In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shootings in Newton, Connecticut there have been calls for new gun control laws. My thoughts on the matter are below:
The basic facts
Although details are still emerging, the following quote from the Hartford Courant summarizes the basics:
New stories of horror and heroism surfaced today as the state and nation mourned the deaths of 20 children and six adults in the worst shooting at a primary school in U.S. history. The gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Friday morning by blasting as many as a half-dozen shots through the front door, police said. The shooter also killed himself inside the school, authorities said, and his mother was later found dead at her home 2 miles away. . . State police sources identified the shooter as Adam Lanza, 20, who was a graduate of Newtown High School. Lanza was dressed in black fatigues and brought two weapons into the school, police sources said: a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols. A .223-caliber rifle was found in his car in the school parking lot, sources said.
Without a doubt, this is a terrible tragedy. My sympathy goes out to everyone who has lost a loved on due to the murderous actions of a criminal. However, the actions of this murderer in no way justify gun control laws. Instead, this tragic instance of mass murder shows the folly of gun control laws that ensure only the violent criminal will be armed, and that his victims will be defenseless.
As a starting point, it worth noting that Connecticut has some of the strictest gun control laws in the United States. Those restrictions include a ban on so-called assault weapons, a 14 day waiting period, and a law that allows police to seize a person’s firearms without a warrant or court order if they believe the person to be mentally unstable or intending to use the firearms in a crime. None of these laws stopped the killer.
Connecticut, like virtually every state, also bans guns in its schools. The result is that law abiding teachers and parents, who were not going to commit a crime in the first place, are unarmed in the schools. The individuals who wish to commit mass murder will ignore that law, and will therefore be the only ones armed as they slaughter their defenseless victims. Here, that is exactly what happened, showing once again that gun free zones simply don’t work.
Some will argue that banning so-called assault weapons will solve the problem of mass murder. However, the fact is that so-called assault weapons may look scary to those who are ignorant about guns – but such guns are no more deadly than “ordinary” looking guns. Also, the statistics show that criminals rarely use such firearms in crime. The argument in favor of banning “high capacity” magazines is also fatally flawed, as it takes just a second to change a magazine, making such a ban pointless.
Confronted with those facts, some individuals argue that the solution is a nation-wide ban on guns. That is not a solution, as the British have learned. Instead, such a nation-wide ban on guns just leads to criminals illegally manufacturing guns themselves, smuggling guns into the country, stealing guns from the police, and using other tools to inflict harm. Indeed, British gun-related crime doubled in the decade after the gun ban was implemented. Given that Britain is a smaller country, with an easier-to-police border, with fewer civil rights to stop the police from searching citizens on a hunch, there is simply no way that the United States could succeed at nation-wide gun control where the British have failed. Moreover, there are hundreds of millions of guns in the United States which would not simply vanish.
As is often the case after a tragedy, there is a desire to “do something.” Such a desire is only natural, but the fact is that laws make bad memorials. The reality is that if we wish to live in a free society, there will be some amount of crime for the simple reason that humans have free will, and some humans will use that free will to commit terrible acts. Whether they use jet airlines (as in the 9/11 attacks), explosives (as in the Oklahoma City bombing), knives, cars, or any other tools, criminals will kill. Indeed, even in non-free societies such as China, where the government has a greater ability to observe individuals and intervene, those who want to commit mass murder can still do so.
So what is the solution? The simplest, easiest, cheapest, and fastest solution is likely the most effective: Remove the restrictions that prevent law-abiding citizens from carrying a gun for self defense. Over the last decade there has been a tremendous increase in concealed carry in the United States. Despite the doom and gloom predicted by those opposed to gun rights, both crime as a whole and gun related crime has decreased over that same decade. America’s concealed carry permit holders have demonstrated themselves to be law abiding, less likely to shoot the wrong person than the police, and imminently capable of effectively using their guns in self defense. They have stopped would-be murderers, rapists, home invaders, robbers, and other violent criminals, saving themselves, their loved ones, and even police officers. Had there been armed teachers or parents in the Sandy Hook school, the death toll may have been greatly reduced, possibly to just the attacker himself.