On Friday’s Real Time show on HBO, liberal CNN contributor and New York Times columist Charles Blow complained that journalists should not ask Democrats if their gun control plans would actually have prevented a particular mass shooting, even though they themselves regularly start off by implying that there would be such an effect in the aftermath of high-profile shootings.
In particular, Blow’s criticism was aimed at his colleague Jake Tapper who, as anchor of State of the Union, recently pressed Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker on whether his gun control plan would have stopped the Virginia Beach mass shooting.
Host Bill Maher began by fretting that Democrats might lose the presidential election if they push for more gun restrictions which many Americans oppose: “Some of the solutions — all of the solutions — I don’t know if they would solve the gun problem. And to die on this hill and lose an election — because we’ve lost elections before on this issue which is not a winning issue for Democrats.”
He soon added: “But Cory Booker was on with Jake Tapper, and Jake Tapper asked him a couple of times: What, in your plan, would have stopped the massacre that we had last week at Virginia Beach? And Cory Booker took a very long time to not be able to answer that question.”
Blow then jumped in to take issue with pressing liberal politicians on how their plan restricting people’s rights would actually solve a problem as he posed:
But can I just say this? Journalists have to stop asking that horrible question. That is a horrible question because what we’re doing is picking out one incident out of 30,000 deaths per year and saying, ‘How could you solve this one thing?’ That is not the objective of gun control.
The objective of gun control is to reduce capacity to kill people who should not be killed. And once you reframe it that way, maybe the proposal I have today will not solve that problem, but it cuts into this massive number of people that we’re losing to gun violence, that is the question you should ask.
Even Maher was skeptical as he responded: “You’re seriously saying you shouldn’t be able to answer the question as a politician, ‘How will your plan specifically stop this problem?'”
The framing of the question is wrong. I’m saying that what the politicians should say if somebody asks that wrong quesion is to say, let me say, ‘I don’t know what might have prevented this person, and I don’t know all the issues involved in that, but what I know is that what the science tells us about access and capacity to kill. If we do some things, we will reduce the number of people.’
But it was omitted from Blow’s analysis that it was Senator Booker himself — as Democrats regularly do in the aftermath of mass shootings — who hinted that the Virginia Beach shooting could have been prevented when he reacted to it by bringing up his gun control plan, as was recounted by Tapper in his first question. Here’s Tapper, from the Sunday, June 2, State of the Union on CNN:
You said yesterday that mass shootings in America, quote, “cannot just go on in our country,” and you have unveiled a comprehensive gun reform plan. Now, ATF says that the two weapons used in the attack were hand guns, not semi-automatic assault rifles, and they say that they were purchased legally. How would your plan have stopped this tragedy, if at all?
After Senator Booker failed to answer the question he was asked while only theorizing generally that it would reduce gun deaths, Tapper followed up:
You keep saying we’re not helpless, so what I’m saying: What would have prevented this tragedy? I mean, I think that that’s one of the issues that people wonder about when there are these horrible tragedies. What steps specifically would have stopped the massacre in Virginia Beach?