Announcing his gun-related "executive actions" yesterday, President Obama predictably substituted emotion for logic while engaging in a familiar bait and switch. He recited a litany of horrific, headline-grabbing mass shootings while proposing policies that would have done nothing to prevent them. Anticipating that his non sequitur would draw criticism, he boldly proclaimed that good intentions matter more than actual results:
Each time this comes up, we are fed the excuse that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, or the one before that, so why bother trying. I reject that thinking. We know we can't stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.
In Obama's mind, even if a mass shooter passed a background check (or could have passed a background check) because he did not have a disqualifying criminal or psychiatric record, as is typically the case, it still makes sense to cite his crime as justification for more background checks. The reason it makes sense is that Obama's gun control proposals serve the same function as his ostentatious tears: They show he cares enough to try, even if the effort is bound to fail. The implication, of course, is that anyone who does not support his policies does not care, as he so conspicuously does, about murdered children.
"Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad," Obama declared, referring to the first-graders killed three years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The target of the president's anger is not the perpetrator of that massacre so much as the awful, uncaring Republicans who refused to respond by requiring background checks for all gun transfers.
Never mind that the Sandy Hook shooter used his mother's guns, meaning he would not have undergone a background check even if Congress already had passed the law that Obama demanded. Never mind that the killer was legally qualified to buy a gun, meaning that even if he had undergone a background check he would have passed it. And never mind that "universal background checks" would impose real burdens on gun owners trying to sell their own property as well as Americans unjustly deprived of their constitutional rights for no good reason. As far as the president is concerned, those points are irrelevant, because once you start considering how new gun controls might work in practice you have already forfeited your status as a decent human being, the sort who is moved by the senseless slaughter of first-graders.
More on Obama's latest gun speech: Brian Doherty explains why Second Amendment supporters do not trust him, I note the tension in his goals regarding gun ownership and mental health, and Ken White at Popehat analyzes his obfuscating rights rhetoric.