abused by dopey citizens out there in flyover country.  The answer to every problem involves making the government larger.  Dissenters are troglodytes who dare to stand in the way of “progress.”

The Second Amendment “controversy” offers a perfect demonstration of this magical thinking.  Most of the cries for new gun-control laws, in the wake of the Newtown massacre, amount to extending the laws that didn’t work in Connecticut until they apply from coast to coast.  Many of these demands are based upon purely cosmetic or ideological considerations, such as the perpetual wumpus hunt against “assault weapons,” whose precise nature no one ever seems to define, beyond “they look scary.”  Nothing less than the outright confiscation of all guns would have done more than inconvenience the Newtown murderer, who could still have perpetuated unspeakable carnage in a “gun-free zone” filled with children if he had come equipped with nothing but a couple of revolvers and speed-loaders (or, for that matter, weapons other than firearms.)

Because this faith in Big Government is magical, it is immune to the application of firm, logical standards, and quickly grows annoyed with them.  Pointing out the actual track record of gun control laws at “controlling” crime enrages gun-control zealots, as does mentioning the far stronger correlation between concealed-carry laws and reduced crime.  For that matter, even mentioning the rather explicit Constitutional barrier against their ultimate goal of total gun confiscation makes them angry, even though the legal issue is fairly straightforward: there is a way for the American people to amend the Constitution and abolish the Second Amendment, but gun prohibition enthusiasts aren’t enthusiastic enough to relish the doomed task of building the popular support that would be necessary.  Better to pass some symbolic, poll-tested laws and declare victory… although even those laws can’t seem to get past 50 percent public support, even at a moment of supreme cultural hysteria.

The strange thing about the Left’s faith in legal magic is that some truly massive laws don’t seem to have supernatural auras.  Liberals angrily deny that welfare programs have the kind of culture-shaping energy that symbolic gun control laws crackle with, even though social programs command thousands of times more power and money than gun control programs do.  When the State writes billion-dollar programs in boldface, there is supposedly no great psychic effect on the populace, but when it scribbles fine print about controlling “assault weapons,” we are assured that the “gun culture” will change overnight.

One of the more prominent media enthusiasts for gun control, David Gregory of NBC News – who sends his children to a tony Washington school with armed security – decided to make a point about “assault rifles” by waving a 30-round magazine around on the set of “Meet the Press.”  Those magazines are already illegal in D.C., where the show is filmed, so Gregory is now under investigation by the local police.  Magical totems, hysteria, and the supreme hypocrisy of the ruling class have blended into quite the witches’ brew.

Update: Check out this paragraph in the midst of some New York Times hand-wringing about the “marketing” of guns through violent videogames:

The video game industry was drawn into the national debate about gun violence last week when the National Rifle Association accused producers of violent games and movies of helping to incite the type of mass shooting that recently left 20 children and six adults dead at a school in Newtown, Conn.

While studies have found no connection between video games and gun violence, the case of Medal of Honor Warfighter illustrates how the firearms and video game industries have quietly forged a mutually beneficial marketing relationship.

But we’ve got to have a national panic about violent videogames anyway… because, magic.

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