The murders in Newtown, Connecticut, will, without question, result in calls for greater “gun control.” As William S. Burroughs pointed out: “After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it.” I say “will, without question,” because hell, they already have. In fact, there have already been a whole pile of proposals, and they all uniformly have one thing in common: they wouldn’t have prevented the killings in Newtown.
Consider some of them:
– Ban “assault weapons.”
Beyond the fact that “assault weapon,” in the Clinton-era assault weapon ban, was a hifalutin’ way of saying “that looks scary!”, the gun the shooter used wasn’t an “assault weapon” under that expired law.
– Ban large clips.
The shooter killed 26 people, and according to the most recent press reports, he shot each one multiple times — as many as 11 times, in fact. He may have had 30-round magazines, but the fact is that he had to reload. Many times.
– Make schools (theaters, ice cream parlors, college campuses) gun-free zones.
Of course, this one was already in effect. So it’s pretty obvious that this one was useless.
In fact, it turns out that only one of the mass shootings since 1950 has been in an area in which guns could be carried — the shootings in Tucson in which Gabby Giffords was wounded and six were killed.
The Aurora, Colorado shootings happened in the only theater within a 20-minute drive that actually banned handguns — and one of the furthest local theaters from the shooter’s apartment.
– Don’t sell guns to mental patients.
Of course, the problem here is that the shooter didn’t buy the guns.
You could extend that to taking away the guns from anyone who is related to a mental patient, but that has a bunch of problems. First, it’s pretty certainly unconstitutional over and above the Second Amendment issues.
Second: let’s say someone goes to their family doctor and gets a prescription for Prozac, or Xanax, or Paxil, or some other antidepressant or anti-anxiety drug. Does the doctor then have to report the prescription to the police, who will come to search the house for guns?
The houses of all the patient’s relatives?
– Institute background checks on all gun sales.
Same point. And ditto for waiting periods — the shooter’s mother had owned these guns for years.
In fact, every one of these suggestions has a serious issue: none of them have ever demonstrated any positive results.
Draconian gun bans have been enacted in Great Britain and Australia in the last several years, and violent gun crimes have increased, not decreased.
On the other hand, following the Supreme Court’s Heller decision striking down a gun ban, gun violence in Washington, D.C., has gone down — while gun violence in Chicago, another place with draconian gun laws, has gone up.
What we do know: mass shootings in places where guns are widely available tend not to become “mass.”
The Clackamas Mall shooter shot himself as soon as he was confronted by an armed person. Glenn Reynolds observed three more examples in his NY Post op-ed; the Gunwatch blog has a number of other examples.
If we really want to stop mass killings, the only thing we know is effective is having an armed populace.
An armed populace, of course, is exactly the purpose of the Second Amendment. At the beginning of the American Revolution, the British governor locked up the militia armory in Williamsburg, Virginia, leaving the townspeople unarmed. Jefferson and Madison were entirely aware of that. In fact, the whole Revolution was fought largely with the guns that soldiers could bring from home. This recognition was behind the Second Amendment, and later the first of the Militia Acts, which defined the militia as every male citizen between 18 and 45.