Saturday, 14 April 2012

'Guns For All Mankind'

Politico's James Hohmann is in St. Louis for the National Rifle Association Conference, at which both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich spoke yesterday.

Mr. Santorum, who recently suspended his presidential campaign, proudly announced that his sick daughter Bella is now a lifetime member of the gun group.  Bella Santorum is three years old.

Mr. Gingrich, still running, promised that he would submit a treaty to the United Nations seeking to make the right to bear arms, which is enshrined in America's second amendment, a universal human right.

"Far fewer women would be raped.  Far fewer children would be killed... and far fewer dictators would survive if people had the right to bear arms everywhere on the planet."

All of these assertions are simply wrong.  A plethora of studies have shown that higher gun ownership rates lead to higher levels of violent crime, whether one examines the developing world or even the United States itself.

Even were that not the case however, it is interesting to hear a United Nations sceptic such as Mr. Gingrich suggest that a UN decree would have a quantifiable effect on anything.  Are dictators going to start supplying their oppressed populaces with weapons, just because of Mr. Gingrich's petition?

That is of course assuming that his proposal would not be laughed out of the chamber.

The fealty with which conservative Americans in particular defend gun ownership is disappointing. Surely any concerns over the principle of individual liberty are in this case superseded by the moral imperative to limit loss of life due to violent crime.

These same individuals who call themselves 'pro-life' all too often offer enthusiastic support for the death penalty and respond with outrage to any effort to take deadly weapons off the streets.

Mr. Santorum's announcement that he had made his baby daughter a lifetime NRA member earned wild applause from yesterday's enthusiastic pro-gun audience, but for many others it would have been a deeply disturbing moment.

Mitt Romney also spoke at the conference, giving voice to a more moderate pro-gun stance.  His arguments on the issue seem positively mature, juxtaposed with the stubbornly unyielding position of many Republicans - but he is equally wrong.

There will be no lasting gun reform in the United States until conservatives are convinced of the moral imperative.  This argument will have to be made by one of their own - a popular, courageous conservative leader.

We may be waiting for quite some time.

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