Look what those nut job socialists & libertarians are saying now: that if we really want to reduce gun homicides—including the regular shooting of children on street corners in cities like Chicago—we should select one of the myriad sensible alternatives to our current "war on drugs," which predictably spawns violent competition to control a lucrative black market without doing much of anything to reduce either the supply or the demand for banned substances.
They just don’t get it!
So what if an expert consensus report from the National Academy of Sciences “found no credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws decreases or increases violent crime.” Big deal that a Center for Disease Control task force “found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws reviewed”—including waiting periods, ammunition bans, child access prevention laws, and “gun free school zones”—“for preventing violence.”
Who cares that the best available evidence clearly suggests, in contrast, that there are myriad steps we could take (“wholesale legalization” vs. “wholesale criminalization” is a specious dichotomy) that would very appreciably reduce the number of homicides associated with the criminogenic property of our own drug-law enforcement policies?
The point isn’t to save lives! It’s to capture the expressive capital of the law.
Their role (real and fabled) in American history—in overthrowing tyranny and in perpetuating conditions of slavery and apartheid; in taming the frontier and in assassinating Presidents—have imbued guns with a rich surfeit of social meanings. Wholly apart, then, from the effect gun laws have (or don’t) on homicide, they convey messages that symbolically affirm and denigrate opposing cultural styles.
We are a liberal democratic society, comprising a plurality of diverse moral communities. The individual liberty provisions of our Constitution forbid the State to “enforce … on the whole society” standards of “private conduct” reflecting any one community’s “conceptions of right and acceptable behavior.”
So for crying out loud, how will we possibly be able to use State power to resolve whose way of life is virtuous and honorable and whose vicious and depraved if we don’t fixate on laws that have ambiguous public-welfare consequences but express unambiguously partisan cultural meanings?
What’s that? You say that the “war on drugs” should also be viewed as an exercise of expressive power aimed at enforcing a cultural orthodoxy?
Of course. But the partisan meanings that are expressed by those laws are ones that only “ideological extremists”—libertarians, socialists, et al.—would object to.
Jacobs, J.B. Can gun control work? (Oxford University Press, Oxford ; New York; 2002).
Kahan, D.M.Cognitive Bias and the Constitution of the Liberal Republic of Science, working paper, available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2174032.
National Research Council (U.S.). Committee to Improve Research Information and Data on Firearms., Wellford, C.F., Pepper, J., Petrie, C. & National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Law and Justice. Firearms and violence : a critical review. (National Academies Press, Washington, DC; 2004).