Recently by William L. Anderson: Once Again, the U.S. Courts Rule That Progressivist Fiction Is Truth
Progressives smell blood in the wake of the tragic Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut and their coordinated assaults, while not actually making Americans any safer, nonetheless are going to see positive results for the anti-gun lobby. Not surprisingly, the New York Times, which is full of what Daniel Okrent once called "bien-pesant" journalists, has been leading a full-scale charge, demonizing any gun owner who does not carry a weapon as part of his or her employment as being a murderer or enabler of shooting little children.
A lot of writers, such as Robert Higgs and Will Grigg, have dealt with the utter hypocrisy of President Barack Obama decrying the killing of American school children while at the same time ordering drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere in which little children are killed. However, since Obama has been declared by at least some of his supporters as "our lord and savior," one would suppose that The Great And Holy One is beyond any criticism, and especially criticism from the "bien-pesant" journalists that rule our media.
It is very clear that the Obama anti-private gun ownership people are on the offensive right now. The mass murder of little children by a private gun user has a way of doing that. (There was no such outcry when Bill Clinton and Janet Reno ordered the massacre of more than 20 children at Waco in 1993. After all, Branch Davidians were on the fringes of what "bien-pesant" journalists would call polite or acceptable society, or what my academic colleagues call "wackos," "gun nuts," and "whack jobs." In other words, they were not like the rest of us, so the FBI and BATF gave them what they deserved.)
Since the Sandy Hook killings, the NYT has run a huge spate of editorials and columns denouncing gun owners, calling for new controls, and generally taking the offensive against anyone who might think differently than journalists in mid-town Manhattan. Before I deal with a couple of these pieces, I will relate a personal story of dealing with the NYT types.
I went to high school with a couple members of the Sulzberger clan (their mother was the publisher of the local Chattanooga Times, which was propped up by Sulzberger money even as her own policies ran the paper into the ground). Not surprisingly, they were permanently aghast at the way of thinking that other young men in Chattanooga might exhibit, and it was clear that the Sulzbergers really did regard the rest of us as the Great Unwashed and worse. There was only one way to think and view the world, and anyone who did not carry the proper "credentials" or who might think differently than a True Sulzberger would think was not worthy even of casting a shadow in front of them.
Over the years, I have known a number of people who either have written for the NYT or who have connections with the paper, and while my relationships with them are pleasant enough, nonetheless the real divide remains. The air of intellectual and moral superiority that many of them carry is unmistakable. (I also have known some who are decent enough people, but they also don't last in that environment and take their talents elsewhere.)
I write this not as a personal slam against people who are connected with the NYT, but rather to point out that these are "Progressive" people who approach life from a very different viewpoint than most readers of this article. For all of the talk about a "gun-control debate," they are not interested in debating anyone, since the Great Unwashed have nothing important to say. The following two pieces I critique will demonstrate that point quite well.
In an editorial entitled "It's the Guns," the anonymous editorial writer intones:
President Obama on Wednesday gave Vice President Joe Biden Jr. a month to complete a job that he could have finished that afternoon. It is time to come up with, as Mr. Obama put it, "a set of concrete proposals" to make the nation safer from guns. The ways to do this are well-known because the nation has grappled with gun massacres many times before. It is Congress that hasn't.
For years sensible gun-control bills have been offered and rejected. The occasional bill has actually become law — but in hollow, loophole-riddled form — and then been allowed to lapse. Farther-reaching proposals focusing on things like banning certain kinds of bullets, or taxing them out of existence, have been laughed at. (Emphasis mine)
What is a "sensible" bill? To be honest, the only "sensible" bill that would truly be acceptable to these people would be a total ban on all privately-held firearms and handguns. Period. This is what they believe. Like all good Progressives, the NYT editors hold that anyone who does not use a gun in the line of government employment is not fit to possess guns. Government agents are "trained" to use guns; ordinary citizens are not, or so what is what Progressives believe.
When one tries to inject logic into the discussion, the editors slap down any such notion:
Congress remains is mired in excuses and passivity — an assault-weapons ban is a nonstarter, Republicans say, because assault weapon is a vague term. "How do you define assault weapon?" Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican of Alabama, asked Politico, saying a ban wouldn't fix anything. "We've seen that movie before," he said. What that answer ignores is that definitions are possible, but the gun lobby and its supporters, mostly in Mr. Shelby's party, pepper them with exemptions to make them less effective and to keep the gun-making business nice and healthy. (Emphasis mine)
No, Shelby is correct. The so-called definitions in the end are arbitrary. The typical standard rifle one can purchase at Wal-Mart or Dick's Sporting Goods is no less lethal than an "assault rifle." The AR-15, which allegedly was used in the Sandy Hook shootings, fires bullets the same way any rifle shoots them; there is nothing special about the rifle itself that makes it any more deadly. The definitions of which the NYT editorialist speaks are based simply the cosmetic aspects of the gun, period.
