After every incident of mass murder with a gun, I can reliably count on my FB page filling up with some variation on “No law can remove evil from the human heart” (from which we are apparently to conclude that any attempt to limit the access of lunatics to the technology of mass murder is a waste of time).
It’s only after mass murders with guns that I hear this rhetoric. Nobody says that the mystery of evil makes it futile to try to limit North Korea’s access to the technology of mass death. Nobody talks as though having cops arrest criminals is starry-eyed utopianism. Nobody says “Stealers gonna steal” and concludes that attempts to limit shoplifting with various technological fixes like cameras or mall cops is a refusal to address the fact that sin begins in the heart.
But whenever gun violence breaks out, this beloved trope is right behind, talking as though the very idea of pursuing–among other remedies such as healing families, not inducing pharmacological psychosis, healthier communities, less violent games and media–some sensible way of making it much harder for lunatics to have easy access to the technology of mass death… well, that’s just utopian crazy talk. All we can do is simply roll over and utter pieties about the mystery of evil. This sounds, to the untrained ear, uncommonly like a particularly ridiculous form of special pleading that nobody believes when it comes to any other form of crime.
Note that I am not talking even about registration of guns (though I consider it to be on the table, just as registration of cars is sensible). I’m certainly not talking about the cloud cuckoo fantasy of gun confiscation (which is impossible even if a society were mobilised to do it, which ours is not, and which would be counter-productive from all that I’ve seen). I’m talking about, for instance, building weapons that, say, can’t be fired by anybody but the registered owner (easily within our technological prowess to invent). I’m talking about mandating ways in which to make sure that law-abiding people have access to guns while lunatics don’t. At present, our civilization has made the actuarial bargain, just like an insurance company, that it is willing to put up with a certain number of Auroras, Sandy Hooks, Virginia Techs… as a trade off for maintaining the status quo. I dissent from that bargain. That doesn’t mean I advocate the lunacy of confiscation. It does mean I advocate clearing our minds of such cant as “Our only response to massive acts of bloodshed is to say pieties about the mystery of evil and do nothing.” Such cant at least, should be done away with as we consider how to order the common good here.