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Gun control and magical thinking

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No television appearance elicits more angry comments from viewers than one in which the simple point is made that the “common sense gun control measures” (advocated petulantly by a president without so much as a day’s space — or even a few hours — between killings and performance) would do exactly nothing to prevent any of the recent massacres that litter the American landscape with blood and tears.

Add in an observation that simply notes that the monthly death toll from handguns in gun-control friendly Chicago is always a few dozen, and pro-gun control advocates come undone with online rage. The accusations — of being owned by the NRA, of insensitivity to human suffering, of indifference to truth — fly with abandon and not a little profanity.

The fact is that any reasonable gun control measure that could be argued persuasively to be effective in stopping a particular attack would have an immediate, indeed unstoppable, appeal to a public that weeps in grief at a seemingly endless line of atrocities. If President Obama or former Secretary of State Clinton could appear in public and state that X measure would have stopped Y shooting, then that X measure would soar in public support.

But they can’t. So they don’t. Instead they politicize these awful moments, speaking about straw men and magic, imaginary legislative solutions and now at least the president is willing to explicitly concede that he is doing exactly that. The New York Times editorialists lapse into a theater-style review of Republican “bromides” and the president’s “understated fury,” but devotes no space to detailing exactly what specific measure would have stopped exactly what specific murder spree.

Because there aren’t any such measures save actual confiscation of weapons, which the president, candidate Clinton and even The New York Times lacks the courage to demand much less the ability to deliver via the constitutional amendment necessary to effect such a confiscation.

Everyone knows it is crazy to allow troubled losers to accumulate a dozen weapons while their family members say and do nothing as insanity brings them closer and closer to unleashing hell on hundreds of people. Everyone agrees that hate-filled extremists ought not to be able to buy weapons.

But no one has a plan on how to stop those specific purchases and prevent those specific massacres.The good news is that news organizations have figured out that publicity for the killers is a reward that has to be denied them. Manifestos cannot be published. Videotaped rants have to be consigned to the vertical file and the possession of the FBI’s profilers.

But if a maniac can count on a command performance from the president within hours of his shooting spree, well then, that is quite the incentive, isn’t it? Even this president, whose cluelessness on Syria is an indictment of any prescription he offers on any issue, should have figured out the worst thing he could do was dignify an anti-Christian psycho with a lecture scolding political opponents who include among their number millions and millions of Christians.

The president is himself a Christian, of course, but Thursday’s tirade was anything but a display of righteous anger. It was just more political theater from a spent president with no more arguments to make, only slanders to hurl.



This column was originally posted on


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