The Right Opinion

Good Sense and Gun Control

By Jonah Goldberg · Jan. 23, 2013

In the early 1980s, transit officials in Washington couldn't figure out why traffic on the Beltway would grind to a near halt every day around the exact same time. The usual explanations didn't fit.

Then it was discovered that a single driver was to blame. Every day on his drive to work, this commuter would plant himself in the left lane and set his cruise control to 55 mph, the posted speed limit, forcing those behind him to merge right, and you can imagine the effects.

To his credit, this driver came forward in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post. The man's name was John O. Nestor. He explained that the left lane was great; less traffic, less merging – why not ride it into work every day? Besides, he wrote, “Why should I inconvenience myself for someone who wants to speed?”

He achieved immortality by being transformed into a Dickensian-sounding verb: “Nestoring,” defined as an absolute adherence to the rules, regardless of the larger consequences.

Fittingly, Nestor was a regulator at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Virtually no drug was worth the risk, according to Nestor. The FDA transferred him out of the cardio-renal-pulmonary unit to some bureaucratic backwater because he “had approved no new chemical entities … from 1968 to 1972, an experience that contrasted with the experience of every other medical [sic] modern nation and with the experience of other divisions of the FDA.”

Of course, that made him a hero to activists like Ralph Nader, whose organization praised Nestor's “unassailable record of protecting the public from harmful drugs.” (The Naderites helped Nestor in his lawsuit to get reinstated.)

And it's true: If you approve zero drugs, it's 100 percent guaranteed you will approve no harmful drugs. You'll also approve no helpful drugs. As we learn more and more about the human genome, it's become more clear that what is a lifesaver for many might be a death sentence for a few. Most people can eat peanuts; a relative few of us cannot. The Nestor approach would be to ban peanuts for everyone to prevent anyone from being harmed.

That argument works better for peanuts than it does for new medicines. After all, peanuts rarely save anyone's life. Drugs, on the other hand, have the potential to work miracles for some patients. Nestor's tale has gained wide currency as an allegory about the shortcomings of the FDA and the drug industry. But I keep thinking about it in the context of the gun debate in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre.

For instance, it doesn't take a genius to realize that James Holmes, the man charged in the shooting rampage at the Aurora, Colo., premiere of “The Dark Night Rises,” was at least somewhat inspired by the Batman movies. The evil freak dyed his hair orange and called himself “The Joker.”

But hundreds of millions of people saw one of the Batman movies. Let's imagine those movies are 100 percent to blame for the Aurora shooting. Even under that ridiculous assumption, that would mean that something like 99.999999999 percent of consumers of those products were unharmed or unaffected. Similarly, the number of law-abiding gun owners dwarfs the number of mass murderers. And guns actually stop crimes too.

The same problem exists on the mental health side of the equation. We all know people who fit the description of one of these shooters before they actually killed anyone. Loners, socially awkward, etc. How many of those people turn into mass murderers? Not many. How do you propose weeding out the potential mass killers without horribly mistreating the innocent?

President Obama has said that anything is worth it “if even one life can be saved.” Citing Newtown in his inaugural address Monday, he said that our journey as a nation will not be complete until we know our children are “always safe from harm.”

First, common sense tells us that's ridiculously impossible. Moreover, a Nestorite standard would not only do terrible violence to the First, Second and Fifth Amendments, it would indisputably hold the freedom, health and happiness of the many hostage to the potentially bad actions of the few.

© 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

13 Comments

rab in jo,mo said:

"if even one life can be saved", i.e., the big LIE!

If odumbo gave a rat's backside about saving lives, then the hypocritical bastard would be doing something about the tens of thousands killed each year in utero. But no, that wouldn't suit his needs.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 8:01 AM

Ct-Tom in NC replied:

Make that "hundreds of thousands," Rabbi, nearly 56 million in 40 years. Makes you proud doesn't it? I don't believe that God is indifferent about this.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 8:54 AM

Ct-Tom in NC replied:

Sorry, Rab, not Rabbi. I love the way this thing thinks for me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 8:55 AM

rab in jo,mo replied:

Agreed. I think God hears the scream of every child killed in the womb and He does not forget. I'm convinced He has a special place in Hell for the unrepentant. Jesus Himself tells us, "better that he have a millstone placed around his neck and be cast into the depths of the sea..." He wasn't just talking about children that made it out of the womb.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 2:10 PM

Anton D Rehling in Olympia, WA replied:

1,375,000 aborts per year almost 4 Sandy Hook Elementary incidences in each of the 50 states per DAY

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 10:17 AM

Rod in USA replied:

Excellent comparison!!!!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 1:57 PM

wjm in Colorado said:

Nestor should have been given a ticket for creating a traffic hazzard, every day he gummed up the works. What a typical liberal tool. He was probably beaten up regularly as a child.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Kathy in WTexas said:

"if even one life can be saved."

Those words from Oblahma's mouth were nothing more than lip service to the American people. He wants to sound like he cares about our kids, when in fact, he does not. The massacre of kids is only important to him because he can use these events to further his agenda of control. Not just gun control, but people control. That is his goal.

To give credence to his words, to make them worthy of discussion, is to overlook the bigger picture and pretend he has our common interests at heart. He does not. His only goal is his agenda. When we're not in his way, we are his pawns, especially Congress.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 10:13 AM

CharlieEcho in Illannoy said:

"If even one life can be saved" is a lie, and often used for many things. There are many things that can be done to save one life. If we took that path even the "followers" would revolt.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 11:03 AM

Tex Horn in Texas said:

How many times have we seen, over the past 50 years, political pimps dragging children out to use as their pawns? Talk about child abuse! For years, we've been told by politicians surrounded by children that we need to pump money into the educational systems, for the children of course. The result? A continually worsening education system. Now, the Traitor-in-Chief drags about more children out as pawns in his moves to outlaw guns in this country. Take a look back through history to discover the other dictators who used the same ruse: Hitler and virtually every other dictator. So, now, the Traitor is after all our freedoms. He's using our children to convince us adults. To what end? To end freedom as we know it. Witness his inaugural address. He wasted the Constitution as he watched our children march by below.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 12:18 PM

Dioneikes in Colorado said:

“To disarm the people is the best and most effective way to enslave them.” – George Mason

WAKE UP PEOPLE, if the DemocRATs are allowed to ram gun control through, we as a free people are done. We are in a fight for the very soul of our nation. I fought and served to defend our Constitution for 20 years, I surely will fight against the Progressive agenda now. Obama wants to take away our freedom, and he tries to demonize us when we resist. We must always resist and engrave on our hearts this motto - "Live FREE or die, there are worse evils than death." To live as a slave to government is an evil that should gnaw on a man worse than dying. Let us uphold the Spirit of 1776 and be true to it, even unto death.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 1:21 PM

Pat in in Phil said:

Not long ago, someone wrote a book called "The Dumbing Down Of America."
Didn't read it. Don't have to: Just look at what the masses do on elections.
Four years going down the drain - with another four to come. How far down
can we go?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 4:45 PM

enemaofthestatistquo in Monroe,GA said:

Damm common sense FORWARD into the Dark Ages.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 10:33 PM