“It’s all happened before. It will certainly happen again,” David Frum admits over at thedailybeast.com. “And after the recall vote in Colorado on September 10, it seems more certain than ever that nothing will be done to prevent it.” Will be or can be? Interesting . . . Frum goes on to assume that the NRA’s stance on mass shootings—wait until everything settles down before issuing a statement—is the way of the People of the Gun. “Gun enthusiasts say it is inappropriate to talk about gun violence at the time it occurs. Better to wait … and wait … and wait … until time has passed, and the weeping next of kin have vanished from TV, and it’s safe to return to business as usual. The idea of the gun enthusiasts is that the way to show respect for the victims of gun violence is to do everything possible to multiply their number.” Whoa David, that’s a bit extreme. Maybe you should cool off a bit. Still, that particular piece of hyperbole isn’t as bad as the next ‘graph . . .
Yet the gun enthusiasts do have one point on their side: for all the horror of these massacres, they are only a small part of the story of gun violence in America. Most casualties of gun violence will not die at the hands of a mentally disturbed killer seeking random victims. Most gun casualties occur in the course of quarrels and accidents between people who would be described as “law-abiding, responsible gun owners” up until the moment that they lost their temper or left a weapon where a four-year-old could find it and kill himself or his sister.
Well see that’s just wrong. Most gun casualties are suicides. After that, it’s gang bangers. After that, well, statistically, you can round down all other firearms-related deaths to zero, ’cause statistically they’re irrelevant. Painful. Tragic. But in terms of public safety, irrelevant. Firearms-related death—accidental or intentional—doesn’t even make the top 15 causes of death.
What needs doing to curb “gun violence”? Other than ending the War on Drugs and enforcing existing laws against criminal use of a firearm (making sure that persistent offenders are incarcerated early, often and for a long while), nothing. Not a damn thing.
How’s that for not waiting to talk about gun control? But when it comes to gun rights—as in the natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms—Frum blows the dust off his collection of anti-gun agit-prop and plays Baby You Can Drive My Car.
As David Hemenway notes in his study Private Guns, Public Health, Americans have experienced similar debates in the recent past. “Cars don’t kill people; bad drivers kill people,” could have been the slogan of the auto industry when it resisted safety regulation in the 1960s. The garment industry could have argued: “Flammable pajamas don’t kill children; careless smokers kill children.” And so on. Every accident has many causes, of course, and public safety progresses by addressing each one. To reduce car fatalities, we both installed seat belts and cracked down on drunk driving. Child deaths by fire have been reduced both because pajamas are safer and because adults smoke less.
Likewise, better mental-health provision would contribute to the reduction of gun massacres. But America’s uniquely grisly record of gun death cannot be addressed without addressing guns.
Flammable pajamas. That’s a new one. And a good one. You know, for the gun rights crowd.
Anyway, here’s something about guns we can address about gun control right now: it failed. If some of the workers at the Navy Yard had been armed, one of them could have taken out the shooter before the cops arrived. If not, they sure as Hell would have slowed him down. Maybe even made him choose another target. Am I wrong?