According to The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik, Richard Martinez—father of Christopher Michael-Martinez, one of the victims of the mass shooting at UC Santa Barbara last week—was courageous for correctly pointing out that the N.R.A. caused his son’s death.
Echoing Martinez’s charge, Gopnik wrote, “Christopher died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the N.R.A…. How do we know that they are the ‘because’ in this? Because every other modern country has suffered from the same kinds of killings… and every other country has changed its laws to stop them from happening again, and in every other country it hasn’t happened again. (Australia is the clearest case—a horrific gun massacre, new laws, no more gun massacres—but the same is true of Canada, Great Britain, you name it.)”
This is a gross distortion of the facts and a negligent failure to see the big picture.
The higher prevalence of shooting rampages in the United States compared to other first-world countries is demonstrably due to cultural differences, not gun availability.
According to Peter Squires, an American criminologist at the UK’s University of Brighton, European countries are more tight-knit and collectivist; their residents are more likely to notice if an acquaintance is deeply troubled and about to go off the rails, and more apt to step in and prevent this from happening.
In contrast, the U.S. is a highly individualistic culture in which it’s easier for loners to drift away from society and become absorbed in their psychoses. With little social support and much suppressed antagonism toward communities they believe have failed them, these lone wolves sometimes lash out at others with what they see as justified mass violence.
In support of the notion that cultural factors are a bigger driver of mass shootings than gun availability, countries such as Germany, Norway, Finland, and Canada have experienced relatively few mass shootings over the past several decades, yet all have relatively high firearm ownership.
According to the 2007 Small Arms Survey, the U.S. has the highest civilian firearm ownership rate in the world, at 88.8 firearms per 100 people. But many other modern countries have high gun ownership rates as well, including #3 Switzerland (45.7), #4 Finland (45.3), #6 Cyprus (36.4), #10 Sweden (31.6), #11 Norway (31.3), #12 France (31.2), #13 Canada (30.8), #14 Austria (30.4), #15 Iceland (30.3), and (tied for) #15 Germany (30.3).
The contention that every other modern country has dramatically restricted gun ownership simply isn’t true.
Gopnik cites Australia as a model country for curbing gun violence via strict firearm control laws. After the Port Arthur mass shooting of 35 people in 1996, Australia enacted strict gun restrictions; advocates subsequently pointed to the drop in gun homicides over the next two decades as vindication of their approach. But gun homicides had already been dropping steadily for the previous two decades, and merely continued to drop after gun control was put in place. If you draw a trend line from 1979 to the present, you would actually predict a slightly lower volume of gun deaths in recent years than took place.
Meanwhile, Great Britain—which Gopnik cites as a successful gun control story—banned handguns in 1997 after the Dunblane mass shooting of 16 children in 1996. The country hasn’t seen any mass shootings since, though whether this is a result of firearm restrictions is highly debatable. What the country has seen, however, is gun crimes soaring 89% between 1998 and 2008, and the number of people injured by firearms more than doubling over approximately the same period—despite the pro-gun-control British government’s best efforts to cover up this troubling news.
Yet Great Britain is near the bottom of the list of countries by civilian gun ownership, at just 6.2 guns per 100 people—exactly where anti-gun liberals tell us Brits should be if they want to be safe and sound. Now, after almost two decades of this failed policy, angry Englishmen are clamoring for their guns back.
Gopnik mentions Great Britain as an example of how we could prevent mass shootings in the U.S. if only the gun lobby and gun-rights advocates weren’t influential enough to prevent draconian gun restrictions. Yet it’s undeniable that handgun violence has shot up since Great Britain banned handguns. So how can Gopnik claim that the British ban on guns was responsible for stopping mass shootings, yet somehow failed to stop—and indeed led to a spike in—gun crimes that weren’t part of mass shootings? Are mentally ill, would-be serial killers more likely to scrupulously observe handgun bans than purse-snatching punks?
Even if Gopnik’s theory were true, and the greater incidence of mass shootings were a result of gun availability, concealed-carry permits unequivocally lead to decreases in everyday gun violence. Is Gopnik fine with eliminating the occurrence of rare mass shootings at the cost of dramatically increasing far more common run-of-the-mill gun deaths?
It’s as though the left believed that gun homicides that are part of mass shootings are more tragic than those that happen willy-nilly, one or two at a time, to people they never hear about. Would they have gotten so worked up over Christopher Michael-Martinez’s death if he had been shot by a home invader or convenience store robber?
In the face of evidence of soaring gun crime in Britain, the most dramatic example of a modern state enacting severe restrictions in a misguided attempt to reduce gun violence, liberals seem willing to sacrifice huge numbers of everyday victims in order to prevent the occasional mass killing that makes them all weepy from being splashed across the front pages of tabloids.
- Restrictive Laws Are No Barrier to the Likes of Elliot Rodger (reason.com)
- 7 dead, 7 injured in mass shooting in Southern California (wgntv.com)
- Lost And Broken: Another Day, Another Death (mmaynard119.wordpress.com)
- Language and #Leadership: How We #Fool Ourselves into Righteous Inaction (leadershipspirit.wordpress.com)
- 30 Murders by Firearm in England 2012 (equiv. 164), vs. 8,855 in US (juancole.com)