Once again, after the terrible school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Democrats are calling for gun control. A cynic might say calling for gun control is the perfect strategy for Democrats: They know it will never happen, so it makes a great, and perennial, campaign issue.
Except it doesn’t. Most Americans, and most voters, are sensible people who know how to use guns sensibly — or trust their fellow Americans to do so — and who have no intention of letting the wokies repeal the Second Amendment.
Yet … the carnage from school shootings always disturbs, and it disturbs especially people who think they can order the world to their liking and eliminate original sin — not to mention the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
What, if anything, should be done? And “if anything” is an important qualification. There is only so much wrongdoing any society can prevent without creating problems on, so to speak, the other side. As Second Amendment supporters say, “If we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.”
And as they also say — but you won’t read this in the New York Times — many crimes appear to have been stopped because someone else had a gun.
Still, let us look at some school shootings, starting in 1999 (but there have been school shootings since 1840!) and focusing only on those with four or more victims (considered “mass shootings”). There are others, and a lot of them, and they are no less horrible, but they are often more like “murders” than “school shootings” — and besides, their details probably wouldn’t change the overall picture.
1. On April 20, 1999, 12th-graders Eric Harris (age 18) and Dylan Klebold (age 17) murdered 12 students and one teacher at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado. The previous year, they had been arrested for theft and were sentenced to a juvenile diversion program. It’s not clear how they acquired all their guns, although some were acquired with the assistance of two friends, who were subsequently sentenced to prison for their complicity. For the record, the shootings took place during the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.
2. On March 21, 2005, Jeff Weise (age 16) first killed his grandfather (an Ojibwe tribal police sergeant) and his grandfather’s girlfriend at their home; then he took his grandfather’s police weapons and bulletproof vest and drove his grandfather’s police vehicle to Red Lake Senior High School, where he had been a student some months before, and shot and killed nine people at the school and wounded five others.
3. On October 2, 2006, a 32-year-old man, Charles Carl Roberts IV, murdered five Amish girls at an Old Order Amish one-room schoolhouse. He had a handgun, a shotgun, and a rifle.
4. On April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho (age 23), an undergraduate student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, and a U.S. resident from South Korea, killed 32 people and wounded 17 others with two semi-automatic pistols. Cho, a mentally unsound individual, had been able to purchase two handguns despite state laws that should have prevented such a purchase. The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits anyone “adjudicated as a mental defective” from buying guns, a prohibition that applied to Cho, as a Virginia court declared him a danger to himself in late 2005 and sent him for psychiatric treatment. Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine subsequently addressed the problem by issuing an executive order intended to close the reporting gaps.
5. On February 14, 2008, Steven Kazmierczak (age 27) killed five students and injured 21 others at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, before fatally shooting himself. He used a shotgun and three pistols. He seemed to have mental health problems, but was described as “probably the nicest, most caring person ever.” It appears he had been in the mental health “system” earlier in his life but because he had been “out” of it for five years, was eligible to buy a gun. All four guns were therefore bought legally from a federally licensed firearms dealer. At least one criminal background check was performed. Kazmierczak had no criminal record.
6. On, April 2, 2012, 43-year-old One L. Goh killed seven students at Oikos University in Oakland, California. He was determined to be mentally unfit for trial.
7. On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza (age 20) shot and killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Lanza then shot himself. The gun he used belonged to his mother, who was a gun enthusiast. He had had behavioral problems and had been diagnosed as having obsessive-compulsive disorder and may have had anorexia nervosa. Lanza lived with his mother (whom he shot and killed before going to the school), but his father did not live with them.
8. On October 24, 2014, Jaylen Fryberg (age 15) shot five other students at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington, fatally wounding four, before fatally shooting himself. Fryberg’s father, Raymond Fryberg, was arrested and convicted the following year for illegally purchasing and owning the gun used in the shooting.
9. On October 1, 2015, Chris Harper-Mercer (age 26), a student at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Oregon, shot and killed an assistant professor and eight students, wounding eight others. His parents had separated before he was born. Harper-Mercer spent his entire life living with his single mother and hadn’t seen his father since they’d moved to Oregon two years before the shooting. Harper-Mercer was said to have had substantial mental illness but had never been involuntarily committed. Under federal and state law, that would have prohibited him from purchasing a gun. He was therefore able to pass a background check. An Oregon law, which went into effect in 2018, allows law enforcement or family members to file a petition in state court for an “extreme risk protection order”; such an order, if granted, temporarily blocks an individual from legally purchasing or possessing deadly weapons if the individual is determined to present an “imminent threat to themselves or others.” If the law had been in effect earlier, he might have been prevented from purchasing his weapon.
10. On February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz (age 19), shot and killed 14 students and three staff members at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Cruz was an adopted child; both of his adoptive parents, however, had died. Although Cruz was a member of the junior ROTC and had received multiple awards, he also had had multiple behavioral issues since middle school, which had resulted in his being transferred between several schools six times in three years. Starting in 2013, psychiatrists had recommended admitting Cruz to a residential treatment facility. Cruz had also made threats against other students.
