This is was written as a comment on this NYT piece. I’ve made it much longer here because the NYT limits space.
Restricting access to firearms will never stop these kinds of attacks. As a society we need to resolve ourselves that some people are crazy and will drive cars into crowds, shoot other people en mass, and otherwise engage in spree killings.
Many believe it’s as simple as restricting access a/k/a gun control. But what happens when a police officer’s gun is stolen? What should we do with the 5+ million firearms already owned? What about hunters? People who think that food comes from a store don’t have decent solutions that play nationally.
Vermont has nearly no restrictions on firearm ownership or concealed carry. One never hears of people shooting-up a Home Depot in Vermont. Why should Vermont be required to change their laws – which appear to work and the citizens clearly want – because of actions in New York or Colorado?
In Chicago (where I live) we have the most restrictive gun laws in the country. It’s not working. In addition to gangs using guns to solve problems they routinely use knives. In Chicago over 500 people are stabbed each year. Should we outlaw knives?
Chicago has also been the city where three times in as many years we’ve made national news because people have been beaten with baseball bats or a 2×4. One Irish girl is still in a coma as a result of a beating; another H.S. student is dead. Dozens of others have been seriously injured. Should Chicago ban baseball bats and lumber?
Additionally, at least 4 kids have drowned at local pools and the lake this year. Should we close them too?
Of course the last example are accidents. I recently read a story about “who’s to blame” for the recent drownings. The story quoted one dead child’s uncle who asked where the lifeguards were. I wondered where we was. It is not patently irresponsible for a parent to send a child to a pool if they cannot adequately swim? While the parents may be negligent, they surely did not intend for their children to drown. That’s a very very different situation from Colorado — that is recognized.
But accidents deserve to be included in the analysis because of how society reacts to the event. And also because how society deals with “means” vs. “ends”. The end result is the same, people are dead. We as a society accept that while tragic, we should not close down pools and beaches because they take hundreds of lives each year. We believe those losses are tragic but the risk / reward (pleasure) ratio is acceptable.
This is similar to driving. Traffic accidents kill over 40,000 people each year. We believe that the risk of being injured or dying in a traffic accident is acceptable given the benefit we receive by not having to walk everywhere (or take a horse which is probably more dangerous.)
As a society we do our best to reduce the risks. At pools and beaches we employ lifeguards. In Chicago lifeguards are paid for by the taxpayer who may or may not utilize them. On the roads we have laws against drunk driving; we don’t let 12 year-olds drive either. We, through our government, demand that cars have seat belts and air bags. It appears that society in general is content with the risk / reward balance. But of course we could do more.
It would be very easy for the government to mandate that every vehicle be equipped with a sobriety tester. It would prevent drunks from driving.
We, through our government, could also mandate a speed control device on all cars so that they’re limited to the speed limit. It would prevent high speed crashes not to mention high speed police chases.
Why do we not have these existing technologies in our cars already? Because society does not want them. We’re happy with the balance of risk / reward that is involved with driving. We value our freedom to drive drunk and fast more than we demand additional safety.
And that is how we need to address gun control. Do we wish to give up more freedom in order to provide more safety? And would we in fact be safer with less freedoms? Those are two different questions.
There is no doubt that lifeguards and air bags save lives.
There is a lot of doubt as to banning guns would save any lives.
The facts are clear that More Guns Equal Less Crime.
So however tragic the recent events in Colorado may be, further restrictions on our freedom will not result in additional safety.
We morn those who we’ve lost. We pray for their families. We struggle to find answers to unanswerable questions.
But most importantly, we get on with our lives recognizing that evil is present in the world and that bad things happen to good people. In the end we also know that we cannot prevent these events from happening by passing additional laws.