My notes from “What is to be done?”
Conservative commentators from Commentary Magazine, Noah Rothman, John Podhoretz and I think Matt Mackowiak, discuss their views on our culture of gun violence.
…It is obvious we have a problem with social media providing some kind of ignition fuel to hatred.
The question is whether there will be political and legislative remedies to this that do not impinge on the fundamental rights of other people.
We go back to the horror of looking at these moments— you are standing at Walmart and someone starts shooting—40 people killed or injured. But—these are 40 people out of 330 million people in the country, and every person has fundamental rights as outlined in the Constitution. And in order to prevent further killings of 40 people, the question is: How much is every human being willing to sacrifice to prevent these horrible but anomalous events from taking place? You may say: “But they are not really anomalous if two can happen in a day.” But if you do the percentages—this seems cold-blooded—But 70 people out of 330 million…
After the Patriot Act, there was going to be some limitation of certain types of American freedoms or impingement upon people after 9/11. The TSA was created. They make you take off your shoes, pat downs. Although annoying, well, the cost of this is pretty low—
100 something million people live in households with guns. If you start banning guns, that is not a low cost.
What happens after the mourning, when Dems start pushing legislation for gun control, then we enter interesting political times. Because the NRA is collapsing. Maybe this will cause it to reform and reconstitute itself as a powerful lobby, because here is another series of threats to the freedom of gun owners.
No legislative solution
It is difficult to engage on this issue, though, because nothing will happen.
And nothing would work if it did.
There is no legislative solution to this.
You hear they ban guns in Australia, New Zealand. This doesn’t mean there is no gun crime there.
Let’s go through the numbers.
People who don’t live in gun states—this is a real bubble.
33 percent of American households have a gun. 138 million people. Most people who have guns have more than one gun and in the house.
So if you pass a law that says no more guns, well, there are still 400, 500 million guns in the US that were purchased legally and legally owned. What happens when you ban gun sales? A black market opens up. People start selling to each other privately becomes it is a lucrative side business—no tax revenues collected.
The possibility of worse use of guns purchased by criminals go through the roof.
You cannot ban guns in the US. We live in a gun culture. This is the fact. People in urban areas may have different experiences with this.
We always talk about the nature of assault weapons bans.The AR-15, the most popular rifle in America, is called an assault weapon. Everyone wants to ban it when these things happen. But we don’t even know how many there are in the country. The estimate is between 8 and 15 million. We can’t even narrow it down by 7 million. We don’t know where they exist.
Beyond that, we can’t even classify them in a way that is effective and narrows the range down to Ar-15s. If you talk about muzzle velocity and cosmetic features, what do you have that distinguishes this rifle from other rifles. One of the reasons why it is so popular because it is so customizable. It has all these different features you can attach onto it. Some things are limited by law, others are not. There is no way to narrow legislation down to something that makes sense. So when you have gun control activists who are untethered to political realities and say what we need to do is ban semi-automatic guns, which is really the only way we can have an effective classification that captures assault rifles and all of their various categories—it also captures just about every other gun in the country.
But gun control has been considered legal
So —the reason it is believed that gun control could be legal and not overthrown by the Supreme Court is that we have certain gun bans. We have an automatic weapon gun ban since 1934. You obviously can’t buy a nuclear weapon, or a biological weapon. So therefore in theory there are other weapons you can ban.
When I was a young man and all of this was starting, no one gave a crap about assault weapons. Hand guns. Hand gun control was the term in the 1980s after Reagon and Brady were shot. The Brady Bill, named for the press secretary who was paralyzed and had terrible brain injuries from the assassination attempt, that was hand gun control.
Then it seemed that banning assault weapons was a more sellable PR campaign in the early 90s. Dems jumped on this bandwagon. In a world with massive amounts of urban crime, telling law-abiding people that they shouldn’t be allowed to own hand guns, when criminals in America had hand guns, was a fools errand. But who needed an assault weapon? So the assault weapon ban passed in 1994. This had terrible political consequences for the Dems for the next 12 years. Gun owners were radicalized to believe that once they came after these assault weapons, they would come after your hunting rifles and then your guns. Bill Clinton believed this was a dangerous issue the Dems had gotten themselves on the side of, even though they were so proud of it, so you barely heard about it from Dems for a very long time.
Gun control as a general concept was not hard because when Elizabeth Dole ran for President in 2000, she was thought to be a formidable candidate. She was a Senator from North Carolina, everyone liked her, she had high name id, her main issue was we need to come up with new creative issues to deal with guns. She was pro life but pro gun control. She lost. But this was instructive. She thought she could make a serious run for President in the Republican party, but the issue then hadn’t become the polarizing issue that it has become.
Part of the story of why Joe Biden is more electable, in comparison with the metrosexuals males who are challenging him, and the suburban women who are challenging him, when he goes to PA, MI, WISC, OH, he can say, “sure, back in Scranton we went huntin’ for critters”.
So politically Dems are playing with fire if they go totally extreme on guns. Of the 136 million people, 20% are probably Dems.
