We’ve already remarked on the post-Umpqua surge of anti-gun agitprop. So far it’s been a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, legislatively and electorally speaking. You might even say it’s a sign of increasing desperation, as the antis realize that bloody shirt waving has joined pissing in the wind as a metaphor for self-defeating rhetoric. msn.com reports that “September is the fifth month in a row to set a record for background checks.” And that was before the post-Umpqua anti-gun offensive. If you look closely, you can see a new fatalism amongst the anti-firearms fraternity . . .
Following the fatal shooting of nine people at a community college in southern Oregon last week, President Obama renewed his call for “sufficient, common-sense gun-safety laws.” Yet there is only limited evidence that piecemeal regulation of the kind that policymakers in Washington and in state houses around the country are considering would substantially reduce gun fatalities.
Take a prohibition on assault weapons, one of the most common proposals. The ban might make mass shootings less deadly, but most homicides are committed with handguns. A rule that owners must store their guns under lock and key — if it were followed — would help keep guns away from suicidal adolescents, but wouldn’t protect adults in a violent domestic dispute. Requiring background checks for private sales and transfers would make it harder for convicted felons to buy guns secondhand, but some would still buy guns as a favor to brothers or boyfriends who wouldn’t qualify themselves.
Don’t get me wrong. The Washington Post – which published the above Wonkblog screed underneath the headline What liberals don’t want to admit about gun control – is still deeply and completely anti-gun. Their tepid coverage of the pro-gun protest that greeted President on his visit to Roseberg indicates that the WaPo’s anti-gun spin machine remains productive. But along with Professor Volokh’s excellent analysis, there seems to be a gradual understanding that gun control sucks.
That said, the antis’ asinine arguments still get plenty of play. Like this:
“The big problem is the guns,” said David Hemenway, a professor of public health at Harvard University.
“Guns are incredibly lethal,” he said. “It’s easy to kill with a gun.” There aren’t other ways to take a life that are equally effective. A knife wound is about eight times less likely, for instance, to take a life than a gunshot wound.
A mandatory buy-back program, along the lines of Australia’s highly successful ban on shotguns and semiautomatic and automatic rifles, could be effective in reducing the number of firearms. In Australia’s case, a mass shooting at a tourist destination on the island of Tasmania led the country’s conservative prime minister to require owners to sell their guns to the government in 1996. The government seized at least 650,000 guns — about one in five guns in civilian hands at the time. The result was a reduction of nearly 80 percent in the rate of suicides by firearm. And the data suggest that Australians didn’t simply use other methods besides guns to commit suicide. The policy likely saved hundreds of lives a year.
As is the way of such things, writer Max Ehrenfreund presents dubious, not-to-say profoundly flawed research as “likely” fact. Not one word is “wasted’ mentioning the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, a document notably missing from Australia’s political system. Or the tens of thousands of lives saved and protected by firearms-wielding Americans each year.
But more and more, articles like this one are butting-up against reality. Not head-on, mind you. Nor factually. While there’s every likelihood that the media’s small and grudging acceptance of gun rights will disappear at the first fresh flowering of successful civilian disarmament, there’s no mistaking a certain resigned admission that gun control isn’t the answer to America’s falling (note: falling) rate of “gun violence.”
It could be that where fewer people own firearms, more people are willing to support gun-control legislation. That legislation itself might not reduce the rate of fatalities, but because there are fewer guns, there are fewer deaths.
In any case, as long as guns remain so prevalent in American life, it appears that violent shooting deaths will continue. Another shooting, this time on the campus of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, wounded three people and killed another Friday morning.
“The availability of firearms feeds this problem, but then, what the hell are you going to do about it?” asked Wachtel, who now teaches criminal justice at California State University, Fullerton. Meaningful changes to the nation’s firearms policy aren’t politically feasible, he said: “We’re screwed. This is America.”
So close! Lose the first part of that quote and you’re there.