Tom Diaz Scares Me

Because I don’t think he’s too tightly connected to reality. Tom is one of the principals of the Violence Policy Center which is dedicated to banning handguns.

Our buddies at JoinTogether have published one of his op-eds. Let us fisk:

Had Enough Yet?

by Tom Diaz

It’s an All-American story. Nebraska University soccer star Jenna Cooper throws a barbecue in her home to celebrate the season’s end. Two men argue over stolen shot glasses. One whips out a handgun.

Jenna Cooper, 21-years old, on the cusp of life — talented and loved by her team, her family, and her friends — is gone, taken by a stray bullet fired in anger.

The Lincoln, Nebraska chief of police remarked that Jenna Cooper happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. With all due respect, chief, sir, that is not the problem. The problem is that America is awash with firearms hyper-marketed by a relentless and unregulated gun industry. If a Saturday night barbecue in your own home is the wrong place at the wrong time, what’s left? Not much. There is no right place and right time anymore. How about the office. Bad idea.

Note: Tom doesn’t place any blame on the shooter, but on the gun industry. Anybody see a problem with that?

A co-worker might come in packing to settle an obscure score that has been sloshing around in his cranial brew for years. What about church, or synagogue, or mosque? Nope, that’s been tried. Angry, gun-toting people cork off there, too. Churches have been shot up, even priests officiating masses. Ditto, synagogues and mosques. Schoolyards, the Empire State Building, shopping malls, even the U.S. Capitol have been turned into shooting galleries.

All the fault of gun manufacturers – not the shooters. And not all guns, only handguns.

Except churches, schoolyards, shopping malls et. al have all been shot up by people with rifles, too.

Oh, yeah, and the road rage shooters are out there, waiting to be crossed. One of them just might take the occasion of your flight to safety to decide that you are in too big a hurry, made too sharp a turn, or just plain look like a good candidate for road kill. Had enough yet?

The real problem is that there is barely a crevice left in American life in which the handgun has not taken root. Someone wants to argue over a shot glass or two? Just pull out your argument settler and pop off a round. End of argument.

Again: It’s apparently not the fault of the shooter, but the GUN INDUSTRY.

Now Tom really runs off the rails:

It wasn’t always that way. The American gun industry — one of only two consumer products in America free of federal product health and safety regulation (the other is tobacco) — has created this nightmare.

It has deliberately changed the mix of firearms sold in America over the last 30 years. It has done it because, unlike many other consumer industries that follow population growth, the gun business has faced saturated, declining markets. So it has relentlessly pushed new models of handguns to stimulate sales.

Excuse me? Last time I checked, the market is what drives innovation. If the industry builds it and nobody wants it, that product fails – but Tom is convinced that the industry somehow holds its product to American heads and forces us to buy. Here’s his “evidence”:

This was described some years ago in a magazine called American Firearms Industry: “Without new models that have major technical changes, you eventually exhaust your market. . . This innovation has driven the handgun market.” The most spectacular change in the U.S. civilian firearms market since the end of the Second World War has been the rise of the handgun. In 1946 handguns were only eight percent of firearms sold. Beginning in the mid-1960s this changed.

Handgun sales are now twice the level of 40 years ago, consistently averaging about 40 percent of the overall market. Not only that, the industry is making handguns smaller and more powerful so they can be concealed more easily and do more damage when used. The Austrian company Glock, one of the biggest handgun marketers in America, dubbed its contribution the “Pocket Rocket.”

Let’s stop right there for a moment. Remember, Tom has just built the case that handguns are responsible for turning various places into “shooting galleries,” that handguns represented only 8% of firearms sold, at least in 1946. Now, does that suggest to you that Tom is making the case that homicide rates were much lower in those halcyon days back when handguns were such a tiny percentage of all firearms? Well, here’s a graph of homicide rates in the U.S. from 1900 through 2000. Bear in mind, those rates continued to decline through 2003.

See anything wrong with Tom’s premise?

So those corny old movies and nostalgic television shows are right. In 1946, you could go to a party and maybe somebody would get angry. Maybe a punch or two would be thrown. But it would be darned rare for somebody to pull out a Pocket Rocket and start shooting. Not because people were better then, but because handguns were scarce.

Um, no Tom. Because “pocket rockets” weren’t invented until much later. But what about 1929? Would it have been rare then for someone to have pulled a “gat” and started shooting? Was it the eeeeevil gun manufacturer’s fault then?

Not any more. Now every husband who decides to come home and pop the wife has a handgun readily at hand. Every depressed kid or senior who wants to end it all has a handgun. And every nitwit who wants to feel like a big man at a barbecue has a handgun.

Right. The gun fairy just leaves it under the pillow.

There are a few ideological fantasists who are so hooked on the power of the gun that they claim the answer is simply more guns, to arm more people so they can “defend themselves” and “shoot back.” Jenna Cooper was enjoying a party. The bullet that hit her in the neck and took her life first traveled through another guest’s scalp.

How in the name of blessed reason could she have defended herself from that bizarre sequence with yet another gun? The answer is she couldn’t. Sure, get mad at the guy who shot her. Punish him. But don’t fantasize about blazing gun battles to teach that punk a thing or two.

And don’t blame the wrong place and the wrong time.

Here I actually agree with Tom. He’s correct on this – single – point. But he’s absolutely wrong in his conclusion:

Blame America’s gun industry for putting the gun in his hand.

I have, over the last few weeks, written piece after piece decrying the philosophy of the gun banners. They proclaim that the guns are at fault. That if they could only get rid of the guns none of this would happen. I have shown example after example from that gun-control utopia of England illustrating how even after implementing every single policy supported by gun control forces, gun crime there went up. And as a result, because the philosophy cannot be wrong, the response has been “do it again, only HARDER!

Tom Diaz exemplifies this mindset. Tom seems to believe that guns are the cause of this violent behavior. That all we have to do is disarm everybody, and THESE. CRIMES. WILL. STOP.

Well, he’s partly right. If the government banned all handguns and demanded that they all be turned in, it’s possible that somewhere somebody might not get shot in a fit of anger. But it’s also possible that law-abiding people might not be able to defend themselves against the criminals who will not hand theirs in. It’s one of those “unintended consequences” that they don’t bother to consider.

Tom wants us all to be safe. He wants security. That’s not a bad thing to want, really. I think Tom suffers, though, from the same problem that is exhibited by most people who hate guns – a lack of trust in their fellow man. I wrote an essay on that topic I entitled TRUST, inspired by another who feared guns, rather than the people willing to misuse them. That piece is the counterpoint to Mr. Diaz’s philippic. Give it a read.

And then think about the path England has chosen, and ask yourself if you really want us to follow them.

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