Insane Priorities

Insane Priorities October 12, 2015

“I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away,” Ben Carson wrote.

This, being translated, means “Man was made for the law, not the law for man.” It is a sinful and evil elevation of the worship of the gun over the good of human life. This man is not prolife. He is merely anti-abortion.

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  • CJ

    Or perhaps he believes that the right to life includes defending your life and those of your loved ones with the most effective tools available. Maybe he doesn’t see how punishing millions of responsible, law-abiding citizens stops the irresponsible and the criminal.

    • chezami

      Nobody’s coming to take your guns. Drop this selfish fantasy and attend to the reality of 33,000 dead Americans every year.

      • BHG

        It’s probably worth remembering that we can wish to attend to 33,000 dead Americans in different ways. You disagree with Ben Carson about how to do that. That neither makes you right nor him wrong but your rhetoric sure makes it hard to talk together.

      • Dave G.

        I’m all fine with looking for solutions. But the best solutions take into account all of the conditions – including accounting for those who have their own agendas, agendas that clearly include eliminating gun ownership. And if we think it could never, ever happen? 30 years ago if you told me, who would have been a spry 18 year old at the time, that a woman in the USA could be given the choice to abandon her livelihood or go to jail because she believes in the traditional Christian understanding of marriage, I might have laughed in your face. Since I now can see I would have been wrong for doing that, I have no desire to be wrong about ‘there is no way they could ever take 300 million guns away.’ Sure they could. If history teaches us anything, it’s that with people hellbent on agendas, all things are possible. And since there are people who believe eliminating legal gun ownership could cause more, not less, death and suffering, I can sympathize with Dr. Carson’s opinion.

  • Tom G

    My own opinion is that, if the train wreck that is our nation’s mental health legal system were corrected to go back to the time of involuntary commitment of those with paranoid schizophrenia, then we would probably not be having this gun debate. I am convinced these mass shootings are conducted by those suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

  • jimmy g

    Why in the world would you think that “nobody’s coming to take your guns”? Its just a matter of time.

    • kenofken

      Assuming for a minute that’s true, how does the current NRA strategy of intransigence and reflexive obstructionism serve the long-term interests of gun rights? If you truly believe there is some sort of historical inevitability or underlying political momentum to take away your guns, it seems to me you have only two rational choices: Pre-emptive violence/civil war or getting out ahead of the issue.

      I don’t think there is any real momentum to take away guns because our society is, in the main, pretty comfortable with 33,000 dead each year. There is no significant, real “pro-life” sentiment in this country on the Right, Left or Center. The government isn’t motivated to ban guns on its own initiative because it simply is not scared of private small arms. Its forces hold an overwhelming advantage in weaponry, training and surveillance technology. To the extent that Americans do get sick of the slaughter, a smart gun lobby would get ahead of that issue by making itself the obvious go-to partner in finding solutions.

      If gun owners as a movement demonstrated a real willingness to be part of the solution, to find innovative solutions and to place concern for life above, or even on par with, their hardware fetish, the old-line “magazine capacity and assault weapons-ban” liberals would be finished. The present attitude of the gun lobby that things are OK and that nothing will work but more guns plays into their hands. If and when public sentiment truly tires of mass shootings and the astronomical costs of more mundane gun crime, people are likely to reach the conclusion that private gun ownership is incompatible with public health.

      • chezami

        Which is why, of course, the gun lobby strives to make sure there is not public health analysis of the cost of gun violence just as Planned Parenthood fights parental notification laws. Darkness hates light.

        • Pete the Greek

          The CDC has actually published a paper on this topic at President Obama’s direction. It offers some very interesting points, very balanced, but has been largely ignored by anti-gun groups as it doesn’t tout gun control as a national panacea for all that ails us.

          • Linebyline

            Sounds like something I’d like to read. Do you have a link?

            • Pete the Greek

              Not right here, no. Google it. It will take you a while to find, as most links are to commentary on it not the study itself.

        • You shouldn’t use historical analysis to determine the validity of photosynthesis. You don’t use public health analysis for the study of criminal behavior. Criminal behavior does not follow the same rules or general patterns as epidemiology or infectious disease. After all, criminals have free will, while pathogens do not. And pathogens are at least alive, while firearms are not.

          If you want to understand criminal behavior, you use the tools of criminology. Trying to apply epidemiology or public health analysis to accurately predict the effects of new gun rights restrictions is very much like using opinion polls to accurately predict the effects of carbon offsets on climate change. It will not yield useful results.

