"Liberty turns lethal" ("OK, let's turn it around.")

I have tried to avoid getting sucked into the maelstrom of debating and finger-pointing which one lunatic has managed to generate, but it's just springing up everywhere. It's as if Seung Cho has succeeded in indicting society (which was his goal), for now that the waiting period is over, everyone gets to play Jerry Falwell and say "YOU HELPED THIS HAPPEN!"

The only good that has come of this in my case was that for the first time in the history of American Major Media Incidents, I did manage to keep my TV off -- for an entire week. That arguably ostrich-like behavior, though, did not prevent me from seeing the most scathingly dishonest anti-gun editorial the Inquirer has yet served up -- "Gun Violence -- When liberty turns lethal."

The Inquirer reduces those who disagree (including poor little me, I'm afraid) to a dehumanized "lobby" of perverse debate framers:

The gun lobby has framed the gun violence debate perversely to its advantage - and done a powerful job of it. It is time for adults to stand up and demand that reality prevail.
Adults? As opposed to what? Children? People don't deserve to be called adults because they disagree with the Inquirer on the gun issue? I don't even think the Inquirer considers them to be individual people who think what they think. Rather, they're mindless automatons who belong to "The Gun Lobby."

I'm beginning to understand why it's so tough to have a rational debate with these folks. But wimp that I am, I still regard them as human beings, and yes, even as adults.

They, however, would seem to regard me as some sort of "extremist":

The most extreme gun rights advocates seized upon last week's shootings and declared that they could have been averted if only Virginia law did not ban guns on college campuses. The core problem, according to the gun lobby, is that Americans do not have enough access to firearms.

The gun lobby is fond of demanding that those who seek more limits on gun ownership guarantee ahead of time that those limits will work perfectly and solve the problem fully.

Odd that I missed that demand. Of what benefit would it be? So the gun lobby could later turn around and say "But you promised"? (FWIW, I've been blogging about the Philadelphia Inquirer's gun control positions for some time, but I must have missed the guarantee issue.)

In any case, the Inquirer wants to turn the debate around:

OK, let's turn it around. Please explain how putting more firepower within easy reach of adolescents, with their penchants for depression, romantic drama, and binge drinking, would make campuses safer.
This question based on several erroneous assumptions. First of all, there is no law prohibiting guns on campuses. Virginia Tech bans guns as part of its campus policy. Violators are subject not to criminal prosecution, but campus disciplinary penalties:
University officials confirmed that, earlier this semester, campus police approached a student found to be carrying a concealed handgun to class. The unnamed student was not charged with any crimes because he holds a state-issued permit allowing him to carry a concealed gun. But the student could face disciplinary action from the university for violating its policy prohibiting "unauthorized possession, storage or control" of firearms on campus.

Tech spokesman Larry Hincker declined to release the student's name or specifics of the incident, citing rules protecting student confidentiality. But Hincker said Tech's ban on guns dates back several decades.

Students who violate the school policy could be called before the university's internal judicial affairs system, which has wide discretion in handing down penalties ranging from a reprimand to expulsion.

While it's arguable whether such a policy disarms anyone, to the extent it does it does not disarm simply "adolescents." The goal is to disarm everyone except the campus police. In reality, the only people it disarms are those who obey the policy and disarm or fail to arm themselves. This left rule-abiding people who might have otherwise been able to fight back (such as the heroic professor Liviu Librescu) no choice but to do things like throw themselves on the psychotic Mr. Cho.

But even if we assumed the goal is only to disarm adolescents (and further assume that all people on college campuses are in fact "adolescents" which they are not) I think Seung Cho already demonstrated that "firepower" is already within easy reach of them. Campus policy rules don't put things within reach of anyone. The Virginia Tech policy in question doesn't forbid anyone "access" to guns one way or another; it only punishes campus conduct after it has occurred.

Thus, the Inquirer is demanding an answer to a question having little if anything to do with the facts.

But there's more. The NRA should be forced to answer questions about crime:

Let's keep turning the tables. Instead of forcing anti-violence activists to prove a point most don't believe - that gun control is the sole solution - let's force the National Rifle Association to explain why gun violence is so much lower in other Western industrialized societies. If it's not their far stricter gun control, what is it? Are they better people than we are?
Are they "better" people? I don't know, but it's too late to ask the millions who were savagely murdered by European governments. Governments which believed in building better worlds. Worlds free of Jews. Free of Kulaks. Free of freedom. If the Europeans are "better people," why is it that the "worse" Americans had to keep marching in and put an end to the European killing fields?

