Demonstrators hold signs during a protest in favor of gun control reform in front of the White House, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
There will always be war. We fight for peace, but there will always be war.
There will always be hate. We teach and preach love, but there will always be hate.
There will always be murder. We punish it and try to predict it, but there will always be murder. You can’t control some things. You can’t even gun control some things.
Some people get angry if you point this out. They are frustrated with making this part of the argument because they think it is irrelevant to whether or not you should try to end murder. But it’s not. It’s not irrelevant, it’s not moot, it’s not a straw man. The point matters. And I intend to belabor this in extreme and painstakingly simple detail below.
You have to accept the premise that there is no ability to control the world into perfection.
It cannot be done, and acceptance of that fact will change what you think can be done to lessen imperfection. If you accept that we can never end the concept of crime, the practice of crime, then you won’t advocate, for example, genetically modifying people to make them not want to commit crime. Instead you will do something more realistic, practical, and effective, like use punishment as a deterrent.
You cannot stop even the concept of mass killings such as in Las Vegas or Parkland. Yes, you can try to prevent individual cases, and you can even try to create conditions that make it very unlikely such mass killings will happen, but you have to first accept the premise, really accept it, that they will never be eliminated. Because once you accept it, then you won’t advocate for unrealistic or ineffective methods to make positive change. Instead you will do something more realistic, practical, and effective.
Let us stipulate that gun controls are neither inherently good nor inherently bad. We have gun control in America right now. It already exists.
When people (leftists and Democrats) say “Republicans won’t allow gun control,” that’s false. We already have it. We control who can own a gun (licensing, background checks), we control what type of gun you can own (no automatic weapons), we control where you can have a gun, when you can have a gun, how you carry that gun, how many bullets you can have in the gun. We control guns.
I would further add that the gun control we have needs to be fixed. Not only do we have a problem with enforcement, we have a glaring problem of implementation. A law that isn’t being used or isn’t being properly enforced isn’t really a law at all. “Reform” was good for taxes. It is generally speaking good for anything done by government, if by reform you mean repair. But the fact remains that gun control exists already. We have gun control now.
And that’s fine. Most Americans are generally fine with it. Which is exactly why it is so stupid when leftists say “nobody wants to take your guns away” while also saying “we don’t have gun control.” If what we have is NOT gun control, then what IS?
You already know what they mean. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that the intent of groups like Moms Demand Action or the hysterically angry celebrities and activists on social media after a shooting who spit on prayers and say nobody ever does anything to control guns aren’t really just aiming to take them away. Let’s say for the sake of argument that they genuinely just want to take reasonable steps to make sure that school shootings never happen.
If that’s so, then the problem is that they just don’t have very good ideas. Probably because they refuse to accept the reality that we can never end mass killings. They don’t have practical or effective ideas. They instead have a philosophical point of view, which is that “gun control stops killers with guns” and they operate solely on that basis. If someone murders someone with a gun, then it is a given that guns were not controlled enough. That’s their operating parameter.
But of course, that means that even if they don’t think their intent is to take all guns, it’s what they’re working for. It’s simple logic.
If gun murders will always happen, and every instance of murder with a gun is proof that guns weren’t controlled enough, then that means that guns must be controlled out of existence to stop instances of murder.
Let me repeat that. If gun murders will always happen, and every instance of murder with a gun is proof that guns weren’t controlled enough, then that means that guns must be controlled out of existence to stop instances of murder. They must be taken away. It’s the inevitable logic. If one accepts, as leftists do, that all gun crime is because a gun wasn’t controlled, this is the only conclusion.
People who believe the premise that all gun murder is a failure of gun control believe, by necessity, whether they admit or even recognize it or not, that all guns must be taken away to prevent murder. It’s really that simple.
But that really, simply won’t won’t work at all. You cannot uninvent guns. They will always be here. And there will always be people who kill with them, no matter how much gun control there is. People have been killed with guns in England. There have been mass shootings in France. It is false to say that gun control would prevent mass killings. It already hasn’t. And more of the same already wouldn’t have.
So it all comes down to the issue of how much can be done to prevent something specific, like a school shooting, and what is the most effective way to do it, and at what cost. And yes, the cost matters.
We could turn schools into windowless maximum security facilities, make all persons enter the premises nude, and escort every child to and from school via police cruiser. Should we? No. The societal and monetary cost is too much, even to prevent school shootings. So yes, it matters at what cost. I mean that in the broadest sense, of course, not merely a dollar amount.
