There’s a hilarious cartoon by Simpson’s creator Matt Groening from his Life in Hell series. Bongo, a young rabbit, is speaking with his older sister. She’s pointing to an open basement door. “Mom and dad left presents for you down there,” she says. “Go down and get them.” The young bunny responds, “But every other time I did that, you locked the door and turned out the lights.” The older sister smiles, “This time I won’t.” In some strange way, that cartoon sums up gun control. The “presents” are the mythical end of gun violence, and the older sister might as well be Shannon Watts promising that this time the outcome will be different so ignore everything that’s happened before . . .
How many times has the newest piece of gun control legislation been put forth with the promise that it will “end gun violence” or “save lives?” Right. Every time. And yet, does anyone ever challenge these folk and demand they prove or at least credibly demonstrate how making me take the pistol grip off my AR-15 and replacing it with a Thordsen Customs stock is going to do anything but cost me money and make my rifle uglier.
If anyone did ask them to demonstrate that their new law will reduce violence, what would their answer be? If they were being honest, the answer would be, “We can’t.” Because they can’t. Let’s speak specifically of mass shootings, as a mentally ill man from California has put these events back into the news.
What “common sense” gun control laws could have stopped Elliot Rodgers? Let’s say the law prevented him from buying a pistol. Would any of those people he shot be less dead if he’d been armed with a shotgun instead? The only outcome would be a copy change in the histrionics we’d see Josh Sugarmann spouting.
Okay, let’s go further and enact gun England/Australia ban-style gun control (without somehow starting a civil war in the process.) If we do so, can anyone on Team Gun Grabber guarantee that there will never be another mass shooting? I ask because Adam Gopnik at the New Yorker made exactly that guarantee in a recent post when he wrote:
“… every other country has changed its laws to stop them (mass shootings) from happening again, and in every other country it hasn’t happened again.”
Except they have happened again. Gopnik, great with an ad hominem but apparently not so great with Google, specifically mentions England as one of those ‘every countries.’ Somehow he missed the Cumbria massacre, 12 dead, which occurred long after England’s civilian disarmament.
Australia is even more informative. The Gopniks, Sugarmans (Sugarmen?) and Wattses of the world tell us there hasn’t been a public mass shooting down under since the big gun confiscation. Which is true. But there have been three mass-casualty arsons (and possibly more) which killed 10, 12 and as many as 21 people respectively. And move away from the specifics of public mass shootings for a moment and you’ll see the gun ban’s effect on the overall homicide rate in England and Australia was nil. In fact, England’s homicide rate spiked after the ban was passed and took 13 years to get close to where it was in 1996.
Mentally ill, murder-bent Australians found a way to kill even without guns. Who would have thunk it (never mind that gun ownership in Australia is back to pre-ban levels and criminal gangs are building their own full-auto firearms in basement workshops, but whatever)? The story is no different in America. Start with Elliot Rodgers who first killed three men with a knife. Is there any doubt if he’d been denied a gun, he couldn’t have taken at least three more lives with a bladed weapon?
Here’s a quiz for Gopnik et al. What weapons were used in the four deadliest American mass murders? Was it guns? AR-15s, perhaps? Nay. It was:
Fertilizer and diesel fuel.
Airplanes and box cutters.
These crimes were the Bath School Massacre (48 killed,) the Happyland Disco arson (87 killed,) Oklahoma City and 9/11. We might even throw death by ATF incompetence/malevolence in there (Waco and Ruby Ridge,) for a total of 79 more innocents killed.
Killers will find a way to kill. Period. Go ahead, take away every gun except bolt-action rifles. How could anyone commit mass murder with a bolt action rifle? Well, consider a hilltop above a traffic-jammed highway at rush hour. Or the lighting tower at a crowded high-school football game. The term “fish in a barrel” comes to mind. Human imagination will find a way around any obstacle, and dangerously mentally ill people bent on mayhem will not be stopped by gun laws.
Because gun laws ask the wrong question. The important question is not how did this madman kill those people. The how of mass murder is limitless. Just off the top of you head how many ways can you think of to kill a bunch of people without a gun? Yeah, I thought so. You cannot prevent mass murder by trying to solve for how, that is limiting the tools available to the killer. They will just move to the next tool. No guns, fine, we’ll fill beer bottles with gasoline and laundry soap, stick a rag down the neck and throw a DIY napalm party. The tool is irrelevant because the world is full of tools that can be turned to murder. Cain slew Abel with a rock. I’m no historian, but it seems to me there was a whole mess of killing going on even before guns were invented. If you want to have an impact on the problem, you have to solve for why? Why did Elliot Rodgers kill those people? Why did Aaron Alexis shoot up the Navy Yard? Why did Adam Lanza murder his mother and 26 others? Solve the why and you might actually make some progress.
What’s frustrating is all the talk about the how, about guns in specific, is just a huge waste of time and resources. Gun control tied up the senate for close to a month with no tangible results. What’s even more frustrating is that anyone paying attention already knows that why did they kill has a simple answer: they killed because they were insane. Or dangerously mentally ill, if you prefer. The real why is why are they walking the streets and getting their hands on guns? Why are they not in a state hospital where a 400lb orderly named Rocco is making sure they take their meds every morning?
There’s an answers to that, too. In the late 1960s, a movement started (in California, of course) to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill. This was done with cooperation of the political right and left, and, honestly, for what seemed noble reasons. A lot of state hospitals at the time were not nice places as anyone who has endured a screening of Titticut Follies can attest. It was said that the mentally ill should have the freedom to choose if they wanted treatment or not. It was also noted that those damned hospitals were expensive. But we all know what the road to hell is paved with. In this case, laws were changed in California that made it extremely difficult for a dangerously mentally ill person to be institutionalized against his or her will. These laws spread throughout the country and are still in effect, though with some minor tweaks around the edges.
What this means is that when a Seung-Hui Cho is ordered by a judge to seek treatment, he’s left to his own devices to do so. (Which in the case of the most severely mentally ill is not going to happen because many of them do not even understand that they are sick.
So there’s your answer right there, Joe Manchin, Pat Toomey, Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, Andy Cuomo and the rest. Stop the ridiculous process of trying to foil mass murderers by taking away a pistol grip for God’s sake and perhaps take a look at the intentionally broken mental-health laws in this nation.
But will they?
I doubt it. Mental health is a tough nut to crack and doesn’t score you as many political points. There’s no NRA-like badguy to bluster against as you energize your base. Plus gun-control really isn’t about public safety, is it? It isn’t really about saving lives, is it? Because if saving lives was the metric, they’d be going after transmitted infections in hospitals which needlessly kill about 100,000 people a year and can be solved by washing hands and using bleach wipes.
No, gun control isn’t about public safety.
It’s about locking you in the basement with the lights off.