There’s Little We Can Do to Prevent Another Massacre

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Megan McArdle states the unpopular truth that there’s little we can do to prevent another massacre:

What Lanza shows us is the limits of the obvious policy responses.  He had all the mental health resources he needed — and he did it anyway.  The law stopped him from buying a gun — and he did it anyway.  The school had an intercom system aimed at stopping unauthorized entry — and he did it anyway.  Any practical, easy-to-implement solution to school shootings that you could propose, along with several that were not at all easy to implement, was already in place.  Somehow, Lanza blew through them all.

Perhaps we need to go farther.  But how far? The one thing we cannot do, though this did not stop many people from suggesting it, is to ban “the types of weapons that make these shootings possible”.  It is easy and satisfying to be for “gun control” in the abstract, but we cannot pass gun control, in the abstract.  We have to pass a specific law that describes very specifically what people may and may not do.  That means we need to carefully specify the features that makes these shootings possible.  And unfortunately, the feature is… “fires metal pellets at high speed”.

You don’t need a special kind of gun to shoot civilians.  You just need a gun. A handgun, a shotgun, and a rifle are all pretty deadly at close quarters, and Lanza went to the school with all three.  (He left the shotgun in the back of a car).  You don’t need a military style rifle, or a high-powered scope, or a pistol grip, or a detachable stock, because concealment is not a big issue, and you don’t need much aim to put a bullet into someone at ten feet.  Nor can you stop these shootings by restricting people to hunting rifles, which for some reason people seem to think are less deadly than regular guns.

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