Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Update: The Gun Debate

The debate gets smarter, and much, much dumber, in the same journal in the space of a day.

At The Daily Beast historian Saul Cornell makes essentially the same argument I have made—"Up until the 1980s, there was no 'individual-rights' theory of the Second Amendment"—though he rightly focuses much of his attention on the significance of Shays's Rebellion in 1786. So does Jack Schwartz, in a separate article for TDB.

Only fourteen hours earlier, TDB libertarian columnist Megan McArdle published this piece of libertarian fatalism that may win the gold medal for idiotic commentary on guns. (Perhaps I was wrong to focus my wrath at James Taranto yesterday?) Convinced that any measure of gun control would be either ineffectual or unconstitutional, and once again ignoring real world evidence that gun control measures in other nations have worked, McArdle compares the coming of oppressive regulatory legislation to (wait for it)...

There's a terrible syllogism that tends to follow on tragedies like this:
1. Something must be done
2. This is something
3. Therefore this must be done.
. . . and hello, Gulf War II.
And that's not the best part. McArdle concludes with this:
My guess is that we're going to get a law anyway, and my hope is that it will consist of small measures that might have some tiny actual effect, like restrictions on magazine capacity.  I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once.  Would it work?  Would people do it?  I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips.
Yes, training young people to "gang rush shooters." When we start doing that we'll know for certain that we are living in a libertarian paradise and that our freedoms, though not our children, are safe forever.

I am confused, however, how this idea would square with the Louie Gohmert / Larry Pratt / NRA argument that teachers and school staff should have guns too. How would they heroically gun down the criminal if the students were heroically leaping into the line of fire? So many heroes... perhaps that's the failure of understanding here. Laws and regulations exist, or ought to exist, to preclude the need for heroes. I'm pretty sure that's what non-libertarians call "civilization."

Postscript: If looking to kill some time, search Twitter for #McArdlePitches

Late Update: Tennessee takes the lead on the Gohmert / Pratt plan: more guns in schools.


  1. The intellectual featherweights are legion. They are lifting the discussion clear off its moorings. We all need to reinforce the chain. Hold this anchor down.

  2. I am starting to think that a Looney Tunes approach might work. Like if we gave everyone saws we could simply cut circles in the floors underneath the gun-wielding maniacs. Or, ooh, we could outfit every classroom with anvils that we could drop on the heads of murders. That's a great idea. Let's do that.

  3. Sam, this is totally why I married you. Even though you forgot to say that if we had more cliffs, we could more easily chase the maniacs off them and watch them splat below.