As you can imagine given the progressive bent of The New Republic, columnist Brynn Tannehill is none too happy to acknowledge that despite decades of anti-gun activism the right to keep and bear arms is here to stay and growing in popularity. According to her gloom-and-doom predictions, violent crime and mass shootings are bound to get worse in the years ahead, not because of Democrats’ soft-on-crime policies or the bipartisan failure to tackle the mental health crisis in the country, but because Americans just aren’t gonna give up their guns.
For Tannehill, like most other anti-gun activists, the only way to reduce violence is to go after the guns; most definitely including the 400-million or so in the hands of responsible, peaceable Americans. If confiscation is off the table, according to Tannehill, all hopes of improvement are lost.
The war is lost. There is no conceivable way for things to change for the better within the next 20 to 30 years, short of a national divorce. There is no way to change hearts and minds of Republicans or the courts. There is no way to change who is in office in most states. There is no way to replace who sits on the courts quickly or change conservative disdain for stare decisis.
In reality, mass shootings will only become more and more common over the next few years as Republicans have decided that the only solution to gun violence is adding as many guns as possible to the mix.
Oh please. We’ve covered plenty of Republican-led efforts to reduce violent crime, including a plan in Virginia to focus on the most prolific and violent offenders. It’s true that the vast majority of Republicans don’t buy into the idea of banning our way to safety, but that doesn’t mean that we’re powerless to combat violent crime in all its manifestations, from domestic violence to targeted attacks on soft targets.
Tannehill is right about one thing, however. There are a lot of guns in the United States, and they’re not going away.
It is unlikely that anyone reading this will be alive when (and if) the Supreme Court ever reverses itself on gun laws. Any measure that survives both the legislative process and the courts cannot conceivably be substantive enough to have an effect.
But even if you take this scenario a further order of magnitude into fantasy, there is still the reality that there are 400 million unregistered guns in this country, and 20 million of them are AR-15s. That’s more guns than are possessed by the Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security, and police departments combined. That’s more than all the guns manufactured by the U.S. in World War II. Any attempt to register this staggering array of weapons, much less take them away, is an impossible task with owners who are largely unwilling to comply.
Good on Tannehill for recognizing what most anti-gun activists are simply unwilling to admit; that their ultimate agenda is based on a utopian vision of mass disarmament, and one that simply isn’t going to take place in a country where there are tens of millions of gun owners who aren’t going to give them up. Sadly, she still buys into the premise that criminalizing the right to keep and bear arms will somehow lead to less criminal behavior.
Short of a national divorce, there is nothing that can be done at this point. Mass shootings, and the accompanying piles of dead bodies, are as American as Mom and apple pie. Continuing to pretend that our current system can fix this is tantamount to accepting the status quo. This is going to upset a lot of people and make them angry. I could be wrong; I’m not a psychic. However, no one has proposed a plausible way to get meaningful gun reform through. It’s not for lack of trying either: Every effort for the past decade has failed despite public outcry after each horrific mass shooting. If there was a way, someone would have already found it. But the truth hurts when it means changing your whole worldview: that the war is lost, and your country cannot be saved from not only what it has become but what it chooses to be.
Even if we had a national divorce, mass shootings would continue in blue states. California led the nation in the number of active shooter incidents in 2021, and it wasn’t a lack of federal gun legislation that led to those tragedies taking place. Criminals don’t care about gun laws, particular those intent on committing mass murder.
The truth is that the “war on guns” was lost long ago; even before 1791 and the enshrining of the Second Amendment in the Constitution. A nation founded, at least in part, on the premise that the people would have the right and the ability to defend themselves against a tyrannical government was never going to willingly give up that right, and our 20th century experiment in prohibiting alcohol was a pretty good demonstration of the fact that, as much as you might try to ban something, if it’s popular with the people it’s never going to go away.
Contrary to Tannehill’s morose conclusion, however, that doesn’t mean that we are powerless to prevent these attacks from happening, or from reducing violent crime in general. Yes, a “war on guns” is doomed to fail. In fact, with more than 1-million firearms sold every month, the number of lawfully owned firearms in the United States is only going to increase. But more guns doesn’t equate to more crime, any more than fewer gun control laws do. Just yesterday we highlighted what’s going on in Toledo, Ohio, where the city went more than two months without a homicide of any kind; something that should be impossible under Tannehill’s worldview. After all, Ohio adopted constitutional carry last year, so homicides should be soaring in the city instead of the dramatic decline that’s actually taken place.
Between 1991 and 2019 violent crime fell by more than 50% across the United States, all while the number of legally owned firearms and the number of gun owners grew ever larger. We absolutely can reduce the number of homicides, carjackings, home invasions, and aggravated assaults in the United States, but gun control takes us further away from the policies and practices that are truly effective at making cities safer places.
Unfortunately, the gun control lobby won’t be joining Tannehill’s admission of defeat. They’re too well-funded and too motivated to pack up their tents and go away, and many of them are too wedded to their anti-gun ideology to change their mind. The fight to secure our right to keep and bear arms will continue for decades to come, even if the prohibitionists are doomed to defeat.