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Once you strip away the raw emotionalism of the carnage at Sandy Hook, or the Aurora theater, or Columbine, or Luby's, or whatever, you're left with a series of inconvenient truths for gun-control advocates: Over the past 20 years or so, more guns are in circulation and violent crime is down. So is violent crime that uses guns. Murders are down, too, even as video games and movies and music and everything else are filled with more fantasy violence than ever. For god's sake, even mass shootings are not becoming more common. If ever there was a case to stand pat in terms of public policy, the state of gun control provides it (and that's without even delving into the fact that Supreme Court has recently validated a personal right to own guns in two landmark cases). It's probably always been the case but certainly since the start of 21st century, it seems like we legislate only by crisis-mongering and the results have not been good: The PATRIOT Act, the Iraq War, TARP, fiscal cliff deals, you name it. Would that cooler heads prevailed then and now.
And when you get to the specific cause of Jon Stewart's and the nation's ragged voice and broken heart - when you get to non-cynical attempts to use a mass shooting to effect some good in the world - you come up just as emptyhanded. Walk back from the Sandy Hook shooting and try to figure out a way to prevent Adam Lanza from doing what he did. Are you going to start making "strange" kids go to more psychological clinics at earlier ages? Lock up more psychos (and define that term more broadly) and/or take them away from parents? Institute a house-by-house search for insane people in proximity to guns? Ban or limit video games that generate billions of dollars in sales and essentially zero in copycat crimes?
Stewart is right to be anguished by what happened in December. So is the country. And the urge to do something - even something that will inevitably be put into action by opportunistic politicians - is fully understandable. But that doesn't mean it will accomplish anything. It won't make us safer (current policy seems to already be doing that) and it won't even make us feel better. Because at the end of the day, there's still 26 people - kids mostly, which is just awful - who had no connection to the gunman who shot them down. And taking a couple of bullets out of clip or sending more kids to doctors or turning schools slightly more into prison environments isn't going to bring them back. Or worse yet, prevent the next one from happening.