Florida Parkland Shooting: Liberal Gun Control Ideas are Worthless

    So some kid shot up his school again. We're not going to print his name, you know it already. We don't know the victims yet save for a teacher, Aaron Feis, who put his body between a gun and the kids he taught and died for his heroism. Rest in peace, Aaron. You changed some lives last night and that’s more than most of us can say. Within seconds of the shooter being taken into custody, #GunControlNow begins trending on social media. I find this idea interesting for many reasons, not least that this appears to be a routine and knee-jerk reaction.

    It's not my business as a foreigner to tell my American brothers and sisters how to run their country, but maybe they can take a little advice.

    We know that one school shooting is too many- but the only way to significantly reduce the shootings is to remove all the guns from your country. This is both impossible thanks to the sheer volume of firearms in the United States, which I believe is enough for every man woman and child to get a Glock each with some left over, and utterly unwise. The example of Australia is often used to show how strict gun control works but unlike Australia, the United States borders other countries and isn’t surrounded by shark-infested waters. 2000 guns cross the border from the United States into Mexico every day. If the conversation is about gun control, would not -for example- some kind of wall along that border assist with reducing the flow of guns? Wouldn't cutting the ability to move illegal guns for profit into another country help at all?

    Unfortunately, the only argument the left side of politics has on the topic appears to be to reel out some grim statistics that look bad on the surface but fall apart under analysis, demand gun control and then lean back in the chair, glad that Something Has Been Done.

    This is an open invitation to any liberal writer- I will publish your argument laying out how you would enforce this nebulous concept better than the State of Florida already does. The shooter yesterday broke several state laws in committing this crime- is it the liberal argument that he would not have killed at all, or that he would have killed fewer? As I will show in this article, the AR-15 is nothing but a locus of debate for gun control advocates who are focussed on entirely the wrong questions.

    Chris Murphy, the Democrat senator for Connecticut said;

    "It only happens here not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction. We are responsible for a level of mass atrocity that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else. As a parent it scares me to death that it doesn't take seriously the safety of my children- and seems like a lot of families in South Florida will be asking themselves that question. We pray for the families, for the victims, we hope for the best."

    Murphy was in office during the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 and has been advocating for stricter gun control ever since. Following the Las Vegas massacre he said;

    “This country has the loosest set of gun laws to allow dangerous people to own dangerous weapons in the industrialized world. And so what is unacceptable in the wake of the most deadly mass shooting in the history of the country is for this utter silence, this unintentional complicity from Congress, to continue. I think there is an unintentional endorsement that gets sent to these mass murderers when after slaughter after slaughter, Congress does nothing. If the greatest deliberative body in the world doesn’t do anything to condemn them by policy change, it starts to look like complicity.”

    If Murphy has set out a workable plan for tightening gun laws at a federal or state level, I am yet to see it. The frame is that guns need to be controlled. The unspoken inflection is because humans cannot control themselves- overlooking the blatant lie that the United States has the loosest gun laws in the industrialized world- unless one is being very cute with the definition of which countries are industrialized.

    Diane Feinstein is displaying the particularly flawed kind of argument here.

    Yes, the AR-15 is an assault weapon (not an assault rifle) but this in itself is the result of politically motivated reframing of the conversation. Feinstein's own political pet project, the definition of assault weapon is so broad as to be near meaningless in practicable terms. Feinstein is merely one step more advanced than the blue-check twitterati bleating #GunControlNow as she has thought how to ban the most guns with the least amount of legislation. There are four million AR-15's in the United States- if I wanted to push gun control as a political agenda, I'd go after the little black rifle too.

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    According to the organization Everytown for Gun Safety, there have been a shooting every 2.5 days—18 school shootings—in the U.S. so far this year.

    Since 2000, there have been more than 130 shootings at elementary, middle and high schools, and 58 more at colleges and universities, The Washington Post reported. Everytown gets significant flak from the NRA, and looking at how their reports are constructed there is a lot of problems when it comes to the conflation of many different kinds of crime under the umbrella of mass shooting. This group did, after all, declare the Boston bomber to be a victim of gun violence after he was shot by police. It is my suspicion that this lack of nuance is indicative of the liberal position on gun control- bleating 'gun control now' is not a position. It is a signal of one's virtue. I too, abhor the idea of children blowing each other away. It must be the conservatives fault because they like guns the most.

    Everytown For Gun Safety has the following 5 key points on their agenda.

    1. Background checks – The organization advocates for expanding the background check system for gun buyers through changes in state and federal laws, and supports legislation that would require background checks for all gun sales. The organization also supports state laws requiring the reporting of mental health records to the national background check system.

