I think the liberal-leaning outlets are trying to draw attention to the section of the interview in which Mitt Romney tells Brian Williams that “there are some differences between myself and the NRA,” but I’m honestly not seeing any cause for alarm. I feel like Romney is just leaving himself a bit of wiggle room here, as all politicians are wont to do. Yes, we know he has a not-as-sterling-as-some-might-prefer past on gun control: He’s signed an ‘assault’ weapons ban as governor of Massachusetts and supported the idea of better background checks, but as the gist of the interview amounts to, no, he doesn’t think we need stricter national gun laws and just legislating the heck out of things isn’t always a solution, I’m okay with it. (Not overly pleased with it, perhaps, but okay.)
Mitt Romney rejected the idea that tougher gun laws could have prevented the deadly rampage in Aurora, Colo., saying in an interview Tuesday that a legislative remedy would not thwart people who want to cause harm.
“Just having a law saying someone can’t do a bad thing doesn’t always keep a person from doing a bad thing,” the presumptive Republican presidential nominee told NBC’s Brian Williams. …
Mr. Romney talked briefly about the assault weapons ban he signed as governor of Massachusetts, calling the legislation a compromise that was backed by Second Amendment advocates. Now, he said, he doesn’t “happen to believe that America needs new gun laws.”
As Allahpundit already pointed out, President Obama had some slightly stiffer words about gun control policies yesterday afternoon, but for now at least, no new laws are going to happen anytime soon and this is all just rhetoric. However, President Obama’s call for more supposedly “common-sense” gun laws and his remark that “a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily” gave me reason for pause, and I hope you’ll indulge me while I thresh out a sincere question. In the WSJ earlier this week, Holman Jenkins wrote about the possibilities of data mining and how impersonal government algorithms could’ve picked up on the red flags that James Holmes’ behavior provided prior to his deadly rampage.
The Colorado shooter Mr. Holmes dropped out of school via email. He tried to join a shooting range with phone calls and emails going back and forth. He bought weapons and bomb-making equipment. He placed orders at various websites for a large quantity of ammunition. Aside from privacy considerations, is there anything in principle to stop government computers, assuming they have access to the data, from algorithmically detecting the patterns of a mass shooting in the planning stages?
It helps to go back over the controversy at the time. Supporters argued that Total Information Awareness shouldn’t be frightful to Americans—there would be no monitoring of identified individuals unless a warrant was issued. The system wouldn’t be collecting dossiers of personal information or choosing people to spy on, at least initially. It would be raking impersonally through vast streams of data looking for red flags.
The anguishing thing about mass-shooting incidents is that patterns are indeed present. The person usually has a history of causing alarm in people around. The episodes themselves typically begin with a personal setback—a divorce, a firing, an investment failure, getting kicked out of school. And preparations for mass murder certainly leave “signatures” in the “transaction space.”
Er… doesn’t that feel a little too Minority Report for comfort? Yes, we always want to prevent horrors like the one we saw in Colorado last week, but in the United States, people are innocent until they’re proven guilty. There are countless divorces, firings, and investment failures every day in America, but are you going to preemptively deny someone their Second-Amendment rights before they’ve committed a crime? I certainly hope this type of thing isn’t what President Obama is thinking of when he says “common sense” regulation, because it’s anything but. As Jenkins goes on to say, “Psychiatric evaluations of dangerousness, we’re often told, are unhelpful because too many fit the pattern who never engage in violence. Can monitoring masses of transaction data help find the real risks? Or would this also lead (as some experts surmise) to unmanageable numbers of false positives?” It all just sounds very police-state-ish to me — and while I firmly believe that people, not guns, kill people, it’s also true that you just can’t legislate crazy without sacrificing something else. Just something to consider and be vigilant about in the never-ceasing battle to protect our right to bear arms.