John: We’re not going to make it, are we? People, I mean.
Terminator: It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves.
John: Yeah. Major drag, huh?
—Edward Furlong as John Connor, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator in Terminator 2: Judgment Day
There’s a saying among lawyers that bad facts make bad law.
In the wake of last week’s horrifying and tragic school shootings in Connecticut, the usual suspects on the Left were (all-too predictably) immediately out there foaming at the mouth over the need for nationalized gun control. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg (himself surrounded by gun-wielding bodyguards) and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino separately demanded “immediate action” on a “national policy” against guns—as though mayors in New York and Massachusetts have some authority based on a shooting in Connecticut to impose limitations on the citizens of, say, Texas. Never mind that Connecticut already has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, and that didn’t seem to stop Friday’s rampage.
By the way, gentlemen, have you seen how dangerous Chicago and Washington, D.C. are, despite the fact that you almost can’t legally possess a gun there at all?
Rupert Murdoch, in his infinite wisdom, called for politicians to find “the courage to ban automatic weapons.” Of course, automatic weapons are already for all practical purposes banned in the U.S. But the better point is that Murdoch’s reflexive response to the Connecticut tragedy ignorantly misplaces the blame; the Connecticut shooter didn’t use any automatic weapons. In fact, while I couldn’t readily find any statistics, I’d wager that few people, if any, have been killed in the U.S. by a truly automatic weapon in private hands since the days of Dillinger and Capone.
It is natural for us to want to respond to something like the Connecticut tragedy. As human beings we want to control events and make sure that something like that never happens again. But we tend to make bad overgeneralizations and faulty causal connections when we seek to find reason in the unreasonable. The fact is our history is replete with people who kill people—lots of people—without guns.
The three most prolific serial killers in U.S. history didn’t use guns at all. Gary Ridgway, who killed at least 71 people, strangled his victims. Ted Bundy decapitated or bludgeoned his 35 victims. John Wayne Gacy stabbed or strangled 33. No gun ban, automatic or otherwise, would have had any impact on these killers.
In fact, when you look at the list of twentieth century multiple-killers in the U.S. (check out Wikipedia on this—there are too many separate instances for me to use individual citation links), you see the majority either didn’t use guns at all, or used them sporadically and more as a weapon of opportunity (or killed in the course of an armed robbery). That list includes some of the more notorious killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer (bludgeons and other perversions) and Ted Kaczynski, (the “Unabomber”). Not on the list was the Manson Family, who did most of their deadly work with knives. Granted, the list excludes “rampage killers”—and I’ll get to that—but of the 88 U.S. mass murderers I counted, only twenty (less than 25%) used guns as their primary M.O., and seven of those had five or fewer victims. By far the more common choices were strangulation (35) and/or stabbing/slashing and bludgeoning (35). Obviously we can’t outlaw kitchen knives, rocks, and bare hands, but that’s where we have to go if we follow the knee-jerk logic, because they’re more commonly used to kill multiple victims than the guns we’re hearing once again have to be banned.
Rusty, those people only killed one or two at a time. What about the rampage killers who go kill a bunch of people at once?
To be sure, there have been incidents where gunmen have killed large numbers of people at one time. But let’s put that in a little bit of perspective. The largest single-event mass murder in U.S. history took place on September 11, 2001, costing 2,996 lives—I would venture that that outnumbers all other U.S. mass murders combined, including binge killers who used guns. Their weapons of choice were Boeing 757s and 767s; not one of the killers had a gun, not even to hijack the airplanes, which was done with 50-cent box-cutters. And that’s not the only time airplanes have been used to commit mass murder. I count at least four other murderers who killed their victims by hijacking and crashing commercial aircraft in the U.S. Every one of them racked up a single-event death toll higher than that in Connecticut or any other gun-related rampage killing ever in the U.S..
Are we going to ban commercial air traffic?
Timothy McVeigh used $250 worth of commercial fertilizer to fashion the truck bomb he used to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. He killed 168, again a total several multiples higher than the highest number anyone in the U.S. has killed on a shooting spree. And like the Connecticut shootings, many of his victims were children.
Are we going to ban fertilizer? Better warn the ethanol producers, GM, EPA, and the Obama administration if you do.
We can go on. Jack Kevorkian (“Dr. Death”) participated in some 130 assisted suicides (most, it turns out, with people who had no physical sign of disease) by administering overdoses of prescription drugs. In 1997, 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult killed themselves with a cocktail of Phenobarbital, vodka, arsenic, and cyanide. Any number of arsonists have killed hundreds over the years. And don’t even get me started on the hundreds of thousands of innocent lives taken every year by Planned Parenthood, all with government imprimatur and the insanely rabid cheering of the very same Leftists who shriek about gun control.
And that’s just the intentional killings.
My point here is not to deny that there are those who misuse guns to kill people, sometimes on a tragically large scale. Unfortunately, they do. My point is mass killers use a lot of other things, too, and banning guns isn’t going to stop people from killing people.
The uncomfortable, but undeniable, fact is there is evil in the world. Violent, vicious evil. It’s as old as Mankind itself: Cain killed Abel, and he didn’t need a gun to do it. This evil is unpredictable except in its inevitability, and you can’t legislate or regulate it away. There are simply a certain number of people out there who, for whatever reason, are programmed, destined, or genetically predisposed to commit unspeakable acts of massive horror. Yes, they may use a gun. But for every psycho-killer who uses a gun, there are one or more who use a common household item, a construction tool, or even their bare hands. Taking the guns away isn’t going to stop that. It might not even stop many of those who end up using guns; if they’re hell-bent on committing large-scale evil, they’ll either obtain the gun illegally or just look to a different weapon to do it.
On the flip-side, for every Adam Lanza, there are a million or more of us who responsibly and safely own guns. Each of us has our reasons. Some own for sustenance. Some for sport. Some professionally. And some for self-defense. All are legitimate reasons, but the more important point is it doesn’t matter why each of us owns guns: the Constitution absolutely and unequivocally guarantees our right to do so, no matter what Michael Bloomberg or Barack Obama or Piers Morgan says:
A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
“Shall not be infringed.” Period. And there’s a serious reason why the Framers did this.
Our Fathers understood all too well that at the end of the day, the only line of defense against a tyrannical government is a well-armed citizenry. They fought and won a war for their independence against the best-armed, best-trained, best-equipped professional army on the planet, and they did so in large part with the use of their own private guns. Without private arms, we’d all be British subjects today.
I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating. One of the first acts of a would-be dictator is to disarm the public, because people are much easier to control when they can’t shoot back. That’s what Hitler did. That’s what Lenin did. That’s what Mao did. That’s what Pol Pot did. That’s what Idi Amin did. Think you can own a gun in North Korea? Iran?
My heart cries out for the victims of the Connecticut shootings and their families. But we cannot allow our natural human emotional reaction to an unspeakable tragedy lead us to sacrifice our fundamental freedoms—and the ultimate backstop for them—in a misguided knee-jerk effort to regulate away evil, which will always be with us.