President Obama was quick to get some camera time after this week’s shooting at a church in South Carolina. The President transitioned from talking about the shooting into a critique of America’s gun laws.
You can see his comments here.
At about 3 minutes into the video, the President starts. He laments that this is yet another situation where “someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”
At 3:40, he claims that “this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries”. He followed by reiterating, but added the clause “with this kind of frequency”. I don’t know if he was qualifying his statement or not.
He concludes, “It is in our power to do something about it.”
Let’s talk about his claims.
First, we know that the alleged shooter was legally an adult. We are told that the alleged shooter received a handgun from his father as a gift, in April. The roommate of the alleged shooter stated that he thinks the planning for the murder had been going on for months. We don’t know that the gun used in the murders was the gun received as a gift, but let’s suppose that it was.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]If an adult family member can give you a gun as a gift, this attack can still happen. If there is a multi-month waiting period to buy a handgun, this attack can still happen. … If adults with no criminal record can still pass background checks and buy guns from stores, this attack can still happen.[/mks_pullquote]
If an adult family member can give you a gun as a gift, this attack can still happen.
If there is a multi-month waiting period to buy a handgun, this attack can still happen.
The alleged shooter had an arrest in February for possession of a controlled substance (a prescription drug). The case was still pending. Two months later, he was arrested again for trespassing at local shopping center (where the drug arrest happened).
As an adult with no felony convictions, no felony indictments, and someone not known to be an unlawful user of any controlled substance, (these are specific questions on ATF Form 4473, required to buy a gun from a dealer), the alleged shooter could have presumably passed the FBI NICS check and purchased a gun at a store.
If adults with no criminal record can still pass background checks and buy guns from stores, this attack can still happen.
We have been told that the gun gifted to the alleged shooter was a .45 auto pistol. A witness reports that the shooter changed magazines around 5 times during the shooting, and that fewer than 50 shots were fired. The most common pistol chambered in 45 auto is the 1911, and it has a standard magazine capacity of 7 rounds. (There are magazines that hold 8, 10, or even more rounds, but for an original 1911 magazine, 7 is the limit.)
If, as I suspect, the shooter used a 1911, with normal 1911 magazines, then laws that limit magazine capacity would not have prevented or altered this attack. A 1911 with 7-round magazines would comply even with the draconian NY SAFE Act, the most restrictive magazine capacity law I’m familiar with.
The President implies that if only it were more difficult to acquire a gun, then this attack might not have happened.
But the alleged shooter would already seem to comply with the most draconian gun laws in any state. In order for a law change to meaningfully impact this incident, it would need to be much more difficult for an American adult to acquire a handgun. And not just any American – one who would have no difficulty passing a background check, and who could afford to wait for several months for a waiting period, and who only wanted a standard capacity magazine for their firearm.
In effect, to change the laws to keep a handgun away from someone like the alleged shooter, you’d need to make handgun ownership for a law abiding American nearly impossible. While the President certainly supports making handgun ownership effectively impossible, currently most Americans do not.
What about the President’s other claims?
Do other advanced countries have incidents of mass violence? Sadly, they do. It really doesn’t matter how you choose to define “advanced”; mass violence is sadly a current reality of our world.
[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]…if you look at places around the world with high murder rates, you don’t see remarkably lax gun laws.[/mks_pullquote]
What about mass violence that specifically uses firearms? This sadly, is also the case. In fact, if you look at the top 5 shooting massacres in the world, by number of dead victims, the USA is only implicated in one of the five.
The worst mass shooting by a private individual happened in Norway, in 2011. Norway has stricter gun laws than does the US. In fact, every other nation in the top 5 list has stricter gun laws than the US.
There doesn’t appear to be a relationship between strict gun control and the prevention of mass shootings.
Finally, it is always suspicious to suppose that a particular policy in one society would have a similar effect on some other society. That is to say, even if you think gun laws in the UK work well, there’s no reason to suppose those same laws would work well in the US.
Wikipedia has a list of the top 50 most murderous cities in the World, and four of them are American. St. Louis, Detroit, and New Orleans have no especially onerous gun laws, where as Baltimore (the final US city in the top 50), inherits extremely strict gun laws from Maryland. Mexico has many more cities on the top 50 list, and Mexican gun laws are quite a bit more restrictive than are any in the US.
So if you look at places around the world with high murder rates, you don’t see remarkably lax gun laws.
Of course, this discussion about how gun law relates to crime has been had many times. Gun control advocates, usually on the left, continue to repeat the claim that somehow making guns harder to get will just fix everything, and the data just doesn’t support this claim. The unfounded belief in the effectiveness of gun control is kind of like the political left’s version of flat-Eartherism. The evidence is pretty conclusive, but a persistent, ignorant belief remains…
Finally, since the President talked about Hate Crimes, let’s briefly mention those.
In 2013, the latest year for which the complete data is available, there were a total of 5 hate crime murder victims across the whole nation.
So, the good news is, there is by no means some kind of gun violence hate crime epidemic happening in the US.
The bad news is, we can expect anti-gun politicians to continue to pretend that the sky is falling…