Guns of the Times
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The decision of the New York Times to devote its first page one editorial since 1920 to denouncing the “gun epidemic” is one of the most bizarre in the Gray Lady’s storied history. It concedes in its lead paragraph that authorities are scrambling for motivations of the Islamist killers who slew 14 at San Bernardino. It notes the “vital question” of, as the Times puts it, “how the murderers might have been connected to international terrorism.” It concedes this question is “right and proper.”
Then it turns around and suggests that “motives do not matter to the dead,” neither in California nor Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, and Connecticut. In the literal sense, of course, nothing matters to the dead. The Times wants the “anger” of quick Americans to be directed at our elected officials whose job, it says, “is to keep us safe” but who, the Times reckons, “place a higher premium on the money and political power” of the gun industry.
What our public officials actually swear is to support the Constitution, but the Times doesn’t pause over that. It says it is a “moral outrage and a national disgrace” that Americans can “legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill with brutal speed and efficiency.” It reckons that all mass shootings are “in their own ways, acts of terrorism.” In the gun debate, it deems “arguments about the word terrorism” to be nothing more than a distraction.
The smell of cordite and stench of blood were still in the air at San Bernardino when the Times issued a news story under the headline “How a Conservative-Led Australia Ended Mass Killings.” It reported that after the gun buy-back program launched Down Under after the slaughter by a gunman at Port Arthur in 1996, such killings have plunged. But they started plunging in the 1980s, and they’ve been plunging here, in America, too — and dramatically.
This was highlighted several years ago in a report by Pew, which called the national rates of gun homicide and other violent gun crimes “strikingly lower” than during their peak in the mid-1990s. That flattened out for a while but had resumed drifting downward when Pew issued its findings. Firearm homicide deaths in 2010, the year of Pew’s key chart, had fallen to 3.6 per 100,000 from seven per 100,000 in 1993. All despite the Second Amendment.
Or is it because of the Second Amendment? The Times makes scant effort to address what we like to call the Vermont Question. The gun homicide rate in the Green Mountain State is among the lowest — in some years the actual lowest — in the country. It’s not hard to imagine that this is because it maintains the least restrictive guns laws in America. In Vermont, a person 16-years or older can enter a store, purchase a gun, and carry it loaded, open or concealed, as he or she pleases.
The Times brushes the Second Amendment aside by asserting that “no right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation.” Yet we’d be surprised if even once the Times defended New Yorkers against the unreasonableness of the almost total ban on carrying weapons in the city. Nor does it address one of the remarkable turns this debate has taken in the wake of San Bernardino — the call by law enforcement officials themselves for persons to carry their firearms if they are licensed to do so.
Just such a call was made — after the attacks in Paris — by the police chief at Detroit, James Craig, and — after San Bernardino — by the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, Jos. Arpaio, and by the sheriff of Ulster County, New York, Paul Van Blarcum. These sheriffs must, in order to hold office in America, be sworn to support the same Constitution the President swears to. If the Gray Lady required its staff to take such an oath, its editorial board would fall over in a dead faint.
The last Times front-page editorial was in 1920, when it issued a perfervid denunciation of Warren G. Harding. It said the GOP nominee had never been “a leader of men or a director of policies” but failed to mention that Harding held the same august office — newspaper proprietor — as the publisher of the Times. It did concede that the Republican vice presidential nominee, Calvin Coolidge, had, in facing down the Boston police strike, “showed himself to be a man.”
It seems the Times preferred James M. Cox, the governor of Ohio; he was also a newspaper proprietor (making 1920 the only presidential election pitting two newspaper publishers from the same state). America responded by electing Harding and Coolidge by a landslide, with an Electoral College vote of 404 to 127. Harding died too soon, but Coolidge led us to a decade of growth and full employment, reminding the country not to worry too much about front-page editorials in the Times.