What “Common Sense Gun Law” Would Have Stopped the Attack on Gabrielle Giffords?

In the wake of the atrocity perpetrated by a deranged man in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, pundits, broadcasters, government officials, and pretty much everyone else with an opinion have rushed to comment on the who, what, when, why, and how of the situation – often without any evidence to back up their claims.

The new rallying cry among the left is “common sense gun laws.” For example, Colin Goddard, a victim of the Virginia Tech shooting, rails against Arizona for not having the following laws:

“No laws to protect children from adults who leave guns unlocked.

No laws to require a license with a purchase.

No laws to require mandatory reporting of stolen guns.

No laws requiring fingerprinting, or the micro-stamping of guns.

No laws limiting how many guns can be purchased every month.

No laws requiring background checks for purchasing ammunition.

No laws requiring that law enforcement have a say in who can carry concealed weapons, as Jared Loughner is accused of doing.

No assault weapons restrictions, and no restrictions, as we sadly saw, on how many rounds can be in high-capacity magazines — magazines that declare and wage war on innocents.”

None of these laws would have stopped Loughner from attacking Congresswoman Giffords and the people gathered outside that Safeway. Nor would they have stopped Seung-Hui Cho, Nidal Hassan, etc.

Are we really supposed to believe that had Jared Loughner been illegally carrying a concealed weapon, he would not have done what he did? Nidal Hassan shot Soldiers on an Army base, where concealed carry is most definitely prohibited. Cho shot students in a university, where concealed carry was prohibited.

Loughner, Cho and Hasan all passed background checks when buying their firearms, so what would have stopped them from buying ammunition if a background check was required on such purchases?

Goddard also states that it’s easy to buy a gun at a gun show – ignoring the fact that neither Cho, Hasan, nor Loughner purchased their firearms at gun shows. All of them purchased their handguns at least one month before their murderous rampages, and while they all apparently purchased multiple handguns, only one handgun was used in each shooting. It’s already a requirement for firearms dealers to report multiple purchases of handguns within a one-week period to the ATF.

Restrictions on “high capacity” magazines, as Richard Daley suggests, certainly would not have stopped Cho, who reportedly went through 17 Glock magazines when firing over 170 rounds – using “restricted capacity” magazines.

What we have still not learned – and what some would refuse to recognize – is that the abject failure of government agencies, especially in terms of communicating between agencies, plays a major role in allowing attacks, large and small, to be executed.

– Seung-Hui Cho was never forced to return to court after his failure to complete court-ordered mental health programs, and information about this was never communicated to NICS, which controls background checks on firearms sales.

– Nidal Hasan’s contacts with al-Qaeda, known to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, were never communicated to NICS.

– Jared Loughner was known to local law enforcement as having made death threats and was expelled from school after run-ins with campus police and after students and teachers said they were afraid for their safety – yet the college only moved to protect themselves, requiring him to be cleared by mental health professionals if he wished to return to school. Of course, since there was no follow up to any of this, NICS did not prevent Loughner from legally purchasing a handgun.

I am reminded of Gavin de Becker’s excellent book “The Gift of Fear.” Gavin de Becker states that when battered spouses or stalking victims seek restraining orders, they do not solve the actual problem – they only “engage and enrage” their antagonist. Well, Pima Community College’s action was the equivalent of a restraining order, and going by the posting dates and subject matter of Loughner’s YouTube videos, it seems that he was definitely “enraged” by the college’s actions. Rather than solve the problem, this may have pushed him closer to doing what he did.

I submit that, since 9/11, intergovernmental agency communications failures have been painfully clear to the American people and to elected officials. However, there has been no strong cry to fix this at any level and between any agencies. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security was supposed to improve communication, but has only resulted in a massive, inept bureaucracy that has kept us no safer than pre-9/11 security measures. As has been shown by both the Underwear Bomber and Jared Loughner, the final line of security is composed of private citizens being alert, able, and courageous enough to take action when government and “security” agencies failed.

Even after the Virginia Tech shootings, which should have been a wake up call to administrators, mental health professionals, and police officers at college campuses nationwide, local agencies are still passing the buck, saying to themselves, “This guy sounds crazy, but that could never happen here.”

