Dear Ms. Ashley:
I am going to make lots of new enemies today. How? I am going to tell you I don’t really care about your emotions on this topic. Let me repeat that. I. Don’t. Care.
Does this mean I care about my guns more than my children? No. Does this mean I care about my guns more than I care about your children. No.
Although I have had a fascination with firearms for most of my life and bought my first handgun on my 21st birthday (Nixon was President), my wife and I agreed that our home would be gun-free until our children were old enough to learn to handle them safely and learn to shoot. Today, three of our four children are gun owners themselves and all practice safe handling. Our older daughter and her husband are now teaching their children.
I also support Project ChildSafe and its efforts to promote and enable safe gun handling and safe gun storage. Although it is a program created and operated by the gun and gun accessory companies, it is sufficiently respected that it received a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to expand its work.
Now we come to the point where I am going to make you very unhappy: Being emotional about the problem of mass shooting is a terrible way to address the problem. It is unproductive and it leads to futile actions and grasping for straws like the current crop of gun control laws. I say “current crop” but they aren’t really current at all. Gun-free zones were first mandated in 1990. The Brady Act, requiring background checks for all retail firearm sales, became effective in February 1994. An Assault Weapons Ban, very similar to the one referred to a House subcommittee this year, was in effect from late 1994 to late 2004. Laws requiring waiting periods, expanded background checks for all gun transfers, heavy restrictions on types and models of firearm legal for sale, restrictions on magazine capacities were enacted in California beginning in the 1990s.
California leads the nation in the number of mass shootings (defined as three or more fatalities, not including the perpetrator) since Columbine. None of the states where more than 50% of households have guns have had even a single mass shooting. New Mexico, where almost exactly 50% of households have guns, has had a single mass shooting incident, which was a murder-suicide, in 2013.
The original assault Weapons Ban was allowed to expire after it could not be shown to have had a significant impact on crime. Even with the increased use of military-style rifles in mass shootings, far more people are murdered each year with knives and blunt instruments than all types of rifles and shotguns combined. The Assault Weapons Ban of 2018, does not do anything about the 18–20 million of the would-be-banned firearms already possessed. In addition, it is so poorly written that it exempts guns that are even more lethal than the guns it bans.
Restrictions on magazine capacity are worthless. Elliot Rodger used California-approved pistols with restricted capacity magazines during his spree in Isla Vista, California. After Rodger committed suicide, deputies recovered numerous restricted capacity magazines from his car. Adam Lanza not only had spare magazines, he reportedly reloaded them during his murders of young children.
Background checks have had zero impact on mass shootings. 59% of shooters have passed one or more background checks. Other killers have stolen their guns, even committing murder to obtain them.
Raising the age to purchase guns: Nikolas Cruz is the only person under 21 to use an AR-15-type rifle that he personally purchased in the 54 years that the AR-15 has been on sale to civilians. The only other person under 21 to use a legally purchased military-style rifle of any type in a mass shooting was Dean Allen Mellberg in 1994. There are an estimated 12.7 million young American adults in the 18–20 age bracket.
Gun control laws seem to have little impact on homicide rates. States like Illinois and Maryland, which have strong gun laws, are among the top ten U.S. states by homicide rate. States like Idaho, Vermont and Montana, which have relaxed gun laws, are among the states with the lowest homicide rate.
More guns, armed teachers and similar responses are not a method to prevent mass shootings. They can end mass shootings, but the response time required means that killers will have plenty of time to rack up a body count. The first police officers to arrive at Sandy Hook heard a single gunshot. That was Adam Lanza committing suicide after murdering 28 people. A Santa Fe ISD police officer and a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper responded immediately to the alert of Dimitri Pagourtzis shooting people in the art room at Santa Fe High School. While the school district police officer was critically wounded by a shotgun blast, the trooper engaged Pagourtzis and ended the killing but ten people were already dead.
This is why none of the snake-oil remedies proposed by either side can provide a real solution to the problem of mass shootings. It’s also why emotional responses to these incidents make for ineffective ideas, they can actually impede exploration of other possibilities because of fruitless debates over one bad quick-fix or another.
The deadliest public school killing in U.S. history was not carried out with a gun. It was carried out with explosives. The Bath (MI) School Massacre of 1927 claimed the lives of 38 children ranging in age from 7 to 14 and two teachers. The Columbine killers’ real plan was not to shoot up the school but to use homemade propane bombs to collapse the roof over the school cafeteria at lunchtime. As horrific and the toll was, it would have been far worse had the bombs worked.
Please rein in your emotions. Let real common sense replace “commonsense” and urge the search for solutions to the factors that drive mass killings including how to prevent killers from reaching their victims.