Saturday, August 18 , 2018, 12:01 pm | Mostly Cloudy 74º


Randy Alcorn: Guns, Intelligence, and What Really Divides Our Country

The deep fractures in our society have been attributed to ideology, economics, ethnicity and regionalism. And while these certainly contribute to the discontent and disagreement ravaging our land, the fundamental underlying divide among Americans is intelligence versus lack of intelligence.

Many angry and anxious Americans have sought solace in one of the two political tribes, conservatives and liberals, where they can conveniently consign thinking to their tribal leaders. On any issue all they need to know is what the tribe thinks.

The chronic issue of gun control — once again the focus of national attention after the carnage in Las Vegas — presents a clear example of the intelligence divide.

Conservatives argue that laws restricting access and ownership of firearms contravene constitutional rights of personal liberty. They accept death and injury from gun violence as unfortunate concomitants of a free society, and ardently reject gun bans as ludicrously unrealistic — because, you know, prohibitions never work.

Yet, conservatives stubbornly support the insanely futile war on drugs with its prohibitions, criminalizing of victimless personal freedom, and blatant disregard of constitutional protections against search and seizure.

Conservatives work passionately for stricter limits on abortion and to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with justices who would eventually ban it altogether — because, you know, terminating pregnancy is murder.

To protect potential human beings, conservatives will severely restrict the personal liberty of a woman, but will do little to protect actual human beings if that requires restricting the personal liberty to have firearms.

This is the curious logic found in the conservative tribe.

In the liberal tribe, meanwhile, there is a quixotic crusade to prohibit gun ownership. Maybe someday, but right now repealing or amending the Second Amendment to ban guns is as likely as the Detroit Lions winning a Super Bowl — maybe someday.

Prohibitions really do not work. Banning guns would be no more effective or free of negative consequences than would be banning abortions.

Nevertheless, gun abolitionists reference Australia as evidence that gun prohibition does work. But, there are still plenty of guns in private hands in Australia, including, increasingly, those of violent urban street gangs.

The United States is not Australia. The United States is much bigger, much more diverse, and, most important, much more determined to remain armed.

The American public holds a private arsenal estimated at more than 3 million firearms. Try buying all those guns back and confiscating the ones citizens won’t sell. The latter would be asking for hundreds of Ruby Ridges. Gun violence to end gun violence?

If there are enough Americans on the intelligence side of the great divide, the issue of gun violence can be approached realistically as an issue of public safety. As a nation, we have already grudgingly accepted inconvenient restrictions for public safety.

After terrorists flew commercial airliners into buildings, killing nearly 3,000 people, politicians from both tribes quickly passed onerous restrictions on air travel — ugh, the TSA — and approved the insidiously named Patriot Act that shamelessly compromised many constitutional civil rights.

Since then, however, no airliners have been flown into buildings. But, since then how many mass murders by guns have we suffered? Many, many, more than 3,000.

Nevertheless, Congress has passed virtually no new restrictions on guns. Rather, it has actually loosened restrictions to make it easier for people — including the mentally ill — to get guns.

So, when planes are used to commit mass murder, we quickly get a bunch of new restrictions, but when guns are used we get nada. There are lots of folks in Congress on the lack-of-intelligence side of the great divide.

The intention of the Second Amendment has been judged by the Supreme Court to mean the right of private citizens to arm themselves to the teeth if they choose. And, unless hate and mental disease can be eliminated, mass murder will always be a possibility.

There are, however, reasonable restrictions on firearms that can decrease that possibility and mitigate gun violence in general.

» Mandatory background checks for all gun sales and gun transfers to thwart access to firearms by people who are not fit mentally or legally to have them.

» No sales of grandfathered automatic weapons or of devices that can convert weapons to automatics.

» Limit clip size to 10 rounds or less, and monitor and regulate ammunition sales like it were Sudafed. No sales to the public of exotic ammo like hollow tip or armor-piercing bullets.

Some Americans feel compelled to have unrestricted access to firearms as a deterrent to potential government tyranny. Maybe they fear that an American Julius Caesar might march his army into Washington, D.C., and declare himself dictator for life, or that creeping federalism will eventually establish a virtual police state necessitating an armed uprising by citizens.

But, before it gets to the point where citizens have to grab their guns to deter tyranny they might try voting first. They might demand an end to gerrymandering, to the Electoral College, and to unrestricted political campaign funding.

To preserve our constitutional republic, it is better to take civic responsibility seriously, pay attention to what government is doing and stay sufficiently informed — which means listening to more than just tribal gasbags.

Be on the intelligence side of the divide.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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