“the essence of dramatic tragedy . . . resides in . . . the remorseless working of things . . .
[the] inevitableness of destiny.” Usually, this tragedy goes unremarked until it is too late; so in this essay I try to render it blindingly salient. At the common law, a person is presumed to intend the natural and probable consequences of his voluntary acts. If you point a loaded gun at me and pull the trigger, you are presumed to intend me harm. Likewise, if a nation, say, the United States (with less than 5 percent of the world’s population and nearly half of the world’s firearms), maintains a regime of essentially unlimited access to dangerous firearms, it is presumed to intend the resulting terrible, but eminently predictable consequences. If the American people did not truly intend those consequences, they would presumably rise up en masse and demand state and federal laws that required gun owners to take out liability insurance, imposed steep taxes on firearms and ammunition, or made the manufacturers liable for the death and destruction these products (when used properly) are supposed to cause.
But changes of this magnitude are hardly to be expected—not in a land where a one-gunper-month purchase limit counts as bold— even “pioneering”—legislation. (The debate over assault