If I had a platform to debate one of the most influential people in my early development that I have massive respect and admiration for, when he we writes Guns are not the answer, they are the problem, it would go something like this . . .
Having had a 21-year career in law enforcement, and being a proponent of gun ownership and a person who owns a number of firearms from a “Baby Glock” all the way to an AR-15, I’m going to provide a different perspective and some counter-narratives to the points of your article.
The media, in order to forward an anti-gun narrative, now conflates “active shooter” situations with “mass shootings”, defined as an incident where 4 or more people are shot. The vast, vast majority of “mass shootings” still take place in lower socio-economic areas and have a nexus to gangs, drugs and/or domestic violence. True “active shooter” situations are still outlier within the larger “mass shooting” moniker. Law enforcement defines an active shooter as a situation in which a suspect attempts to engage and kill as many “innocent”, usually unknown to them, victims as possible in a single event. It is intellectually dishonest, in my opinion, to lump these two together to and use it as a scare tactic, making the average citizen think these events are more prevalent than they are. Truth is, 99% of mass shooting events are related gang and drug crime, have underlined socio-economic similarities and take place in dense urban cities. Being killed during a mass shooting event in the US is extremely rare, with approximately 1.43% of all murder victims in the US being the result of a mass shooting.
You then present a false equivalency argument when you mention how “Americans have accepted infringements on our personal rights…personal and baggage searches, dogs sniffing us, and other ‘infringements’ … as we travel.” There is no explicit Constitutional protection to “privacy” like there is for gun ownership with the 2nd Amendment. There is a fundamental difference between a person choosing to submit to searches of their person and property in exchange for the convenience of air travel (or bus, etc.) and any argument that gun ownership should or can be curbed for safety reasons.
Mass shootings are not a uniquely an “American phenomenon”. From 1998, when this phenomenon really came into focus, 86 countries have experienced “public mass shootings”. The rate of such attacks, when you control for population, ie., per capita, the US ranks 56th in the world in frequency and in the number of those murdered in mass shootings, as a percentage of overall murders, we rank 61st. This idea that mass shootings are uniquely American or that our rate is an extreme outlier is based on a 2012, then unpublished, paper by criminologist Adam Lankford, which was cited by Obama. Serious holes were subsequently poked in the study, include his rather selective method of including some incidents for his study, while ignoring others. When duplicated by other social scientists, they found at least 1,423 incidents in foreign countries from 1998 to 2012 met his criteria but were inexplicably not counted. Lankford ultimately had to admit, when pressed about the sample issue, that when incidents meeting is criteria were included in the sample, “the relationship between gun ownership rates and mass public shooters disappears.” (Lott/Weisser – Colombia University).
The gun control law passed by Congress is like much legislation passed now, in that its purpose is largely to service the reelection chances of politicians by showing they “are taking action”, but will do little to address the issue. The increased mental health checks and straw purchase provisions in the bill are redundant. The new Red Flag laws are going to be an issue, including the closing of the “boyfriend” loophole. The laws provide a conundrum for due process rights. Guns can be taken from anyone after only one-side petitions a court, without the target of the seizure being able to present a rebuttal. Not to mention a gun seizure can take place without an actual violation of any law. That’s an issue. You then have to use your own money to produce a defense that you will not break a law in the future, while paying fines to the government for holding the very guns they probably did not have a right to take from you in the first place . . . since you broke no laws to begin with.
Now that me address this: “And to me, as well as many others, guns is the real issue. Certainly, the military grade ones created to wreak havoc in war, and which seem to be the weapons de jour of so many of our domestic shooters.” For starters, both the majority of active shooters and mass shooters commit their crimes with handguns. 56% of all mass shooting events are done with a suspect using only a handgun. On 13% of suspects use a rifle as the only weapon. Of that 13%, less than 1/3 of that subset are done with an “assault style rifle”. (FBI Unform Crime Reporting Statistics – DOJ). But non-assault rifle events are seldom covered in the media and certainly not in the national media. I can point to any number of mass shooting events that I responded to, or that took place in the municipality that I used to work for, that did not make the local news, let alone on a national level.
Let’s talk “military grade” rifles, aka., the buzz word “assault rifle”. Little known fact, the term was coined by anti-gun advocate Josh Sugarmann in a 1988 paper. In the paper he said the quite part out loud when he explained what he hoped to accomplish by using this pejorative, “The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons — anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun — can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons . . .” Gun rights advocates would later rebuke the paper by pointing out (1) “the word ‘assault’ connotes offense and illegality, while the vast majority of such guns are used in a lawful manner and for defense” and (2) “so-called assault weapons differ from other guns solely because of cosmetic changes like a pistol grip or a threaded barrel for a silencer — not in the way they actually fire bullets.” As I’ve pointed out before, an “assault rifle” and any other semi-automatic rifle have the same firing operation (one trigger pull = one bullet), have similar muzzle velocities and fire the same round in both weight and diameter. One just looks like the 1950’s era M-16, which is the military’s fully automatic platform.
Then there is the mental health aspect of all this. It’s an issue, but just one of many playing a role in the increases we are seeing with public violence. Red Flag laws are great, but they only work when there are people and systems capable of monitoring them and enforcement them. As we have seen repeatedly, mass shooters either should have been flagged or had several warning signs that were not acted upon.
Violence and violent action is still, in my opinion, a symptom of upbringing and socio-economic status. Sprinkle in some mental health issues, you a recipe for the creation of a mass shooter. No wonder why you can find a direct correlation between the increases in mass shooting events and the erosion of mental health laws and law enforcement’s ability to involuntarily commit a citizen for a mental health evaluation. This trend started in the mid-1980s and has only increased in practice recently, with several states and cities’ political class argument that being mentally ill is a Constitutional right while ignoring the ramifications that having entire areas of major cities overrun with such people. No surprise, these are many of the same cities in which double digit increases in crimes rates are being observed.
Finally, why don’t we have “outright bans of military-style weapons in civilian hands, why don’t we have those things? Uniformly throughout the whole country?” Simple, it’s called the 2nd Amendment.
One final note, if laws limiting gun ownership and the citizen’s ability to carry one worked, it would only be logical that areas governed by such laws were statistically safer. The author if this opinion piece lives near Cook County, IL a state, country and large urban center (Chicago) with some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, yet, it has the dubious fact of being one of the most violent areas of the country and boasts a higher gun crime rate than cities in Iraq and Syria. Why? Simple, criminals, by definition, don’t follow the law. When you introduce restrictive gun laws, the criminals still have the guns to commit crimes, the average citizen does not, and the predators know this.