11. On May 18, 2018, student Dimitrios Pagourtzis (age 17) shot and killed 10 people and wounded 13 others at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas. Both of the firearms the shooter used appeared to have been legally owned by his father.
12. On November 30, 2021, Ethan Crumbley (age 15) shot and killed four students and wounded seven other people at Oxford High School in the Detroit exurb of Oxford Township, Michigan. Crumbley’s parents were charged on December 3 with involuntary manslaughter for failing to secure the handgun used in the shooting.
13. And most recently, on May 24, 2022, Salvador Rolando Ramos (age 18) fatally shot 19 students and two teachers and wounded 17 other people at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, after shooting his grandmother in the head (she survived). He had legally purchased a semi-automatic rifle from a local gun store on the day after his 18th birthday and purchased another rifle three days later. Eight days before the shooting, he bought an AR-15-style rifle from a Georgia-based online retailer. Ramos’s mother was said to be a drug user; he lived with his grandparents; his father seemed to have been absent due to his job and because of the pandemic.
According to the Washington Post, “185 children, educators and other people” have been killed in school shootings since 1999. By comparison, so far this year 254 people have been killed in Chicago, a city run by Democrats since shortly after Adam and Eve moved house from their garden residence; 195 of the Chicago victims were black. The temptation is almost overwhelming to accuse the completely uncaring Democrats of “RACISM!” But that would just inflame passions, and to no avail.
Before we get to “the challenge,” there is this to consider (and it may hurt): About 185 dead is not a large number in a country of 335 million people. Almost 40,000 people die in automobile accidents every year. More than 12,000 die from falling down the stairs. Over 300 people die in bathtubs every year. Life is uncertain. We are not the masters of our fate.
Here’s the challenge: Look at the facts of the 13 cases presented and come up with a sensible law that could have prevented the shootings. But remember also that from 1999 to today there have been only about 337 school shootings. How much can we restrict the freedom of 260 million people (over age 18) based on what a few hundred people did over a two-decade-long period?
(Here’s another challenge: What kind of “gun control” would prevent the far more serious gun carnage in Chicago?)
What if the media never reported mass shootings? How much are they to blame?
Should people with a history of mental illness be able to buy a gun (cases 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10)? Of course not! But never? Perhaps five years after “recovery” is too short a time. How long then? Ten years? Fifteen? Felons are barred for life.
What about young people who live with neither of their parents, or at least without their father (cases 9, 10, and 13)? Is that an automatic disqualification — until the age, perhaps, of 25? We know that boys who grow up without fathers in the house tend to become problems. Maybe, also, as a general rule, no illegitimate male (who probably has grown up in a setting without a father) should be able to buy a gun until age 25. Ooo!
What about making the local chief law enforcement officer responsible, with severe penalties for incompetence, for personally vetting and approving the application of anyone under the age of 21 who wanted to buy a gun? He could investigate, among other facts, behavioral issues that hadn’t resulted in formal, disqualifying treatment.
Raising the age for buying a gun does seem like a good idea, at least to the coastal elite, but then so does raising the age for driving.
The wokies say that if you can’t buy a beer, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. That makes some sense, although there is no constitutional provision regarding beer and minors. But if people under 21 are thought not to be able to drink (or drive) responsibly, it is surely madness to allow them to vote. Or at least madness to let boys under 21 vote. (READ MORE: Liberalism’s Phony Solution to Gun Violence)
It is well known that boys’ brains develop more slowly than girls’ brains do, and that boys and men commit more crimes than girls and women do (and teen boys are more hazardous drivers than girls). In which case, why shouldn’t we have one rule for boys and men (e.g., special vetting rules for males under age 21 who want to buy a gun), and a different rule for girls and women (a rule that might, admittedly, be a puzzler for the new Supreme Court justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson)?
What, if anything, can legislators do with this (widely accepted) information from Reason magazine that “Blacks appear to commit violent crimes at a substantially higher rate per capita than do whites”? Not surprisingly, white people tend to commit crime against white people (people tend to commit crimes against people they know) and black people commit crimes against black people. Are we to limit the right of whites to own guns because of what blacks tend to do? Of course not.
Another killer objection to any law that attempts to limit guns is that the woke prosecutors who have been taking over law enforcement in our cities have decided not to prosecute criminals. The woke elite praised the 2020 riots, glorified the corrupt, Marxist, racist, anti-Semitic Black Lives Matter movement, and defunded the police. They’re more likely to go after you and your fellow citizens, trying to protect your family and your property, than they are to prosecute any criminal.
So where do we go from here? See the problem — the problem with “gun control”?
Sin, evil, and disease continue to distress us in mind, body, and estate. We will have to learn to look elsewhere rather than to legislatures for lasting comfort and peace.
Daniel Oliver is Chairman of the Board of the Education and Research Institute and a Director of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was Executive Editor and subsequently Chairman of the Board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review. Email Daniel Oliver at Daniel.Oliver@TheCandidAmerican.com.
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