Guns: Fading from National Conversation, But Still Generating Some Unpleasant Mania


As Reason 24/7 noted earlier today, guns and gun regulations are fading from the public conversation post-Sandy Hook a bit quicker than most would have predicted.

While I wrote this American Conservative article "Gun Control R.I.P." before Sandy Hook, I still think its prediction that American citizens or politicians are not going to be quick to support much in the way of increased gun control will likely hold up, though the future remains devilishly difficult to predict.

At any rate, a return to the gun control status quo of a decade ago via a revival of the pointless but somewhat popular "assault weapon ban," if that even ends up happening, is still not much in the way of advanced gun control on the march. I think the main reason for this is not that we are bloody-minded lunatics in thrall to the NRA, but that most people realize that no constitutional or effective gun control regulation would have stopped Sandy Hook or likely stop any future Sandy Hooks and are thus more an emotional reaction than a logical policy one, and one that will cause trouble for the innocent more than stop the would-be guilty.

As Emily Ekins pointed out here last week, majorities in Gallup Polls still are against bans of either handguns or semiautomatic rifles, though 58 percent post-Sandy Hook are generically in favor of "stricter gun laws," which is a huge rise from 43 percent in 2011.

But, as I discussed in "Gun Control R.I.P.," for most Americans its not such an important issue one way or the other, with the colorful, exciting parts of the gun control debate remaining on a fringe of people for whom the issue short circuits both logic and decency. For an example, see this op-ed [link fixed] in a respectable big-city daily, the Des Moines Register, from a back-from-retirement venerable columnist Donald Kaul, from last week:

Repeal the Second Amendment, the part about guns anyway. It's badly written, confusing and more trouble than it's worth. It offers an absolute right to gun ownership, but it puts it in the context of the need for a "well-regulated militia." We don't make our militia bring their own guns to battles. And surely the Founders couldn't have envisioned weapons like those used in the Newtown shooting when they guaranteed gun rights. Owning a gun should be a privilege, not a right.

• Declare the NRA a terrorist organization and make membership illegal. Hey! We did it to the Communist Party, and the NRA has led to the deaths of more of us than American Commies ever did. (I would also raze the organization's headquarters, clear the rubble and salt the earth, but that's optional.) Make ownership of unlicensed assault rifles a felony. If some people refused to give up their guns, that "prying the guns from their cold, dead hands" thing works for me.

• Then I would tie Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, our esteemed Republican leaders, to the back of a Chevy pickup truck and drag them around a parking lot until they saw the light on gun control.

And people wonder why those protective of their weapons or weapon-related rights don't entirely trust their fellow citizens who seem very excitable on the topic of increasing gun control.

Mr. Kaul does not represent a majority opinion among those calling for more gun regulations. Still, what other human or constitutional right would see calls for its complete abolition, its practitioners and believers declared criminals and, a little bit more than implicitly, killed ("'cold, dead hands' thing works for me…."), and at any rate its political supporters explicitly violently assaulted in a particularly bloody way ("drag them around the parking lot….") published blithely in a major newspaper?

Similarly, the sometimes perspicacious and usually hilarious Ruben Bolling seems to believe that the Second Amendment is far more stringently protected than the First. (If that's not what he means, can't really figure out the joke or the point of that strip.)