With 17 people murdered Wednesday at a Florida high school in yet another mass shooting at a public place, the immediate reaction in the media and the left has been predictable. The go-to phrase from comedian Chelsea Handler, newspaper columnist Jessica Valenti and SiriusXM Radio executive Norm Ornstein — and now thousands of others — is that Republicans and Second Amendment defenders “have blood on their hands.”
This is a despicable response, of course, but par for about everything from the left nowadays. Worse, it does nothing to actually limit future atrocities. There is no compassion in that. But there is effective compassion in a well-reasoned response that almost assurdedly would save lives.
Plenty of Americans are not being despicable about the issue, but given an enormous amount of emotions and misinformation, they are really not sure how to respond to these horrible events.
So here’s a basic, reasoned walk-through toward what may be the only substantive structural action to be taken that could make a dent in these mass shootings.
The first place to look at preventing these mass killings is the people committing the mass killings. Sure, it seems obvious, but not to a chunk of people apparently. The problem is people killing people, using guns, trucks, occasionally bombs and so on.
One of the commonalities of mass shooters is that they were known ahead of time to either be mentally ill or violent and potentially dangerous. This is the argument for background checks. State by state, laws on gun ownership are quite different. There are laws prohibiting felons from owning guns, the mentally ill from owning guns and so on.
There is merit to some of these. Felons in many states lose their right to vote, too. The idea is that when you commit a crime and are convicted, you forfeit some of your rights. Jail takes your freedom away. Society can also take away your right to vote and own a weapon.
The mentally ill is trickier because there is no clear distinction, such as being a felon or not being a felon. How mentally ill is mentally ill enough to lose a Constitutional right? Are there simple conditions that could trigger a lost right? Is bipolar enough? Is depression? At what levels? It can feel a bit arbitrary, but worth exploring. Perhaps if you have been institutionalized for some minimum amount of time.
But even if these sorts of measures worked well — and it is hard to know measurably because we can’t know what mass shootings might have happened — they remain far from perfect. The Sandy Hook shooter could not own guns because he could not pass a background check. But his mom was a legal gun owner and he took her guns and committed the atrocity. No reasonable person suggests we should take rights from the family members of a potentially dangerous person.
So while identifying potential threats may be worthwhile, it is far from a solution.
Now, from who commits the crimes to where they commit the crimes, we have more clear data points.
According to a research report from the Crime Prevention Research Center, 98.4 percent of mass shootings from 1950 through July 10, 2016 were committed in gun-free zones. Only 1.6 percent occurred where citizens are allowed to carry firearms on their person. The CPRC uses the FBI’s definition of a mass shooting — excluding gang activity, for instance.
Even the left-leaning Politifact rated Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran half true when he said “Most of these mass shootings take place in (areas) where you’re not allowed to have a concealed weapons permit.” And their half false was because they quibbled over the definition of how many killed constitutes a “mass killing” — essentially changing it from the FBI definition to include gang activity, etc. Pretty weak gruel to make it half false. It wasn’t.
We’ll get into some more further down but the stats are fairly clear when good criteria is used. It should not be shocking that even a mentally unstable person is going to take the path of least resistance if he is looking to kill large numbers of people. It’s not likely to be a police station.
This is no small point, because it marks the demarcation between the responses.
The failed response to school shootings
The structural response from Democrats after every one of these is to restrict gun ownership. Not all are attention-seeking bomb-throwers like Chelsea Handler.
But as we see in individual cities and states, no amount of restriction is ever enough because this doesn’t really go after the problem. Cities that ban handguns have enormously high crime rates from handguns because criminals don’t obey the laws.
Shouldn’t still need to be said, but it does: Gun laws only affect people who obey laws. By definition, that excludes murderers and mass killers. So restricting gun ownership by law really only impacts people who are not going to be mass killers. It’s no surprise that this method has not worked in the cities with the most restrictive gun laws.
Taken to its extreme, gun law advocates would relieve Americans of virtually all of their guns — and by extension, their Second Amendment rights. Criminals and even some of the mentally ill, however, would still have guns. So would the government — which of course was the Framers’ primary fear and driving cause for the Second Amendment.
Further, gun restrictions have been in place to their fullest effect at the site of virtually ever mass shooting. Let’s just take Florida’s mass shootings. Wednesday’s murders were at a public high school; a gun-free zone. Before that, was the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, also a well labeled gun-free zone. Before that was the Fort Lauderdale Airport shootings; another gun-free zone. Go through the mass shootings in the United States. With few exceptions, almost all were in gun-free zones.
This is telling, but not to those who myopically respond with wanting only more gun control.
The reasoned response to school shootings
So if proactively trying to identify potential mass killers is a step — but far from a solution — and banning guns seems to be more of a beacon then a prevention, then what might be the answer?
The opposite of being a beacon. If banning guns is an inducement, plentiful guns in the hands of trained, law-abiding citizens may well act as a repellent. And in fact, the data suggests it already has.
In broad terms, the number of concealed carry handgun permits soared under President Obama — because Americans feared they were going to lose their Second Amendment rights — while at the same time murder rates dropped. This is the opposite of what a gun control advocate would predict.
Americans with legally concealed weapons nearly tripled from 2007 to 2015, while murder rates fell from 5.6 per 100,000 people to 4.2, or a whopping 25 percent decrease, according to the report from the Crime Prevention Research Center. If not causal, certainly corollary and suggests more guns in law-abiding hands are, at the very least, not the problem.
At the state level, Florida’s homicide rate per person dropped from 36 percent above the national average to 4 percent below after enacting right-to-carry laws. After Texas’ law went into effect, murder rates fell 50 percent faster than the national average the following year; rape rates fell 93 percent and assaults were down 250 percent faster in the second year. Very compelling numbers and repeated in myriad jurisdictions.
On the flip side, states that do not have right-to-carry laws — disarm their citizens in public — have higher crime rates in general and 11 percent higher violent crime rates per person than the national average.
There is also considerable evidence when communities enact concealed carry laws that crime goes down. This all makes sense. Criminals are less likely to commit crimes if they think there is a reasonable chance they will be shot.
While most mass killings are not committed by run-of-the-mill criminals, but by mentally ill, emotionally damaged people, they may not respond in the same way — although some percentage are likely to. So then, if we can’t identify them well enough and they may not respond to deterrents like normal criminals, what to do?
Minimize the deaths. How? Specifically for schools, which are continual targets, allow teachers and school administrators to carry concealed weapons on campus. If this horrifies some people, they are not thinking it through.
We give teachers enormous authority to mold children’s minds and to protect them in school. We allow teachers to legally carry handguns just as any other American. But we don’t let these same trusted members of society carry their handguns into schools where they could actually protect defenseless students — the very locations where so many mass killings happen. It takes the most diligent police several minutes to get to a school from the time a shooting starts, during which time we have seen how much carnage can take place. Teachers and administrators are on site and can provide a nearly immediate response.
Do we think some will just go crazy and start mass shooting? Seriously? But even if that happened, such a teacher would likely do it anyway. If, however, other teachers or administrators are armed, they could limit the number of deaths.
If we could have a reasonable discussion on mass shootings and not partisan hysteria, this is a major step we should be able to agree on — and that would reduce the number of deaths.
Rod Thomson is an author, TV talking head and former journalist, and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act.
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