Consider the word “ignorance.” Ignorance is, simply put, lack of knowledge or information. It differs from stupidity, or idiocy, or foolishness, in that it’s not a descriptor of a person, but merely of the information that a person possesses. As such, it’s easily correctable.

If, that is, you know enough to seek correction. Sometimes, people don’t even know what they don’t know.

That’s when it’s most excusable. But, in our modern, deeply connected society, even that “exception” is narrowing. Especially when everyone and their grandparents are quickly, carelessly, and emphatically proclaiming their opinions on the Internet, which is both global and forever. Author Harlan Ellison offered this view of opinions, nearly a quarter century ago:

Everybody has opinions: I have them, you have them. And we are all told from the moment we open our eyes, that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Well, that’s horsepuckey, of course. We are not entitled to our opinions; we are entitled to our informed opinions. Without research, without background, without understanding, it’s nothing. It’s just bibble-babble. It’s like a fart in a wind tunnel, folks.

I quote it often, and I do my best to live up to it. I write on many topics on this blog, but there are many more that I do not, including some that qualify as major policy matters. This is deliberate – if I feel I don’t have a sufficiently informed opinion, I aim to stay quiet until I do. I don’t always succeed, but we are all human, and I’m willing to have my eyes open to that which I don’t know or that I don’t know I don’t know.

All this came to mind when I heard some of Beto O’Rourke’s bibble-babble on AR-15s. He was challenged, during the last debate, as to how he’d implement his plan to buy back the 16 million privately owned AR-15s and AK-47s. He waffled and prevaricated, of course, because his “we’re gonna take your guns” declaration was more chum than fleshed-out policy, intended to draw the favor of the progressive hordes to his flailing candidacy. Ultimately, he indicated that he expected Americans to “do the right thing” and voluntarily comply with the mandatory confiscation (he calls it a “buy-back,” a term that we should all deem insulting).

This expectation is farcical, and we don’t have to rely on a qualitative or subjective “Americans distrust the government when it comes to gun rights” assessment. We have historical data. Connecticut enacted a mandatory registration requirement for “assault weapons.” Compliance? Estimated at 11%-15%. New York enacted a similar requirement as part of its SAFE act. Compliance? 5%. New Jersey banned high capacity magazines, and required they be turned over to the police? There are a million gun owners in New Jersey. Compliance? So low, it rounds to 0%. The Feds banned bump stocks. Over half a million were estimated to be in circulation, and the law required they be turned in. Compliance. The total is in the hundreds, so again, rounds to 0%. Australia’s “buy-back” program resulted in compliance of less than 20%.

Beto knew how many of the firearms he’d confiscate are in private hands. He also knew enough details of two mass shootings to cite them in defense of his proposal. He is a presidential candidate forcefully advocating a radical, controversial, extra-Constitutional policy publicly, repeatedly, and nationally.

Could he be unaware of all this empirical data that directly contradicts his “expectation” regarding compliance with his confiscation plan?

It’s possible. After all, half-baked ideas that fly in the face of facts, logic, evidence, and history are the stock-in-trade of countless big-government politicians.

But, such ignorance cannot be excused. Nor should policy rooted in ignorance, excusable or inexcusable. It’s an abandonment of a most basic responsibility.

Sadly, it happens all the time.

Of course, we can just as easily conclude that Beto is a liar, that he doesn’t actually expect Americans to comply, and that he’d either order the thug tactics he denies once elected, or, as likely, make the effort, see it fail, and not care because he won the Presidency thanks to the empty promise. We don’t even have to go that far to call him out on it.

Those who support and repeat opinions and policy proposals that fly in the face of everything we know (including math. I’m talking to you, Senators Warren and Sanders) are just as culpable. If you’re going to publicly support a major public policy, you have an obligation to be informed, particularly if that policy is coercive in nature. To support violence (because that’s what government coercion is – just ponder what happens to those who don’t comply) against your fellow citizens demands informed justification for that violence. Anything less is immoral.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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