Yesterday I wrote that it would probably take a day for the NRA noise machine to ramp up and begin announcing that the shooting of the WDBJ reporters wouldn’t have happened if more good guys were walking around with guns. I was wrong. By 7 P.M. last night, Mad Dog John Lott was already on a radio show telling the audience that “dozens of mass shootings” had been stopped by armed citizens and that calls for expanded background checks were wrong because “virtually all the NICS denials were false-positives” in which the particular individual should have been able to buy a gun.
I listened to a tape of Lott’s interview this morning and it occurred to me that we seem to have moved past the point where the debate about gun violence bears any relationship to the facts. The only study that I know about who stopped mass shootings was done by the FBI that covered 160 incidents between 2000 and 2013. Know how many of these shootings ended because a gun-carrying civilian intervened? One. Lott has published papers which claim to find some kind of statistical correlation between mass shootings and issuance of concealed-carry permits, but the correlation between two data trends proves nothing at all. As for his claim that the NICS background-check system operates only to keep guns out of the ‘right’ hands, I’m no fan of the ATF or the NICS system, but Lott’s statement has absolutely no basis in truth. I’m being polite.
I want to make some comments about the video of the shooting that may be hard to take, but I’m trying to make a point. The shooter, Vester Flanagan, walked up to Parker and Ward, who were interviewing and filming a local government official named Vicki Gardner. Flanagan stood between his three victims, pointed a Glock at Parker, put the gun down and backed off, then raised the Glock and began to shoot. By the 3rd or 4th shot the camera being held by Flanagan was no longer picking up any details of what was going on. But I heard at least 14 shots. And there was a pause between the first string of 7-8 discharges and then a second, more deliberate string of shots. Which means that Flanagan had a hi-cap gun, and he may have taken his time after the initial barrage to make sure that, deliberately and carefully, he could finish his victims off. The video actually shows Parker running away after the first round went off but when you have a hi-cap mag it doesn’t really matter if you miss a few shots.
I hate to say it, but I think there’s no longer any reason why gun violence should be discussed in rational, normal terms. Of course we should have “common-sense” gun laws to quote the White House; of course we all agree with Hillary that we need to “balance legitimate 2nd-Amendment rights with preventive measures” to reduce gun violence. But when someone can film himself mowing down three people, then upload the video to YouTube for the world to see, we’re not talking about whether guns help us or hurt us, we’re talking about a celebration of violence that simply should not exist in a civilized state.
When I joined the NRA shooting club at the age of twelve and punched 22-caliber holes in paper targets at my brother’s junior high school range, we never thought that what we were doing had any connection to protecting ourselves or harming anyone else. When I sat in my deer stand deep in the woods in Colleton County, SC, read a book and wait for Bambi to come by, it never occurred to me that the Remington 700 sitting on my lap could be used for anything other than to bring home some game. Owning and using guns has become an issue of human life and death because we talk about guns in that way. And the bottom line is that guns are a root cause of violence, no matter what the NRA says.