Exploiting Tragedy

And the first loser is . . . Instapundit:

“At least 20 people were killed this morning at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and University after a shooting spree at two buildings on the campus.” Nobody seems to know much yet on what happened. These things do seem to take place in locations where it’s not legal for people with carry permits to carry guns, though, and I believe that’s the case where the Virginia Tech campus is concerned.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a robust right to bear arms. But you ought to at least wait until the body count is official before you start using a massacre as support for your position. That goes for the gun control crowd, too; this is just the first offense I have seen by either side.

UPDATE: The second loser, at least in the order in which it entered my world, is the gun control crowd. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says in a press release:

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the Virginia Tech University community, and to the families of the victims of what appears to be one of the worst mass shootings in American history.

Details are still forthcoming about what motivated the shooter in this case to act, and how he was able to arm himself.  It is well known, however, how easy it is for an individual to get powerful weapons in our country . . .

We have now seen another horrible tragedy that will never be forgotten.  It is long overdue for us to take some common-sense actions to prevent tragedies like this from continuing to occur.

Sigh. Anyway, Orin Kerr provides a good justification for waiting a while before talking policy:

in my view, the problem with responding to news of tragedy with policy ideas right away is that we tend not to realize in such situations how often our “proposals” are really expressions of psychological need. It’s human nature to respond to tragedy by fitting it into our preexisting worldviews; we instinctively restore order by construing the tragic event as a confirmation of our sense of the world rather than a threat to it.

 This means that often we won’t pay a lot of attention to the details of tragedies and what caused them. We’ll just know deep down inside what happened, and what caused it, and how to stop it next time. Take today’s tragic events at VA Tech. If you’re committed to gun control, the tragedy probably proves to you that there are too many guns; if you’re against gun control, the tragedy probably proves the exact opposite. Given that people will tend to see in events what they want to see, turning to policy right away will come off as rudely “playing politics” to those who don’t share your worldview. And obviously this doesn’t foster a helpful environment for policymaking, either.

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7 Comments on “Exploiting Tragedy”

  1. Kathy Says:

    Yeah, and Dana Perino, in her initial comments about the shooting, felt the need to point out that the Bush administration supports the right to bear arms. Because that’s what’s really important at a time like this.

  2. Dan Says:

    Public Radio International did the same thing all day when they brought up Bush’s reaction.

  3. Flashpoint Says:

    […] As Wheeler pointed out, both sides of the gun control ideological spectrum were quick to use the incident as a justification of their beliefs.  The New York Times editorial page is one of the heftiest voices to wade into the debate so far.  Their predictable opinion can be summarized by the concluding sentence: What is needed, urgently, is stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage and such unbearable loss. […]

  4. Sailer Says:

    Wow if only the students in the dorm were armed they could have shot this guy and saved a lot of lives. If the professor was armed he could have shot the gunman and saved lives. Turning honest people into defensless casulties is not the way to stop violence. A few men with boxcutters showed how easy it is to kill defenseless people with simple weapons. Our military has learned in Irag that it’s hard to stop suicidal people. Thankfully he didn’t build a bomb and blow up one of the school’s buildings.

    But hours after a tragedy is not the time to start political postureing. We need to mourn the dead and pray that some crazy person doesn’t do something insane in Birmingham or anywhere.

  5. ALmod Says:

    I’m just waiting for someone to accuse the S. Korean of terrorist connections. That should round the losers quite nicely.

  6. Dan Says:

    Does Ron Paul make it to the list?

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0407/3556.html

    Not that I disagree with the notion.

  7. wheeler Says:

    yup.


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