Some Thoughts on School Shootings, Media, and the Consequences of Fear

“There is not an epidemic of school shootings,” he said, adding that more kids are killed each year from pool drownings or bicycle accidents.

James Alan Fox, the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern.

School shootings are actually down since the 1990s (with a lot of variability). Fewer students are carrying weapons to school and fewer students report having easy access to guns (data here).

It’s been said that we live in an increasingly divided media universe but on many issues I think we live in an increasingly uniform media universe. Social media is so ubiquitous and the same things sell so widely that I suspect the collective consciousness is less fragmentary than in the past. Does anyone not know about Parkland? Contrary to common wisdom, mass shootings also occur in European countries. I suspect, however, that the Finnish media don’t cover German shootings as frequently as shootings in Florida are covered in Nebraska–as a result the larger the media-market the greater the extent of availability bias. In other words, the larger the media market the greater the over-estimation of rare but vivid events. (Someone should test this theory.)

I worry about turning schools into prisons and what kinds of citizens this will create. My letter to my son’s high school principal was sent before the recent shootings but I stand by it now more than ever:

Dear Principal _____,

Thank you for requesting feedback about the installation of interior cameras at the high school. I am against the use of cameras. I visited the school recently to pick up my son and it was like visiting a prison. A police car often sits outside the school and upon entry a security guard directs visitors to the main office where the visitor’s drivers license is scanned and information including date of birth is collected (is this information checked against other records and kept in a database for future reference? It’s unclear). The visitor is then photographed and issued a photo pass. I found the experience oppressive. Adding cameras will only add to the prison-like atmosphere. The response, of course, will be that these measures are necessary for “safety.” As with security measures at the airports I doubt that these measures increase actual safety, instead they are security theater, a play that we put on that looks like security but really is not.

Moreover, the truth is that American children have never been safer than they are today. Overall youth mortality (ages 5-14) has fallen from 60 per 100,000 in 1950 to 13.1 per 100,000 today (CDC, Vital Statistics). Yet we hide in gated communities, homes and schools as never before.

When we surround our students with security we are implicitly telling them that the world is dangerous; we are whispering in their ear, ‘be afraid, do not venture out, take no risks.’ When going to school requires police, security guards and cameras how can I encourage my child to travel to foreign countries, to seek new experiences, to meet people of different faiths, beliefs and backgrounds? When my child leaves school how will the atmosphere of fear that he has grown up in affect his view of the world and the choices he will make as a citizen in our democracy? School teaches more than words in books.

Yours sincerely,

Alex Tabarrok


“ how can I encourage my child to travel to foreign countries, to seek new experiences, to meet people of different faiths, beliefs and backgrounds?

They can visit China, they will feel right at home. The whole country is gearing up for ubiquitous surveillance.

"They can visit China, they will feel right at home."

It must be a great place. American jobs went for a visit and never returned. Not that anyone cares about in at an economics site...

Lump of labor fallacy

Is it the fallacy where people lose their jobs, but the rich get richer?

What's the unemployment rate again?

At manufacture? Higher than ever since the 1980s. Entire regions were devastated. Not that you care.

Is it actually? Do you even know what it is?

American manufacturing production has tripled since 1975:, while employed has decreased in absolute numbers thanks to massive increase in productivity due to automation. China has nothing to do with decline of manufacturing jobs.

You can encourage your kids to travel, because in most countries (that are not a war zone) they will be safer, as the lack of guns make nearly anywhere safer than the USA. We have 5% of the worlds population and 31% of the mass shootings. We have over 25x the gun deaths of other high income countries.

The second amendment clearly states the right to bear arms should be connected with participation in a well organized militia. The pro-gun activist community should ponder these sentences much more deeply.

Art, what has happened to you? Tell me this is msgking masquerading as you?

Because, no, that is not what the Second Amendment says.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

It says that a militia is important. Therefore no laws restricting guns are permissible. There is nothing that means that the people *have* to serve in the militia. There is a general right to own guns because at some point or other it may be necessary for some people to serve in the defense of the nation.

Tell me this is msgking masquerading as you?

The other Mercatus employee makes vulgar sexual references which the moderators sometimes delete, so, yes, msgkings.

Yo shove that gun stock up my butthole.

I'm a cuck!

You need to learn how to diagram a sentence. Perhaps that will make comprehension easier for you, as it ain't working now.

The article mentions "a free State", not "the United States".

Did someone hijack Art's name?
No, the right to bear arms is NOT predicated on being part of the militia and never has been. The US Supreme Court in Heller recognized correctly that the militia clause is prefatory, just as the Preamble is. The militia clause states what the operative clause is doing and is NOT limited to that context.

