Politics & Policy

CNN’s Shameful Town Hall

From left: Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Bill Nelson, and Rep. Ted Deutch on stage at the CNN town hall meeting, February 21, 2018. (Michael Laughlin/Pool/Reuters)
It was a clarifying moment on guns.

CNN recently hosted an anti-gun town hall featuring a number of grieving children and parents from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who aimed their ire at the National Rifle Association, politicians peripherally associated with the NRA, and anyone who didn’t say exactly what they wanted to hear. It was an event where a student could compare Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) to a mass murderer and question whether NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch truly cares about her children, without ever being challenged.

I hope CNN got the rating it was looking for, because it’s almost guaranteed that NRA membership and gun sales are about to spike.

Between all the demonizing, heckling, sophistry, gaslighting, platitudes, and emotional appeals, members of the crowd — people who should never be the target of conspiracy theories or ad hominem attacks but shouldn’t be exempted from a real debate either — booed a rape survivor’s story and cheered at the idea of banning “every semi-automatic rifle in America.” Maybe someone will ask them whether they support banning every semi-automatic in America period, since the latter is responsible for the preponderance of gun homicides. One death is too many, after all.

Whatever the case, these young people are about to be hit by a harsh reality, because banning semi-automatic rifles or handguns is not only impractical and likely unconstitutional but, for many millions of Americans who worry about the Second Amendment, also highly undesirable.

Yet a star-studded lineup of liberals, many of whom are funding the activism of Parkland students with big checks, cheered with them. Do they all agree that every semi-automatic rifle in America should be banned? Do they agree that anyone who supports legal semi-automatic rifles has “blood on his hands”? Someone with access should ask.

What we do know is that the entire liberal political class couldn’t stop praising the activism and lack of “cynicism” displayed by these kids (a selective admiration reserved for those who coincidentally align with their positions). The kids were indeed earnest, even if they were generally uneducated about gun laws, legal process, and the underpinning of the Second Amendment — which is to be expected. Those who use them as political shields, on the other hand, are cynical. Those who put them on TV to participate in a national Airing of Grievances are cynical. Those who point to the bodies of victims and argue with every American who refuses to accept the Left’s framing of the issue are the ones who deserve contempt.

What we’ve learned from the events of the past few days is that most liberals are uninterested in a holistic answer to school shootings — a unique problem detached from general violent crime, rates of gun ownership, region, or age. While there is no cure-all, a mix of improved background checks, a better reporting system, better law-enforcement reaction to threats, more community involvement, and mental-health reform could lower the number of shootings. Pulling back from the massive wall-to-wall coverage, which probably helps glorify these shooters for the next madman, might also help.

Yet as far as I can tell, banning or inhibiting gun ownership seems to be the only answer for the Left.

For instance, while we can never truly quantify how many shooters are dissuaded by new laws or restrictions, we do know some mass shooters can be stopped by armed Americans. It happens all the time. Why shouldn’t teachers and others who have a constitutional right to protect their homes and families do the same for their students? The dismissive, sneering reaction to that idea by most of the media and Democrats was telling. Now, I understand some Americans don’t want to send their kids to schools with armed teachers. That should be their choice. But the idea that a trained concealed-carry permit holder or guard couldn’t possibly stop or mitigate the damage done by a mass shooter defies reality.

So a real divide exists in America, not between those who want to “do something” and those who don’t, but between those who believe there is a natural right to own and defend oneself with a weapon — preferably a semi-automatic weapon — and those who do not. The latter position seemed to be prevalent among the young people at the town hall, and certainly among their cheering section. While I feel great sorrow for these kids and worry about my own, I have no moral duty to be on their side politically.

 

While I feel great sorrow for these kids and worry about my own, I have no moral duty to be on their side politically.

More immediately, events like the CNN town hall go a long way in convincing gun owners that gun-control advocates do have a desire to confiscate their weapons. The advocates can’t confiscate weapons right now, so they support whatever feasible incremental steps are available to inch further toward that goal. We don’t know how this plays out in the long run. In the short run, though, it does nothing to stop the next school shooting.

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David Harsanyi — David Harsanyi is a senior editor of the Federalist and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun, From the Revolution to Today

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