This past weekend gave us what amounts to a study in how to stop mass killings. An assailant attacked an unarmed school full of children educators in Newtown, CT and was able to kill 26 on site before law enforcement arrived. An assailant opened fire in a crowded restaurant adjacent to a movie theater in San Antonio, TX, but an armed off-duty police officer shot him, stopping a potential rampage before it ever really began.
A majority of Americans do seem to understand that banning weapons alone is not the most effective way of preventing future tragedies. A new Gallup poll finds that while 42% of Americans believe such a ban would be “very effective,” they rate such a ban behind three other potential remedies that do not infringe on the right of law-abiding Americans to bear arms.
Increasing police presence at schools earns 53% support and is at the top of the list. Behind that, increasing government spending on mental health screening and treatment gets 50%. Decreasing the depiction of gun violence on TV, movies and in video games comes in third at 47%. An “assault weapons” ban comes in fourth, with having at least one school official at every school carrying a gun comes in fifth at 34%.
It’s not evident that any of these proposed remedies, save maybe arming a school official, could have prevented Friday’s tragedy. The firearms, including the Bushmaster rifle, were all legal even under Connecticut’s “assault weapons” ban. Prior to his rampage, the killer had reportedly not shown tendencies toward violence. It’s debatable whether violence in media has any effect on behavior. There is no question that violent content in media has grown over the past several years, but violent crime overall has actually decreased statistically* in those years.
*If crimes are being reported accurately. The FBI’s national crime statistics rely heavily on local law enforcement reporting crimes accurately. The federal government’s law enforcement grant programs create powerful incentives for local law enforcement to falsify their statistics, and we uncovered strong evidence of one local law enforcement agency faking its crime statistics.