After last week’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, politicians have made loud calls for increased gun control measures, including a reinstatement of the Assault Weapons Ban — nevermind that the .223 Bushmaster rifle used by Adam Lanza wouldn’t have been covered under that law.
Politico notes this morning that President Barack Obama, who has previously called for more gun control measures, has announced that he will form a “guns task force” to presumably look at gun control policies that the White House could pursue. Of course, pro-Second Amendment advocates see this tragedy being politicized by policitians who have long clamored for increased gun control measures.
We’ve hear gun control advocates talk about how these mass shootings are on the rise. Despite the rhetoric, the facts just don’t bear that out. In an article published the day after the shooting at Shady Hook, the Associated Press explained:
“There is no pattern, there is no increase,” says criminologist James Allen Fox of Boston’s Northeastern University, who has been studying the subject since the 1980s, spurred by a rash of mass shootings in post offices.
The random mass shootings that get the most media attention are the rarest, Fox says. Most people who die of bullet wounds knew the identity of their killer.
Society moves on, he says, because of our ability to distance ourselves from the horror of the day, and because people believe that these tragedies are “one of the unfortunate prices we pay for our freedoms.”
Grant Duwe, a criminologist with the Minnesota Department of Corrections who has written a history of mass murders in America, said that while mass shootings rose between the 1960s and the 1990s, they actually dropped in the 2000s. And mass killings actually reached their peak in 1929, according to his data. He estimates that there were 32 in the 1980s, 42 in the 1990s and 26 in the first decade of the century.
Chances of being killed in a mass shooting, he says, are probably no greater than being struck by lightning.
Some of these gun control advocates are going so far to call the shooting at Sandy Hook, as Gene Healy notes, a “9/11 for schools.” Given the extraordinary, constitutionally-questionable measures passed by Congress and otherwise implemented by the Bush and Obama administrations as part of the “war on terror,” the invocation of 9/11 should give reason to pause.
Moreover, politicians talking of increased gun control control measures, banning certain types of guns or even those that want to get rid of all guns are just talking in platitudes. While this may seem appealing to some, it will not put an end to tragic incidents of gun violence.
Whether or not guns are banned or more heavily regulated, guns will still appear in our society. Bad people will still commit horrible acts of violence with firearms. There is simply no way to avoid that. For example, look at our nation’s drug laws. Congress has heavily regulated and banned drugs — part of the larger “war on drugs” — yet people still have relatively easy access to them.
There are no easy answers for the tragedy in Newtown, but reactionary politics typically brings about bad laws that do nothing to address the real problems in our society. Guns are simply a scapegoat.