Gun Control: The Slipperiest Slope
... there remains something inherently different about the gun control debate. Unlike campaigns to limit activities such as smoking in public areas, the gun control effort is not framed at all as an end, only as a means to avoid gun violence. And the line over what is “sensible” will be drawn not based on its own sensibility, but rather on whether the goal appears to have been achieved.
Unfortunately, violence is inevitable and gun control measures are unlikely to have any visible effect on the crimes we endure. If we would, Heaven forbid, see a lunatic slaughter “only” 3 or 4 children with a lesser powerful weapon after a ban, wouldn’t we insist that this proves that the current law is “not enough” and demand that those weapons be banned too? When that ban doesn’t seem to work, won’t we automatically demand additional restrictions?
This quandary symbolizes one of the underlying dynamics of American politics: Liberals benefit from their failures and conservatives suffer from their successes.
When conservative policies work to achieve their goals, people no longer see their use and liberals can successfully demagogue them for their imperfections. For instance, the fact that George W. Bush’s post-9/11 national security policies helped prevent a subsequent major terrorist attack on US soil allowed them to be painted as paranoid and counterproductive; Barack Obama thus successfully ran on the promise to close Gitmo and end enhanced interrogation techniques. New York City liberals can now hound the police department for aggressive policies such as stop-and-frisk because they’ve been so successful in reducing crime that many locals don’t fear its demise. Similarly, Republican arguments for lower taxes to boost economic growth fall on deaf ears once they actually work and people no longer see the need to cut pet programs to spur even more growth.
On the flipside, Democratic failures feed off themselves. When, for instance, we see record poverty after decades and trillions of dollars of liberal anti-poverty programs, reforming those programs are seen as cruel. Instead, we are forced to spend yet more to purportedly combat poverty. When corrupt and mismanaged public school systems perform dismally, no politician would dare suggest bringing their bloated spending per pupil in line with successful peers and boosting efficiency. Instead, we see an incessant cycle of additional “investment” and failure. Similarly, when tax hikes fall short of revenue goals because they hinder economic development and chase away wealthy residents, the solution is always to raise taxes even more to raise the necessary cash.
At the heart wrenching Newtown vigil on Sunday, President Obama told us that gun control’s limited effectiveness “can’t be an excuse for inaction.” The irony is that this ineffectiveness may end up being the most useful excuse for liberals to continue their cycle of action.Comment: Image source.