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Home gun control What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Gun Control

What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Gun Control

A social ill takes place on three levels: the object level, the individual level, and the social level.

Take alcoholism. There’s the object, alcohol. There’s the choice that the individual makes to drink the alcohol. And, finally, there’s the social problems that can be blamed for widespread alcoholism.

The gun control movement operates in the same object-oriented space of the prohibitionist movement. For prohibitionists, the problem was gin. For the gun control movement, it’s all about the guns. Get rid of the gin and the guns, and the underlying problem goes away without having to do anything else.

While the old prohibitionism of sin substances, liquor, drugs, and pornography has been ridiculed and its legal infrastructure dismantled, the obsessive certainty that guns are inherently corrupting holds sway. The lefty media insists that the only solution to gun violence is prohibitionism and more prohibitionism.

Yet the argument for blaming guns is much weaker than the one for blaming drugs or alcohol. Alcohol and drugs are addictive compounds that shape how we think. Guns, unlike alcohol and drugs, aren’t addictive. Nor do they influence behavior. Their relationship to us remains an external one.

And object-oriented prohibitionism is the least meaningful way of looking at a social problem.

In the prohibitionist and anti-prohibitionist discourse over gun control, the familiar choice between civil rights and mass death dominates the debate. It’s the same framework that the Left rejects when it comes to crime and national security, but embraces on the issues of environmentalism and guns.

Guns do kill people in the same purely mechanistic sense in which alcohol, drugs, or rat poison do. But guns are a means, not a motive. They don’t explain why gun violence happens, only how it happens.

Above the object level is the individual level. Guns don’t really kill people; killers do.

Tackling a social ill at the human level explores the moral and mental state of the individual. Modern society is secular and scientific rather than moral, and reduces human evil to a medical condition. Mental illness explains the behavior of some killers, but others have no explanation other than evil.

The gun control argument insists that we ignore the moral and mental nature of the killer by contending that without guns, he wouldn’t want to kill, wouldn’t be able to kill, or, in the most rational version of the argument, wouldn’t be able to kill large numbers of people. None of those claims are actually true.

Gun violence is how people kill. It’s not why they kill. Nor is it the only way to commit mass murder.

Most gun violence is still gang violence. Mental illness isn’t killing 5 or 6 people in Chicago, Detroit, or Baltimore over the weekend. The media overlooks regular mass shootings in major cities, while zooming in on unusual mass shootings in suburban communities. That’s because the gun control movement really doesn’t want to talk about the social component of gun violence and organized crime.

Usually, the Left loves root causes. It can trace any individual dysfunction to the problems at the heart of a society. But when it comes to guns, it refuses to look past the physical object, while blaming everyone responsible for the existence of guns, from firearms manufacturers to the NRA. But blaming everyone involved with the existence of an object is not an examination of the root causes of its misuse.

The prohibitionists weren’t dealing with the root cause of alcoholism by busting up gin mills. The latest attacks on firearms manufacturers have just as little to do with the problems they claim to care about.

The social crises of alcohol and drug abuse had at their root cause social dislocation and a lack of purpose. No amount of prohibitionism, a negative, will provide people with a meaningful life.

The white suburban shooter and the urban black gang member lack purpose and meaning. Banning guns won’t stop them from killing. Nor will it turn their lives around. It’s the act of a society that doesn’t want to address what is wrong on the inside and instead clings desperately to waging war on externalities.

Americans used to have access to firearms on a scale that would horrify any contemporary crusader. Shootings weren’t treated as a problem caused by being able to buy a handgun in a hardware store, but as a sign that civilization, whether in an urban slum or a western town, had broken down.

In the age of government, uncivilized behavior is treated as a sign that regulation has broken down. But regulations control what people do. Not who they are. Murder is not first and foremost a regulatory failure, and only occasionally a mental one, but it is universally a moral one.

