12/2/15

Mass Shootings and Earthquakes

12/2/15
I don't mean to downplay the terribleness of the San Bernardino shooting, nor the value in seeking preventative measures. But let's state the obvious: this sort of thing has happened before and will happen again.

Despite existing laws. Despite new laws.

I am opposed to virtually all gun control, not because it's proven to be completely ineffective, but because they take away from all for the actions of a few (I understand this argument is meaningless when taken to extreme, but so is anything: why have freedom at all if people violently misuse it?).

So let's step away from the philosophy and the triggery politics, and maybe look at it with a cold, practical perspective.

Let's assume there are no deus ex machinas around (always a good idea), i.e., everybody will not magically agree to ban guns and destroy every last trace of lethal projectile weaponry; nobody will come up with a new gun control plan that everyone agrees with AND is super effective; nobody will cure or effectively prevent crazy from happening; etc.

That doesn't leave us with much. My view on this is that there are essentially two approaches to crime:
  1. Stop bad people from doing bad things.
  2. Empower good people to stop bad things from happening to them.
For most things, #1 is good enough. Reasonable law enforcement, jail, fines, prison, social pressure is enough to deter and prevent most crimes, or force restitution. We can live with a few burglaries now and then, knowing that burglary is out of the ordinary. Even most bad people will go along to get along if that means they stay out of jail.

For everything else that isn't easily fixed, there are no good collective/top-down solutions. You can't stop an earthquake, but you can prepare for it. I don't think that means making our kids wear bullet-proof vests to school, but I do think it means making the average citizen a higher risk target for potential mass murderers.

In most places people are defenseless, which is nice and all, and is perfectly fine 99.9% of the time. But nobody ever shoots up a police department. And that .01% (or whatever the number is, I'm guessing, but I'd imagine I'm fairly close) is a big deal. If more good guys concealed carry, the average citizen would be higher risk for potential mass murderers. And what's nice about concealed carry is that for 99.9% of the time, it looks and feels just like those nice defenseless places, except they're not defenseless.

I guess the question comes down to what balance are we comfortable with? If we encouraged and trained a lot more good people to carry concealed, I'm pretty sure mass shootings would occur less often and with fewer casualties.* That's something I would be comfortable and happy with. But maybe not for others. That's the discussion I think we should be having, not the same gun control debate that goes nowhere and is largely made for easy political points and/or virtue signalling.

*Unlike most crimes and the criminals who commit them, there are far less data on mass shootings & shooters, but there is some. Counterfactuals are hypothetical and sketchy at best, but the logic is sound and the scant evidence that does exist, suggests that good guys with guns tend to stop bad guys with guns (plus it's impossible to calculate, even fuzzily, the number of shootings prevented). I'm lazy so I'm just going to say don't take my word for it and do your own research.

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