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Behind The Lines: Gun Rights and Wrongs

Published December 24, 2012 7:59 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Welcome to Behind the Lines, a weekly conversation with Salt Lake Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley and BYU economist Val Lambson.

Lambson: Some things are so sad, so outrageous, and so painful, that it is difficult to discuss them dispassionately. It is easy to be swept up in the emotion of it all and feel like we have to do something even if it is only symbolic. The Patriot Act in response to 9/11 is an example. In the name of the War on Terror we have dealt a terrible blow to our 4th Amendment rights. Recent tragedies threaten our 2nd Amendment rights.

Bagley: I never took you for a gun nut. Care to cite one proposal currently being floated that threatens 2nd Amendment rights? I know, the right wing is in lock-down mode because "the liberals are coming for your guns," but no one is proposing gun seizures. No one. Not even the way-lefty Mother Jones magazine. Only in Fox-fevered imaginations are jack-booted government thugs coming up the drive to take away your armor-piercing freedoms and high capacity liberty magazines.

In the meantime America's gun fetish means you would have to travel to an active war zone to face the same likelihood of death by gun as you do in The Land of the Free. That's not freedom. That's living in perpetual terror. People are buying pint-sized body armor so they can feel safe sending their kids off to school.

Lambson: I don't need to explain slippery slopes to you. But the argument misses the point. You would like to believe that passing laws makes things so. Passing laws has effects, but they are not always the intended ones. Drug laws probably reduce drug use, but they do not eliminate it, and those who use drugs illegally are willing to pay enough to make the business of interest to violent drug cartels and gangs. Gun laws probably reduce gun ownership, but they will not eliminate gun use. They will only skew gun ownership towards criminals. The 2nd Amendment means what the Supreme Court says it means, but I wish it were more clearly worded. For example: "The right to self-defense being inalienable, the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Bagley: First, show me your well-regulated militia. The numbers say it all: More guns means more gun violence. Our thirty-year experiment in making it easy for the mentally ill to get their hands on guns isn't working out so well.

Lambson: The numbers do not say it all: They have to be interpreted. Causality is always difficult to establish. There are probably more guns per capita in our inner cities than in our suburbs. Do you really believe that the inner cities are more crime-ridden because they have more guns?

Bagley: Now you're just being obtuse. Nothing raises your chances of being a victim of gun violence more than owning one.

Lambson: Obtuse? It is not obtuse to attempt to understand the evidence as thoroughly as possible. Teasing the truth out of statistics can be a challenge. That is why top universities offer entire PhD programs in statistics. That is why intelligent, well-intentioned and well-trained people can disagree after looking at the same evidence. Whatever the truth is, my heart breaks for the children killed and traumatized, and for their families. I know yours does, too.

Bagley: Sorry, Val, I'm not passing this off as a gentlemanly difference of opinion. You're wrong. Passive indifference to who can obtain deadly weapons — weapons that can forever shatter dozens of lives in a matter of minutes — is criminal negligence. The NRA is wrong when it says a well-armed society is a polite society: It is a violent, paranoid, frightened society. Weapons need to be restricted for a civil society to exist. It's been true since there has been such a thing as "civil society." Let me refer you to the LDS Church's stance on guns at BYU.

Lambson: If you cannot consider this a legitimate difference of opinion, in what sense is your mind open? All of us should always consider that we might be wrong. Once again, you think that passing a law makes it so. You think that the evidence is obvious, oversimplifying and thus overlooking the deeper causes. Leftists say they support a woman's right to choose, except apparently for her right to choose to defend herself against a rapist intruder. (Oh, and her right to choose how to save for her retirement. Come to think of it, there are a lot more examples, but I digress.) I do not advocate requiring gun ownership, or forcing individuals or churches to allow guns on private property. Pass laws against gun ownership by violent felons and try to enforce them. That's fine. But leave peaceful citizens alone.

Bagley: I'll say it again: No one is calling for gun seizures, and unless a woman specifically needs a military style assault weapon on her nightstand to fend off attackers, she'll still be free in leftist America to buy any number of weapons, some in colors and styles made to appeal to feminine tastes. America is awash in guns. We are drowning in guns. And the solution to gun violence offered by the NRA and Utah legislators? More guns. Look for the Utah Legislature to spend our money on a program to arm teachers. Lunacy.

This week's top comment is from narae6659: It really cheapens what you say when you quote misinformation!