Why The War On Guns Has Failed

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 6 months ago

Jonah Goldberg:

Smoking was, until recently, a very bipartisan habit. City mice and country mice alike would walk a mile for a Camel.

The universality of smoking made it possible to proselytize against it without unleashing a full-blown kulturkampf. Sure, conservatives and libertarians complained — often correctly by my lights — about lost liberties, but an attack on smoking, backed up by solid evidence, didn’t simultaneously feel like an attack on one cultural group by another.

Because nonsmokers knew smokers, the war on tobacco could be fought face-to-face in our homes, businesses, movie theaters, planes, trains, and automobiles. And when nonsmokers pleaded with their friends and loved ones to give up tobacco, they at least understood the appeal of smoking. Cigarette America wasn’t a foreign country. You can’t say the same thing about Gun America.

My wife grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska, where gun ownership was nearly as common and natural as snow-shovel ownership. I grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and I never knew anyone who owned a gun. When my mother was an auxiliary mounted policewoman, she was not permitted to carry one. The absence of guns in urban liberal environments leads to a kind of Pauline Kaelism. Kael is — apocryphally — credited with saying she couldn’t believe Richard Nixon won the election because she didn’t know anyone who voted for him.

Likewise, many urban liberals only hear about guns when they’re used in crimes, and simply can’t imagine why anyone would want one. As a result, they’re tone-deaf in their arguments. Even worse than the tone-deafness is the arrogant condescension. In the 2008 campaign, when Barack Obama tried to explain why some rural voters were not supporting him, he infamously said that it was out of bitterness — a bitterness that caused them to “cling” to their guns and their religion. Obama has been trying to unring that bell ever since.

To urban liberals, guns are like cigarettes — products that when used as intended only hurt or kill people, and that are also low-class and crude. The Second Amendment, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten wrote, is “the refuge of bumpkins and yeehaws who like to think they are protecting their homes against imagined swarthy marauders desperate to steal their flea-bitten sofas from their rotting front porches.” Such smugness doesn’t help, but the real reason the war on guns has been such an abysmal failure is that guns and cigarettes aren’t alike after all. You can’t hunt or, more importantly, defend yourself or your family with a cigarette. That’s why, in the wake of San Bernardino, millions of Americans didn’t think, “We’ve got to get rid of guns.” They thought, “Maybe I should get one.” I know I did.

This is only an excerpt, and Jonah spends a good deal of time setting up his argument.  I don’t mean to be unfair by my selection of the excerpt.  But something seems very wrong with Jonah’s analysis.

His argument at the beginning seems to me to be essentially this.  Smoking was ubiquitous and not restricted to a geographical location, economic strata, or political ideology.  Therefore, the war against it didn’t alienate any of those things.

But the contrapositive (I believe I have chosen correctly here) is that if more effete urbanites owned firearms just like us uneducated country bumpkins, a successful campaign could be prosecuted against guns just like it was against smoking.

But what Jonah misses is that while there may not have been a moral underpinning or ideological foundation for smoking, there is for gun ownership.  While there are a few progressive gun owners, they are few and far between, and (in my opinion) they aren’t being consistent with their ideology.

The constant thematic thread in the progressive mind is the hive mentality.  The state is supreme, and gun ownership is a threat to the state, which reaches its apogee when it has sole ownership of the power of force.  The offspring of hippies is Fascism, and the liberal mind never really liked guns and force in the hands of non-state actors, with the exception of groups like the Black Panthers and Weather Underground, or in other words, guns are good as long as we have them and you don’t.  The progressive mind is statist – it always was and will ever be so.

Guns were never really the issue.  It was always all about control, as it is today.  Guns give the power of self defense, against home invasion, muggings, beatings, active shooter situations, and yes, against tyrannical states.  Nuclear weapons (to answer the usual critic of this position), which no one knows where to detonate because enemy and friend are intermixed everywhere, are no match at all for fourth generation warfare in the neighborhoods, streets, hollows, valleys, highways and mountains of America.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of guns to hold tyranny at bay, and since the gun controllers don’t, they always try to change the subject to safety, righteousness, or anything else.  Jonah is on the right track, but he just isn’t quite yet there, and hasn’t quite completed his journey.

Jonah ends his piece with ponderings on the notion of empowerment to defend and protect his family.  Well enough, but don’t doubt for a second, more progressives owning some guns won’t change the idea that to the progressive, he doesn’t have that right.  There will always be disagreement between us because it is ideological and moral, running to the very taproot of the difference between right and wrong.  And we won the war on guns because we have the guns.