When social problems are reduced to objects, then people are also objectified. The killer pulls the trigger in the same mechanical way as the gun fires. He has no more of an inner life than his tool. The only solution is equally mechanistic: get rid of all the guns, and no more people will be shot. It’s a solution that ignores the realities of human ingenuity and depravity. It works for machines, not people.

But when we look at the individual and the social level, we can see both positive and negative options. The false choice between civil rights and mass murder that the gun control movement offers us is replaced with seeing prevention not in terms of how to take away something, but how to add value.

The gun is the least relevant and the least interesting aspect of why a killing really takes place.

On the social level, many killers are part of a real or virtual social community which affirms their crimes. It is no coincidence that mass shooters cite their predecessors as inspirations or that gang violence takes place within a territorial network of criminal communities and theological gang religions. Killing in these contexts is not just a method; it’s a culture. It has its own moral code. One that is antithetical to ours.

A moral and cultural conflict cannot be fought and will not be won with impersonal regulations.

On the individual level, the killer is driven by impulses. The gun is how he chooses to actualize those impulses. But mass killers have driven cars and trucks into crowds. They’ve started fires and set off bombs. How is not the most important question when it comes to a killer. The question is why.

And yet we spend very little time talking about the social infrastructure and moral state of the killer. Instead, the gun control movement, which dominates a political party, an ideology, and its associated institutions -- including academia and the media -- obsesses endlessly about the mechanics of the kill.

It compares America to other countries, as if nations and cultures were as interchangeable as mechanical moving parts, and asserts that the solution is making them interchangeable. The killers are also assumed to be interchangeable. What drives them to kill is not internal, but external. Anyone, at any time, the gun control movement suggests, can turn into a killer when faced with a tempting gun.

If murder is a mechanical problem, then it’s hopeless. Forget the guns. Everyone has a car or can get their hands on one. Accelerants are available in every store. Knives are casually sold everywhere.

If we are truly savages, then no amount of regulation will restore civilization. The killings will continue.

A civilization’s fundamental laws are moral. Its true strictures are not external, but internal. Their power lies in the moral and social order. Crime and violence are a sign that our moral and social orders have broken down. No amount of regulations can civilize savages. And few regulations are needed for civilized men. What fundamentally separates the Left and the Right is the understanding that man is not an ape or a machine. And that his ills cannot be solved with the mechanical tinkering of regulators.

Gun control and gun violence are both expressions of the amoral and inhuman worldview of the Left.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.

Thank you for reading.


  1. AislaS7/2/21

    Can't begin to tell you how good your run of articles have been on this blog.
    And I've yet to look at your FrontPage ones. To be honest, we here in the UK and Ireland find this blog enough to dwarf us, keep us busy between your posts.
    Why so?
    It's deep. You inevitably get right to the sweet spot where morality and social mores and behaviour, the cultural tropes and clichés turn to lies and slurry. Massive failures in the politics , the law and the appalling media lies, all dressed up in clown costumes or trans compliant tutus.
    Obvious chasms scream at us regarding the lefts crawling over gun control , and their indifference to addictions like porn and weed. If it's paying the left from stakeholding shills...and can be turned on people to criminalise ,demoralise or destroy personally? Then it's just dandy
    Two tier justice and two tracks of morality. One is G-d , via the Judeo Christian amalgam for civil living...the other is the Shaitanic Stalinist brew and punchbowls of evil that the Left are now drunk on, reeling round fountains both of blood and chocolate.
    Just thanks. Your primary colours paint rolling exercises in two opposing codes and cultures by way of contrast are brilliant, making the likes of me poetic, equally attuned. But you spark it nigh on every article.
    Keep them coming. Global relevance and deep teaching!

    1. Thank you, always glad to get word from the UK.

      Which targets the Left selects has to do with a variety of factors, their personal habits being perhaps chief among them, contrast the war on cigarettes with the legalization of drugs

  2. .... Take Alcoholism:
    1. There’s the object, alcohol
    2. There’s the choice that the individual makes to drink the alcohol and;
    3. Finally, there are the social problems that may be blamed for widespread Alcoholism.

