Quotes of the day

The New York Times is running an editorial on its front page on Saturday, the first time the paper has done so since 1920, calling for greater regulation on guns in the aftermath of a spate of mass shootings.

The editorial, headlined “The Gun Epidemic,” describes it as “a moral outrage and a national disgrace that people can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill with brutal speed and efficiency.” It suggests drastically reducing the number of firearms, and “eliminating some large categories of weapons and ammunition.”…

In a statement, the publisher of The Times, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., said the paper was placing an editorial on Page 1 for the first time in many decades “to deliver a strong and visible statement of frustration and anguish about our country’s inability to come to terms with the scourge of guns.”


Opponents of gun control are saying, as they do after every killing, that no law can unfailingly forestall a specific criminal. That is true. They are talking, many with sincerity, about the constitutional challenges to effective gun regulation. Those challenges exist. They point out that determined killers obtained weapons illegally in places like France, England and Norway that have strict gun laws. Yes, they did.

But at least those countries are trying. The United States is not. Worse, politicians abet would-be killers by creating gun markets for them, and voters allow those politicians to keep their jobs. It is past time to stop talking about halting the spread of firearms, and instead to reduce their number drastically — eliminating some large categories of weapons and ammunition…

Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition, must be outlawed for civilian ownership. It is possible to define those guns in a clear and effective way and, yes, it would require Americans who own those kinds of weapons to give them up for the good of their fellow citizens.


President Barack Obama pledged Saturday that Americans “will not be terrorized” by the threat of mass shootings, but described U.S. gun laws as “insane.”

The use of military-style assault weapons was “another tragic reminder that here in America it’s way too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun,” Obama said.

“Right now, people on the No-Fly list can walk into a store and buy a gun. That is insane. If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous, by definition, to buy a gun.”


The mass shooting in San Bernardino has state lawmakers looking again at new gun control legislation for California, while leading advocates for restrictions called Friday for the state to close a loophole that allows detachable ammunition magazines like one used by the killers.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said he will revisit some proposals that previously stalled, and an assemblyman proposed banning the sale of guns to those on a federal “no-fly” list…

“I don’t think someone on a terrorist watch-list should be allowed to purchase any firearms,” Gatto said. Neither shooter in the San Bernardino massacre was on the list, but Gatto said it would help weed out potential misuse of guns.


As President Obama and top Democrats push again for widespread gun control in the wake of Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, statistics suggest that the push will only serve to increase the number of guns being bought – with gun store owners telling FoxNews.com that business is booming.

“We are so busy right now that I don’t know if I’m coming or going,” Derrick Meyers of River City Firearms in Louisville, Ky. told FoxNews.com.

“Yes, there has most definitely been an increase in gun sales,” said David Wiley of Wiley’s Gun Shop in Wills Point, Texas. “I expect it to continue from now until the next presidential election.”…

There have been 19.82 million checks so far through November this year, and it is on pace to break the record. Black Friday saw the most background checks — 185,345 — in a single day.


The Peace of Versailles, Buck v. Bell, the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor,* the Hitler-Stalin Pact, the Ukrainian famine, the internment of Japanese-Americans, the Tuskegee experiments, the Holocaust, McCarthyism, the Marshall Plan, Jim Crow, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy Assassination, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Kent State, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Watergate, withdrawal from Vietnam, the Killing Fields, the Iran hostage crisis, the Contras, AIDS, gay marriage, the Iran nuclear deal: These are just a few of the things the New York Times chose not to run front page editorials on.

But, the “Gun Epidemic” in America? That deserves a front-page editorial. Not only that, it deserves to be bragged about that this is the first time since 1920 they’ve run a front page editorial…

[Y]ou’d think there would be an actual gun epidemic to justify this break from precedent. Gun murders, as Charlie Cooke keeps pointing out, keep going down. That is not to say that the prevalence of spree or mass killings isn’t a serious issue. Such slaughters, separate and apart from the Islamist threat, are extremely troubling and both parties should do more to address them. But given that gun ownership has skyrocketed while gun homicides have gone down, it’s hard to see how the premise of the editorial — never mind its nearly unprecendented placement — can be defended.


