The cart before the horse

From The Week‘s Matt K. Lewis, in an informative column regarding the gun control debate. On the problem with reactive gun control legislation:

Liberals who think [gun control] would prevent the next Sandy Hook are likely kidding themselves, and conservatives who fear it will dramatically curtail their rights — at least in the short term — are being overwrought. 

Don’t get me wrong. I understand why there’s a revived national debate taking place. When there is a serious problem, the natural tendency is to do something — anything! — to fix it. We like action. 

The problem is that for most people, the efficacy of the action is of little importance, so long as one cares enough to take some action. Even if the action has unintended negative consequences, stasis is rarely rewarded.

We may have a legislative system designed for gridlock, but our human urge is for decisive action. The notion that we should tolerate the horrible atrocities committed in Connecticut seems unconscionable. Whether true or not, we convince ourselves that we have some control over the future. And in this case, since the person who deserves the blame is dead, we must now assign new blame.

And on why new gun control laws wouldn’t work:

Adam Lanza used a semiautomatic Bushmaster in Connecticut, a gun that would have been perfectly legal had the Clinton gun ban been renewed. As gun control advocate Tom Diaz recently told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, “[The Bushmaster] actually rose to prominence after the 1994 semi-automatic assault weapons ban because they took off all the truly irrelevant bells and whistles and just produced a basic gun.”

Would new legislation be so tightly crafted as to ensure that similar flaws don’t arise again? No. Any new gun control would likely result in many of the same unintended consequences, such as allowing gun companies to profit off the scarcity, while simultaneously putting more guns on the streets. Passing flawed legislation might be worse than passing none at all. 

Gun control might make some feel better, but it won’t prevent the next horrible tragedy. The only question is whether it would a) leave people to conclude gun control simply doesn’t work or b) leave them to conclude they just didn’t go far enough.

The former scenario is why liberals might want to think twice. The latter is why conservatives worry that even “common sense” gun control might, in fact, be a slippery slope.

(Credit goes to Fernando Ortiz Jr. at his blog stillness of the heart for tipping me off to this article.)

1 comment
  1. Thank you for posting this, I have been trying to say the same thing and this does it so much better than I could have.

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