          • kenofken

            So we can’t use epidemiology to learn anything useful at all about any public health problem which involves human agency and free will? If true, that pretty much nullifies the entire enterprise of epidemiology and public health as a scientific undertaking. Since John Snow began the modern field of epidemiology in the 1850s tracking down cholera oubreaks in city water supplies, the whole field of study has been deeply involved in studying the behavior of people as those behaviors drive, worsen or mitigate the problems or are changed by the cycles of the disease itself. There is no part of the work which does not grapple with the problems of how human misbehavior, including outright criminality, drive or modify epidemic disease transmission.

            • You’re discussing how criminal behavior affects pathogen transmission, and I have no issue with that, because it’s relevant. Mark is complaining that we don’t apply what we’ve learned about pathogen vectors to how we deal with criminal behavior.

              I suppose one can use epidemiology or public health analysis to study and propose remedies to criminal behavior. One can use a hammer to drive screws, too. The lack of a pathogen, or a contagious disease, makes public health analysis inappropriate.

              • kenofken

                Epidemiology has been used to study non-infectious disease public health problems, and for centuries. Sir Percivall Pott, one of the founders of the modern science of epidemiology, demonstrated the first link between environmental carcinogens and cancer in 1775 when he noticed huge rates of scrotal cancer among chimney sweeps. Epidemiology played a huge role in public health advances in the last century. It’s methods led to the removal of lead from paint and gasoline, the use of asbestos, definitvely established the links between smoking and disease etc.

                Epidemiology is really just about rigorous gathering and analysis of data on the scale of public health. You run the math, you find correlations which strongly suggest cause and effect, and (hopefully), you act on them. It works whether there’s a germ involved or not. It works well enough that it writes the first chapter on new germs long before the microbiologists isolate it or unravel any of its mechanisms. Understanding the biology of the germ is important too, but the greater part of the science focuses on what’s going on with people and their environments when they’re getting sick or dying in numbers. There are even some ways in which social and behavioral problems are analogous to infections disease. When we study sexual or domestic abuse, we find a kind of “transmissibibility” at work. Kids who grow up with these sorts of experiences are at hugely elevated risks of perpetrating these crimes as adults. There is no reason epidimiology can’t work with gun violence. There is, in fact, no way to intelligently address the problem without it, which is what the gun lobby would much prefer. They would like us to believe that gun violence is an irreducibly complex problem like what happened before the Big Bang, and therefore we should quit meddling with things we don’t understand and just arm everyone up.

                • chezami

                  There you go, offering informed commentary and not regurgitating foolish talking points from the gun lobby designed to maintain darkness and folly. What is the matter with you?

      • Pete the Greek

        “If gun owners as a movement demonstrated a real willingness to be part of the solution, to find innovative solutions and to place concern for life above, or even on par with, their hardware fetish, the old-line “magazine capacity and assault weapons-ban” liberals would be finished.”
        – The problem is that the “magazine capacity and assault weapons-ban” kind are all there are. When was the last time a gun control group actually proposed something that wasn’t some hackneyed rerun of a similar policy? They are like internet fundamentalist who constantly resort to the ‘You Catholics worship Mary as a goddess’ charge that’s been refuted so many times that you just stop listening to them.

        “people are likely to reach the conclusion that private gun ownership is incompatible with public health.”

        – If gun ownership was limited to the old stereotype of middle age white guys in rural flyover country, maybe. Bus considering that it is now a thing that spans political affiliation and the sexes (first time buyer women are now one of the biggest markets in the US for firearms) that’s not going to happen.

        • kenofken

          My point is exactly that: Gun control groups are not going to come up with anything smarter than magazine round limits and assault weapons bans. They are wedded to these solutions politically and ideologically. This is a problem, for several reasons. From my perspective, the largest of them is that the old-school liberal position on guns helps maintain the stalemate of non-solutions. Between their unimaginative (and politically delusional) position and that of the NRA, there is really no sane and effective voice for people who value both human life and the basic premise of the Second Amendment.

          The problem with gun owners taking the NRA line is that they are ceding the public safety narrative to the gun ban crowd. The Hillary Clinton/Diane Feinstein folks are not going to pass weapons bans anytime soon, but they are starting to sound like the only voice of reason on the issue, and I don’t think gun owners appreciate how dangerous that is to their position over the long term. Most Americans don’t go in for the liberals full agenda on guns, but when they compare their voice on the issue with the lunacy of Ben Carson’s statements and a gun rights agenda committed to business as usual and opposing background checks, they start rethinking the big picture and wondering which of the extremes is the lesser evil, if they see no middle path.

