Thursday, October 5, 2017

A WaPo Op-Ed Opposing Gun Control and Josh Marshall's Response Perfectly Frame the Debate.

Unsurprisingly, I'm impressed with Josh's response. Seldom have I heard such a compelling argument made so clear, unmuddying a debate that relies on muddy waters. Good work.

I had already read Leah Libresco's piece in the Washington Post, so I knew the background, and I've already written in recent days -- and even hours! -- pieces refuting the "we can never control guns" arguments. But Josh Marshall, as usually, sums things up with near-perfect clarity. In response to Libresco, Josh writes:
The real problem is Libresco’s premise. Does anyone think that closing the gun show loophole or mandating trigger locks will lead to a major reduction in gun fatalities? Nobody seriously thinks this. But it’s also not the way we approach really any other public health, safety or liability question. All sorts of public policy questions and decisions involve incremental reductions of harm or threat. Most regulated chemicals wouldn’t have people dropping dead right and left if not controlled. The numbers are usually relatively small. Even with known carcinogens, it is seldom possible to determine who became sick due to a certain kind of exposure. We just know, or science tells us, that a certain number of people will become sick and die due to exposure. We have safety seals on virtually every over-the-counter medication you can buy to guard against the extremely low possibility that someone could put poison in your aspirin. We have safety regulations on children’s toys to reduce the risk of a tiny number of children who choke or could choke on tiny toy parts. Whether this level of risk aversion is wise or paranoid is an interesting question. But there’s no question that we think about risk and remediation in a radically different way when it comes to firearms.
Yes, exactly. I don't think that any one thing will do it on gun control, though I believe that every little thing will likely do it, and we owe it to our increasingly gun-violent nation to do so. Because, as Marshall makes clear, this mass carnage is relatively new and requires a new approach.
Hardware and the prevalence of guns can’t be separated from culture. The two underpin and catalyze each other. Guns have been embedded in American culture, particularly though not exclusively rural culture, for centuries. But what we might call extreme gun ownership – individuals owning large numbers of often quasi-military firearms – is quite new. The mass casualty shooting is no longer a random freak out by a troubled person: it’s an established American idiom of violence, a way certain people choose to make a statement to the society at large.
Comments on social media, as popular and prevalent as they have become, doesn't quite have the bang for the buck that military-assault weapons taking out ever-increasing numbers of people at an ever-expanding number of mass shootings have. This is new, and our response has to be new and enduring.


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