We can’t turn schools into prisons and we can’t remove the threat of gun violence from the world and we can’t even use increasingly onerous gun control measures to ensure that someone with access to a gun won’t try to murder students at a school. It simply can’t be done.
We could ban AR-15s because they are so frequently the weapon of choice and so many people hate them. Let’s say we do that. They are one trigger pull, one shot, just like any other commercial semi-automatic, and their resemblance to automatic weapons is cosmetic and superficial, but they have now a reputation and perceived status. So let’s say, for example, they were taken away. With them gone, could someone still kill 17 people exactly as easily if we take only that step? Yes, they can. Exactly as easily. It would not increase the difficulty or reduce the risk at all. Not by any percent.
Is taking useless steps that won’t reduce the risk really the best way to deal with a serious situation? No, it isn’t. Of course it isn’t.
So we can’t make schools into prisons, taking away AR-15s won’t work, taking away all guns in the world is literally impossible (not practically impossible, but literally. It truly cannot be done.) So what, then?
What should people of good conscience do about this obvious problem that America uniquely suffers from? How do we stop or even lessen this madness?
An obvious answer is “we figure out why they happen.” But that is also another useless and ineffective answer. We’ve been trying that for some time now. Yet here we are. The psychology of the act, the reproducibility, the media appeal, the conditions that lead to the angry shooter … we look at all these. We have in the past, we are in the present, we will in the future. But that’s not what is effective now. It hasn’t been. There is no reason to think it will be.
For my part, I think we have spent too much time focusing on fixing the shooter and fixing the weapon and not enough on fixing everyone else. And at National Review, David French agrees.
Mass shootings are among the most premeditated of crimes, often planned months in advance. The shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School reportedly wore a gas mask, carried smoke grenades, and set off the fire alarm so that students would pour out into the hallways. Though we’ll obviously learn more in the coming days, each of these things suggests careful preparation. A man who is determined to kill and who is proactive in finding the means to kill will find guns. He can modify guns. He can find magazines.
But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do. When policies fail, people can and should rise to the occasion. Looking at the deadliest mass shootings since Columbine, we see that the warning signs were there, time and again. People could have made a difference.
French, referencing Malcolm Gladwell, refers to the wave of school shooting since Columbine as a “contagion.”
Gladwell argues that each new shooting lowers the threshold for the shooters to come. Each new shooting makes it easier for the next shooter to pick up his gun.
Others have used the term “contagion” to describe the wave of copycat killers. Again, each killing inspires the next, and as the killings increase so does the inspiration.
French argues we must all be aware of this phenomenon, and recognize that policy and Washington won’t, can’t address it. His prescription, which I suggest you read in detail here, is that people, those who know the at risk (meaning at risk to be a victim, at risk to be a shooter) intervene, be aware, take steps, be vigilant.
Every American should be aware of the possibility of danger and be prepared. Like David and millions of other Americans, I am a gun owner. I believe that is the responsible choice. I know guns exist. I know killers exist. I think it is madness to deprive oneself of protection.
Buy a gun.
But again, the question here is not merely the one of individual safety but of societal safety from this obvious harm. As with international terrorism, it’s not enough to simply argue that a person be prepared for it, but also to try and stop as much as we can. The FBI and our other law enforcement and intelligence agencies wage an active war against terrorism, attempting to detect it and successfully disrupting and protecting against it every day. It’s not so unreasonable to think we should do the same with regard to mass shootings. Try to make headway.
But to return to my belabored style from above, we already know that policy isn’t an effective method, deterrence hasn’t worked, gun control has already not worked, we can’t un-invent guns, and we can’t remove murder from the human condition entirely. We know that examining what has led these events is important but not necessarily preventative. So what? What then?
I don’t know. We don’t know. It is possible the answer is that there is nothing that can be done. I hope not, but that is a possibility.
But I don’t think so. There are some things we can do. I know we can take steps. We can’t turn schools into prisons but we could increase the security. Can there be any doubt left that having armed persons on campus would help? The shooting Wednesday was particularly deviously planned. But even under those conditions a security officer with a gun, even a teacher with a gun, may have made all the difference.
