It is becoming apparent that one of the reasons left and right are unable to have productive conversations about tragedies such as what recently took place in Texas is:
In response to some recent articles, I’ve been inundated with graphics and statistics comparing the rate of gun ownership and violence in the United States with other countries around the world. I’ve been accused of willfully ignoring the “fact” that the “obvious cause” of our violence problem here is the availability of firearms. Please note the term – “cause.”
Those charts and graphs fail, of course, to establish a causal link – because there is none.
The weapon can not be the cause. That would be an example of a logical absurdity. I rifle in my safe is not capable of taking control of me in some demonic possession and forcing me to do evil things.
The cause of these tragedies is an evil person with an evil plan and the willingness to carry it out.
The cause of 911 was not box cutter knives or airliners. Box cutter knives and airliners were used to carry out an evil plan by people determined to carry that plan out.
I’m not going to argue against the fact that the U.S. has an awful lot of firearms in civilian hands. We do, far more than any other country. I’m not going to argue that we have a violence problem. We do, far from the worst but a significant problem all the same.
I am going to argue against the notion that the firearm is the cause. That simply isn’t the case.
If those on the other side of this argument would admit that the firearm is not the cause, rather the firearm is one enabling factor, we might get somewhere.
That is what the firearm is, one enabling factor. My critics may accuse me of parsing words here, but that is not what I’m doing. I’m trying to establish a common framework and language so that we might have productive discussions.
The root cause of these tragedies is the perpetrator – his evil plan and his willingness to carry it out.
Everything else is a tool or some other enabling factor. Here are a few examples:
- Box cutter knives (911)
- Fertilizer bombs (OKC bombing)
- Firearms (mostly handguns)
- School doors propped open
- Soft targets in general
- The support of fellow gang members
What I’ve tried to point out in previous articles is the fact that fixing the root cause does not appear to be within our reach – at least not immediately and certainly not quickly.
As I’ve also tried to point out (previously), when faced with the fact that you can not address the root cause directly, the next step is mitigation. In the case at hand here, mitigation means addressing enabling factors.
I hear no calls to ban box cutter knives or fists. I do hear calls to ban some rifles even though they kill fewer people than fists, clubs, and knives.
I’m simply arguing that if we can not do anything about the root cause (the person with the evil plan and the determination to carry it out), then we should put our efforts into the enabling factors that are most likely to have an impact and that are within our reach.
Many of the perpetrators purchased firearms legally through an FFL which means they passed a background check. Universal background checks simply means private sales will also require the same background check. Put the universal background check in place if you will, it’s not likely to have any impact.
Rifles of all kinds account for about 2.5% of the murders involving firearms. Ban one particular type of rifle if you will, you’re attacking some portion of that 2.5% and ignoring 97.5%. This too is not at all likely to have any impact. The Columbine shooters used two shotguns, a handgun, and a rifle that was chambered for a pistol cartridge.
Will my critics on the left be satisfied if we ban semi-automatic rifles and impose universal background checks and then see another even like the one in Texas? I think not, and I won’t be either.
Maybe we would all be better served by an honest discussion about what will and won’t work, and what we can and cannot do.
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