“Common Sense” Policies for….

In August of 2012, The Boston Globe published an editorial in which in opined that, if only “we” (meaning people who valued gun rights) could behave reasonably, then we (meaning the body politic) could come to an agreement on “common-sense” gun policies.  In general, I agree with that sentiment.  I also, however, find that such declarations from the likes of the Globe are almost always both patronizing and reflective more of the modern definition of “bipartisan” — “do it my way” — than of the traditional  notion of “search for a compromise”.  “Reasonableness” is, after all, in the eye of the beholder and “common sense” is not altogether common.

I wrote this to the editorial board to point that out.  It was not published.

9 August 2012

Ref: “US can find agreement on common-sense gun policies”, editorial, Aug 7 2012

Perhaps I’m just perverse, but my immediate reaction to your editorial headline, “US can find agreement on common-sense gun policies”, was to substitute the word “Abortion” for “Gun” and to imagine what your response would be.

From a policy perspective, the two issues are not dissimilar. They hinge on a question of how far the government may and should go to regulate some personal behavior. The arguments are framed by two extreme groups, one which considers the issue a matter of life and death and the other which considers the issue a matter of individual liberty and control over one’s own well-being. And both are characterized by those objecting to the liberty in question proposing “common sense” regulations to restrict exercise of that liberty, regulations that are opposed by the other side as the first step toward an absolute abolition.

And, in both cases, the defenders of the liberty are not wrong. There is a small but virulent group that would ban abortion outright and that hopes to use “common sense” regulations as steps toward that goal. And there is a small but virulent group that would ban gun ownership outright and that hopes to use “common sense” regulations as steps toward that goal.

And so, those “common sense” regulations are, perhaps, not so common and not so sensible. And so, perhaps, we actually can’t agree on them.

© Copyright 2012, Augustus P. Lowell

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