As is the case with recent mass shootings, I will not talk about the shooter. He’s garbage. Instead, we should be thinking about the victims: 17 amazing kids and their teachers who should be still be alive today but were cut down by a monster.

We are in the midst of the usual cries to “do something”, which translates to “pass the gun control laws desired by Democrats, whether they would have stopped this or not”. I’ve been over this many times on these pages — how America leads the civilized world in non-gun murders as well as gun murders, how the evidence that gun control would work is thin to nonexistent. A lot of attention has focused on the AR-15 — falsely called a “weapon of war”. But we’ve been down this road before. In the 90’s, we tried to ban the TEC-9, the weapon of choice of 90’s mass shooters, including the Columbine murderers. It didn’t stop anything, just changed their weapon of choice. And I’m not sure what the point is here: to make the massacres slightly less deadly? One of the deadliest shootings in our history was Virginia Tech, which involved two pistols. And the deadliest massacres in American history — the Bath School disaster, Oklahoma City — involved bombs.

The simple truth is that these mass shootings are of a character that is more similar to terrorism than anything else (as indeed, the San Bernadino and Charleston shootings were). These aren’t the actions of people who “snapped” and grabbed a weapon. They involved months of planning and preparation. Note especially how they’ve been picking their target for maximum carnage, where escape is almost impossible: a night club, a theater, a school, an open-air concert. Each shooter is learning from his predecessors, imitating them. We are witnessing a social contagion the likes of which we have not seen.

So can we do nothing? As I said about Sandy Hook, the main thing we need to do is to keep our eyes open, to identify these killers before they strike. Taking away a killer’s AR-15 might save a life or two. Preventing him from acting in the first place would save all of them.

In that vein, the most disturbing discovery in the last few days is that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies were alerted to the Florida killer on many occasions. And not, “this guy’s a bit weird”. These were clear warnings that he was going to kill a bunch of people. They failed to follow up on it.

So if you want to do something, here’s a suggestion everyone could agree to. How about we take the FBI agents involved in garbage “anti-terror” stings or playing vice cop with local police and put them on the shooting beat? Mass shootings are rare; you’re looking for needles in haystacks. But if putting FBI agents on needle duty means we prevent one massacre, it will benefit the country way more than another round of “sex trafficking” busts that consist of arresting consenting adults or “anti-terror ops” that consist of building a terror plot around some gullible idiot.

Let’s treat this like it’s a terror issue. Only let’s be smart about it this time. More eyes on the street, more follow-up of tips, more vigilance. That crosses me as far more constructive and beneficial than taking away millions of guns that will never be used for anything more violent than target shooting.


  1. Christopher

    I know that you’ve covered this a few times in the past (I’ve actually messaged you a couple times as well), but I’m seeing somewhat of a resurgence of the claim that mass shootings are becoming more common.  I shared some of your work on the subject (as well as others) in response, but some people have argued with me that those articles and posts are too old to be relevant, and they claimed that more recent data suggests that mass shootings are, in fact, becoming more common.  I was skeptical of this claim (especially since some of the cited sources were either Mother Jones, or used Mother Jones’ data, which we both know didn’t do a very good job with their data), but I thought that I’d ask you.  Do you think that it might be a good idea to reevaluate that topic to see if anything has changed?

    Thumb up 0

  2. Christopher

    Following up my previous comment, if you’re interested in specific sources or claims to respond to, here are a few that I’ve seen shared lately:

    One person also shared a screenshot of a google search that he did of “mass shootings by year graph.”  I can’t tell if there’s a way to share screenshots on these comments, so if you want to see it, you’ll just have to do a search.

    Here are a couple of others that I’ve found on google (these ones don’t claim that mass shootings are becoming more common, but that they’re becoming increasingly lethal):

    What are your thoughts, Hal?

    Thumb up 0

  3. Christopher

    One last thing, I thought that I’d share this video by YouTube’s King Crocoduck (an excellent science channel) that he did a few years ago about mass shootings and the media.  It’s long (about 45 minutes), but it’s worth your time if you can spare it:

    Thumb up 0

  4. grady

    Christopher – Here is a link to an article that speaks to some of the folks inflating the “school shootings” data.:

    It basically boils down to some folks counting every firearm discharge at/near a school counts as a school shooting.  The author discounts any suicide attempt, accidental discharge or shooting where only 1 person is shot.  Basically he is keeping with the thought that we are talking about situations where someone goes to a school with firearms and attempts to kill multiple people at random.

    Thumb up 0

  5. grady

    I spent the weekend with the wife’s parents and ended up seeing a lot of ABC and NBC news stories on.  The bulk of the coverage is about the victims and their sorrow.  Mourning families.  Angry folks that blame lawmakers for not doing more.  Then the formal press conferences of emboldened students ready to “fight” to make sure this never happens again.  But the feature is always about gun control.  You may hear that the FBI had been contacted about the shooter’s online statements of becoming a “school shooter”, but it is in the background without any of the emotional push that the gun control message has been presented.

    Because I rarely watch network or cable news stations, I don’t get to see the hype machines in action that much.  It is very effective rhetoric.  And these guys get paid a lot of money to peddle it.  With the profit and political incentives to push hype, I don’t see the political spectrum of this country getting any less divisive.  “Let’s have a national conversation” doesn’t mean let’s talk and listen to everyone’s’ opinions.  It just sounded good within the story.  Then they are back to pushing an agenda.

    Thumb up 0

  6. Rick Macherat

    I have three points to make. First, had this happened the year I was born the story would have proceeded quite differently. It would have been widely reported, briefly, then forgotten. Emotions would have been the same, only not reinforced 24-hours-a-day into every tiny spot in the country.

    Second, demographics. We still haven’t realized the actions of one individual have FAR more impact now. There are 50% more evil people alive and eager to inflict themselves on a society 50% more populous. One is now two or more, with 330 million potential victims.

    Finally, of all the ridiculous solutions being shouted, there are only one thing which can be done (easily) and would have drastic effect. Yes, we can tighten gun rules which would make us feel much better but have no effect at all. You think evil people have no imagination or resources?

    Three. Want a fix?  Sports events, concerts, you name it, even taverns, places where people congregate all hire off-duty police officers. Why don’t schools? Money, of course. If your community really cares and is prepared to PAY for the safety we really need, start a bond drive to finance off-duty officers in sufficient numbers to do it. Not a single “resource officer,” but at least three armed officers for a high school with 3,000 students. And make it a separate bond issue! Why? To keep it out of the hands of school bugeteers and under the control of citizens who will pay for it, like they do 911, so long as they still care.

    Thumb up 0

Leave a Reply