Gun control and magical thinking

Based on existing federal gun laws, Kelley’s record made him officially ineligible to buy firearms. But the Air Force failed to submit his records into the federal background-check database, allowing him to purchase the guns used in this weekend’s rampage.

Folks, that’s an unacceptable “oops.” It also isn’t an isolated incident of negligence. This week, questions have arisen about the military’s reporting system when it comes to domestic-violence cases. Meanwhile, in an interview after the shooting, Texas senator Ted Cruz noted that in 2010 alone, “48,000 felons and fugitives lied and illegally tried to purchase guns. [The government] prosecuted only 44 of them.”

This seems like a problem, does it not? Why, it almost seems as if the government is often embarrassingly incompetent, wildly untrustworthy, and unable to handle even its simplest jobs! But never mind that: When it comes to some of our most heated gun-policy debates, the gun-control lobby does a bang-up job of engaging in a brand of magical thinking all its own. In this view, the government can always protect us. NRA members are always evil. AR-15s are, as Matthew Walther put it at The Week, the nonsensical toys of “an adolescent cult” with “childish and callous” owners.