    1. No there is not. With regard Alcoholism, alcohol is no more the "object" than is sugar the object with regard Diabetes and;
    2.There is no choice involved. Alcoholism (NOT to be confused with illicit drug habituation (both a cause and a consequence and AKA "addiction") is a disease. With a diagnosis, symptoms and a prognosis. Alcoholism is a physical allergy to alcoholism that manifests in the phenomenon of craving. Alcoholics (98% of whom die from and or with Alcoholism: whose survival rate, that is, is 2%) have no choice but are compelled to drink and;
    3. There are no more "social problems that may be blamed for widespread" Alcoholism than there are social problems that may be blamed for widespread Diabetes.

    1. Anonymous7/2/21

      Dude, diagnosed alcoholism/alcoholic here...
      2. The only reason I am alive this minute is that I choose not to consume alcohol.

    2. Anonymous8/2/21

      "Alcoholics (98% of whom die from and or with Alcoholism: whose survival rate, that is, is 2%) have no choice but are compelled to drink"

      AA proves that many alcoholics can learn to overcome this compulsion; not 100% perfectly, but for most practical purposes.
      And, as you say, alcoholism is a disease, for which there is no cure; so there is no such thing as an ex-alcoholic. That implies that anyone who has ever been diagnosed as an alcoholic is guaranteed to die "with alcoholism," even if he never touches another drop. So your statistics don't seem meaningful.

    3. Anonymous8/2/21

      1. You are incorrect, I believe. He broke it down to ONLY the fact that alcohol can be touched, it is an object in the sense that it belongs to the class of liquids, not solids or air. You are describing a description of a symptom as a result of drinking that liquid. His is scientific description and fact, yours is an assumption of a descriptive idea. Mutually exclusive.

      2. The article's focus is not a debate of ideas on alcoholism, it is about the issue of guns.

      3. As the widow of an alcoholic, I have listened to many ideas about it. I am convinced that simply adding an amount of B vitamins would greatly change that particular 'disease.' But, it's not something people talk about at all. Which was the whole point of his article; he discussed what people don't discuss about guns.

      People think hicks are stupid, but one of the oldest jokes in hickville is about how guns laying around have never killed anyone. They have to be touched. A sarcastic take on exactly the point of this argument.

      Guns don't shoot people. Crazy people shoot people.

      Which is also why they laugh at the court system. How can someone be 'not guilty by reason of insanity,' when all crime is actually a result of someone doing something insane. At least WE consider it insane when someone wants to hurt someone, steal from someone, or kill someone. Because those acts are not sane in a intelligent, caring world. And all crimes are hate crimes.

      That's my take on this excellent article.

    4. Anonymous8/2/21

      #2. Of course there is a choice involved. I have friends who finally came to understand that their drinking was destroying their families and themselves. Each made a conscious choice to stop drinking.
      #3. When is the last time you heard of a diabetic man going out to eat ice cream and then returning home to beat his wife and kids from his sugar high?

    5. #3..the "twinkie defense" comes to mind...

    6. #3..the "twinkie defense" comes to mind...insane problems are cured with insane solutions..and if the problem persists..tax it...ask any career politician..

  3. Over the last two decades the Democrats have become 'certifiable' on this issue. They want us to believe that we'd be a kind, loving and moral community if only there were no guns in civilian hands. They also believe the country has systemic gun violence. Unfortunately if you take a map and pinpoint those areas were there is the most 'gun violence', and overlay another map of the the major cities that are, and have been for a generation or longer, been 'owned' and operated by Democrats, there is nearly a 1:1 correlation. Anything outside of those 'violence circle', including any mass shooting incidents, are outliers. Across the vast expanse of the country there is no 'gun violence'. If they truly cared, they would have cleaned up Chicago, Baltimore, and other cities long ago. They don't, because they need the issue to campaign and fund raise with.

