The Corner

Law & the Courts

Quick! Act Before Anyone Can Debate You

In coverage of the New Zealand massacre, I keep seeing variations on the same argument — usually made by the same guy. This particularly egregious example comes from the Guardian:

Gun control experts have urged New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern  to act swiftly to enact stricter firearms laws in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack to prevent the pro-gun lobby from being able to weaken the reforms.

. . .

[University of Sydney gun control expert Philip Alpers] said that Ardern had the opportunity to introduce sweeping gun reform, starting with the restriction of semi-automatic rifles and the creation of a central gun register, provided she acted quickly.

“If Jacinda Ardern moves as quickly as [former Australian prime minister] John Howard did [when he banned guns following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre], and she does it in 12 days, the probability is that she will be able to do what she wants to do,” Alpers said.

Tim Lister’s CNN “analysis” also features a quote from Alpers:

“The gun lobby is already talking about consultation, no knee jerk reactions. ‘Come out to the gun range and see were good people,’ and that has the effect of watering down every gun law that’s been tested,” says Alper. (sic)

In every story in which he is quoted — and there are a lot — Alpers says exactly the same thing. And if he doesn’t, the author of the “analysis” usually makes the case for him on his own, and declines to include a rebuttal. That case? “Quick! Do something before anyone can object.”

One doesn’t have to be opposed to strict gun control — as I am — to find this both dangerous and a little creepy. Indeed, I am struggling to imagine to many other circumstances in which the suggestion would be as uncritically repeated. Some of the worst legislation in all of history has been passed in the middle of crises or in the immediate aftermath of tragedies that engendered extreme emotional responses. Invariably, “don’t listen to the naysayers” is bad, bad advice. So, too, is “If the government is swift, it can do exactly what it wants to do.” And as for “don’t let the dissenters show you they are good people” . . . well, I’ll let you decide whether you want to live any country that heeds that counsel.

Patience, consultation, consideration — these are not bad words. Haste? That’s the enemy of freedom — and of good government, too. Thank goodness that our system tends to be slow. All praise to our checks against the transient and the frenzied.

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