Moreover, the militia consisted of all able bodied men of fighting age. They were expected, upon being called, to show up for mutual defense with their OWN firearms. In other words, the word "militia" presumes that private citizens already have arms.

The First Amendment unambiguously uses the words "right of the people" as an individual right. It's implausible that the writers would use the same phrase 16 words later as a collective right.

The militia no longer exists. It has been replaced by the National Guard, a reserve component of the (unlawful) large standing army. The National Guard is armed, trained, and controlled by the federal army. This completely defeats the purpose of the second amendment to maintain the ability of the people to prevent or throw off an oppressive ruler.

"(unlawful) large standing army"

There is nothing "unlawful" about a standing army.

The Constitution in Article II, Section 8 authorizes Congress to "raise and support Armies" subject to a two year limit on appropriations.

"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials."
— George Mason, 1788

Federally, the militia includes "All able bodied men, 17 to 45 of age, are ultimately eligible to be called up into military service and belong to the class known as the reserve militia, also known as the unorganized militia (10 USC). Able bodied men who are not eligible for inclusion in the reserve militia pool are those aliens not having declared their intent to become citizens of the United States (10 USC 246) and former regular component veterans of the armed forces who have reached the age of 64 (32 USC 313). All female citizens who are members of National Guard units are also included in the reserve militia pool (10 U.S.C. § 246)."

In many states, the militia is defined similarly according to State law and constitutions.

Richard Posner, judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, says that the SCOTUS ruling in Heller created a federal constitutional right that did not previously exist...i.e., they just made it up. There is no constitutional provision which protects a private party's possession of firearms for hunting, sport or self defense.

Previous applications of the amendment have included things like specification of which type of gun could be held for reasons such as ease of supplying ammo to whatever militia may be hypothetically raised.

Yeah, well... he's wrong

In United States v. Miller, the US Supreme Court considered the regulation of short barreled shotguns in the National Firearms Act.

The Petitioner was NOT a member of the then existing National Guard, but the court did not once mention or consider whether Miller was ineligible to own firearms on that ground. The court only considered whether short barreled shotguns were commonly used in warfare. It concluded, erroneously, that they were not. In fact, short barrel shotguns had extensive use in the trenches of WWI. However, Miller died before his case reached oral argument and thus his position was totally undefended.

To be clear, Miller stated, ironically, that the federal government could restrict short barrel shotguns because they were NOT military weapons.

The Constitution clearly says the exercise of the freedom of the PRESS. High-capacity internet servers are not PRESSES and it's just common sense media control to ban all high capacity internet servers to prevent hate speech, extremist videos, illegal sales, and the exploitation of minors. As we speak, nazis are using high-capacity internet servers to recruit new members in an attempt to commit genocide. Over 90% of Americans do not support that.

"well organized militia"

Not true. Well regulated in 1789 in this context meant trained and proficient in use of arms.

Great letter!

I think the whole point of this post is for Alex to remind us that this is not just Tyler's site, by including his name actually in the post. Is this my first ever Straussian reading?

"Great letter!"

... and what do you think is the reaction from that school principal?

what personal qualities are required to be a public school principal these days?


"increasingly uniform media universe"

the MSM coverage of Parkland was/is horrible, as usual. Parkland is still the top news story today as the media desperately strives to milk every possible emotional nugget from the tragedy.

The tremendous notoriety bestowed by the media upon mass-killers is a big factor motivating these killers, as Jordan Peterson observed this week.

Well, if Peterson "observed" it, then it must be true and deeply insightful and original, as opposed to an idea so ubiquitous a pop song espousing it was released three decades ago.

Because something said before shouldn’t be pointed out again?

By all means, point it out again. Its just not clear why he needs to credit a commonly held idea to somebody who didn't come up with it.

because he's in the news at the moment and he made this observation. Any other questions?

As Kim Kardashian said, no.

"Moreover, the truth is that American children have never been safer than they are today. Overall youth mortality (ages 5-14) has fallen from 60 per 100,000 in 1950 to 13.1 per 100,000 today (CDC, Vital Statistics). Yet we hide in gated communities, homes and schools as never before."

I should take to torturing and killing children. If grieving parents and community members ask the death penalty, I can remark that medicine and hygiene have made great advances since 1950 and killing a few hundred of their precious snowflakes won't make their cohort mortality statistics even bulge. It would be "All things considered, I am actually better than the Black Plague and nuclear war" defense. Or the "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic" defense.

"the truth is that American children have never been safer than they are today."

Leaving aside the tens of millions killed before birth....

Before Birth is before personhood. So...not the same thing

Soooo, my kids became persons as soon as the obstetrician grasped them by their slimy heads? But weren’t 30 seconds earlier?

