Gun Control: Be Careful of What You Wish for (with an update).

Wilson, NY, is a rural community located on the southern shore of Lake Ontario about 70 miles west of Rochester and 12 miles east of the Niagara River.  It was the scene of a tragedy on July 24, 2012.  A home blew up and was totally destroyed.  It looked as if a tornado had come through.  It hadn’t.  The cause was a propane leak.  The 14-year old daughter of the owners died.

What does this have to do with gun control you may ask; a lot, actually.  Some of the worst incidents: the April 20, 1999, Columbine, CO, shooting which left 13 dead and the July 20, 2012, Aurora, CO, which left 12 dead, in particular; were done by individuals who were bound and determined to cause as much carnage as they could.

At Columbine, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold used a TEC pistol, a shotgun, 99 explosives, and 4 knives.  One of their weapons was a propane tank that had nails taped to it.  Fortunately, it didn’t function as planned and didn’t explode.   As I pointed out above, propane can create quite an explosion.  From Harris’ writings it was clear he intended to kill and maim as many as he could.  If had been unable to get hold of the pistol and the shotgun he would have devoted more effort to ensuring that the propane alternative worked.  In the school cafeteria where the shootings took place the death toll would have been much greater if the propane tank had exploded.  While no one, least of all me, wants minimize the loss of life caused by these disturbed individuals, it is fortunate that they had obtained the pistol and the shotgun: these are lousy ways to kill lots of people.  Propane tanks are far more deadly.

In Aurora, the alleged perpetrator used tear gas to cause confusion.  He had also booby-trapped his apartment.  The apartment held more than 30 homemade grenades, wired to a control box in the kitchen, and 10 gallons of gasoline. The bombs themselves weren’t sophisticated but the layout was.  Ten gallons of gasoline exploding in the apartment would have brought the whole building down with a consequent loss of innocent life.  Here, again, we find an individual who was determined to kill and maim as many as possible.  He used a rifle with a 100 round magazine.  It jammed, fortunately. He wasn’t aware that those drums are really designed so you don’t have to reload as often when shooting at a rifle range.  Attempts to fire rapidly cause them to jam.  The intricate trap set in his apartment is clear evidence that he would have opted for explosives if he couldn’t have obtained a rifle.

If we go back in time to May 18, 1927, we can see the slaughter caused by explosives.  A Mr. Andrew Kehoe was annoyed about rising property taxes (join the club!) and his deteriorating financial position.  First, he blew up his farmhouse, then turning his attention to the local school he detonated dynamite and hundreds of pounds of pyrotol, an incendiary explosive used by farmers at the time, which he had secretly planted inside over a period of time.  Thirty-eight people were killed, mostly children, in this blast.  As people rushed to the school, Kehoe came in his car which he had filled with scrap metal, shrapnel, and detonated a bomb that was inside his vehicle, killing himself and others. During rescue efforts searchers discovered an additional 500 pounds of unexploded dynamite and pyrotol planted throughout the basement of the school’s other wing.

My point is that more onerous gun control laws will not stop the carnage.  Ninety-nine plus percent of gun owners are law-abiding who would never consider doing anything like these acts.  They are outraged by them.  People intent on doing these types of abominable acts, though, will find a way to do them.  Guns have been around for hundreds of years.  They were made mainly by hand up until the mid-1800s.  Any tool and die maker worth his salt can make one in a garage shop.  Gun control laws, then, will only impact those who would never use who would never use them irresponsibly in the first place.

Let’s assume we do enforce draconian gun control measures, then what.  There will still be individuals who have some perceived gripe against society.  They will find a way to “get even” as we can see by the Columbine killers’ diaries or the actions of Mr. Kehoe in Bath.  What then? Are we going to outlaw gasoline or propane next?

