The recent killing of ten people in Buffalo has renewed calls for gun control legislation. Buffalo mayor Byron Brown, speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation, urged “sensible gun control.” One of the victims, the Washington Post noted in morbid irony, was herself an outspoken advocate for more gun control.

Sadly, there’s nothing new about any of this. Again and again we learn of senseless mass shootings by white nationalists, the mentally deranged, and substance abusers. Again and again we desperately search for answers. And again and again we are both shocked and cynically unsurprised when another...

The recent killing of ten people in Buffalo has renewed calls for gun control legislation. Buffalo mayor Byron Brown, speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation, urged “sensible gun control.” One of the victims, the Washington Post noted in morbid irony, was herself an outspoken advocate for more gun control.

Sadly, there’s nothing new about any of this. Again and again we learn of senseless mass shootings by white nationalists, the mentally deranged, and substance abusers. Again and again we desperately search for answers. And again and again we are both shocked and cynically unsurprised when another mass shooting occurs.

Yet as much as we declare “never again,” we seem incapable of stopping mass shootings. And there are three reasons for that, I would propose: 1) political and ideological failures on both the left and the right; 2) seemingly indelible socio-cultural phenomena that aggravate the factors that create mass shooters; and 3) an entrenched polarization that inhibits rapprochement.

On the left, proposals to tighten Americans’ access to firearms have ranged from the statistically irrelevant to the politically infeasible. Many Democrats, including Joe Biden, have sought to limit access to “assault weapons.” But when it comes to mass shootings, defined as when at least four people are killed or wounded, they are not the main culprit, annually comprising less than 5 percent of gun crimes. Efforts to ban high-capacity magazines would also have a statistically marginal effect.

As for the infeasible, many liberals, including New Jersey senator Cory Booker, have proposed that all gun owners acquire a license through the federal government. Though this might somewhat reduce nationwide gun fatalities, it is a political non-starter for most gun-owners and conservatives. These voters, liberals should remember, are very concerned about any kind of gun registry that could provide the means of eventually taking away all their guns.

Nevertheless, there is also a frustrating reality on the right: conservatives are opposed to just about every attempt to curb access to firearms. The NRA, whose position is perhaps more sacrosanct among conservatives than the pro-life movement, very proudly asserts its opposition to all forms of gun control, whether it be expanding background check systems, limits on “assault rifles” and high-capacity magazines, or restrictions on handguns.

Every time a mass shooting attracts national attention, Republican politicians aim to shift the debate away from guns to mental illness or video games. Or they assert the problem isn’t too many guns but too few, and that more law-abiding citizens, such as teachers, need legal protection to carry them. That seems to be the thinking behind Alabama’s recent repeal of any requirement for a permit to conceal and carry. The list of other states with permitless conceal and carry laws is long: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming. Keep in mind that the magazine of one easily concealable handgun, the Glock 19 (fifteen rounds, sixteen when operationally loaded), can be emptied in a few seconds.

There is, unsurprisingly, extensive data on gun crimes in America that should be influencing both Democratic and Republican considerations on guns. This includes the fact that most Americans who die by gun violence are killed by handguns. As has been the case for years, it is guns like the .38 special and Glock that are responsible for almost two thirds of homicides in the United States.

There’s also the fact that more than half of all gun-related deaths are from suicides. And that most gun deaths occur in cities, where gun laws are typically tighter, and in communities of color. As academics such as Heather Mac Donald, John McWhorter and Glenn Loury have observed, a significantly disproportionate number of violent crimes are committed by black Americans against other black Americans.

In other words, aggressive action against “assault rifles,” high-capacity magazines, and white nationalism will have little more than a token effect on gun violence rates.

There are even more exasperating factors at play. Impoverished inner-city communities are often gang-infested, awash in illegal drugs and firearms. Improving background checks — which have a mixed record — will not substantively curb violence in our cities if the handguns used there are acquired illegally. Alternatively, most, if not all of the men responsible for headline-grabbing mass-shootings are isolated and lonely, compounded by more than two years of a pandemic that has heightened just about all the indicators that increase the likelihood of mental illness and acts of violence.

In other words, there are broad, extremely complicated socio-cultural phenomena at work here: a fraying social fabric, heightened political siloization, depression and social atomization intensified by social media, the endless news cycle, and a breakdown of civic institutions. If we can’t fix those problems, what gives us confidence we can address gun violence?

Guns, as I have argued at the American Conservative, are incredibly powerful, yet in many states they can be purchased (and concealed) with no prior training or certification (compare that to how we manage access to motor vehicles). Gun rights advocates will retort that the Second Amendment doesn’t protect cars. But access to firearms has been restricted since the beginning of our nation. The right to bear arms has never been entirely unconstrained.

More provocatively, I’d propose that some of the right’s rhetoric on guns is strikingly similar to the pro-choice movement. Both emphasize that their pet issue is the sine qua non of personal autonomy and liberty. Both devolve into alarmist hysterics when there is even a possibility that their freedoms be curtailed. Both perceive any loss of political ground as a return to the tyrannical dark ages.

All of which is to say, if conservatives are serious about the pro-life cause, we should extend an olive branch to the left on gun control, especially on carefully circumscribed, data-driven legislation. Examples might include bans on violent offenders purchasing guns and “may-issue” laws that give police discretion in issuing concealed-carry permits. If we are really serious about protecting Americans, be they unborn or otherwise vulnerable, why not make a deal? Isn’t that politics?

The problem is that there isn’t likely to be forward movement anytime soon, just a continuation of the present cycle. For that to change, both sides would need to be willing to lay down just a few of their arms, both polemical and literal.