That’s actually about as compelling as the “a miracle has happened now” position taken by the religious people st the other end of the spectrum.


It's not all about disease. Accident rates are down since 1950, and (just like all other crime) intentional harm rates are also down since the early 1990s. This is a novel idea... maybe... just maybe... we shouldn't use grief as the driver of public policy. Maybe numeracy should come into the picture as well.

"This is a novel idea… maybe… just maybe… we shouldn’t use grief as the driver of public policy. "

I mean, we are literally allowing our children to be murdered at the place where they should under the thighest protection (we are not talking about Chinese factories or Las Vegas Casinos) and where we send them for their own good. I bet the Mayans did worse at their human sacrifices. I jus5 wonder if future archeologists will think we thought the sun would never rise again and give us plentiful harvests if we did not sacrifice our kids. You know what, for our reputation's sake, I hope they think that instead of "they were trying to save a buck and appease Libertardeds".

I'm not saying we shouldn't have more gun control... we should (see my comment below). It should probably include only having licensed vendors rather than the idiotic gun show loophole. Policy should be based on something a little bit more solid than emotion. In the gun violence debate, school shootings should rank maybe toward the bottom, with overall homicide and suicide rates near the top.

We must be tough on mass shootings. We started a war for WMDs that were not there. Our children are here, so are the criminals. There are nomexcuses to not doing our duty.

There is no gun show loophole in federal firearms law, and people objecting to that non-existent loophole just illustrate their lack of knowledge.

If I buy a gun from a dealer at a gun show, I go through the same background checks I would if I was buying at the dealer's store front. If I buy a gun from a dealer online, I go through the same background checks I would if I was buying at the dealer's store front (although the checks are initiated by a different FFL licensee.)

If I buy a gun from a private individual in person, the rules are different, but the rules are the same in a gun show as they are if we are outside of a gun store.

That's for federal law -- in a few states (9), the states themselves, not the feds, have introduced additional restrictions. These restrictions apply both in and out of gun shows, therefore even those restrictions do not constitute a gun show loophole.

Rules and laws are only as good as their enforcement.

Numerancy should indeed drive far more policy than it does now. That being said, numerancy does not always account for randomness. Numerancy is only as good as the data collection is widspread and diverse. If a solution like security cameras has a record of improving safety and also maintains freedoms to an acceptable extent, then implementing it, even in a supposedly low-school shooting succeptible area makes a degree of sense.

The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is just statistics

Yes, one of Uncle Joe's best quotes. BTW the Black Death was probably the best thing to happen to humanity. The Malthusian Trap has been sprung but once.

So that is, the destruction of human ljves is good. Moloch is hungry!!

Sometimes it is. Killing Hitler and burning children to death as a sacrifice to an imaginary god may be conflated in your head, but not mine

I largely agree with this. Paranoia is out of control.

I doubt that these measures increase actual safety, instead they are security theater, a play that we put on that looks like security but really is not.

Indeed. Which is what school security officers turn out to be too. They are not there to protect people but look like they are protecting people.

Moreover, the truth is that American children have never been safer than they are today. Overall youth mortality (ages 5-14) has fallen from 60 per 100,000 in 1950 to 13.1 per 100,000 today (CDC, Vital Statistics). Yet we hide in gated communities, homes and schools as never before.

Fox Butterfield, is that you? This is the one bit I disagree with. It may well be true that youth mortality is down precisely because they cannot go out and play. Because they are behind walls. The argument should be that taking reasonable risks is a necessary part of growing up and becoming a well rounded adult. Even if there is a risk they will fall out of a tree or into a river. We need to expose children, especially boys, to the wider world even if that means some will die. Although that is a hard argument to make in public.

We could start by jailing criminals for longer and locking up the mentally ill.

"Indeed. Which is what school security officers turn out to be too. They are not there to protect people but look like they are protecting people."

Looks like someone is still bitter about Officer Krupke stealing their girl decades ago.

Well yes but I had him done for child molestation. Which seems fair in the circumstances. Middle School staff should know better.

The attacks on the NRA and the calls for it to be banned are another good example of virtue signalling security theater. Banning the NRA or driving them off Youtube will not do a damn thing to improve the record of gun crime in America. What would help would be enforcing the laws we have. Such as jailing felons who are not allowed to have a gun when they are caught with guns. Jailing people who have illegal guns - especially hand guns. Stop and frisk. All these things would help but the Democrats are fiercely opposed to punishing their voters.

Hardly any of the people you want to stop and frisk or who own illegal guns bother to vote, Dem or otherwise.

"We need to expose children, especially boys, to the wider world even if that means some will die."

We can send them to Iraq. Some of them may die but we apparently have a surplus of children anyway... Good times when it was just about letting boys play with skates...

