“How do You Propose to End Mass Shootings Then?” A Blast from the Past.

So this is needed:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
    1. 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.
  3. 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.

15 thoughts on ““How do You Propose to End Mass Shootings Then?” A Blast from the Past.”

  1. I wouldn’t require military. It might be part of a group of potential qualifications, but you can probably weed out firearms instructors like pilots: must have X hours logged in practical use and pass a test about firearm function, safety, and law.

    I’m also not crazy about cash rewards, due to potential unintended consequences. It feels like something that could get weird or manipulated. And I think the people I want to engage would do so anyway, because it’s the right thing to do.

    But otherwise I think it sounds good to me.


    1. Any qualification requirements for the instructors beyond the most basic ones (military firearms instructor) can be perverted or manipulated to get useless types teaching bad critical skills/info. “X” hours of doing “Y”? They will severely limit which skills/areas/qualifications are “valid”. Pass a test? They will fill the test with anti-gun tropes and/or trick questions, and long-term-fail anyone who gets a single item incorrect. For those of us who have been doing/following anti-gun efforts for decades, we’ve seen most of this in practice already, somewhere in the USA.

      Best to keep it simple.


  2. An armed citizenry will stop mass shootings.

    If we follow the 2nd Amendment and it’s meaning at the time of the founding, every able-bodied male between the ages of 18 and 55 are members of the militia and have a duty, when called upon, to serve and to keep and bear arms to come to the defense of their communities, the State, and the country. Unlike “freedom”, with liberty comes duty and responsibility.

    The militias should be “regulated” (trained) by either the state or local communities and, if every militia member was trained and carried a firearm, mass shootings like the one in Colorado would be difficult to carry out.


  3. Here’s the problem with #6.

    Headline and all the news: “A white supremacist who we will not name went on a shooting spree and we must ban more guns”

    The back story: His name was Mohammed Mohammed Atullah Aziz.

    Not naming him makes it possible, in a world where the media is all in against guns, to lie with impunity. This is not speculation. This just happened in Colorado.

    I also would not put the military in charge of marksmanship training. There are plenty of groups out there who are qualified to do it and so long as you put stipulations on what will be taught it would be difficult for this to be coopted. Minimum curriculum requirements, minimum range time, minimum qualification scores to pass. There are plenty of military personnel who aren’t qualified to teach this so it would be easy enough to pull in some lefty who served as an appliance repair tech in Kansas and say “military personnel”.


    1. Here’s the problem with #6.

      Since they do that anyway, as you so helpfully pointed out, that’s not a new problem. It’s already possible. The purpose of “not naming” is to remove the “I’ll become (in)famous” from the motivation of potential shooters.

      it would be difficult for this to be coopted

      Oh, you sweet summer child. The problem isn’t the curriculum criteria, the problem is what the instructor will “teach”. Yeah, put in those “minimum curriculum requirements” and instructor spends maybe half a class on that, then the rest of the time frothing at the mouth about “guns are teh ebbills!” The point of instructors being provided by the military, but that the military chooses. It would be a special duty assignment, like recruiting, precisely because I don’t trust the schools as they exist now and for the foreseeable future to deal with it honestly.


      1. I concur that our current environment would be difficult. But I would certainly like to see just Any Old Joe teaching the firearms course as the ideal. And using the military isn’t a cure-all now, either. It could certainly produce instructors who are oriented on “Stop, Don’t Touch, Get an Adult” and the idea that civilians shouldn’t have guns. (And cops wouldn’t necessarily be any better.) So much would depend on good people vetting for good instructors.

        I think there’s no really good answer until we shift the culture back toward personal responsibility.


