Anti-School Shooting Movement embracing half truths and political talking points
March 28, 2018
I had dinner last night with thoughtful intelligent friends who, at least for the moment, have surrendered reason to the emotional, intellectually dishonest rhetoric from the children participating in the "March For Our Lives" event in D.C. last week.
As a father of six, I am all for youthful involvement and exuberance, but these issues are complicated. A real policy debate cannot be led by students who are being exploited by "handlers" attempting to engineer a potential civic disaster. There's no doubt that a conversation regarding the cause of these shootings needs to occur. But the conversation needs to be led by the right people. David Hogg is not the right person. He's a high school student who destroys any chance of meaningful dialogue because he doesn't have the knowledge or experience to lead this conversation. Five years ago he was twelve. Hogg is not making honest reasonable points. He is embracing half truths and political talking points.
Here are some examples.
"We support the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms, as set forth in the United States Constitution."
This is untrue. A movement called "Never Again" implies that a new laws or regulation will guarantee the eradication of gun deaths, in schools or anywhere else. There are many calling for a "reassessment" of the 2nd Amendment. The implication being that revoking the right of "citizens to keep and bear arms" will somehow make us safer. This premise completely ignores the fact that many, if not most, of the mass shooters were "law-abiding" until they weren't. So called "common sense legislation" will only affect law-abiding citizens. Restrictive gun laws are routinely violated by criminals, because they...don't obey laws. It's a bad idea for MS13 to have a monopoly on semi-automatic weapons.
"...will no longer risk our lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become all too familiar."
This is an appeal to emotion rather than reality. The existence of the right to own guns no more "risks lives" than the existence of anything else that is dangerous when misused. There are 10.6 deaths per 100,000 U.S. citizens due to guns according to latest statistics, including those of suicides and those killed by law enforcement. Three times that many are killed in alcohol-related automobile accidents. Should we ban selling cars to those convicted of operating while intoxicated? No, because there's acceptable risk that goes along with living in a free society.
The activists and news media need to stop the fear-mongering and engage in meaningful dialogue. My friends are smart people, but that doesn't mean they have a real sense of the problem. As such, they are susceptible to all kinds of false ideas couched in passionate appeals to emotion like "guns are bad" and "think of the children." The current cultural environment embraces this loosely reasoned rhetoric, but it's inappropriate for a serious discussion regarding the abolition of a fundamental right.
Someone needs to explain to the children that the right to protect ourselves, like other fundamental rights, is rooted in the Constitution and essential to our country's commitment to individual liberty. Rights are defined in the context of absolutism, otherwise they would not be a right. Like all rights, the "right to bear arms" will always be abused by some, and the abusers will, by definition, misuse weapons. And the misuse of weapons, by definition, will inevitably cause our society harm. At times, the commitment to upholding a fundamental right causes great harm. The pain associated with the harm doesn't diminish the value of the right, nor the government's obligation to respect it. In other words, rights are expensive because they are worth having. If someone is going to advocate for the abolition of a fundamental right then they should be serious and engage in a legitimate, fact based, persuasive discussion.
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