When NRA zealots wish to explain why their taste in toys (and/or, self-conception as temporarily embarrassed action heroes) should take precedence over public safety, they will often argue that the freedom to own an AK-47 is the foundation on which all other civil liberties rest: An unarmed citizenry has no rights that the federal government is bound to respect.
Meanwhile, when Donald Trump wished to explain Monday why America’s epidemic of firearm deaths did not require sweeping gun reforms, he argued that solving our national nightmare would merely require censoring video games, condemning suspicious mentally ill people to “involuntary confinement,” and restricting the rights of death-row inmates to appeal their convictions, so as to expedite their extermination by the state.
newfound capacity to condemn white nationalist terrorism, his concrete proposals for combating gun violence offered no cause for comfort.
can typically be counted on two hands. Meanwhile, the overwhelming consensus among crimonologists holds that the death penalty does not work as a criminal deterrent. And Trump’s implicit suggestion that mass shootings would be less common — if only their perpetrators knew that spraying bullets in a public place might actually cost them their lives — is so absurd, one despairs at satire’s prospects for surviving this presidency.
There are sound arguments for restricting the mentally ill’s access to firearms (owning a gun dramatically increases a suicidal person’s likelihood of successfully ending her own life), but there is none for believing that stigmatizing and surveilling the mentally ill will keep other Americans safe from the threat of gun homicide. As the Washington Post observed Monday:
2015 study that examined 235 people who committed or tried to commit mass killings, only 22 percent could be considered mentally ill.
But the biggest problem with Trump’s proposals isn’t their inefficacy — a charge that can be fairly leveled at many liberal gun reforms. Rather, the problem is that Trump’s ideas subordinate civil liberties to the cause of security theater. In so doing, they demonstrate that the Second Amendment (as interpreted by the American right) does not safeguard our other freedoms, so much as it undermines them.
mass individual gun ownership and low levels of gun violence. But we do not live in such a nation. So long as America is home to more firearms than people, we are going to suffer a lot of gun violence. And so long as we suffer such violence, the government will periodically feel compelled to mount a policy response.
When efforts to seriously curtail the availability of guns are off the table, the will for reform gets channelled in more perverse directions. We fill our schools with police officers, and force our children to prepare themselves for the omnipresent threat of getting slaughtered by their classmates. These “school resource officers” and “active-shooter drills” don’t seem to make anyone any safer. After the atrocity at Columbine High School in 1999, America tested the hypothesis that a massive increase in school policing would lead to lower rates of violence on campus — in 1997, 10 percent of public schools employed at least one police officer; by 2014, 30 percent did. The results of this experiment have been worse than disappointing. The best available research suggests that putting police officers in schools does not significantly deter crime, but does increase the number of students who end up incarcerated for minor youthful indiscretions (and/or, who get electrocuted with stun guns in their classrooms for the same). Nevertheless, last year’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida triggered a new wave of calls for filling America’s schools with armed agents of the state.
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