War has been the classical way to let life prune the more belligerent and antisocial from our population. Wanna kill people? Have a battlefield with the like-minded. Hey, if you survive, we'll even celebrate you!

>We could start by jailing criminals for longer and locking up the mentally ill.

The Dems say that is a non-starter. Got anything else?

In some inner-city schools the security officers do play a role. To make the teachers safe.

There is a difference between restricting freedom of movement and implementing measures that may help detect sources of danger. One does not cancel th eother, though movement restrictions and , say surveillance, can easily go together, and then perhaps there may be problems with compliance.

Not sure security cameras help with school shooters. It's not like they are trying to hide or conceal anything. If anything they want all the camera time they can get.

In this context do people give the argument of erosion of trust damaging societies?

Yes, this is all so frustrating. The same people who claim to "F-ing Love Science" seem to also be "Really F-ing Bad At Math". Making catchy slogans is always more fun than thinking and analyzing.

This is the "one is too many" crowd we are talking about. They don't hesitate to drag corpses on stage and use children as human shields in debating anything they want.

OK, but as much as you or I or anybody may appreciate the concrete value of math and stats, we still cannot exclude human emotion, so the "one too many argument" as sensationalist as it can be, is still valid. The problem is that its far more valid for those whose child is harmed or killed than the rest of us. BUt I guarantee you , most of us would happily join the "one too many" crowd if it were our child, or brother, etc...

"They don’t hesitate to drag corpses on stage and use children as human shields in debating anything they want."

Well, now, they are only good to be human shields. It is not like anyone will be hugging them, teaching them or watching them grow up.

I fucking Love Black Cock

I see the payments from Mercatus have been increased recently.

I'm not sure how any of this is an argument against limiting the availability of assault weapons, especially to the mentally disturbed. Just because mass school shootings aren't a top national problem, doesn't mean they shouldn't be addressed, especially when the solution is rather straightforward (um, stop selling military grade weapons whose primary purpose is killing as many people as possible as quickly as possible).

At the very least, it's clear that kids getting mowed down by automatic weapons in school is pretty damaging to the national psyche, even if the total death toll makes Alex pooh-pooh the issue. It should be addressed rather than inducing a shrug and a demand that "there's nothing to see here".

I am pretty sure there are strong laws about selling "assault weapons" to the mentally disturbed. The problem is that the Democrats all watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and think it is their job to keep the mentally ill out of asylums and in our communities. So if you cannot diagnose them until they hurt someone, you can't really prevent someone selling them a gun.

The problem is that the solution is not straight forward. This was not a military grade weapon. I know the actual facts don't matter here but this shooting seems to have used a Smith & Wesson M&P15. Which looks a lot like an AR-15 although that too is also not a military grade weapon. Both of them being semi-automatic.

Which leads to the other point which is no, this was not an automatic weapon. It is true that it is pretty traumatic but that is mainly because the mainstream media is hyping this attack to unbelievable levels. CNN has gone all in to get this story across every TV screen and so get the NRA banned. Which is odd because if this was a suicide they would have more of a sense of social responsibility given such hype is known to cause copy cat crimes.

It doesn't deserve much of a response. We could lock the mentally ill up sooner. But that would require this School district to end its policy of not reporting minorities like Cruz because the Obama administration lent on them not to do so. Seems a good idea.

A lot of people are killed every year with guns. Many by their own hand - about two thirds of them in fact. Some 11,000 are shot by someone else. But some 2.5 million people die every year in the US. So it is not a big percentage. As a sign of how pointless such a law would be, around 800 people are beaten to death every year with fists, about 400 or so are shot with a long gun, of those about 18 are killed in mass shootings with a long gun. So basically it is just virtue signalling at this point.

Remind me why semi-automatic weapons need to be available to civilians again? Mass killings are made much easier with weapons like M&P15s and AR-15s.

There is no "need" with rights.

But while we are on that subject, recall that the Second Amendment was specifically intended to protect the ability of Americans to resist an oppressive federal government. Based on that purpose, the people have a right to some level of parity with government forces.

Bear in mind that the Constitution expressly forbids appropriation of funds for a federal army for more than two years. To get around that restriction, Congress has unlawfully re-approoriated funds for the Army in two year budget cycles. Effectively, it re-creates the federal army every two years. But we have a de facto large standing army. That army possesses extraordinary weapons. The response to this situation is NOT to throw up ones hands and say "resistance is futile." Quite to the contrary, it calls for serious consideration of other ways to limit the power of the federal army and to strengthen civilian ability to repel them. While I wouldn't favor allowing civilians to have anti-tank weapons, this situation is AT LEAST good cause to maintain the status quo.

