Over at the Daily Beast, Megan McArdle has a long, bleakly realistic piece explaining why there’s little we can do — as a public-policy matter — to stop a determined spree killer. Buried within the article is this illuminating statement:
But now is not a good time to have a cost-benefit discussion, and there may never be a good time. The two sides are too far apart: gun control is mostly advocated by people who do not own guns, or want to own guns, and for them it is therefore a zero cost policy. Maybe a negative cost policy, because–apart from the violence–they have a fairly intense cultural antipathy for people who spend a lot of time playing with guns.
This cultural divide is one of the reasons why the Left keeps arguing — despite millions of words exchanged on the subject — that we haven’t had a true “dialogue” about gun control. In reality, we talk past each other because we inhabit parallel cultural and moral universes. In a way, I’m reminded of the environmental and car-safety arguments back in the days when global warming was the Most Important Issue Ever. Prius owners claimed the air would be cleaner and roads would be safer if everyone just drove a Prius (or similar car), while the SUV or pickup truck drivers simply couldn’t see why they should sacrifice their (quite real) safety and transportation needs to achieve a net benefit to the environment or to others so small that it couldn’t be measured with an electron microscope. Even if an all-Prius world were possible, the SUV owner wouldn’t want to live in that world.
As a matter of policy, we are presently at an impasse. The Left simply can’t persuade gun owners they’re safer with more restrictions, nor can the Left paint a picture of a gun-free world that the gun-owner wants to inhabit. As much as the Right argues that arming teachers and administrators would protect kids, enough teachers and administrators are appalled by the idea that it’s simply not going to happen outside the most culturally conservative regions.