Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

How do we keep this from happening again?

Jerry Stratton, October 6, 2017

Imagine this: you’re a police chief or an FBI district chief, and you get a notice from the automated warning system: a man who has twice been investigated because he threatened a terrorist attack has just bought a couple of firearms.

Do you investigate? Of course you do. And when you investigate, you find out that he also tried to buy body armor.

There is no question that you will act immediately to stop this terrorist attack before it happens.

This is the way that the Pulse nightclub attack should have been stopped. In the immediate aftermath, the left tried to turn the attack into a call for more gun control, but when the facts came out it turned out the terrorist would not have been affected by more gun control. He didn’t want to commit a gun crime. He wanted to kill people at a gay bar.

But also when the facts came out, we discovered that law enforcement should have been warned about him ahead of time. The terrorist had twice been investigated for threatening terrorism. The investigation came up inconclusive, with, according to the authorities, not enough evidence to put him in jail or even put him on the no-fly list. But it certainly seemed that there was enough to keep him on the lesser watch list that notifies law enforcement whenever there’s further suspicious activity.

Unfortunately, he was removed from that list.1 So law enforcement was never notified. Conservatives suggested fixing that; the NRA suggested fixing that; the people who had been calling for more gun control moved on to something else. If this has been fixed, I’m unaware of it; FBI Director Comey publicly stated that he didn’t think anything needed to be fixed, once it came out that it was the FBI that had removed the terrorist from the notification list.

The same is true of the Charleston church murderer last December. The law already should have kept him from buying his gun and should have notified law enforcement that he tried, because he had a previous felony narcotics charge against him. But laws to keep people with a record from buying guns don’t work if the records themselves aren’t appropriately handled. There was an obvious fix that would have stopped that shooting, and it did not involve new gun bans. But, again, if it’s been implemented, I’m not aware of it, although at least this time Comey didn’t act as though they’d done nothing wrong.

Once the facts came out, and it became clear that gun control was not the answer, the people who had been crying “do something! do anything!” were no longer in favor of doing anything.

Once the facts come out, there is almost always a solution that would have stopped the crime. But those solutions rarely involve banning guns, so the “we must do something now!” crowd want nothing to do with them.

While it is possible that when the facts come out the Las Vegas murders will turn out to be the rare case where a gun ban might have stopped the killer, it seems extremely unlikely, given the incredible amount of preparation the killer went to. Police are now suggesting that he spent decades preparing for these murders. More gun laws would not have stopped him.

But within a few days or a week, we probably will find some other solution that would have stopped this criminal. The NRA will probably even suggest we implement it. But the ghouls will forget and go on to something else, if not actively oppose an effective solution.

Acting before the facts are in causes more deaths. It kills people because it lets us forget that something effective needs to be done. I’ve just recently finished G.K. Chesterton’s Heresy. In it, he writes that:

And the weakness of all Utopias is this, that they take the greatest difficulty of man and assume it to be overcome, and then give an elaborate account of the overcoming of the smaller ones. They first assume that no man will want more than his share, and then are very ingenious in explaining whether his share will be delivered by motor-car or balloon. — G.K. Chesterton (Heretics)

This is important, because for such people as the Las Vegas terrorist and the Pulse nightclub terrorist, there will always be more and more powerful weapons. There is no stopping the graphs of destruction. Focusing on the weapons used won’t stop murderers from committing murder. Already it becomes easier and easier to 3D-print gun parts; it is already easy to build guns using even moderate garage tools. Every year it becomes easier to acquire and to build biological and chemical and even nuclear weapons.

If we do not address the “greatest difficulty”—that criminals break the law—and instead confine ourselves to elaborate monkeying around at laws that by definition will have no effect on criminals, more people will die, and at an increasing rate.

Most of our “gun deaths” in the United States are suicides. No gun law will stop a person who wants to commit suicide from killing themselves. There are always more ways for a person to commit suicide, and more every year. Unless we address suicide prevention, suicide will only become easier and easier, regardless of any gun law or gun ban. This isn’t even new news. We know from past research that gun laws do not affect suicide rates.

Further, our violent crime doesn’t happen because non-violent people can buy guns. It happens because violent people want to be violent and are allowed to be violent with no repercussions. Gun control won’t affect gang violence, for example, which is the most common form of murderous violence in the United States. Unless we address gang violence itself, it will only become more and more deadly.

Unless we address detection or motive, terrorists and other mass murderers will only become more murderous.

Chesterton was talking about socialist utopianism, not gun control, but it’s the same utopian misdirection. The two go-to arguments of the ghouls who would exploit these deaths before the facts come out are both wrong. Guns are not uniquely deadly, and it does not only happen here. We should know this, but the focus on guns rather than people by the media causes us to forget.

There are always other ways to commit mass murder. Even if you discount the September 11 attacks2, the biggest mass murder in the United States so far was done with a fertilizer bomb in Oklahoma City; for a long time, the biggest was the Happy Land fire that killed 87 people with gasoline. In South Korea, the mass murderer who started the Daegu subway fire killed 192. The terrorist last year who killed 86 people and wounded 458 in Paris did so with a truck.

Terrorists haven’t started using trucks because they don’t have access to guns, but because trucks are more effective at killing people.

I don’t blame people for not remembering that terrorism is not just a provincial problem here in the States. As a blogger I pay attention to this sort of thing and I didn’t even remember the Bataclan attacks from two years ago. The November 2015 Paris attackers, including the Bataclan concert killers, murdered 130 people and injured 413.

The ghouls who would ignore the real problem and instead just ban guns don’t care about those attacks; our news media sucks, and goes along with it. So they get forgotten. And because they’re forgotten, we try to solve the wrong problem, and more people die. We cannot solve a problem this deadly if we trust to the bad data we get from the news.

There are solutions. But they involve fixing real problems, not fake problems. They involve taking the time to craft a real solution, not gleefully spiking long-desired bad law before the blood has even dried. It’s as if these people are waiting for murder with their finger on their twitter button, hoping for more blood so that they can push the same proposals that wouldn’t have worked the last time people died. They are always ready with laws that would not stop the deaths they’re using as a springboard, but often would harm the victims themselves.

Those of us who counsel caution are not saying to do nothing. We’re saying that the ideas that are being pushed forward now by definition would not stop these killings, because we don’t know enough yet about these killings. The proposals being pushed in the media are either rehashed ideas that failed to reduce crime in the past and so were allowed to expire or are bad ideas that will only result in more deaths. They are mostly proposals that only target people who obey the law, not potential mass murderers.

Ignore the ghouls. Once we know how this happened, we’ll have a better idea of how to keep it from happening again. The push to act before thinking, before the facts come in, is almost always a push to enact bad laws before it becomes obvious that they either would not work or would make things worse.

In response to To the ends of the earth: Why don’t we see any evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence? And will we survive long enough to make ourselves known to the universe?

  1. Which makes the left’s calls to block people on the watch list—which does in fact contain many people who will never commit a crime—from buying guns more than disingenuous. They don’t want to stop future crimes. They just want to keep innocent people from exercising their constitutional rights.

  2. Which you should not, if your goal is to reduce the killing rather than just ban guns and let people die.

  1. <- Graphs of freedom
  2. Cycle of Murder ->