AS THE second World Trade Center fell at 10:28 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, so, too, did the old world order. Almost immediately, a new order arose in its place, in the form of the war on terror, a domestic infrastructure called homeland security, a new kind of military engagement with volatile new enemies, and a heightened surveillance culture in which notions of privacy have also been turned upside down.
At least initially, few doubted such actions were necessary to curb terrorism, and even doubters felt the trade-off between, say, civil liberties and government scrutiny was a necessary price.
Soon after the massacre of 20 children and six adult staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012, it seemed that the old world order - dominance by the NRA, which poured millions of dollars into Congress in exchange for a no-compromise position on reasonable gun restrictions, a culture that put a gun owner's rights above the right of innocent children to go to school without harm - might finally be turned on its head. Unlikely allegiances were made in Congress over gun legislation that finally seemed destined for success, primarily dealing with criminal-background checks for gun purchasers. State legislatures began their own actions for stricter laws.
But one year after the Newtown massacre, not only has Congress failed to pass any gun legislation, many states have passed laws that overall make carrying a gun easier than it was a year ago. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence says in the year since Newtown, while 11 states strengthened gun laws, 18 states weakened them.
To be sure, some states and localities have enacted tougher gun restrictions, including California, Connecticut and New York. But outliers have gone in the other direction - passing ludicrous and contemptible laws - such as a small town in Georgia that passed a law requiring heads of household to own a gun and ammunition, and Arkansas lawmakers who passed a law allowing guns in churches and college campuses.
Why is it that the threat to liberty posed by radicals on the other side of the world is so much more important to the threat posed by domestic radicals who insist on being allowed to carry as many guns as they want . . . and to allow those guns to land freely in the hands of those who shouldn't own them?
Yes, Adam Lanza used legally obtained guns - purchased by his mother - at Sandy Hook, but that's a technicality. The ready availability of such weapons, the lack of restrictions that might give someone pause before buying, the mythologizing of gun ownership as a fundamental human right, all combine to create a gun culture that is cumulatively more dangerous to our domestic safety than any foreign import.
It is a culture of paranoia and delusion: delusion over the notion that the government is ready to actually confiscate everyone's gun, that commonsense limits and regulation disarm gun owners' rights, and that more guns mean more safety, not less.