Last weekend, I wrote a post entitled “An Honest Liberal Writes about Gun Control.” The article was very powerful because the person didn’t like guns, but admitted that more guns in the hands of law-abiding people might be the best way to reduce crime.
Now we have a perfect follow-up article to analyze. It’s from the Wall Street Journal and it’s authored by David Kopel of the Independence Institute. He starts by acknowledging that random shootings have increased, but notes that these killing sprees were almost non-existent when we had no anti-gun laws.
Why the increase? It cannot be because gun-control laws have become more lax. Before the 1968 Gun Control Act, there were almost no federal gun-control laws. …Nor are magazines holding more than 10 rounds something new. They were invented decades ago and have long been standard for many handguns. Police officers carry them for the same reason that civilians do: Especially if a person is attacked by multiple assailants, there is no guarantee that a 10-round magazine will end the assault. The 1980s were much worse than today in terms of overall violent crime, including gun homicide, but they were much better than today in terms of mass random shootings. The difference wasn’t that the 1980s had tougher controls on so-called “assault weapons.” No assault weapons law existed in the U.S. until California passed a ban in 1989. Connecticut followed in 1993. None of the guns that the Newtown murderer used was an assault weapon under Connecticut law.
Kopel then makes the key points that there is no meaningful definition of an “assault weapon.” Oh, in case any morons from the media are reading this, it’s also worth noting that a “semi-automatic” is not a machine gun.
This illustrates the uselessness of bans on so-called assault weapons, since those bans concentrate on guns’ cosmetics, such as whether the gun has a bayonet lug, rather than their function. What some people call “assault weapons” function like every other normal firearm—they fire only one bullet each time the trigger is pressed. Unlike automatics (machine guns), they do not fire continuously as long as the trigger is held. They are “semi-automatic” because they eject the empty shell case and load the next round into the firing chamber.
Since gun controls have become more ubiquitous over time, what could account for the increase in random shootings? In addition to de-institutionalization of the mentally ill, Kopel suspects the media plays a role.
Since gun controls today are far stricter than at the time when “active shooters” were rare, what can account for the increase in these shootings? One plausible answer is the media. Cable TV in the 1990s, and the Internet today, greatly magnify the instant celebrity that a mass killer can achieve. We know that many would-be mass killers obsessively study their predecessors.
This doesn’t mean it’s the fault of the media, and it certainly doesn’t mean that we should undermine the First Amendment right of an unfettered press, but at least it helps to understand what could be causing some of these nutjobs to go on killing sprees.
The most important part of the column is his analysis of how “gun-free zones” are downright idiotic. The Chuck Asay cartoons here and here make the same point, as does this satirical video, but Kopel’s analysis provides substance.
Finally, it must be acknowledged that many of these attacks today unfortunately take place in pretend “gun-free zones,” such as schools, movie theaters and shopping malls. According to Ron Borsch’s study for the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato, active shooters are different from the gangsters and other street toughs whom a police officer might engage in a gunfight. They are predominantly weaklings and cowards who crumble easily as soon as an armed person shows up. The problem is that by the time the police arrive, lots of people are already dead. So when armed citizens are on the scene, many lives are saved. The media rarely mention the mass murders that were thwarted by armed citizens at the Shoney’s Restaurant in Anniston, Ala. (1991), the high school in Pearl, Miss. (1997), the middle-school dance in Edinboro, Penn. (1998), and the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. (2007), among others. At the Clackamas Mall in Oregon last week, an active shooter murdered two people and then saw that a shopper, who had a handgun carry permit, had drawn a gun and was aiming at him. The murderer’s next shot was to kill himself. Real gun-free zones are a wonderful idea, but they are only real if they are created by metal detectors backed up by armed guards. Pretend gun-free zones, where law-abiding adults (who pass a fingerprint-based background check and a safety training class) are still disarmed, are magnets for evildoers who know they will be able to murder at will with little threat of being fired upon.
But as much as I enjoy political humor, this is not a laughing matter. It appears Obama is trying to lay some groundwork for a new assault on the Second Amendment.