Serious question: what number of kids need to die at the barrel of semi-automatic weapons before eliminating them becomes more important to public safety than their theoretical contribution to resisting the US military?

Given that a ban on semi-automatic weapons would put millions of people in jail and yet not do a damn thing to prevent school shootings, I have no idea.

Pointless virtue signalling is not the same as virtue.

Let's agree on sensible gun laws - mandatory sentencing for convicted criminals with illegal guns and their relatives who act as straw buyers for them. Easier institutionalization of the mentally ill. Both of those would save more lives than even preventing all mass shootings.

Things like mandatory sentencing have very high costs. Banning future sales of semi-automatic weapons is very low cost.

This has nothing to do with "virtue signalling". This is about a simple law change that reduces the number of weapons of mass murder that end up in the hands of school and concert shooters.


I’d argue that the cost is actually quite high.

1. You’d need to collect the guns from people. This requires some financial cost. Arguably, this would be a taking and thus would require compensation.
Let’s say there are 150m semi automatic weapons in the US and assume the FMV is 100 per gun. That’s 15B right off the top.

2. You’d need to police the lack of guns (ie any black market). Accordingly, police officers would need to start monitoring guns instead of other beats. To the extent you think those other beats are beneficial, there is another cost.

3. A black market is created. Almost all black markets increase the rate of violence, including collateral damage. That’s a cost.

4. Rules will be enforced, such that someone who committed no crime except for owning property will be put in jail. Add another cost.

5. 3D printing makes gun restriction hard to enforce; but likely allows access to guns to “the bad guys” while keeping guns out of the hands of the “good guys.” That is a cost.

There are so many semi automatic weapons in the US. Once pandora’s Box is opened, the costs to closing it are legion.

Somewhere at least in the tens of billions, if not hundreds of billions.

Zeke5133, Australia bought back a ton of guns and seems to have good results, quite unlike what you hypothesize. How do yo square that circle?


Well, one difference is that there were about 1/5th the levels of gun per capital in Australia.

The other is that gun control is easier on an island.

It’s also quite possible that the US is more violent compared to Australia.

Finally, changes in technology may make gun control in Oz untenable.

Why does a woman need to have an abortion? Why does Penthouse need to publish pictures of women going through meatr grinders? By all means, let's play silly games with what we think other people need. You really think that is going to end well?

Slate did its usual hysterical nonsense and claimed there were something like 3.75 million AR-15 style rifles in the US. There are some 330 million guns in total, over 100 million of which are rifles of one sort or another. Which means that gun owners are exceptionally law abiding people. By and large they do not use these guns for anything other than hunting and target shooting.

There is no *need* to ban a damn thing. Not that you could. Those guns are out there and their owners aren't showing a lot of inclination to hand them over. But even if you could, what is the point? Those guns do no harm to anyone. The problem is not Republican voters with their "assault rifles". Gun crime is almost entirely a matter of Democrat voters using illegal hand guns. Let's agree on a mandatory ten years in prison for possession of an illegal gun by someone with a prior conviction and then we would be getting somewhere.

You can target shoot and hunt perfectly well without semi-automatic weapons. You haven't made a compelling argument that the benefits of citizens owning them outweigh the costs.

You can survive without porn too. Let's get rid of the First amendment.

I don't need to make an argument in favor of guns. The constitution is there to make sure of that. You need to make an argument that the laws need to change. And you can't. Because 3.75 million "assault rifles" are giving a lot of people a warm feeling and doing no harm to anyone. There is no justification for banning them.

Now any reasonable person would be willing to acknowledge these. "Assault rifles" are safer than a lot of legal things like cigarettes, marijuana, cars, and so on. Anyone who argues otherwise is not reasonable. That is the problem with this topic - too many people have made up their minds and are not willing to listen to the evidence.

"You need to make an argument that the laws need to change. And you can’t. Because 3.75 million “assault rifles” are giving a lot of people a warm feeling and doing no harm to anyone. There is no justification for banning them. "

Need I remind you that the reason we're having this conversation is because lots of people are getting murdered by psychos wielding these weapons? Has that point somehow escaped you? I'm sorry, a "warm feeling" of owning an AR-15 doesn't justify the facilitation of mass murder.

The argument that the law needs to change is simple. The costs of automatic weapons are measured in many lives. The benefits are essentially nil. We don't need to eliminate the 2nd amendment. We need to define it in scope that delivers the maximum benefit to the populace and minimizes death and terror.

John, hardly anyone killed by a firearm is killed by an assault rifle. Why isn't the conversation around young black men and handguns (common) versus young white men and assault rifles (very rare)? Maybe we expect nothing more of young black men these days. I guess I should not expect mathematical literacy in politically motivated analysis.

