Whenever there is a horrific mass shooting somewhere in the country, the liberal chattering classes begin the usual mantra. Calls for red flag laws and a ban on assault weapons flood the op-ed pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post, even if the crime in question would not have been prevented by such legislation. The recent tragedy on the campus of Michigan State University is a case in point. The shooter, Anthony McRae, did not use an assault weapon, and a red flag law would not have worked in his case. McRae was despondent over the death of his mother but was not previously violent, nor had he threatened anyone before the shooting. If depression or mental illness became a criterion for disarming an individual, most of our country’s citizens — including at least one serving senator — could be disarmed at some point in their lives.
McRae had been once convicted of illegally carrying a loaded weapon, and the weapon was confiscated by authorities. As best we can tell, he obtained the weapon used in the shooting legally but did not register it; this is not the case with most violent crimes committed in the country today. McRae’s father did not think him disturbed enough to seek psychological counseling, so he would have flown beneath the radar of most existing or proposed red flag laws. His father suspected that he had obtained another weapon, but McRae denied it. The father declined to pursue the matter. That was a mistake that many parents make if the kids are adults and not presumed to be dangerous. Relatives are generally the first line of defense for red flags.
Hardcore progressives believe that there are no good guys with guns.
The harsh reality is that gun legislation does little to impact gun violence because only law-abiding owners follow it. The states with the strictest gun laws in the country generally have the highest rates of gun-related violence. New York, California, Illinois, and Michigan’s own Detroit have seen gun-related deaths soar as even more stringent anti-gun legislation is passed. Some of the most horrific mass shootings in the past year have also occurred in such states, although large-scale gun-related violence is not limited to them.
Florida has adopted a reasonably commonsense red flag law. However, Florida also allows some selected school staff and administrators to conceal-carry handguns on school property. Over 8,000 people have been relieved of their weapons because they have been certified as dangerous loons, threatened others, or been previously convicted of felonies. That law would not have netted McRae in Michigan because he was flying beneath the radar. What has not happened in Florida, though, is a mass school shooting. Potential shooters do not know which teachers or administrators may be capable of armed intervention. This creates deterrence.
Florida’s approach may keep unarmed the dysfunctional, certifiable, and out-of-control individuals capable of violence, but only in circumstances when they can be identified. It will not stop all shootings, but it helps to reduce the possibility of one.
Contrast this with New York, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. Since the Safeway shooting in Buffalo, New York state has doubled down on gun control. Now, even legal weapons are banned in the public places where mass shootings are most likely to occur. These include schools, shopping centers, churches, and bars. New York’s citizens are sheep waiting for the slaughter, and the potential predators are undeterred. New York’s “commonsense” laws only punish legal gun owners while gun violence surges in its streets.
Many progressives believe that conservatives and Republicans worship at the altar of guns. We do not, but we do believe that guns are ubiquitous in American society and cannot be banned any more effectively than can liquor or marijuana. Most of us believe that the only really effective protection against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Most of our cops really are good guys, but they can’t be everywhere at once; if anything, Michigan State proved that. The police reacted quickly and located the suspect before he could inflict more carnage — but, by then, much damage had been done.
Hardcore progressives believe that there are no good guys with guns. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke let the cat out of the bag in one of his numerous failed political campaigns. His attitude was that of “we are coming for your guns.” This probably explains why he keeps losing elections in Texas. It was not rhetoric. He unwisely revealed what hardcore progressives really think.
There are two types of epidemic gun violence in this country: urban gang-related shootings and mass shootings. Progressives are making both worse. In the case of urban crime, it is the coddling of truly violent repeat criminals by weak prosecutors and crusading judges. “Rounding up the usual suspects” is now seen as racial profiling and police harassment because the places where urban killings happen are usually minority neighborhoods.
In the case of mass shootings, progressive persecution of legal gun owners is designed to keep them out of the public places where such incidents occur. This virtually ensures the lack of the kind of intervention that prevented a mass shooting in Indiana last year.
Red flag laws have undoubtedly preempted some mass shootings, but the real psychopaths who have produced the most carnage, such as in the Las Vegas concert massacre, are cunning and quiet. They plan carefully and generally strike without warning. The most common description of McRae that friends and relatives is: “He was quiet and kept to himself.” They cruise through background checks and red flag screenings.
Good guys with guns may not totally do away with this threat, but they can mitigate it.
Gary Anderson lectures on Alternative Analysis at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.
An Argument for Good Guys With Guns
Robert Crimo Raises a Red Flag About America
Gun Ownership Is Not the Cause of America’s Violence Problem