  4. Brian Richard Allen - the success of various support or "step" programs for recovery from alcoholism put the truth to the lie. You CAN choose NOT to use alcohol. You Can choose Not to solve your problems with guns. Just because someone decided to classify "alcoholism" as a disease doesn't necessarily make it so. Words have meaning and that meaning can be manipulated as an excuse. You are deflecting Sir and trying to distract from the main argument of Daniel's essay. Guns do not kill nor do they make people kill. People choose to use guns to kill and, absent guns theya re likely to find other ways to kill.

  5. I'm sure there are people who think if they ban guns we will all be one happy family but I think the reason our so called leaders want to ban guns is so they can ram anything they want right up our butts and we cant do a thing about it........don't believe me?......look at history

    1. DPaul..history? must ask..whos history...as you can see there are many who dont like "history" so they change it..the way its presented in schools to public monuments and all in between..our language is under a microscope..you can be fired from a job if you use the "wrong" pronoun..the book 1984 may indeed have a shelf life

  6. Francisco Machado8/2/21

    As with alcohol and drugs, prohibition - laws restricting purchase and ownership of guns - drives the market underground and alters the balance of power in favor of the criminals; it grants them a monopoly of force. Possession of a firearm is the one thing that counterbalances the power of the criminal, that makes the small and the weak equal to the felonious attacker. It is hazardous to hike in bear country without a firearm. Likewise some areas of Chicago. “To force, nothing but force can be successfully opposed.” - William Lamb, 2nd Lord Melbourn

  7. Unfortunately, the root problem still comes back to one area; "the family unit." With the destruction of family comes the lack of morality and discerning right and wrong.

  8. Well put Randolph. There is no other disease that is cured by stopping a behavior. The medical community has labeled alcoholism a disease in order to bill insurers.

  9. Enjoyed your article sir! If only the liberal law makers and power brokers would use logic and not emotion, we might be able to get past this obsession to disarm the population.

  10. Anonymous8/2/21

    “No amount of regulations can civilize savages.”
    Conversely, inhabitants of a small 19th century
    American village are generally civilized and don’t
    require complex, oppressive laws.

    Laws should express agreed cultural norms, but
    over time, the entropy of compromise and politics
    obfuscate their meaning. They no longer serve
    as a guide to civilized behavior.


  11. Gun control leads to immediate confiscation. See New Zealand and Australia. Our gun control laws, specifically the huge 1968 Gun Control Act that Congress relies on to increase gun control, was taken almost verbatim from the 1938 Nazi Weapons Law. National gun registries, mental health testing, numbering & registering of ammo, informing government where you keep the guns, etc. have all stemmed from the Nazi Weapons Law. And, who brought the Nazi Weapons Law to the United States? I leftist Democrat U.S. Senator named Thomas Dodd (D-CT) in 1947 when he returned from the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials of the Nazis. Dodd was a prosecutor at the trials. After seeing what happened in Germany and to the Jews, why on Earth would he bring back a law that disarmed the populace and caused genocide????? But, then again we're talking leftists/socialists/communists/democrats. Nazism is the most extreme form of socialism. Nazi means Nationalist SOCIALIST! At the Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership website, www.jpfo.org, they sell a publication called "GUN CONTROL--GATEWAY TO TYRANNY" which explains the entire issue of the Nazi Weapons Law, translated it from German to English, and how and why it was brought to the United States. It shows what the law is directed at; the same thing that Democrat Congresscritter Maxine Waters current H.R. 127 national gun control legislation proposes. Let's remember that over 260 MILLION innocent people were murdered by their own governments through gun control and then confiscation during the 20th Century and up to today. This is what is known as Democide.

  12. I have yet to hear an explanation as to how taking legally acquired guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens will reduce gun crime, which is, by and large, committed with illegal weapons. I strongly suspect our overlords actually want us to be sitting ducks, because that will make them more powerful.


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