Are We Going to Avoid Reality in the Gun Control Debate?

One of the disappointing byproducts of the inconceivably brutal horror in Newtown, Connecticut was the sneering self-righteousness disseminated immediately by those attempting to advance ideological arguments and score political points.

Of all the great tragedies in America over the past two decades, the most long-lasting might be the loss of decorum, civility and kindness in public discourse.  While I pray that it returns quickly, the stakes are higher than just the virtue of disagreeing without being disagreeable.  The truth is that dignity and civility allow us to rationally deliberate and discuss the ideas that make a better country.

We are about to undertake a national conversation regarding gun control.  As we participate in this process, from cable news shows to our very own kitchen tables, I hope that we will take a collective breath and give facts (whether they support our view or not) their appropriate measure.  And we should engage a fundamental question: Should we as a nation institute a surplus of well-intended laws to protect all of us all the time?

In 2011, 32,310 Americans lost their lives in auto accidents.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, this is the leading cause of death for teens and teen drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.  Additionally, male teens have nearly twice the death rate of their female counterparts.

If we are going to take immediate action to save as many young lives as possible as quickly as possible, we should ban teenage drivers tomorrow – and male teenage drivers today.

Drivers age 75 and older have a higher motor vehicle death rate per mile driven than any group except teenagers.  When an accident does occur, elderly individuals are much more likely to die from their injuries.  Sorry, grandpa, give me your keys.  And while you’re at it, I’ll take that driver’s license, too.  Just trying to save your life, okay?

Of the vehicle deaths referenced above, almost a third occurred in drunken driving crashes.  Should we go back to prohibition?  If not that, perhaps require individuals to submit to psychological testing first before buying alcohol.

Each year, around 600,000 Americans lose their lives due to heart disease – the leading cause of death for both men and women.  Should only low-fat, organic food be made available?  Should everyone be required to join a gym, hire a trainer or diet rather than be incarcerated?

Numerous studies show that the availability of free, over-the-counter contraception has corresponded with a rise in sexually transmitted disease among teens – with no corresponding decrease in the rate of pregnancy or abortion.  Should we ban this kind of contraception?  After all, its ease of availability runs parallel to more risk-taking behavior among teenagers.  Better yet, maybe the federal government should just ban teen sex altogether: teen abortion, pregnancy and STDs gone with just a single federal law.

Tongue-in-cheek to be sure, but is it really different from the logic being employed in much of the gun debate?

I own guns, but I’m not opposed to reasonable gun registration.  I also support preventing mentally ill people from obtaining guns – but how do we do this?  A note from your doctor?  A five-year waiting period between taking any depression medication and obtaining a firearm?  What we want to do and what we can do has rarely seemed further apart.

Within seven hours of the Sandy Hook shooting, one liberal friend’s Facebook page said “the parents should be prosecuted.”  Maybe my buddy started a career in the mainstream media, because he had all the fury and none of the facts.  And yet, he feels essentially entitled to (pardon the expression) shoot from the hip about whatever was on the top of his head.  Unfortunately, this is an example of the logic that seems to be percolating in some corners.  And it is dangerous.

Hopefully, we can have a real and rational conversation about possible gun control measures in which both sides arrive with fresh eyes, with “culture” and “reality” given their proper place.

Culture is more than graphic video games or gratuitous violence in entertainment.  It is also the people we are producing and becoming.   As for reality, it should guide us to the unarmed truth.  If we ignore one or both, we run risk of realizing the prophetic words of Ayn Rand: “You can avoid reality, you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”


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