Libertarian Hawk


Mass Murderers Don’t Suffer Anguish Over Disobeying Gun Laws

December 16, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Gun Control

gun-control-drunk-drivingEvery school and non-school mass shooting in the United States over the past decade has taken place in one of the states in the upper half of the country by strictness of gun control laws, as measured by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  The sole exception was the targeted political assassination attempt of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in 2011.

Even in mass shootings that unfolded in states near the middle of the ranking—e.g., Colorado—the massacres took place in locations where guns were banned.  In Aurora, Colorado, the shooting was carried out at a Century 16 cinema, whose parent company’s policy prevents firearms on its premises.

As gun control expert John Lott has pointed out, virtually every mass shooting in U.S. history has been carried out against unarmed civilians, whether in gun-free schools, on gun-free college campuses, or in gun-free government buildings.  There are no mass killings at shooting ranges, hunting parties, or policeman’s balls.

Everyday citizens generally observe gun control laws, but mass killers—who usually turn themselves in or kill themselves after the shootings—don’t flinch over violating firearm possession rules.  Mass murderers tend not to suffer moral anguish over disobeying gun control laws.

Many shootings, such as the assault at Virginia Tech in 2007 or the Binghamton immigration center in 2009, could have been halted in progress, had one of the victims been carrying a firearm.  This hypothetical doesn’t apply in the Sandy Hook, Connecticut elementary school shooting last Friday—at least for the schoolchildren—but the impact of most shootings could have been mitigated by the presence of an armed victim.

Liberals keep insisting, every time there’s a mass shooting, “It’s time to have a debate about gun control.”  Well, we’ve had that debate, many times, and the left always fails to make the case that the citizenry are safer as sitting ducks.  Even the Supreme Court has finally come around to acknowledging the Second Amendment.

Liberals also mistakenly believe that correlation is causation, such that the simultaneous presence of relatively lax gun laws and high crime rates means the former cause the latter.  As John Lott has also shown, there are wide variations in cultural norms, social histories, and violence rates across states, regions, and countries that have nothing to do with gun ownership.  What’s most relevant is what happens when stricter or looser gun control measures are introduced into a jurisdiction, and how this change affects crime rates.  The evidence from Lott’s research is incontrovertible: Passing concealed carry weapons laws reduces crime, and passing restrictions on gun ownership and use increases it.

So liberals always get the gun control issue wrong.  But lately a number of conservatives have been getting it wrong, too.

The liberal fallacy occurs when a conservative argues, “This intrusive, unconstitutional policy you’re pushing has no demonstrable effect on, and arguably exacerbates, the problem you’re trying to eradicate”—to which the liberal invariably replies, “Let’s have more of it!”

The conservative mistake is more insidious.  The liberal version can be torn apart as the non sequitur it is, but the conservative version seeks to shut off debate.

The conservative fallacy is: “We’re better than exploitative liberals who politicize these tragedies and push for gun control.  Let’s not discuss what caused this tragedy and how to prevent it; let’s spend our time praying and crying.”

After mass shootings, liberals shout, “More gun control!” and conservatives cry, “Don’t support solutions that could prevent shootings in the future!”

Conservative self-restraint includes disallowing talk about how lives could be saved if victims were armed, and how defending your loved ones isn’t just a political stance but a moral issue.

Of course we should have a moment of silence for the victims, send our condolences to their families, and consider the human impact of the tragedy.  But can’t we spend five minutes talking about how we can arm ourselves—physically or otherwise—against such madness next time?

The mainstream media will accuse conservatives of being cold-hearted meanies if we cite data supporting our claims and don’t spend enough time welling up over pictures of crying faces.  But if we believe what we say about gun control, shouldn’t we pride our ability to abstract from particular cases and not let our emotions get the best of us?  Wouldn’t the policies we’re recommending prevent more of those crying faces?

As one gun control advocate who understands this dynamic notes of the shooting victims, “Their families must be given space to mourn, and that space should be respected.  But it does not honour the dead to insist that there must be no room in that space for rational thought and critical appraisal.”

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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