He can definitely tell a lie.
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
When NRA zealots wish to explain why their taste in toys (and/or, self-conception as temporarily embarrassed action heroes) should take precedence over public safety, they will often argue that the freedom to own an AK-47 is the foundation on which all other civil liberties rest: An unarmed citizenry has no rights that the federal government is bound to respect.
Meanwhile, when Donald Trump wished to explain Monday why America’s epidemic of firearm deaths did not require sweeping gun reforms, he argued that solving our national nightmare would merely require censoring video games, condemning suspicious mentally ill people to “involuntary confinement,” and restricting the rights of death-row inmates to appeal their convictions, so as to expedite their extermination by the state.
The president’s remarks Monday earned him some praise from the mainstream media’s most prodigious amnesiacs. Days after a gunman had slaughtered 21 people in an El Paso Walmart to beat back the “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” Trump did unequivocally (if monotonously) condemn white supremacy, and remind his fellow Americans that “each of us can choose to build a culture that celebrates the inherent worth and dignity of every human life” — sentiments that might have been uplifting, had they been followed with the phrase “and that is why I am announcing my resignation from the presidency.” Regardless, however encouraging one might have found the president’s newfound capacity to condemn white nationalist terrorism, his concrete proposals for combating gun violence offered no cause for comfort.
Trump’s one feeble gesture toward gun regulation involved expanding the reach of “red flag” laws that empower law enforcement to confiscate the firearms of those whom they find to be dangerous or mentally ill. To buttress this “precrime” approach to gun control, the president endorsed an expansion of social media surveillance “to detect mass shooters before they strike.”
The White House understood that, by itself, such weak tea would not satisfy the public’s thirst for leadership on the issue of gun violence; unlike some other Republicans, Trump was not content to serve the public a cocktail of thoughts, prayers, and fatalism. “In the two decades since Columbine, our nation has watched with rising horror and dread as one mass shooting has followed another over and over again, decade after decade,” Trump said Monday. “We cannot allow ourselves to feel powerless. We can and will stop this evil contagion.”
Gun violence has always presented a challenge to the GOP’s proto-authoritarian champions of “law-and-order”: How can one reconcile a militant intolerance for crime with an anarcho-capitalist’s attitude toward the regulation of deadly weapons?
Trump’s answer to that puzzle Monday was a common one: To accommodate the inalienable right to bear assault rifles, Uncle Sam would have to ruthlessly sacrifice lesser civil liberties at the altar of public safety.
The president demanded unspecified measures to eliminate “gruesome and grizzly video games.” He called for reforming “our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people not only get treatment but, when necessary, involuntary confinement.” And he directed the Justice Department to “propose legislation ensuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty, and that this capital punishment be delivered quickly, decisively, and without years of needless delay.”
In other words, Trump proposed restricting freedom of expression, locking up anyone who strikes law enforcement as egregiously mentally ill for pre-crimes, and curtailing the due process rights Americans can assert before their government executes them.
As remedies for America’s gun violence problem, these proposals are laughable. If gruesome video games were a leading cause of gun violence in general — or mass shootings in particular — Japan would presumably be littered with blood and bullet casings. Instead, while America’s annual gun deaths are measured by the tens of thousands, Japan’s can typically be counted on two hands. Meanwhile, the overwhelming consensus among crimonologists holds that the death penalty does not work as a criminal deterrent. And Trump’s implicit suggestion that mass shootings would be less common — if only their perpetrators knew that spraying bullets in a public place might actually cost them their lives — is so absurd, one despairs at satire’s prospects for surviving this presidency.
There are sound arguments for restricting the mentally ill’s access to firearms (owning a gun dramatically increases a suicidal person’s likelihood of successfully ending her own life), but there is none for believing that stigmatizing and surveilling the mentally ill will keep other Americans safe from the threat of gun homicide. As the Washington Post observed Monday:
In a 2018 report of active shooters, the Federal Bureau of Investigation found that 25 percent of active shooters had been diagnosed with a mental illness. And of those diagnosed, only three shooters had been diagnosed with a psychotic disorder. In a 2015 study that examined 235 people who committed or tried to commit mass killings, only 22 percent could be considered mentally ill.
But the biggest problem with Trump’s proposals isn’t their inefficacy — a charge that can be fairly leveled at many liberal gun reforms. Rather, the problem is that Trump’s ideas subordinate civil liberties to the cause of security theater. In so doing, they demonstrate that the Second Amendment (as interpreted by the American right) does not safeguard our other freedoms, so much as it undermines them.
Perhaps, a nation completely devoid of mental illness, social isolation, the internet, video games, disaffected young men, and white supremacy could have both mass individual gun ownership and low levels of gun violence. But we do not live in such a nation. So long as America is home to more firearms than people, we are going to suffer a lot of gun violence. And so long as we suffer such violence, the government will periodically feel compelled to mount a policy response.
When efforts to seriously curtail the availability of guns are off the table, the will for reform gets channelled in more perverse directions. We fill our schools with police officers, and force our children to prepare themselves for the omnipresent threat of getting slaughtered by their classmates. These “school resource officers” and “active-shooter drills” don’t seem to make anyone any safer. After the atrocity at Columbine High School in 1999, America tested the hypothesis that a massive increase in school policing would lead to lower rates of violence on campus — in 1997, 10 percent of public schools employed at least one police officer; by 2014, 30 percent did. The results of this experiment have been worse than disappointing. The best available research suggests that putting police officers in schools does not significantly deter crime, but does increase the number of students who end up incarcerated for minor youthful indiscretions (and/or, who get electrocuted with stun guns in their classrooms for the same). Nevertheless, last year’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida triggered a new wave of calls for filling America’s schools with armed agents of the state.
