in which i do a bad impersonation of cathy young*

The two most common arguments I've heard in response to the Aurora shootings (and for that matter, every other high-profile incident of gun violence in my lifetime):

"Bad people will always do bad things, and there is only so much you can do to stop them. Holmes was determined to kill many people indiscriminately, as evidenced by his booby-trapping of his apartment. If anything, someone carrying that night might have been able to stop him.  More restrictive gun laws would not have stopped this."

"It is absurd to assert that there is no connection between easy access to high-powered weaponry and its use in killing large numbers of people. Sure, people determined to kill other people may likely find other means to do so, but that doesn't mean that we have to make it easier for them. We need more restrictive gun laws." 

Other than their conclusions (which are mutually exclusive), I really don't see why both arguments are not largely correct. Bad people will always be around to do bad things. Criminals do not follow the law by definition. And the horrific scale of the worst of these sorts of crimes is an utterly predictable consequence of a culture in which owning an AR-15 is a god-given right.

It is naive in the extreme to think that trigger locks or registries will deter a determined killer. And it is borderline psychotic to think that two (or three, or four) guns firing in the theater in Aurora would have improved the situation, unless one of the additional gunmen was well-trained in close-quarters combat. A CCP does not make you Bruce Willis. (For that matter, neither does being Bruce Willis.)

Maybe, one of these days, when we aren't reacting in the heat of the moment, when we aren't digging in, when we aren't trying to score points in the debasing game of politics, we can have an adult conversation about gun policy. I think it would be really, really important to cut through all the rhetorical bullshit and make an honest and dispassionate attempt to answer three questions:

1. What is the relationship between private ownership of firearms and the use of firearms in violence?

2. Does restricting private ownership of firearms lead to positive returns to public safety, or not?

3. How do you craft policy that reflects the best answers to questions 1 and 2 within the legal framework created the second amendment to the US constitution?

Unless and until we can do that, we're going to hear the same inane arguments every time something like this happens. And it happens a lot.**

I am not holding my breath.

*Cathy Young is a long-time contributor to reason (among other publications) whose columns have the predictable cadence of an episode of Law and Order, in which she presents both sides of an argument as more or less equally meritorious, pointing out where each fails to take seriously the best points of the other. If you can find a single column of hers that does not follow this formula, I will be amazed. While I think this is a good exercise, generally, sometimes one side really does have a stronger argument. You would not know this from reading Ms. Young. She is the epitome of a mind so open that things start to fall out.

**I know, I know...a link to the Brady Campaign in a piece where I'm arguing for serious, data-based consideration without grinding axes. Fair enough. But that document I'm linking to is pretty much just raw data. Really, see for yourself.

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