The Times Goes Gaga Over Guns

Today the New York Times ran an editorial on its front page for the first time since 1920. Well, that makes sense. These are dark times–the Middle East in turmoil, ISIS on the march, Iran moving steadily toward the bomb, terrorism in Europe and the U.S., an immigration crisis here at home, a stagnant economy and a looming fiscal catastrophe. There’s lots of material there for front page editorials.

Just kidding, of course: the subject of the Times editorial was–gun control! End the Gun Epidemic in America. Because guns are like smallpox.

The Times pretends to be concerned about violence, specifically homicide. Weirdly, however, the editorial fails even to mention the fact that the homicide rate in the U.S. has been steadily falling for some years, to the point where it is at a historic low, only around half what it was in the early 1990s–you remember, the golden age of the Clinton administration. (It may have started rising again this year on account of the anti-police movement, which the Times endorses.) Many experts attribute our declining homicide rate in part to more widespread ownership of handguns, which acts as a deterrent to violent crime. But the Times–untroubled, as usual, by the facts–fails to discuss any of this.

The editorialists begin by arguing that motive is immaterial. The real issue is firearms:

[M]otives do not matter to the dead in California, nor did they in Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut and far too many other places. The attention and anger of Americans should also be directed at the elected leaders whose job is to keep us safe but who place a higher premium on the money and political power of an industry dedicated to profiting from the unfettered spread of ever more powerful firearms.

This is just plain dumb. The firearms industry is tiny, relatively speaking, and has zero political clout. Politicians don’t vote for more gun laws because voters oppose them and because they know such laws won’t do any good–a fact that the editorialists appear to admit a few paragraphs later.

It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.

All firearms can be used to “kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.” This is why we provide our soldiers and policemen with guns rather than swords, knives or clubs. It is also why many Americans prefer to rely on guns for self-defense. At bottom, it is effective self-defense of which the Times disapproves. The Times wants all of us to rely on government, all the time, for everything.

These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection.

Oh, please. “Macho vigilantism” is evidently the paper’s disparaging way of referring to self-defense. And I have seen a great deal of firearms marketing, but have yet to come across a call for insurrection.

Opponents of gun control are saying, as they do after every killing, that no law can unfailingly forestall a specific criminal. That is true. They are talking, many with sincerity, about the constitutional challenges to effective gun regulation. Those challenges exist. They point out that determined killers obtained weapons illegally in places like France, England and Norway that have strict gun laws. Yes, they did.

But at least those countries are trying. The United States is not.

This is really extraordinary. The Times admits, I take it, that the measures it favors will do no good, but nevertheless demands that they be adopted for their symbolic value. Not only that, it viciously excoriates all those who fail to join in the paper’s enthusiasm for futile gestures.

Worse, politicians abet would-be killers by creating gun markets for them…

I have absolutely no idea what this is supposed to mean. Hey, I am old enough to remember the good old days when newspaper journalists could write.

…and voters allow those politicians to keep their jobs.

It is past time to stop talking about halting the spread of firearms, and instead to reduce their number drastically — eliminating some large categories of weapons and ammunition.

No more Mr. Nice Guy! Of course, the Second Amendment has to be taken into account. Doesn’t it? This is the extent of the editorialists’ discussion of the Constitution:

It is not necessary to debate the peculiar wording of the Second Amendment. No right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation.

So much for the Bill of Rights. I look forward to a Republican administration’s reasonable regulation of the New York Times’s First Amendment rights. It would be fun to draw up regulations that would reduce the number of left-wing news outlets “drastically–eliminating some large categories of [newspapers] and [web sites].”

Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition, must be outlawed for civilian ownership. It is possible to define those guns in a clear and effective way….

The editorialists don’t, of course, define what they are talking about in a clear and effective way. From the reference to “slightly modified combat rifles,” I assume they mean AR-15 style firearms. As for ammunition, I have no idea what types they want to prohibit. But it seems that what the Times has in mind is a re-institution of the ban on “assault weapons” that existed from 1994 until it was allowed to lapse in 2004. It was allowed to lapse because it did no good whatsoever.

This is partly because there is no such thing as an “assault weapon.” The federal law was an embarrassment. It banned semiautomatic rifles that had two or more mostly-cosmetic features out of a list of ten or so. If the Times has something better in mind, it doesn’t say so.

The paper’s fixation on rifles is inexplicable. Of all murder weapons, rifles are the least popular. The FBI has now released its homicide data for 2014. The table on murder weapons shows that rifles (all rifles, not just the ones the Times thinks are scary) are used in around 2% of homicides. Knives are used six times as often. Blunt objects are used nearly twice as often as rifles, and bare hands nearly three times as often. Also, the incidence of homicide involving rifles has declined by 32%, just since 2010.

In short, the Times’s obsession with certain types of semiautomatic rifles is, from a practical perspective, goofy. The editorialists continue:

…and, yes, it would require Americans who own those kinds of weapons to give them up for the good of their fellow citizens.

You can just about see the editorialists holding their breath and stamping their feet. But is there any possibility of their demands being met? Of course not. Not even a Democrat would vote for an attempt to confiscate millions of semiautomatic rifles. The sheer logistics are impractical. There are no very reliable numbers, but Americans own several million AR-15 style rifles, and millions more semiautomatic rifles of other types. The Times thinks it is logistically impossible to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, or, for that matter, any. But mass deportation is an easy task compared with a house to house search for millions of rifles.

Likely the editorialists would say that they don’t actually contemplate a search of 123 million U.S. households. Rather, they would rely on the honor system. Let’s think about how that would work. I own an AR-15, and if Congress passed a law requiring me to turn it in at the local police station, I probably would comply, assuming proper compensation were paid pursuant to the Fifth Amendment. But what if I were a terrorist, a career criminal, or anyone else inclined to commit murder? Would I turn in my AR-15? No, I would keep it. As to that category of firearm, at least, the Times would create a bumper-sticker world in which only outlaws have guns. And they would have plenty of them.

I was so annoyed when I read the Times editorial that I went to the range to take it out on some targets before settling in to do this post. How did I shoot? Quite well, thank you for asking. This was at 7 yards with my AR-24 9 mm. pistol:


You can find a lot more sanity at just about any gun range than you can in the New York Times editorial board room.