The horror of the massacre of innocents at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., struck at the fabric of the American tapestry. Virtually every American has spent the last few days in a haze — shocked at the nature of evil, confused and frustrated by the inability to prevent such an atrocity, fearful at the possibility of such a monstrous occurrence repeating itself.
It is only natural in such times to discuss what we can do differently to prevent such things from happening. Nobody wants to see dead children, grieving parents or bullet-riddled schools. Nobody. We may disagree about what the proper solutions are, but we all want solutions.
So why can't those on the left admit that?
There is nothing viler than standing atop a heap of children's bodies denouncing all those who disagree politically as unfeeling monsters. Yet that is precisely what many on the left have done.
Piers Morgan of CNN spent the evening of the tragedy berating gun rights advocates: "I'm so frustrated. I'm so furious that these kids have been blown away again, with legally acquired weapons. Some boy, who's got problems, takes his mother's three weapons — including this ridiculous assault rifle — and goes in a school and kills these kids, and you guys on the gun lobby still want to tell me the answer is more guns. It is madness!" Democratic Representative of N.Y. Jarrold Nadler accused the National Rifle Association of enabling mass murder.
This is a bully tactic, pure and simple. Labeling your opponents heartless and cruel is a strategy designed to override logic and to end the political debate.
That's the only way the left can win this debate, and they know it. Adam Lanza, the shooter, was mentally unstable. The left has thwarted serious attempts at involuntary commitment of the mentally unstable for decades. An assault weapons ban was in place in Connecticut and did precisely nothing to stop Lanza from mowing down kindergarteners. Connecticut has heavy gun registration laws.
Sandy Hook Elementary was a gun-free zone, just as virtually every major mass shooting location in recent memory has been. The real solutions here lie in better protection for schoolchildren, either from armed guards or trained administrators, not in more pie-in-the-sky legislation. Lanza broke at least five laws before he even began shooting. None of them stopped him.
A real discussion of what to do about mass shootings would begin with three competing values: rights, risk and reward. First, the rights: Americans have the right to bear arms, not only for self-defense, but in preservation of a free society. The founders recognized it, and their logic is still relevant.
There are societal rewards to gun ownership by responsible people, including deterrence of crime and prevention of mass shootings (an attempted mass shooting in San Antonio was thwarted by an off-duty police officer who shot a would-be perpetrator four times over the weekend, for example).
There are risks to firearms, too. They are far more powerful than knives. They have a higher capacity for damage, and they are more efficient. That's why the proper solution would be to allow responsible gun owners to keep their firearms, while preventing non-responsible gun owners — especially the mentally unstable — from obtaining theirs.
These decisions must be carefully calibrated. They ought not be made in haste or in the heat of passion. We ought to let Sandy Hook stir us to action — indeed, we cannot avoid letting it do so. But we cannot let that emotion drive us into idiotic laws that violate rights and make people less rather than more safe.
But this is not a discussion the left wants to have. They are more interested in demagoguing the issue by slandering conservatives as heartless and unfeeling. That's not just insulting to conservatives. It's insulting to the murdered children, who deserve more than to be used as a political chip in an attempt to ram through an ill-conceived agenda.