Whataboutism, red herrings (I like to call those “hey, look over there!” fallacies), ad hominem attacks and other logical fallacies were alive in the comments that followed my column about recent shootings last week, as well as the attitude that’s kept anything from getting done: Criminals won’t follow the law, so why punish citizens who do?
By that logic, we don’t need any laws at all because they only punish the people who follow them. Murder/sexual assault, etc., laws? Nah; only law-abiding people will pay attention to them, so let everybody do what they want. Those with strong morals, which is of course most of us (at least those people who believe in our religious creed), will resist the urge no matter how much that little devil on our shoulder might cajole. It doesn’t matter if it hurts someone else as long as you feel good about it.
This is why I get frustrated sometimes, especially knowing that there are many, many very wise people in this state, and feel the need to drown my frustration in chocolate and head bumps from Boo the Warehouse Cat and fur-nephew Charlie. (Those boys are so sweet, especially to put up with me when I’m cranky.)
That faulty logic is also why we’ve surpassed the number of mass shootings by this point in any year as of Monday, according to the Gun Violence Archive, with just over 200. The group defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are shot, excluding the shooter. It’s been speeding up lately, according to Julia Mueller on The Hill: “In the past two years, the U.S. crossed 200 mass shootings in mid-May and, in 2020 and 2019, didn’t reach 200 until mid-to-late June. Between 2016 and 2018, the country passed 200 mass shootings in late July. “
Seriously. Make it make sense that people will make any excuse to avoid acknowledging the one common element in all mass shootings, something we have over 400 million of here. And no, guns can’t do anything on their own, but they are tools meant for killing, and we have a system in the United States that allows far-too-easy access to large numbers of, in many cases, legally bought guns (younger mass shooters have taken parents’ or grandparents’ legal guns, and others have legally bought guns within a day of their attacks). Other weapons can be used, true, but none as efficient and deadly at their purpose (part of which is apparently to provide thrills to ammosexuals).
But new laws wouldn’t have prevented these killings, so many have said. They’re right, in a way. New laws and more rigorously enforcing current laws might not do anything for all shootings. No one law will serve every situation, and the idea that one should is ludicrous. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t prevent others. Any life saved is worth it (and all of a sudden I’m reminded of extreme anti-abortionists who murdered doctors who perform abortions).
There is no law that will magically solve every problem. (Ahem, the LEARNS Act here in Arkansas (the omnibus act shoved quickly through the General Assembly earlier this year), pretending to fix state education comes to mind, as it has several parts that will likely make things worse; still, some parts are workable. They should have taken those parts individually and passed them as the Ledge always did before, but this way stuff can more easily be snuck through.)
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. It’s the same concept here. Take on something specific, like red-flag laws, develop and enact a workable law, and move on to something else if it shows a positive effect, or rework the notion if it doesn’t. Any progress is to be applauded; you can’t accomplish everything all at once).
Multiple shooters have been poster children for red-flag laws, which would allow a judge to remove access to guns for some individuals at least temporarily. Had Nikolas Cruz been subject to red-flag laws, the Parkland shooting might never have happened. And he’s not the only one who could have been stopped.
Is that enough reason to put a law in place? Yes, if it has the potential to save lives and has due-process procedures spelled out.
But the Second Amendment says “shall not be infringed!” (Yeah, and it also mentions a “well-regulated militia,” but gun-rights activists don’t seem to care, especially the “well-regulated” part.) Well, no less a conservative authority than the late Justice Antonin Scalia stated in D.C. v. Heller, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” [My emphasis.]
While Scalia said the amendment allows individual possession of guns, he also noted: “[N]othing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on long-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
So yes, government can and does have the right to impose limitations, and in the case of red-flag laws, closing of loopholes, universal background checks, etc., it certainly should for the safety of the majority, just as we do in other areas. (I mean … unless you really think we don’t need all those laws on food and product safety, or labor conditions, or a thousand other things.)
But that guy in Cleveland, Texas, was an illegal alien who’d been deported four times! Sure, but without that gun, none of that would have happened. Immigration status is secondary to the main issue, so let’s keep our focus here.
Then there’s the fact that an 18-year-old can’t buy a handgun in most places, but an AR-15-style rifle, sure. Considering that some of the deadliest school shooters have been under the age of 21, that looks like an area to consider. Raise. The. Freaking. Minimum. Age.
We should also seriously consider licensing and liability insurance legislation, as well as passing laws that hold parents responsible if their child gets hold of their guns without supervision and hurts someone.
And by the way, if you can’t make your case without insulting and bullying others, you don’t have a leg to stand on. Plus, you really need a hobby.
No one is going to take all your guns no matter how many times the gun lobby says it (it’s almost like they’re profiting from all those arsenals some people are building up, apparently thinking they’d be able to defend themselves against the military,), and no one’s treading on you by suggesting we tighten up gun laws. One way we could tighten them up is to make them federal rather than state by state since the patchwork of laws poorly serves us (can’t buy a gun in one state, just head to another where you can and take it back home; how do you think those guns end up in places they’re not supposed to be?).
More guns haven’t helped us, and have instead served more to spread fear (please, if you “must” carry and you’re not a cop, get a concealed-carry permit; seeing people open-carry is bad enough, but when you see all the idiots who obviously never took a hunter-safety course in their lives with guns slung over their shoulders and not pointed down … yikes … plus, that would make it easier for a bad guy without a gun to grab your gun and use it).
I don’t mind being a hermit as that’s my nature, but I don’t like the feeling of dread of going out in public being multiplied so much because of the number of attacks there have been recently, and I know I’m not alone. If we want to allay that fear, we have to put partisanship aside, keep cool heads, and be willing to tackle the hard tasks and admit that limitations are wise in most things, but perhaps especially gun policy.
Kate Shaw and John Bash, clerks to Justice Paul Stevens and Scalia respectively during the time of the Heller decision, wrote in an essay in The New York Times following the Uvalde massacre: “Nothing in Heller casts doubt on the permissibility of background check laws or requires the so-called Charleston loophole, which allows individuals to purchase firearms even without completed background checks. Nor does Heller prohibit giving law enforcement officers more effective tools and greater resources to disarm people who have proved themselves to be violent or mentally ill, as long as due process is observed. Heller also gives the government at least some leeway to restrict the kinds of firearms that can be purchased—few would claim a constitutional right to own a grenade launcher, for example—although where that line could be constitutionally drawn is a matter of disagreement … .
“Most of the obstacles to gun regulations are political and policy-based, not legal; it’s laws that never get enacted, rather than ones that are struck down … .”
Why can’t we at least try something? To borrow a thought from my colleagues on the editorial page, we can’t keep letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. We’re past the point where inaction (no, thoughts and prayers are not action) will do anything but make things worse.