By Johannes P.
Conservative writer Jonah Goldberg’s latest column at National Review Online starts off as a bold defense of liberty. “Can we please stop holding the country hostage to crazy people?” he asks, lamenting calls in the legacy media to restrict certain forms of entertainment because they might lead to violence along the lines of the incident that recently took place in California, perpetrated (mostly) using a knife and an automobile. Don’t ban Catcher in the Rye, he says, because it could ‘inspire’ an insane person to commit mayhem. “Why not instead focus on the source of the problem: the very small minority of mentally ill people who pose a danger to themselves and others?” So far, I’m on board . . .
Unfortunately, his next sentence changes things a bit: “And, yes, guns need to be part of that equation.” But Mr. Goldberg goes on to wrestle with the concept a little, so let’s quote his thoughts completely here:
…(B)lanket efforts to ban guns seem like an analogous effort to ban dangerous speech or art. About a third of U.S. households own a gun, according to surveys, but the number may be higher than that. Getting rid of guns will infringe on the rights of tens of millions of sane, law-abiding citizens in order to tackle a problem posed by dozens of people. And, like it or not, the Supreme Court has reaffirmed that we have a constitutional right to own a firearm, subject to reasonable regulation.
One reasonable regulation: Doing what we reasonably can to keep guns out of the hands of people who might find Seth Rogen’s sexploits, or video games, or Batman movies a good excuse to murder innocent people in cold blood. There would still be murderers, of course. But at least the focus would be where it belongs.
And that’s it. That’s where the piece ends. Mr. Goldberg makes no attempt to explain what form these “reasonable” regulations would take, the party(ies) that might be responsible for implementing them. And he doesn’t mention any safeguards that would keep an overzealous demagogue who ignores civil rights in pursuit of his private agenda (i.e., Bull Connor, J.H. Blair, or Michael Bloomberg) from using this imaginary new system to abrogate people’s rights. Goldberg offers no bright ideas, leaving it up to the reader to imagine how interdicting the Elliot Rodgers of the world would take place.
Mr. Goldberg, you can do better than this. If you want to suggest how to achieve the goal of keeping firearms out of the hands of insane people without infringing on the Second Amendment rights of law abiding Americans, please do so. If you want to explain why this goal is more important than, say, making sure that the mentally ill get the treatment and help they need (which, somehow, got far less attention in your article) I’m all ears. But I’d expect the author of a book like Liberal Fascism to understand that standing athwart history shouting, “There oughtta be a law!” doesn’t take us anywhere good.