More Guns, More Killing

March 11, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

You know what the responses will be even before you read them. The anti-gun side will point to the shootings in Alabama and say, “Look what happens in a place where any nut can get his hands on two AK-47s or M-16s and a .38.” The pro-gun faction will point to the shootings in
Germany and say, “See, even strict gun laws can’t prevent this sort of thing.”

Either way, it’s hard to make the “more guns, less crime” argument, though I’m sure John Lott will try. If only everyone in those Alabama towns had been carrying a handgun, so goes this line of reasoning, someone would have shot the guy after he’d killed only a few people. Given the circumstances of the killings, that seems unlikely. And given Alabama’s gun laws, quite possibly some of those victims or people nearby did have guns. The police officers who chased him certainly did, though as far as their own safety is concerned, their bullet-proof vests were far more important than their weapons.

In both these cases, the killings were possible only because the killer had access to very lethal weapons. Yes Germany has strict gun laws, but the killer’s father had eighteen guns in the house, and they were probably all legal. He was what some people would call a “gun nut.” Others use the term “gun enthusiast.” (We like enthusiasm, so it’s O.K. to have your own private arsenal just so long as you’re enthusiastic about it.)

Here’s my prediction for what will happen. Some European countries, maybe even Germany, will make their gun laws even tighter. In the US, people will shake their heads, cry, pray, and focus on the personal stories of the killer and victims. Will Alabama or any of the easy-gun states change their laws? Of course not.

Here in the US, we will focus on individual explanations. “Authorities Search For a Motive,” says the CNN headline. Gee, it’s a shame what happened, but what can you do? There’s just no way to predict when someone will snap.

European authorities will think in situational terms: how can we change the situation so that no matter how angry or deranged someone is, he can’t commit this level of slaughter?”

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