What they're saying: Gun control is irrelevant

A conservative pretends gun massacres have nothing to do with guns

By Alex Halperin
Published August 6, 2012 8:59PM (EDT)

There have been enough mass shootings in this country that it’s become possible to divide the Republican response into established sub-genres. The provocateurs get the most attention for saying that the victims could have saved themselves if only they’d been armed. But there's a subtler conservative approach that refuses to acknowledge any connection between the weapon and the crime, as if disturbed individuals could wreak the save havoc with slingshots and butter knives as they do with legally purchased semi-automatic weapons.

This species of argument --  it might be called "Guns-don’t kill people, they do" -- conveniently exonerates gun rights types  from any responsibility for, or even connection to, massacres carried out with guns. After the Aurora shooting, Charles C. W. Cooke provided the following example in National Review.

This crime was ultimately about people. It was about the shooter, the victims, and their families — and very little else besides — and we would do well to avoid breathlessly proposing radical changes to our constitutional order because a man abused his liberty. Those with evil in their hearts are prone to do evil things, and those willing to violate strict prohibitions against murder do not care much about regulation of firearms or much else. As such, unless the shooter was part of a bigger conspiracy or was systematically failed by an institution, our attentions might be better focused on Aurora, Colo., and not on any particular group, or — even worse — the whole citizenry of the United States.

This brand of anti-logic could be applied to Sunday’s Oak Creek shooting as well. Evidence is emerging that the alleged gunman has ties to white supremacist groups but as of Monday afternoon there wasn't any suggestion at National Review that those groups deserved "attentions." In fact this reader couldn't find any reference to the killings at all.

Readers can contribute suggestions for future What They’re Saying posts to whattheyresaying at salon.com.

Alex Halperin

Alex Halperin is news editor at Salon. You can follow him on Twitter @alexhalperin.

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Gun Control Oak Creek Shooting Sikhism Things They're Saying