Last week, I wrote about the tragic case of 29 year old Veronica Rutledge who was shot dead by her toddler in a Walmart in Idaho. I blamed the mother’s stupidity for keeping a loaded weapon around a two year old and argued that had America had sensible gun laws (ie it would be illegal to take a deadly weapon to a supermarket), the tragedy would not have happened. A couple of days later, an apparently well read pro gun women’s site responded by accusing me of exploiting the tragedy for political purpose (more specifically they called me a “lowlife ‘journalist’ who likes to appeal to the lowest common denominator”, and someone who has a “small brain” and a “big mouth”)
Although the death of Veronica Rutledge was certainly a tragedy, it also quite obviously happened because unlike every other civilized country on the planet, some America states allow citizens to carry guns around small children in public spaces. It’s a recipe for disaster, and it was hardly opportunistic of me to point it out. The same cannot be said of conservative commentators on Fox News though, who leapt at the chance to exploit the Charlie Hebdo tragedy to further their political motives. As is always the case in alternate reality Fox News land, a situation where people are killed with guns automatically means more guns must be the solution.
In the wake of the terrible attacks in Paris, Fox News’ Fox & Friends’s national security analyst KT McFarland came on the show to argue that strict gun control policy in France was partly responsible for the attack that left 12 people dead:
On Fox’s The Five, conservative manchild Greg Gutfeld stated that “they [the public] are sitting ducks in France because they have the most powerful gun control in the world, and nobody’s armed.”
It is not clear exactly what the commentators are getting at here, but it appears that they are suggesting a bunch of elderly cartoonists should have been packing heat and ready to pounce on the terrorists as they entered the editorial meeting.
Of course the notion that if all of those killed in the attack had been armed, the massacre would not have taken place is beyond ludicrous. No media outlet in the world would allow its employees to come in armed to the teeth on the off chance that a group of well trained Jihadists might storm the building with Kalashnikovs and an RPG launcher. It is unclear whether the policeman Franck Brinsolaro, who was sent to protect editor Stephane Charbonnier, was armed (it seems unlikely that he wasn’t), but it would have been almost impossible for him to defend the staff from an ambush attack too. Police officer Ahmed Merabet arrived on the scene and exchanged fire with the terrorists, but he was outnumbered and fled the scene only to be executed when they caught up with him moments later.
This is, sadly, another case of conservatives bending reality to fit their own narrative. The fact is, there are far fewer guns in France, and as a result, there are far fewer gun deaths:
Just because having an armed citizen population MAY be useful in very limited circumstances does not mean that it is a good idea for society as a whole. More guns = more deaths. It is simply a fact. Hypothesizing what could happen if the good guys had guns in times of horrendous violence is nothing more than fantasy. While Greg Gutfeld no doubt sees himself as a Rambo figure who would blaze the terrorists down in an act of good ol’ American heroism, the reality is far more complicated. Blithely reducing a tragedy to a ‘they need more guns’ argument is one of the reasons gun control in America is so difficult to legislate, and as a consequence more gun massacres are entirely inevitable.
It is ridiculously easy for criminals to get guns in America, and as a consequence, criminals use more guns in America. Guns are much harder to come by in France, and as a result, criminals use fewer guns in France. To repeat the point: the fewer guns used in a society, the fewer deaths there are. Gun massacres happen at the rate of about 20 a year in the US, while there have been 7 in the past 54 years in France.
The events in Paris over the past two days were awful beyond belief, and really there isn’t one defining narrative that explains what happened or why. There could be a case made for even stricter gun control, but when you have terrorists dedicated to arming themselves, it probably wouldn’t serve much purpose. The attackers, Said Kouachi, Cherif Kouachi, and Hamyd Mourad were prepared to die for their beliefs and clearly had no regard for the law. It appears they were Al Qaeda trained and would have found a way to get high powered weaponry one way or another. The truth is that the tragedy probably happened due to multiple factors; religious extremism, criminality, a nasty legacy of French colonialism and awful treatment of Muslims, racial discrimination, socio economic circumstance, Al Qaeda’s recruiting tactics, and so on. Pick your narrative and you can probably make your case. But having more guns really isn’t one of them. Unless of course, you work for Fox News.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.