The Corner

Politics & Policy

What Kamala Harris Doesn’t Understand About Gun Owners

Senator Kamala Harris launches her campaign for President of the United States at a rally in her hometown of Oakland, Calif., January 27, 2019. (Elijah Nouvelage/REUTERS )

When I read progressive arguments for gun control, I’m struck by how often I’ll see a truly strange line of thought. “If only,” they argue, “you really knew what guns do, then you’d favor greater limits on gun rights.” For example, after a the Parkland shooting, a doctor vividly described the lethality of the AR-15 in the pages of The Atlantic. Her reason for writing? To tell the public what “assault weapons” were really like:

As a doctor, I feel I have a duty to inform the public of what I have learned as I have observed these wounds and cared for these patients. It’s clear to me that AR-15 and other high-velocity weapons, especially when outfitted with a high-capacity magazine, have no place in a civilian’s gun cabinet.

Yesterday, Senator Kamala Harris added her own twist — force politicians to see autopsy photos of dead children:

Sen. Kamala D. Harris, the California Democrat and presidential aspirant, lamented on Monday the lack of congressional action on gun control, saying a solution would have been possible after the 2012 massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., if only lawmakers had been placed in “a locked room, no press, no one, nobody else” and required to examine “the autopsy photographs of those babies.”

“And then,” she said, “you vote your conscience.”

When you read statements like these, it strikes me that there are some people who apparently genuinely believe gun owners are not only ignorant about the lethality of their own guns, they are indifferent to the suffering of their fellow citizens. This is a fundamental and important misunderstanding.

We know what our guns can do, and we zealously protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns precisely because we want to prevent or stop tragedies like Parkland or Sandy Hook. A law-abiding gun owner won’t look at autopsy photos and think, “I have to give up my weapon.” Instead, he’s more likely to grieve that he wasn’t there to try and stop the atrocity. He’ll lament that no armed citizen had the capability or (in the case of the deputy tasked with defending the Parkland kids) the courage to intervene.

America’s gun owners don’t purchase guns for self-defense because we care so little about our families and neighbors. We purchase guns and train ourselves to use them because we care so much. When I served in Iraq, I saw horrifying sights. Modern weapons can do terrifying things to the human body. I do not understand why a person would think that my natural and logical response to seeing those sights would include a burning desire to leave myself defenseless against threats or to further limit the freedom of my family, friends, and neighbors to defend themselves against threats.

If we want to stop mass shootings — and we all do — we should know two things. First, we know that the popular gun-control proposals almost certainly wouldn’t have stopped a single recent mass shooting. Second, we also know that armed citizens have stopped active shooters time and again. Given these realities, I wonder if Senator Harris gets things exactly backwards. Exposure to the effects of gun crime could well increase our national commitment to gun rights. The desire for self-defense is a reasonable and moral response to the evil men in our midst.

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.

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