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Denying the obvious

I suppose it’s understandable that last Friday’s tragedy would spark all sorts of of-the-wall responses in the national policy debate. People of all points of view are hurting and wanting to say something useful. It’s been almost like a national brainstorming session in which all kinds of ideas have been tossed around.

This morning’s editorial page in Raleigh’s News & Observer [1] is a microcosm of our unruly discussion — with rational voices calling for modest efforts to regulate dangerous weapons and others grasping desperately for some other path that avoids this obvious solution. 

In a rather remarkable bit of uninformed obliviousness, the N&O’s designated conservative columnist [2] says the killings in places like Newtown are occurring because not enough people go to church or listen to the Pope. This would be news to the inhabitants of countries like England and Japan who have hardly any guns, murder or churchgoers. 

One well-meaning letter writer says we need to provide teachers with grizzly bear spray. Okay….interesting.

And, of course, there are letters parroting the official line emanating from the pro-gun camp [3]–i.e. the problem is simply that not enough people are armed. You know this rap: All we have to do is make sure all our kindergarten teachers are packing heat and soon those mentally-ill, assault-weapon-toting young men in black with a suicide wish will think twice (or at least get gunned down earlier after they’ve only killed a few kids).  

But, of course, this is madness. The United States already has more guns per capita than any country in the world [4]. The next closest country, Yemen, isn’t even close. If guns are the solution it sure as hell doesn’t seem to be working.

Here’s the plain truth: America has no more crazy, murderous people than any other country. What we have is an access problem–a system in which troubled souls can obtain military-grade weapons virtually at-will. Will stopping this prevent all mass murders? Of course not — not anytime soon anyway.  But there can be no doubt that making it harder to obtain an assault weapon will prevent some of these events. 

This is not about infringing on the Second Amendment; it’s about giving effect  to the entire amendment — both the part about keeping and bearing arms and the part about a well-regulated Militia. At a minimum, it seems that we ought to be able to agree that people like Adam Lanza have no business being a part of that militia.