Sunday, December 15, 2013


Nicholas Kristof's Wilful Blindness

Here is very accomplished NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof's take on gun control one year after the tragedy in Newtown, Conn.:  The Killer Who Supports Gun Control. It doesn't really hang together, but let's take a look.

A year ago, America was shocked by the murder of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But momentum to take action has faded, and we still lose that many lives to gun violence every eight hours on average. 

The price of our gun policy can be seen in this breathtaking statistic: More Americans have died from guns here in the United States since 1970 (nearly 1.4 million) than American soldiers have died in all the wars in our country’s history over more than 200 years (about 1.2 million).

Let me add that since 1970 nearly 1.8 million Americans have died in automobile accidents. This will make more sense below.

The figures used to get 26 dead from "gun violence" every 8 hours (32,300/yr and therefore 1.4 million/half century) include gun suicides, which generally make up just under 2/3 of all gun related deaths in America. I continue to think that gun suicide is not the same problem as gun murder or gun accident. Self murder is a sin and a shame, but it's not the crime that turning your desire to end a life of someone, who does not share your decision, is. Gun haters always inflate with suicides the numbers of people killed by guns in an effort to make the problem seem bigger. It's dishonest advocacy, particularly when you don't point out your numbers include gun suicides, as Mr. Kristof didn't.

Gun deaths are not a price of our gun policies. Self Defense is a God given right (to life). Crime of any sort is the unfortunate result of freedom, in that if you are truly free, you are free to break the rules. I'm going to stick with freedom always, even when I know the price is crime. We can work to reduce crime with swift, efficient and just punishment. I have been in that business, and I think I know its limitations.

Then Mr. Kristof trots out a murderer up in Attica named John Lennon (not that one) who says he's guilty of murder,  "But without a gun, I would not have killed.”

I am loath to take the advice of murders. They have shown, in a very real way, that they cannot be relied on to follow any law as he has been unable to follow the primary malum in se law, against taking another's life. I have to doubt their judgment a bit. And the guy who tells me that the murderer has a valid point loses a bit of his credibility for supporting the murderer's opinion. Kristof doubles down supporting this bromide from the killer:

“I’m all for the market system,” Lennon says, “but when the products are killing machines, why shouldn’t we tighten measures to keep guns out of the hands of people like me?”

We have. If the laws prohibiting felons from having guns aren't effective, why is it likely that new laws will be?

Then Mr. Kristof makes a very silly comparison.

He’s right. Take cars, which are also potentially lethal instruments ubiquitous in America. We’ve undertaken a remarkable half-century effort to make automobiles far, far safer — and that is precisely the model for what we should do with guns.

Cars? OK, starting with the obvious. Cars are designed to carry people from one place to another. The fact they obtain a lot of speed in doing so, and that speed, combined with the mass of the car, can then become deadly to passengers and others if something goes wrong, is a byproduct of a car's central purpose. They do not exist to kill. Guns, on the other hand, only exist to kill things and hand guns really only exist to kill people. We can make cars safer because they are not "perfect killing machines" no matter what the highway carnage is over the years. Safer cars are still cars. We cannot make guns safer. Their very reason for existing is to kill. Safer guns would no longer guns. Does someone as smart as Nicholas Kristof not know this? I find that very difficult to believe.

OK, it just may be that he is talking about making guns safer by keeping them out of the hands of people like the murderer in Attica. Ah, but that's the hard part. Unless you embrace the fantasy of "future crime" you don't know who is the murderer until after the murder (that is, too late). Fat lot of good locking up Mr. Lennon for decades, and making him ineligible to posses a gun legally ever again, did for his unnamed murder victim. Fat lot of good the federal laws about felons and guns will do for Mr. Lennon's next victim if he is released and decides to kill again. The willingness to believe that a law, mere words on a page, will fix everything is astounding on the left. It is the worst form of magical thinking.

We need to approach gun safety in the same meticulous way we approach safety in motor vehicles and so many other aspects of life: It’s ridiculous that a cellphone can require a code to use, but a gun doesn’t.

It is ridiculous to think that a code would render a gun less deadly in the hands of a person willing to murder. I am rapidly beginning to think that Mr. Kristof is the typical Harvard grad, great, even brilliant, on some things but wholly lacking in common sense. Now I boldly tread into the next paragraph about a dead teacher at Newtown.

One of the heroes at Sandy Hook was Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher who was killed while trying to hide and protect her students. It would be nice if Washington could show a fraction of that courage, but instead, on this issue of guns, politicians display paralysis and fecklessness. So, as Lennon writes, and he should know: “we parade through life to the relentless drumbeat of death.”

I mean no disrespect to Ms. Soto, who, I have no doubt, was very brave and did her very best with her students; but let's keep it in mind that she failed to protect those children from the murderer. It is a common complaint that the left cares more about intent and less about actual effectiveness. Had Ms. Soto defied Connecticut law and carried a gun into her classroom a year ago and shot Mr. Lanza dead before he killed one of her charges, would she still be considered a courageous hero by Mr. Kristof and his ilk? We'll never know because the laws of Connecticut created at the school a gun free zone that the school followed zealously while the murderer merely relied upon it for dozens of minutes of killing, uninterrupted by anyone capable of effectively fighting back.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote, quoting Beccaria, all gun control laws do is disarm the law abiding.

How in the world is that safer?

This is a subject matter on which Mr. Kristof really has not yet ventured.


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