    2. Domestic violence – Everytown has supported laws that prohibit domestic abusers from obtaining firearms. Internal research produced by Everytown concludes that states that require background checks for private handgun sales have lower rates of intimate partner gun violence than states that do not require background checks. According to the group, Everytown supported the passage of laws intended to block convicted domestic abusers and people subject to domestic violence restraining orders in six states in 2014: Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

    3. Preventable injuries – The organization supports gun safety technology and laws requiring safe storage of firearms to prevent accidental child gun deaths, citing the high rate of firearm injuries among American children compared to other countries.

    4. Gun trafficking – The organization also favors strengthening penalties for gun trafficking through the creation of a federal gun trafficking statute.

    5. Other issues – At its launch, the organization said it would not advocate for a ban on assault weapons.

    Beyond these outlines, the organization has teamed up with the NBA to call for an end to gun violence, without suggesting any practical solutions.

    The New York Times has an informative piece -I'm as surprised as you are- that provides some hard data but again we are left with little analysis other than the curious conflation between a school shooting and a mass school shooting. As I will now show, these are very different crimes, committed for very different reasons.

    incidents-720
    this chart shows the frequency of school shootings, including mass shootings, between 2014 and 2018.

    Since 2012, there have been 12 school shootings that fall into the category of mass shooting, which is to say that four or more people were shot at one time.

    The vast majority of school shootings are not mass shootings. According to the School Shooting Database, between  1945 and 2017 there were in total 689 Shootings at High Schools costing the lives of 261 people.  621 were injured.

    While mass school shootings in stereotype are a problem for disturbed White children the data shows that non-Hispanic Whites are responsible for 46 out of the 89 mass school shootings that have taken place in the United States since 1880- the vast majority occurred since 1945. This is far below per-capita population representation, which as of 2015 would suggest that non-Hispanic Whites should commit 63.7% of mass murders in schools. African Americans also commit school shootings at a lower rate than per-capita demographics would suggest- though if mixed race shooters are included (assuming all mixed-race White and Black people identify as Black) the data shows almost exact correlation. 12 out of 88 (13.63%) mass shootings were committed by Black or mixed-race people who make up 13.5% of the population. The shooters are almost exclusively male. Examining the races of other minority mass shooters is spurious as the numbers are low enough that a single shooting can significantly change the demographic representation.

    The interesting path that this data analysis leads to is discovered when all shootings that take place on school grounds are taken into account. Between 1981 and 2015 lone White males were responsible for 146 shootings, at a rate of 4.29 a year. Lone Black males were responsible for 115 shootings, at a rate of 3.38 shootings per year. This is just what the data compiled tells us. What the data indicates is that for some reason young Black men commit disproportionately high volumes of shootings in school, but not disproportionately high volumes of mass shootings. What could be the reason for this?

    According to the same source, when looking at gun violence on college campuses between 2009 and 2017 48% of shootings occurred on Historically Black Campuses and Universities.

    We can take into account that not all people who are at HBCUs are Black, but I'll take a bet that any volume of anti-Black racist attacks that have occurred on HBCU properties are statistically insignificant.

    “From my research, it seems like these shootings are between people who know each other and involve a combination of students and those in the neighborhoods surrounding these HBCUs,” Marybeth Gasman, director of University of Pennsylvania's Center for Minority Serving Institutions, email to Inside Higher Ed.

    “It’s important to keep in mind that these types of shootings happen on many campuses across the country,” she said. “Most campuses are not safe enough. They are open; many are near or in unsafe neighborhoods, regardless of their HBCU status.”

    From high school to university and in the population at large, gun violence is endemic among Black males. No doubt some might clutch their pearls at this idea, but I am not drawing the conclusion that gun crime is so prevalent in this demographic because the shooters are Black. The reason we must pay attention to the demographics is clear- without specific analysis and attention paid to this problem affecting this particular demographic, nothing will change. Liberals will still cry about gun control, the NRA will still lobby for gun interests, and some idiot conservatives will make apples and oranges comparisons to abortion.

    The gap between deaths by gun violence is illuminating. New Jersey, for example, has had zero school shootings since 1990.

    Gun control advocates may point to the fact that New Jersey has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. Perhaps so- In New Jersey, anyone seeking to purchase firearms (one does not need to obtain a Firearm Purchaser Identification card to own, possess in the home, transport firearms to and from authorized target range, to a gunsmith for purposes of repair, or to the woods or fields of the state for purposes of hunting ) is required to obtain a lifetime Firearm Purchaser Identification card, commonly referred to as FID, for the purchase of rifles and shotguns. To purchase a handgun, a separate permit is needed from the Chief of Police of the municipality.

