A child is born. We don’t know what he — or she, but in the context of this article, the “he-child” matters more — will become. In America, we often say, anything is possible. He could become President! He could become a rock star! Or he could “just” grow up to be a loving father, who works at an Amazon distribution center trying to support his burgeoning family.
On the other hand, he could become a mass shooter. Or the victim of one.
Why Gun Control Fails
I have had a long-running conversation with another lawyer. A very dear friend. An ex-Marine, he’s vehemently anti-gun, or at least vehemently anti-some-kinds-of-guns, and pro-gun-control. Like a lot of other people, he expresses his non-stop frustration at our inability to pass stricter gun control in the face of what seem to be relentless mass shootings.
Despite being a lawyer, he can’t wait to start suing gun owners, gun sellers, and gun manufacturers using proposed unconstitutional legislation that may, or may not, ever be signed, but which will surely be struck down in the courts.
I respond by saying that gun control does not work. California, for example, has some of the strictest gun controls in the nation. But we still have mass shootings.
Australia Buys Some Guns
My friend points to Australia — even talks about moving there — because he believes their gun control is responsible for their absence of mass shootings.
In 1996, Port Arthur, in Australia, suffered a mass shooting that left 35 people dead, and others injured. The Australian government responded by buying back a few guns.
After a gunman with an AR-15 rifle and high-capacity magazines opened fire at a tourist site in Port Arthur and killed 35 people in 1996, a conservative government led Australian states in passing sweeping new restrictions on firearms. Authorities collected and destroyed over 640,000 weapons, as many as one-third of all guns in the country — whether their owners wanted to part with them or not— Benjy Sarlin, “Australia’s mandatory gun buyback inspires U.S. activists, but few lawmakers” March 12, 2018
They also implemented stricter gun control, although they did not eliminate gun ownership.
That same article, should you decide not to read it, would have told you why the same approach is unlikely to work in the United States. And despite the misleading title, it’s not really so much for lack of will. That’s putting the horse before the cart. The problem is the impracticality.
In addition, while Australia’s mass shootings have gone down, they really haven’t been eliminated. Most articles you read about the issue point out 1) rarity before gun control, 2) low population of Australia, meaning lower population of those inclined to become mass shooters, and 3) a majority of articles say gun control “could” be responsible for the (perceived) decline in shootings. (Go ahead. Google some of this yourself.)
And gun ownership in Australia — including the number of guns imported each year since their infamous buyback — has actually gone up.
“Examples” from Other Countries Not Useful
Examples from other nations that have implemented gun control and seen a “reduction” in mass shootings are not what they seem. As one statistician, who started out pro-gun-control, and still is anti-gun, writes:
I researched the strictly tightened gun laws in Britain and Australia and concluded that they didn’t prove much about what America’s policy should be. Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans. Mass shootings were too rare in Australia for their absence after the buyback program to be clear evidence of progress. And in both Australia and Britain, the gun restrictions had an ambiguous effect on other gun-related crimes or deaths.— Lean Libresco, “I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise.” October 3, 2017
This rarity is what makes these examples non-examples. Moreover, as noted above, Australia’s buy-back did not recover all Australia’s guns. Some estimates put the number of forcibly-bought-back guns as low as one-fifth, making it a little hard, if you ask me, to attribute the near-absence of subsequent mass shootings to gun control, especially given their already-rare occurrence.
[I]n a number of other countries—notably New Zealand and Norway—a single mass shooting has been enough to force widespread change.— Eloise Barry, “These Countries Restricted Assault Weapons After Just One Mass Shooting” (May 27, 2022)
And, of course, there are the countries where the mass shooters are coming from other countries. And ownership of guns is the only thing standing between them and dictatorship.
And, yes, that’s rare, too. Although it’s not as rare as mass shootings in nations that implemented gun control after one mass shooting.
Hitler, Castro, Putin…. Russia, China, North Korea….
In every authoritarian takeover in modern history, restrictive gun ownership laws and regulations were introduced, often with severe penalties for violators.— Bernard Starr, “Who’s likelier to take your guns away? An authoritarian regime” (October 14, 2020)
So, yeah. Not as rare.
In any event, it’s not true that Australia prevented people with guns from taking hostages and killing them.
Good Guys, Bad Guys, and Gun Control
Most of the people I know who argue for gun control fail to get the disconnect between the premises of their arguments for it, and their conclusions.
