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My Funny Valentine



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Over at Salon, Matt Valentine feels hard done by. After he “dared to critique gun activists’ agenda,” he writes, mean conservatives picked on him. Those conservatives included yours truly, who, Valentine records, accused him

of making several improbable “predictions” about what will happen in Texas if the state legislature removes current restrictions on open carry. Actually I made no predictions whatsoever. I described some real-life incidents involving open carry, and discussed the way people generally behave when they see or hold a weapon (These aren’t predictions, but rather observations documented through 40 years of empirical research, conducted by social scientists at major universities and published in peer-reviewed journals).

This is slippery nonsense. The purpose of Valentine’s piece was to suggest that open carry is a bad, dangerous, and new idea. And the means by which he set about trying to show this was to first discuss a bunch of research that apparently shows that seeing firearms makes people more violent and prone to lethal reaction, and then to move into a discussion of open carry laws. “All of us – not just criminals — will be affected by seeing guns in our everyday environment,” Valentine wrote, before insinuating that we are on the cusp of discovering what this will be like. 

I called Valentine out because, as I wrote at the time, he disingenuously saw fit to rely “wholly on theory and prognosis,” and because he suggested that

the “real world effects of open carry might soon be tested in the largest lab yet — the state of Texas.”

Thing is, we don’t need the effects to be tested in the “real world.” Why? Because:

open carry is already unequivocally the law in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming, and, with varying restrictions, the law in Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Utah. I understand that Valentine writes for Salon, which regards Texas not only as separate from the rest of the country but as a veritable workshop of evil in America, but he could at least have acknowledged that the rest of the country has already tried this, and that it has not yet descended into anarchy and bloodshed.

This is critical. The suggestion that we’re about to find out what happens when you allow people to carry pistols is inherently silly. We know what happens. Cite studies if you want. Call your views “science” if you wish. Tell people what the laboratory shows that guns cause violence if you must. But, here in the real world, the predictions of psychologists have to take a backseat to the indisputable fact that the liberalization of gun laws has coincided with a massive drop in gun crime. If Valentine doesn’t think that the liberalization has caused the drop in crime, then he should say so. But that would first require acknowledging that there has been one.

Valentine finishes off his little diatribe by discussing Dick Metcalf, the Guns and Ammo writer who was fired for writing an op-ed in which he supported some gun control:

If people like Metcalf and Zumbo had been allowed to speak freely, they might have bridged some of the cultural divides that make guns such a divisive issue in this country, and brought a calming effect to the debate. Which would be bad for business, because reasonable compromises deflate the hysteria that drives buyers in droves to gun dealers, cash in hand, every time there’s national debate about gun reform.

Metcalf, Valentine says is different than me. Why? Because I am a crazy like Alex Jones:

Commentators like Charles Cooke and Alex Jones want their audiences to think that journalists are waging a deliberate culture war, inciting panic and antagonizing gun owners who just want to be left alone. And to be fair, some journalists seem to be doing exactly that — often at their own peril.

In which case, perhaps Valentine can explain to me why I took to print staunchly to defend Metcalf and to criticize as “rotten” the forces that wanted him silenced?

Didn’t think so.



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