Tragedy has struck America. In El Paso, a mass public shooting occurred in a Walmart which killed 20. It was perpetrated by 21-year-old Patrick Crusius of Dallas who has been apprehended by police and is being held without bond. The Houston Chronicle reported that he posted a message on an 8Chan account in the lead-up to the shooting where he expressed concern over Hispanic immigration and advocated for America to be divided up into different zones by races. He denied being a “white supremacist” but his support for the heresy of physically dividing the United States along racial lines makes it appear that race was a factor in this shooting. Federal authorities are considering hate crime charges as well which carry the death penalty.
Hours later, tragedy struck again in Dayton when a man named Connor Betts killed 9. It occurred in the vicinity of several popular bars which had many people milling about when the shooting started. Among those murdered was his sister Megan Betts. Dayton police responded swiftly and severely. 5 officers and a sergeant were on engaged the shooter immediately. He was killed in less than 30 seconds. Nothing more can be expected of the police judging by their response time. Figuring out a clear motive on the Ohio shooter is more difficult but some facts are known. The Daily Caller described his political beliefs as “far-left” citing his now suspended twitter account. This is not a stretch considering his bio read in part “leftist” and the unnerving words, “I’m going to hell and I’m not coming back.” He also retweeted attacks against fascists and voiced his “support for Satan” to quote the aforementioned article.
Predictably, it took no time for the left to capitalize on bloodshed to suit their political ends. Leftist gun control groups converged on the NRA headquarters building in Virginia to hold a vigil for the dead. The fact that this was done not at the place where the attack happened showed the true nature of this stunt. A vigil held outside NRA headquarters has nothing to do with remembrance and everything to do with the politics of gun grabbing. It is as if the National Rifle Association itself perpetrated the shootings by the response obligatorily given to it. Major stunts like this only follow mass public shootings so sensibly, the schwerpunkt of the gun control argument are these events. To follow the Clausewitzian principle of attacking at the center of gravity, the mass public shooting angle must be studied to determine the legitimacy of the pro-gun-control argument.
When attempting to determine the quantity of mass shootings, the definition is important. Often it is defined as an incident where 4 or more are killed excluding things like gang warfare and family annihilation. Differences in methodology and data points accounts for serious discrepancies in statistics about these events. Economist John Lott and Michael Weisser writing in the New York Post examined this. They took a look at an often cited study by criminologist Adam Lankford which studied mass shootings from 1966 to 2012 in America and the world. Lankford came to the conclusion that in that space of time, America had 90 mass shootings while the rest of the world had 202. His list of data points has not been provided. The closest Lankford came to doing that was to cite a New York Police Department study which by the admission of the NYPD was severely biased against international incidents because of the language barrier. Oversampling of domestic incidents makes the Lankford study skewed and misleading.
To counter the Lankford study, Lott did his own research and came to a much different conclusion. Limiting the timeframe to the past 15 years (1998-2012) because of the difficulty of finding mass shooting data for developing nations back into the 1960s, a total of 1,423 foreign mass shootings were found. Using these numbers, the share of American mass shootings plummets from 31% to 1.43%. Considering that the United States contains about 4.6% of the global population, by his methodology America is underrepresented in mass shootings worldwide. Lott then makes another illuminating point,
“Of the 86 countries where we have identified mass public shootings, the US ranks 56th per capita in its rate of attacks and 61st in mass public shooting murder rate. Norway, Finland, Switzerland and Russia all have at least 45% higher rates of murder from mass public shootings than the United States.”-Economist John Lott
If Lott’s numbers are to be believed, the mass shooting debate is exaggerated. This statement is not to be misinterpreted. A single murder in a mass shooting is unacceptable. A single murder by any means under any circumstances is unacceptable for that matter. Nothing to the contrary is being perpetuated by the statement that the mass shooting portion of the debate is overrepresented. The Heritage Foundation put out a report on mass shootings in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting that helps with perspective.
- Mass killings are very rare, accounting for only 0.2% of homicides every year and approximately 1% of homicide victims.
- Only 12% of mass killings are mass public shootings. Most mass killings are familicides (murders of family members or intimate partners) and felony-related killings (such as robberies gone awry or gang-related “turf battles”).
- Although there has been a slight increase in the frequency of mass public shootings over the past few years, the rates are still similar to what the United States experienced in the 1980s and early 1990s. –The Heritage Foundation
Heritage’s statistics are merely for the purpose of regaining some well needed perspective in this debate. Mass shootings are a huge problem but when they are compared by the numbers to other facets of the gun control debate such as general homicide, one sees that there is less damage done by the former than the latter. Ergo, the debate should really focus on how to curb firearm homicide in general but that is a topic for another day.
With the questions of the scale of the mass shooting problem dealt with as much as it can be in a brief article, one thing remains. What are we to do about it? Action must be taken to solve this problem. On this, there is universal agreement but the answers put forward by the left and the right are starkly opposed.
The answer given by the left is heavy handed attacks on Second Amendment liberty to take guns away from the law abiding while being ineffectual at doing the same to criminals. To this one must ask, what would stop a tragedy like Dayton or El Paso? Will more gun free zones make the problem go away? Not so. Research indicates that 94% of mass shootings from 1950 to 2018 occurred in gun free zones. Will banning “high capacity magazines” make the problem go away? Not so. Few shooters use “high capacity magazines” and a there is “no evidence” that a delay of a few seconds to reload will reduce the casualties in these events. Knee jerk “do something” gun control measures will not help, they will just reduce freedom.
The answer given by the conservatives and libertarians relies on hardening soft targets with security measures, less restrictive concealed carry laws and the like to empower the law abiding citizenry in concert with authorities for collective protection. But do law abiding citizens with concealed firearms ever stop these attacks? Indeed they do. An extensive list can be found here. Common sense dictates that any armed and trained man who could in the event of an emergency utilize his weapon against a shooter makes that place safer. The more law abiding armed and trained men able to fight back against the shooters the safer the soft targets will be.
Photo credit: “Hundreds hold vigil for mass shooting victims outside NRA headquarters” via CBS News
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