In a recent edition of our local newspaper there was an article by Megan McArdle, a Washington Post columnist, in which she addressed some familiar “solutions” related to gun control in the U.S. The entire article can be found at the Washington Post website under the title of “How to Fight Mass Killings.” However, be warned. WP restricts people to a limited number of visits, so you may have to find alternate ways to access the article.
In any case, following are some highlights.
Ms. McArdle asks, Why are so many mass shootings happening now? Why not decades ago, when the United States had plenty of guns, alienated youth, dysfunctional families, economically distressed communities, sexism and almost every other factor commonly blamed for these tragedies?
Surprisingly, mass public shootings used to be rare, freak events. They spiked in the late 1990s, then abruptly fell in 2000 and stayed low for years. What changed? She points out that in 2000-2004, the dot-com bubble burst. Then there was a hotly contested election, followed by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Iraq War. All these events distracted the media and this, in turn, had an effect on those who follow wall-to-wall coverage of massacres.
In her opinion, mass shootings seem to be a “social contagion, a behavioral epidemic.” In fact, she feels they are almost like a disease triggered by media coverage.
Preventing Mass Killings
As we all know, much discussion has taken place on how to stop mass killings. Ms. McArdle provides what she calls two “obvious” policies:
- Ban private gun ownership
- Ban extensive coverage of mass shootings
Unfortunately, both violate the Constitution … even though they could radically reduce (if not entirely eliminate) mass killing sprees.
She goes on to say that mental health treatment isn’t the answer since not all shooters have shown any signs of mental unbalance before they strike. She also dismisses violent video games and entertainment. And background checks won’t work because many mass shooters buy guns legally. Or they borrow. Or steal what they can’t borrow.
She points out that a high capacity magazine ban enacted in 1994 proved useless because it’s the high velocity power of the gun that’s the problem, not how many bullets it can hold.
She then asks: “What part of the Bill of Rights do we want to amend, read out of the Constitution or simply violate outright? The First Amendment or the Second?”
She ends her commentary by indicating she will point out a better way in her next column. I hope to be able to access it and report accordingly. However, if it’s not provided by our local newspaper, I encourage readers to research on their own and share her solutions via comments on this post.