Talking About Gun Policy After a Gun Massacre Should Never Get Old

Semi Automatic Guns
Photo: Julie Dermansky/Corbis

So, here we go again: a horrendous massacre executed with assault weapons; calls for legislation to strengthen porous background checks and other gun laws by Obama and the usual liberal suspects; conservatives pointing in every other direction; and then nothing until the next gun massacre. It gets old, doesn’t it? It makes you feel as tired as the president looks when he is discussing this topic.

Liberals need to understand, however, that it’s precisely this fatigue, and the underlying assumption that both sides in the perpetual “gun debate” are equally to blame for its unproductive nature, that is the secret weapon of the NRA and Second Amendment ultras everywhere. There are obviously many other things that are relevant to a gun massacre, from possible terrorist links to mental-health issues. But gun policy should always be in order after a gun massacre. 

That’s not how the King of False Equivalency, National Journal columnist Ron Fournier, sees it, of course. In his first post–San Bernardino piece, he excoriates gun-control advocates (among whom he placed himself) for offending the tender sensibilities of all those gun-control opponents who are piously calling for prayer rather than legislation. 

Re­pub­lic­ans are do­ing more than pray­ing. They’re not do­ing nearly enough, from my vant­age point, but if we’re go­ing to move bey­ond verbal wars and ac­tu­ally start fix­ing this prob­lem, the first step is to ac­know­ledge the oth­er side’s point of view. Un­der­stand it. Re­spect it. Then ex­ploit it.

For ex­ample, couldn’t a smart group of gun con­trol ad­voc­ates seize on the Na­tion­al Rifle As­so­ci­ation’s talk­ing point about men­tal health and work to­ward ma­jor re­forms of the U.S. sys­tem?

Does a single soul other than Ron Fournier think the NRA will expend an ounce of its vast political capital fighting for reforms in the U.S. mental-health system? I doubt it. And why should they? They are not the National Rifle and Mental Health Association. And so the injunction to gun-control advocates to find some way to work with Wayne LaPierre after changing the subject from guns is a counsel of surrender and despair.

If the next mass-killing spree in this country is conducted by dynamite, harpoons, or crossbows, and liberals talk about gun control, Fournier and other critics will have a point. But not this time. And it really doesn’t matter if certain elites find the topic boring.

Guns and False Equivalency