I have been a member of the National Rifle Association for decades and have supported most of their policies regarding Second Amendment rights. I still do. The right of individuals to keep and bear arms is not unlimited, but like other fundamental rights protected by our Constitution, limitations must be more than reasonable. They must address a compelling governmental interest. And even more, they must be narrowly tailored to further that interest.
Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan recently said something to the effect that we did not ban airplanes after 9/11, so why should we ban guns after miscreants misuse them. Most analogies break down if pushed too far, and I’m not sure Mr. Jordan’s is completely on point. I do believe, however, that some measures should be taken by Texas to reduce the likelihood that firearms will not get into the wrong hands.
Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins last week wrote a column in which he suggested that social media could consider developing algorithms to flag extremist and violent threats, and provide them to law enforcement, and perhaps other public services. This would not be probable cause for arrest or the basis for disarming certain individuals that make threats, of make other intemperate remarks but law enforcement could pay them a visit and interview them, and alert possible targets. This might be worth considering. If such individuals are aware that there being looked at — known to the police — it might have some deterrent effect.
One aspect of the Uvalde perpetrator’s obtaining his weapons from a licensed dealer should be examined. This guy purchased two AR-15 platform rifles, one of which retails for more than $1800. No AR retails for less than around $1000. Ammunition is also expensive. Buying them off the street would not have cost much less, if not more. Where did a 18-year-old unemployed school dropout obtain that kind of money? Did he steal it, perhaps from his grandmother, who he shot? Anyway, legal or not, a licensed dealer should have recognized, and use some discretion, or at least expedited notification of the sale of multiple firearms to one person. If this transaction was not a red flag, there’s no cows in Texas.
Another possible measure could be to raise the age requirement for firearms purchase or unsupervised possession to 21. Though the age of adulthood has been 18 for the past half-century or so, alcoholic beverages cannot be purchased until age 21. That is not to say that underage individuals would not be able to obtain weapons — they certainly do obtain alcohol. Nevertheless, it would give law enforcement another tool.
Speaking of law enforcement, police at all levels have been compromised by the perception perpetrated by the political left that use of force is always suspect. No doubt there has been some overreaction by law officers, including the ones in the notorious 2020 Minneapolis situation, but they all involved individuals who were committing a crime, egregiously disturbing the peace, or resisting arrest. None of the so-called victims of police brutality could have been described as model citizens. The net effect has been reluctant for police to be proactive in attempting to prevent crime. When law enforcement breaks down, vigilantism is bound to take over. No sane person would want that.
As for the proliferation of firearms, it will continue. There are gun shows in this state several times each month. If there is one this weekend, it probably would be necessary to park in a ZIP Code away from the location to attend. The shows always have signs nominating prominent a number of public personas for gun salesman of the year — I understand Joe Biden is the current front runner. (Perhaps it should be pointed out that there is no “gun show loophole” in the identification and background checks by attending dealers. Individual private sales, whether by those attending, either there or elsewhere on the street occur on a daily basis. Anyway, selling a firearm to an individual who is ineligible to buy or possess one, is a crime whether one is a licensed dealer or not.)
Many of those supporting severe restrictions on purchase and possession of guns, or types of guns and accessories, try to compare the United States with other nations. They often bring up Great Britain and Australia. This is not helpful. No other country in the world has a multiplicity of cultures and demographics that the United States has. Australia banned most firearms after a particularly horrible mass shooting. It is pointed out that there had been one in that country since. What is not typically pointed out is that Australia did not have very much violence, and hardly any mass shootings, prior to enacting that measure. Perhaps a more useful comparison might be with the Czech Republic where restrictions on firearms and the number of owners is comparable to the U.S. There is very little violence involving firearms in that country. It, of course, is culturally homogenous.
The increase of violence, with or without the use of firearms, here in the United States over the past several decades is doubtless a result of many factors. The proliferation of guns in the hands of ordinary citizens is more the effect of these causes, rather than the other way around. One possible culprit to be examined, though little can be done about it, is social media itself. That phenomenon has all of the drawbacks of living in a village, without the benefits. In the 1960s, Marshall McLuhan wrote extensively about media, which he called the extensions of man. McLuhan was observing broadcast radio and television, as well as refinement of all telecommunications. He didn’t foresee the half of it. McLuhan also coined the term “global village” to describe what was coming. Advantages of living in a village or small town include social and economic cooperation, and informal mores and folkways that make for a pleasant quality of life. One of the drawbacks of living in such a place is that everybody knows everybody else’s private business. Nags and busybodies rule the roost. Those whose activities, expressed opinions, or even thoughts are disfavored or ostracized. Eccentricity, no matter if plainly harmless, is not tolerated. The ultimate sanction, of course, is shunning.
An observation made after one of the previous school shootings was that a small number of human beings are insane. There’s really nothing to be done. The “do something” cry is as insipid as the “thoughts and prayers” mantra. Not sure how this will shake out, but it has been in the making for a long time.