Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

The institutional forgetfulness of the press

Jerry Stratton, November 15, 2017

A killer in Texas murdered at least 26 church-goers, and was stopped from killing more only because a bystander was armed with an AR-15. Before we even knew how the killer acquired his weapon or his victims, the left was already trying to disarm the Good Samaritan.

After California’s San Bernardino terrorist attack, I wrote a post asking, what is the left’s real goal when criminals ignore the law and the left asks for more restrictions against non-criminals? The accompanying meme image was gallows humor at best, but given the left’s response to the Sutherland Springs murders it sounds prophetic.

The church shooter disobeyed the law by purchasing the gun. He disobeyed the law against murder. He could have been stopped by the government1 but the nature of government is to be more effective against the law-abiding than against criminals. He was finally stopped by a bystander who legally owned an AR-15. The left’s solution? Ban the bystander’s firearm. That, they say, will solve the problem.

What the hell problem are they trying to solve?

After the Las Vegas shooting, I quoted Chesterton about utopians assuming the greatest difficulty—that criminals break the law, in this case—as fixed, and then working toward pointless solutions that don’t address that greatest difficulty. They’re doing the same thing now. Laws can only affect the law-abiding. Gun control would only have helped the killer continue his spree, by disarming the bystander who stopped him.

This is obvious from the evidence, and yet they keep trying to push solutions that haven’t worked in the past and objectively would not work now.

As it turns out, the solution to making sure the Texas shooting doesn’t happen again is fairly simple: he wasn’t on the instant check system because entering into the instant check is optional for the Air Force and other federal agencies. Pass the law2 that would have required they enter the data and would have provided more resources for law enforcement to more quickly investigate people who lie on the forms. He would have been denied the purchase and law enforcement would have been notified and been able to respond.

This isn’t anything new. There was a similar problem with federal incompetence that allowed the Orlando killer to go undetected.

There is no need to take the AR-15 away from the man who stopped the killer from murdering more people.

There is a story, which while true has entered into legend, about the Air Force in World War II. Pilots were dying, in greater and greater numbers, in bombing runs over Germany. Every time the bombers came back, the brass ordered the planes up-armored in all the places that had seen the most damage, to better protect the aircraft and the crew inside. But it wasn’t working. Instead, more planes were getting shot down. Somehow, the Germans were finding it easier and easier to shoot down better and better-armored planes.

So they brought in Abraham Wald, a mathematician with the Statistical Research Group. Wald stepped back from the problem, looked at what they knew and did not know about it, and told them to start armoring the parts of the planes that, while critical to the plane’s function, always came back undamaged. Immediately, more planes returned from bombing runs and more pilots returned alive. They began to de-armor the places that they’d armored ineffectually before, and even more planes and pilots came back alive.

In their zeal to do something, anything, to save the lives of their pilots before they figured out what the problem was, and in their stubbornly sticking to what was clearly a failing process, the bureaucracy was slowing the planes down with heavy armor on the parts of the aircraft that, if hit, still allowed the planes to return with the crew alive anyway.

The solution that worked was to armor the places that, if hit, caused the planes to not come back. Those places were never damaged in returning planes because if they had been, the planes would have not have returned.

It seems like the left, and the media, keep wanting to load us down with gun laws that not only do not keep murders from happening, but, by affecting only the law-abiding and not criminals, cause more murders to be successful. Every time a criminal commits a murder they want to take away the self-defense rights of the people who come back alive, rather than look at the actual problem and find a real solution.

Over the past forty years, every time a state has considered opening up a process by which people can defend themselves by carrying concealed firearms outside the home, the left and the press has cried that this will mean more murder and everyday people killing each other in the streets. They did this every time, even though after the first time we knew that states which already passed CCW laws did not see any such increase in murder or crime.3 Every time, literally, they completely ignored past results and claimed, not that this time would be different, but that this time was new, that there was nothing to compare with.

Then, when most states passed concealed carry reform the left tried to make the same claims for castle laws. Over and over, pretending they’d never made the claims in previous states where it turned out they were wrong.

Then for stand-your-ground laws. And for open carry laws. And for campus carry laws, even in the face of mass murders that could have been easily stopped if campuses weren’t singled out as self-defense-free zones.

Now they’re trying to claim the same thing about noise suppressors, ignoring that noise suppressors on firearms do not silence them, they make firearms less powerful, and are only really useful as safety features for legal shooters.

In the past it was much harder to pass laws improving on self-defense, because part of the press’s job is to be our institutional memory. But the press so often deliberately tried to make us forget the lessons of the past. Often, pro-self-defense advocates would have to bring these common sense laws up to their state legislatures several times before getting them passed by both the legislatures and the executive. Even though their worth had already been proved previously in state after state.

Today we no longer have to rely on the press as our institutional memory. The Internet gives us a better memory than the press ever did. When they try to claim that mass murder only happens here, not only can we easily find counter-examples ourselves, but those counter-examples will show up automatically just by looking for more information about the current mass murder.

It’s another in a long line of examples of how the press is no longer the gatekeeper.

The left’s current target is bump stocks, after the Las Vegas murders. I don’t have any strong feelings one way or the other about making bump stocks illegal. I do know, however, that given how incredibly easy they are to make, a law against them will have no effect whatsoever on crimes or criminals. And I also know that the politicians calling for making bump stocks illegal know this.

So I wonder what they’re really trying to do when they call for banning something in the name of a crime that the ban would have had literally no effect on. The Vegas killer clearly planned out his mass murders for a long enough time to get or make a simple bump stock. All that’s really needed are rubber bands, and I’m pretty sure no one’s going to make rubber bands illegal.

Which means that I take the Democratic Minority Leader very seriously when she says that the reason she wants to ban bump stocks is to lead the way for more gun bans. It offers an explanation for why she wants a worthless law.4

In the past, the press would have hidden such inadvertent5 admissions by politicians, but today they are no longer the only source for news. The same is true for the incredible vitriol directed against prayer by the left after the Sutherland Springs murders. It would have been ignored by the press and few would have learned about it.

As long as we have a solid institutional memory for such things, in the Internet there is hope for real reform in the future. Which is probably why the left, and DC in general, wants to increase government control over the Internet.

In response to Institutional memory in political campaigns: Every four years, some conservatives buckle under the press’s lies, and hope that groveling will make the press treat them nice. It never works.

  1. And was apparently allowed to because the same governments that the left wants to give new gun control laws screwed up and didn’t enforce current ones by entering his ineligibility into the NICS. Remember: not only would he have been denied the purchase, but law enforcement would have been notified of the attempt had the data been entered.

  2. A law that Ted Cruz introduced and that Democrats filibustered…

  3. This is a strong example of federalism at work: if concealed carry licensing had been a bad idea, this would have become obvious in the first one or two states, and never spread to other states.

    Which may explain why the left wants to apply gun control to the country as a whole first: so as to avoid the obvious problems when their policies fail compared to states that don’t implement the policy.

  4. In order to ensure that the laws are meant in good faith, I would want a bump stock ban to include some compromise in favor of self-defense rights. Such as putting national reciprocity on the table, or getting rid of the barriers against buying noise suppressors for target practice.

  5. Inadvertent is probably the wrong word for it. She was speaking to supporters who approve of her using these murders to further her unrelated agenda. In the past, her statements to one group would not go beyond that group, and she could then make contradictory statements to other groups, such as the American people in general. Back when there were only three stations plus a government-funded station, this was a common and mostly reliable strategy.