The majority of gun owners in the United States are good people. And, while each new shooting is followed by cries for more gun control, the number of Americans supporting gun control has been dropping significantly for years. Not surprising, since more than 40% of Americans live in homes with guns.
Not only that, but mass shootings, and the push for more gun control, actually increases the number of guns sold in the United States.
[T]he aftermath of previous mass shootings suggests instead of convincing gun owners that this is the time to enact more restrictions, the idea of new legislation makes them dig their heels in even more.— Suzette Lohmeyer, “Americans rush to buy guns after a mass shooting. Here’s why.” (May 26, 2022)
The “Good-Guy-With-A-Gun” Myth
Another example of the disconnect, and one that hits people who are pro-gun-control as well as those who oppose it, is the “Good-Guy-With-A-Gun” myth. The same friend I mentioned above noted,
Good guys with guns don’t seem to be able to stop the shooting before they kill a lot of people. However, I do remember the young black guy in a waffle house taking down a shooter with his bare hands and no gun. He just had the balls to fight back, when the cops stood in the parking lot in this recent incident.— My Un-Named Lawyer Friend, in a chat about gun control
And he sent me this article about it.
I asked him,
How do you make these arguments, and not see the point to which they lead? “Good guys with guns don’t stop shooters before they kill a lot of people. A guy with no gun stopped a shooter with his bare hands before he killed a lot of people.” Now…what’s the difference? Oh, yeah, the guy without the gun decided to DO SOMETHING, whereas the so-called good guys with guns (the cops) were too much in fear for their lives. BTW, this is a good reason for police reform: our cops don’t stop shooters because they’re in fear for their own lives; and our cops end up BECOMING shooters of innocent people (especially people of color) because…they’re in fear for their own lives, even when there is no reason to fear. Plus, I’m not sure it’s good to think the cops are good guys.— My Answer to my Un-Named Lawyer Friend, in a chat about gun control
Good guys with guns do sometimes stop bad guys. Just not often enough to really make a difference. Moreover, the rise of the use of body armor by mass shooters makes a good guy with a gun less effective.
Emotionality, Constitutionality, Rights, and Law
I’ll let you in on a little secret here: I’m not a gun guy. I don’t own an assault rifle. I don’t want one. But I think trying to stop the bad guys by restricting ownership by good guys makes no sense. It’s an emotional reaction to a sensationalized problem.
What about all the people killed by bad guys with guns, you ask? Well, like the good ol’ Jewish boy that I am, I’ll respond with another question: Why aren’t you all up in arms (no pun intended) over all those killed by hit-and-run drivers?
Yeah, yeah. Gun control advocates think guns and cars are different. Because guns are weapons, and cars are not.
Running down protesters is not the only way in which cars are misused. The number of people killed by hit-and-run drivers far, far, far exceeds those killed by mass shooters in the last ten years. Like guns, cars are used in suicides — and similar to the motivations of mass shooters, sometimes those suicides involve taking other people with them.
But the news highlights mass shooters — even though we know this results in more mass shootings — but doesn’t do that for running down protesters, hit-and-runs (deliberate, or accidental), or suicides involving automobiles.
With my lawyer-friend mentioned above, I explain that while I’m not a gun guy, I’m a Constitution guy.
Or to quote another lawyer-friend of mine — I’d say he’s my best friend, if it weren’t for not wanting to alienate my other best friends — the Constitution makes most current gun control efforts unconstitutional.
We live in a post Marbury v. Madison Republic where the rule of law is determined by 9 Justices.
Unless and until the 2nd Amendment is changed, it means what they say it means. And they say it means that Americans have a right to keep and bear arms.
Those who say it’s outdated miss the point. So is the 7th Amendment. But you can still sue for $20.01. Even though $20.00 is nothing nowadays, due in part to other government policies we shall not discuss here.
There are over 20,000 laws restricting the right to keep and bear arms at present. The Supreme Court has said that long standing laws against felons and insane persons having firearms pass muster. And they do, because of strict scrutiny.
These bandwagon laws they keep passing, do not survive strict scrutiny because they are far to broad and unrelated to public safety. These laws are juvenile tit-for-tat. One round is fired against abortion. Then one is fired back over private arms ownership and transfer all along partisan lines.
If you don’t like the Constitution, change it. But don’t ignore it. That only breeds division and lawlessness.— Eric Schweitzer of Schweitzer & Davidian, in a message exchange (May 28, 2022)
Even though Eric had never heard my argument to my other lawyer-friend, this is almost word-for-word (except the 7th Amendment part) what I explained.
