OTOH, Paul blasted the NRA's proposal to place armed police in every school:
The proliferation of legal guns in America over the last several decades makes their prohibition as fanciful as the prohibition of alcohol or pot. Yes, "we could try." But you'd fail, just as the drug war has failed, just as alcohol prohibition failed. This isn't Europe or Japan, where the populace was disarmed by totalitarian states, or else under martial law after a war, so that strict gun control could be imposed from scratch. In the US, and certainly Texas, it would be many decades before the black market exhausted its supply. The only upside would be for the private prison companies, who are always looking for new categories of citizens to criminalize and incarcerate.He said the federal government should not try to “pursue unobtainable safety” with state-sanctioned security and claimed Democratic and Republican lawmakers have “zero moral authority to legislate against violence.”“This is the world of government provided ‘security,’ a world far too many Americans now seem to accept or even endorse,” Paul said in a statement on his website. “School shootings, no matter how horrific, do not justify creating an Orwellian surveillance state in America.”
He continued: “Only a totalitarian society would even claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total state control over its citizens’ lives. We shouldn’t settle for substituting one type of violence for another.”
By the same token, in an era when the Obama Administration considers civilian casualties acceptable collateral consequences of extra-judicial executions (read: drone strikes), I couldn't agree more that “Democratic and Republican lawmakers have 'zero moral authority to legislate against violence.'” And his comment about the NRA proposal "substituting one kind of violence for another" could have come straight from Gandhi or Dr. King. Paul's statement expanded on the theme: "Real change can happen only when we commit ourselves to rebuilding civil society in America, meaning a society based on family, religion, civic and social institutions, and peaceful cooperation through markets. We cannot reverse decades of moral and intellectual decline by snapping our fingers and passing laws." Amen, brother. Preach!
I always worry when government makes policy in reaction to some specific, rare event like the mass shooting of first graders. There's an old saying, when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras. The massacre in Connecticut was a zebra, one cannot reasonably ban everything with hooves in response.
Personally, I find US and Texas gun laws both over- and under-restrictive, in an almost schizophrenic kind of way. For example, it's no doubt too easy for folks diagnosed with a serious mental illness to acquire firearms, and the legal framework governing mental illness is conflicted and generally underdeveloped. We could do much better at getting those in need access to mental health services and supervising, whether in corrections facilities, hospitals, or in the community, people who pose a serious risk of violence when off their meds. Intermediate levels of supervision - perhaps including greater use of preemptive civil commitments - could support compliance with treatment protocols on the front end instead of punishing the mentally ill after something bad has happened. But all that would require a community mental health infrastructure that today doesn't exist. In most places, the county jail is now the area's largest mental health provider. OTOH, if you want to talk about "gun control" aimed narrowly at those with serious mental illness, you'd probably get a lot less pushback than for any kind of general ban.
At the same time, the universal ban on felons possessing firearms ends up sending a lot of folks to prison who've committed no other recent offense, and only a subset of those people (Texas releases more than 70,000 felons from prison every year) are so dangerous they merit a lifetime ban on firearm ownership, as federal law prescribes. Meanwhile there are some misdemeanors, including family violence, that probably merit elimination of gun rights but don't. (In Texas, a domestic violence conviction means you can't own a gun for five years.) Misdemeanors vs. felonies is an arbitrary line.
Certainly I believe the law can be changed in ways that would reduce the number of gun deaths. As our e-pal Dan Kahan recently opined, the most immediate and effective method of reducing the gun death total - though it has nothing to do with lone-gunman school shootings - would be to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana and cocaine. A large proportion of gun deaths - not the least of which are the 60,000 or so in northern Mexico over the last six years - relate to the black-market drug trade. You don't see the makers of Samuel Adams lager engaged in gun battles with Anheuser Busch.
However, there's no public safety benefit from criminalizing common activities and uses by everyday gun owners, especially because there are too many of them. (Long-time readers may recall Grits worked with the Texas State Rifle Association and even authored a public policy report in support of legislation to allow legal gun owners to carry a weapon, stowed securely, in their personal vehicles.) But neither are more guns inherently a good solution. Giving teachers guns to keep in classrooms full of mischievous kids, for example, as has been suggested in Arlington, is a recipe for disaster.
The all-or-nothing debate over guns has turned into another hackneyed, culture-war flashpoint, obscuring more moderate, selective policies aimed at mitigating specific, underlying causes of gun violence. Ron Paul, I fear, is the wrong messenger; the public is so used to ignoring him it's got to be second nature by now. And Grits thinks government should probably play a bigger role in this matter than the Congressman would countenance, along the lines described above. But I'm glad to hear somebody say in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy that more, harsher criminal laws aren't the only or even the best solution.