The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Most Pressing Issue in 95 Years

The Peace of Versailles, Buck v. Bell, the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor,* the Hitler-Stalin Pact, the Ukrainian famine, the internment of Japanese-Americans, the Tuskegee experiments, the Holocaust,  McCarthyism, the Marshall Plan, Jim Crow, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy Assassination, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Kent State, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Watergate, withdrawal from Vietnam, the Killing Fields, the Iran hostage crisis, the Contras, AIDS, gay marriage, the Iran nuclear deal: These are just a few of the things the New York Times chose not to run front page editorials on.

But, the “Gun Epidemic” in America? That deserves a front-page editorial. Not only that, it deserves to be bragged about that this is the first time since 1920 they’ve run a front page editorial. 

It begins:

​It is a moral outrage and national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.

A few points:

First, you’d think it would be better written, given the pomposity of it all.

Second, you’d think there would be an actual gun epidemic to justify this break from precedent. Gun murders, as Charlie Cooke keeps pointing out, keep going down. That is not to say that the prevalence of spree or mass killings isn’t a serious issue. Such slaughters, separate and apart from the Islamist threat, are extremely troubling and both parties should do more to address them. But given that gun ownership has skyrocketed while gun homicides have gone down, it’s hard to see how the premise of the editorial — never mind its nearly unprecendented placement — can be defended.

Third, while I have no doubt the authors are sincere in their desire to mount a national movement against guns (I also have no doubt they’ll fail), it is impossible to read this as anything other than an attempt to change the subject in the face of all the facts we learned today. These include, off the top of my head:

This was a terrorist attack, the most deadly since 9/11.

The killers were inspired by ISIS, a group the president has insisted is “contained” and only last week said posed no threat to the homeland. 

No remotely plausible gun-control reforms would have prevented the Farooks from killing people.

The immigrant screening process let Jihadi murderer, Malik Tafsheen, into the United States despite the fact she gave a fake address. This happened at a moment when the president — and the New York Times – have insisted time and again that concerns about Syrian refugees amount to little more than xenophobia and know-nothingism. 

One hour before the FBI confirmed this was a terrorist attack the White House still refused to describe it as one. This fact is particularly salient given that the president has always downplayed, diminished, disregarded, and dismissed concerns about terrorism in America. He simply doesn’t want Americans to sweat terrorism.

But he does want Americans to sweat guns. And so does the New York Times.

So, by all means, this is exactly the moment to break a 95-year precedent and run a front-page editorial making the case for reforms that would not have prevented these murders, have no chance of passing Congress, and detract from the most pressing issues of the moment. 

Well done, Gray Lady, well done. 

* I added Pearl Harbor after I originally posted this because, well, Pearl Harbor.

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