Obviously, by far the worst part of the Orlando massacre last Sunday was the deaths of 49 people whose lives may have otherwise been saved by stricter gun control measures.
But while the deaths are clearly the central tragedy, the killings were made even worse by something else altogether: our national confusion about gun violence.
On the one hand, enough Americans remain opposed to gun control that we routinely refuse to take action to take guns out of circulation. For all the faults of that system, it would at least be consistent if we recognized the reality of that trade-off and openly said that the ensuing deaths were a worthwhile price to pay to protect our Second Amendment freedoms.
Instead, we have a situation where we permit gun violence while also expressing outrage when it happens. And that gives terrorist groups an easy opportunity to both kill far more of us than otherwise and to shock our national conscience when they do so. It’s not a good combination.
On the latest episode of The Weeds, Vox’s Sarah Kliff and Matt Yglesias talk about gun violence in the US, what can be done about it, and how our refusal to fix the problem may be giving our worst enemies a leg up. (You can listen below or download the podcast on iTunes.)
Here’s Matt on how America is, dangerously, of two minds about gun violence:
There are two reasonable attitudes you can have [about gun control], and we as a country have settled on a third.
One reasonable view is that the right to gun ownership is an important fundamental liberty. It has costs, and one of those costs is that more people will be shot and killed than in other countries — but that’s okay. Just like if we got banned cars, there wouldn’t be any car accidents, if we adopted English-style gun regulations we wouldn’t have all these people being shot. [In this universe] some of the people who shoot people are going to say they’re in ISIS, but you can’t especially freak out over those people.
The other way would be the full UK. You could say: "We need to confiscate everybody’s guns." Okay, you can have slow-loading, long hunting rifles — maybe — with a permit in the right areas. No handguns; no semiautomatic weapons. Roundups and buybacks like Australia. And anytime there’s gun crime, you freak out. in the UK it’s a big deal anytime you need to send the special officers with guns into a special situation.
So "don’t freak out about gun crime" makes sense; "do freak out about gun crime" makes sense. But we’re in this middle ground where we’re blasé about gun crime and then we want to freak out if the gun crime is, quote unquote, "terrorism." And that’s doing the terrorists’ work for them in an unproductive way.
- The staggering death toll of gun violence since Sandy Hook
- How connected was ISIS to the Orlando attack?
- Vox’s Zack Crockett on how many shootings there have been since the Orlando attack
- How guns have killed more Americans in the past 50 years than every war in US history
- Why Americans should care about Britain potentially leaving the EU
- How the Brexit vote could reverberate in Quebec
- Sarah on how schools that give out condoms see more, not fewer, teen births