More government not the answer
Not a single one of the suggestions for preventing senseless violence such as that committed by Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas would have kept him from slaughtering dozens of people. Anyone who tells you differently is lying, perhaps to himself as well as you.
Politicians and bureaucrats thrive only because they have convinced us that government is the answer to every problem. Time was when self-reliant Americans understood there are certain things government can’t — or shouldn’t — control. That era seems to have passed.
Now, the control issue is all about guns. Those in favor of strict limits on them want you to believe that would eliminate shooting sprees such as Paddock’s. It would not. That genie has been out of the bottle for many years.
Gun control has ethical and constitutional aspects. But let’s ignore them for a moment. Let’s talk only about effectiveness.
Let me be clear on one thing: I am neither a gun nut nor an anti-gun nut. Given the depth to which the debate over firearms has sunk, however, I have no doubt that approximately half of those who read this column will conclude I hate the Second Amendment, while the other half will decide I’m in favor of using human beings for target practice. It’s an issue that makes debating abortion seem like a safer alternative.
Here’s the thing about gun control: Would restrictions such as those sought by some anti-gun nuts save lives? Some, probably, in the category of accidental shootings.
But criminals who want guns will get them. Period. And lunatics like Paddock will, too. The unhappy truth about people in those categories is that they care not a whit for the law and are endlessly inventive in breaking it.
Take machine guns. They’re illegal now, for the most part. But quite a few guns — including many not in the dreaded “assault rifle” category — can be modified either to fire automatically or mimic such action. Paddock’s guns appear to have been fitted with “bump stock” apparatus allowing him to fire very rapidly, though not as fast as a full automatic weapon.
Parts and kits to convert many guns to “bump firing” or “slide firing” are available all over the place. So are instructions on how to convert many firearms into true machine guns. Don’t believe me? Google it.
If you think passing laws will end that, you’re living in a dream world. Near-machine guns are here to stay.
So are silencers — which, contrary to what some believe, don’t eliminate the sound of gunfire. They just muffle it. Silencers are here to stay, too. Again, go to Google if you don’t believe me.
Well, say some, let’s ban large gun magazines. Why does anyone need to fire off 30-100 rounds without reloading anyway? Gosh. I tire of repeating, but Google it. It’s not that difficult to fabricate a high-capacity magazine.
Well, say some gun control advocates, let’s just ban private ownership of firearms entirely, as some countries have done. Again, setting aside the fact that’s unconstitutional, let’s think about effectiveness.
About 80 million Americans own approximately 300 million guns. If you think Prohibition was a fiasco, wait until you try to tell gun owners they have to hand over their firearms.
If we can’t ban guns, what about keeping them out of the wrong hands? Like Paddock’s? To my knowledge, no one ever suggested he was mentally ill, though he clearly was. Many mass murderers fall into that category.
Truth is, Paddock only began breaking existing gun control and ownership laws — or those proposed — when he began shooting at people.
Again, try very hard to understand this isn’t a column about right or wrong. It’s about what doesn’t work.
Politicians get elected by promising to solve all our problems. Bureaucrats keep their jobs by enforcing the politicians’ rules (and, increasingly, making up their own).
But some challenges are beyond government’s control. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we may find effective ways of stopping the Stephen Paddocks of the world.
Mike Myer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.