In the wake of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, Presidential candidate Kamala Harris has just taken her turn at the now-obligatory think-of-the-children bleat. It’s almost, but not quite, as obligatory as our-hearts-go-out-to. Politicians have simply got to hire some new writers!
In any event, according to Harris, and in a scene reminiscent of the 50’S and the Cold War, children across the country are being taught how to “duck and cover” in the event some (usually white-supremacist) alumnus decides to take his sexual frustrations out by shooting up his former classroom, and that they’re now afraid to go to school. I’m pretty sure Harris has never talked to a third-grader, let alone heard her say anything of the sort. But what journalist would be churlish enough to challenge Harris’ ‘research’ on this score?
Churlishness may be forgivable, but bad timing is not. Astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson has just taken a social media hit for pointing out that in the same thirteen-hours in which 29 people were gunned down in these two incidents, no fewer than 800 people were killed in car accidents across the country. Shouldn’t children be orders-of-magnitude more afraid of being driven to school than of being there?
Jaysus, Neil, what were you thinking?! In my infamous “Defense of Terrorism” paper, I pointed out that more people died on American highways the weekend before 9/11, and every weekend since, than at the hands of those nineteen brave young men on that Tuesday morning. But at least I had the good sense to wait six months before publishing it.
That human beings are notoriously stupid in their risk-assessment protocols is an old saw, and a well-documented one. And it’s probably incorrigible. Which is why we can hardly fault advocates for this or for that for exploiting our stupidity. What we can do, however, is resist making the kind of knee-jerk policy decisions these rhetoricians would urge upon us.
For example, “One death by gun-violence is one death too many!” Hogwash! Too many for what? Is one death on Dead Man’s Curve too many not to spend fifty million dollars to fix it? Apparently not. Fifty million may not be too much to save the life of your child. But it’s not your fifty million, is it?!
Honouring the Second Amendment is going to cost American lives. There’s simply no way around it. But there’s no free lunch. Revoking the Second Amendment is going to cost Americans a counter-balance to its government’s monopoly on the means of violence. That may not be what the founding fathers had in mind, though I suspect it is. But it’s certainly why it’s being so passionately defended. Is that counter-balance worth your child’s life? Obviously not. But someone else’s? Well …