Americans have serious and honest questions to ask themselves about mass shootings and gun control: even if we ban and confiscate all legally owned civilian firearms, what then? It seems the fad of our time is to place blame on the inanimate object: the gun; and not on the individual committing the violence. The loss is tragic; it has always been tragic.
Life is fragile.
American culture has in it a belief that we can wave our magic wand and take all the inherent risk out of life. This is not, and has never been, the case. The thought we can guarantee safety is absurd. It’s a nearly meaningless gesture to use social media hastags, like #NotOneMore, and quite another to actually achieve that end. Gun control advocates, in particular, must ask themselves if they genuinely want to achieve less deaths, and if so how to realistically achieve that goal, or if they want to merely be seen speaking empty platitudes.
Mass murder events are aberrations. They are difficult to predict or prevent according to Dr. James Alan Fox of Northeastern University, one of the most widely recognized experts on mass murder. Dr. Fox says we have consistently averaged about 20 mass murder events (defined by the FBI as four or more murdered in a single event) every year since 1976. Dr. Fox says what look like red flags in retrospect with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, were only yellow flags – at best – before the event.
On the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, Dr. Fox wrote about the criticisms and supposed red flags. He notes the focus on the shooter’s many hours playing violent video games, like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, but ignored the many hours playing the dancing game, Dance Dance Revolution. Perhaps the most relevant criticism was that the shooter’s mother kept guns in the house. However, as Dr. Fox points out, critics ignored the fact that he had never acted violently at all before the event, and even his therapists were shocked in hindsight because of this fact. This illustrates that it is indeed difficult to predict beforehand when even therapists who do this for a living have a hard time seeing it beforehand.
Perhaps millions of people are in therapy and almost none of them snap and kill people. If we assume that all 20 mass murder events are the product of mentally ill people – as opposed to career criminals and gangs – then we are still left with something like 99.9999 percent of people in therapy that never become a danger to others. If 0.0001 percent risk becomes our accepted threshold for mass action by society, when do we apply that to any other area? When do we apply that threshold to car ownership, drunk driving, texting while driving, or fatally hitting pedestrians with vehicles?
There are a myriad of things that aren’t on the surface “designed” to kill, and yet do kill more often than guns. There are typically less than 100 mass murder victims out of a little less than 13,000 annual homicides. Put in perspective, about 200 people die every year hitting deer with their cars. In 2012, 4,743 pedestrians were killed after being hit by a vehicle. There are about 4,000 drowning deaths, 26,000 accidental fall deaths, 42,000 poisoning deaths, 30-40,000 vehicle collision deaths, 39,000 drug-related deaths, 24,000 alcohol-related deaths, and 195,000 medical malpractice deaths (some studies say as many as 210-440,000 deaths) every year. It’s all tragic. Are certain causes of death legitimately worthy of moral outrage, while others are not – or is it arbitrary moral outrage based on talking points produced by media talking heads that tell people what they should be outraged over?
If mass murder, particularly from shooting, is legitimately worthy of our singular moral outrage, then what lengths are we prepared to go to eliminate these aberrations that are difficult to predict and prevent? The Seattle Pacific University and Washington Naval Yard shooters used shotguns. The Santa Barbara mass murderer used a knife, his car and handguns with 10-round magazines bought legally with background checks and registered to him. The predictable, vapid response after such events is to call for “more gun control.”
The gun control called for following Sandy Hook was for background checks (the Santa Barbara murderer bought three guns with background checks and they were registered to him), limiting magazines to 10 rounds (which he used), and to ban certain rifles based on cosmetics (he used a handgun), and Vice President Joe Biden urged people to get shotguns (which the SPU and Washington Navy Yard shooters used)! None of these things, promoted as a “solution”, turned out to be any sort of solution at all. Calls in support of these measures to “do something” turned out to do nothing.
Do gun control advocates seriously want to consider banning and confiscating all legally owned civilian firearms? If so, what about the negative consequences of such a decision? What do we do about the criminals, when according to the Department of Justice, 80 percent of criminals obtain their guns illegally? What “solution” is it to ban legally owned firearms, when the FBI reports that gangs traffic arms illegally into the U.S. along with illegal narcotics? What about the fact that the CDC says law-abiding citizens use firearms at least a half-million to several million times a year to defend themselves, prevent injury, and save lives? This is corroborated by multiple academic studies, many of which were commissioned by liberal Democratic presidents and conducted by liberal professors.
If it is tempting to support a total gun ban in ignorant belief that it might “reduce killing” from mass murder, it behooves us to remember that mass murder comprises 0.008 percent of homicides. Most murders, just as most lawful defensive gun uses that save lives, don’t make headlines. So yes, even if we were somehow able to magically stop all mass murders (not likely even if there were no such thing as guns; the worst school mass murder in U.S. history was done with bombs, as the Oklahoma City bombing was worse than the worst mass shooting), that is a reduction of a fraction of one percent. To achieve that fractional decrease, we would have to accept taking away the very same instruments used to protect and save lives millions of times annually, just not millions of times in the national headlines.
Absolutely no one in the gun control debate is talking about the underlying causes for violence – poverty, especially urban poverty, drug abuse (the single greatest predictor of violence with or without mental illness), gangs (responsible for half of the violent crime in the U.S.), and mental illness. These are not cut and dry areas with immediately easy solutions just waiting for us, but this is where we ought to be focusing if we want to actually see a reduction in violence and death. We should ask ourselves if we really want to see people be more safe, or if we want to indulge in arbitrary moral outrage with meaningless social media hashtags.
By Matt MacBradaigh. Matt is a Christian, Husband, Father, Patriot, and Conservative from the Pacific Northwest. Matt writes about the Second Amendment, Gun Control, Gun Rights, and Gun Policy issues and is published on The Bell Towers, The Brenner Brief, PolicyMic. TavernKeepers, and Vocativ.
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