It’s The Guns, Stupid

Via TPM:

Conservative columnist George Will said Sunday that the Aurora, Colo. shootings have little to do with the nation’s gun laws, describing it as the product of an isolated, deranged individual.

“That’s what the problem is – an individual’s twisted mind,” he said on ABC’s “This Week” roundable. “There is a human itch in the modern age to commit sociology as soon as this happens and to piggy-back various political agendas on a tragedy. And I just think we ought to resist that. … There are deranged people in the world.”

Mass murder is as natural as the sun coming up in the morning and there’s nothing anyone can do about it:

Since 1982, there have been at least 36 mass murders* carried out with firearms across the United States. We have mapped them below, including details on the shooter’s identity, the date of the event, and the number of victims injured and killed. We do not consider the map comprehensive (and there are countless incidents of deadly gun violence in America, of course). We used the following criteria to identify incidents of mass murder:

  • The killings were carried out by a lone shooter (except in the case of the Columbine massacre, which involved two shooters).
  • The shootings happened during a single incident and in a public place (except possibly in the case of a deer hunter in Wisconsin who killed his victims after a trespassing dispute).
  • The shooter took the lives of at least four people (an FBI crime classification report identifies an individual as a mass murderer—as opposed to a spree killer or a serial killer—if he kills four or more people in a single incident, and typically in a single location).
  • If the shooter died or was hurt from injuries sustained during the incident, he is included in the victim count.

Click over to see the map.

Let’s just say that there have not been 36 mass murders in that period not committed with firearms. So I think there’s at least some correlation. Yes, murders have always happened and mass murder is a feature of human kind. But there’s something very new about what we’re experiencing now:

Although gun proponents are correct when they contend that firearms are not to blame for the behavior of mass killers, guns do make their attacks far bloodier. The availability of high-powered, rapid-fire weapons is surely a large part of the reason why the death tolls in mass murders have been so large in the recent past. Three-quarters of the deadliest mass murders in the United States have occurred since 1980, most of which involved firearms as the exclusive or primary weapon.

It would have been nearly impossible for the Tucson gunman to kill and wound so many with a knife or his own hands. In addition to the greater lethality of the firearm, guns also distance the attacker psychologically from his victims. It is possible that the shooter may not have been emotionally able to kill a young girl had he had any physical contact with her. But with a gun, he could dispassionately shoot down innocent strangers, along with his primary target, as if they were moving objects in a video game.

Notwithstanding the worn-out slogan that “guns don’t kill, people do,” guns do make it easier for people to commit murder. And semi-automatic guns, like the Tucson assailant’s out-of-the-box spanking-new Glock, make it easier to commit mass murder.

I guess we’re just supposed to accept this as an inevitable result of “progress.” But it’s sick. Blithely defending the idea that some kid can legally get a hold of automatic weapons that can take down 75 people in a quick spray is about the most irresponsible thing I’ve ever heard. George Will is a bit of a psychopath himself, I’m afraid.

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