Four years ago today, I was wondering when we'd get tired of mass killings:
The Izzard Quandary
Saturday morning early I sat down with a bowl of soup after work to catch the news. It was full of the first wave of reporting of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado.
Piers Morgan, at CNN, had a panel of guests that included a Cato Institute fellow who's also a Colorado academic. His name was Kopel. Morgan made the point that the time to talk about gun control seriously would have been, oh, sometime Friday. But as far as he was concerned, the case had been made by events. At most, you could talk about what to do when crazy people do crazy things. Well, actually, just the one in question in the Aurora incident. And it was really too soon to do that, too. We don't know enough about why he's crazy and did crazy things.
Professor Kopel demurred. Now was not the time, he said. Families and friends were grieving, the facts were still being assayed by the authorities.
Morgan wasn't having any of it, and more or less abandoned Kopel to talk with the other two panelists for the rest of the segment.
Later, as I got ready for bed, I was listening to The Insomniac's Nightmare, Coast to Coast AM. Host John B. Wells acted as ringmaster for a long open topic segment. The mostly male callers were brimming over with Second Amendment Remedies, as one-time US Senate candidate Sharon Angle used to call it. Almost all took one line of argument: if there had been a bunch of guys with guns in the theater, the body count in Aurora would have been much lower. It'd deter crazy people from doing crazy things in the future- presumably, by dusting off the old make-em-wonder-if-I'm-crazier Richard Nixon used to remind the Communists he had his finger on the Bomb, too.
At that point, I changed channels. I was getting restive.
I'm not sure where I stand on all of this. I don't automatically default to the position that every problem has a government-mandated solution. On the other hand, my experience has been that the louder a person gasses on about the right to keep and bear arms, the less he or she knows about the Constitution.
So as the story has unfolded, I've been circling back to Piers Morgan's question: when will be the good time to debate gun control? More particularly, how many people killed by a nut will be enough? And one more: how many guns in America will make us safe?
I don't presuppose answers to any of those. I'd really like someone to quantify them for me. Under what conditions can a debate about gun control be held, and what determines those optimum conditions? If 70 casualties are not a long-enough butcher's bill, how many will it take to reach the tipping point? If we're still not safe with all the hundreds of millions of guns and trillions of rounds sloshing about the US, how many will be enough? What kinds of guns ought we all to have? Should we- if they will, indeed, make us safe- impose an individual mandate to require Americans to buy guns and make themselves safe?
Weren't all those moviegoers just free riders? They went to a midnight screening and didn't bring any guns. If they were packing heat- even a few- they would have been able to blink out of their absorption with the film, get up, find the shooter through clouds of teargas, and spray a few hundred rounds each of their own, all in the second or two it took for the alleged killer to let slip a big magazine of his own.
Part of what troubles me about the idea we've not yet reached too many deaths at the hand of one gunman: there are economies of scale that must surely take over and we begin to drift into mass murdered territory. Eddie Izzard's famous monolog comes to mind: