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TheStreet Open House

Wisconsin Shooting Leads to a Terrifying Thought

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- A famous line from the movie Shane has the Jean Arthur character objecting to Shane teaching her kid how to shoot. Shane replies, "A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an ax, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it."

As the shooting in the Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday demonstrates -- for the second time in two weeks -- it's plain that Hollywood screenwriters set national gun control policy. It's as if the U.S., a nation with more nuts than a pistachio grove, was a kind of massive outdoor film set, with the Grand Tetons in the distance and good guys always triumphing because the script says so.

That same "guns don't kill people, people kill people" hokum just killed six people and critically wounded three others, including a police officer. When are we going to get wise that American society is not a Hollywood backlot?

In states like Wisconsin, whose gun laws are so feeble that you can carry a concealed handgun without a permit, what you have in effect is a kind of lethal, macho parody of the self-regulatory system so beloved by the banking and securities industry. Only instead of metaphors such as "weapons of financial mass destruction," we're dealing with the real thing: real weapons of mass destruction, real guns, real bullets, real lives, and our national security being potentially put in danger by gun laws that seem to have been written for a John Wayne fantasy, not the real-life U.S. of the 21st century.

As in all systems of self-regulation, the market participant -- in this case, the gun buyer -- is relied upon to act in what the Randians call his own "rational self-interest." And like all systems of self-regulation, it just doesn't work. That's obvious by now. But what isn't appreciated is the potential damage that can be wrought on our national security by the crazy system of firearm self-regulation.

According to a report on the Wisconsin shooter by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Wade Michael Page was a "frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band." In other words, this was, as indicated on Sunday by the local police, an act of "domestic terrorism," motivated by racial or ethnic hate.

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