As far as we know, Dylann Roof acted for just one person: Dylann Roof.
But his crime has gotten enormous attention for a host of reasons. It is a demonstration of the evil one person can do. It arouses strong emotions of horror and grief for victims whose extremely productive lives were cut down so cruelly. It engenders talk about the Second Amendment right to bear arms and how much it can or should be restricted. It raises questions about our mental health system and how a person can fall through the cracks. It brings up the issue of prevention, because Roof appears to have given quite a bit of warning (at least to friends, if not to family) that he was contemplating violence. It makes us wonder how often drug abuse might be a factor in violent crimes. It shows that some people continue to hate members of another race. It is an example of how the media covers such crimes, and the rush to publish facts that are not necessarily true.
But — as with many violent crimes — it also gives people ample opportunity to ride their pet political hobbyhorses. And among them are the pious declarations that somehow Roof represents white people or America in general.
He does not.
That doesn’t stop the MSM from reporting on how people around the world think that the Charleston murders are a symptom of American racism as well an indictment of our puzzling American devotion to guns. Right on cue, President Obama has used the incident to indicate that this sort of thing doesn’t happen much in other countries, and to imply that stricter gun control in the United States would help:
We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hand on a gun…
But let’s be clear. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.
And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it’d be wrong for us not to acknowledge it, and at some point, it’s going to important for the American to come to grips with it and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.
Obama’s statement that this doesn’t happen in other “advanced” countries is preposterous, a lie so transparent on the face of it that anyone with a memory can refute it instantly (Anders Breivik; Charlie Hebdo) if they care to, although many don’t care to. As far as the relative frequency of such mass murder attacks compared to the population in various countries goes, that’s something about which it isn’t that easy to get reliable statistics. But just a glance at this list of Canadian and European school shootings should disabuse anyone of the notion that such mass killings don’t happen in other countries with a fair amount of frequency.
And that’s just school shootings. Here are some of the major terrorist attacks in Europe (including Breivik’s and Charlie Hebdo, but also many more). Here’s a handy chart of them — and looking at it, you can see that these acts are not perpetrated only by Islamic terrorists, although there are plenty of those, too. Here we have a list of European rampage killers; there are quite a few of those as well. The “W” column there stands for the weapon used, with “F” for firearm, which is the most common method. But there are a significant number of “M”s for “melee weapons, like knives, swords, spears, machetes, axes, clubs, rods, stones, or bare hands,” and “E”s, for explosives.
Apparently, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Economist John Lott, whose academic credentials are stellar but whose work and writings on gun statistics have roused a great deal of controversy from his opponents, asserts that the frequency of such mass murder shootings in Europe is actually very similar to their frequency in the USA:
If you look at a per capita rate, the rate of multiple-victim public shootings in Europe and the United States over the last 10 years have been fairly similar to each other. A couple of years ago you had a couple of big shootings in Finland. About two-and-a-half years ago you had a big shooting in the U.K., 12 people were killed.
You had Norway last year [where 77 died]. Two years ago, you had the shooting in Austria at a Sikh Temple. There have been several multiple-victim public shootings in France over the last couple of years. Over the last decade, you’ve had a couple of big school shootings in Germany. Germany in terms of modern incidents has two of the four worst public-school shootings, and they have very strict gun-control laws.
What’s more, he notes that the banning of guns not only does not appear to reduce such incidents, but that perpetrators gravitate to places where guns are verboten:
The one common feature of all of those shootings in Europe is that they all take place in gun-free zones, in places where guns are supposed to be banned.
It is highly possible that Obama knows all of this, or that he has at least received memos on the subject. But it doesn’t fit his political agenda, which is the “progressive” one of limiting the Second Amendment.
Roof’s heinous and downright evil crime raises bona fide questions about the use of guns and how best to prevent future acts of mass murder. Reasonable people can differ on these issues. But a good case can certainly be made that, if people were allowed to carry concealed weapons in more places, mass murderers would be less sanguine about getting away with such attacks. However, instead of focusing on the facts and arguments based on facts, too many of our leaders and supposedly objective journalists appear to have no interest in having a reasonable and reasoned discussion on the matter. Instead, in the immortal words of Rahm Emanuel:
You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.