POLITICS
12/18/2012 02:30 pm ET Updated Dec 18, 2012

Sandy Hook Solutions Should Not Include This Dumb Idea Megan McArdle Had

You know what the dumbest thing I've read since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is? It's the same thing everyone else is calling the dumbest thing they've read, because it is so obvious in its overwhelming dumbness: Megan McArdle's "Hey Kids, Go Tackle The Man Who Is Spraying Bullets Everywhere" piece for The Daily Beast:

My guess is that we're going to get a law anyway, and my hope is that it will consist of small measures that might have some tiny actual effect, like restrictions on magazine capacity. I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once. Would it work? Would people do it? I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips.

Just for the record, I would like to encourage people not to gang-rush shooters, and to instead run and hide, and any parent who would "drill it into young people" to do otherwise should be thrown in a pit.

By the way, the answers to the questions "would it work?" and "would this be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips?" are "No" and "No." As Gary Wills points out, our current policy involves "throwing [children] into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines." McArdle's proposal is actually the status quo ante.

Gads. This paragraph comes at the end of an epic wreck of a piece that just goes on and on forever. And its length is needless, given the fact that McArdle sort of gives up all hope entirely near the top of the piece when she says, "Since we can't understand it, we can't change it." In this case, "it" refers to both the Newtown shooting and a "mountain of wickedness" that is "pure evil."

From there, it's just an endless litany of despair designed to thoroughly discourage the reader from believing that anything can be done about gun violence and mass killings. "There is probably a policy" that would help, but "we are not going to implement that policy," McArdle has decided, on everyone's behalf. Most of the solutions she's hearing, she says, suffer from being too "generic." She writes: "As soon as Newtown happened, people reached into a mental basket already full of 'ways to stop school shootings' and pulled out a few of their favorite items." And you see, those ideas are just so hopelessly boring!

But what are the alternatives? There are some bolder proposals possible, but if they won't permanently end all gun violence and evil everywhere forever then why bother? There are also a lot of solutions that McArdle does not personally support, so those are non-starters, as well. Thus, there's nothing to be done about it, and no conversation to be had, other than to continue to inure ourselves to our current policy of tossing children, willy-nilly, into the path of harm.

Apparently, people she knows on Facebook got more than a little bit fed up with the way all of this languorous, bourgeois moping masquerading as thoughtful post-modern ennui came off as more than a little self-indulgent:

When I pointed out some of these things on Facebook this weekend, the responses were generally angry, or incredulous. "Megan, you're not presenting an argument, you're just poking holes in others' arguments," said one friend. "Anyone can do that. Bottom line, how do you suggest improving things?"

The answer, I'm afraid, is that I don't. I know this is a very frustrating answer. It got me a fair amount of angry pushback on Facebook, particularly since my friends know that I am in favor of much less stringent gun control than they are. It's not surprising that they feel that I'm hiding the football--poking holes in the stuff that won't work while ignoring the stuff that will, in an attempt to deceive people into giving up on a gun control that I would oppose for entirely separate reasons.

It is, I guess, much easier to defend the position of uniform helplessness and paint the hope of other people as dull or useless or pointless, than it is to actually manifest the courage to actually defend those policy preferences you prefer (that recent tragic events have rendered temporarily gauche for all those nice holiday party chats you'll be having in the weeks to come). In other words, the Newtown shootings have really proven to be a terrible and tragic inconvenience for McArdle, and she'd prefer everyone stop all this talk of change that makes her uncomfortable.

It's a funny thing! When I first read this piece I truly thought it was odd that McArdle would suggest we train kids to sacrifice themselves and run into the teeth of carnage as a policy solution to gun violence, since it seemed way out of step for anyone who places value on the idea of "rational self-interest." But upon reflection, I see that this post truly is stirring in its support of rational self-interest. The author's, anyway.

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