Sunday, February 25, 2018

Politics of False Hope

A Wall Street Journal column by Kimberley Strassel had a good description of promises made without concern for real-life outcomes -- "the politics of false hope."

I'm reminded of the joke about a guy falling from the top of the Empire State Building. As he passes the 65th floor, someone leans out the window and shouts, "How are you doing?" "Okay," replies the faller, "so far."

Feel-good responses don't work for long. Eventually the faller hits the ground. False hope certainly applies to gun control.

"Stop gun violence," scream the protesters after the horrendous school shooting in Florida last week. "Ban assault rifles," cries the left. "Ban bump stocks," says President Trump. Everyone wants more extensive background checks. Governor Rick Scott wants to up the minimum age for gun purchase to 21. Others say harden the schools, arm teachers. Ban this, stop that. Lots more possible legislation to add to the volumes of gun-control laws already on the books, laws that are not enforced or simply don't work.

But we'll all feel better if we do something, anything. Until the next mass shooting and the next and the next.

Here's the sad truth of the matter. There are an estimated 320 million guns already out there, 320 million guns in private hands in the United States. If another gun is never sold, there are still 320 million guns out there. If a bad guy or a deranged student wants to get his hands on a gun -- maybe not an assault rifle, but a gun that will kill -- he can do so. Forget about background checks. Forget about mental health assessments. They won't stop a determined shooter. There are relatives, friends, used-gun bazaars, the military black market and, good grief, the Internet. It's estimated you can locate a weapon in 30 minutes if you're halfway serious about it.

What about confiscating guns people already own or, heavens, repealing the Second Amendment? Neither will happen. People will fight, perhaps literally, to keep their firearms, and the Congress and courts will keep the Second Amendment. That doesn't have to be, you say. Let's elect a passel of non-hunter politicians and Woodstock pacifists. Make love, not bang-bang. Good luck with that. And I've got a bridge to sell you.

How about outlawing the National Rifle Association, those baddies, we are told, that hold veto power over gun legislation? That's like saying outlawing The New York Times will stop liberal thinking in America. The NRA is controlled by shooting enthusiasts, not the other way around. And even with no NRA, there would still be 320 million guns in closets, gun racks, trucks and illegal arsenals around the country.

What is the answer? I don't know. Improved background checks might help, as might fewer guns sold, better responses to warning signs, more armed security. But nothing, I fear, will stop the determined shooter. More feel-good legislation certainly won't.

Nobody wants to hear this, but more people die on the streets of Chicago each year than in all of the mass shootings put together. And Chicago has the toughest gun laws in the country. A recent study showed that making it more difficult to purchase firearms would have stopped only one in five mass shootings over the last ten years. And how about knives? Naples Daily News columnist Brent Batten reports over 1,600 killings from knife attacks in 2016. Then there are mass killings from trucks plowing into innocent pedestrians -- in New York, London, Nice.

No bazooka attacks or dirty bombs ... so far.

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