"...because lots of people are getting murdered by psychos wielding these weapons"

Lots? Compared to what? To the numbers murdered every year by handguns? To the numbers killed in traffic accidents? To the numbers dying of opioid overdoses? No, no, and no. So why is this your #1 crisis? Also, in the case of Parkland, there were multiple warnings about this particular psycho that were ignored. So why focus your remediation efforts on the weapon rather than the psycho? After all, addressing the failures to heed warnings about Nikolas Cruz doesn't require a constitutional amendment, doesn't require impairing the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens, and, in fact, doesn't really have any political opposition at all. Why not focus on the more tractable path where broad agreement across the political spectrum is possible rather than the intractable path that is absolutely guaranteed to generate a huge political firestorm and further polarize the populace? Also, suppose gun-control advocates temporarily gained enough political power to ram through an Australian-style weapons ban. How many millions of Americans would refuse to comply? How many red-state law enforcement agencies would refuse to enforce? How many armed stand-offs could we expect between federal agents attempting to enforce the laws and armed citizens refusing to yield? Is that really a road you want to go down?

@John: good work here, but I don't have the patience to try to persuade these folks

@Slocum: this is the problem in a nutshell, John is talking about marginal changes, common sense regulation of firearms, and you go to 'Australian style ban'. Yes a total ban is completely impossible and prohibited by the 2A. So let's please ignore the 'ban all guns' crowd and the 'don't regulate anything' crowd and find a sensible middle.

Australia does not have a total ban. They removed only 20% of the privately owned firearms (i.e. private stock of firearms remains at 80% of the "pre-ban" level). Also the ban appears to have had no effect on mass shootings as New Zealand had the same decline without any such law.

msgkings, the "common sense" approach to regulation is the problem. "Common sense" dictates that a laregly symbolic ban on assault weapons be the policy goal, but I suppose it's common sense to virtue-signal and feed that elephant in your brain. If you want to talk about marginal effects, let's also think about substitution effects as well. Ban assault weapons and these violent incidents will shift more in favor of handguns.

@clamence: yours is a 'can't fix it, let's do nothing' mentality that's unnecessarily defeatist. As far as your example, if shooters used handguns instead of ARs I bet the death toll would be lower, which is an unalloyed good. Las Vegas wouldn't have even been possible with just handguns.

msgkings, well then LV could have been a bombing instead or a guy driving a dump truck through a crowd or a guy who illegally acquired a suitable firearm or...

Virtue signallers need to realize why it is they are so worried over 0.2% of all firearms homicides and why comparatively they barely lose any sleep over black people getting shot in the thousands each year (unless it happens to be by a cop).

"John is talking about marginal changes, common sense regulation of firearms"

John is talking about banning all semi-automatic weapons. That applies to the vast majority pistols and rifles on the market and already in private hands. That would not be a small, 'marginal' change. Quite the opposite.

The defeatism is astonishing. Because there are other ways to kill lots of people let's not do anything about one of them. I can kill you with a knife so why try to reduce killings in mass killing incidents?

msgkings: It's not defeatism but rather the humility that comes with realizing that in these very rare spree-killings, the motivation is for infamy, which can be obtained through various modes of violence and killing. As Abe Simpson would say, assault weapons are "the style of the time" rather than an essential component in these incidents *given the underlying motivations of the perpetrators*.

Once again, I have never stated that nothing should be done! I'll add illiteracy right next to innumeracy on my list of your disabilities.

Me: "my car won't start"
You: "did you make sure it has wheels?"
Me: "that's irrelevant"
You: "oh, I see, you don't even want your car to start, you defeatist!"

@clamence: points for the Abe Simpson reference but the rest of it? As Monty Burns would say, "Oh Ziggy, will you ever win?"

But seriously, you can't think of a single thing we could do differently regarding firearms to make them less likely to be used by nutjobs, or to kill fewer people when they do?

msg: again, I will cite humility on that matter. I'm not a policy wonk and I haven't thought about what could plausibly work carefully, which is to say I'm not a resident of Lake Wobegon in believing I have special insight and can casually produce the solution(s) to a deep and difficult problem. As Homer says, "trying is the first step towards failure" (now *that's* defeatist!).

I favor more gun regulation. I'm not sure that the answer is banning semi-automatic weapons. I don't understand why the requirements for owning a machine that can kill dozens of people in less than a minute are less stringent than owning/driving a motor vehicle. Considering that your are conveying the ability to kill potentially hundreds of people in a matter of minutes, requiring, say, a safety course and exam and maybe a drug test and/or evaluation and approval of a board-certified metal health professional seem entirely reasonable to me. Or requiring insurance, which would probably include both of the latter. The 2nd Amendment is pretty clear that gun ownership should be well regulated. It seems to assume it as a precondition of bearing arms. There are hundreds of millions of cars in America. It does not seem that any of these regulations are overly burdensome.