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  1. On December 17, 2015 at 10:17 am, Fred said:

    “I grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and I never knew anyone who owned a gun.”

    Mr. Goldberg knew plenty of people on the Upper West Side who owned guns. I used to live in NYC. Lots and Lots of people have guns they just don’t talk about it. Having a gun in the city is a bit like having a Jew in your attic and in Manhattan there are Nazis everywhere. There are hard core statists who rest self assured that they are so hip and trendy and smug that nobody would dare even to talk with them, let alone hurt them, but someone in their group of friends has a secret in the attic. When most of them talk about gun control they aren’t talking about their friends who go to Catskills for the weekend they are talking about blacks and poor whites and us in fly over country who pose a threat to their beloved state.

  2. On December 17, 2015 at 10:20 am, Frank Clarke said:

    “Having a gun in the city is a bit like having a Jew in your attic…”

    I am so stealing this…

  3. On December 17, 2015 at 10:27 am, Fred said:

    you can’t steal it. It’s free!

  4. On December 17, 2015 at 3:54 pm, Sandydog said:

    Since it’s free, I’m taking a chunk of it, too. The frenzied hatred that the Left feels for guns and gun owners is just as virulent as the hatred that dedicated Hitler fanboys displayed, not that long ago.

  5. On December 17, 2015 at 5:43 pm, Phil Ossiferz Stone said:

    Yeah… and that’s a new thing. The vitriol from the far Left began right after Gore lost. I have watched it metastasize and go mainstream, taking the mass media and the Democratic Party with it. But it always took the form of hysterical ridicule and wild slander — not open threats.

    That has changed now. Go reread the first-in-a-century NY Times front page editorial calling for firearms confiscation. Skim through the comments section and hear the threats mingled with ridicule that your punt AR-15 can stop the US military — yes, they go there. Then listen to Hillary’s screeching about overturning Heller, for starters.

    The blue-state fascist media outlets and politicians are not dumb. On the contrary, they know their target audience well, and they believe they have a public mandate from the blue-state sheeple who control our economy and the electoral college. Like a tame dog that kills a chicken and discovers it enjoys fresh blood, vast swathes of our citizenry have imbibed the fascist narcotic of hatred. Not of foreigners who threaten or kill you — those are merely inconvenient — but of your ideological rivals right here at home.

    I have said this before and will restate it: You are foolish if you take them too lightly. And I am damned scared.

  6. On December 17, 2015 at 1:38 pm, GomeznSA said:

    One quick observation of Mr. Goldberg’s ‘analysis’, and one with which I STRONGLY disagree. “when used as intended only hurt or kill people” – is simply WRONG. That attitude totally demonizes thousands and thousands of both target shooters and hunters. The ‘used as intended’ meme of the left – ie guns are only designed to kill people – is one that they get far too much mileage out of. Guns are intended to launch a projectile downrange – it is totally the intent of the shooter as to what that projectile impacts, be it a paper target, a game animal, and yes on occasion a human being. The hoplophobes have been very successful at blaming the tool rather than the intent of the person wielding it.

  7. On December 17, 2015 at 2:14 pm, Tinman said:

    Goldberg actually belives the opposite. Yes, that’s the first sentance but, he uses the rest of that paragraph to refute that notion’s accuracy.

  8. On December 17, 2015 at 3:32 pm, Archer said:

    You have to read the whole sentence for context: To urban liberals, guns are like cigarettes — products that when used as intended only hurt or kill people, and that are also low-class and crude. [emphasis added]

    He’s paraphrasing the “urban liberals'” point of view, not his own.

  9. On December 17, 2015 at 5:59 pm, GomeznSA said:

    Perhaps so, but unfortunately too many will only read and interpret what they want out of his column. Maybe he should have made his stance clear earlier……….rather than the end of the paragraph.