          I find myself in that position even as a gun owner. The NRA’s positions and attitudes are irresponsible and insane as far as I’m concerned. If the NRA’s position and a much more restrictive regime of private gun ownership were the only choices for our future, I’d opt for the latter at this point. I’d rather not see us left with only those choices, but I think we will be sooner or later if gun owners can’t or won’t craft a healthier culture around firearms and take the lead in offering real solutions.

  • Jared B.

    It sounds to me that he was saying, without our Catholic terminology, that he regards restricting gun rights as an intrinsic evil, something that cannot be done, no matter what proportionate good may come of it. He might be mistaken about that, but that belief doesn’t make him not pro-life.

    Mark Shea himself has been accused, numerous times, of not being pro-life because of his interpretation of Catholic teaching with regard to lying & deception, and the obvious defense is “I believe that this is an intrinsic evil, thus by definition cannot be done no matter your justification, so you’re wrong, I am pro-life. And I am maintaining my integrity of conscience while being pro-life.”

    I think gun rights supporters need some respect for their integrity of conscience too. If they misidentified something as an intrinsic evil, when it isn’t, we can point out their error but we don’t get to accuse them of not being truly pro-life just because they are following their conscience.

  • Pete the Greek

    Since I have neither watched him nor read anything he’s said, I have no frame of reference.

    I will note that there seems to be a basic misunderstanding with the anti-gun people that seems to be near epidemic: It’s a false dichotomy that is put forward that the choice is either some kind of additional silly restrictions that have no effect on anyone except the law abiding (of course they won’t phrase it that way, but that’s the effect) … OR … do absolutely nothing at all. That’s why it’s getting practically impossible to have any kind of conversation with anti-rights people in general on this topic that doesn’t almost instantly devolve into them screaming ‘you like seeing children murdered’ or some such.

  • Mark, it might be interesting to see how most of those 33,000 Americans got shot to death.

    We can discount the suicides. When Canada nearly outlawed gun ownership, the overall suicide rate was largely untouched. The drop in gun suicides was largely replaced with suicides by jumping off bridges. It did not prevent suicide or save lives.

    Now if most of the rest are mostly shot in gang wars over drug territories, then it is prudent to remove their contests from streets and gunfights to the courts, by relegalizing e.g. marijuana, opioids, and cocaine.

    There’s actually precedent for this, in alcohol Prohibition. Alcohol Prohibition moved the production, distribution, and sale of alcohol from well established companies to powerful gangs, who engaged in illegal production and smuggling, corrupted the police, menaced the innocent, and battled in the streets to control the trade. And anyone who wanted alcohol had little trouble getting it. When alcohol was relegalized, the companies that took over the trade engaged in almost none of those harmful activities.

    Today, we have prohibition of marijuana, cocaine, and a number of opioids, with the rest severely restricted. As a result, we have powerful gangs that engage in illegal production and smuggling, corrupt the police, menace the innocent, and battle in the streets to control the trade. And people who want to buy these illegal intoxicants rarely have much trouble doing so.

    Intoxication may not be an intrinsic good, but neither is it an intrinsic evil, like lying, murder, assault, theft, or unchastity.

    The same is true of gun ownership. It is not an intrinsic evil, or necessarily an intrinsic good. But there are a lot of people who derive real, authentic good from owning guns — see gunclock.com for some notion of how many. Granted, it’s from a Ritually Unclean Source of Information, but that doesn’t make them into lying liars who only lie.

    • chezami

      No. We can’t discount the suicides.

      • Then let me be more precise: you cannot save suicides from themselves by making it harder for people to get guns, because experience shows that when suicides cannot get guns, they start jumping off of bridges and tall buildings instead. (Consider, for a moment, which form of suicide is likely to do more harm to society.) If saving suicides is your goal, then further gun restrictions are wasted effort. It may make you feel better, but it doesn’t save lives. And call me weird or anti-life, but I’d say that if it doesn’t save lives, there’s no point in doing it.

        We also have all the evidence that Pete the Greek has presented in previous threads, indicating here in the US, that murders rise as legal gun ownership falls. That may not prove that restricting gun ownership causes or contributes to the murder rate, but it does demonstrate that it very likely does not reduce it. If we’re out to reduce murder, then further gun restrictions are very likely a wasted effort.

