“Some Kind Of Inner Madness”

Jul 23 2012 @ 11:22am

In the wake of the Colorado shooting, Adam Gopnik makes the case for more gun control laws:

Every country has, along with its core civilities and traditions, some kind of inner madness, a belief so irrational that even death and destruction cannot alter it. In Europe not long ago it was the belief that “honor” of the nation was so important that any insult to it had to be avenged by millions of lives. In America, it has been, for so long now, the belief that guns designed to kill people indifferently and in great numbers can be widely available and not have it end with people being killed, indifferently and in great numbers.

I’ve long reconciled myself to my adopted country’s unique DNA on guns. It’s madness, but a madness so integral to the country – like dirt cheap gas – it has to be managed rather than fought. Adam Ozimek doubts gun laws would have saved lives:

One question to ask is, in the presence of stronger gun laws what would the shooter have done? The IEDs and explosives that filled his apartment suggest that strong illegality wouldn’t have stopped him, as explosives like this are obviously very illegal. This also tells us that even if all guns were somehow kept out of his hands he would still have had extremely dangerous killing tools at his disposal. But realistically I am skeptical that laws could keep guns out of the hands of those determined to get them.

Fallows looks internationally:

Recently I visited the site of the “Port Arthur Massacre,” in Tasmania, where in 1996 a disturbed young man shot and killed 35 people and wounded 23 more. The site is a kind of national shrine; afterwards, Australia tightened up its gun laws, and there has been nothing remotely comparable in all the years since. In contrast: not long after that shooting, during my incarnation as news-magazine editor, I dispatched reporters to cover then-shocking schoolyard mass shootings in West Paducah, Kentucky, and Jonesboro, Arkansas. Those two episodes, coming back to back, were — as always — supposed to provoke a “national discussion” about guns and gun violence. As always, they didn’t; a while later they were nudged from the national consciousness by Columbine; and since then we have had so many schoolyard- or public-place shootings that those two are barely mentioned.

Dan Baum counters:

It’s true that America’s rate of violent crime remains higher than that in most European countries. But to focus on guns is to dodge a painful truth. America is more violent than other countries because Americans are more violent than other people. Our abundant guns surely make assaults more deadly. But by obsessing over inanimate pieces of metal, we avoid looking at what brings us more often than others to commit violent acts. Many liberal critics understand this when it comes to drug policy. The modern, sophisticated position is that demonizing chemicals is a reductive and ineffective way to address complicated social pathologies. When it comes to gun violence, though, the conversation often stops at the tool, because it is more comfortable to blame it than to examine ourselves.

Francis Wilkinson persuasively argues that only “fools believe there are easy answers to the problem of homicide by firearm.” Jack Shafer concurs:

The impulse to kill irrationally, and to use whatever means accessible to do so, resides deep in the American grain, perhaps integral to being human. That doesn’t mean our situation is hopeless. As Noel Perrin wrote in Giving Up the Gun: Japan’s Reversion to the Sword, 1543-1879, cultures can change their violent ways, but building such a cultural consensus takes more effort and persuasion that just passing new gun-control laws.

Mark Blumenthal points out that there is little public support for more gun control, but Nate Cohn thinks it might make political sense of Obama to advocate for an assault weapons ban.

No it wouldn’t. This is America. People get shot here all the time. And no one really wants to change that.