The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The March

Let me be very clear. I am a proponent of responsible efforts to control gun violence. By that I mean the following:
  • stricter and more comprehensive background checks for all individuals buying guns;
  • a national database that identifies felons, the mentally-ill, suspected terrorist sympathizers and others who should not be allowed to acquire guns, explosive or other dangerous weapons;
  • red flag laws that allow state and local government to confiscate guns from those who have been reported as threats to themselves or others, when those reports come from multiple independent parties;
  • age limits on the acquisition of all guns; the age of 21 seems appropriate;
  • serious reconsideration of mental-health detention laws when a person is demonstrably dangerous to himself or others,
and any number of other responsible measures.

The students who were the catalyst for the recent "March for Our Lives" demonstrations and their many adult supporters advocate for strict gun control, including many of the measures I note above. Their positions are heart-felt, but they are quick to demonize those who disagree with their positions, often using ad hominem attacks as opposed to factually-based arguments to support those positions.

Let's digress for a moment with a loose analogy. The primary cause of deaths among teenagers is car accidents—in the main occurring in vehicles driven by teenagers. For example, in 2013 there were 2,524 deaths of teens aged 13 to 19 in motor vehicle crashes. If I were to advocate that cars are a "death machine" or that all teenagers should be banned from owning or driving a car or that certain types of cars should be outlawed, there would be those who might justifiably argue otherwise. Those making that argument might suggest that driver error or distraction or irresponsibility are the primary causes of the deaths. They might also push back when 'car control' advocates suggest that their arguments make them "child killers" and "advocates of death."

Yes, I realize there are stark differences between gun deaths and motor vehicle accidents, but at the end of the day, dead teens are the tragic result. Even with relatively strict licensing and age limits for motor vehicles, deaths of teens due to motor vehicle accidents occur regularly and in large numbers, although (like gun violence) actual deaths are going down every year.

The conservative National Review notes:
Bluntly put, there is no meaningful way in which students in the United States are being forced to march “for their lives.” Children today live in an America that is safer than it has been at any point since the 1960s. One’s chance of being killed in a school is around six times lower than one’s chance of being hit by lightning. Hideous as it was, the event that precipitated Saturday’s march was a classic “black swan” attack, the solution to which is not at all obvious.

Nonetheless, many of the marchers basked openly in the comforts of simplicity, monomania, and crass demonization. Evidently, the leaders of this movement do not respect those they oppose, and so they dehumanize them. They do not value the Second Amendment, and so they dismiss it. They do not know — or care — that hundreds of thousands of Americans use guns in self-defense each year, and so they cast the right as all downside. Their knowledge is shallow and their focus is narrow, as one would reasonably expect of teenagers.
This debate, like most, is complex, emotional, and rife with hyperbole on both sides. The students and their supporters are right be be concerned about gun violence. Second amendment advocates are right to demand reasoned action. Both are wrong to demonize opposing views.