    A 7-year-old New Jersey boy, described by school officials as “a nice kid” and “a good student,” was reported to the police and charged with possessing an imitation firearm after he brought a toy Nerf-style gun to school. The gun shoots soft ping pong-type balls. Is that the necessary kind of gun control that Liberals want to see? If so, what should be done about the fact that New Jersey is still the state with the biggest gap in gun deaths between Black and Whites? Black people are four and a half times as likely to die from gun violence than whites. Even in the state with the strictest gun laws in the country where there are zero school shootings, for some reason, Blacks die at the hands of other Blacks. Does gun control stop this plague? No. In Washington, D.C., all firearms must be registered with the police, by the terms of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975, but still, Blacks die from guns at 13.5 times the rate of Whites in the same city.

    The point which I hope should be abundantly clear is that legislation has had a negligible effect on gun violence, and I say that as a blanket statement regardless of racial demographics.

    Mass shootings grab the attention of us all for their horror. The issue is not that mass shootings occur, but that our focus is unreasonably drawn to them as lodestones for the debate around guns. As the School Shooting Database states;

    Paradoxically, another step that could assist in the reduction of this epidemic of shootings would apparently be to eliminate gun-free zones. Gun-free zones were a bulletproof idea when a bi-partisan Congress passed the bill introduced by Senatore Joe Biden in October of 1990, but the effectiveness of this law has proved to be another matter. When the bill was signed into law by President George H. Bush, an unintended effect took hold. The well-meaning law inadvertently helped usher in the rise in frequency of shootings that have plagued our education institutions.

    [S]hootings at K-12 schools have increased more than five times at all levels of K-12 education since the passage of the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. Elementary schools have seen shootings increase from 19 shootings to 111. Shootings at Middle schools went from 29 incidents to 121 and high school shootings amplified from 101 before the law to 566 after the federal legislation was enacted.

    We can hold up New Jersey as perhaps an exception to this rule, along with  Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming who have all seen zero school shootings since 1990. The gun laws in California are as strict as those in New Jersey, and yet there have been 19 school shooting incidents in the past 28 years. It cannot be the case then, that legislative means that have been thus far carried out in two of the most liberal states in the country are effective.

    Data from gun ownership surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that 54 percent of gun owners with children under 18 living at home say they keep all of their guns locked away. Data collected by the School Shooting Database indicates that handguns are used in around 70% of all school shootings. Long rifles including the AR-15 account for 12% of all shootings at schools. Statistically speaking, the AR-15 is far less of a problem than is being suggested.

    It cannot be the case that banning the feared semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 would have a statistically significant effect on school shootings, and if all such rifles were banned- i.e., magazine fed semiautomatics then the 12% of school shooters who are so desperate to kill with a rifle will pick up a pistol. The banning of the AR-15 type would either be a ban on sales, in which case you still have millions of semi-automatic rifles in the country or a totalitarian move to ban all such weapons completely which would necessitate an armistice, and then the exertion of state power to force people to give up their firearms- at gunpoint if necessary.

    I make no secret of my admiration for the United States Constitution.

    I can only imagine how fervently it would be defended by Americans were the above scenario to come to pass. Even imagining that as if by magic one could put the semiautomatic rifles into the furnace- so what? This forces 12% of school shooters to look for another weapon. Maybe copies of The Anarchist Cookbook become popular again for the instructions about fertilizer bombs and Molotovs.  According to students at Parkland High School, yesterday's shooter kept a stockpile of guns. He was 19 and thus unable to purchase or hold these weapons legally. Still, his fellow students knew of his arsenal and joked that he was likely to shoot up the school.

    Even sentiments about gun control are, in at least some ways, split along racial lines. A Washington Post-ABC News poll from last year found that more than three-quarters of African Americans support stronger gun control, compared to fewer than half of whites.

    The reality is that gun violence is largely divided, and shaped, by race in America.

    The possible reasons are complex. A 1993 report suggests that gun ownership is a leading culprit. And later studies have reached similar conclusions. But, as this most recent study notes, there is likely more at play here: "Several factors have been posited that might explain these persistent racial differences, including socioeconomic determinants and increased firearm availability." - Roberto A. Ferdman, Washington Post

    A white person is five times as likely to commit suicide with a gun as to be shot with a gun. for each African American who uses a gun to commit suicide, five are killed by other people with guns. This is not a new phenomenon. To me, the foreigner who has just lectured America about guns when my own country has far stricter laws, the problem is bigger than laws. America, you love guns and that's okay. I like guns too. The problem is not the guns, it is aspects of your culture that in one part glorifies violence and in another looks away from evidence. Your problem in America isn't even mass school shootings- they are a symptom of the problem. The answer to mass school shootings as I have shown is not to ban the 1000 round magazine machine gun assault weapon the AR-15.

