The Horror In Newtown: Blog Reax

Dec 14 2012 @ 4:22pm


Fallows wonders when America will learn its lesson:

Guns don't attack children; psychopaths and sadists do. But guns uniquely allow a psychopath to wreak death and devastation on such a large scale so quickly and easily. America is the only country in which this happens again — and again and again. You can look it up.

Ezra adds:

Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. But that’s unacceptable. As others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn’t "too soon." It’s much too late.

Eugene Volokh rounds up instances of citizens with guns confronting shooters:

[I]t appears that civilians armed with guns are sometimes willing to intervene to stop someone who had just committed a mass shooting in public. In what fraction of mass shootings would such interventions happen, if gun possession were allowed in the places where the shootings happen? We don’t know. In what fraction would interventions prevent more killings and injuries, as opposed to capturing or killing the murderer after he’s already done? We don’t know. In what fraction would interventions lead to more injuries to bystanders? Again, we don’t know.

Finally, always keep in mind that mass shootings in public places should not be the main focus in the gun debate, whether for gun control or gun decontrol: They on average account for much less than 1% of all homicides in the U.S., and are unusually hard to stop through gun control laws (since the killer is bent on committing a publicly visible murder and is thus unlikely to be much deterred by gun control law, or by the prospect of encountering an armed bystander).

Tom Jacobs reviews research on gun control:

[I]f you hear the argument "Gun control wouldn’t have prevented tragedies like the one in Connecticut," the answer is: That’s probably true. But it would lessen the likelihood of a lot of other, smaller tragedies that receive less publicity, but still cause enormous pain.

Frum weighs in:

A permissive gun regime is not the only reason that the United States suffers so many atrocities like the one in Connecticut. An inadequate mental health system is surely at least as important a part of the answer, as are half a dozen other factors arising from some of the deepest wellsprings of American culture. Nor can anybody promise that more rational gun laws would prevent each and every mass murder in this country. Gun killings do occur even in countries that restrict guns with maximum severity. But we can say that if the United States worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be many, many fewer atrocities like the one in Connecticut.

Goldblog's advice on how to prevent such shootings:

We must find a way to make it more difficult for the non-adjudicated mentally ill to come into possession of weapons. This is crucially important, but very difficult, because it would require the cooperation of the medical community — of psychiatrists, therapists, school counselors and the like — and the privacy issues (among other issues) are enormous. But: It has to be made more difficult for sociopaths, psychopaths and the violently mentally-ill (who, in total, make up a small portion of the mentally ill population) to buy weapons.

What Ambinder would do

The answer to me is fairly obvious: Everyone who wants to have access to a gun can do so provided they register their weapon and get state-sanctioned training. The types of guns that people can carry on their persons ought to be limited to those made legitimately for self-defense. The gun show loophole should be closed; with the exception of family-to-family transactions or old weapons given as gifts, every sale or exchange of a weapon must be registered. The instant background check will be replaced for new gun owners with a state-approved training course that includes a more extensive background check. (Each state course would have to meet basic federal guidelines but could differ in the particulars.)

Alex Koppelman considers the politics:

We are, all of us, angry now. Bewildered. And those of us who support gun control are perhaps maddest of all—right now. When it comes to Election Day, though, it’s the pro-gun people whose vote is most likely to be determined by this one issue. Those who want tighter restrictions, well, they typically have higher priorities to consider first. Put simply, supporting gun control is unlikely to help your typical politician much, but it’s very likely to hurt them. And Democrats know the numbers: they can’t lose any more white voters than they already have, especially not white voters in union families. And a lot of union households are gun-owning households, too.

And Alyssa sighs:

I really want someone who advocates against gun control to balance the scales for me, to go ahead and try to explain to me why the inconvenience suffered by gun owners and prospective gun owners under much tighter restrictions on the purchase of guns and ammunition outweighs the death of children in their classrooms, a place where they’re not just supposed to be safe, but to thrive. Explain to me why their suffering is worse than that of the people who died, and lost family members, in the rampage at Aurora, Colorado, where they were drawn to a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises out of enthusiasm, because it’s a time when parents with infants can see a movie and trust that they’ll sleep through the screening. Please, balance out for me, the loss of Gabby Giffords’ potential with impatience at a waiting period, or frustration at not being able to fire a certain number of bullets per minute.

Because this is the choice we make, every time. And I’m terrified to watch us make it again.

(Photo: A National Park Service employee lowers flags at the base of the Washington Monument to half staff after President Barack Obama ordered the action while speaking on the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School December 14, 2012 in Washington, DC. Obama called for 'meaningful action' in the wake of the latest school shooting that left 27 dead, including 20 children. By Win McNamee/Getty Images)