Monday, November 6, 2017

Another Mass Shooting

This is the kind of post that if will be used against me, if I someday run for political office. So let it be done.

Yesterday, a deranged wing-nut killed 26 people in a Texas Church. With social media lubricating the way, anti-gun forces took to their favorite platforms to decry the lack of gun control in the United States, to belittle those who own guns and who find solace in the Second Amendment to the Constitution, and to mock those people of faith who offered their prayers for the victims and their families. It was a predictable reaction from a predictable subset of people.

On the other hand, there were the reactions of those who seem unable to make the connection between what happened yesterday and the instrument used. Who cannot for the life of them, see the connection between our violent society and the number of guns in it. Who cannot for the life of them see a connection between the number of guns owned safely and legally and the number owned illegally and irresponsibly. Who cannot for the life of them see the pernicious down-side of the Second Amendment.

The multi-generational dead strewn about a Texas church are incidental to the din, as their deaths serve mostly as a grisly impetus to attack or defend ideology. We move from tragedy to tragedy, we make the same tired arguments and bare our teeth to the cretins on the other side, and we get nowhere.

"No one needs 27 guns." "Show how that law would have prevented this shooting." "The founders never intended for what we have today." "If we take away guns, only the government will have guns." Just a sampling of the rhetoric.

I don't know what the answer is, I'll be honest. I am an ideological conservative, and I believe the framers put the Second Amendment in the Constitution for good reasons, and that they damn sure did not want the citizenry disarmed. It wasn't about Indians and wild animals, by the way. It was about a militia who could defend against all enemies--including a tyrannical government.

Part of the answer is that we -- through misguided notions of privacy and individual agency -- have destroyed what was a functioning (if not always perfectly) mental health institutionalization system that at one time took people off the streets who now buy and use guns in mass murders. I urge you when you are done with this blog to read this article from National Affairs called "A Prescription for Mental Health Policy".   The article makes a persuasive case that our mental health system is failing those who most need it, and society is taking it in the shorts as a result.

UPDATE: The President commented on the shooting while on travel in the Far East, and blamed mental health policy, not gun policy, for the tragedy.   While I think he goes too far in letting guns off the hook, he has a good point. I'd like to see him now exert some leadership in moving national policy on mental health in a direction that is more sane than we currently have.

I cannot escape the connection between guns and gun violence. Oh, I get it, I'll hear all about last week's vehicular terrorism in New York and people will say, "should be ban cars?" I do not find this to be a persuasive counter, but I'm sure they might.

There really is only one way forward on actual gun control, and that is to modify the Second Amendment in some manner. My prescription would be to add " the federal government" to its current text, which would leave gun policy to the states--where it would necessarily reflect better the values of those closest to the restrictions.

That said, if your remedy for gun violence does not contain the courage to actually advocate for changing the Constitution (as is the case with most Democratic legislators), then you are doomed to failure, as the Constitution remains (as it should be) the bulwark for protecting our rights. The Second Amendment is the law of the land, so if you want to make any progress, you need to be politically accepting of the fact that you'll be pissing off a large portion of the American electorate.

So until any real movement occurs politically on these questions, I will simply and unabashedly offer my prayers for the victims of this tragedy and their families. God be with them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. McGrath,

I have been a long time follower of your work on naval and maritime issues over the years; and I appreciate your honest, articulate, and rational thoughts on this issue. I must state up front that I am a person whose politics are left-of-center, but I am also a devout Christian and man of faith who attends church weekly, an owner of multiple firearms, an active duty military servicemember, and most importantly a husband to my wife and a father to my 14-month old son.

I want to start with a point of agreement. There does seem on my side of the aisle to be an inability to acknowledge that the Second Amendment is equal in stature to the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and other five amendments in the Bill of Rights. National gun reform efforts should be treated with the same seriousness and honesty as any reform to the First Amendment would be treated. That being said, while the Supreme Court has ruled that the right to bear arms extends to the individual, the Court has also made clear there is legal room for sensible regulation. An assault weapons ban, mandatory background checks, required firearms licenses, and a requirement that all firearm serial numbers be registered to the current owner all seem like reasonable steps to be taken to decrease the likelihood of these tragic events. As a father of a 14-month old who means the world to me, reading that an 18-month old child was murdered in this most recent shooting shook me to the core.

I was inspired to respond to your post by your comment "anti-gun forces took to their favorite platforms to... mock those people of faith who offered their prayers for the victims and their families" and your subsequent tweet deriding the insanity of those on the left who suggest prayer is inaction. While I of course don't speak for all those "on the left", and while I'm sure there are a few folks out there who truly are mocking people of faith, I'd like to offer a different perspective for you to consider. When people on my side of the aisle say something along the lines of "prayer isn't enough", we are expressing frustration that we seem to be having these moments of silence far too often. We see the flag at half mast more often than we'd like; and we are frustrated because we believe there are pragmatic steps to be taken to prevent these shootings from happening in the future. I'm reminded of the story about the man and the flood, who when told by a police officer to evacuate his home responded by saying "God will save me". Hours later, with the water roaring down the street, a man in a boat says to the man "Get in! The water is rising! You will surely drown!" The man responds, "God will save me!" Finally, a helicopter sees the man on the roof of his home, trying to escape the rising water. The helicopter lowers a ladder, the pilot yelling "Get in!" The man once again replies "God will save me!" Later, standing at the Gates of St. Peter, the man asks "God, why didn't you save me?" God replies "I sent you a police officer, a boat, and a helicopter; what the hell are you doing here?!" We aren't mocking the faithful, and many of us certainly recognize the power of prayer, but we are frustrated at moving from a moment of silence in remembrance of gun victims to jumping right into tax reform, health care, or the other business of the day instead of having the courage to prioritize this issue and come up with sensible solutions.

I hope this provides some insight or at least an alternative perspective to consider. We are already so deeply divided as a nation; we don't need to further that division by perpetuating false divisions and false animosity towards one another over misunderstandings. My sincere hope is that we return to a day where we can give one another the benefit of the doubt; that regardless of political leanings, we can still be decent and civil people.

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