Archive for the ‘mass shooting’ Tag

Why Does Anyone Need A Gun?   Leave a comment

Pierre Lemieux

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Concealed CarryThe shooting that took place in Toronto (Canada) on Sunday was, in one way, similar to the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Paris on January 7, 2015. In the latter case, people took smartphone videos of fleeing terrorists shooting at policemen and killing an unarmed one. In Toronto, there were several powerless witnesses, and at least one person, apparently from an apartment overlooking the scene, videoed the killer as he was firing from the sidewalk below. In both cases, if a video taker had had a pistol instead of a smartphone, he could have engaged the killer, at least slowing him down, and saved lives or prevented serious bodily injuries.

The fact that the Toronto killer was apparently just a madman and a loser, as I called his kind in a previous post (“Mass Killings and the Economic Approach to Human Behavior”), is tragic but does not change the situation as far as saving lives is concerned.

An Armed Citizenry Can Stop Crime

In places like Toronto or Paris, carrying guns is a crime for ordinary citizens.

Many people believe it is impossible that armed citizens could end or mitigate a mass shooting. In places like Toronto or Paris, they are right in the sense that carrying guns is a crime for ordinary citizens, so it is unlikely that one could legally and seriously challenge a killer in action. In Canada, if you have been permitted to own a handgun, it can only be carried in a locked case to an approved shooting club; it must otherwise be kept in your home, where it must be locked separate from ammunition, to make sure you don’t use it in self-defense—which would be a crime anyway. It’s even worse in the United Kingdom.

Some states in America are the only places in the civilized world where ordinary individuals are allowed to own convenient handguns, carry them, and use them in self-defense. But here is the question: Does it ever happen that they use them to stop mass killings?

The answer is yes, and is documented in an FBI report, Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2016 and 2017 (April 2018). The report documents 50 active shooter incidents over these two years. Shooter incidents are defined as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” The FBI concludes its analysis by noting:

Armed and unarmed citizens engaged the shooter in 10 incidents. They safely and successfully ended the shootings in eight of those incidents. Their selfless actions likely saved many lives.

Not surprisingly, in 6 of these 10 cases, the intervening citizen was legally armed. Only exceptional circumstances or exceptional courage lead an unarmed individual to successfully confront an armed killer in action. Perhaps one has to be familiar with guns to attempt this. The FBI writes:

In four incidents, citizens possessing valid firearms permits successfully stopped the shooter. In two [of those] incidents, citizens exchanged fire with the shooter. In two incidents, the citizens held the shooter at gunpoint until law enforcement arrived.

In another incident, “a citizen possessing a valid firearms permit was wounded before he could fire at the shooter.” In the last of the six incidents, the shooter was met with gunfire but fled to continue his rampage at another location.

Thus, an armed citizen put an end to a mass shooting in four cases or 8 percent of the shootings. Economist John Lott argues that the FBI missed some of the shootings and that the real percentage over the past few years is around 15 percent. In any event, a significant percentage of mass shootings were stopped by armed citizens and many lives were presumably saved.

Toronto Already Has Very Tough Gun Laws. They Didn’t Work.

In many states, individuals without a felony record can now lawfully carry concealed pistols without a license—so-called “constitutional carry.” This certainly adds to the disincentive effect that concealed carry has on mass murders.

The Sunday shooting and the other recent ones in Toronto occurred after three decades of increasingly severe gun controls in Canada, as you can check in my article “Disarming Canadians,” a review of a recent book by Canadian historian R. Blake Brown. It is farcical to hear Toronto’s mayor John Tory, a conservative politician, suggesting “tougher gun laws” in the wake of the tragic Sunday events, and pontificating:

There are far too many people carrying around guns in our city and our region who should not have them.

He asked:

Why does anyone in this city need to have a gun at all?

He did not mean that cops should not be armed. They have been more and more heavily armed as ordinary citizens were gradually disarmed. He did not mean that the cops who protect him do not need guns. He meant that ordinary citizens should be totally disarmed, hoping that thugs will also disarm, which would (inexplicably?) leave only the cops armed.

It is true that the freedom to have guns means that more guns will be available, including for criminals, if only because of lower black market prices. Even if one assumes that the result will be a higher net murder count (which does not appear to be true), it is a strange ethics that forbids to individuals the means to defend themselves in order to wishfully prevent criminals from harming them.

In the 20th and 21st century, the right of ordinary individuals to own efficient guns is very much part of American exceptionalism. When you think about it, it is as banal as it is incomprehensible to the rest of the world that ordinary individuals have the right to own, and in most states to carry, guns nearly as efficient as those carried by their public servants.

Simplistic Thinking about Mass Shootings   4 comments

Perhaps it is human nature to blame something other than ourselves for the events we see in the world. The South Carolina church shooting shows that tendency in full view.

  • Guns caused the shooting. Their very existence demands that they be used for the mass killing of folks.

Do we really believe that? Certainly our president and some pundits say they believe that, but isn’t that the equivalent of saying “the devil made me do it?” I’ve been around guns my whole life. It’s stupid to go into the woods where there are bears, wolves and moose without a firearm. I shot a 22 when I was 7. I first handled my mom’s 357 when I was in junior high right after three soon-to-be rapists tried to break into our house and Mom (all 95 pounds of her) scared them away.

