Yes, as one might expect, the Internet is awash with quotes this week from politicians and pundits on the perniciousness of so-called “assault weapons” following an attack Sunday at a food festival in Gilroy, California.
In a press conference Monday, for example, California Gov. Gavin Newsom slammed modern sporting rifles, calling them “weapons of mass destruction” and claiming their “purpose is to exact as much damage on human beings as possible.”
“They have no place in our society, let alone in this country, let alone in this state,” he added.
The Gilroy tragedy which left three dead and more than a dozen injured was perpetrated by a man armed with an “AK-47 type assault rifle,” according to local media. Investigators said that he purchased the gun in Nevada on July 9th and then transported it across state lines — in violation of California law.
While it may be tempting for some to point the finger at so-called “assault weapons” one needs to understand that banning them altogether will not stop mass killings nor will it make mass killings less lethal.
In active shooter events between 2000 to 2015 rifles of any make or model were only used 27 percent of the time, according to the FBI. Handguns, meanwhile, were used most frequently, in 56 percent of active shooter events.
One might assume that when a perp is armed with a rifle as opposed to a handgun, he is going to kill more people. But a recent study in The Journal of the American College of Surgeons found the opposite to be true. Handguns are more lethal than rifles in mass shooting scenarios. A Dec. 2018 Reuters article reports:
The research team found that events with a handgun were associated with a higher percentage of people killed, whereas events involving a rifle were associated with more people shot. About 26 percent of those shot with a handgun had more than one fatal wound, versus two percent of people shot with a rifle. Handguns were also more likely to be associated with brain and heart injuries.
“All of us were shocked. We came to the table with our bias that an assault weapon would be worse,” said Dr. Babak Sarani of the George Washington University Center for Trauma and Critical Care in Washington, D.C., the lead author of the study. “This should inform the medical community about what to expect at trauma centers and lawmakers about reasonable gun laws.”
The authors postulated on why this was the case and observed that handguns are fired at a closer range and “tend to lead to more gunshot wounds per victim and a higher likelihood of injuries to vital organs.”
So, in light of these facts, one has to ask what banning modern sporting rifles would actually accomplish? The answer as it relates to gun-related violence: very little (scholarly studies in the past decade or so also support this conclusion). The hard truth here is that the only way to completely stop gun violence is to ban and confiscate every firearm. Every single one! Short of that, banning one class of weapon will only ensure bad guys use another type to carry out their crimes, potentially with a greater lethal effect.
Of course, no one — at least publicly — is for banning all firearms. Which means if we’re serious about curbing gun-related violence we need a different approach, one that focuses on stopping the killer as opposed to one that seeks to prohibit only a small percentage of the deadly weapons available on the open market. Forget even guns for a moment and remember that rental trucks, gasoline, knives can all be harnessed to take innocent lives. The challenge of stopping mass killers goes way beyond regulating guns!
Given all that, the question remains: what’s the best approach to stopping active shooters? Answer: armed responders. Whether they be police officers, student resource officers or concealed carriers. From a CNN report on the Gilroy incident:
The 19-year-old opened fire at the outdoor festival at around 5:40 p.m. Sunday, according to Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee. Three officers shot him within one minute, killing him, the chief said, adding that the scene might have been bloodier if not for the quick response.
“Might have been bloodier.” There’s no doubt about that! Those armed officers saved many lives! Along with honoring the victims and their families, this part of the story is what politicians and pundits ought to be talking about. How good guys with guns took down an active shooter successfully and saved countless lives. The takeaway should be armed resistance, unlike the hundreds of gun laws in California, really works when it comes to stopping a determined killer.
In the coming days, there’re going to be conversations about curbing gun-related violence and stopping mass shooters. Any “solution” proposed that ignores the importance of armed responders and focuses solely on restricting certain classes of firearms isn’t grounded in reality and, therefore, not worth consideration.