The Corner

Politics & Policy

Re: Kevin Drum Misses the Point on Guns

A sheriff puts on tactical gear after a shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., November 14, 2019 in this image from social media video. (KHTS Radio/Reuters)

In response to Kevin Drum Misses the Point on Guns

David Harsanyi’s response to Kevin Drum yesterday said all of the necessary things — except one: That Drum seems to want to have his argument both ways.

Drum writes that:

After any mass shooting, the inevitable conservative reply is “Nothing Dems are proposing would have stopped this particular mass shooting anyway.”

He adds:

The obvious answer is to pass laws that might actually make a difference, but unfortunately conservatives unanimously oppose them all.


You might also want to note that whenever there’s a mass shooting, then by definition the laws currently on the books didn’t stop it. Ditto for murder, robbery, rape, carjacking, and so forth. You can play this juvenile game forever. Pay no attention to it.

The trouble with this line of argument is that it bears no relation whatsoever to how Democrats, gun-control activists, and pro-regulation journalists actually characterize their coveted laws. Why do conservatives point out that the current set of laws didn’t stop “this particular” shooting? Why do they note that nothing that has been proposed would have prevented it either? Simple: Because those who want to change the rules invariably claim otherwise.

The shooting in Santa Clarita provided a perfect example of this tendency. Immediately — immediately — we were told that it was “time” to pass “universal background checks” — which . . . California already has, and which didn’t factor in anyway. Immediately — immediately – we were told that it was time to pass an “assault weapons” ban — which . . . California already has, and which didn’t factor in anyway because an “assault weapon” wasn’t used. Why were we told it was time to do these things? Why, to make sure that Santa Clarita, which was not stopped by either measure, “never happens again.”

This is not my inference; it was made explicit. Within minutes of the news breaking, we were told that the NRA and Mitch McConnell had “blood on their hands” because they had not helped to pass the aforementioned laws at the federal level. To make this connection explicit, Senator Chris Murphy and others drew a hard connection between the events in Santa Clarita and the lack of action in the Senate. That there was no link between the two seems not to have bothered him one whit.

Did it bother Kevin Drum? It doesn’t seem to have. Drum happily concedes that “whenever there’s a mass shooting, then by definition the laws currently on the books didn’t stop it,” and he’s obviously smart enough to understand that the laws that Murphy and co. are proposing to impose federally are the same ones as are already on the books in California. And yet he reserves his ire for . . . the people who point this out. Why?

Indeed, Drum seems primarily to be annoyed by “conservatives” who do not want to “to pass laws that,” in his view, “might actually make a difference.” Given his politics, this is understandable. But shouldn’t he be even more annoyed with the non-conservatives who routinely propose things that Drum concedes don’t matter? Whatever one thinks of us, David Harsanyi and I are extremely open about our views on gun control. Chris Murphy, by contrast, is a weasel. Were Murphy an honest broker, he would say “the laws I am peddling did not work in California, and do not have much to do with most mass shootings, and so, inspired by Kevin Drum, I am going to propose a far more draconian set of regulations that directly intersect with the cases that I intend to use to sell them.” But he won’t. Instead, like Pavlov’s senator he’ll react to each and every case in the same way: by pretending that his proposed solutions have anything to do with the ill to which he’s pointing. And Kevin Drum, instead of calling him out for it, will be sure to berate those who have the gall to notice the trick.