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Gun Control and the Left’s Search for Psychic Satisfaction

A CNN report on the awful massacre that occurred at the Washington Navy Yard yesterday was extremely telling. According to the story:

[Federal law enforcement] sources, who have detailed knowledge of the investigation, cautioned that initial information that an AR-15 was used in the shootings may have been incorrect. It is believed that Alexis had rented an AR-15, but returned it before Monday morning’s shootings. Authorities are still investigating precisely how many weapons Alexis had access to and when.

Regardless, the massacre pushed the AR-15 back into the gun-control debate. The weapon has been used in several other rampages that shocked the nation [emphasis added].

Now why is this particular story revealing? Because it focuses almost entirely on the AR-15–which was originally thought to be a weapon used in the massacre. But the FBI is now telling CNN that, in fact, an AR-15 was not used. Which is why the use of the adverb “regardless” is so delicious.

The massacre pushed the AR-15 back into the gun control debate–regardless of the fact that the AR-15 had nothing to do with the shooting. No matter. It could have been used. And clearly for many liberals, they wish it had been used. The fact that it wasn’t, while inconvenient, certainly isn’t enough to derail the left’s ideological agenda. 

Now it may well be that gun-control laws simply don’t work. (For the record, I’m open to gun-control measures, if they prove to be efficacious rather than merely symbolic.) That’s certainly the case when it comes to the assault-weapons ban Congress enacted in 1994–and several studies (which I have written about here) have found that that the evidence is insufficient to determine whether firearms laws are effective.

Regardless (there’s that word again), liberals want to pretend gun-control laws are effective. Because here’s what you need to understand. For some on the left, this debate isn’t about what works; it’s about moral preening. It’s about an issue that fits into their ideological template. It’s about speaking out on an issue that creates for them psychic satisfaction and existential meaning (see CNN’s Piers Morgan’s obsession with gun control for more). This necessarily involves epistemological closure. But that’s apparently a small price for them to pay.


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