The Right Opinion

Gun Violence -- Let's Shift the Odds in Favor of the Good Guys!

By Larry Elder · Dec. 20, 2012

The unimaginable horror of Sandy Hook jumpstarts another “national conversation” about firearm violence. President Barack Obama, promising “meaningful action,” said: “We will have to change. … We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end.”

Let's examine four of the “commonsense” measures frequently proposed by “gun control advocates”:

One, closing the “gun show loophole.” What gun show loophole? Restricted from selling at guns shows prior to 1986, a licensed dealer today requires a background check whether he sells guns at a store, a gun show or the back of his SUV.

Two, banning “high-capacity” magazines. One of the firearms used by Adam Lanza was a Bushmaster .223, with a magazine that can carry as many as 30 rounds. Would there have been less carnage had he been limited to a firearm with low-capacity magazines? What is the appropriate amount of firepower? Clips with 10 rounds? Five rounds? If the idea is to reduce the lethality of the guns, what does this do to reduce the lethality of the shooter's intent?

The deadliest school massacre on American soil appears to have occurred in Chicago in 1958. A student set fire to the school, killing 92 students and three nuns. And in 1927, in Michigan, a former member of the school board set bombs at three schools, killing 45 (mostly second- to sixth-graders), including the bomber.

The Columbine tragedy could have been worse. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold set bombs throughout the school, but only one partially detonated, doing little damage. But had the bombs gone off as intended, hundreds could have been killed.

Three, reinstating the so-called “assault weapons” ban. An “assault rifle” is one where puling the trigger unleashes a volley of bullets, like a Tommy gun or AK-47. Since 1934, these firearms require licensing and registration. And in 1986, these weapons were banned from civilian sale. These laws remain in effect. The “assault weapons” ban did not restrict fully automatic weapons. Again, they were already under strict guidelines.

What exactly did this ban do? It outlawed certain weapons based on cosmetic features, many of which have nothing to do with the firepower or lethality. For example, the ban defined as an “assault weapon” a firearm with three or more of the following features: a folding or telescoping stock; a pistol grip; a bayonet mount; a flash suppressor; a muzzle capable of launching a grenade; and a magazine capacity over 10 rounds. It outlawed the manufacturing of 18 specific models of semi-automatic weapons.

The Bushmaster .223 was not one of the outlawed weapons.

The ban, enacted in 1994, expired 10 years later. What has been the result? Nothing. Crime was unaffected. The reason is simple. Assault-style rifles (the kind banned by the law) are rarely used in crime. Less than 1 percent of weapons used in crimes are fully automatic rifles (illegal to buy for nearly 30 years). An estimated 1 to 2 percent of firearms used in crime are assault-style rifles, like the one used in Newtown.

Four, requiring a mental health test to prevent the “mentally ill” from purchasing a firearm. The goal is to predict who will use a firearm in an unlawful way. But how to define mental illness? Is it depression? Abraham Lincoln supposedly suffered from depression or melancholia. Would the 16th president be denied the right to purchase a firearm? Do you forbid someone from purchasing a firearm if he or she is in therapy? Should a psychiatrist be required to inform the police when a client expresses anger, hatred or feelings of revenge?

Apart from the Second Amendment, how many other amendments to the Constitution will have been violated by denying someone the right to purchase a firearm because he is predicted to use the gun illegally – based on a psych test.

So what can be done?

We can harden the target to make it more likely that the shooter will encounter resistance. We can re-examine the soundness of “gun-free” zones like schools and malls. By law and policy, these are places where bad guys know there are no guns.

Rampage school shootings in Pearl, Miss., Edinboro, Pa., and in Grundy, Va., have been stopped or minimized by citizens with legal weapons. More recently, it appears that a concealed-carry weapon (CCW) holder minimized the damage that a shooter sought to inflict at the Clackamas Mall near Portland, Ore.

Nick Meli, who has a CCW permit and was armed, positioned himself near the mall shooter. Meli did not shoot, but feels he stopped what could have been greater carnage: “I'm not beating myself up 'cause I didn't shoot him. I know after he saw me, I think the last shot he fired was the one he used on himself.”

Americans, according to criminologist Gary Kleck, use guns 2.5 million times each year for self-defense, usually just brandishing the weapon. (The attacker is wounded in less than 8 percent of self-defense cases.) Of the 2.5 million, 400,000 claim that but for their gun they would have been dead. If we're serious about “doing something,” we might consider shifting the odds in favor of the good guys.



HardThought in Kansas said:

Gee. Larry, quit confusing people with facts.

A "gun free zone"is a target rich environment for someone that doesn't want to be shot back at.

Armed people are citizens, disarmed people are subjects. What are you?

Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 8:25 AM

Stephen in NH replied:

The Gun-Free School Zones Act exempts people who have a carry permit issued by the State in which the school is located.

18 USC § 922 states in part:

(B) Subparagraph (A) does not apply to the possession of a firearm—
(ii) if the individual possessing the firearm is licensed to do so by the State in which the school zone is located or a political subdivision of the State, and the law of the State or political subdivision requires that, before an individual obtains such a license, the law enforcement authorities of the State or political subdivision verify that the individual is qualified under law to receive the license;

Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 12:46 PM

pete in CA replied:

True, but 99.99% of people don't know that, and if most parents (who have been taught for 50 years to fear guns and people who own them) knew a teacher was armed they'd pull their kids out of the school and probably file suit, in which case more of your school tax dollars would go to lawyers.

Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 10:33 AM

TF in Michigan said:

Great column Mr. Elder.

Unfortunately, the argument will never be influenced by common sense. The left’s leadership does not care about protecting Americans from crazed killers. They care about protecting themselves from oppressed Americans. They fear the Second Amendment to the Constitution, as they should. When viewed from this perspective, the left’s position suddenly makes perfect sense. I just keep hearing this reverberating comment from the mayor of the U.S. city with the strictest gun laws and also the highest murder rate……….

”Never let a crisis go to waste”.

Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 8:32 AM

tdrag in South Carolina said:

The Obamarats are bound and determined to get our guns. There will be talk about mental health, video games, movies, and drugs. Make no mistake, the bottom line is, with the help of so-called conservatives we will lose our Second Amendment rights. The panel that Joe Biden is supposed to lead will be populated with every Liberal puke they can dig up preying on the horror of the moment, jerking knees every where. There will be no input from the NRA or people like Col. Dave Grossman and law abiding gun owners. Just what the comrades ordered.

Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 10:25 AM

Robert in NEW Mexico said:

A few corrections. The 1934 law is a tax on a classes of guns, which include fully automatic weapons, and short barreled shotguns and rifles. In 1934, the $200.00 tax was considered sufficient to prevent the widespread purchase of machine guns.

It is still legal for the public to buy automatic weapons that were taxed and registered before 1986. The '86 law made it illegal to manufacture new machine guns, or the registered parts, for public sale. Machine guns are still being manufactured as "law enforcement samples" or sold to law enforcement.

Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 12:10 PM

George Rogers Clark in Franklin replied:

A New Declaration of Independence

PATRIOTS who have taken Murray T. Bass' challenge, here is a link (below) to a page on one of my blogs. It is just for a few charter patriot's who want to help get this idea off the ground.

Friday, December 21, 2012 at 2:35 PM

Dioneikes in Colorado said:

We all must decide if we will live as freemen or slaves. If you surrender your means of self defense, you're a slave and God help you when the gummint decides you've become a liability. As for me, if they want it, its Molon Labe because I will either live free or die - there are greater evils in life. I am tired of seeing freedoms and the Constitution trampled, things I spent 20 years defending, by a group of self serving douche bags who don't give a crap about our liberty. They've broken the contract of governance and oaths they took when they were elected. We the People NEED to reassert our dominance.

Where the people fear the government, there is tyranny. Where the government fears the People there is liberty.

Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 12:58 PM

BJ in St. Cloud, MN said:

treaties do not negate our Constitution.

Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 3:35 PM

M Rick Timms MD in Georgia said:

You will notice that the hearings are called "Gun Violence" or " Gun Control", even though the claim to be concerned with mental healyh and societal influences.

Why don't they call the committee : "The Control of Wide-eyed Nut-jobs and Radical Islamic Jihadists".

Take a look at the picture of these people -- All except one were already seeing a psychiatrist, and that one- was a psychiatrist!

People should be grateful that concealed carry permit holders are living and working among them - concealed - but ready to defend, if life is threatened. Sheep-dogs.

Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 11:35 PM

Old Guy in California said:

If you were a career politician, would you want your subjects to be armed?

Friday, December 21, 2012 at 4:46 PM

pete in CA said:

Lots of talk about "mental capacity" and guns these days.

Consider this: due to media biases and reporting during the Vietnam War 2.7 million young Americans would have been barred from owning guns based on the media charges that they were all "walking time bombs looking for a place to explode."

The same media is bursting at the seams with stories of PTSD and veterans suicides these days, supported by a homeland security "expert" who has labeled Afghanistan, Iraq and all other veterans as "possible terrorists."

The 8% or so of the population trained and qualified to handle firearms in a proficient and professional manner could be barred from owning them on the say-so of government paid shrinks.

Friday, December 21, 2012 at 6:32 PM