Baum's not Wayne LaPierre. He describes the N.R.A. as "a hideous organization." He's comfortable with requiring gun locks and punishing gun owners (assuming you can identify them, since he disapproves of registration) whose guns weren't locked up and get stolen and used in crimes. He wants folks who carry guns to be well-trained.
I think somebody who wants to carry a gun should be at least as well trained as the police. Right now, for example, if I wanted to carry a gun, my permit would be good in 30 states. But in every state it’s different. I can wear it in a restaurant in this state, but not in that state. In this place, I can take it near a school, but in that place I can’t. Flip the script. Say, “If you get licensed to carry a handgun, you can carry it anywhere. But you have to be trained at least as well as a police officer.” Do you worry when there’s a police officer in your kid’s school? No. You trust the police officer. Trust gun owners. Raise everybody’s level of responsibility instead of treating them like children. It’s getting us nowhere.Of course, we could point to serious evidence that the cops aren't all that well-trained, so he's not exactly setting the bar high. Still, he'd set it.
But this isn't a post about what's wrong with guns. I've made my position clear (I hope) before. I hate guns. I'd be a much happier camper if there were none. Confiscate and destroy all 300 million in private hands. And take them away from the cops, too. But it won't happen, and the Constitution, through the Second Amendment, says it shouldn't.
And one more time (because I've said it a number of times before), the Second Amendment isn't about protecting the right to hunt or shoot skeet or protect yourself and your loved ones from grizzly bears or burglars or Indians. It's about having weapons to protect yourself from the government - and to engage in revolution against that government. (Of course, the Five Who Decide in Heller didn't say that. Because they are the government, after all, and because they like to protect themselves against burglars and to go hunting with the Veep.)
All that is, as I said, the set up. This isn't a post about Baum or gun rights or the N.R.A. It's about something closer to how Phil Ochs described liberals:
Ten degrees to the left of center in good times. Ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally.It's about silly ideas like banning the Big Gulp. And it's about, really about, the anti-civil-libertarian liberal's belief that there's no risk so slight that it isn't worth losing our liberty over.
Baum apparently argued in Gun Guys that a focus on banning assault weapons was misguided (or worthless or silly or something) because, says Nocera, "very few people are killed with them." Which leads to this.
DAN: That is true. They’ve been used in these big high-profile mass killings, no doubt about it. But there were no assault rifles at Virginia Tech or Fort Hood.And what's striking is that Nocera hasn't a clue about why that's a problem. Forget the merits of banning assault rifles (and please, forget the arguments about whether the weapons at issue are actually assault rifles). Focus instead on the point. It's ok, desirable, vital even to "take extraordinary measures, limiting people's personal freedoms" to protect against statistically insignificant risks.
JOE: But assault rifles were used in Aurora and Newtown. And here is my larger point. When I talk to gun absolutists, they claim that we shouldn’t make such a big deal out of mass shootings because they are statistically insignificant. But so what? We have turned this society upside down because 3,000 people died on 9/11. In the scheme of things, that number is also statistically insignificant. Yet we take extraordinary measures, limiting people’s personal freedoms, to prevent another act of terrorism on our soil. Besides, we enact regulations all the time designed to keep people safe, even when the number of people who have been harmed is small.
Ben Franklin put it well.
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.And then there's Ochs.