It’s high time that we ignore those screeching nonsense from atop Internet soapboxes and behind City of Chicago lecterns and start investigating why and how the exact government agencies that would enforce these imaginary new gun laws continue to fail at their jobs.

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16 Comments

Filed under News Stories/Events/Opinion

16 responses to “What “Common Sense Gun Law” Would Have Stopped the Attack on Gabrielle Giffords?

  1. "E"

    I agree with your comments entirely. Politicians and the media are using this sad event to further push their own agendas. The NYT was all over this yesterday and every single one of them was pushing for stricter gun control in one form or another. This would not have stopped him. There needs to be more transparency between government departments.

    • Blaine

      Beware the pitfalls of ultimate transparency too though. The post-9/11 level of transparency between agencies is what led to the wikileaks debacle, or how a low-level private was able to view (and save) information that he shouldn’t have otherwise had access too.

      Another consideration is the over-zealous blacklisting of who may own firearms. There’s already a legitimate concern over returning veterans seeking help for stress-related issues when the consequences of receiving that help may have their rights revoked. And don’t even get me started on the Lautenberg Amendment.

      My point is that, in my opinion, we’re in one of those situations where reactive actions of the short sighted will make more problems than it solves, no matter the solution.

  2. Giao

    In the case of Virginia Tech, concealed carry is legal on campus. Though the university may take issue with it as policy with staff and students, it is strictly a university policy issue. It is not illegal. The university may opt to discipline the student.

    In the strictest case, it is illegal to carry in George Mason University (one of the state’s school) buildings but legal on the grounds.

  3. Chris

    These, “feel good laws,” are as effective in preventing a determined act of violence as an umbrella without webbing is at keeping one dry on a rainy day.

  4. Sid

    Andrew, thanks for this well thoughtout and written counterpoint to the uninformed call for more gun control.

    This should be a front page op-ed article on every news publication. I’ll be sure to share your article.

  5. Scott

    Mandatory carry. If they can make us buy health insurance, they can make everyone carry. Then that monstrous little Uncle Fester would have had 2 dozen holes in him before he got a 2nd shot off.

    Do it. For the children.

    • Ken Pasco

      There’s only one problem with your thinking Scott: There are hundreds of maniacs out there just like Loughner. Do you want guns in their hands? And what about people who are inclined not to shoot because they have a hard time having to kill another human being?

  6. Redchrome

    “It’s high time that we ignore those screeching nonsense from atop Internet soapboxes and behind City of Chicago lecterns and start investigating why and how the exact government agencies that would enforce these imaginary new gun laws continue to fail at their jobs.”

    The thing I realized a while ago when studying economics; is that it all comes down to incentives. People always respond to the incentives actually in their environment, and not to the incentives we think they have or would like them to have.

    Private industry gets its money through voluntary exchange (i.e. exchanging money for goods or services – value for value). If private industry does a poor job, no one exchanges money with them for goods & services and they go out of operation. This gives them an incentive to serve the public. Not necessarily all of the public, but enough to continue in operation — AND — to not do anything that would cause sanctions against them (whether legal or social), i.e. to not piss anybody off.

    Government gets its money through taxation (i.e. coercive transfer). A government agency doesn’t go out of business if they fail to serve the public at large. In the same manner as a private industry, the ‘customer’ is the organization that gives them money. In the case of a government agency, the customer is the central organization that hands out the money (such as a Legislature). So they have every incentive to serve the Legislature, which means that they sometimes put on the appearance of serving the public. However, keep in mind that what is considered ‘serving the public’ is usually *their* definition of serving the public (perhaps entrenched by generations of custom, but a highly biased definition in any case). It’s not necessarily what would actually serve the public best.

    The upshot of all this is that government is by its very nature a corrupt system. It’s predicated upon coercively taking money, and giving it to people whos main incentives are to serve those who redistribute the money. If the individuals comprising the public are somehow made better off than they think they might be without such a system, that helps perpetuate the system. Only when it is plainly obvious without much knowledge that the government is hindering a better outcome, is there broad-based ‘pushback’. Otherwise the government does a very good job of propagandizing itself (consciously or not) and teaching people to think of it positively.