True, an assault weapons ban would include something about bayonet holders, but mass murderers generally don't use bayonets and the bayonet itself does not make a bullet any less lethal. So, if it is not the lethal capacity of a rifle, then what is it?
It goes back to the view that Progressives have about government itself, that government is sacred and holy, and that includes the armed forces. Thus, if any ordinary citizen has a rifle that might look something like what a U.S. soldier carries, that in and of itself is wrong and violates the purity of the State. Regular people should not own military-style guns because, well, they just shouldn't.
To many of us, cosmetics are just cosmetics and don't mean much. Progressives, however, believe that government is so sacrosanct that there needs to be a separation between what ordinary "mundanes" might own and what is in the possession of the state, and that certainly holds when one is speaking of firearms. I believe that is one of the reasons that I never have read an editorial in the NYT or any other Progressive publication that condemns or even questions the militarization of the police.
Police forces at all levels of government have become much more military in style and much more abusive in their treatment of ordinary citizens, and I believe the two things are related. As Will Grigg points out in this article, even small towns where there is almost no violent crime now are subject to marauding police officers armed with military-style gear that allows them to "play soldier." On top of that, we have seen exponential increases in SWAT-type raids in which innocent people are killed, young children terrorized, and people unnecessarily exposed to police brutality.
That the Progressives have not condemned such Police State events speaks volumes to the current gun control media monologue. In reality, innocent people are much more likely to be victims of "soldier-style" police brutality than they are a mass shooter, but to the NYT crowd, the former is acceptable because it is carried out by state agents, and there is no higher or holier calling than to be part of the State.
Columnist Nicholas Kristof then cites the Usual Litany of Things that have been trotted out before — and have not prevented a single murder via firearm:
There's a reasonable argument that the Second Amendment confers an individual right — to bear a musket. Beyond that, it's more complicated. Everybody agrees on a ban on fully automatic machine guns. The question isn't whether to limit the right to bear arms, but where to draw the line.
I'd like to see us take a public health approach that reduces the harm that guns cause. We could limit gun purchases to one a month to impede traffickers, make serial numbers harder to file off, ban high-capacity magazines, finance gun buybacks, require solid background checks even for private gun sales, require microstamping so that bullet casings can be traced back to a particular gun and mandate that guns be stored in gun safes or with trigger locks.
It then gets better:
The gun lobby often cites the work of John Lott, who argued that more guns mean less crime, but scholars have since thoroughly debunked Lott's arguments. Published research makes it clear that having a gun in the home simply makes it more likely that you will be shot — by your partner or by yourself. Americans are safer if they rely on 911 for protection rather than on a gun. (Emphasis mine)
First, the "debunking" is found in one paper that appeared in Stanford Law Review, which hardly is going to require the kind of rigor needed to debunk other arguments backed up with statistics. (Law reviews are run by students and tend to be highly ideological, and simply do not carry the same authority that other peer-reviewed journals might have.)
Second, his idea that 911 "protects" us is a howler. Sandy Hook School is a perfect case in point. Here is a school that had a lockdown security system that supposedly was foolproof, yet Lanza still got into the building. Furthermore, people at the school did call 911, yet 27 people quickly were murdered. The police, like the police at the Columbine murders, played no part in preventing tragedies.
No doubt, Kristof believes that creating more "gun-free zones" like what we have in schools and movie theaters would make us more "safe." Jeffrey Tucker absolutely debunks that notion:
In the days that followed the (Sandy Hook) killing, my browser kept taking me back to a Wikipedia link about the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. The law, still intact after many challenges and rewrites, reads: "It shall be unlawful for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm that has moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone."
Guns of all sorts are banned anywhere near schools. If the government's laws had worked, this killer would have realized that his plan was unachievable. After all, the world's most powerful government had banned the whole idea of guns at school.
But the law did not work, at least not as intended. On the contrary. The killer could be pretty sure going into this that he would be the only one at the school with a gun. (emphasis mine)
Think of this: Schools in particular have been singled out as a place without the ability to defend against violence. The law has been challenged and revised and debated ever since, but the bottom line stands. Have school shootings declined? Most major shootings now occur in gun-free zones, and nearly twice as many since the act passed than in the 20 years prior. (See the full list.)
The silly idea of having "gun-free zones" falls right in the line of Progressivist thinking, and Progressives are people who do not like to be confused with facts. The creation of these "zones" is not done in order to protect anyone; indeed, law-abiding people in those areas are more vulnerable to spree killers than they would be elsewhere.
No, the creation of "gun-free zones" is ideological, period. Progressives are making the statement that guns are bad and that people need to be protected from the evils that the mere presence of a gun create. As the NYT intoned, "It's the Guns." It is not people, just the guns.
William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit his blog.