Wanted: one moral compass

February 24, 2018

(This is more stream-of-consciousness than my usual essay. Sorry about that.)

The facts

We now know many things about the February 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. We know that a former student (I won’t be using his name) who had been expelled from the school, went in with a rifle and murdered 17 students.

We know that the shooter talked about shooting up a school all the time. He would introduce himself saying “Hi, I’m Nick. I’m a school shooter.” After another mass shooting he bragged “Man I can do so much better.” And we know that his threats were relayed to local police and the FBI on numerous occasions, but no action was taken. Some of the warnings were quite explicit. We know that the police were called to the shooter’s home on numerous occasions, but, as far as we know, no action was taken. (CNN has reported that this happened on 39 occasions, but the Broward Country sheriff’s office says it was only 23 times.)

We know that the sheriff’s office had a deputy stationed at the school. The deputy, Scot Peterson, ran to the building where he heard the shooting, and then waited outside while the shooting continued. The Broward County sheriff, Scott Israel, offered Peterson up as a sacrificial lamb, but the problem went beyond Peterson.

We know that, in addition to Peterson, three other Broward County sheriff’s deputies responded to the school. None of them went in. All four waited outside, taking cover behind their cars. (Sheriff Israel had previously claimed otherwise, but that turned out not to be true.) Nor did they even prevent the shooter from escaping. They might as well not even have shown up at all.

The first officers to enter the building were police from a neighboring municipality, Coral Springs, who responded even though the school was out of their jurisdiction. They reportedly were disgusted with the Broward County deputies cowering outside. But it appears that by that time, the shooter had already escaped. He was eventually captured by an alert police officer in another municipality.

We also know that a Sheriff Israel had a reputation for hiring political cronies to staff his force, and liked to reply to critics by saying “lions don’t care about the opinions of sheep.” And we know that the same Deputy Peterson had earlier refused to share information about a previous incident involving the shooter with the Florida Department of Children and Families. The reason he would refuse to cooperate with them has not been revealed, but it must be.

The rant

With all these facts known, who do the left/media blame for the massacre? The shooter himself? The FBI or various local police who ignored the warnings? The deputies who cowered outside the school, or the political sheriff who was responsible for their recruiting and training?

Of course not. The true culprit was the NRA.

The NRA, who had nothing whatsoever to do with it, that’s who the leftists and the media (but I repeat myself) think are to blame.

What in the hell is wrong with these people?

While they blame the NRA, they make excuses for the cowardly deputies. A guy with a rifle is just too scary, you can’t expect them to take him on. For example, an editor at the Los Angeles Times wrote “not every has, or should be expected to have, the guts to face a maniac with an AR-15.” It was their job!

ASIDE: While they excuse the useless cops and blame the NRA, let’s not forget the barefoot, civilian plumber from Sutherland Springs who engaged a shooter who was armed with a rifle and wearing body armor. That man was an NRA instructor.

But the worst take on the cowardly cops was from CNN’s Chris Cillizza, who wrote:

What happened in Parkland is proof that a good guy with a gun doesn’t always stop a bad guy with a gun

(CNBC’s John Harwood made the same point.) Clearly Cillizza and Harwood don’t actually understand the “good guy with a gun argument” so let me spell it out: If there is a bad guy with a gun, you want there also to be a good guy with a gun to stop him. The police can’t always be there, so citizens should be armed. The cowardly deputies are a confirmation of the the argument, not a refutation. Even if the cops are there, they might not do anything.

A related idiocy was from MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, who said it is useless for a handgun wielder to confront a AR-15 wielder, since AR-15 bullets travel faster. I guess a man armed with a laser will be invincible.

To go along with the idiocy were the outright lies. Everytown for Gun Safety — the deceptively-named gun-control advocacy group funded by billionaire Mike Bloomberg — claimed that there have been 18 school shootings so far in 2018. This isn’t remotely true. (To come up with this number, they have to count nonsense like a window being shot out by a bb gun.) Many media outlets pointed out this it wasn’t true, but not all. The always-execrable New York Daily News cited it without reservation. So did Jeff Greenfield, a long-time political analyst for various networks. (He later deleted the tweet.) Various politicians including Bernie Sanders and Bill DeBlasio cited it as well. ABC couldn’t pass it up either, but did point in the 4th paragraph that it was disputed. Finally, in CNN’s town hall they took a question that cited the bogus statistic; the event’s moderator, Jake Tapper, didn’t point out that it was false, nor did he give anyone else a chance to do so.

The CNN town hall brings me to the main point of this rant, the shameless politicization of this crime. The gun-control movement is clearly frustrated that mass shootings have failed to move to move public opinion on gun control. The reason for this is they have never rebutted the common-sense logic: If guns are made illegal, only criminals will have guns. There are other important arguments for gun-rights as well, but that one suffices.

The only way they can get their gun bans is to have them enacted when the public is emotional, and not thinking rationally. That is why they always bristle at the suggestion that we should wait to consider gun-control measures until we can do so with a clear head.

But even so, it hasn’t been working. Worse — from the anti-gun perspective, but also from the sensible perspective — we are getting accustomed to mass shootings, so they don’t create the same level of emotion as they used to. Something must be done to increase the emotional temperature.

Hence, the Parkland kids. To be clear, I don’t blame the kids. Being from Broward Country, they have surely be taught to view the world from a liberal perspective, and they survived a horribly traumatic experience. Their feelings are genuine. But making those kids the face of the gun-control movement is shameless emotional blackmail of the crassest sort.