Really? You don't understand why there are stringent requirements for using something that is used only on public property, vs. why there are lax requirements for owning something used mainly on private property? Go take a high school civics class, rather than using social media and CNN as guiding political principles.

Huh? Since when are cars used only on public property? And my understanding is guns are not restricted to private property..doesn't most hunting occur in state and national forests? More importantly, given their killing power and portability it seems prudent to assume guns can be taken anywhere. And what do "tax requirements" have to do with any of this?

I don't watch CNN. I check into facebook a couple times a week. And I'm a history teacher.

When are cars used on private property? When it's in your driveway? You don't need a license or registration for a car to sit at your house.

And from experience, I would say that where hunting occurs depends on the state, but yes, it does often occur on public land. However, there are requirements to do so. In Montana you need a hunting license to hunt, and to get a hunting license, you need to take a hunter's safety course.

And I said "lax requirements," not "tax requirements."

Fair enough. I don't think the 2nd Amendment makes any distinction between private and public property in the right to bear arms or the regulation of it. I assume most people who use their guns transport them in a motor vehicle on a public road first? Anyway, this public private distinction seems like splitting hairs. From the front window of their private residence, a person with a gun can easily kill someone standing in the public street in front of their house. Again, given guns' lethality and portability it seems wise to assume a person can use a gun to kill anyone anywhere on any given day, because that's exactly what happens every day in this country. And we should craft regulations in light of those facts.


You neglect to mention that guns in private hands are already banned in schools as well as 1,000 feet away via roads and other public land. Surely a complete ban is already more stringent than requiring a driver's license.

What's the plan, making them triple-super illegal instead? Instant death penalty for carrying a firearm near a school?

Would you be willing to bet on if more school kids are killed by using vehicles within 1,000 feet of a school than by using semi-automatic rifles?

Semi-automatic weapons have positive uses and are purchased for saving and protecting lives far more frequently than for murder. Severely restricting the rights of the law abiding to make something marginally more difficult for a potential murderer to get doesn't make sense. With the ease of criminals simply making their own weapon or hiding one, statistically, you're probably going to cost more lives than you save. At best, it's a wash.

Thomas Sewell, You seem intent on missing the point. In my first comment I specifically said I did not think banning guns was the solution. I'm suggesting that (better) regulating the people with guns would be a better system. The trite maxim "guns don't kill people, people kill people" used to be feature (or a bug) of these debates. Indeed, people do kill people. So let's put some regulations in place to prevent killers from getting killing machines. "A well regulated Militia..."

And arguing that "people are going to get them anyway" is an argument for no laws at all. It's hard to prevent crime, so why bother trying?

The mentally ill commit very few crimes, they are more often the victim of crimes. Deinstitutionalizing the mentally ill, in part because new medications made it, to some degree, an option was the goal. However, releasing them into the street to survive on their own has been disastrous for them and society. But they are rarely violent.

This is true. But I'm not sure what the upshot it vis-a-vis semi-automatic weapons.

Sometimes the mentally ill are violent and access to semi-automatic weapons can be disastrous. This is true of disturbed people who haven't been institutionalized or even diagnosed as well.

The benefits of banning semi-automatic weapons exceed the cost of doing so.

90% of weapons sold in the US are semiautomatic.

Semiautomatic dominates the market for the same reasons automatic transactions do for cars, ease of use.

All semiautomatic does is insert a new bullet for filing without pulling back a bolt or other manual loading.

You are fear mongering like all gun grabbers, confusing semiautomatic with automatic intentionally.

Good God, man. Rights are not determined by a cost-benefit analysis.

@Bryce: but regulations are (or should be). Again, it's childish to equate regulation with eradication, just as it's childish to equate gun ownership with bloodthirstiness or criminality.

@msgkings: Sure, but those regulations still can't (or shouldn't) interfere with a right, even if a cost-benefit analysis says it should. And I never equated regulation with eradication.

To be clear, I'm talking about federal regulations.

"But they are rarely violent." You know who else is rarely violent? Owners of semi-automatic guns.

I disagree that the facts dont matter. As someone who has shot semi automatic black rifles before, they are relatively easy to use in getting off rapid shots in quick succession with low recoil. People act like its a huge burden to spray bullets with a semi. It is not, and anyone who has shot can concur. Black Rifles, AR's AK's and the like were designed only for military use, whether semi or full auto. Medium power and weight rounds, ease of use, etc.. all designed to kill combatants in combat. Obviously the military feels they are apt tools for the job. And they should be. They are also apt tools for civilian shooting sprees, the problem is thats a role in which the "job" is far from publicly acceptable. Look at hunting rifles, for example, excellent for taking game, far less apt for mass shootings. A very civilian role. One can advocate controlling of ARs and freedom to own hunting rifles. Its not a paradox.

