Harpo Jaeger dot com

Still refusing to see the pattern

Will Wilkinson at DiA:

But try as we might to cushion the whole world, there will remain an infinite storehouse of freakishly singular hazards that elude imagination and defy the generalisation that feeds caution.

He’s referring, of course, to the Tuscon shooting, and he makes the case that those of us who are calling for stronger gun regulations in the wake of the tragedy are just overreacting and should wait until we calm down.

The things we already fear and already desire more thoroughly to control are most vividly salient to us. We seize on those: guns, crazy people. Did Jared Lee Loughner shoot government officials with a gun?Ban guns within 1,000 feet of government officials! Was Jared Lee Loughner detectably crazy?Make involuntary commitment easier! Did Jared Lee Loughner buy a gun while detectably crazy?Tighten background-screening requirements!Did Jared Lee Loughner’s gun sport an extended magazine?Ban extended magazines!

I think he’s over-psychologizing people like me. Obviously we’re a bit worked up about the whole thing federal officials were gunned down in broad daylight! Forgive me if that’s something I get a bit upset about.

Some of these proposals may have merit, but no more now than on Friday. The issues they address have become no more urgent.Sadly, people are shot to death every day. The odd and the infirm roam our streets. Some of them buy guns and use them.

This is a complete strawman argument. No one’s claiming that gun crimes are more of a danger now than they were a few days ago. But the issue is in the public eye right now, and I think Wilkinson understates the extent to which the very remedies he makes fun of would actually help the problem. The reason people are shot to death every day is because we make it incredibly easy for people (including crazy ones) to buy guns and ammunition.

Ezra Klein agrees with Wilkinson:

There are certain tragedies or disasters that relate to a very specific policy failure.

But the conditions in which action makes sense — when a policy failure is clear, and when fixing that policy will prevent recurrences of the tragedy in the future — don’t seem to me to be present here.

I just don’t see how either Wilkinson or Klein can come to this conclusion. There’s a clear policy failure the expiry of the assault weapons ban, which would have prevented Loughner from buying a 9mm semi-automatic Glock with a high-capacity magazine (under the [sound] logic that this particular gun really has no discernible use except as an assault weapon that is, exactly how Loughner used it), and fixing it will absolutely prevent this sort of thing in the future.

The bottom line is this: no matter how hard we try (and in this country, we don’t try very hard), we can’t get every violent crazy person off the street. We can stop selling them guns. Until we do, we have to stop looking at events like this as isolated. The shooter might have a different story each time, but what they all have in common is a gun.