The Mass Shooters Secret Weapons
By Bill Arnett
There's a belief by some that the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Rather than debate its veracity let's assume that this belief is completely and totally, 100 percent true. All bad guys with guns will be successfully stopped by good guys with guns. And the more guns there are in circulation the more likely armed bad guys will encounter and be stopped by armed good guys. That should put an end to mass shootings and terrorist attacks, right? Actually, if we take the talking point literally, good guys with guns only stop mass shootings, they don't prevent them. A fully trained and armed population will never prevent a mass shooting because mass shooters have three secret weapons that will always make them more powerful than any number of good guys with guns.
1. The Element of Surprise. The shooter gets to decide the time and place. They pull the trigger first. All those good guys with guns, even if they walk around at full alert, will always be reacting to a shooting, not preventing it. How many people will die before they can react?
2. Meticulous Preparations. These aren't crimes of sudden, heated passion. They are thought about beforehand. Arsenals are amassed, ammo is procured, tactical gear is bought. These plans are made with full awareness that good guys with guns exist and are likely to be encountered.
3. No Fear of Dying. Or at least not enough fear of dying. Come up with all of the criminal deterrents you want, it won’t matter. When someone is unafraid of taking lives and doesn't deeply value their own, the consequences (shot by police, executed by the state or suicide) carry little weight. We should also assume that the good guy with a gun is afraid of dying and won't recklessly charge an active shooter, giving them even more time.
(Here's a scary thought: How many aborted mass shootings have happened that we don’t know about? How many people have gotten right to the edge, made those meticulous plans, only to realize their inherent human fear of dying and decided against it at the last moment?)
Good guys with guns will always be at a disadvantage. If we could take away these secret weapons we could level the playing field and maybe give the good guys with guns a fighting chance. How do we take away these secret weapons? Sadly, it can't be done. You can't make not fearing death illegal or require all mass shooters to submit their plans to the police and give their targets a two-minute warning before they start shooting. Good guys with guns will only ever be able, in ideal circumstance, to more quickly end a mass shooting once it starts. While that may save lives, how many lives are lost due to firearm accidents simply because of increased gun ownership?
If you are serious about preventing mass shootings (and I guess some people aren't?), there are two approaches:
1. Identifying likely shooters before they commit their crimes and
2. Making their crimes more difficult to commit.
Profiling is an attempt to identify shooters but is difficult as they share few common traits other than depression — something common in the general populace. Background checks and assault weapon restrictions make the crime more difficult to commit by limiting access to firearms.
The fact that universal background checks and restrictions on dangerous weapons aren't currently the law is astounding. In fact, laws have gotten less restrictive in the last decade. The price for allowing a small number of citizens to arms themselves is paid for with the lives of others. It is those who want to exercise their right to own increasingly dangerous weapons that should have to pay the consequences for those that misuse that right. Here are some ideas that do just that:
• Require insurance for every gun. If you're hit by a car the drivers insurance (mandatory in all states) will cover the medical bills. If you’re shot, you’re on your own.
• Militia membership. One could argue that the Second Amendment isn’t concerned with individual gun ownership rights (a part of English common law since 1689) but about civil defense. Asking gun owners with military-grade weapons to join their local, well-regulated militia would essentially provide a continuous mental stability check.
• Adjust purchase taxes, licensing and insurance rates to reflect the lethality of the weapon. You want to shoot deer with a muzzle loader? No tax or additional license required. Want to use a bolt-action rifle with a 5-round internal magazine? Cheap, but more than zero. Want to use a semi-auto with a detachable 30-round magazine? It's going to cost you.
If we don't do something, the mass shooting problem in America is going to cost all of us.