Like many of you, I’ve been horrified by the events in Newtown, and dismayed by the debate that has followed. Josh Marshall (at TPM) thinks that “this is quickly veering from the merely stupid to a pretty ugly kind of victim-blaming.” Naive realism, meet thy kettle! Contrary to what you’ll see on various liberal outlets, the NRA didn’t cause Adam Lanza to kill innocent children and adults, nor did Alan Gura or the army of academics who helped to build the case for an individual right to gun ownership. Reading discussions on the web, you might come to believe that we don’t all share the goal of a society where the moral order is preserved, and where our children can be put on the bus to school without a qualm.
But we do.
We just disagree about how to make it happen.
Dan Kahan’s post on the relationship between “the gun debate”, “gun deaths”, and Newtown is thus very timely. Dan argues that if we really wanted to decrease gun deaths, we should try legalizing drugs. (I’d argue, following Bill Stuntz, that we also/either would hire many more police while returning much more power to local control). But decreasing gun deaths overall won’t (probably) change the likelihood of events like these:
“But here’s another thing to note: these very sad incidents “represent only a sliver of America’s overall gun violence.” Those who are appropriately interested in reducing gun homicides generally and who are (also appropriately) making this tragedy the occasion to discuss how we as a society can and must do more to make our citizens safe, and who are, in the course of making their arguments invoking(appropraitely!) the overall gun homicide rate should be focusing on what we can be done most directly and feasibly to save the most lives.
Repealing drug laws would do more — much, much, much more — than banning assault rifles (a measure I would agree is quite appropriate); barring carrying of concealed handguns in public (I’d vote for that in my state, if after hearing from people who felt differently from me, I could give an account of my position that fairly meets their points and doesn’t trade on tacit hostility toward or mere incomprehension of whatever contribution owning a gun makes to their experience of a meaningful free life); closing the “gun show” loophole; extending waiting periods etc. Or at least there is evidence for believing that, and we are entitled to make policy on the best understanding we can form of how the world works so long as we are open to new evidence and aren’t otherwise interfering with liberties that we ought, in a liberal society, to respect.”
Dan’s post is trying to productively redirect our public debate, and I wanted to use this platform to bring more attention to his point. But, I think he’s missing something, and if you follow me after the jump, I’ll tell you what.