Remedies that go too far, Part II
Will Wilkinson makes the case for doing nothing, at least for the moment:
The things we already fear and already desire more thoroughly to control are most vividly salient to us. We seize on those: guns, crazy people. Did Jared Lee Loughner shoot government officials with a gun? Ban guns within 1,000 feet of government officials! Was Jared Lee Loughner detectably crazy? Make involuntary commitment easier! Did Jared Lee Loughner buy a gun while detectably crazy? Tighten background-screening requirements! Did Jared Lee Loughner's gun sport an extended magazine? Ban extended magazines!
Some of these proposals may have merit, but no more now than on Friday. The issues they address have become no more urgent. Sadly, people are shot to death every day. The odd and the infirm roam our streets. Some of them buy guns and use them. With the incarceration of Jared Lee Loughner, the odds of crazy people shooting and killing officeholders (and untitled, less newsworthy human beings) has gone down, not up. There is no more reason now to deliberate publicly about mental-health and gun-control policy. Indeed, there is every reason to postpone deliberation and debate until we recover from the panicked burst of irrationality and high emotion predictably induced by a highly-visible but singular, largely ungrokkable enormity.
I don't want to go too far with this. There are certain tragedies or disasters that relate to a very specific policy failure. The levees around New Orleans, for instance, were not strong enough, and it was wise to channel the fury that developed as Katrina washed through the city into a consensus that we shouldn't make the same mistake again. But the conditions in which action makes sense -- when a policy failure is clear, and when fixing that policy will prevent recurrences of the tragedy in the future -- don't seem to me to be present here.
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