With the horrifically tragic mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado yesterday, any attempt to politicize the story for political gain should be discouraged. Even reading up on the facts of the shooting left my stomach in knots and brought tears to my eyes, so I couldn’t imagine using it to write a snarky piece criticizing my opponents.
However, because this situation has already begun the process of politicization, and public policy proposals will, no doubt, result from it, I think it important to revisit the facts surrounding gun control, particularly in relation to multiple-victim or mass shootings.
Again, this is not a piece lamenting “if only one of these victims had a gun on them” (in fact, because of the hauntingly peculiar details of this shooting, I doubt whether this statistical knowledge on the mass shootings would even apply here), but rather a collection of information that should be used in a discussion with those who propose stricter gun control policies to reduce public shootings. Just because our normal political revelries should temporarily cease doesn’t mean our assessment of knowledge should also.
(Data referenced in this article is retrievable. See Lott, J. R. (2010). More guns, less crime: Understanding crime and gun-control laws. (3 ed.). The University of Chicago Press.)
The theory of gun control is that if people don’t have access to these dangerous weapons, then gun crime can be severely decreased, if not eradicated. However, this is not how it plays out in real life. Here are some findings about gun control and mass shootings by PhD economist and gun crime expert John Lott.
Between 1977 and 1992, ten states adopted nondiscretionary concealed-handgun laws. The data collected from after the new laws were enacted show that the mean per-capita death rate from mass shootings dropped 69-percent. Lott expounds: “although the total number of deaths and injuries from mass public shootings actually rises slightly immediately after a nondiscretionary concealed-handgun law is implemented, it quickly falls after that, with the rate reaching zero five years after the law is enacted.”
Simply put, when a gunman is left to shoot, uninterrupted by a civilian with a gun on hand, more people die. Very restrictive gun control, like not allowing concealed-carry, will guarantee that no civilian has the means by which to shoot back to end such a massacre. The assailant, however, will always have means of getting his hands on a gun illegally.
More evidence of this is that since 1997, the two school shootings (out of eight total) with the least amount of people injured or killed were both stopped by citizens with guns (before police even arrived at the scene).
In one of the shootings, the assistant principal of a high school in Pearl, Miss., prevented the shooter from continuing his rampage at the nearby junior high school, where he could have killed countless more victims. The assistant principal retrieved his .45-caliber pistol from his pickup and apprehended the shooter until police arrived.
Moreover, in the study of states that enacted right-to-carry laws between 1977 and 1999, the overall occurrence of multiple-victim shootings dropped by a remarkable 67-percent. “Deaths from all these shootings plummeted by 75 percent, and injuries by 81 percent.”
In all this data, there’s a stunningly consistent trend that very much favors concealed-carry: gunmen prefer unarmed targets, and they will scope out their targets to find those most likely to be unarmed. In states that have right-to-carry laws, the very rare mass shootings tend to happen “in particular places where concealed handguns are forbidden, such as schools.” It’s all the same in a gunman’s eyes: localities where citizens are prohibited from carrying firearms are just as good of targets as gun free zones such as schools. For more on concealed-carry on campus, see my colleague Christine Rousselle’s piece here.
Back in 1999, the attacker who wounded five at a Jewish community center in Granada Hills, Calif., had originally planed a more grand scale attack at more populous Jewish attractions like the Museum of Tolerance or the Skirball Cultural Center, but finding the security too “tight,” chose the less protected location of a rural community center to open fire. Unarmed targets are sitting ducks.
The bias against guns in the national media is partly to blame for the public’s ignorance on the subject. Most people think that more young children die from accidental gun accidents than drown in five-gallon water buckets or suffocate while sleeping with their parents each year, even though the opposite is true. Many of the stories of gun deaths that you hear are the most tragic stories like the shootings in Aurora or at Columbine. Rarely, if ever, are you likely to hear the stories of a person brandishing their gun to save their life, with no death or serious injury resulting. The plain fact is: guns save lives. Use these facts to take back the narrative.
There has yet to be an instance where the adoption of right-to-carry laws has increased the rate or severity of mass shootings. Quite the opposite is true. Criminals will always participate in illegal behavior; disarming law-abiding citizens is a nonsensical solution to reducing these terrible crimes.
My heart aches for the deaths in Aurora, and I’m angered at the evil that these murderers embrace, but I will not allow my emotions to cloud my judgment and I will not support policies that will lead to more needless deaths.
Keith Fierro | Cal State Fullerton | @KJFierro