Ben Boychuk: For anti-gun zealots, it’s just the thought that counts

Published: Saturday, Sep. 21, 2013 - 12:40 am

Sen. Dianne Feinstein wasted no time demagoguing the Washington Navy Yard shooting spree that left 12 innocent people dead along with the gunman. For California’s senior U.S. senator, the opportunity to rehash the usual policy clichés was simply too rich to let pass.

“There are reports the killer was armed with an AR-15, a shotgun and a semiautomatic pistol when he stormed an American military installation in the nation’s capital and took at least 12 innocent lives,” Feinstein said Monday in a prepared statement released mere hours after the crime occurred, while investigators were still sorting out the details. “This is one more event to add to the litany of massacres that occur when a deranged person or grievance killer is able to obtain multiple weapons – including a military-style assault rifle – and kill many people in a short amount of time.”

As we now know, the reports were wrong. Aaron Alexis didn’t use an AR-15 in his attack. He had a pump-action shotgun, purchased legally, and apparently picked up the handguns from his victims. Yet as of Friday, Feinstein’s statement remained on her website intact, her remarks neither revised nor extended.

What gun control proponents may lack in shame, they more than compensate for in earnestness. Feinstein urged Congress to “stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country.”

I don’t believe for a moment that Feinstein is interested in a “thoughtful debate” about guns, and neither should you. What she wants is unilateral disarmament. What she doesn’t have is the votes to coerce her preferred outcome.

But why should she let facts get in the way of her talking points? Apparently, it’s the thought that counts.

Feinstein wasn’t alone. The New York Daily News printed a huge banner headline on its front cover Tuesday, accompanied by a photo of the much-maligned AR-15: “SAME GUN DIFFERENT SLAY.” Daily News columnist Mike Lupica penned an emotional, over-the-top column calling the AR-15, “the rifle for the ‘sport’ of hunting humans.”

Everyone makes mistakes. But by Tuesday, when the facts had become clear, the Daily News editors decided not to retract Lupica’s column. Instead, they appended a note online: “Mike Lupica’s column was written Monday when The Daily News and The Associated Press among many others reported, using reputable law enforcement sources, that the shooter Alexis had used three weapons including an AR-15.”

In other words, plenty of other journalists got it wrong, too. Remember, it’s the thought that counts.

Meantime, anti-gun CNN host Piers Morgan embarrassed himself at length Monday night on his program and on Twitter. After prattling on about the evils of the “AR-15 shotgun,” Morgan tweeted Tuesday: “Lots of confusion over exactly what guns Wash Navy Yard shooter used. But do you think it matters to the victims?”

Right. Don’t trouble us with the particulars. It’s the thought that counts.

And the thought – muddled though it may be – is that spree shootings such as the recent one in Washington, D.C., could be prevented if only we had “common sense” gun control, more background checks, more licensing, and more restrictions.

The thought leads to irrational, illiberal policies. Just last month, for example, the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees ratified a rule banning civilians from carrying guns on campus. Trustee Scott Svonkin had discovered to his horror that the National Rifle Association offered gun safety courses on two LACC campuses (Pierce College and Harbor College), and that simply could not stand.

“The one thing we wanted to prevent was Pierce College being the wild, wild West,” Svonkin told the Los Angeles Daily News. “By preventing guns on campus, I wanted to prevent people who took the class from shooting a horse or cow on campus.”

Had any cows or horses been shot at Pierce in the classes’ five-year history? Do we even have to ask?

What makes LACC’s policy even more mystifying is that it was inspired in part by a spree-shooting incident near Santa Monica City College in June that ended on campus with five dead plus the shooter. The trustees seem to think a “gun-free zone” sign at the college entrance would have deterred the gunman – a 23-year-old with a history of mental illness – from carrying out his bloody plot.

The Navy Yard is a gun-free zone, too. So is practically all of Washington, D.C. That didn’t seem to bother Alexis, who, by the way, passed his Virginia background check when he bought his shotgun.

Truth is, we don’t have a gun problem in this country. We have a freedom problem. For gun control proponents, too many people simply have too much liberty. There will always be people who assert that the loss of one innocent life cannot possibly justify the right to keep and bear arms. But it’s a false choice, and most Americans know it.

So we get what we had this week: more disingenuous talking points, more clichés – and precious little thought.


Ben Boychuk is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Contact him at bboychuk@city-journal.org.

Read more articles by Ben Boychuk



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