  10. On December 17, 2015 at 4:16 pm, Sandydog said:

    Sometimes, we have to give a bit to gain a bit, and I’m willing to concede to the Disarmists on the point that guns WERE originally intended to shove a bit of metal at incredible speed out of a tube in a specific direction–and that direction is at another human being. Our ancestors didn’t develop firearms to shoot at paper targets; They developed them as a better means of reaching out farther to punch lethal holes in an adversary, to better defeat the plate armor worn by the nobility that was then capable of withstanding the best bodkin arrow heads of the time–bluntly, they were out to kill men.
    We can throw in as a sideline that, yes, firearms were used by the wealthy to hunt; However, for the majority of men throughout history, the whole reason to have a firearm was to be better armed against other men.
    There isn’t any harm in admitting this; If we try to claim the opposite, that guns were developed as pretty, loud toys with which to display feats of accuracy against bits of paper, we seem disingenuous.
    Now, in the present day, we can explain that firearms are no longer solely weapons of war, and that they ARE used for hunting or for recreational target practice, that they DO serve to save life when the carrier is threatened with death, and that not every modern gun is solely intended to take human life, as times have changed.
    By admitting the truth, and not giving Disarmists the chance to sarcastically confront us with the obvious disparity, we take the wind out of their sails and can move on to better things. Let them tell the lies; Our best armor against them is the truth.

  11. On December 17, 2015 at 5:58 pm, GomeznSA said:

    Your thoughts are mostly valid but please tell me when ‘we’ (gun owners) have EVER gotten anything from the hoplophobes? We have always gotten the short end of any ‘deals’ that have ever been made that are essentially ‘infringing’. No matter how much more ground we concede, they are like the kid in the Dickens tale and always demand ‘more’. Far too many that are supposedly on ‘our’ side are all too willing to continue to “give a bit”.

  12. On December 18, 2015 at 3:37 am, Sandydog said:

    It’s not a matter of losing ground if we just tell the truth in every aspect of what we are trying to get across; There’s no loss in that, only gain–two steps forward, one step back and all that. Whether the adversary is willing to accept it is not my concern; It’s only that I have given them fact instead of fiction, and they can never say that I lied about something and use it against me.

  13. On December 17, 2015 at 10:11 pm, RegT said:

    Whenever I listen to someone pushing the “guns were made to kill” meme, I know I’m listening to a liberal, even if he is wearing “conservative” clothing, even if he thinks of himself as conservative.

    Wrong. Guns are used in America alone many, many thousands of times (some statistics claim several million times) every year to _stop_ violence, not to kill. Not simply by law enforcement officers, but far more often by civilians, protecting themselves from muggers and rapists. Guns were not created to just to kill (as this writer indicated, initially they were made to be a better weapon in war), but to stop killing.

    In war, they are also used to protect your own side from being killed by the other side, and when the other side in a battle surrenders, the killing stops (unless you are a liberal/communist/fascist army who kills their prisoners. Or a muslim army who rapes and kills their prisoners). Armies are not given firearms so they can kill every last soldier on the other side. Which means that, even made for war, they aren’t used only to kill.

    Why do most mass-murderers go to “gun-free zones”? Because they fear that their victims may be armed elsewhere. So there the gun serves as a deterent without killing anyone. The old, “God made men, but Col. Colt made them equal”, was intended to indicate that a physically weaker man or woman could defend him/herself against a more powerful aggressor – even if they _also_ were armed. They did not have to kill to do so.

    So, whenever you hear some ignorant person saying guns were made only to kill, know that you are listening to ignorance (not stupidity, simply ignorance) and not to fact.

  14. On December 18, 2015 at 3:46 am, Sandydog said:

    Denying that firearms were first created and developed as weapons of war, and, by extension, to kill or to threaten to kill, is akin to Dr. Gatling’s sad delusion that, by developing more efficient engines of war to speed up the rate of killing in battle, deaths by disease would be lessened, and the horrors of war diminished by bringing wars to quick ends.
    We can honestly tell Disarmists that, in today’s world, firearms are no longer expressly weapons of war, and serve at times to better the human condition; However, we can’t deny that all firearms are capable of lethality, and claim that the world is a better place for their invention.
    If we can’t be honest while defending our beliefs, we can’t very well expect honesty in return from our adversaries–although, realistically, expecting that is a pipe dream in most instances.

  15. On January 5, 2016 at 4:11 pm, Buckland Woodcock said:

    “Sometimes, we have to give a bit to gain a bit” — give an inch… ring a bell? give a hand, what do they want? your arms.

  16. On December 18, 2015 at 11:25 am, Chemechie said:

    Guns are a tool like any other – a tool can be used for good or bad, to be productive or as a weapon. It depends on the user whether a gun is used to commit crime or to stop it.
    This quote fits here ” A gun is a tool – your weapon is between your ears; use it!” (Larry Correia)

  17. On December 18, 2015 at 4:51 pm, Sandydog said:

    Absolutely true, sir. You know it, I know it, and anybody with an open mind can understand it. Dedicated Disarmists, however, aren’t open minded, and are beyond reason; ‘They are a breed apart, and make no sense.’ We can’t reach them no matter what we do or say.
    There ARE, though, people who are undecided, misinformed (an euphemism for ‘lied to’) or just plain ignorant that can be reached. If 51% of the population now sees an ‘assault weapon’ ban as useless and unnecessary, down from 67% a few years ago, and given that less than 51% are gun owners, there are a lot of people that are open to the truth, and many apparently have heard it.
    The more we take the high ground of plain truth, the better off we’ll be.

