Mass Shootings

No, the Post-9/11 Response to Terrorism Is Not a Good Model for Gun Policy

Gun control advocates don't seem to realize they are making the case against their push.

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crazbabe21/flickr

The old refrain of "We must do something" has a new corollary affixed to it: "After all, we did something after 9/11."

I cannot imagine a worse argument for any policy. Yet in the wake of the massacre in Las Vegas, some high-profile people have embraced this idea like it's a revelation.

"When planes flew into the World Trade Center, did we say now is not the time to talk about terrorism?" asked Meet the Press host Chuck Todd. We didn't, but maybe we should have. Todd has apparently forgotten that the product of that post-9/11 talk about terrorism was a war on terror that has left Americans less free and the world less safe.

The Bush administration used the heightened emotions following the 9/11 attack to push through the PATRIOT Act and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. The former expanded government power at the expense of individual rights while casting a net so wide as to make it useless for any real counterterrorism effort. The latter was used to launch not just the war in Afghanistan but, since then, several military actions across the Muslim world with little if any connection to 9/11.

Both should be cautionary tales about making policy in the immediate wake of tragedy. Neither is an example to emulate.

Kal Penn, an actor who worked on public outreach for the Obama White House, trotted out the same comparison. "Americans killed on 9/11: 2,996. Days it took Congress to authorize war: 3," he tweeted. "Americans killed by guns in 2017: 11,652. Days in 2017 so far: 275." Is Penn unaware of what a failure the Afghan war has been? Let alone all the other wars Washington has waged under the same Authorization for Use of Military Force?

Then there's late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel. "When someone with a beard attacks us, we tap phones, we invoke travel bans, we build walls, we take every possible precaution to make sure it doesn't happen again," Kimmel said Monday night. "But when an American buys a gun and kills other Americans, then there's nothing we can about that." Since Kimmel is explicitly opposed to Trump's travel ban and some of the other policies he mentioned, it's not clear why he thinks he's making a compelling argument.

Meanwhile, gun restrictions passed in the aftermath of previous mass shootings, like Newtown, tend to be ineffective at best and violations of civil liberties at worst. It's almost as though there's a good reason to be wary of laws rushed into place right after a tragedy hits the news.

NEXT: DEA Agents Sold Opioids, Stole Cash, and Falsely Identified Drug Suspects, Say Feds

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  1. Kal Penn, an actor who worked on public outreach for the Obama White House,

    Thanks for improving all of those drug laws, Kal!

    1. It sucks that he’s not more like Kumar in real life. In real life, he’s pretty much a total douche.

  2. Since Kimmel is explicitly opposed to Trump’s travel ban and some of the other policies he mentioned, it’s not clear why he thinks he’s making a compelling argument.

    The argument, Ed, is to do something rather than doing something. You see, something is good, and nothing is bad. So, let’s do something.

    1. What we should is amend the SHARE act (H.R.3668) to include a provision to place bump stocks on the NFA registry and then pass that bill right away.

      Never again!

      1. We should do that, on condition that we add National Reciprocity for concealed carry licenses, and to anyone who can legally carry their gun in their home State.

        But don’t fool yourself: requiring a $200 tax stamp for bump stocks is going to do nothing to prevent a tragedy like this. Any determined mass murderer will find a way, regardless of silly laws.

  3. Yeah, it seems like a bad policy to recommend that we follow policies that the speaker claims to oppose. “When this happened, this stupid and terrible policy I oppose occurred. WHY AREN’T WE DOING MORE OF THAT HERE?”

  4. Strange their arguments are usually so sound.

    [smiles and nods]

  5. “Meanwhile, gun restrictions passed in the aftermath of previous mass shootings, like Newtown, tend to be ineffective ….” and unconstitutional.

    2nd Amendment:
    A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

  6. If your calendar goes beyond 9/12/2001 your are a traitor.

  7. Earlier I was listening to Democracy Now! on the radio (would be better named Communism Now!) and there was a big talk about this, and a comparison to Australia. Apparently Australia has some sort of Minority Report style background check that prevents future criminals from acquiring firearms, a blanket ban on anything that looks remotely like a military firearm, and there have been exactly zero mass-shootings since. Legislation is magic. All we need is something similar here in the U.S. and there will never again be a mass-shooting.

    1. And the Australian magic is made possible by (1) the fact that Australia has only about 1 mass murder event every ten to eighteen years (for at least 150 years) and (2) the one mass murder event they’ve had since the ban didn’t involve guns.

      Actually, I may be wrong: Australia may have had two events, and one may have actually involved guns…

      1. Also note that New Zealand did NOT institute those restrictions, and has also had no gun-related mass murders.

  8. I loved Jim Geraghty’s comment about the claims that would embrace gun control is a Muslim did it.

    Did they forget the Pulse nightclub shooting? Muslim dude and supporter of ISIS killed lots of gay people. Democrats didn’t seem to care more than a day or two after it happened. Republicans did not support gun control. Libertarians didn’t.

    1. Did they forget the Pulse nightclub shooting? Muslim dude and supporter of ISIS killed lots of gay people.

      Remember San Bernadino when the smoke cleared and the FBI told Apple that they had to *do something* about the shooter’s locked phone?

      It’s bizarre how these people just don’t get it.

  9. the product of that post-9/11 talk about terrorism was a war on terror that has left Americans less free and the world less safe

    Well, on the plus side there is all that government spending on security theater that creates economic growth. We should supply the TSA agents with rocks and let them break out airport windows as long as they’re there and get double the economic impact.

    1. Based on the (thankfully limited) contact i’ve had with TSA agents, the primary result of that policy would be a lot of TSA agents seriously injuring themselves with mishandled rocks.

  10. I cannot imagine a worse argument for any policy.

    It’s so stupid I thought Reason was attacking a man of straw. But then here comes Chuck Todd.

  11. I can’t believe I’m defending Kimmel, whom I have actually met and whom I actually despise, but let me make his point more completely.

    “In response to 9/11, we took some actions that infringed on people’s 1st- 4th- and 14th-Amendment rights even though those actions did not look likely to be (and turned out not to be) particularly effectively.

    “Now, in response to a greater death-toll, the government is shying away from actions that might infringe on people’s 2nd-Amendment rights, even though those actions are considerably more promising. At the least, that’s inconsistent.”

    Of course, there are a lot of factual holes in that argument. The War on Terrorism did not look like a good idea, but it has had some successes, while there is (imo) no reason at all to think that a War on Guns would be anything but a gigantic disaster.

    But Kimmel’s position is not wholly fallacious, given the facts he believes to be true.

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