Opinion: Gun Laws Won't Prevent Another Aurora

Monday, July 23, 2012 - 05:34 PM

Police surround the apartment of James Holmes, the suspect in the Colorado theater shooting, on July 21, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. (Getty)

In unexplainable tragedies, like the one in Aurora last week, there is a rush by some people to attach their favorite pet issue to the horror. Some I have heard about with the Colorado shooting include:

  • that the shooter was probably medicated on Adderall
  • that the shooting was a government plot
  • that the shooter was Jewish
  • that we need to ban all guns

The last one seems most reasonable to people. Before much information about a mass shooting is released, before we know the names of the victims or the motives of the attacker, the knee-jerk, emotional reaction begins: guns are bad, people who don't think so are evil, and we must ban guns.

The problem is that people like me, who believe guns serve a necessary purpose of self-defense, don't want to spend the days following a national tragedy showing the hysterical gun-grabbers the factual information about guns. We want to be able to mourn our fellow countrymen too, but because of the rush to blame and finger-point it becomes an immediate debate. We want to spend the days in solemn thought, not pointing out that according to a Justice Department study in 1994, there are approximately 1.5 million defensive gun uses in America each year. We don't want to keep stating the obvious: that places like NYC, Chicago, or DC, which essentially ban all guns, have an extraordinarily high level of shootings. It turns out that people who would use guns for ill don't actually care about laws and those of us who do are sitting ducks because we are prohibited from owning guns. It's tiring to keep pointing out that, no, banning some guns won't make any difference at all. As Robert VerBruggen points out in National Review:

Further, while it’s true that one of Holmes’s guns was a so-called “assault weapon” similar to an AR-15, this gun does not differ from standard hunting rifles in most of the important ways. Holmes’s rifle fires at a semiautomatic rate—one bullet for each pull of the trigger, unlike a machine gun, which fires continuously when the trigger is held down—and uses .223-caliber ammo. This ammo is frequently found in “varmint rifles”; it is on the small side even for shooting deer.

More gun laws won't do anything at all; we already have tens of thousands of federal, state, and local gun laws on the books, yet the reaction "we need to have a serious debate about gun control" persists. We've had the serious debate about gun control. The Second Amendment won. It is no coincidence that our founders included our right to bear arms as #2 in our Bill or Rights. An unarmed populace is a docile populace, and that has never been what America is about.

What happened in Aurora is an awful tragedy perpetrated by one terrible person. Giving up our freedom to own guns is no solution. I don't know what would have happened if someone in the Aurora movie theater was armed; the chaos in the darkness is part of what the killer was counting on, but I do know that an armed citizenry would give pause to other wannabee mass killers. As Glenn Reynolds noted after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 (on a "gun-free" campus, a rule that the shooter ignored):

Police can't be everywhere, and as incidents from Columbine to Virginia Tech demonstrate, by the time they show up at a mass shooting, it's usually too late. On the other hand, one group of people is, by definition, always on the scene: the victims. Only if they're armed, they may wind up not being victims at all.

And isn't that, ultimately, the goal?


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Comments [11]

The Inventor from NY

Everyone knows that when you make things illegal, they all vanish into prohibition land. Yay prohibition land!

Jul. 29 2012 11:03 PM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

The Second Amendment - every citizen has the right to KEEP and BEAR arms - is outdated. Imagine the carnage if every citizen went around armed. Is the eventual rebirth of politeness worth the wave of blood? I am in favor of keeping the civil right to long arms for hunting and self-defense but would like to see a severe curtailment of the right and ability to own handguns and other 'military' style weapons - assault rifles, grenade launchers, etc.

This will take an amendment to the Constitution which I don't think is going to occur anytime soon but I can hope.

Until then, when will the firearms industry give Americans an effective non-lethal method of personal defense.

Jul. 29 2012 01:38 PM

Jul. 26 2012 09:39 AM
Tom from NJ

Think a lot of you would have benefited from listening to the Brian Lehrer show today. Key point, the founding fathers imposed much more heavy-handed gun control on muskets than anyone would think of imposing on a rifled semi-automatic firearm today. The second amendment was to drive the arming of local militias because we didn't have standing armies back the. So, the next time you decide to opine on the founding fathers' intent, keep that little factoid in mind. That said, more than half the murders in the US are committed with guns, mostly handguns (FBI violent crime stats for 2010) because they are lethal, relatively cheap, and easy to acquire. Why is that the case? Supply is high, so cost is low, and any local ban on guns is counteracted by the ridiculously easy access to firearms in a number of states. I like guns and I like shooting, but during 2 years in Texas I came to realize that an excess of guns in society is no less pernicious than an excess of highly potent illegal drugs. By putting limits on the number and type of guns sold nationally, the guns held by bad actors of all types would slowly but surely shrink as supplies shrank, illegal guns were siezed and destroyed, and prices for available weapons rose.

