I get that question whenever I object to more “gun control” as a response to the latest tragedy. I have long held, and continue to hold, the position that more restrictions on law-abiding gun owners is not the answer to mass murder. It doesn’t work. It just leaves the law abiding helpless in the face of criminal violence.
First, let’s dispense with that “end”. I hate to tell you this, but you can’t end them. “Gun control” certainly cannot. France’s strict gun control did not prevent Charlie Hebdo nor the 2015 Paris attacks. India’s draconian gun laws did not prevent Mumbai. Norway’s gun laws did not stop the spree shooter there. And so on.
“Ending” is an unachievable target. No matter what you do, somebody, somewhere, who intends to harm others–particularly if the’re looking at going out in a blaze of “glory” (with “infamy” serving for their purpose)–will find a way to do it. When you use it as a justification for restrictions on the law abiding there is no end to that. No restrictions will ever be enough. So it will always be an excuse for more restrictions. And if at any point anyone objects, you can do then as you do now and say “Don’t you care about the victims of gun crime?”
Sorry if you don’t like that, but the truth hurts sometimes.
So, can’t end them, not entirely, but you can improve the situation. In fact, you can improve it a lot.
“Ah, hah!” you say. “Gun control, right?”
Nope. In fact, gun control is a large part of the problem. The vast, vast majority of mass shootings of the “spree killer” type (which is what most people think of when you say “mass shooting” and is different in causes and dynamics than the “domestic murder-suicide” types and the “gang war” types, both of which require different approaches to reduce) happen in gun free zones. The El Paso shooter, in his manifesto (of which only his rant on immigration got widespread publication in the media; for some reason they didn’t bother to mention his rant on the environment and his rant on business) said:
Remember: it is not cowardly to pick low hanging fruit. AKA (sic) Don’t attack heavily guarded areas to fulfll (sic) your super soldier COD [Call of Duty first person shooter video game] fantasy. Attack low security targets. Even though you might out gun a security guard or police man, they likely beat you in armor, training and numbers. Do not throw away your life on an unnecessarily dangerous target. If a target seems too hot, live to fight another day.
More than 90 percent of mass shootings happen in gun free zones. Numbers vary depending on source (which can vary in how they’re counted) but the figures I’ve seen range from 92 to 97 percent. Yes, even the Fort Hood massacre, on an Army base, and the Norfolk Navy Yard shooting, Navy base, were “gun free zones” for this purpose–the military forbade personnel from being armed unless they were doing so as part of their duties–Stateside that meant Military Police on duty.
These shootings tend to stop once the shooter encounters armed resistance. Indeed, as I have noted before, FBI studies covering 2000 to 2017 had 33 cases of spree killers where armed citizens were present. In 25 of them, the armed citizen totally stopped the attack. In an additional 6 the armed citizens reduced the number of casualties. That’s 94% of the time the situation is made better by armed citizens being present. And what about the claim that people “getting caught in the crossfire” would make the situation worse? Those same reports also give the number of innocents killed by the armed citizens in those incidents. It’s a surprising number, all told. That number?
So, with that information in hand, here’s my approach to dealing with mass shootings:
- End “gun free zones.” The idea that forbidding law abiding American Citizens from being armed for their own protection somehow makes them safer is as ridiculous in specific locations as it is in general. As we’ve seen, it only makes those places attractive targets for those who don’t care that it’s illegal. If they’re going to break laws on murder breaking laws forbidding them to carry weapons at the place they plan to commit the murder isn’t going to stop them. It’s ridiculous. It’s patently absurd.
- End this practice of “may issue” on state licenses to carry firearms. Making the exercise of a Constitutional right dependent on the often arbitrary decision of government officials is a violation of basic human rights (the right to life is meaningless without the right to defend that life and the right to defend that life is meaningless without the right to effective means to defend that life). “May issue” which is generally worded as needing to show “good cause” generally works out in practice to issue only to those who are politically connected in the local power structure. It’s wrong. Stop it.
If you must have licensing (the Constitution and the Second Amendment should be all the license required but I recognize that’s not politically achievable at this time) then it needs to be “shall issue.” The State has to show good-cause to deny, not the other way around.
- Nationwide reciprocity. The Constitution requires States to give “full faith and credit” to the “Public acts, records, and judicial proceedings” of the other States. Marriages in one state are valid in every other. Drivers licenses issued in one state are valid in every other. And so, carry licenses issued in one state should be valid in every other. Again, the Constitution and the Second Amendment should be the only license required but, again, that’s not politically achievable for the foreseeable future.
Boom. Done. Mass shooting spree killer problem dealt with. There are no longer soft targets for them to attack and if they decide to try anyway, the odds are good that someone will be present and in a position to deal with it.
Now, some folk will say we need to do more. Well, okay, I can give you more.
- Establish a fund to provide cash rewards to those who engage and stop a spree killer. Let’s show, clearly and unequivocally, of the “put your money where your mouth is” variety, that we as a society approve of people protecting themselves and those around them from those attempting to do them harm.
- We want more people skilled and able to deal with threats, so make marksmanship and CQB electives in highs school and college (“any institution that accepts federal funds must…” if the other side can use that, so can we). These classes to be taught by military personnel. (Frankly, I do not trust professional “educators” to do so, not with the indoctrination they get at the typical school of education. Military personnel is not an ideal solution but stipulating private organizations would allow anti-gun groups to be chosen and singling out specific pro-gun organizations as the sole possibilities presents makes me squicky from a liberty point of view.) Oh, and if that state requires training for a carry license (And while I’m a fan of training, I’m not a fan of mandating it–it’s a freedom thing) then make that class also available as an elective in High School and college.
- I’ll bend on the “not mandatory” in having gun safety and safe gun handling be a required course in elementary or middle school at the latest. Again, taught by military for the reasons mentioned above.
- Implement the “Some Asshole Initiative.” The reason these guys look for soft targets, look to rack up the high body counts in the first place, is that they’re looking for their moment of fame (infamy). Stop. Making. These. Assholes. Famous.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t any way to implement this “top down” without violating freedom so all I can really suggest here is a bottom up approach. People need to stop naming these people in their own communications and express their displeasure to the media when they put their pictures out, name them, and basically making them famous. Eventually, maybe, they’ll get the message that providing a forum and publicity to the spree killers is not good business.
Hey, I can hope.
There, while nothing can completely eliminate tragedies in this imperfect world, this can at least trim them back so they’re not “trendy.” And they would do far more to reduce the incidence than any “gun control” ever can.
That’s the nice thing about being philosophically in favor of freedom is that it’s almost always also pragmatically better. And the few exceptions we can usually deal with so long as we guard against going beyond those exceptions rather than using them as an excuse for yet more “exceptions.”
As for me, make mine freedom.