Whether Europeans are "better people" is impossible to answer, but they certainly don't have a very good track record where it comes to better governments. (Not that it especially matters, but according to this web site, the crime rate in Europe is actually higher than the crime rate in the United States. However, there's no way to verify the numbers, because the source -- Interpol -- restricts the data to police agencies.)

The Inquirer starts and finishes its editorial with a quote from a European, one Cyril Connolly, who wrote the following in 1938:

"We create the world in which we live; if that world becomes unfit for human life, it is because we tire of our responsibility."
A broad and general quote like that can of course apply to anything. The Inquirer applies it to guns; I suppose Al Gore would apply it to anthropogenic global warming, while Paul Ehrlich would apply it to overpopulation. Whether Connolly is the great visionary he's made out to be is at least debatable. His more famous line -- "Slums may well be breeding grounds of crime, but the middle-class suburbs are incubators of apathy and delirium" -- is linked to a movement which helped prevent suburbs in favor of building "high-density urban development" in the 1950s. (As the last link makes clear, many British now have second thoughts.)

But seeing that it's a waste of time to disagree with the demonization of disagreement, I think a better approach might be to simply agree.

At least with the title of the Inquirer editorial. If I look at the big picture, I can more than agree with the Inquirer's statement that "Liberty turns lethal."

Liberty can indeed turn lethal, especially when that means liberty for dangerous criminals and assorted psychopaths who believe in shooting their fellow citizens. The Inquirer complains constantly about Philadelphia's huge murder rate, but it took the Chief of Detectives to point out in a letter to the Editor that 80 to 85 percent of the shooters are convicted criminals running around loose.

Just as Seung Cho was running around loose?

If anyone should be demonized here, I think it's Cho.

The Inquirer thinks it should be the NRA, though, and demands the NRA answer ridiculous rhetorical questions about "gun violence" in Europe. Wouldn't it be at least as relevant to ask about the millions of Europeans who were not that long ago murdered by the very governments which had disarmed them?

Or is it "extremism" to point out that the Second Amendment was intended to make it as difficult as possible for the same thing to happen here?

I realize that posing rhetorical questions that will never be answered is an exercise in futility, but as I was mulling over the Inquirer's questions for the NRA -- especially the part about "turning the tables" -- and I saw that Oleg Atbashian at Pajamas Media is asking some excellent "table turning" rhetorical questions.

And I thought the following picture was at least as irresistible as the Inquirer's cartoon of the pistol-brandishing NRA cowboy (whose shooting has so terrorized the GOP elephants and Democratic donkeys that they've taken cover behind the saloon bar).


Sure, we all agree that the kid was crazy. But the rhetoric he spouted nonetheless reflected that at least someone had tried to teach him that the difference between right and wrong is to be found in class differences:

There's little doubt that Cho, a mentally disturbed kid, had been exposed to the "social justice" and "class strife" rhetoric in school. These teachings are a near mandatory supplement served to most American kids, explicitly or implicitly, courtesy of public education. Once in college the intake of the "progressive" formula only tends to increase, involving heavy doses of every grievance man, woman, or beast has ever had from the beginning of time, factual or imaginary. All this is served up under the generic label of "social sciences." So when a young student's budding paranoia begins to torment him with phantoms of horrific social injustice, prompting him to shoot indiscriminately at the dehumanized mass of "rich kids" while imagining himself a heroic avenger of the oppressed victims, is it really the fault of the National Rifle Association?
If you're the Inquirer, why, yes.

posted by Eric on 04.23.07 at 09:48 AM


I suppose we can be thankful he had a gun,
to think of suicide bombing in a US university dormitory is totally unacceptable, and a lot more damaging.

Hugh   ·  April 23, 2007 1:56 PM

Thanks Hugh.

If I remember correctly, the last time there was a large domestic terrorist bombing (McVeigh), "hate speech on talk radio" was blamed.

Eric Scheie   ·  April 23, 2007 2:27 PM

Some people will always come up with a knee jerk reaction to place blame for everything.
Generally something unrelated, and the masses (m is optional) seem to buy it.

hugh   ·  April 23, 2007 2:47 PM

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