Jul. 24 2012 11:19 PM
Richard Meyer from New York

I looked at the link to the 1994 Justice Department study which this writer claims confirms 1.5 million defensive gun uses. That widely reported number is based on surveys of which this study is actually highly skeptical. For Example,
"The results still suggest that
DGU (defensive gun use)estimates are far too high.
For example,
estimates also suggest that
130,000 criminals are wounded or
killed by civilian gun defenders. That
number also appears completely out of
line with other, more reliable statistics
on the number of gunshot cases."
It seems that this gun advocate is referring to a study that she hasn't read, or assumes that her readers won't.

Jul. 24 2012 05:15 PM
Jill from New York

The exaggerations coming from both sides of this gun control argument are what's killing it. I've not heard many gun control advocates suggesting that we "ban all guns" as this author suggests, and I can't imagine that the author truly believes that a civilized society can realistically exist by arming all citizens. What we absolutely need is that dreaded, "serious debate" - a meaningful, balanced, bipartisan discussion about whether there are ways to legislate around this topic to offer heightened safety without impinging constitutional rights. Don't we all agree that there are a limited set of legitimate rationales for gun ownership such as collection, hunting, sport shooting and self defense? And if so, then doesn't it stand to reason that there types of guns that do not inherently serve these legitimate purposes (e.g. semi automatics) and that there are ways to legislate gun production, distribution, sale and/or ownership to ensure that those legitimate purposes are met? Everyone acknowledges the gun advocate argument that bad people intent on hurting others are going to find a way to do bad things. It's hard to disagree with that, but it doesn't mean that we have to make it easier for them. The government restricts purchases of all sorts of items that it deems to be a threat to public safety (try to buy a packet of Sudafed recently?), so the fact that gun advocates are not willing to even have this discussion really astounds me.

Jul. 24 2012 01:32 PM

It is amazing, that the parents of the NRA Legislative wing, the anti gun zealots, are upset by the actions of the child they birthed! After all, history does specifically show they were created in response to the anti gun organizations already in existence.

Then the NRA grew up, trained in how to play the game by the anti gun extremists.

Now that their child has grown up and learned how to play the game better than they, we are simply amazed they don’t have more pride in their child as most sane and caring parents do!

So here are some suggestions if you few anti’s are upset with yourself. Go find a mirror, look in it, and yell at those responsible for the existence of the NRA legislative wing, oh yeah, its you! As this wont satisfy your insane need to whine, wail and go all chicken little the sky is falling insane, you highly suggest you then slap yourself silly.

You do realize such self abuse can be posted on line via youtube and be a fund generator for you anti’s as we realize your fund raising has been dramatically curtailed due to people recognizing the truth and no longer believing your lies.

That’s not even addressing all those government facts & non NRA generated studies that support their position.
After all, you created the child called the NRA legislative wing. Such are the unintended consequences of your own insurmountable stupidity!

Jul. 24 2012 09:22 AM

Well at least you didn't claim you need your guns so that you can overthrow the government like most NRA stooges.

Jul. 23 2012 10:08 PM

Just wasting time again but here it goes; liberals, how many rounds were fired from the 100 rnd magazine? So far the news is reporting the rifle jammed and no-one knows how many shots were fired from that weapon so your hatred for the magazine is misplaced. Your hatred for the style of weapon is somewhat understandable, but like the article says, they only shoot one shot at a time, just like any other hunting rifle. Liberals are quick to condemn guns, but oddly when I suggest the criminal that uses a gun in a murder get the death penalty liberals are quick to go against that too. Chicago has a ban on guns, yet over 1,000 shooting so far this year. Bans don't work for criminals that ignore the laws.

Jul. 23 2012 09:24 PM

You know what else is tiring? Hearing you either lie thru your teeth or just being plain dumb. You're quote about the AR-15 is cherry picked and misleading. Yes it's a semi automatic and yes the caliber of the bullet isn't huge. But you know how it differs from an ordinary hunting riffle? It's got 100 bullet clip! Also, it's a close range gun. People are not going hunting with this thing unless it's for other people.

Jul. 23 2012 08:33 PM


Jul. 23 2012 06:03 PM

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