Hard Answers in a Difficult Reality
Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press” has given up. He has given up any semblance of objectivity. Like many other “professional” journalists, he no longer sees his job as reporting the news. Instead, many media talking heads see their roles as being active in “making” news by repeating preconceived narratives and by blatantly advancing political agendas. Media profits off of sensationalism, disseminates propaganda, and actively engages in indoctrination.
With regards to recent shootings, Todd readily acknowledged that the “reasonable regulations,” which are most often proposed (e.g. more extensive background checks, and “red flag” laws) would not have deterred or stopped shooters in either Buffalo, New York or Uvalde, Texas. The same reality applies to other mass shooters over the years. I have asked previously, “When the ‘reasonable’ gun control regulations do not deliver the promised outcomes or desired effects, what then?” Increasingly “unreasonable” regulations and restrictions?
Todd correctly noted that there are “more guns than people” in America. Obviously, the vast majority of those guns will never be used to take a human life, and relatively few gun owners will ever (illegally) use their weapons against another person.
Therefore, Todd acknowledged that the issue is access to guns by those intent upon doing harm. However, access to firearms by criminals will continue to exist unless there is a wholesale decrease in the number of firearms across the board and significant restrictions on purchases, transfers, ownership, possession, and use. In order to be “effective” against criminals, the restrictions would necessarily extend to confiscation, elimination, and prohibition of substantially all firearms as to essentially all private citizens.
Of course, Chuck Todd and other gun control advocates would have us to believe that the true “danger” is in “military-style” AR-15’s and the like. However, more than half of all firearm related deaths arise from suicides (>20,000 annually) with nearly all of those being via handguns. Handguns are also the instrumentality in most other firearm-related deaths, and easily concealed firearms remain the weapons of choice for thieves, robbers, street gangs, etc. (as opposed to rifles).
As Todd acknowledged, the only “effective” gun control is in reducing dramatically the numbers of guns and ammunition available for purchase and possession. By making sales, transfers, and purchases increasingly difficult and by making ownership or possession itself cost prohibitive through taxation, insurance requirements, and increasing liability, the (unspoken) objective is to make private gun ownership effectively impossible. Proponents would have the public relatively defenseless and entirely dependent upon the state for safety and security (if not at the mercy of government).
The only way to appreciably reduce gun deaths in the United States is to eliminate guns. Some may argue sincerely that this is a “worthy” or even “necessary” objective, but they should be candid and frank in acknowledging that outcome as their express objective (or the almost certain end result).
Every premature death at the hands of a violent criminal is senseless and tragic. There is no way to effectively mitigate the anger and grief being felt by families, who have lost loved ones at the hands of madmen.
Mass shootings have been described as “epidemic.” By some measures, they happen “daily.” Based upon incessant and ubiquitous media coverage, you likely would guess that “mass school shootings” have resulted in hundreds if not thousands of deaths in recent years. Again, every such death is a horrific tragedy. Nevertheless, NBC reported that there have been 94 such deaths in the past decade — from Newtown to present.
On average, nearly 1,000 children and teens die annually from drowning, and most of those incidents happen at family gatherings and in backyard pools. A similar number die from drug overdoses and poisonings. Approximately forty (40) children die annually from sports-related injuries. The largest contributor to premature deaths should not be surprising — automobiles — which account for roughly 4,000 deaths of children and teens annually. Obviously, the “save one child” argument is more rhetorical device than it is a practical or effective standard for public policy.
It is not my objective to discount or to discredit the deaths of innocents. Nevertheless, we must have perspective. We will never eliminate premature deaths. We will never completely eliminate violent crime and the acts of madmen. If we acknowledge that the “perfect” and “ideal” are incompatible with our singular but imperfect reality, we then must seriously consider the actions that we will take and the associated trade offs. There is perhaps a natural inclination to do something — ANYTHING — even if it ultimately proves costly, wrong, or ineffective.
Dr. Thomas Sowell recommends asking three questions, which I will paraphrase:
How close can we realistically get to the (unachievable) “ideal,” and how does that ideal compare to the status quo and to other viable outcomes (which may be more easily achieved or less costly)?
What are the costs or sacrifices to be incurred in order to achieve or approach the established objective (recognizing that incremental improvements may have exponentially high costs)?
What is the likelihood that the proposed action, policy, or law is going to have the desired effect (and not result in unintended adverse consequences)?
Yes, these and similar questions are in effect a cost-benefit analysis. We do not like to acknowledge that we make such analyses in our individual and collective lives. We prefer to acknowledge all human life as “priceless” and to resist placing a “value” or cost on preserving life. When we presume that all costs and sacrifices will be borne by others, then we mistakenly assume or assert that any costs and all sacrifices are necessarily “reasonable.”
Nevertheless, we deliberately or subconsciously undertake such analyses every single day. We do so each time that we get into a car or on an airplane. We do so when we consider taking that beach vacation or installing a residential pool. We do so when we enroll a child in a sports program or sponsor a local athletic team. We do so every time that we leave the relative comfort and safety of our homes and venture out into the unknown. Each such action carries known risks, up to and including death, but most of us choose to venture out into public — to live our respective lives — notwithstanding those risks.
Through diligence and prudence we can be made safer, but perfect safety is an illusion. Universal security is a pipe dream. Efforts to impose perfect safety come with extremely high costs and significant sacrifices. Additionally, a false sense of security can have horribly adverse but unintended consequences.
The answer is not as simple as, “We have to take THEIR guns.” We all bear some responsibility for the environment, in which we live, and looking for easy (temporary) “fixes” and blaming “others” is not likely to result in a better environment or more favorable outcomes.