American Elephants


Magical Thinking Is Not a Good Guide to Sound Lawmaking. by The Elephant's Child
December 18, 2012, 6:14 pm
Filed under: Freedom, News, Politics, Progressivism | Tags: , ,

In the wake of a horrendous mass-shooting, emotions are always high. Few people can even imagine the senseless killing of little children. What is absolutely predictable is the reaction, most predictably from mass media. Same accusations, same bogus solutions, same demand to eliminate guns, as if that was possible. To grasp how predictable the reaction is, you only have to note that Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has hauled her bill out of a drawer where it has been for a year or so, waiting to introduce after the next mass-shooting.

There are no easy answers, and coming up with easy answers when emotions are high is a real mistake. Most predictable are attacks on the National Rifle Association, and cries to ban “assault weapons.” There is no such thing as an assault weapon—the term merely describes a weapon used in an assault—could be a baseball bat or a kitchen knife. What liberals mean is a scary-looking gun. The congressional efforts to define an “assault weapon” when they try to make a law, devolve into humor.

Many Americans, including some who live in cities, hunt. Many depend on fall hunting to fill the freezer to get them through the winter. Britain, in several stages, finally banned guns completely, forcing citizens to turn them in. The result has been a 89% increase in gun violence.

We need to address those who are mentally disturbed, but we don’t really know how. Many of those who need help refuse it. Psychiatrists can’t always help those who need it. The ACLU has influenced many of our laws that make it most difficult to restrain or confine those who are most dangerous.

Some hailed the president’s speech in Newtown, and the greatest speech since the Gettysburg Address, others were not so kind. He said:

We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law—no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.

But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that—then surely we have an obligation to try.

In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens—from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators—in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

And over at Reason, Jacob Sullum responded

Finally, a president who has the guts to come out against the murder of children. Not only that, but he is prepared to confront those who, for murky but clearly frivolous reasons, tolerate violence, oppose tragedy prevention, and shrink from saving innocent lives. Because “politics” cannot be allowed to obstruct the solutions that every decent, right-thinking person favors.

Such as? Well, the president did not say. Neither did New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday, when he scolded Obama for not taking a firmer stand against the wanton slaughter of elementary school students. “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this,” the president had said, “regardless of the politics.” Bloomberg was unimpressed.

Sullum also pointed out that President Obama provided a window onto the magical thinking of people who think such appalling crimes could be prevented if only we had the courage to pass the right law.

Should we than do nothing? We should wait until passion has passed and common sense returned, before we leap into new legislation. Our legislators don’t do very well at making law, as much evidence shows,  and evil, as Mr. Sullum says, cannot be legislated out of the world by acts of Congress.

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2 Comments so far
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Some more of Nanny Bloomberg’s nitwittery:
“I think there’s something like 77,000 people who have been accused of lying when they applied for a gun permit. We’ve only prosecuted 77 of them.”

Where is he getting that 77,000 number? Unless there is an existing reason for the rejection (prior felony conviction, for example), states do not track the reason for rejecting permit applications, which can include incomplete forms, no signature, illegible handwriting, and dozens more honest mistakes that people make every day.

And then there’s Bloomberg saying that Obama needs to show more meaningful leadership (no argument from me on THAT front!), and then, as an example of something Obama could do to show that, we get: “The president can introduce legislation even if it doesn’t get passed.” This President already does that, Mr. Mayor.

And for the people who say we need to “do something”: I have used to following to illustrate why immediacy is not always the best way to go.

We (you and I) are driving down the road, and a tire goes flat. They were good tires, and I took all of the reasonable precautions – made sure there was plenty of tread left, properly inflated, and so on. I can’t figure out how to work the jack, so I call AAA. But it’s dark, and you start telling me we need to DO something. I explain that I acted responsibly, and have called the appropriate people to help, now we just have to wait. But you say we NEED to do something NOW! We can’t wait another minute! We have to ACT! So I set the car on fire.

Lawmakers and interest groups often react the same way. Laws already exist against murder, illegal possession of firearms, invading schools, and so forth. But the pressure is on them to “do something NOW”, and the end result when you act that way doesn’t always give you the results you were looking for (in fact, a lot of time it just makes the situation worse). But hey, at least they did “something”.

Comment by Lon Mead

They don’t call it “the Do-Something Disease” just for the alliteration.

Comment by The Elephant's Child




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