  4. Those same reports also give the number of innocents killed by the armed citizens in those incidents.
    I would be interested in how many bystanders were wounded by a ‘good guy’ shooter.
    This isn’t a pushback or whatnot, but I don’t think cops kill a lot of bystanders, either, but they manage to wound a whole bunch. So, it would be an interesting comparison (especially since the same bunch of people think only cops are professional enough to have guns).
    I also would be interested if they did any analysis of number of shots fired vs. number of hits. Because even when cops manage not to wound bystanders, it seems to primarily be because they’re lucky no one was in the way of their strays.
    (And, no, not all cops are bad shots. But the ones in big cities/metropolises seem to be.)


    1. The difference between armed citizens accidently shooting innocent bystanders and when the police do it is qualified immunity.

      Armed citizens are fully liable for their (accidental) actions whereas the individual police officers are not (assuming both used reasonable care).


    2. What the “zero killed” point addresses is the usual claim that an armed citizen responding will “make it worse” with the implication that more people will be killed.

      That just doesn’t happen. Might some people be/have been wounded? Perhaps. But which is a preferable outcome, zero dead and five wounded or two dead and none wounded? And if we consider that armed citizens are likely to be at least as capable shots as the crazed spree killer the “ratio” of killed to wounded is likely to be similar. So fewer total dead, which the FBI stats demonstrate, also implies fewer total wounded.

      The whole “it’s worse for people to be caught in the crossfire” argument made by the antis completely breaks down in the face of how things actually play out.


      1. Right. I think a comparison of wounded would also likely prove to demonstrate competence on the part of the armed citizen. I wonder if it would also favorably compare to police statistics (I’m betting so).

        I would rather be caught in the crossfire of a bad guy and an armed citizen than in the crossfire with a bad guy and cops.


  5. One other item on the “may issue” and such: it violates the principle of rule of law.
    Proving that you ‘need’ a gun means it’s a privilege to be doled out at the whim of the ruling class. There is absolutely no way you can make it objective (denying it because of convictions, OTOH, can be objective), and therefore there is no way an impartial gov’t can enforce it – only a class, or individuals could.

    the odds are good that someone will be present and in a position to deal with it
    Well, maybe not. In a permissive environment, this might not be the case. If our world is safe enough (you know all the info about how people fail to understand statistics and such) a huge majority will never feel the ‘need’ to pack heat. And so your odds of a good guy with a gun are not going to rise terribly high most places. (They will certainly improve in some places, though they might not ever rise awfully high.)
    In an encouraged environment, though, they might. You have to accompany the other bits with encouraging a culture of firearms training, use, and carry. A culture leaning away from avoiding risk and toward mitigating and ending risk (not ending the risk, actually, but ending the issue once the risk has been realized).
    (And you do go into that in #5. 🙂 ) (BTW, I think you’ve done a post on understanding risk before.)

    As to #4, I’ll go you one step further. I think we should encourage bounties on bad guys, period. Take it up a step from “reward for information leading to…” malarkey, but “reward for capture of…”. We lost our self-reliance once we took the step of insisting that no “civilian” should ever go after bad guys – whether because of fear of injustice or fear of “civilians” getting hurt. Reinforce the idea that the police are merely paid to do full-time what a free, responsible citizen should be doing anyway. (Peelian Principles)

    On #5: I have long advocated mandatory gun safety classes in middle school/junior high (that include general knowledge of the range of firearms). And I think (because militias! and desiring competent gun carriers) competency training should be nearly mandatory, as well. I think a failure to pass such a course (or to choose a conscientious objector alternative) should be noted on your DL/ID as a restriction against carrying concealed. Community colleges could offer the classes for those who failed to pass in school.

    The one “problem” with the freedom-minded approach to this is it isn’t immediate. Now, neither is the other side’s, but their ideas are kinda permanent, and give you the advantage of feeling like you’re doing something right now. Their proposals feed the human need to “Don’t just stand there, DO SOMETHING!” So we will struggle to accomplish much, while they will hare off and accomplish much – none of it good. Blecch.


  6. Two more suggestions:
    – Bring back stop and frisk, with reasonable precautions.
    – Make mandatory long mail sentences for gun crimes, and then ENFORCE them.


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