Would You Be in Favor of a Government Program That Did Not Work?
In the last few weeks, I have been engaged in two separate conversations on the subject of guns, a topic about which I know very little. As yet, I have made no effort to combine the discussions out of fear that it would not go well. Since both conversations are with friends, that would not be the desired outcome.
Friend A has not previously expressed much of any opinion on the subject of guns, but some of his coworkers had children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Friend B is a person I met more than 50 years ago but have seen only sporadically since. He lives in a rural area and he is a gun owner (at least I am pretty sure he is). We exchange ideas by email quite often.
I am free from doubt as to the good intentions of both, but I am in a quandary because those intentions appear headed in opposite directions. The weekend’s Wall Street Journal did not make it any easier. In an article entitled Why Our Gun Debate Is Off Target, author, Dan Baum, raises a number of interesting points.
“America’s gun owners have every right to object to sweeping controls, but until they take responsibility for their own role in accidents and violence, they are setting themselves up for more regulation.”
“Believe it or not, what’s missing from the current shout fest over guns and gun control is the voice of gun owners.”
“Yes, the National Rifle Association has been screaming its head off since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, but the NRA doesn’t speak for the country’s 100 million gun owners. If it did, it wouldn’t have just 4 million members. Some ‘gun guys’ (as I like to call them) probably support the NRA without joining, but if only 4% are signing up, it’s safe to say a large majority of them want nothing to do with the NRA’s angry extremism.”
Baum describes himself as a “lifelong gun guy who is also a lifelong liberal Democrat,” and he has logged 15,000 miles driving around the country talking with gun owners.
I am fairly certain I will not resolve this issue and I suspect Baum is too though he is at least approaching the question better than most others.
Back to the question “Would You Be in Favor of a Government Program That Did Not Work?” How easy is that to answer? Of course not.
But there are three groups of people who would not answer our question in that way, especially if they were being honest, and they are more important than any of the rest of us.
Group number one consists of the politicians and interest groups who would prefer to stick it to gun owners — who don’t favor their politics — and score a high visibility win. It is irrelevant to them if any program works because it is the win that matters.
Group number two consists of the politicians and interest groups who would prefer not to have it stuck to gun owners — who do favor their politics — and want to avoid a high visibility loss. It is irrelevant to them if a particular program works because it is avoiding the loss that matters.
Group number three has neither politicians nor interest groups on its side, and most are probably unaware that they are even in the largest group of all of them. These are the ones who don’t know what the final word of the question – Would You Be in Favor of a Government Program That Did Not Work? – means. Do we really have any idea what we are trying to accomplish?
At the margins, obviously we do — no school shootings, deer hunters are fine — but what happens when the questions become more tactical? How do we accomplish this or that? Will this idea work or not? Is there any hope of honest science to assist in finding the right answers or will all of the data be spun? Can we even agree upon the goal?
I sincerely doubt friend A wants to take shotguns from duck hunters and I am equally sure friend B opposes the death of innocent children.
According to Baum, “Lacking a national church, Americans have few ways of expressing public morality except by saying, ‘There oughta be a law.’ So both sides of our ‘gun debate’ can think no further than what the government might do.”
Sadly, I suspect there are few in this country who actually know how to solve this problem and they are likely outnumbered by those who profit monetarily or electorally from continuing to have it. Prosperity be upon you, groups number one and two.
Maybe this piece is really not even about guns at all?