George Will notices that a court case striking down Washington D.C.’s strict gun control law may finally be the test case that the NRA needs. Fascinating! (And it reopens a matter I thought had long been settled). Ultimately, Will makes a faulty comparison between the gun control debate and the political speech/campaign finance reform debate:
Sound familiar? Defenders of the McCain-Feingold law, which restricts the amount, timing and content of political campaign speech, say: Yes, yes, the First Amendment says there shall be “no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” But that proscription can be disregarded because the legislators’ (professed) intent — to prevent the “appearance” of corruption and to elevate political discourse — is admirable.
Wait, similarity in the motives of lawmakers is not the issue here; Gun control is a public safety issue; Campaign finance reform is not (and in fact, yelling fire in a crowded movie house is a case where public safety does trump free speech).
I occasionally have read articles about gun control issues. So until I read Will’s column, I thought the matter was settled. Now I honestly don’t know. It would be nice to courts to provide clarity on this issue. If only to shut the NRA people up.
Update: from Washington Post’s pingback feature I discovered The Nonsequitur , a splendid philosophy blog dedicated to unmasking fallacies in mainstream media. Here’s the discussion of Will’s article. My response to the NonSequitur people: lighten up! Will may reduce his argument for newspaper columns, but he does not consciously misrepresent scholarship. And he generally notices overlooked issues, for which I’ve deeply grateful. Yes, the snide tone does irritate me sometimes, but his opinions (albeit ideologically-driven at times) often bring me to make reappraisals. And that is a good thing.
Update 6 years later: Boy, has my mind changed on George Will! He’s a hack who has misrepresented the climate change debate consistently. I have totally changed my mind about him.