  18. On December 20, 2015 at 6:02 pm, Oregon Hobo said:

    I understand where you’re coming from with this, but this is a dangerous argument that offers no real benefit and ultimately leads nowhere. Yes, a weapon is a type of tool, but to say that a weapon is only a tool is incorrect, evasive and, frankly, foolish.

    You may gain yourself the very brief satisfaction of stymieing your opponent, but calling them tools isn’t going to fool anyone into thinking a rifle is not substantially different from, say, a miter saw. It just makes us look like we’re trying to dodge the issue because deep down we are ashamed and know we can’t justify the truth of the matter. In other words, you just lost the argument.

    Let us remind ourselves: we have the right to WEAPONS OF WAR, made for the express purpose of doing terrible things to other human beings (and perhaps animals as a side benefit), and to shrink from that fact is to lose this fight before it’s even begun. Let’s hear it from Tenche Coxe, with emphasis on that last sentence:

    Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom? Congress has no
    power to disarm the militia. Their swords and every terrible implement
    of the soldier are the birthright of Americans.

    The 2nd Amendment does not address a right to shop for a nice wrench and socket set at your local Sears. We should be extremely wary of following this line of reasoning about tools lest we paint ourselves into a rhetorical corner. If we argue that weapons are merely tools, then where do we get off claiming that there is anything special about them that warrants any sort of inalienable right to them?

    Similarly, the argument that a particular gun’s purpose is to punch holes in paper leads nowhere useful. The 2nd Amendment doesn’t address a right to staplers, hole punches, or any other device for perforating stationery.

    We all know the reason we go out to the range — to practice our use of weaponry. It may be fun, and that’s great, but there are lots of things that are fun without requiring us to own deadly weapons. …and no I don’t believe for a second that anyone reading the comments section of this blog goes to the range exclusively nor even primarily to have fun. For those who are not yet seeing the pattern here, I will point at that the 2nd Amendment does not address a right to have fun nor to keep and bear fun toys.

    All of these arguments are rhetorical traps into which many of us too willingly leap. Not only are these arguments fundamentally dishonest, they diminish the importance of the right to keep and bear arms, which is something we absolutely cannot afford to do.

    If you can’t make a case without apology or evasion for owning a deadly weapon then you should simply bow out of the conversation. Personally when encountering the “Guns are made to kill” claim, my favorite reply is “Well of course they are.” …and go from there.

    Later on I can point out statistics about how often people use guns to stop violent crimes without ever even firing a shot, but only after I’ve made it clear where I stand on the right of all human beings to keep and bear ARMS. Not tools, toys or paper punches, but deadly weapons that I take very seriously.

    Such bluntness often unbalances my co-conversationalist such that I am able to get several words in edgewise before my opponent recovers, and possibly even have something resembling a conversation that proceeds far enough for me to get to the part where I invite him or her out to the range. …and who knows, maybe have some fun. ;-)

    Happy trails,


  19. On December 17, 2015 at 8:50 pm, Paul X said:

    I don’t think that is an example of the contrapositive.

    If we say, “smoking is ubiquitous” implies that “ending smoking will be easy” the contrapositive of that implication is: “ending smoking will NOT be easy” implies that “smoking is NOT ubiquitous”. If the first implication is true, then the second implication, its contrapositive, must be true also.

    The reason gun control is dead is because people find net utility in owning guns – once they try to set aside any biases and look at it dispassionately. They also, through experience, tend to disbelieve the ruling class, and to understand that their interests are not the same as the ruling class interest, and in fact often conflict.

    It’s perfectly natural for a parasitic ruling class to want disarmed peons, which makes their parasitism easier and safer. It is NOT natural for peons to want to be helpless. It takes a lot of indoctrination to make them that way; and that indoctrination is now failing, due to the Internet.

  20. On December 18, 2015 at 10:36 pm, Loog Moog said:

    In the end, they have their opinion, and we have our guns. I will take those odds any time.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published December 17th, 2015 by Herschel Smith.

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