I want to depart from my normally impersonal style to discuss firearms, which, given the tragic events in Connecticut, you might think are solely responsible for the deaths of some bright young children and educators.
The response of the left, no stranger to putting universal safety before common sense, has been to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. It has been stated over and over again that this piece of legislation was largely ineffective. It did not work because, as I wrote after the Aurora Shooting, it could not define what it sought to ban in the first place. “Assault weapons” look a little more fierce than other rifles, featuring foldable stocks and muzzle breaks, but the extent that these additions improve their lethality cannot be quantifiably established. “Assault weapons” are subject to the 1934 National Firearms Act; they must not expel more than one round per trigger pull or they cannot be sold to citizens. Hence, these “semiautomatic weapons” are nearly standard among pistols, some traditional hunting rifles and about half of all shotguns.
The Ban also did not work because the majority of crimes are not committed with assault weapons but seemingly innocuous pistols (in fact estimates show that assault weapons are used between 2-8% of the time). Put yourself in the mind of a criminal and suppose you plan to rob a store. Do you take a concealable revolver, which can easily be discarded in a storm drain, or a weapon the size of a guitar?
In studying solutions, I typically do not pick at well-reasoned responses to the latest news. However the perspicacious Matt Miller has put forth the truly surreal suggestion that the government, via a debt-financed program, should buy back a number of guns from the citizens. The idea that liberty loving citizens will gladly exchange their firearms for Vanilla Visa cards borders on lunacy. Gun sales correlate positively alongside President Obama’s reelection and surged following the whisper of an assault weapons ban after Sandy Hook. Now, one cannot find a single assault rifle on the shelves in any store in Lexington. The point is that outlawing assault weapons does nothing for the millions of them presently owned (or that are being presently bought) in accordance with the law as it stands. Nor do I think it would be wise for any government party to attempt to confiscate them from America’s legions of gun nuts.
Other media outlets interpreted the tragedy as a call for mental health awareness. This was the subject of the widely circulated and imperfect essay “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother.” While it illustrated the difficulty of raising a child with special needs, the piece captured no unique insight because it fell on a standard refrain. The dummy formula for this usually goes “We need a national conversation apropos some issue.” Someone, anyone, please tell me: What is a “national conversation” or a “national dialogue” on anything? If Congress cannot even decide how to keep from hemorrhaging money, 300 million people cannot hope to discuss race or poverty or mental health in a constructive way. Therefore I am forced to believe that such sentiments are little more than grief responses, not intelligible solutions.
A significant problem for mental illness is not unlike certain weapons; a number of them cannot be fully defined or explained or in some cases, described. Moreover some diseases exhibit no more symptoms than a benign assortment of quirks. Or the sufferer might be severely disturbed though able to feign sanity in order to acquire the instruments of a rampage. But wouldn’t it be anathema to civil liberties to profile every adolescent male fitting the profile of the angry or reclusive Goth, especially when even sane people snap? (It is called “snapping” because it is, after all, unexpected.)
So my solution is simply this: hug your children but do nothing else. Without being crass, we must be objective. We must acknowledge that thousands of other children die every day due to pediatric disease, car accidents and accidental drownings (not to mention abortions). We ought to get over the fact that we cannot prevent every single tragedy with more and more legislation. As Tacitus once said: “The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the commonwealth.” We cannot not allow subtle infringements on our liberty due to this tragic event, lest it become a causality to it as well.