    The conversation cannot be around banning guns because banning guns in a nation of 300 million guns is as meaningless as it is to ban cocaine in Columbia or tea in Great Britain. You'll never take all the things that are everywhere without accepting that a tyrannical dictatorship is your desired system of government. If the desire is for fewer gun deaths -and I wholeheartedly agree that this is a good thing to aim for- the change comes from conversation, not legislation.

    At this time the issue with guns remains one that afflicts Black schools disproportionately- the statistics show this to be true yet it is not part of the conversation around guns in America.  The first lady later returned to Chicago in 2013 to talk with students at a school that is close to 100 percent African-American.

    "In choosing Harper High School for the visit, the White House noted that 29 current or former students there had been shot in the last year, eight of them fatally," reported the Chicago Tribune.

    Veteran Tribune columnist Steve Chapman wrote in 2014

    There's another, bigger problem with the preoccupation with "black-on-black crime." The term suggests race is the only important factor. Most crimes are committed by males, but we don't refer to "male-on-male crime." Whites in the South are substantially more prone to homicide than those in New England, but no one laments "Southerner-on-Southerner crime." Why does crime involving people of African descent deserve its own special category?

    The phrase stems from a desire to excuse whites from any role in changing the conditions that breed disorder and delinquency in poor black areas. It carries the message that blacks are to blame for the crime that afflicts them and that only they can eliminate it. Whites are spared any responsibility in the cause or the cure.

    In which case- if we can understand the position of the left to be somewhat concordat with Chapman's position- what is it that needs to be done by non-Black people to fulfill their responsibility to reduce the frequency in which Blacks shoot each other? I wonder if Chapman believes that Whites, in fact, have more responsibility than Blacks for that matter. I believe I have answered Chapman with my own analysis in this article but to answer his question "why does crime involving people of African descent deserve its own special category" it is because black on black violence is so disproportionate and statistically significant that to ignore it requires willful ignorance and an utter lack of compassion for the victims. Only by looking away as young black men are murdered can this argument be reframed to be anything other than a problem specific to black communities across the nation.

    Will banning the AR-15 stop the deaths in Chicago? Was the AR-15 used in the 12000 shootings that took place there in five years? No blanket legislative measures can control this level of gun crime. Was Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer murdered this week by a suspect with an AR-15? No. For all the sneering liberals like to make political points about the inconsistent approach of Republicans who call for better mental health services while cutting funding, calling for blanket gun control is a far weaker argument based only on emotion. Pragmatic arguments can be made for gun control- but they are not being made. Not in the press, not at government level, not between citizens. The conversation is partisan in nature instead of being based on evidence.

    I hope I am not considered callous or uncaring when I write that the shooting at the school in Florida is tragic but statistically insignificant to the debate on gun control. The schools are already gun-free zones. As I have shown, gun-free zones exacerbate the problem. Kids who commit mass shootings could indeed take confidence that they will have a window of opportunity to kill before an armed defense can be brought to bear against them. After all, during the very first mass school shooting by ex-Marine and engineering student Charles Whitman in Austin, Texas police were aided by armed students, who ran to their cars to get hunting rifles and shotguns.   Ramiro Martinez, the police officer who killed Whitman, wrote in his autobiography that:

    “The sniper did a lot of damage when he could fire freely, but when the armed citizens began to return fire the sniper had to take cover.”

    Whitman killed 17 people and wounded 31 with a bolt action deer rifle. In his suicide note, he wrote:

    "I do not quite understand what it is that compels me to type this letter. Perhaps it is to leave some vague reason for the actions I have recently performed. I do not really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I cannot recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts. These thoughts constantly recur, and it requires a tremendous mental effort to concentrate on useful and progressive tasks."

    It is often forgotten that Whitman also murdered his mother and wife prior to climbing the clock tower that day. What I wish to elucidate to you is that it is not a normal action to take a firearm and to shoot someone with it. Whether motivated by criminality, mental disorder or crime of passion or some other reason, there is always a motive. The very idea that by legislating incrementally more draconian gun laws onto American society you will remove the broader societal problems that are expressed through gun violence is hopelessly naive. You cannot completely legislate against the darkness within mankind, but we can bravely try to understand ourselves and our cultures. It is therefore as foolish to demand increased gun control as it is to ignore Colonel Mustard to complain about the prevalence of candlesticks in the mansion.

    Over to you, liberal writers. Am I wrong? I offer you right of reply in these pages. There are surely reasonable arguments to be made for gun legislation- but so far, few are being published. Send me an email and we can set up a real conversation.


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    Ash Sharp

    Ash Sharp

    Editor.