Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Drawing Opposite Conclusions

One of the frustrations of dialogue with those who hold opinions opposite our own is that so often we look at the same event and come to completely different conclusions about it. The conclusions we draw are shaped by our worldview, including our political ideology and religious convictions. Liberals and conservatives often talk past each other because they begin from different philosophical starting points and also because it's often hard for either to really understand how the other thinks.

There was an example of this over the weekend in the Washington Free Beacon which featured an excerpt of an interview on MSNBC with the very liberal columnist from the Washington Post Eugene Robinson. Here's the Beacon's report:
While appearing on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports on Friday, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson said it was good that the terrorist attacks taking place in France this week didn’t occur in the United States because America has more guns. Robinson said that the wide availability of firearms in the United States would lead to further violence in similar situations to those the French are now dealing with. He did not elaborate on why he believed that was the case.

“Just to keep it in perspective, I don’t think we should imagine that the conditions and the threat are exactly the same in the United States as they are in France,” he said. “They are different.”

“In fact, one thing that is different here is weapons are universally available and so, uh, it is actually a very good thing that…that…that the tensions are not exactly the same because we would expect to have a lot more of that sort of carnage here.” The Islamic extremists who have attacked locations across Paris were reportedly heavily armed despite the country’s strict gun laws. However, most of their victims were reportedly not armed.
As near as I can figure Robinson seems to be suggesting that should terrorists wish they could do a lot more harm in the U.S. than in France because weapons are more readily available here than there.

This, though, makes no sense to me. The Paris terrorists apparently had no difficulty procuring weapons and were heavily armed. The problem in France was that there weren't enough weapons in the hands of the victims. One reason, it might be argued, that incidents like the Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher deli attacks would actually have a smaller chance of "success" in the U.S. is that the shooters would be more likely to encounter someone who could shoot back.

If Mr. Robinson thinks the chances of slaughter in this country would be diminished if Americans would disarm all he has to do is look at what happened in France where most citizens and even the responding police were unarmed. Indeed, every mass killing in this country, whether in a school or a movie theater or even on a military base, occurred when the only person who had a gun was the killer, and these tragedies often ended when the killer encountered another person with a gun.

Pace Mr. Robinson, if Americans were to disarm the chances of carnage like we saw last week in Paris would actually increase because the killers would have certainly no trouble obtaining weapons and they'd know they'd encounter no immediate resistance. This seems to me to be pellucidly obvious, but evidently it's not so to Mr. Robinson, and I have to wonder why not. Of course, he'd probably wonder the same about me.