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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.

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    • had a science teacher in middle school who taught us that (add a little chlorine bleach to the beer bottle right before you throw it as this will also cause a chemical reaction) . . . . .

      • Oxidizer. Bleach is a powerful oxidizer.

        Some folks are learning (the hard way) that modern kitty litters contain oxidizers to reduce odors. It used to be common practice to put kitty litter on shop oil spills.

        Not any more.

  1. 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.

    Or, you know, a clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin.

    • I would like to point out that the shooter, after autopsy, was found to have tumor that caused his mental illness. He was actually seeing and hearing things because of the pressure of the tumor on a certain part of his brain. A problem he suspected and pleaded with doctors to help diagnose and which they refused.

      Which goes to the narrative of “Why?” in the above post.

      • Pascal, he did have a bad tumor in a bad place, but nobody can state for sure that the tumor drove Whitman to kill. I personally think it did, based on a lot of things, but we can never know for sure.

        • I would guess the amphetamines had a little more to do with it. Shame is that if he had waited another year to go on his spree he would have been dead.

          The “temporal-occipital” location is not the location I would pick for a tumor that caused major behavioral changes. It was near but apparently not in the amygdala. Prefrontal would be a lot more likely, IMO. Start erasing inhibitions and fear of consequences and getting on a rooftop with a rifle starts looking a little more likely. Upset the right part of the prefrontal cortex and you can basically become an acquired sociopath.

    • Yipper, know very well what happened that day. If my mom had not refused to a work day off we would have been on campus that day, and on UT Tower plaza (the Mecca of all incoming freshmen) my oldest brother wanted be on that Monday for all the activity, We went instead the Saturday prior. I will never forget the breaking news on TV around lunch time about a shooter in the tower and never forgotten the horror of it to this day.

  2. Exactly.

    And, on the mentally ill side of the coin… because it pertains to my family personally… what should be considered “mentally ill”? Should it be only those who are “hearing voices”? Or should it include veterans who’ve served and who are now suffering from PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks etc. but are still more than perfectly capable of making the “tough calls” when he/she is protecting themselves & their families?

    ** My husband is a Marine who was discharged for suffering from PTSD, Anxiety, Panic attacks etc. who will not go to any form of doctor because of his belief, right or wrong be that as it may it’s his belief, that if he goes in for help that it will go on his permanent record and will make it difficult or impossible for him to buy firearms. Regardless that he can disassemble, clean, oil & reassemble any gun you hand him while blindfolded… and has never made any “wrong moves” while handling firearms to my knowledge… see the issue?

  3. 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.

    Another problem with this statement is that the many of the countries listed have a history of changing their gun laws after just about every high-profile shooting. In Australia, the Port Arthus massacre was followed by widespread gun confiscation. Then after the 2002 Monash University shooting, they tightened gun laws again. But the failure of the 1996 law to prevent the 2002 shooting apparently doesn’t count. In this guy’s mind, as long as you keep changing the law in response to shootings, you never have to admit the law isn’t working.

  4. Rodger used a hammer and a machete to kill three roomies. Charles Whitman killed 12 with a bolt action Remington 700 in 6mm, killed two others with a shotgun and three with knives and blunt objects. He also wounded 32, probably with the boltie.

    He didn’t stop killing until good guys with guns started to shoot back. Most of the good guys were not police.

  5. Most institutionalized people are there of their own free will because they know there is something wrong with them.

    • Yes, that’s true. I worry about the ones who don’t know that they’re mentally ill, or who do know and don’t care. The ones who are asking for help should be helped because they are not the problem.

      • Three main categories IMO:

        -Don’t know it. They can be dangerous due to being surprising. “Landmines”

        -Know it but control it, usually for their own advantage. Seem normal for the most part. “Mimics”

        -Know it and enjoy it (unpredictable) “sparks” AKA the real dangerous ones.

        Probably a scratch on the surface but that was my experience with….the more interesting people.

  6. Honestly. Even if they enacted legislation that called for law abiding gun owners to give up their firearms and all of them did so, not one politician or anti-gun activist has proposed a plan to address the hundreds of thousands of criminals that have illegal guns and would not turn them in. Is the government going to go house to house and car to car to look for these weapons? Of course not.

