Jeffrey Goldberg has an opinion piece in Bloomberg today which should be required reading for gun control advocates.
Goldberg makes five points about why the Newtown tragedy did not become the inflection point that many gun control advocates hoped it would, despite the President’s best efforts.
Probably the most important argument Goldberg offers is the final
one. Gun control efforts failed after Newtown because they were a “non
sequitur.” This is a point that many conservatives were making a year
ago though, at the time, no one wanted to hear it.
Gun-control groups have failed to explain to doubters why the current,
Newtown-inspired, campaign for universal background checks isn’t a non
sequitur. The Newtown killer stole the weapons he used in his massacre
from his mother, who purchased them legally. More stringent background
checks would not have stopped this horror from happening. The Newtown
massacre is as much a manifestation of a mental-health care crisis, as
it is a sign of a gun crisis. Legislators should have spent the past
year working harder on issues related to mental-health care, and not
quite so hard on a series of fixes that would not have stopped this
Goldberg concludes “Gun-control advocates, and their friends in Congress and state
legislatures, must admit to themselves that the fixes they propose are
mainly symbolic.” Exactly so.
Symbolism, while it may be cathartic, is not likely to stop another deranged killer from stealing guns (or buying them legally) to commit a terrible crime. It remains the case that many of the horrible crimes we’re talking about involve someone with mental problems. Why not start there? More generally, the question ought to be: What might actually work?
As I pointed out yesterday, the NRA proposed a workable solution to future school shootings last year. They recommended placing armed guards in schools nationwide. A few news outlets remarked that the idea was “not as farfetched as it sounds” but their voices were drowned out by those who labeled the NRA’s suggestion as tone-deaf and even “evil.”
Just last week we had another school shooting. In
the wake of another parental nightmare, we learned that having an SRO on campus–the core of the NRA proposal–could actually save lives. The Arapahoe High rampage lasted 80 seconds rather than several minutes. But it might have been much worse if not for timely intervention by an on-site police officer.
Goldberg deserves kudos for taking his readers down a path that most writers have refused to explore. But he has really only gone halfway down it. It’s true that many gun control “solutions” are non-sequiturs. It’s also true that there are some solutions which seem far more likely to actually work, solutions which arguably did work last week to save lives. Perhaps the one year anniversary of the Newtown tragedy is a good time to discuss which of these alternatives should be on the agenda going forward.