I wrote most of the following the morning after the shooting, in the hopes that it would be published elsewhere. It will not be, so I post it here, even though the thoughts may not be as pertinent as they would have been had they been expressed in a more timely fashion.
The entire country is in mourning as a result of the horrific movie theater shooting in Colorado. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. This nightmarish event has renewed calls for stricter gun control laws, and it’s easy to see why. It would be wonderful if there were a law on the books that could have prevented the tragic, senseless loss of twelve lives and prevented so many needless injuries.
In practical terms, it’s hard to imagine what such a law would look like.
Consider that the shooter already committed the most heinous and violent crime imaginable, unencumbered by any consideration of legal or moral restraints. Given the fact that he was more than willing to ignore the legions of existing laws designed to prevent what he did, what new piece of legislation could have possibly provided the constraints necessary to keep him in check? It’s unlikely that someone monstrous enough to open fire in a crowded theater would have scrapped his plans to do so because his firearm was unregistered.
Some therefore argue that registering guns isn’t enough, and that such weapons should simply be outlawed altogether. After all, you can’t shoot a gun if you can’t get a gun. That’s a well-intentioned premise, but in practical terms, it just doesn’t work.
In 1997, the United Kingdom banned all handguns for private citizens. Within four years of the ban, the rate of handgun violence more than doubled. Contrast that with what happened on this side of the Atlantic after the Supreme Court struck down gun control laws in both Chicago and Washington, D.C. DC’s mayor predicted that the repeal of gun bans would “only lead to more handgun violence,” while Chicago’s mayor Richard Daley suggested that the repeal would lead us “back to the Old West, [where] you have a gun and I have a gun and we’ll settle it in the streets.”
That’s not what happened at all.
In the first six months of 2011, gun violence fell 14% from the previous year, compared to a 6% drop in the other four most populous cities. Since the 2008 decision restored gun ownership rights to DC residents, the murder rate has fallen by 34%, and assaults with guns have fallen by 37%.
It’s hard to argue with those kind of results.
Regardless of how well-intentioned gun control proponents are, the reality is that, for the most part, more expansive gun laws are only effective with people who are willing to follow the law in the first place. That group does not include murderers who prey on innocents and show no respect for the value of human life.
One additional thought:
Much has been made of the fact that this monster purchased his guns legally. Yes, he did. So what? Are we to believe, then, that if these guns had been illegal, he wouldn’t have been able to get them? If that’s true, then where did he get all of the illegal explosives and chemicals that were used to booby-trap his apartment and blow up first responders? Big 5? Making guns illegal doesn’t make them disappear.
More on this tomorrow.