Monday, December 24, 2012

Rationality and the Gun Control Debate

Mitt Romney might not have won under any circumstances but the last-days of the campaign love fest between Chris Christie and Barack Obama did not help things.

Bombastic Christie claimed that he was merely doing his job, but he looked to all the world as though he was being played by the Obama re-election campaign.

You can insist on your good intentions all you like, as Christie has, but if the world perceives you to be throwing your moral support to Barack Obama you are throwing your moral support to Barack Obama.

Clearly, Christie’s popularity has not suffered. On the contrary, he has been receiving glowing press reports, he is more popular than ever in New Jersey and is now a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

If he should ever run for president against, say, Hillary Clinton he will discover how deep those feelings really go.

For now, the Republican Party has lost its best communicator. Score one for the Democratic Party and the mainstream media.

When it came time to shed the light of reason on today’s media-driven hysteria about guns, Christie came down firmly on the side of the media.

Admittedly, the hapless president of the NRA has made it impossible to speak well of him, but Christie might have said something consequential, something that would have set the debate on a less emotional, more rational course.

He did not.

Keep in mind: the media rants against guns are having their desired effect. Not to get guns off the streets; not to decrease gang violence in Chicago; not to protect schoolchildren. No, they are serving to demoralize and discredit the Republican Party.

That is why a reasonable public statement by a leading Republican governor would matter.

Last week Christie was asked to react to Wayne LaPierre’s statement that we should have armed guards in schools.

He responded:

Listen I don’t necessarily think having an armed guard outside every classroom is conducive to a positive learning environment. But let me just say in general I don’t think that the solution to safety in schools is putting [in] armed guard – because for it to be really effective in my view, from a law enforcement perspective, you’d have to have an armed guard outside every classroom.

The statement makes very little sense on its face. When you shine the light of reason on it, as Ann Althouse did, you discover that it is nonsense:

Not that NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said there should be an armed guard outside every classroom. That's an interpretation imposed by Christie for the purpose of rejecting the proposal. Christie conceded that he didn't "know the totality of the proposal," but he seemed to think that "from a law enforcement perspective," you’d have to have an armed guard outside every classroom since schools have so many doors. But isn't that like saying there's no point having police officers on the street unless there can be one on every corner? Wouldn't an armed guard somewhere in the school be able to rush to the scene of a disturbance anywhere in the school within a few seconds? That would be better than waiting for the police, wouldn't it? And consider the deterrent value. A school with an armed guard wouldn't seem like such an obvious soft target, and that might make all the difference to the sort of coward who would murder children. 

She might have mentioned that the police arrived at the Sandy Hook School twenty minutes after Lanza had opened fire.

I would add that if we follow Christie’s argument we would end up saying that there is no point to having armed air marshals on some flights because we don’t have one on every flight.

Christie continued:

I am not someone who believes that having multiple armed guards in every school is something that will enhance the learning environment, and that’s our first responsibility inside of school, is the learning environment.

You don’t want to make this an armed camp for kids. I don’t think that’s a positive example for children. We should be able to figure out some other ways to enhance safety it seems to me. I think that’s the easy way out.

Althouse responded:

Okay, what are the other ways? It's good to be open to other ways, but, ironically, Christie only perceives one way to implement the NRA proposal. He sees the school looking like an "armed camp" with a guard displaying a gun at every door. That's the easy way to dismiss the NRA proposal. Why not consider positive ways to bring armed security into the school — at least before rejecting the idea? Claiming you're resisting the "easy way" when you refuse to do that is pure sophistry.

Christie deserves to be called out for sophistry, and for sucking up to the media. He may look good for shooting down a straw proposal, but he has not advanced the public debate.

Althouse noted the same irrationality in a New York Times editorial.

Denouncing LaPierre’s Friday press conference, the Times said that he uttered a: “…mendacious, delusional, almost deranged rant.” It went on to describe him as “wild-eyed at times.”

Never say that the Times is not good at demonizing people.

Wanting to outdo the Christie vision of an armed guard at the door of every classroom, the Times says:

We cannot imagine trying to turn the principals and teachers who care for our children every day into an armed mob...

Althouse responded:

He proposed a mob? This is a failure (or pretended failure) of imagination. What if those who worked in schools were offered training in weapons and permission to carry in schools if they could qualify — entirely optional? Is that idea obviously mendacious, delusional, and almost deranged? The NYT is hot to exclude it as something any sane person would even begin to contemplate. They'd like an instant crazy image of teachers gone wild.

