After Nice, ban trucks?

James Schall

The jihadist truck attack in Nice, France, killed and wounded scores of citizens gathered to watch Bastille Day fireworks. The day chosen was intended to be symbolic—“Your sovereignty means nothing to us. We can strike wherever and whenever we will.”

When automatic weapons are used in a long string of similar political killings in this country, the American president quickly appears on television. He demands gun control. But if guns were miraculously “controlled,” the problems would not cease.

The people who perpetrate these slaughters are thought to be dull of wit. If we confiscate their guns, everything will be dandy. The killers won’t be able to concoct some other way to achieve their lethal purpose. So peace arrives the day we forbid guns. Problem solved, right?

But the people who legally own guns and know how to shoot them are not the ones who are causing the problems. The profiles of the actual killers are strikingly similar. The notion that we can prevent ideologues or ISIS followers from obtaining guns in this or any other country is simply naïve. The oft-heard refrain that “if we ban guns, the criminals will still possess them” is obviously true.

The view that guns are the problem is easily refuted. Recall that it was an airplane that caused 9/11, a bomb that hit trains in Spain and London, knives that butchered Christians in Mideast sites, and now a truck does the job with maximum international publicity. ISIS leaders understand that sophisticated weapons are not needed for their message to be heard.

Our avowed enemies, indeed the enemies of civilized life, are not stupid nor do they lack cunning. To think otherwise reveals little understanding of human nature at its worst. Yet it is there for anybody to grasp but only if he wants to see.

“Weapons cause crimes” is a slogan that is a slander on what good weapons are for. Why in this or other countries do so few fight back to protect themselves or others? Almost everyone is unarmed and mostly incapable of responding. The police no doubt do prevent many crimes. But they seldom know where to go until the truck crashes into the crowd or the shots are fired into a theater.

Added to this sorry scene is the fact that police and security agencies are now more and more restricted in what they can do. They cannot help but worry about being accused of bias when they are dealing with almost any case.

But the main point remains. Trucks do not kill scores of Frenchmen. It is their drivers. Guns do not kill. It is those who shoot them for political and ideological purposes.

If we cannot understand this truth, the very spirit of which is written in our Founding, we do not deserve to live in peace in the streets of our cities.

The Rev. James Schall, S.J., author of “On Christians and Prosperity,” is professor emeritus at Georgetown University.