If you can step out of your philosophical trap (the trap that says all shootings are failures of gun control) and will accept for the sake of argument my premise (that you cannot stop these things from happening) and put yourself in the position of the parent of a teenager in high school, would you want your teenager to have an advantage to stay alive? Wouldn’t you care more about your teenager surviving than about a principle of government gun control? Wouldn’t you rather your child have a means of escape, a method of protection, access to some technology that could save them, or a superhero there to protect them?
Of course you would. I would. So if you would want your child to have some advantage that ensured they survive, then you should want that advantage for all of the children. In the moment, if your kid is being shot at, you want someone to kill the shooter. You want someone to shoot them.
Then let’s do that. Let’s have someone who can shoot them. This is not mysterious. Their safety trumps your political pose or your wish to see yourself as opposed to guns in all forms. “I don’t believe in guns” won’t kill the shooter. A person shooting the shooter will kill the shooter. A trained person. A guard. A cop. That’s what kills them. Not “I don’t believe in guns.”
Wanting, therefore, to allow trained, armed persons to be available at a school is a true no-brainer. Any objection is you deciding that your political cause is worth more than a child’s life. You’re choosing dead kids.
On the other side, it’s important to grant the premise that taking a gun away from someone is not inherently evil. Taking all guns is dangerous, but taking, for example, a felon’s gun before incarcerating him is perfectly reasonable. Those on the right should also accept a bare premise, philosophically, even though it may seem moot or irrelevant. That premise is that sometimes you want to prevent someone from owning or using a gun.
If you could have stopped the Parkland shooter, you would have. If you knew who he was, what he was capable of, if you saw him headed to the school, you would have disarmed him. I would have.
That is not a pointless hypothetical. It’s absolutely essential that you philosophically accept this premise. Because then you are going to be more realistic, practical, and effective when you’re working with your fellow Americans to help prevent school shootings.
So yes, there are many things that can be done both to ease our fears, increase the safety of children, and reach agreement in America. There are things we can do that aren’t the extremes of destroying all guns or giving everyone their own missile launcher.
For a specific example, because I know I can’t just write in hypotheticals, reducing access is important. And I don’t just mean “access to guns”. How about access to schools?
It’s not foolproof but it’s important. Businesses do it every day in buildings all across the country, via keycards or security desk. They do it while maintaing fire safety and the expense is worth it to them. It should be worth it to us. Will you pay more local taxes if it means they can implement better security systems at schools? I will.
Naturally, that’s just a single item. It’s an example. We can (and should) improve background checks and procedures. Do better, as I mentioned in my opening paragraphs.
And these are just presentations of theory, I’m not proposing specific, already written legislation or offering a cost analysis (though I think an estimated $10 billion dollar investment in school security would be more than reasonable and a drop in the bucket of government spending), but the point is that there are a lot of things you can do, or just try. Because everyone wants to do something.
Nobody is thinking “hey we have the correct amount of school shootings, let’s do nothing.” Not even the NRA. They may say that more control won’t help, but they only say that because it is so obviously true.
If you really care, you should be willing to try things that aren’t your idea. Saying it’s more gun control or nothing is saying “let’s do nothing.” You’re putting your policy goals ahead of human life.
And for my part, I’d be willing to accept more controls, or better implementation of existing controls, useless though some may be, in exchange for getting the left to take actual common sense measures that might actually do something.
If, for example, they wanted to get the AR-15 off the market in exchange for allowing every school in America to have armed security and teachers, then I’d make that trade and slippery slopes in either direction be damned. It’d have to be done through some kind of pressure, probably not legal in nature, but I’d make that trade. I’ll go to your protest march in exchange for you supporting security legislation. A trade. Your idea for mine. Fine.
But that is because I actually care about preventing more murders than we currently prevent. Do you?
There will always be war, hate, murder, crime, and killing. We can only do our best to limit these things and lessen their impact. We can only try to protect who we can protect. We can’t end these things forever. It’s important to accept that. Because once you do, you are open to practical solutions rather than philosophical ones. You can stop chasing the fantasy of a gun free world and start saving the lives of actual children going to school every day.
One thing is certain, we’re truly facing a crisis of faith in our institutions and over our future. Gun control is, philosophically, more up for debate now than ever before. Kimberly Ross has an important take here. President Trump is banning bump stocks. And on Wednesday night, the nation will see victims of the school shooting taking part in a town hall on CNN, where Sen. Rubio will be participating, discussing it all. One way or another, decisions are going to be made this year. That, too, is inevitable.