My guns have never whispered to me that I should go out and shoot up a church, a movie theater, a shopping center. Guns are inanimate objects. If there’s any whispering going on, it’s coming from the mind of the shooter, not the guns. Guns are simply a tool for keeping users safe. Make them illegal and it leaves law-abiding citizens at the mercy of law-breakers, because law-breakers won’t be obeying the gun laws.

  • Racism caused the shooting.

There may be some validity to this argument in the case of this particular church. It was a historically black church and the shooter seems to have had some racist beliefs. He was also high on drugs and may have been mentally ill. So is that racism or mental illness or some other problem not yet identified. The shooter spent an hour in that church during Bible study before he opened fire. If it were my church, I’d be asking “What happened during that hour that escalated rather than de-escalated his violence?” Maybe it was nothing. Maybe he was just bent on killing people and it took him an hour to get the courage, but … as I said, if it were MY church …. Is it possible they weren’t very welcoming to the weird white guy in their haven for the dark-skinned? If you think that’s a racist question, note the number of fingers pointing back at yourself before you pop off.

  • Mental illness caused the shooting. Lock up all mentally ill or make it illegal for them to have guns and all will be better.

I worked in the mental health field for 15 years. I’ve met some mentally ill people who would mow down a church group because the voices in their heads told them to do it. Not the gun, not racism — mental illness. But I’ve also met mentally ill folks who would never hurt anyone (except maybe themselves) and others who stay on their meds because they don’t want to ever hurt anyone else. Delusional disorders are not all the same and it’s wrong to treat some folks like criminals because they are ill.

  • Churches are at fault.

I actually heard this from an atheist neighbor this weekend. If churches weren’t these monolithic structures that judge people, he said, they wouldn’t become targets for crazy people. Do away with all churches and people would be free to love one another and violence would be reduced immeasurably. Wow, you just can’t make that up.

All of those simple causes are probably partially at fault. Churches ought to be more welcoming to those who are odd. Yes, that puts them more at risk. Jesus never said being His followers would be safe. There is a lovely man who occasionally comes through our church. We call him John the Baptist and I can’t say his real name because I signed agreements years ago. He is a Christian who is also bat-crazy with schizophrenia. Often when you talk to him, it’s like reading Alice in Wonderland on acid, but he also cuts right to the truth of the gospel in a way that sane people rarely do. He knows his Bible and his application is spot on. And (some people find this creepy), he seems to know things about you that he shouldn’t know, but he uses that knowledge to help the Christians he meets. I wonder if he’s not talking to angels, who are the demons who chose to obey God. Yeah, I worked in the mental health field for 15 years and I believe in demons. That’s another topic. Churches should be more welcoming to people who are not stereotypically “church” people.

Mental illness is a tough nut to crack. Europe and other nations handle it by doing what we used to do — locking folks up and forcing them to take their meds. There is a growing movement in this country by mental health advocates to never force anyone to take medication against their will. Did you know that? Yeah! So maybe there’s more to these mass shootings than just undiagnosed mental illness. But maybe in a country that prides itself on individual liberty, we really don’t have a right to force others to be medicated against their will. There are some folks who think we should treat mental illness like a crime. I don’t, but I also acknowledge that some people won’t stay on their meds and they aren’t John the Baptist motivated by God’s spirit to share the gospel. Some of them are scary scary people and we need to have a discussion about what to do with that. Currently, if you call for help because you think someone might be developing schizophrenia and about to harm someone, you have to show that they really are an imminent risk to themselves or others. In essence, they have to mow down a church group before the police will act.

Notice that I’m sitting on the fence with this because I’m an individualist who has experience with both good people who are mentally ill and scary people who are mentally ill. I’m not sure what the answer is here and I suspect there is no “good” solution.

Racism is a swinging door. The first time I ever saw racism directed at me was not because I’m an American Indian and white folks don’t like Indians. It was a black man who had decided I was white and he didn’t want me in his shop. Racism doesn’t have a color. A traditionally ethnic church of any stripe might think its meeting separately because that’s how white folks want it, but in reality, in this day and age, they are meeting separately because they feel most comfortable with that. Guaranteed, if a group of any ethnicity showed up at 90% of traditionally white churches, nobody would turn them away and most might not even notice the color of your skin. Racism and reverse racism are not excuses for mowing down a church group, but it is certainly something churches need to consider. And, not just churches. Society as a whole exhibits this problem. When you’re pointing a finger at someone else as a racist, pay attention to how many fingers are pointing back at you.

Guns do not kill anyone by themselves. They are simply a tool. If we didn’t have guns, mentally ill people and racists would find other ways to kill people. Knives, gasoline bombs, cars, baseball bats, bow-and-arrow, hammers …. As a small woman, I’m not going to go mana a mana with a man swinging a baseball bat or wielding a knife. With a gun, I become his equal and therefore, equally able to protect myself and those around me. If you disarm me, you relegate me to the role of victim, leading to my death.

I know we don’t want to hear this. We want simple causes and simple solutions, but we don’t have those and until we accept that the issues are more complicated than we want to believe, we can’t hope to solve the problems.

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