Earlier this year an individual bought a knife in a store in Salt Lake City and started stabbing people.  A bystander who had a concealed carry permit witnessed the attacks.  He drew his pistol and challenged the knife-wielder who decided bringing a knife to a gun fight wasn’t a winning proposition.  He was arrested.  Are we going to outlaw steak knives, too?  How about cars?  They have been used before and probably will be used again to mow down people the driver has a grudge against. Where will it stop?

We have learned that Harris and Klebold had been rather explicit about their intentions and attitudes on their website.  The authorities were knowledgeable about the increasingly deranged and deadly postings.  Nothing was done.  On January 8, 2011, U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot and injured while six people were killed by Jared Loughner.  It is clear that Loughner had serious mental problems but the authorities did nothing.  James Holmes, the alleged Aurora killer, also has serious psychiatric issues.  The common thread is that we, society as a whole, have made it extremely difficult for mental health professionals to inform authorities of their concerns without violating the rights of their patients.  The threshold for committing someone to a psychiatric hospital is quite high these days.  We believe that this is a good thing; we don’t want unscrupulous individuals getting rivals incarcerated just to be rid of them.  This stance, though, has a cost.  Every so often someone will commit a heinous act.  There needs to be a mechanism whereby a medical professional can relate their concerns to the proper authorities similar to getting a warrant.

Today, we have NYC’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, the representative from the nanny state, posturing for more gun control laws.  NY senator Charles Schumer, never one to pass up any TV exposure, wants more laws.  Layering on more ineffectual gun control laws by preening politicians who are urged on by sanctimonious, self-righteous, and ignorant editorial page writers and even less-informed letters-to-the-editor writers will not make a dent in the problem, much less solve it.  There will always be evil people.  Don’t disarm the good people thinking it will make a bit of difference, it won’t.  If the laws are passed, what do you tell the families of future victims, as there assuredly will be,  after it is clear that the laws did nothing.  Rest assured, a sense of complacency will set in with people thinking  “now we are safe.”  Why?  Because the government said so.  Oh, Gertrude!.  More competent regulations in the treatment and control, if you will, of the mentally  disturbed need to be enacted regardless of whether or not they offend the ACLU?  Results matter, not sophomoric symbolism.

Update 8/7/12

Sunday we awoke to the news that a white supremacist had killed six people at a Sikh temple.  The shooter who was killed by a police officer was a member of a neo-nazi rock band.  Described as a “frustrated neo-Nazi,” Page started a “racist white-power” band called  End Apathy in 2005, according to the Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, SPLC.  It said it had been tracking Page for a decade.

Of course, we also witnessed NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg frothing at the mouth, demanding more gun control.   (There have also been reports of killings and maiming with knives but we don’t hear calls to ban knives.)

These killings are a tragedy.  Before we succumb to the mayor’s vision of a more perfect world, though, we need to reflect on the implications.

Drugs are illegal and have been for 75 or more years.  The result has been to spawn a thriving illegal business in importing them and manufacturing them illicitly.  Turf wars between drug dealers account for most of the shootings in America.  When alcohol was illegal in the 1920s the results were similar.

Today, the U.S. has no problem with contraband guns entering the country or the illegal manufacture of them here.  Does any sentient person believe that we could stop the flow of guns if it became lucrative for the bad guys to do so?  Of course not.  We can’t stop the flow of illegal aliens into the U.S.   Guns, especially handguns, can be disassembled and brought over piecemeal and reassembled here.  The costs of trying to interdict this would blow even bigger holes in our budget.  As noted above, any tool & die maker can make guns in his garage.

There is an alternative.  Encourage more people to obtain concealed carry permits.  Most of the thugs who are killing people would think twice if there was the possibility that a potential victim would shoot back.  John Lott’s book, “More Guns, Less Crime, 3rd ed.” documents this.  The police can’t protect us all of the time, in fact, they can’t protect us very much, at all.  It’s not their fault; it is just reality. By making more people able to defend themselves, we are  increasing the amount of effective security.

Again, we need to think before we jump onto the “more gun control” bandwagon.  It will make things worse.

Posted by Jim