American Elephants


What Does Obama Hope to Accomplish With Gun Control? by The Elephant's Child

What is it that the President hopes to accomplish with gun control? It seems extremely odd that he has made gun control the big issue of his second term. He can’t possibly accomplish anything significant beyond tweaking the background check system, but the problem, if any, of that is a lack of enforcement rather than lacks in the system. There is a significant sector of the left that favors any gun legislation since they regard guns with horror, think hunters are bad people, and believe there shouldn’t be any guns at all. If you doubt the existence of this group, remember that PETA has been out demonstrating against fishing, for they believe it is cruel to the fish.

I presume that Mr. Obama’s aim is to portray Republicans who oppose more useless gun legislation, as people who don’t care about kids. The president has a habit of telling the American people that his political opponents are monsters. Though exploiting grief and tragedy for political purposes is in bad taste, that has never bothered the president who is a skilled demagogue.  Here’s what he said at the University of Hartford:

I want to thank…all the Newtown families who have come here today….And we are so grateful for their courage and willingness to share their stories again and again, understanding that nothing is going to be more important in making sure the Congress moves forward this week than hearing from them. I want to thank all the educators from Sandy Hook Elementary who have come here as well— the survivors who still mourn and grieve, but are still going to work every day to love and raise those precious children in their care as fiercely as ever. …

We can’t forget.  Your families still grieve in ways most of us can’t comprehend.  But so many of you have used that grief to make a difference — not just to honor your own children, but to protect the lives of all of our children.  So many of you have mobilized, and organized, and petitioned your elected officials “with love and logic,” as Nicole put it — as citizens determined to right something gone wrong. …

We have to tell Congress it’s time to restore the ban on military-style assault weapons, and a 10 round limit for magazines, to make it harder for a gunman to fire 154 bullets into his victims in less than five minutes. Let’s put that to a vote.

“This is not about politics.” the president said. ” Members of Congress have a simple choice to make. “What’s more important to you — our children, or an A grade from the gun lobby?” This is sheer demagoguery. There is nothing in any of the president’s proposals that would have prevented one death at Newtown.

A March 2013 survey of 15,000 law enforcement personnel on the Democrat’s proposed gun control bill found that the overall attitude of law enforcement is strongly anti-gun legislation and pro-gun rights, with the belief that an armed citizenry is effective in stopping crime.

Limits on the number of bullets in a magazine is particularly useless. It takes less than a second to change a magazine. It took twenty minutes for the police to arrive at Sandy Hook Elementary. Better mental health care would help, but what rules can you make? It’s always a subjective judgment, and we have a number of examples where professional psychologists and psychiatrists were presented with obvious evidence which they ignored. An order going out to mental health professionals and police departments to “Pay Attention” would help if the recipients acted upon the order.

The divide is not between people who care about school children and those who don’t care, though that’s how Mr. Obama wants to portray it. The divide is between those who want to do something and are willing to support any legislation because then they will be seen as “doing something,” however useless, and those who see no value in supporting something useless.



The Do-Something Disease. by The Elephant's Child

Reflecting on the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, have you ever noticed how very brief the period is when the murder is blamed on the perpetrator, and how quickly the blame shifts to society in general? It’s not the perpetrator — it’s us. We are too violent as a society. We have a love affair with guns. We allow assault weapons in our society. We play violent video games. We allow and enjoy violent movies. We are bad parents. We don’t put our mentally ill people away. And so it goes. We must all understand that it is not the fault of the perpetrator, it is our fault.

Blame immediately shifts to guns, and not just any guns, but “assault weapons,” which seem to be any kind of guns that look scary. Assault weapons have been banned before, which didn’t do much good, and Congress twisted itself into pretzels trying to describe what constituted an “assault weapon.” It is not a descriptive term. An assault weapon is one used to assault someone, and could be a baseball bat or a kitchen knife. Semi-automatic simply means not automatic. So naturally, a large group of people marched on the National Rifle Association headquarters, which perhaps made them feel good.

The questions about mental health are more difficult. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has lobbied for laws that prevent people from being committed in most circumstances, and account for much of the mentally ill homeless being on the street instead of being treated. It is very difficult to get anyone committed or restrained. Mental health professionals are the first to point out that those who most need help are often not amenable to treatment of any kind, and that it is not really possible to correctly designate those who are most likely to commit mass murder.

The New York Times headline said “N.R.A. Envisions ‘a Good Guy With a Gun’ in Every School.”

The N.R.A.’s plan for countering school shootings, coming a week after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was met with widespread derision from school administrators, law enforcement officials and politicians, with some critics calling it “delusional” and “paranoid.” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, said arming schools would not make them safer.

National Review correctly and quietly pointed out that 1/3 of public schools already have armed security on staff, as of the 2009-20010 school year, the most recent data, and a number of states and districts that do not use them are discussing the idea.

In the wake of a dreadful shooting, particularly of helpless schoolchildren, it is natural to want to do something to prevent such happenings.

When Major Nidal Hassan, an Army Psychiatrist, supervised by other Psychiatrists, shot 13 people and wounded 29 others,at Fort Hood Texas Nov. 5, 2009, there was, in retrospect, all sorts of evidence that should have warned his superiors that he was a danger.  Three years later, he has not yet been tried. The incident is described by Homeland Security as ‘workplace violence’ and those wounded are not allowed purple hearts nor any of the benefits that those wounded in combat are entitled to.

Looking back at other mass murders should make us a little more cautious about our rush to do something. There are no easy answers. New laws need slow and careful consideration, not dramatic action when emotions are high. We do need an ability to restrain or commit those who really need help, but past history shows that those who badly need help are only identified after they have committed some horror.



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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