Across America, the issue of gun control has driven a wedge between friends and family. Could anything have been done to prevent the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary? Proponents of gun control ask how many more tragedies will it take before something is done, while gun advocates insist that the current gun laws are strict enough. Like with any controversial issue, this is a debate heavily fueled by emotion on both sides. I’d like to break down what we know about the situation and see if any of the proposed ideas to stop future violence would have in fact prevented this senseless tragedy.
Psychological Screenings for All Gun Purchases
According to the description of the gunman by those who knew him, he was most certainly an introvert. Introverts make up 30-40% of the population, so the media’s classification of him being “quiet”, “shy” and “keeping to himself” isn’t as red of a flag as they would have you believe. If it was, that would mean there are over ~120 million potential school shooters walking around America at this very moment. In addition to being introverted, he suffered from Asperger Syndrome. I do not know if Asperger causes violent behavior, but the experts claim that there is no link between the two.
Connecticut has sort of lax laws when it comes to allowing the mentally handicapped to purchase weapons. Under the current system, it’s highly unlikely that the law alone could have prevented him from purchasing a weapon. His behavior and Asperger syndrome may have been enough to stop a store owner from selling him a weapon, but we will never know, because the gunman did not purchase any weapons.
Do I think individuals suffering from Anti-social personality disorder (ASPD), such as infamous cult leader Charles Manson, should be able to purchase a firearm? No. Do we know if the Connecticut gunman had ASPD or a similar disorder? Unfortunately, we do not. If he was ever diagnosed, that information has not yet come to light.
Let’s say for a moment that Connecticut had stricter gun laws, which actually prevent those suffering with violent mental disorders from purchasing guns. Let’s also say that the gunman had been diagnosed with ASPD or something similar. It would not have stopped him from getting access to weapons. Why? Because he stole the weapons from his mother. Even if psychological screenings were in place, she would have been allowed to purchase weapons. This would not have changed the outcome whatsoever.
Assault Weapons Ban
“Assault Weapon” is a complicated term that causes much confusion in the gun control debate. Many Americans claim that they do not support complete gun control, but do support banning military/assault style weapons. Before we can decide one way or another on this issue, we must first know what an Assault Weapon is. I’ve been asking this question for the last week and have yet to get the right answer from anyone pushing for stricter gun laws. The weapon used in the shooting was not an Assault Rifle. In order for a weapon to be an Assault Rifle, it must meet a number of criteria, including the capability to switch to automatic fire. Neither the Bushmaster XM-15 rifle he used nor the civilian AR-15 it is based on are assault rifles as they lack selective automatic fire capabilities.
Should Assault Rifles be banned from civilians? They already are. For the most part, it’s only military and police that have access to such weapons. If Assault Rifles are already banned and if the gunman did not use one, why are they being pushed to the foreground of the debate? Because proponents of gun control legislation know that most people, even those opposed to broader gun control, still support the ban of Assault Rifles. By focusing on this issue, they attempt to convince the public that further gun control legislation is necessary, despite the fact that their proposed laws will have nothing to do with Assault Rifles.
If you watch the video above, you’ll see that there are clear problems distinguishing between a regular hunting rifle and a “mean looking” semi-automatic rifle. There isn’t any easy way to separate the two, which is one of the primary reasons the 1994 Assault Weapon ban was not renewed. How do you enforce a law when there isn’t a clear distinction between the two?
But let’s say for a moment that there was some way to easily distinguish between a semi-automatic Assault Weapon and a regular hunting rifle. If we used that criteria to ban the sale of certain guns, could we have prevented the shooting? No. The gunman also had with him two semi-automatic handguns and a shotgun. Sadly, those weapons would have been just as deadly and taken as many lives as the rifle.
Longer Waiting Periods, Additional Licenses, Gun Registries and Other New Requirements for Purchasing Weapons
As with psychological screening, this wouldn’t have stopped the gunman from stealing weapons from someone who already purchased a weapon legally. His mother had those weapons for longer than any realistic waiting period. A gun registry would not have stopped his rampage. None of this legislation could have prevented the tragedy from taking place nor does it realistically prevent future massacres.
Total Gun Control
With all of the aforementioned arguments and legislation rendered nil, we are left with one last possible solution, total gun control. Could total gun control have prevented the tragedy? In a perfect world, where every gun on the face of the planet magically vanished and no one ever built another weapon again, I would still only say, “maybe.” It is still possible that he would have committed a violent crime using a knife, like the kinds of attacks prevalent in China. But, we don’t live in a perfect world where we can ensure that every gun vanishes the moment gun control is instituted. What about the the hundreds of millions of guns already in circulation?
Even more disturbing, if you attempted to institute total gun control, it would probably send the country into a civil war. This would be the last straw for many who already believe their freedoms and the constitution are under attack. The bloodshed and death toll of a modern civil war would be ten thousand fold everyone ever killed in a school shooting. If you do not think it would send the country into a civil war, consider watching this next video of the late Charlton Heston from when he was President of the NRA.
The main problem with gun control, despite the threat of civil war, is that it just doesn’t work. Guns will still be available, but only to those willing to break the law. Law abiding citizens would be defenseless against these individuals. Gun control advocates argue that this is not the case, but there have been plenty of studies to prove them wrong.
A final remark in one Harvard study states, “If you are surprised by [our] finding[s], so [are we]. [We] did not begin this research with any intent to ‘exonerate’ hand‐ guns, but there it is—a negative finding, to be sure, but a negative finding is nevertheless a positive contribution. It directs us where not to aim public health resources.” The New York Times explains the complex relationship between crime and gun control, citing Justice Breyer on Washington D.C., “comparison with 49 other major cities reveals that the district’s homicide rate is actually substantially higher relative to these other cities than it was before the handgun restriction went into place.” Finally, the Examiner reports more violent crime in Australia despite gun ban. These are just a few of the many examples.
Not only do guns protect citizens from criminals, they also provide protection against a tyrannical government. Living in a democracy, we change regimes every four to eight years. It is very possible that the country may one day unknowingly elect a leader like Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin. Without the means to protect ourselves, we would be helpless to defend against this threat.
From the video below, “I was going through all the exhibits, all the soap and the lampshades made of people skin. While I was looking, I heard a funny noise and there was an old woman maybe two meters from me. She was trying not to cry, she was sort of sobbing very quietly… She obviously had gone through that, that’s when the whole impact of it hit me. And I promised myself I would never be in her situation. I would want to be free, never in a situation where somebody could march us off to ovens or prisons or take away our freedom.”
When tragedy strikes and emotions are high, everyone wants to find an easy solution. If you’ve read through this article, you understand that none of the current issues or ideas being discussed would have actually prevented this tragedy. There is not nor will there ever be an easy solution.
When you live in a free society, people will always be free to make bad choices and hurt others. There is little to nothing you can do to dissuade someone from committing any kind of crime when their plan includes suicide.