Change the Constitution, if you want, and if you can. But ignoring it is the path to the abolition of the rule of law, in favor of lawlessness. This will usually benefit oligarchs. Or mob rule. Or both.
We live in an bass-ackwards world, where we think our rights are given to us by the law. That’s not how our nation’s founders saw things. In their eyes, we were all born free.
Well, okay. Not to whitewash history: they believed all white men — certainly, at least, all property-owning white men — were born free. To too great an extent, this problem plagues us to this very day.
But, as Martin Luther King said,
When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men—yes, black men as well as white men—would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.— Martin Luther King, “I Have a Dream” (August 28, 1963)
(I found that old quote in an article I wrote about differentiating bears, bushes, and Native Americans, when I was looking for something to quote here!)
Unfortunately for those who want to limit gun ownership, this included the right to own guns. And you argue about the meaning of militias, and how they do, or do not, factor into that right all you want. But the Supreme Court of the United States says it guarantees an individual’s right to own a gun, “even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”
Ironically, the Constitution (arguably, I think) did not give us a constitutional right to drive a car. At least, not according to our courts. Not even the Supreme Court has said so.
This is the basis of my own stance against more gun control. We don’t need more gun control, because we already have more than 20,000 laws that restrict the right to keep and bear arms. We already have massive gun control. Many of those have withstood Supreme Court’s “strict scrutiny” standard, and are constitutional.
As Eric indicates in the quote above, adding on newer laws to score political points do nothing but weaken the Constitution and the rule of law.
Pretty soon, unalienable rights become alienable. The next thing you know, people are installing Supreme Court “justices” who decide that since we aren’t using the Constitution anyway, they might as well take away more unalienable rights.
And, before you know it, two-and-a-half centuries of freedom are eliminated in one fell swoop.
Abortion rights are being wiped out because they were not expressly mentioned in the Constitution, although it was legal in the United States until the 1900s. Now people want to get rid of gun rights — or at the very (very) least severely restrict them — even though those rights are spelled out in the Constitution.
Down that road lies the death of the unalienable rights that were able to be recognized by the Constitution. And with the death of the Constitution’s “unalienable rights,” so goes the rule of law.
Oligarchy and mob rule reign supreme. Endorsed, even, by a Supreme Court.
Finding Real Solutions
Remember, above, when I talked about misusing cars? I know some of you didn’t like that argument. You want to think cars and guns are totally different things. Maybe it’s because you own a car: you don’t want anyone advocating more car control. But gun control is okay, because you don’t own a gun, and see no use for them.
I don’t necessarily disagree with you on this: we don’t need more car control.
But the argument for gun control is as pointless as any argument for more car control. We already have enough of both.
Additionally, the arguments for both really are more similar than your bias has allowed you to admit.
Two professors found what creates a mass shooter. And guess what?
POLITICO: You’ve written about how mass shootings are always acts of violent suicide. Do people realize this is what’s happening in mass shootings?
Peterson: I don’t think most people realize that these are suicides, in addition to homicides. Mass shooters design these to be their final acts.— Melanie Warner, “Two Professors Found What Creates a Mass Shooter. Will Politicians Pay Attention?” (May 27, 2022)
I’ve argued this many times before I heard of these professors, or their book (which I now plan to buy and read).
They also mention what I noted above.
On some level, we were waiting [for the Uvalde elementary school shooting] because mass shootings are socially contagious and when one really big one happens and gets a lot of media attention, we tend to see others follow.— Melanie Warner, “Two Professors Found What Creates a Mass Shooter. Will Politicians Pay Attention?” (May 27, 2022)
Our problem isn’t a gun control problem. It’s a public health problem: a mental health problem. Mass shooters — and especially mass shooters at schools — frequently give off a lot of warning signs. Most of these we ignore. The Uvalde shooter told people what he was going to do. They did not believe him, because what he said he was going to do is what “monsters” do. And they just could not see him as a monster.
And that’s because he wasn’t. He was a child born into America. He could have grown up to be President. A rock star, even! Or he could have grown to be just an ordinary dad, working at Amazon to support his burgeoning family.
But something went wrong along the way. And he didn’t get the help that he reached for.
Instead of growing up to have children, he grew up to be the mass shooter who killed a classroom full of them.