The case of Texas
Look at Texas.
We heard over the weekend that another Republican retirement - 4 now in 2020.
That means TX is in play. If Dems win TX, that’s it. That’s the ballgame.
TX has particular makeup—very suburban.
Most of legislative seats have been trending more blue. But TX is a gun state. Dems seizing on this as a moral issue, but now there is evidence that they need to pull themselves away from this to win TX.
Gun issue is a freedom issue. This is hard for people who don’t own guns to understand.
It represents the outer edge of freedom.
That’s what we care about - free speech.
But if this is not an essential issue for you, it is an issue that represents an assault on your freedom. There are weird things—people felt this way about speed limits in the 70s. As soon as possible, national speed limit became the thing of the past, because it was an assault on their freedom, a misunderstanding of how they lived their lives…eg person from Idaho commuting 150 miles to work - could do in 2 hours at 75 mph, or 5 hours at 55 mph.
Impact of social media
Social media is destroying the bonds of family and community and fraying the social fabric by creating false relationships. It is stirring the worst of the violent passions. People cannot control themselves when their violent passions are being stirred by means beyond their control. So they have to be controlled. But this is totalitarian.
Almost all young people involved in social media.
It is affecting change in American society.
It is natural that political system will get involved - someone has to do something about this maligned force.
But there is no place for the government to act to curtail it, just like violence on TV. Our moral panics had legislative effects, eg v chips in tv sets, warning labels on every album that had a curse word.
Some tragedies are not solvable
There is no legislative cure for mass shootings. This is a feature of American life now. It is not solvable. They are an expression of a spiritual crisis. It is not an expression of a lack of politicians will to ban guns.
We agree El Paso was problem of white supremacy. We must condemn white supremacy. What we have is a problem that afflicts young white males.
There are 30 million adolescent males in the US. So every year 3 or 4 of them shoot people. Blaming entire age cohort is statistically unjust.
These are randomized and idealogical murders, rightly equated to terrorism.
These are frightening. Murdering people we don’t know. What is terrifying is you could be a victim.
What could lead a person to drive 600 miles to a Walmart and start shooting people? Why didn’t he do it 5 miles from his house? The randomness is so terrifying.
Giving up moral instruction
Here is what we can link together: Young men doing this. The wild rise of suicide rates since the turn of the century. Opioid addictions. People are living life as though life has no meaning.
Society used to have more modalities to deal with this. It was understood that adolescent males are a problematic feature of the landscape. So there were controls placed on them: the draft, the idea that they needed to go to work, get them married as quickly as possible, tie sex to marriage so forced into a unit, so they don’t go spinning off on their own. This is the way societies dealt with the way of the anarchic spirit adolescent.
Now we don’t deal with it at all.
Or we deal with it after the fact.
They do something wrong, so we come down like a ton of bricks on their head (not talking about shootings). Then we say, well you should have known you shouldn’t talk to girls that way, you should have known that you are not supposed to have sex with a girl who is passed out on the bed.
But honestly this is what happens if you don’t tell them that they are not supposed to, and they spend their entire lives watching movies in which people do exactly that.
We give up moral instruction and we don’t channel their aggression into something socially useful and people are largely left to their own devices.
There is no legislative solution to this.
The Central tenant of being a conservative is that the mediating institutions, church, family, neighborhood, fraternal orgs, are being degraded by the natural world of post-capitalist society. They need to be strengthened. The problem is once you say they need to be strengthened, they are already dead. They don’t need to be strengthened when they are strong, and when they are weak, they can’t be strengthened, because they lost their disciplinary moral force. So it is a central idea, but it an unworkable idea. How does the church become the center of everyone’s life again?
There needs to be people to tell you what you to do, because most people don’t know what to do. They need advice and guidance on how to live a moral life. That is what the Bible provides. Democratic society does not provide people with advice, because we are supposed to be the boss; it is not up to the government to tell you what to do, you tell the government what to do. The problem is that when there is all these other things that give you guidance on how to live a useful life, and these fall to pieces, there is nothing to take their place.
Social media is the new mediating institution. It is an imitation of community and fellowship.
People need to be helped to live a productive life, and if they have no help, they can shoot up a Walmart.
Last point: are we complicit?
First commentator: When we look at all of this, we tend to say we live in a sick society. How have we let this happen to us? We have to do something. But I don’t feel like I’m implicated in the El Paso or these events. I don’t feel like we are all somehow to blame.
Is this wrong of me?
Second commentator: I don’t feel blame, I feel connection to the victims on some distant human level. I don’t feel implicated in the crime.
The word implication is the wrong sense of this…complicity perhaps? We are not complicit, but at the same time, there is a societal event of which you are a part. You have to confront it. We write all the time the extent to which this President is responsible for giving these people a sense that their ideology is less marginable than it really is. That is something that we buy into, he is the President, and we should confront as such.
First commentator: What I still find falsely emotive isn saying there but the grace of God go I.
I don’t know, maybe the honest answer is that we have failed because we have provided no insight for people who are raising teenagers who are showing symptoms of violence and disorder…