They tell us — with a straight face — that these kids have a special wisdom we have to listen to. No. They are children. There is a reason that juvenile and sophomoric are synonyms. And this especially applies to high schoolers, who tend to think they know everything, when in fact they know very little. And everyone knows it. Yes, the bull curve is wide, and some children are wise, but you identify those special children by their wisdom. To assume they are wise simply because they are children is simply insane.

As I said, everyone knows this. Including the people who are pretending that these kids are Charles Wallace Murray because the kids are speaking from the worldview with which they were indoctrinated.

The game plan is clear: Put forward the kids. Some internet crazies will attack them. You publicize the crazies and the public recoils in horror. Then, you tar anyone who disagrees with the kids as the same as the crazies. That is, exactly this: You start with crazies like Alex Jones, and then sliiiiide into Ben Shapiro, The Federalist, and National Review. By the end, you’re supposed to condemn supposedly outrageous statements like:

If you have ever been, or known, a teenager, you know that even comparatively well-informed teens are almost always just advancing arguments they’ve heard from adults.

In case that seems nothing more than common sense, then comes the emotional punch: “Even, it seems, teens who have recently been shot at by a mass murderer.” You aren’t supposed to notice that this is a complete non sequitur.

Then there’s this:

Another approach was to find individual survivors of this massacre who did not happen to support the call from a large number of their classmates for gun control. The Daily Wire managed to find a pro-gun Marjory Stoneman student who accused the media of “politicizing” the massacre to talk about gun control.

Wait a second, you’re not supposed to have your own kids rebut ours! See, it’s not all the kids who have special wisdom, just the ones who agree with us!

That brings us to CNN’s travesty of a town hall. You can find a transcript here, but the transcript with its “(BOOING)” and “(APPLAUSE)” doesn’t capture the sense of the event. It resembled nothing more than one of Red China’s struggle sessions in which an audience would watch and jeer while the party abused a victim until he confessed his crimes against the people.

It was obviously a set-up from the beginning. The host, Jake Tapper, used to be the spokesman for Handgun Control, Inc. — not that CNN disclosed that fact — where he was known for insights such as this:

[Charleton Heston’s] interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is unique to him and his organization and has never been upheld in court.

(That was before Heller v. DC, so the latter part was true at the time, but only a true ideologue would try to claim that it is unique to the NRA to believe that the Second Amendment protects gun rights.)

The questions were all approved in advance. (Despite the he-said/she-said about the correspondence between the producers and possible participants, this point is not in dispute.) And this was the sort of insightful question they approved:

Senator Rubio, it’s hard to look Senator Rubio, it’s hard to look at you and not look down a barrel of an AR-15 and not look at Nicholas Cruz, but the point is you’re here and there some people who are not.


So, I had a question for Ms. Loesch but she’s not here yet. So for her and the NRA — she’s probably watching — and all of you puppet politicians that they are backing. Was the blood of my classmates and my teachers worth your blood money?

The government failed them at every level, but a civil-rights organization with no involvement whatsoever, one that wants to give your teachers the means to defend you, they are the ones with blood on their hands!

Rubio and Loesch were courageous going in there, and generally acquitted themselves pretty well. Rubio orchestrated this revealing moment:

RUBIO: … Now on the issue that you’ve raised about the background checks, relate directly to what you said about the — about the assault weapons ban. It’s not the loopholes. It’s the problem that once you start looking at how easy it is to get around it, you would literally have to ban every semi-automatic rifle that’s sold in the U.S.

(APPLAUSE) [this is an understatement]

RUBIO: Fair enough. Fair enough, that — that is a valid position to hold, but my colleagues do not support banning every semi-automatic rifle sold in America.

This is how far out of the mainstream the audience CNN assembled was. It’s not about “assault weapons,” it’s about banning every semi-automatic rifle in America.

Bottom line

Rant over. Let me wrap up with the bottom line. We are not going to ban guns in America. It isn’t going to happen. You are welcome to try; if you want to try, go ahead and get started.

But if not, please stop wasting our time with these proposals that sound superficially reasonable, but are extremely broad or nonsensical when you look at them closely. Stop telling us you want to ban assault weapons, when you actually want to ban all semi-automatic weapons. Stop saying you want to expand background checks, when your policy would actually make it illegal to fire any gun you don’t personally own. Stop saying you want to want to keep terrorists from buying guns, when your policy would actually give bureaucrats the power to block anyone from buying a gun without any probable cause at all. Stop saying you want to ban bump stocks, when a rubber band can serve as a bump stock

If you’re going to try to ban all guns, let’s get started on that fight. But if not, can we please try to do something about the problem? Something that could actually be enacted?

I’ve been told that I’m immoral because I don’t care if children die. This is offensive. Because I disagree about your preferred policy response does not mean I don’t care about the problem. I could just as well say that gun-control advocates don’t care about our children because they want to lock them into “gun-free” hunting preserves for psychos. But that would be unfair.

If we’re going to keep this on a partisan basis, then I’ll be pushing to end gun-free zones. They are idiotic, and history shows that mass shooters seek them out.

But there’s an alternative. We could look for other ways to address the problem that don’t involve expanding or restricting gun rights. We could look for a consensus approach. Personally, I think it would help enormously if we placed public pressure on the media to stop making mass murderers into celebrities. I’m sure there are other things we could try too.

Alas, that’s not what I’m seeing. When I tried to start such a dialogue among my Facebook friends, I had only one person join in.  For the rest, I gather it’s gun control or nothing. And that strikes me as lamentable.