In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, the left immediately clamored for more gun control. I don’t blame them.
While I believe those across the political spectrum insensitively politicize these tragedies far too soon, of course there should be a debate about guns after an incident as jarring as the carnage we saw in Las Vegas. It would be unreasonable not to expect that conversation.
There should be a rigorous debate about whether current laws might have aided or abetted the shooter. About the significant difference between auto (illegal) and semi-automatic (legal) weapons. About modifiers (legal in Nevada and likely used by the shooter) that can turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic ones. About suppressors and silencers. About whether or not mass shootings are even a good way to properly understand gun violence in any comprehensive way.
We should discuss why some experts who have examined gun violence data the most, domestically and abroad, now conclude that more gun control isn’t necessarily the answer to curbing the violence.
There are all sorts of ways in which Americans should discuss firearms. What we should not do is scream at and collectively blame gun advocates, conservatives, libertarians, Republicans, white people and even country music fans for the tragedy.
The only person ultimately responsible for the murders Sunday night in Las Vegas is the shooter.
But this kind of mass hysteria after a mass killing is by no means unique to the left.
In the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, last year, there was the predictable call for more gun restrictions by liberals, but conservatives wanted to restrict something else: Muslim immigrants and travelers.
When it was reported that the shooter’s name was Omar Mateen, it didn’t take long for some on the right to start pointing the finger at American Muslims. Milo Yiannopoulos blamed Muslims and wanted to end immigration from Islamic countries. Newt Gingrich wanted to deport any Muslim in the U.S. who professed to believe in Sharia law. We have a travel ban today because President Donald Trump agrees with some of these sentiments.
It’s understandable that many would want to have a conversation about Islamic extremism in the United States and the potential complicity mainstream American Islam could play. It would be unreasonable to expect Americans not to have that conversation.
Yes, we should discuss that within Islam there are extremists who potentially pose a threat to the public. But we should also discuss the fact that the overwhelming majority of American Muslims are not extremists, denounce terrorism and are as angered and saddened by these types of attacks as every other American. We should discuss that white men are a bigger domestic terrorist threat than Muslims. We should discuss that measures like Trump’s travel ban did nothing to stop the most deadly form of terrorism in the U.S. that we saw in Las Vegas.
What we should not do is attack an entire group and suggest they’re complicit. The only person to blame for the Pulse shooting is Omar Mateen.
And what are both sides really trying to say, in the end?
Was the venom spewing from the right after the Orlando shooting really just about keeping America safe? Or Muslim-bashing? How many on the left doing the loudest yelling right now about gun control are most interested in preventing future tragedies, or simply relish any excuse to bash red state Americans?
Most likely it’s a combination, which is why these post-tragedy debates become so shrill: People who are genuinely scared and looking for answers devolve into name-calling or worse.
Civil debate should be just that, not masked extensions of the culture war. Nor are real answers ever likely to be found in demonizing innocent parties or those with whom we merely disagree with.