Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
For those of us of a certain age, we know that every time some psychopath shoots up a school and murders students, the Democrats will respond with their clichéd demagogic script. Exploiting the natural horror and pathos of such events, the Donks will trot out all the usual gun-policy suspects, the majority of which would not have prevented most of the attacks.
But that’s not really the point for Dems. Their aim is to smear Republicans and conservatives for political gain. With a mid-term shellacking looming, the recent attacks in Buffalo and Uvalde have the Democrats shamelessly politicizing those tragedies more than usual in order to distract voters from the Biden administration’s manifold failures.
Such attempts must be called-out and vigorously countered, for there’s more at stake than gun-control laws: the long progressive program to weaken our unalienable rights, especially the Second Amendment.
The roster of “solutions” to the problem of school shootings is a catalogue of failure and irrelevance. Background checks are a favorite, but if, like the Uvalde school shooter, there is no criminal record or paper-trail documenting that a purchaser poses an immediate danger, a background check is useless. Moreover, according to a National Institute of Justice’s mass shootings database, most mass killers steal their weapons––80% of them from family members––instead of legally buying them.
Similarly, “Safe storage laws” like those touted by antigun extremist Beto O’Rourke (“Hell yes we are going take your AR-15!”) are unenforceable, and will be ignored by criminals, as are all the rules and regulations governing gun ownership. As for Gun-Free School Zones, all they do is identify soft targets for the maniac’s mayhem.
Then there’s the call for banning “assault weapons.” Actual assault weapons are fully automatic, and already illegal. Adding sinister-looking (to an antigun nut) accessories like pistol-grips or barrel shrouds doesn’t turn a legal AR-15 into an illegal assault weapon. And a ban on AR-15s was already tried for ten years (1994-2004), and had no demonstrable impact on lessening gun violence, most of which is caused by pistols. In fact, hands and feet kill more people every year than do rifles of any kind.
As for banning magazines that hold more than ten rounds, that restriction isn’t going to stop a committed psycho. As Jim Geraghty points out, in 2007 the Virginia Tech shooter killed 32 people with two handguns, one with a ten-round magazine. Limiting magazines will be offset by a shooter bringing multiple guns and loaded magazines.
Likewise, raising the legal age to purchase guns to 21, which the House has voted to do, is the act of deeply unserious political hacks. When I was 15, I never had a problem finding a 21-year-old to buy me beer, and no doubt a 19-year-old eager to get a gun could do what teenagers who want alcohol have done since drinking ages were established. And telling an 18-year-old he’s old enough to die for his country and vote, but not old enough to buy a gun, as the Second Amendment gives him the right to do, is morally idiotic, especially since in blue states like New York and California, a 16-year-old girl can legally get an abortion without a parent’s permission.
So a 16-year-old is deemed competent enough to take a life, but an 18-year-old is not competent enough to purchase a weapon that could save his or somebody else’s life––something that happens at least hundreds of thousands, if not millions of times a year, most often by merely displaying a weapon to an attacker.
Don’t forget the “red flag” laws that allow the police or a concerned family member or neighbor to ask a judge for a court order allowing the confiscation of the target’s weapons, potentially violating both the Second and Fourth Amendments. Nineteen states already have such laws, but I haven’t seen much commentary on that track-record that could justify such an unconstitutional law that give scope to subjective interpretations and malign motives.
These problems with the age-limit and “red-flag” laws, however haven’t stopped 10 Senate Republicans from signing on to a “bipartisan” bill calling for “frameworks” and subsidies to help states make them national laws––a classic example of the Republican preemptive cringe in the face of progressive naked politicizing of a tragedy.
Finally, all these proposals and existing gun-control laws haven’t kept the murder rate from jumping 40% since 2019, or slowed down gun purchases. Indeed, there are more guns in America, about 400 million, than there are people. In fact, the 2020 riots, the subsequent spike in violent crimes, and the Biden administration’s bluster about new draconian gun-control laws have increased sales––nearly 20 million purchases just in 2021.
But for progressives, the increase in guns provide another excuse to pursue progressive political aims at the expense of responsible gun-owners––an obvious tactic for progressives, given that more than twice as many Republicans than Democrats report owning guns. According to FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, gun-ownership predicts political party-preferences more than ethnicity, sex, region, or sexual orientation does.
All these problems with gun-control laws explain why antigun political rhetoric and media coverage callously exploit the intense emotions surrounding school-shootings, which crowds out logical arguments and empirical evidence. Incessant coverage of selected crimes involving guns, especially school shootings and the suffering of the victims’ families, turns the tragedy into a sentimentalized commodity. Morbid curiosity becomes a kind of voyeurism, the same impulse that makes people slow down for car wrecks. But such attention does little to protect schools or lower the rate of murder.
Another malign side-effect of the media hype is the platform they give to the psychotic or evil killer eager for global attention and fame. Like Hierostratus, who in 356 BC burned down the famous temple of Artemis in Ephesus just to become famous, the lunatic loner seeks power and validation through his crimes. The 24/7 coverage of killings on cable television, social media, and the Internet assures the wannabe killer that he will get the obsessive attention he craves. He may have been an anonymous loser, but now he is a celebrity––a potent incentive for a deranged narcissist.
The fact is gun-control doesn’t work, which is why we obsess over relatively rare school shootings. It also explains the hysteria and emotion that camouflage the decades of gun-control failures, and obscure the success of proactive policing like New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy that took thousands of guns off the streets, and played a large role in New York’s incredible 73% reduction of murder rates in the Nineties.
Moreover, we know from long experience that attempts to keep free peoples in an open society from getting something they want usually fail. We’ve spent a trillion dollars on the “war on drugs,” but any savvy teen can still get his hands on illicit drugs, even as deaths from drug overdoses have reached a historical high, topping 100,000 last year. What makes us think we can be more successful with guns, which are legal and protected by the Second Amendment?
Again, politics explains the hysteria and mendacity over guns that follow every school shooting, as well as the blatant double-standards about which deaths are important and which aren’t. That’s why the several thousand black men, women, and children murdered every year, the vast majority by other blacks, rarely if ever draws the same obsessive media coverage, if they’re even noticed. Those “black lives” just don’t “matter.”
Why? Those deaths aren’t politically useful for attacking conservatives and Republicans––even though blacks, the Dems’ critical constituency, are the ones who bear the brunt of gun violence. And they are increasingly buying guns for self-protection. According to a gun-store trade group, as Jason Riley writes, retailers “reported that they sold 58% more guns to black customers in the first half of 2020 than a year earlier, the highest increase for any ethnic group.”
Finally, it’s not just about retail politics and campaigns for office. Gun control laws and mendacious gun-control rhetoric after every school shooting represent yet another instance of the larger goal of progressive ideology––to weaken the Constitution and concentrate power in federal agencies. Restrictions on guns assume the progressive technocratic conceit that most people, especially those conservative “bitter clingers to guns and religion,” as Obama called them, are too untrustworthy or incompetent or stupid to own and carry a weapon.
So the progressives propose and legislate gun-control laws written by cognitive-elite snobs who think they know how to run your life better than you do, just as progressive redistributionist policies are predicated on the belief that the federal government has a right to confiscate your money and redistribute it because the state knows how to spend it more efficiently or justly.
This ambition is truly a threat to democracy, for it denies what democracy assumes: the average person’s traditional wisdom, experience, and common sense that enable him to control his own life. So the state demands ever greater regulatory intrusion into private life that necessarily expands the scope and power of the government. The price is the erosion of our unalienable rights enshrined in the Constitution to protect us against just such tyranny.