Arguments With Charlotte Allen Fans

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 20 2012 10:55 AM

Arguments With Charlotte Allen Fans

My exasperated response to Charlotte Allen's "tough men and/or kids could stop gun massacres if they bum-rushed the shooter" column got around, as exasperated blog posts tend to do. It's inspired some similarly exasperated emails, many of them arguing that a soft liberal would, of course, have no idea that feminization is responsible for our slow responses to crises. This was the most interesting of the emails, slightly redacted to clip the back-and-forth in which I said the emailer was "prokecting."

While the men who drove TOWARD the University of Texas, rifles in their trunks, to take on Charles Whitman weren't engaging him in hand to hand combat, they were at least responding the way normal men used to do, and succeeded in confusing him and making his eventual capture easier.

Grown husky men were "quickly cut down" running into the Twin Towers as well. Time was, men felt it was their duty to lay down their lives for others, especially women and children. Death before dishonor and all that.

Take another Canadian case. A disturbed man took over a Greyhound bus and while the other passengers watched in shock and horror, attacked a young male passenger. They fled the bus naturally, but many many the police outside the bus _allowed_ this crime to go on for hours, giving the perp time to kill and partially eat the victim, because "procedure" or "regulations." Or simply sheer wimpiness.

Or what about the police who stood on the British shoreline while someone drowned recently. Their alibi? "Health and safety" concerns.

Cuz gosh, they might drown. i.e. be "cut down" to use your words. And gee, I might be hit by a car if I cross the street...

All this adds up to, yes, a feminization of institutions where risk is to be avoided at all costs; dumb rules are imposed to make like as much like a little girl's tea party as possible; and men's traditional, instinctive roles are mocked and in some cases, forbidden.

These are all flawed arguments. Charles Whitman's guns included: "a 35 caliber Remington rifle, a 6mm Remington rifle with a scope, a 357 Magnum Smith & Wesson revolver, a 9mm Luger pistol, a Galesi-Brescia pistol, a 30 caliber M-1 carbine and a 12-gauge shotgun." None of these weapons could be fired as quickly as an AR-15 Bushmaster, and none contained as many bullets in single clips or magazines. The Canadian case discussed in this email involved a man with a knife, which does make some of the critic's argument -- people didn't display courage in a confined space against a non-projectile weapon.

But almost none of this is pertinent. If there's any debate about gun laws in the offing, it's going to be about the extended clips and high-powered weapons. Diehard opponents of these laws like to think up scenarios in which brave armed men could quickly shoot back at someone with superior weaponry. ("Whether on the street or during a home invasion, violent criminals often move in pairs or packs. Realize that you will never shoot as well as your score at the range when you are under the unbelievable stress of a life-or-death encounter.") They seldom seem to read through the facts of a massacre and explain how someone with arms might have fought back -- often, people on the scene were armed, and could not or did not fire back.

One other thing. The push for concealed carry laws, and for more laws allowing weapons in public places, was kicked off by the 1991 Luby's massacre. Susanna Hupp, who had left her gun in her car, spent the next decade lobbying for, and winning, passage of concealed carry laws. In that case, correctly, the facts on the ground informed the policy response. Why, then, do the "people should'a manned up" theorists ignore all the facts of Newtown?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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