    • Correction: Not one politician and member of the elite has proposed that their police protection/body guards will have to give up their weapons.

    • Well, in his defense, the school did fail to post “Bomb Free School Zone” signs…

  7. Good article. Nothing we don’t already know but it gives ammunition to us anyway. Unfortunately the young virgin lunatic would have killed more with his knives & expensive car. Which his a##$&le dad conveniently provided for him knowing his weird little boy was “troubled”. And now he’s hugging Elliott’s only male shooting victims dad. Don’t his poor Chinese stabbing victims deserve a HUG?!?

  8. “Gun violence” is a charade. “For the children” is another one. If nobody was dieing from gunshot wounds they would still hate guns and still try to regulate / confiscate them out of existence. Guns are the only things that preserve liberty and the people trying to take away our guns hate our liberty. Also they plan on keeping theirs (guns and liberty).

  9. “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.”

    Nailed it. Reason Cost. Much easier thing your doing something with ink & paper than dig in and work the problem. Politician will always take the easy way out.

  10. “Why did Adam Lanza murder his mother and 26 others? 

Solve the why and you might actually make some progress.”

    Want progress. Show me a video of Mr Lanza shooting his way through the front door, a la the “new security camera” installed at the front door. Columbine released video, why not here? Tell me why not a single person saw Adam for 3-4 years. Let’s talk to Adam’s doctor since we were all told he was on some funky medications. Oops! No one thought of that? Sure knew Michael Jackson’s doctor and his potions, not here however. Please tell me why ambulances were parked 400 meters away and not allowed near the school. Why no lawsuits over this complete START protocol mass casualty rule was never followed. Explain why no lawsuits, when every victim family and every injured person at Columbine filed suit. Tell me how “Adam” hauled 40 lbs of gear into the school through a hole shot into safety glass, and possessed the all time mass shooting accuracy record, though not a single witness can testify they ever saw him at a range. Tell me why when questioned which highly specialized outfit performed the comprehensive biohazard clean up of the site, Lt Paul Vance answered “what blood?”. Why no blood from any photo, though countless “scene” photos exist. These questions are simply the tip of the iceberg. And no one either asks, or answers.

    Sure, Its all tinfoil hat stuff……until one thinks for themselves, looks at each individual aspect of the whole thing, applies simple logic and probability.

  11. DT,
    A good article with many valid points.

    However, mental health professionals are not capable of identifying mass murderers except in hindsight. Expanding their role in determining who should freely exercise their civil rights and who should be involuntarily committed and/or denied their civil rights would be an open invitation to abuse. We would not enjoy living in a world where the technology exists to monitor our thoughts.

    Caution, do not google Japanese researchers using fMRI machines to monitor and record brain activity in rem sleep, then printing images from subject’s dreams. If you do, you may start having nightmares about our future.

    • That is the proverbial rub. And one of the reasons the laws were changed in the 1960s. But there have been many documented cases of murders being committed by people their families were trying to have institutionalized, for good reason.

      Where do we draw the line? That’s a tough one. As I wrote, the “why” of mass murder is a lot harder to tackle than the “how” which is why we get stupid law after stupid law and no real solutions. If there even are real solutions. besides national right to carry, that is.

      Now off to Google Japanese MRI pictures.

  12. “Somehow he missed the Cumbria massacre, 12 dead, which occurred long after England’s civilian disarmament.”

    This is a little misleading: both the weapons used by Derrick Bird in the 2010 Cumbria shootings (a shotgun and a .22 rifle) were legally held.

  13. We want to keep our “freedom” but does it matter if the gun is legally owned or not? Point, pull,click and bang. Same result regardless. I’m all for 2A but on the tidbit of whether a gun is legal or not in a shooting is arbitrary and asinine.

  14. It matters when attempting to evaluate the success of a ban on that gun.

    Read the quote again:

    “Somehow he missed the Cumbria massacre, 12 dead, which occurred long after England’s civilian disarmament.”

    The author appears to be implying that Derrick Bird obtained his firearms despite a ban on those firearms.

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