I believe that, after an event like Newtown, the Left turns to gun control for this reason: Taking on guns is easy for them, though maybe not politically — it’s easy for them emotionally and socially. Taking on other things is much harder — even inconceivable.
How about deinstitutionalization? Is that something they would ever want to revisit? Could they countenance reinstitutionalization? There was an ethos, once upon a time, of, “The real crazies are on the outside, not on the inside. We lock people up for being different, marching to their own drummer . . .”
Taking on Hollywood violence, video-game violence — that is hard, very hard. Censorship! Comstock! Squares! Elvis’s pelvis!
As I mentioned in a recent article, Al and Tipper Gore dabbled in a kind of social conservatism for a brief moment in the 1980s. Tipper even wrote a book called Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society. But they were so ridiculed by all the cool cats that they dropped the cause immediately — and rose in the Democratic party.
You may remember what a lot of us conservatives said in the 1990s: The Left argues until it’s blue in the face that Hollywood violence, depravity, and sexuality have no effect on children. Why, this is just entertainment! Lighten up. The kiddies can watch mass killing all the day long, and remain completely unaffected. But the mere sight of Joe Camel will hook ’em on cigarettes for life.
I don’t think they ever resolved that hypocrisy.
Finally, moral character — the Left, and indeed the country at large, would rather chew on glass than talk about, or think about, moral character. With the word Falwell!, the question is shouted down.
So . . . guns. Guns, they can deal with. All the opprobrium, all the blame, falls on the instrument. When hearing about something like Newtown, I always find myself wishing that someone nearby had been armed. The killer in Norway went on and on, killing child after child, for an hour and a half. No one could bring him down. No one was armed. Not long before that, a staffer at the Norwegian Nobel Institute had informed me, with some pride, that Norway’s police were unarmed. This was part of what made Norway a “peaceful” nation.
My thoughts on Newtown and what I take to be the coming gun control were crystallized by reading Mona Charen, Dennis Prager, and others on this site. (What a gratifying site NRO is, by the way.) Bear with me while I relate a memory, from Davos, some years ago.
Almost the whole conference was devoted to global warming — this was in 2007, I believe. It was as if global warming were the only issue in the entire world (whatever we may think about the subject). At the same time, much of the world was under attack from radical Islam. There was markedly little discussion of that. European societies were being transformed before our eyes — no discussion.
Standing up to radical Islam is hard for our elites. Standing up to America, capitalism, “polluters,” “Big Oil” — easy-peasy. A sheer pleasure. The wolf was at the door, and the householder preferred to cry against a bad paint job or something. He simply couldn’t bear to think about the wolf. Or he blamed others for riling the wolf.
Taking on mental illness, the entertainment world, moral character — hard. Accepting that not all evil can be managed by policy — hard(ish). Guns — so, so easy. Cheap, you might say.