By: Charles C. W. Cooke – nationalreview.com –
At CNN, Dominic Erdozain offers up a ridiculous piece titled, “America once valued life more than guns. How did that change?” As one might presume, Erdozain’s essay is chock-full of the usual lies. He writes, for example, that:
This “constitutional right” to own a gun for self-defense is another product of our times — a right unknown before the “dramatic upheaval” of the District of Columbia v. Heller decision of 2008.
Really? The right of the people to keep and bear arms was “unknown” before the Heller decision of 2008? That would certainly be news to the American public, 73 percent of which told Gallup three months before that ruling that “the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the rights of Americans to own guns.” It would also be news to the states, around 90 percent of which had their own constitutional rights before 2008; news to James Madison, who suggested during the debates over the Bill of Rights that the provision be placed next to the other individual rights listed in Article I, Section 9, rather than next to the militia clause in Article I, Section 8, clause 16; news to the architects of the 14th Amendment, who listed the right among the “privileges and immunities” they wished to guarantee; and news to pretty much every 19th-century jurist who examined the issue.
But I’ve been through all that ad nauseam. What particularly bothered me about this one was not its commonplace historical illiteracy, but Erdozain’s cheap framing of the contemporary debate. In his headline, as well as in the text itself, Erdozain repeatedly implies that the only reason that the United States has declined to ban or severely limit the private ownership of firearms in the modern era is that its people — or some of them, at least — simply do not care about the criminal use of firearms:
Any government that fails to protect the lives of its citizens from “reckless shootings,” warned Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1931, “is out of step with modern thought.” We will have to go back before we can go forward — to an America where a life was more precious than a gun.
Which is ridiculous. Erdozain’s book is titled, One Nation Under Guns. I must ask: Has he ever met anyone in that nation who disagrees with him? Has he ever heard any articulate arguments against gun-control? Does he sincerely believe that half the country — perhaps more — evaluates this question by examining first whether or not it cares about human life?
If he does, he’s a fool. I’ve been writing about this topic for more than a decade now, and I have never, ever heard anyone who agrees with me say, “You know what, screw all those dead people — I want my guns, and I don’t care about anyone else.” That is a straw man, a distraction, a tawdry debating trick. There exist all manner of solid arguments against gun control, and none of them rely upon indifference to the abuse of firearms. Some people believe that, in a country with this many guns (and yes, America has always had lots of guns), gun control simply cannot work — and, moreover, that attempts to make it work will merely strip the good people of their firearms while doing nothing useful to hamper the criminals. Others believe that, irrespective of the merits of the policy, large-scale proscription efforts simply do not work in the United States (see: Prohibition). Yet others believe that history shows that gun control leads to tyranny, and that tyranny causes a lot more death and suffering than regular lawbreaking.
Ultimately, Erdozain is engaged here in a round of mawkish question-begging. It is his prerogative to believe that gun control would work in America. But he cannot project that belief onto others when they are making precisely the opposite case. To respond to someone who says, “I don’t believe that gun control would reduce the murder rate” by saying, “So you don’t care about the murder rate, then?” is not to counter them, but to ignore them completely. That might work for CNN, but, in a country in which one’s ideological opponents also get a vote, it’s not going to bring about the change that Erdozain covets — as the last half century or so of American gun politics clearly shows.
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