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Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell thinks it’s “time to have a discussion” about arming school officials. Ohio’s John Kasich says he intends to sign a new concealed-carry law that allows guns into the Statehouse parking garage. Texas’s Rick Perry suggests that local school districts could permit teachers to tote their guns to class. For these Republican governors, as for the gun lobby that’s got their backs, the Newtown massacre is another reason not to limit guns.
Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, posted just after the shooting: “How many more children have to die before this country realizes that No Gun Zones create perfect locations for violence? You can not stop criminals and mad men with laws, you can only stop violence with the fear of armed victims.” The editor of the group’s website, Dave Workman, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, noted that Connecticut is “a very restrictive state, and this presumably occurred in a gun-free school zone.… It creates a situation where the criminals have guns, and everyone else is defenseless.” These are not marginal views confined to the right-wing websites.
The structure of this line of argument has certain standard features. First, the more-guns-the-better lobby insists that good-guy gunners will always, everywhere, shoot down bad-guy gunners. Gottlieb is apparently certain that Adam Lanza, fresh from murdering his mother and evidently, deeply, unfathomably insane, would have been deterred if, on arriving at Sandy Hook Elementary School, he’d been confronted by “armed victims.” He brought a whole arsenal with him—should a tank be posted at every school door?
The second, related line of argument is that the proposed cure is worse than the disease; that what has disarmed the good guys is tight regulation by bureaucrats. Workman neatly sidesteps the fact that the “very restrictive state” of Connecticut does not ban large-magazine, semiautomatic handguns or the semiautomatic rifle used by Lanza to slaughter twenty children and six adults.
Ideologies are marvelous things; the more paranoid, the more marvelous. Poke them, and they spring right back into shape. Infinitely elastic, they stretch to encompass vast numbers of awkward events. To the 100 percent mind, all square pegs can be squeezed into round holes. Paranoia always knows best. Certainty trumps complication. Has the easing of gun restrictions in recent years stopped mass killings? Hardly. Is America, rich in guns, low in gun violence? To the contrary. But the 100 percent mind always has the same metaphor at hand: the slippery slope. If you despise Norwegian social democracy, then Anders Behring Breivik is your negative poster child for the futility, or worse, of all gun laws except those that mandate guns.