President Obama last week announced a raft of proposals to curb gun violence.
I really don't know which of the things he proposed might help. What I do know is the reactions to his list suggest we're still a long way from a logical debate.
The gun issue in particular seems to induce this delusion: If you repeat an inane argument solemnly and often enough, it will become true.
How often have you heard since the awful day in Newtown that some idea for reducing the carnage from handguns should be declared off limits because "Adam Lanza didn't use a handgun to kill all those people."
That's like saying we shouldn't mandate seat belts in automobiles because it will do nothing to prevent plane crashes. A transportation safety step in one area can still be useful, even if it doesn't address problems in another mode of travel.
When you face a wicked problem with multiple causes, you can and should try multiple things along multiple pathways.
Then there's the perfect fix fallacy. Even when a measure does zero in on the very same kind of semi-automatic killing machine that Lanza used, you hear things like this: "Even if you limit magazine size, a deranged person could still figure out how to commit mass murder."
True, but we never apply this perfect fix test to other areas of policy. Does anyone ever argue: I can't support this tax cut unless you promise no one will ever be jobless again. Or: I won't vote for this highway unless it means I'll never get stuck in traffic.
In other policy areas, we grasp the concepts of mitigation and incremental advance.
You also hear that Obama is playing dirty by "exploiting" Newtown to push gun measures that don't speak to the exact circumstances of Sandy Hook.
Interesting standard. I just don't want to hear that out of the mouths of anyone who supported the Iraq invasion as a response to 9/11.
Finally, we hear some lawmakers piously intone that the real problem is mental illness, and that our urgent focus should be improving the mental health system.
Fascinating, but where was your interest in mental health before Sandy Hook?
Aren't you the same ones who've voted for years to deny government the funds needed to repair our tattered mental health system?
Yep, America's got a lot of guns. What it has even more of is hypocrisy.