Regular readers of The New York Times already know about the problems with assault weapons bans: Last year, the paper co-published a story by ProPublica’s Lois Beckett on the subject. The Times headlined it “The Assault Weapons Myth.” And as Beckett reported in another story, even gun control groups such as the Brady Campaign for Gun Violence and Everytown for Gun Safety have de-emphasized assault-weapons bans, opting to focus their attention on measures that are more likely to be effective at preventing gun violence.

There’s a good reason for gun-control groups’ caution: As Beckett noted in her piece, most gun violence in America involves handguns. But the Times editorial does nothing to deal with that hard truth. The word handgun does not appear in the piece. To the Times’ credit, it mentions that its plan would require some gun owners to give up their weapons. But it doesn’t explain how the government would go about getting people to surrender them. There are 300 million guns in American homes. Confiscating even a small percentage of these — the Times’ “certain weapons” — would be an enormous, dangerous, and politically fraught undertaking. Banning civilians from owning “certain kinds of ammunition,” as the Times also suggests, would be even harder.


Putting the editorial on the frontpage is actually a sign of weakness — not just of the pro-gun control position, but of The Times itself. One could argue that the Times hasn’t needed to put an editorial on its front page in the past, because its editorials had sufficient heft and influence. During Watergate or World War II, people looked to the editorials — in the proper place — for guidance. Now, the paper in effect needs to wave its arms and shout, “Hello, we write really important editorials! And we really think this one is important!”

Similarly, while very, very, very few people outside the Times’ offices — and media nerds like me — could care less about what is essentially a P.R. gimmick, the Times thinks this is a Very Big Deal. For the staid grey lady this amounts to shouting “Unleash the Kraken!” It shows you how desperate and frustrated the editors — and liberals generally — are with the fact that this country doesn’t agree with them on guns. It also shows that the “national conversation” most Americans want has more to do with Islamist terrorism and less to do with the alleged “gun show loophole.” This alone doesn’t make The Times’ views or their arguments illegitimate or invalid. But it does illustrate how unpersuasive they are to much of the public…

What’s true for lawyers is also true for newspapers: When you’re shouting and pounding the table, it’s probably because you’re losing the argument.


While both President Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have called for stricter gun control measures in the wake of the recent shooting attacks in California and Colorado, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said such proposals are nothing more than “cotton candy” that might taste good but won’t actually make the country safer.

“What Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama propose is cotton candy. … It has no relationship to anything that will help to make the body of the country safer or better,” the Republican presidential candidate said in a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt on Friday. “Just like eating cotton candy, nothing good for the body, just makes you feel good for a couple of minutes.”


It is not a self-evident truth that the main gun-control proposals that have been advanced in recent years — from a renewed assault-weapons ban to expanded background checks to restrictions on gun buying for people on the no-fly and terrorism watch lists — would have appreciably reduced murder rates; or prevented Newtown. The ban on assault weapons in particular is a symbolic gesture: It prohibits some guns and allows others that are just as dangerous. The Justice Department’s most recent review found no evidence that the ban had any effect on crime rates. And of course Murphy was commenting too early to know whether any of these proposals were relevant to Wednesday’s shootings in San Bernardino.

Much of the debate over gun regulation founders on this basic truth: The proposals that have mainstream support are unlikely to achieve dramatic results, and more ambitious proposals are both practically and politically hopeless

Probably it’s true that we would have a lower murder rate if we had fewer guns, as the regulators always say. But what follows from that proposition? Americans have hundreds of millions of guns. We are not going to get rid of them. That’s not because the National Rifle Association or the gunmakers’ lobby or a contested conception of liberty stand in the way. It’s because of the overwhelming opinion of the public — 72 percent oppose a ban on guns — and the practical impossibility of confiscation.


What the Times is calling for is, beyond its countable costs in money and effort and the likely further erosion of civil liberties, also (as they surely know) calling for a massive political civil war the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time. The “assault weapon” ban of 1994-2004, though pointless, just barred the future making and selling of such weapons, and didn’t try to confiscate existing ones.

A huge proportion of the American people will be very upset if the government attempts a mass national confiscation of a widely and almost entirely peacefully used weapon. (Despite what the Times said, in nearly every case, no “good of their fellow citizens” would be furthered by an American giving up a weapon, since in nearly every case that weapon would never harm anyone else.)

