It was remarkable, both for its substance and the fact that it came from a source that was, by any stretch of the imagination, inclined to be against guns and in favor of regulation. But FiveThirtyEight’s Leah Libresco did something that is rarely done.
Before I started researching gun deaths, gun-control policy used to frustrate me. I wished the National Rifle Association would stop blocking common-sense gun-control reforms such as banning assault weapons, restricting silencers, shrinking magazine sizes and all the other measures that could make guns less deadly.
Then, my colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and I wound up frustrated in a whole new way. We looked at what interventions might have saved those people, and the case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence.
We all know the solutions to critical problems that must be solved. They’re just common sense. And since we believe what we believe, how could they not be right?
I researched the strictly tightened gun laws in Britain and Australia and concluded that they didn’t prove much about what America’s policy should be. Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans. Mass shootings were too rare in Australia for their absence after the buyback program to be clear evidence of progress. And in both Australia and Britain, the gun restrictions had an ambiguous effect on other gun-related crimes or deaths.
So much for the obvious, and oft-referred-to comparison. Next?
When I looked at the other oft-praised policies, I found out that no gun owner walks into the store to buy an “assault weapon.” It’s an invented classification that includes any semi-automatic that has two or more features, such as a bayonet mount, a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher mount, a folding stock or a pistol grip. But guns are modular, and any hobbyist can easily add these features at home, just as if they were snapping together Legos.
As for silencers — they deserve that name only in movies, where they reduce gunfire to a soft puick puick. In real life, silencers limit hearing damage for shooters but don’t make gunfire dangerously quiet. An AR-15 with a silencer is about as loud as a jackhammer. Magazine limits were a little more promising, but a practiced shooter could still change magazines so fast as to make the limit meaningless.
There is, of course, a point to all this. Actual knowledge of a subject seriously complicates simplistic solutions. When we know nothing beyond the existence of a terrible problem that must be fixed, our grasping at the most obvious answers is likely to be misdirected and fail. If we don’t understand the problem, we can’t fix the problem. We can only address our fantasy understanding of the problem, and come up with fantasy fixes.
Similarly, when we construct problems out of the self-serving lies we tell ourselves, because we refuse to admit to facts that conflict with deeply-held beliefs, we similarly end up with failed solutions. This applies across the board, from “fixing” police abuse to “fixing” racism. When it comes to guns, the steadfast belief of antagonists is that the problem is that the people who possess guns are deplorable, toxic, ignorant, toothless, bearded, toxically-masculine, Trump-voting, racist, misogynistic, evil, violent, nutjobs. Because if they weren’t, they would be more like this New York Times gun-control expert.
We live in a country where so long as you follow the rules, you have relatively unfettered access to weapons capable of mass devastation. This week, we can see once again the carnage the rules have made possible.
He bought other weapons from a place called New Frontier Armory in North Las Vegas, and someone with that store said, “All state and federal laws were followed, and an F.B.I. background check took place and was passed by the buyer.”
This is a formal way of saying, “My hands are clean.”
If you’re scratching your head over this, since the point of gun control is to impose rules, the very solutions that passionate advocates insist will save us from devastation, then you haven’t come to terms with how the ignorant, yet narcissistic, mind functions.
It’s time to talk about gun control. It has long been time to talk about gun control. Many politicians say it is too soon, but it was time to talk about gun control on Monday, and it was also time to talk about gun control after Sandy Hook, Columbine, Orlando and on and on.
The “time to talk” is the rallying cry. So talk?
Regulation does not guarantee safety. But with regulation, we are far better off than if we did not govern ourselves with a modicum of common sense and responsibility. We need to better regulate guns and who has access to them. We need to decide, once and for all, that the Second Amendment matters but it does not mean that ordinary people should potentially have access to automatic weapons or devices that allow semiautomatic weapons to fire more rapidly. We need to take the stand that the police and the military are the only people who need that kind of firepower.
Does a “modicum of common sense and responsibility” inform us of how guns should be regulated? If the “Second Amendment matters,” some obvious Gertruding, and “regulation does not guarantee safety,” have we not achieved peak gun regulation since ordinary people do not have access to automatic weapons? Is the only remaining issue outlawing the “bump stock”?
It is hard to understand, in this moment, how some Americans are more outraged by N.F.L. players exercising their First Amendment right to free expression by kneeling to protest police brutality and the fragility of black life than they are by mass shootings and the consistently shocking loss of life each time an angry man with a gun pulls the trigger. These are Americans who treat the Constitution as a malleable document they can shape to suit their political interests. These are Americans who are very selective about the rules they want to follow.
On the contrary, it’s remarkably easy to understand how “some Americans” view the Constitution as a “malleable document they can shape to suit their political interests.” No one hates the Constitution more than the author of this pointless polemic, Roxane Gay, who is the poster girl for constitutional ignorance, hypocrisy and “malleability.”
It’s time to talk?
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it is exhausting, demoralizing, and utterly heartbreaking to have to write such words yet again, while knowing that these words will not do anything to change this country’s stance on gun control. It is exhausting, demoralizing and heartbreaking to think of all the families and friends who are now mourning loved ones who were murdered in such a brutal, senseless way.
People were slaughtered in Vegas and it’s “exhausting” for you? You could always spend some time learning about guns, like reading Leah Libresco’s WaPo op-ed. You could spend some time thinking instead of emoting. But that would just make you more exhausted, plus give you a headache. If the problem is you’re exhausted, take a nap. Just stay out of things you don’t understand. Good talk.