It’s not just the usual outrage on the need for gun control after a horrendous shooting. It is a wide-eyed, angry, uninformed, hateful, condescending, morally superior political cascade that will probably help sell a record number of guns over the days to come, maybe making it still easier for the next killer to get one.
The killer in this episode, someone who did just about everything bad you can think of in life, stood in front of the congregation of a small-town Baptist church in Texas and shot everyone who made a sound, including babies that cried. Twenty-six people died. Two good guys chased the killer, he crashed his truck and shot himself to death after being wounded by one of the pursuers.
“As my colleagues go to sleep tonight, they may need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theaters and city streets,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, in the first part of an interesting, blistering self-indictment. “The terrifying fact is that no one is safe so long as Congress chooses to do absolutely nothing in the face of this epidemic.”
Note that this politician is blatantly saying that those not wanting the laws he wants have been bought out by big money even as they know people will die. He is obviously pointing a finger at the National Rifle Association, which is not powerful so much because of gun-maker dollars as because of millions of citizens who happen to vote. That’s known as free speech and democracy. In financial terms, The Washington Examiner reported a couple of years ago, the lobby of the dairy industry spends twice as much as the NRA.
Murphy might also want to pause and think for a moment about the thousands of gun laws already passed at the federal, state and local level and what grand things they have or have not brought to pass. President Barack Obama kept trying to get Congress to fund a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, failed, decided to rely again on good, old unilateralism, got himself a 2013 study and then zipped his lips. It couldn’t find any assurance these laws had done any good at all.
A possible reason? We have something more than 300 million guns in this country, an average of 100 guns for every 100 persons, it is noted, and keeping someone from getting one of them is not easy. Criminals tend to get guns other than through regular stores. There’s such a thing as inadequate enforcement, which was the tragic case with the Texas killer, part of whose past would have helped keep him unarmed if properly reported.
It’s also the case that more guns don’t necessarily mean more deaths. In the 1990s, when gun purchases were skyrocketing, gun homicides were dropping by half. Russia, with an average of nine guns per 100 people and extremely tough gun laws, once had four times the murders we have, a study tells us.
In the meantime, it is not as if those citizens fearful of Democratic overkill have nothing on which to base their fears. There are all kinds of studies that have shown citizens save themselves from foul criminal intentions literally thousands upon thousands upon thousands of times a year, and there have been prominent Democrats endorsing confiscatory measures such as those used in Australia.
None of this is to say we should forget preventative measures, such as effective police work, support of police, addressing cultural issues and doing more to identify the dangerous among us if reasonably possible. Some new guns laws make sense, including disallowing any means of converting semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons. I myself believe in universal background checks.
What I do not believe in is overstated, politically advantageous hysterics that can do more to make things worse than better.
Jay Ambrose is a columnist for Tribune News Service.
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