"The Public Good" And Gun Rights

"The Public Good" And Gun Rights
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Opinion writers always seem to think they know better than everyone else on every subject imaginable. As an opinion writer myself, I’m aware I’m talking about myself as well, but there is a difference. I’ve had to make myself knowledgeable about the Second Amendment simply because I cover it so much.

But many opinion writers talk on a wide variety of topics, most of which they only know their side’s talking points on.

However, I recently came across an opinion piece where the author thinks he’s found a “gotcha,” the reason why everything from forgiveness for college loans to gun control can and should be passed. (I’m obviously only going to focus on the gun stuff, but much of this will apply across the board.)

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with America? What all these stories share is what the nation has been missing, in accelerated fashion, since the government-is-the-problem “Reagan revolution” of the 1980s, which is any notion of three words that have disappeared from the national conversation: “The public good.”

Deadly weapons like the machine gun brandished by Congressman Massie on his Christmas card or the 9mm Sig Sauer that Ethan Crumbley hid in his backpack aren’t some American cultural quirk but very much wrapped up in the post-1980, post-civil-rights zeitgeist of every man and woman for themselves — a holiday spirit not of sharing but of clinging to what’s mine with one finger already on the trigger. Is there a way out of this mess, short of a cataclysmic civil war?

I honestly don’t know, but we have to try. I’ve advocated for one small step back in the right direction — an 18-year-old “gap year” of universal national service that would bring together young Americans from different silos with a sense of shared purpose (although I doubt Republicans like Massie could be dislodged from their machine guns to vote for this). And maybe Montana’s Steve Bullock is partly right, that somehow doing good for the middle class on broadband access or the price of insulin could lower the temperature of the culture war.

But maybe getting back to where we once belonged starts with something even simpler. Maybe we can start every political conversation with the three simple words that America seems to have utterly forgotten these last 50 years or so: the public good.

Now, understand that the public good is something we should all try to strive for. The problem the writer fails to understand, though, is that knowing what is actually good for the public can be a bit tricky.

See, communists claim to be interested in the public good. So do fascists. So do racists.

In fact, a whole lot of vile people claim that what they want to pursue is actually for the public’s good. In fact, pretty much every faction you care to name thinks what they support is for the public good.

So I have no doubt that the author, Will Bunch, really does believe gun control is for the public good.

What he has to understand is that people like me disagree. See, I’ve looked at the studies that claim gun control works. Not a single one of them isn’t without significant flaws, flaws that are likely the intentional result of bias on the part of researchers. I’ve looked at the data that clearly shows that at a time gun rights were being restored all over the nation, crime was dropping. If access to guns was the problem, we’d definitely see the trends go in the opposite direction, but we don’t.

“The public good” is, ultimately, what’s good for the most people. In order to do that, you need to empower the individual. I get that Bunch isn’t fond of individualism, but when you empower the individuals, the public is ultimately empowered. That’s why our gun rights are so important and why none of us are willing to roll over because opinion writers throughout the land believe we should.

Gun control isn’t for the public good. The outcome of gun control policies does nothing to benefit the public. The only people it benefits are those who would use their strength against the rest of us, be they criminals or would-be tyrants.

Don’t bring that “public good” argument here, because what you’re hoping for is the exact opposite of being good for the public.