Sunday, February 18, 2018


Ross Douthat thinks we can't find middle ground on guns because both sides are full of moral zealots:
The reason that mass shootings aren’t leading to legislative action is that we have a chasm between two sweeping moral visions, one pro-gun and one anti-gun, that is now too wide to be easily bridged by incrementalism.
No, that's not why mass shootings aren't leading to legislative action. Those of us who support gun control would take any crumb we can get at the federal level -- a few months after the Sandy Hook massacre, we were willing to declare a small victory if we could get the Manchin Amendment, which expanded but did not fully universalize background checks for gun purchases, even as it loosened restrictions on interstate gun sales and made it specifically illegal for the federal government to maintain a gun registry. But even that was too much gun control for congressional Republicans. After the Las Vegas massacre, we would have settled for a bump stock ban, but Republicans said no again.

So how does Douthat characterize what he regards as an anti-gun moral fervor on the left?
The anti-gun moral vision regards America’s relationship to gun ownership as a kind of collective moral madness, a love affair with violence, a sickness unto death. Liberals increasingly write about gun ownership the way social conservatives write about abortion and euthanasia — it’s a culture of death, a Moloch devouring our children, a blood sacrifice to selfish individualism.
Many people on the left feel this way. But to some of us, gun ownership seems like a culture of denial of death. The gun culture insists that massacres are rare, that gun fatality totals are misleading because they include suicides (as if suicides aren't tragedies), and that "freedom" trumps all, even the mass slaughter of children. The gunners don't seem to revel in death as much as they deny that guns have anything to do with death.

And while mass murderers are certainly selfish individualists, the wider gun culture isn't really about individualism at all. It's about tribalism: the belief that gun cultists and their allies are the true Americans, and everyone else -- liberals, non-whites, Muslims, aliens, and even law enforcement and the government -- are the traitors within. The gunners don't believe we're in a war of each against all -- it's all of them against the rest of us.

One reason they can't accept responsibility for gun massacres that is that they see themselves are a force for absolute good -- yes, even when they're out in a field shooting beer cans with AR-15s. They believe that every gun sold makes America freer, and every sale thwarted brings us closer to tyranny.

It's impossible to compromise with people who think that way.

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