Shoot­ings prompt usual po­lit­i­cal hys­ter­ics

The Columbus Dispatch - - Opinion/forum - JAY AM­BROSE Jay Am­brose is an op-ed colum­nist for Tri­bune News Ser­vice. Email him at speak­to­

It’s not just the usual out­rage on the need for gun con­trol af­ter a hor­ren­dous shoot­ing. It is a wide-eyed, an­gry, un­in­formed, hate­ful, con­de­scend­ing, morally su­pe­rior po­lit­i­cal cas­cade that will prob­a­bly help sell a record num­ber of guns over the days to come, maybe mak­ing it still easier for the next killer to get one.

The killer in this episode, some­one who did just about ev­ery­thing bad you can think of in life, stood in front of the congregation of a small­town Bap­tist church in Texas and shot every­one who made a sound, in­clud­ing ba­bies that cried. Twenty-six peo­ple died. Two good guys chased the killer, he crashed his truck and shot him­self to death af­ter be­ing wounded by one of the pursuers.

“As my col­leagues go to sleep tonight, they may need to think about whether the po­lit­i­cal sup­port of the gun in­dus­try is worth the blood that flows end­lessly onto the floors of Amer­i­can churches, el­e­men­tary schools, movie the­aters and city streets,” said Sen. Chris Mur­phy, D.Conn., in the first part of an in­ter­est­ing, blis­ter­ing self­in­d­ict­ment. “The terrifying fact is that no one is safe so long as Congress chooses to do ab­so­lutely noth­ing in the face of this epi­demic.”

Note that this politi­cian is bla­tantly say­ing that those not want­ing the laws he wants have been bought out by big money even as they know peo­ple will die. He is ob­vi­ously point­ing a finger at the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion, which is not pow­er­ful so much be­cause of gun-maker dol­lars as be­cause of mil­lions of cit­i­zens who hap­pen to vote. That’s known as free speech and democ­racy. In fi­nan­cial terms, The Wash­ing­ton Ex­am­iner re­ported a cou­ple of years ago, the lobby of the dairy in­dus­try spends twice as much as the NRA.

Mur­phy might also want to pause and think for a mo­ment about the thou­sands of gun laws al­ready passed at the fed­eral, state and lo­cal level and what grand things they have or have not brought to pass. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama kept try­ing to get Congress to fund a study by the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol, failed, de­cided to rely again on good, old uni­lat­er­al­ism, got him­self a 2013 study and then zipped his lips. It couldn’t find any as­sur­ance these laws had done any good at all.

A pos­si­ble rea­son? We have some­thing more than 300 mil­lion guns in this coun­try, an av­er­age of 100 guns for ev­ery 100 per­sons, it is noted, and keep­ing some­one from get­ting one of them is not easy. Crim­i­nals tend to get guns other than through reg­u­lar stores. There’s such a thing as in­ad­e­quate en­force­ment, which was the tragic case with the Texas killer, part of whose past would have helped keep him un­armed if prop­erly re­ported.

It’s also the case that more guns don’t nec­es­sar­ily mean more deaths. In the 1990s, when gun pur­chases were sky­rock­et­ing, gun homi­cides were drop­ping by half. Rus­sia, with an av­er­age of nine guns per 100 peo­ple and ex­tremely tough gun laws, once had four times the mur­ders we have, a study tells us.

In the mean­time, it is not as if those cit­i­zens fear­ful of Demo­cratic overkill have noth­ing on which to base their fears. There are all kinds of stud­ies that have shown cit­i­zens save them­selves from foul crim­i­nal in­ten­tions lit­er­ally thou­sands upon thou­sands upon thou­sands of times a year, and there have been prom­i­nent Democrats en­dors­ing con­fis­ca­tory mea­sures such as those used in Aus­tralia.

None of this is to say we should for­get pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures, such as ef­fec­tive po­lice work, sup­port of po­lice, ad­dress­ing cul­tural is­sues and do­ing more to iden­tify the dan­ger­ous among us if rea­son­ably pos­si­ble. Some new gun laws make sense, in­clud­ing dis­al­low­ing any means of con­vert­ing semi-au­to­matic weapons into au­to­matic weapons. I my­self be­lieve in uni­ver­sal back­ground checks.

What I do not be­lieve in is over­stated, po­lit­i­cally ad­van­ta­geous hys­ter­ics that can do more to make things worse than bet­ter.

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