Of course, the award for emotionally overwrought rhetoric and general irrationality goes to Andrew Sullivan.

Last week Sullivan ranted:

Between the humiliating and chaotic collapse of Speaker Boehner's already ludicrously extreme Plan B and Wayne La Pierre's deranged proposal to put government agents in schools with guns, the Republican slide into total epistemic closure and political marginalization has now become a free-fall. This party, not to mince words, is unfit for government. There is no conservative party in the West - except for minor anti-immigrant neo-fascist ones in Europe - anywhere close to this level of far right extremism. And now the damage these fanatics can do is not just to their own country - was the debt ceiling debacle of 2011 not enough for them? - but to the entire world.

About which Althouse said:

If that kind of hysteria — sounding deranged in the condemnation of derangement — is what counts as unminced words these days, I'd like to put in an order for minced words. I'd like to aim a precise scoff at the phrase "government agents in schools." Agents! Sounds very scary, but the truth is, teachers are government agents.

Among other pieces of nonsense that is help up as an important fact is this: people who are against having armed guards in schools have noted that there was an armed guard on duty at Columbine  High School when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire.

Those who trot out this fact conclude that it demonstrates that armed guards do not deter violence.

Does one imagine that the absence of an armed guard would have made it more difficult for the Columbine killers? Does one think that we should have no police officers on the streets of Chicago because they have not prevented the city from becoming the murder capital of America? Does one imagine that we should model the nation’s gun control laws on the ones that exist in Chicago because they have worked so well there?

Republicans who are worrying about how to respond to the increasingly shrill and hysterical media denunciations of ideas that are not liberal dogma would do well to follow Althouse's example. 

Therefore, I nominate Ann Althouse for the Light of Reason Award.


Sam L. said...

I disagree on Chris Christie. Perceived as helping Obama: Yes.
Front-runner for GOP Pres 2016: No.
Because of the previous Yes. And "When it came time to shed the light of reason on today’s media-driven hysteria about guns, Christie came down firmly on the side of the media."

Anne did herself proud on this one.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I recall seeing somewhere that Christie was leading in the polls... but I could be wrong.

I do hope you're right.

Anonymous said...

The cultural Left will condemn any dialogue to establish acceptable cultural standards to protect young people from a nihilistic media complex as a "simplistic" idea. These are the same people who find great wisdom in the idea that inanimate, mechanical objects (read: firearms) must be radically controlled. By extension, the same people who will say that the means by which one might protect themselves is too dangerous for the citizenry, but pervasive gratuitous violence in the media is off limits. That's magical thinking of the highest order, the kind I've come to expect from radical those on the totalitarian Left. "I get a free-for-all with my most cherished rights, but it's time you gave up yours."

I have a friend whose wife is vociferously opposed to the Second Amendment, and there is no way to have a reasoned conversation with her. She also begged my friend not to send their daughter to a (church-run) pre-school on 12-21-12 because she was afraid "Newtown copycats and other weirdos" might choose said school. Who's the loon? Fortunately, my friend prevailed and the child went to school.

Amidst all this hysteria from the usual suspects, what the Left fails to comprehend from their comfortable urban cocoon, is that there are those who value their Second Amendment rights as much as the media and entertainment types cling to the judiciary's generous interpretation of First Amendment rights. If they cannot see that "Congress shall make no law..." as no less relevant than "...shall not be infringed," we are in for some scary times. Failure to respect another's clearly enumerated Constitutional rights means yours are up or grabs at the appropriate time, too.

But of course Lefties don't see this because it's all so simple, and they've cornered the market on myopia and sanctimony. After all, their ideas are fundamentally based on a childish, utopian vision: a life without consequences. How do you like the results so far?

Merry Christmas,


Stuart Schneiderman said...

Is the cultural left trying simply to produce social disorder and conflict? Do they really care whether people can, in Rodney King's words, just get along.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, Tip.

flynful said...

I remember reading that the armed guard at Columbine got into a gun fight in the school parking lot with the two deranged students, the effect of which was to keep them from doing all the damage they planned and thereby saving lives.

Anonymous said...

So Stuart, are you saying they're totalitarian anarchists? That actually makes sense, yet doesn't make sense at the sane time. I guess it's an apt description, given their deranged thinking.

Merry Christmas right back atcha!


n.n said...

Anarchy is a functional arm of totalitarians. Its purpose is to induce sufficient perturbations in a system to justify the latter's intervention.