Politics & Policy

No, It’s Not Cowardly to Be Conservative on Gun Rights

Display at a gun store in Uniondale, N.Y., in 2013. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
Defending the Second Amendment takes courage, gun-control advocates’ claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

Every single time America is rocked by a mass shooting, the insults come raining down: Conservatives and Republican politicians who oppose new gun-control laws aren’t just wrong, they’re cowards.

The insult is echoed in Congress, on television, and countless times on social media. It’s as if each of these people actually believes that members of Congress and conservative activists know what’s right, but are afraid to act.

Angry voices take an extraordinarily complex social, cultural, and political phenomenon, boil it down to preferred progressive policy provisions, and then declare everyone who opposes their ideas a craven weakling in thrall to the NRA. Yesterday was no exception.

Calls of cowardice came from cable hosts:

From pundits:

From celebrities:

And from professors:

One of the worst aspects of the modern gun debate is the presumption that Republican politicians vote the way they do not out of conviction but out of craven compliance — that they care less about school shootings than they care about NRA campaign dollars or NRA votes. It’s a sentiment that plays very well on Twitter (note the retweets and likes), but it’s detached from reality.

In fact, those making the argument either don’t know or don’t care about the extent to which courage is a cornerstone of gun culture. After all, what good is a firearm if a law-abiding citizen doesn’t have the courage and self-discipline to use it in self-defense or in the defense of his family and neighbors? Countless permit holders don’t just take the time to get carry licenses, they spend hours at the range. They take classes. They aspire to be brave.

Moreover, these insults ignore the fact that conservative politicians consistently advocate government action that they sincerely believe will make a positive difference. Leftist pundits mock the notion that we should arm teachers, yet time and again armed civilians have stopped mass shooters in their tracks. It’s not cowardice to argue that more civilians should be given the chance to arm themselves.

In fact, those making the argument either don’t know or don’t care the extent to which courage is a cornerstone of gun culture.

Nor is it cowardice to argue that we should better enforce existing laws. This is a problem that transcends mass shootings and impacts “regular” gun violence. Prosecutors are notoriously reluctant to prosecute purchasers who lie on background checks, including straw purchasers. We’ve also seen background-check systems fail and multiple instances where law-enforcement officials failed to effectively follow up on leads provided by private citizens that could have prevented an attack.

Conservatives are keenly aware of these failings, and rightfully wonder why there is such confidence that the next legal reform will be more effective than the last — especially when the practical effect is often to inconvenience the law-abiding without offering any meaningful corresponding public-safety benefit.

Finally, it’s not cowardice to note in response to calls for increased gun control that America has seen a sharp decrease in gun violence even as gun laws have liberalized from coast to coast. Given that mass shootings are often the most premeditated of crimes, they may well be the least susceptible to a gun-control solution. A person can easily plan around assault-weapons bans (as the San Bernardino shooters did) and circumvent magazine restrictions. Mass shootings are sometimes planned months and years in advance. Moreover, one shooter inspires the next, creating a contagion that’s hard to control.

The terrible reality is that we don’t have good solutions to this problem. We just don’t. Increased vigilance and governmental competence can stop some shooters. Armed civilians can stop others. Public education about warning signs can prevent a few more tragedies. Each of these things has worked in the past. Each will work again. Calling your ideological opponent a coward hasn’t, and never will.

 

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Most Popular

PC Culture

Hate-Crime Hoaxes Reflect America’s Sickness

On January 29, tabloid news site TMZ broke the shocking story that Jussie Smollett, a gay black entertainer and progressive activist, had been viciously attacked in Chicago. Two racist white men had fractured his rib, poured bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck. As they were leaving, they shouted ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Strange Paradoxes of Our Age

Modern prophets often say one thing and do another. Worse, they often advocate in the abstract as a way of justifying their doing the opposite in the concrete. The result is that contemporary culture abounds with the inexplicable — mostly because modern progressivism makes all sorts of race, class, and ... Read More
PC Culture

Fake Newspeople

This week, the story of the Jussie Smollett hoax gripped the national media. The story, for those who missed it, went something like this: The Empire actor, who is both black and gay, stated that on a freezing January night in Chicago, in the middle of the polar vortex, he went to a local Subway store to buy a ... Read More
World

Ilhan Omar’s Big Lie

In a viral exchange at a congressional hearing last week, the new congresswoman from Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, who is quickly establishing herself as the most reprehensible member of the House Democratic freshman class despite stiff competition, launched into Elliott Abrams. She accused the former Reagan official ... Read More
U.S.

White Progressives Are Polarizing America

To understand how far left (and how quickly) the Democratic party has moved, let’s cycle back a very short 20 years. If 1998 Bill Clinton ran in the Democratic primary today, he’d be instantaneously labeled a far-right bigot. His support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, ... Read More
Elections

One Last Grift for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, the antique Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate, is not quite ready to retire to his lakeside dacha and so once again is running for the presidential nomination of a party to which he does not belong with an agenda about which he cannot be quite entirely ... Read More
PC Culture

Merciless Sympathy

Jussie Smollett’s phony hate-crime story could have been taken apart in 24 hours, except for one thing: Nobody wanted to be the first to call bullsh**. Who will bell the cat? Not the police, and I don’t blame them. Smollett is a vocal critic of President Donald Trump who checks two protected-category ... Read More