        • chezami

          You can, in fact, save a lot of lives from impulsive acts by not having a gun there to make it quick and simple to kill yourself. As prolife people, we should be thinking about strategies for saving lies, not taking the mercy killer’s easy out of “Oh well. They’re bound to kill themselves anyway so we may as well make it easy for them.”

          • Pete the Greek

            “You can, in fact, save a lot of lives from impulsive acts by not having a
            gun there to make it quick and simple to kill yourself.”
            – Then suggest a law targeted at suicidal people that throws up a flag on background checks. Workable?

            • Pete, thanks for clarifying my argument for Mark.

              In truth, I don’t know if this proposal is viable. HIPAA makes it really hard to get hold of a person’s mental health records without their consent. And providing access to the FBI for NICS is absolutely NOT going to fly with behavioral health providers. (edit: Or such has been my experience, working with medical records in a critical access behavioral health agency.)

              Where I am, there is an agency to provide mobile crisis mental health services for people expressing suicidal or homicidal ideation, which bills the state. They do their best to provide support through the crisis, and link the consumer with longer-term providers. It is also possible around here to involuntarily commit people who express a danger to themselves and/or others.

              But as I said above, “What saves people from suicide is Christians expressing the love of Christ to the mentally ill.”

              • Pete the Greek

                As far as the mental illness part goes, I’ll take your word for it as I don’t know enough on the topic to have a good opinion.

                Mass shooting events get far too much press, in my opinion. Yes they are sensational, but comparing with the usual grind of crime, they aren’t that significant.

                As for general crime violent crime: murder, rape, assault, etc. we actually have some fairly good data that is broken down many ways by the FBI Uniform Crime Database.

                The violent crime rate is not the same throughout the US, and the idea of a ‘national’ rate is misleading. It gives people the idea they stand just as much of a chance of being killed if they are a middle age woman living in Provo, Utah as they would if they were a black 19y/o member of the Black Gangster Disciples in east St. Louis.

                There is also the problem of who is committing the crimes, who the victims are and the circumstances of the crimes. This is ignored by most people to the detriment of finding actual solutions to problems. Though I think a lot of this ignorance is willful as paying too much attention might lead to some uncomfortable, very politically incorrect questions.

                People also don’t bother learning about the topic before asserting that they know exactly what needs to be done. Mark does this a lot on this topic. I remember watching a documentary with some people years back that dealt with the infamous North Hollywood shootout. One of the people watching with us asserted that ‘See, this is why we should ban machineguns.’ Lost on him were the facts that civilians have not been allowed to legally buy any new automatic weapons since 1986 (before the shootout), existing versions are strictly controlled and accounted for, and the weapons the robbers used were not American in origin but rather had been smuggled in.

                No one on this blog is going to have their mind changed either way. They have too much of an emotional stake in their position. There may be some… It may sound weird, but I used to be much more on the gun control side than I am now. These days, my opinion can be summed up by Fred Reed: “At bottom, raging against the
                NRA is a convenient way to divert attention from difficult and very
                serious social problems. I’m not impressed.”

          • Mark: Granted, the decision to commit suicide is often impulsive, and acted upon quickly. But depressive disorders are usually persistent and chronic. Second, and third, and fourth, and further suicidal impulses come along, and persons with mental illness go find a high place to jump from.

            Citizen disarmament has not and will not save suicides. It didn’t save any Canadians from suicide, after their government severely restricted gun ownership and destroyed a lot of guns in 1978. It didn’t save any mentally ill people in San Diego, after California imposed extra restrictions on mental patients obtaining firearms. The suicide rates remained flat. See the abstract at http://dx.doi.org/10.1176/ajp.147.3.342

            So while adding gun restrictions doesn’t save anyone from suicide, it’s still worth it? Is that because suicide by gun is intrinsically more evil than suicide by leaping?

            Are you still sure it’s worth it?

            Then let’s ask a second question: At what cost? I’m going to cite gunclock.com again, to state that legal gun ownership has saved people from some (estimate is from Kleck and Gertz’s 1994 study) 1,893,203 criminal assaults so far since January 1, 2015. That is as of 10/12/2015, 9:34:10 PM Eastern Time, and presumes that as even as people legally own more guns, and the number of states with “shall issue” carry concealed weapons laws increases, the prevalence of defensive gun use does NOT increase. And in 91.7% of the defensive gun uses studied, the criminals were not hurt. Just SEEING a gun is usually enough to make them run away.

            So, it’s worth it to not prevent but only temporarily delay some suicides by exposing over two million Americans a year to criminal assault. Remember, there are no choices without costs, only trade-offs among them.