So, what is the size of this problem, worth such cost in treasure, liberty, and domestic tranquility to the Times?

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2014, rifles—the entire category of rifles, of which the ones the Times wants to ban at such great cost are but a subset—were used to commit 248 murders. That’s in a country of around 319 million people. That’s around 2 percent of the total number of homicides that year…

The move the Times proposes with such ceremony and passion is so purely symbolic, so driven by a superstitious desire to placate fate by acting as if it is doing something to stop grotesque acts of terror like in San Bernardino, and so motivated by a desire to sock it to a huge proportion of their fellow citizens over a contentious and heated political and constitutional issue, and is being offered with such emphasis (first front page editorial in nearly a century) that one could imagine the Times is only proposing such a move as a stalking horse for seeing if the government can get away with successfully banning and confiscating a class of weapon, by starting with one with such a tenuous connection with public safety on a national level.


The police are not likely to respond to a mass shooting quickly enough to save lives. In San Bernardino, a SWAT team was training nearby, and three suspects still managed to escape.

Ordinary people who volunteer to carry guns, who would receive significant and regular training from the government, might be in a position to intervene. I’ve always wondered why this suggestion is immediately ridiculed; properly trained citizens can serve as a deterrent if bad guys know that they might encounter them, and in some circumstances they might also be able to subdue or kill the attackers before they can kill dozens of people at will.

It’s the “at will” part that bothers me. It always has. Why do people who support restrictive gun control — and I count myself as someone who does — mock the notion that, in some circumstances, particularly and exclusively at locations where lots of people gather to work, play, or live, having a few highly trained, armed good guys shooting back at the bad guys might be an option worth exploring?

It is absolutely consistent to believe that anyone who buys a gun should be subject to an extensive background check, should undergo some sort of standardized training, must be re-certified, and must register their firearms with the state… and also believe that it would be nice to have more of these people around when bad people start shooting randomly.


[I]mplicit in every pro-gun-control argument is the assumption that all Americans secretly agree with the need for the president’s favored reforms but that a small majority is just too recalcitrant – or, perhaps, evil – to admit it. It is for this reason that so many debates on the merits of stricter regulation proceed from the premise that gun control obviously works, rather than from the presumption that we do not really know what we should do. This is a shame. Not only is there conflicting evidence about whether new laws do any good at all (my view: they don’t), but the hackneyed “more guns, more crime!” arguments that we hear repeated ad nauseam are pretty much absurd on their face. Over the past 25 years, Americans have bought more than 100 million new guns, and most of the 50 states have liberalized the laws that govern their purchase, possession, and use. And what has happened to the “gun-murder” rate? It’s been cut in half. (The crime rate has also dropped precipitously.) If we are to have an honest debate in this country, conservatives will need to accept that the vast number of firearms in circulation contribute to the America’s relatively higher rate of shootings, and progressives will need to accept that, beyond that obvious point, the relationship between the raw number of weapons, the laws under which they are regulated, and the incidence of crime is a lot more complex than is typically conceded.

We are not going to get that debate, of course. There is a good reason that Michael Bloomberg and his fellow travelers jump cynically upon every mass shooting and attempt to use it as a catalyst for their existing ideas, and that is that horror’s aftermath is the only time in which they can get the American public to seriously reconsider the status quo. To the champions of stricter regulation, calm and dispassionate analysis are enemies to be dispensed with, preferably in favor of chaos and disquiet and the hysterical pointing of fingers. There is little more irritating to the would-be knee-jerker than the man who points out that the remedies on offer are divorced from the ill being treated – or, for that matter, that the ill is declining in scale. For as long as Obama and co. can conflate the question “Do you want more gun control?” with “Are you upset about what just happened?” they are able to win the day. But, once the two are separated, they lose – and badly. Why did we hear the same calls throughout yesterday’s saga, regardless of the forthcoming facts? Because, to the zealots and the bores, a mass-shooting news-cycle does not represent a source of perpetually changing information, but a static propaganda battle to be fought and won. It was only a matter of time before fortune put his hostages out on parade.



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David Strom 6:41 PM on January 26, 2023