Trump’s remarks suggest that the will to “do something” about gun violence — that doesn’t involve taking away people’s guns — may lead to even more authoritarian and counter-productive measures than those we’ve already witnessed.
Let Mike Pence decide what we can put into our Playstations, and police departments dictate who’s sane enough to walk the streets. Place a metal detector at the door of every classroom, and an annual reenactment of Sandy Hook on every elementary school’s calendar. Stop and frisk every nonwhite teenager, have principals report every morose adolescent to the authorities. Inject convicts with deadly chemicals before they’ve had chance to appeal. Send thoughts and prayers when none of it stops more bodies from falling. Just leave us our stockpiles of Kalashnikovs and we will call ourselves free.
The Second Amendment Is Now a Threat to Our Civil Liberties
Promoted links by Taboola
Obama says what the current president should have
Former President Barack Obama said Monday, in his first public statement since a pair of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, that Americans must “soundly reject language” from any leader who “feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments.”
The statement , which did not mention President Donald Trump directly, also reminded Americans that “we are not helpless” in the face of the nation’s high frequency of mass shootings compared to other countries.
“And until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening,” Obama wrote.
You can sense the enthusiasm
The El Paso mayor announces President Trump will visit Wednesday. “He is President of the United States, so in that capacity I will fulfill my obligation to meet with him.” Adds he’s received “emails & phone calls” about the visit and “that’s why I’m saying what I’m saying now.”
What Does a Trade War Worst-Case Scenario Look Like?
By Josh Barro and Benjamin Hart
Intelligencer staffers discuss the intensifying economic battle between China and the U.S.
Just what the world needs right now
JUST IN: North Korea fires unidentified projectiles, South Korean official says; at least the 4th launch in 2 weeks.
In Trump’s Hands, the Second Amendment Is a Threat to Our Civil Liberties
By Eric Levitz
When the government is unwilling to significantly restrict access to firearms, it responds to gun violence by curtailing more basic freedoms.
Everything We Know About the El Paso Walmart Massacre
By Chas Danner
More details have emerged about the attack, its victims, and the anti-immigrant domestic terrorist who murdered 22 people.
Trump’s Plan for Stopping Anti-Hispanic Terrorism: Fewer Hispanics
By Zak Cheney-Rice
Before abandoning mention of gun control altogether, Trump suggested he’d consider it — as long as Democrats supported the GOP’s immigration agenda.
Everything We Know About the Dayton Mass Shooting
By Chas Danner and Adam K. Raymond
Nine people were killed and 27 were injured after a gunman opened fire in a packed nightlife district in Dayton, Ohio.
A brutal day on Wall Street concludes
Iowa Democrat Aims to Knock Off Steve King, If Republicans Don’t Do It First
By Ed Kilgore
J.D. Scholten nearly beat King in the 2018 midterms. If the old demagogue survives his primary, Scholten will be waiting.
Cesar Sayoc gets 20 years
NEW YORK (AP) – Judge sentences man who mailed pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and CNN to 20 years in prison.
New Studies Say Gentrification Doesn’t Really Force Out Low-Income Residents
By Justin Davidson
In part because it improves school integration, it may be better for lower-income residents than previously thought.
You know it’s a great speech when the NRA loved it
NRA issues statement praising Trump’s speech this morning, saying it “welcomes the President’s call to address the root causes of the horrific acts of violence that have occurred in our country.”
Major news for what’s left of the newspaper business
BREAKING: GateHouse Media parent company New Media Investment Group has agreed to acquire USA TODAY owner Gannett.
The stock selloff is continuing on unabated
An important thing to keep in mind
The El Paso shooting was the 8th deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history this morning. Now it’s 7th.
Just after 1000 another victim passed away. The total is now at 22
Pelosi and Schumer respond to Trump’s comments on this weekend’s massacres
In February, the new Democratic House Majority promptly did its duty and passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which is supported by more than 90 percent of the American people and proven to save lives. However, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has called himself the ‘grim reaper’ and refuses to act on this bipartisan legislation.
It took less than three hours for the President to back off his call for stronger background check legislation. When he can’t mention guns while talking about gun violence, it shows the President remains prisoner to the gun lobby and the NRA.
If Lone Star State Goes Blue, GOP Could Be Texas Toast
By Ed Kilgore
House Republican retirements in Texas may be an omen the state is finally competitive again.
the national interest
the national interest
Trump Calling His White Nationalist Fans Crazy Not the Defense He Thinks It Is
By Jonathan Chait
For Trump, “crazy” is a kind of metaphysical demarcation between conservatism and terrorism.
the top line
China’s Yuan Devaluation Poses a Major Reelection Risk to Donald Trump
By Josh Barro
The sharp decline in stocks underlines how this escalation in trade tensions could have some serious economic consequences.
Death toll up to 21 in El Paso
Sad to report that the number of fatalities increased by one. Victim passed early this morning at the hospital.
But will Pelosi want to go forward with it any more than she does today?
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler’s impeachment timeline:
– court decisions by end of October/early Nov
– hearings in September and October
– “And if we decide to report articles of impeachment, we could get it in the late fall, later part of the year,” he said on MSNBC
Trump Condemns Hate, Blames Video Games and Mental Illness for Mass Shootings
By Adam K. Raymond
The president proposed several measures to respond to mass shootings, including a crackdown on violent video games.
Ohio Congressman and prez candidate weighs in on Trump’s geographic error
Toledo. Fck me.
He can’t remember the names of cities in states where he’s popular
I didn’t believe it. I had to rewind the DVR three times. He said “may God bless the memory of those who perished in Toledo.”
Blah blah blah
President Trump, signaling that he’s not about to push for significant gun control measures: “Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger – not the gun.”
Ah yes, the serious solutions
You go first
“Our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Trump says.