            Gun restrictions don’t save people from suicide. (edit: if they did, Japan would have a world-record low suicide rate.) What saves people from suicide is Christians expressing the love of Christ to the mentally ill. But hey, spend your time lobbying to make government more powerful, and the people less so. When does that ever go badly?

            • chezami

              “No way to prevent this, says only nation where this regularly happens” is your argument, summarized.

              • Pete the Greek

                Rereading his post, it doesn’t seem like he said didn’t say there is ‘no way to prevent this’. It seems to me that he said that more attempts at gun control isn’t going to prevent this.

                I think you will find it easier to talk to people if you actually READ their posts, Mark.

                • Nate Winchester

                  I’m not sure he wants to talk to people. Lecturing must just be more rewarding.

          • Joseph

            Ireland’s suicide rate is just as high as the US and we have pretty strict gun laws (access to guns is extremely limited in urban areas). Ireland also has a distinctive lack of tall buildings. I don’t think you can totally discount Arkanabar’s argument here. Yes, suicide is impulsive, but it’s an impulsive decision after years of thought. If there’s no gun, there’s a tall building, if there’s no tall building, there’s a bridge, if there’s no bridge there’s a cliff, if there’s no cliff, there’s razor blades, bathtubs, drugs, and alcohol.

          • Joseph

            I should add that the only reason the US suicide rates are so high is because they don’t give two shits about their veterans over there. How many of those suicides are veterans who have been abandoned by their country after carrying out orders to do horrible things for evil reasons?

      • Nate Winchester

        Well let’s see here… checking the stats by country:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate

        Britain suicide rate (both sexes combined)? 6.2
        Australia? 15.3
        Canada? 9.8
        USA? 12.1

        We’re actually in between the most popular nations invoked for gun control. And the rest of the developed world is right around that number (like South Korea is right at #2, and Japan at #17) If you go by the 2nd chart on the page, the rates are even closer together.

        Looks like banning guns hasn’t done much to solve suicides in other countries.

        Actually looking at the bottom of the list, the countries with lowest suicide rates are:Egypt, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Jamaica, Oman, Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Suadi Arabia. If we’re going by your “enough deaths invalidate rights” standard of argument then clearly our only option is to do away with freedom of religion and establish Islam as the national faith right now. Any argument otherwise is denying the reality that other faiths just aren’t keeping people from killing themselves and you need to be more pro-life and run to your local imam right now.

        /end sarc

        • kenofken

          I suspect much of the gap between the Islamic states you mentioned and the rest of the world would narrow considerably if we used a more realistic definition of what constitutes “suicide”. It may well be that few Azerbaijanis or Iraquis are found dead by their own hand at home, but essentially every young guy who joins ISIS or other jihadi groups is suicidal. A good many of them are likely to be influenced by the same sorts of depression and rage that drive “normal” suicides. The difference is that hanging yourself at home is seen as disgraceful in these societies, where dying as a “martyr” is revered or at least acceptable. The level of taboo around suicide can also affect how accurately it is reported in a given country. In Victorian England, for example, men in the upper classes never died of suicide, officially. They died in “hunting accidents” (poor chap tripped over his shotgun whilst climbing a hedge). There is also a whole host of cultural and demographic factors that drive suicide rates. South Korea sort of has a perfect storm of negative factors: A disconnected and impoverished elderly population, people who enjoyed economic success for much of their lives and then lost it all in downturns and unemployment, overwhelming academic pressures on young people, and Internet culture in which suicidal kids reinforce each other’s suicidal ideation etc.

          To the main point: If we want to get any meaningful picture of how gun availability really impacts suicide, we need to look at more than the overall suicide rate of different countries. We need to consider the rates of suicide attempts vs completion with different methods and how that plays out in the real world. About 85% of attempted suicides with a firearm succeed. Hanging or related suffocation methods work 69% of the time. Less than a third of jumpers die in the attempts, and most other methods are so unreliable that they almost always amount to cries for help rather than deaths. Cutting and poisioning are way down in the 1%-2% range. In South Korea and other parts of Asia where rural suicides involve highly potent pesticides, the completion rate rises considerably.

          While it’s true that people determined to kill themselves will find a way, it’s also clear that any failed suicide attempt offers a chance of intervention and suicide attempts with firearms offer damn few second chances. Does that mean we should “ban” guns? I don’t think so, but it probably argues in favor of keeping guns locked away and maybe other interventions in communities where gun ownership and gun suicide rates are high. Maybe a suicide attempt should land a person on a “no-buy” list for a few months.