    I am not proposing that there is any sort of conspiracy; what I am trying to point out is that the incentives placed upon any individual person (whether in the government employ or outside of it) cause them to act in a particular way. A large mass of people will move in a common vector by virtue of having common incentives, even without any central organization.

    I have not read this book yet:
    http://mises.org/store/Enterprise-of-Law-The-Justice-without-the-State-P297.aspx
    but it is very high on my reading list. It points out the problems with government-operated law; and some possible solutions to it.

    To get back to the original question; I am proposing that *no* governmental dictate will be an effective cure for the problem of people wanting to shoot other people; and the more dictates they make the more problems we will have.

    To turn the problem around; if people are shooting politicians (and one can include school executives, since they are often coercively funded), how about we ban or heavily restrict politicians, rather than banning or restricting weapons? If there’s no politician to shoot, no one will shoot them. (I’m not trying to set that up as a straw man argument, I’m trying to set that up as a partial answer to the question).

  7. I stated that people need to get involved, and I include agencies and institutions in that statement. Staff at a AAMCO let me drive off when my blood sugar was liw-after I spent 30 minutes asking the mecanic the same question and after I spent 15 minutes in ny car befire driving off their lot. Thank God, I just injured myself. Upon talking to them, they stated they knew something was wrong but didn’t want to get involved or get me in trouble… Everyone needs to take action to protect others rather than just looking out for oneself and one’s time. Imagine if the University had charged him…he would NOT have been able, legally, to buy a handgun…

  8. Er

    Here is a something that’s been bothering me:
    The killing stopped when Loughner tried to reload. A bystander grabbed the magazine out of his hand, Loughner fled, someone tackled him.

    Would a prohibition on high-capacity magazines have helped in this particular case? Perhaps. Would it have helped in every case of a deranged gunman killing innocent people? Probably not.

    I’m a big fan of the second amendment and I own several firearms. Should I ever be forced to use a firearm for self-defense, I’d want as many rounds as possible before having to reload. But the facts in this particular case are hard to ignore.

    • I wasn’t going to mention this, but the fact that Loughner had an extended magazine made it much easier for the bystander to grab it and prevent him from inserting it into his firearm.

      A standard Glock 19 magazine can be covered with one hand, making a “grab” attempt much more difficult.

      Beyond that, the expired AWB wouldn’t have prevented Loughner from acquiring the magazine he used; it just would have made it more expensive.

      Similarly, although proposed restrictions in Congress would make the transfer between individuals of said magazines illegal – is this alone really going to prevent him from buying one? No. He planned to be killed or spend the rest of his life in jail, so whether he spent $30 on the magazine in a store or $350 by quietly buying it from someone else was immaterial to him. He was intent on committing mass murder – “small potato” laws such as prohibitions on concealed carry or certain magazines would not be a blip on his twisted mental radar.

      • Er

        From what I read, Loughner was attempting to reload his pistol with a standard capacity magazine. Apparently he had one extended-capacity magazine and two standard-capacity magazines at the time of the shooting. He dropped his second magazine on the ground while attempting to reload – which a bystander secured.

        Would limiting the number of rounds a magazine can hold to some arbitrary number (10 is the most common figure) help? Considering the Loughner case, or the Colin Ferguson case (the shooting stopped during an attempted reload), the answer is probably yes. The real question becomes, Is that sufficient reason for mandating a limit on magazine capacity?

  9. 67mustang

    The number of rounds in the mag is beside the point. A 10 rd mag would not have stopped Loughner from shooting these people. Would a limited capacity mag have kept him from killing or wounding as many? Maybe, or he might have simply used different tactics. The .gov does a sloppy job of enforcing the current laws, more laws and restrictions of our freedoms won’t change that.

  10. The Todd

    These people primarily fail to understand that there is only person that is responsible for your safety. Sure, others may dedicate themselves to protecting others as well but you should only reliably count upon one. But exercise some common sense in doing so!

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