A lot of opinions about guns and gun control are flying about in response to the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., last Friday. David Kopel of the Independence Institute serves up some facts:
The 1980s were much worse than today in terms of overall violent crime, including gun homicide, but they were much better than today in terms of mass random shootings. The difference wasn’t that the 1980s had tougher controls on so-called “assault weapons.” No assault weapons law existed in the U.S. until California passed a ban in 1989.
Connecticut followed in 1993. None of the guns that the Newtown murderer used was an assault weapon under Connecticut law. This illustrates the uselessness of bans on so-called assault weapons, since those bans concentrate on guns’ cosmetics, such as whether the gun has a bayonet lug, rather than their function.
What some people call “assault weapons” function like every other normal firearm—they fire only one bullet each time the trigger is pressed. […]
[M]any of these attacks today unfortunately take place in pretend “gun-free zones,” such as schools, movie theaters and shopping malls. According to Ron Borsch’s study for the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato, active shooters are different from the gangsters and other street toughs whom a police officer might engage in a gunfight. They are predominantly weaklings and cowards who crumble easily as soon as an armed person shows up.
The problem is that by the time the police arrive, lots of people are already dead. So when armed citizens are on the scene, many lives are saved. The media rarely mention the mass murders that were thwarted by armed citizens at the Shoney’s Restaurant in Anniston, Ala. (1991), the high school in Pearl, Miss. (1997), the middle-school dance in Edinboro, Penn. (1998), and the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. (2007), among others.
If we want explanations, Kopel suggests we stop obsessing about guns and examine the role of the media in turning mass shooters into celebrities and the deinstitutionalization of the violently mentally ill. [Wall Street Journal, December 17]