          There is some research which shows that even fairly modest restrictions on availability of suicide tools can work, at least over the near term. In Taiway, carbon monoxide poisioning is a popular method. People just close themselves up in a vehicle or wherever with a charcoal grill going. In New Taipei City just a few years ago, they restricted charcoal sales to see what would happen and compared it with two similar control cities. They didn’t ban it of course, but they took it off open shelves and had it in locked areas so you had to ask for it. Over 20 months, they figured about 90 lives were saved and there wasn’t a compensatory rise in suicide by other methods. It may be that doesn’t translate outside of Taiwan or to firearms, but it suggests that reducing access to methods of suicide is not universally futile.

          • Nate Winchester

            You want to have a sober, logical discussion of facts. Great! My larger point is that Shea definitely does not and his letting his passion on this topic substitute for reason.

            Which is foolhardy because if anything from the last few decades have taught us, it’s that everybody loves to use passion to beat up on religion. If (as established by Shea in his post & followup comments) offense and outrage is the standard by which we take away people’s rights, then he should be quite prepared for the mob to take away his freedom of religion, or the government to take away the 4th amendment next time either can be whipped up into a frenzy.

            Keeping dangerous items out of impulsive hands applies just as much to the law and lawmakers as it does to guns and suicides.

  • Marthe Lépine

    As I was thinking about this absolutely boring debate – for a citizen of another country – about gun ownership, a thought suddenly struck me… Many citizens of your country are insufferably claiming the superiority of your democracy, and some factions of them are even enthusiastic about converting other countries to the good of your democracy, even at the tip of a gun, and no matter the death and destruction it brings on some foreign countries – like Iraq. Then some of the same people claim that your government is going to turn against them and for this reason they need to be armed, and vigilant at all times. Your “democratically” elected government! Who voted them in, again? And it is not really an “if”, but more like a “when”. This sounds, to a foreigner like myself, like a very big disconnect… Is it because of a “them” against “us” perception? If your government is run by the other party than the one you subscribe to, it is a definite menace? This seems very strange, in fact!

    • Pete the Greek

      “are insufferably claiming the superiority of your democracy,”
      – Well in their defense, your country’s BBQ sucks. 🙂

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        Yeah,but peameal bacon is pretty tasty!

    • Joseph

      Is it democracy the US is trying to export? That’s news to me.

      • Marthe Lépine

        I think that, for example, President Bush jr. said it after it was found out that there were no WMD in Iraq. Or he might said something about bringing some sense of freedom to those populations…

    • Captain_America

      I frequently get in trouble by pointing out to the professionally paranoid that “da gummint” is Them, their Relatives, their Neighbors, and everyone else in this Constitutional Republic-Democracy. Further, that if your friends/relatives/neighbors disagree with YOUR concept of Government, it is no reason to arm to the teeth and go off on “survivalist” exercises.
      But, what do I know?

  • ivan_the_mad

    Carson’s statement is that of an ideologue who prizes abstractions over people. The Catholic recognizes the distinction between the human right to self-defense and the American legal right to own firearms; the American conservative really should as well: “A man has always a right to self-defense; but he does not have, in all times and all places, a right to carry a drawn sword” (Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind, p. 22), i.e. “the exercise and extent of these rights can be determined only by prescription and local circumstances” (ibid.). Former Justice Stevens wrote recently of revisiting the Second Amendment (in which he also sketched a brief history of its jurisprudence). This conservative is coming more and more to think modern circumstance does indeed warrant such.

    • Dave G.

      I don’t see how his statement prizes abstractions over people any more than saying ‘we need gun laws’ does. His sees one solution to the problem. Others see other solutions. It’s one of the traits of the political world to imagine I’m simply trying to solve problems, but my opponents supports increased crime. No. Just different solutions and different beliefs about what will get to what both want: a safer society.

      Of course, speaking of common traits in political dialogue, Carson was in the spotlight in the first place because he was initially asked what he would have done in such a shooting. Instead of saying ‘nobody knows what he would do’, he said that if he was about to get shot, he would tell everyone to attack the gunman. Maybe. Who knows? Of course I heard this filtered through the media as ‘Ben Carson has criticized the victims of the Oregon shooting.’ Not really. Not at all in fact. But it shows the danger of letting the popular media approach to debate (I’m awesome and you’re either stupid or evil and don’t care about raped babies), replace a debate that actually wants to solve the problems. Which most on both sides of the debate no doubt would like to do.