Your entire comment is BS.

Among other errors, the military uses select fire rifles, not semiautomatic. Select fire enables short bursts with one trigger pull or standard one trigger pull, one bullet.

Many hunting rifles which look like bolt action are in fact semiautomatic.

Black Rifles? Is this a race thing?

I actually just read someone who thinks we should ban guns based on what color they are. I think this has to be peak retard. At least I hope so.

ARs are one of the most widely used hunting rifles. There is no difference between an AR and most other hunting rifles other than appearance

The school shooters like the badass appearance. If there's no difference, ban the ones the shooters like and let the hunter use the other kind. Or better yet ban the AR-like hunting rifles too, ARs are meant to kill people, they are military-grade.

ARs are not military-grade. What they are is cheap and easily modifiable, so that a single weapon can be used for a variety of purposes including hunting, target shooting, self-defense, etc. If you get rid of semi-automatic hunting rifles what do you have left, bolt-action? That kind of serious restriction would have a lot of costs.

There are some options to deal with mentally ill people short of immediately locking them up but more than not doing anything. Lots of mentally ill people aren't violent. More importantly, children are already institutionalized, in the school system, so the school system could, if we wanted it to, provide psychiatric treatment to students in the schools (to a point). And then someone could make the call if a student needs to be committed based on a much closer assessment. The best thing about this is that it starts by helping the disturbed kid in the first place get mental health care, so maybe that kid never becomes violent and ends up living a happy productive life instead of becoming a mass murderer.

Quacks should not be allowed into schools.

If children are to be force-fed pharmaceuticals to alter their brain function or confined to psychiatric facilities where they can be observed an questioned at length, this should not be lent what credibility school systems may have.

In many cases of school shooters, it seems that the problem may be more so that numerous people treated them like garbage and they eventually moved to exact some form of revenge, against society in general (or some similar logic). Locking them up in a mental hospital is more like suggesting that society should just give up on those "they" / "we" have already screwed over and or turned a blind eye to, too many times over.

The "mental health" approach is inherently condescending, and is suggestive of black/white categories that for practical purposes may in fact make it impossible for the child to ever aspire to any sort of "normalization" where they may operate on the basis of achieving some social and/or economic success.

I think the motivations behind logic such as you present may in very many cases be good, but to many will be more suggestive of a sheltered life (and, please believe that I do not intend offense to say so) and potentially being a sort of useful idiot who could be claimed as tacitly complicit in facilitating various serious crimes. For example, human trafficking rings and/(or) criminal actors within the state are liable to use psychiatric detention as a method to cover up misdeeds intended to silence various individuals and groups. The experiences of the Unabomber earlier in life may be illuminating in this regard.

As for what to do about kids who are out of control? Black/white labels and mind numbing drugs may ultimately do more harm than good.

"their job to keep the mentally ill out of asylums and in our communities."


Reagan started it in Cal, and brought it to DC.

You guys really suck at history, don't you?

Try the Supreme Court in the 70s. Seems you suck at history.

Involuntary detention with zero due process for claims like "people are following and harassing me, and I think it's someone in the government" would basically enable political imprisonment under the cover of 'helping people'.

The question is not if, but how often.

Interesting that the asylums were opened around the same time that the MKULTRA experiments were revealed to the public. The Feb 1975 issues of The Annals of the New York Academy of Science may stoke some legitimate theories as to what sort of conspiracies may have been at play in that confluence of events.

Thankfully, these days we have easily pinpointed good reasons to believe that sufficient checks and balances are in place to prevent the possibility of such abuses.

See the Mental Health System Act.

"military grade" means absolutely nothing. You've come out in favor of banning ALL semi-automatic weapons. This is straight-up unconstitutional. The total death toll of mass shootings is a drop in the bucket of just gun violence, let alone the total death rate in the US. No, I'm not interested in up-ending the Constitution because you are scared.

BTW, how do you feel about banning anything that endorses "rape culture"? We have 1 in 4 women getting sexually assaulted, who cares about free expression and free speech?

This is a point well made but gun control advocates will only respond with snark because you are right - we can restrict constitutional rights to save lives. So why the 2nd and not the 1st or 4th or 6th? It's hard to see urban leftists with a visceral dislike for guns and for rural culture and rural people arguing to restrict ONLY the 2nd amendment in favor of lives saved as anything other than a totally unprincipled, mood-affiliated attack on political enemies. The worst part is listening to these people say that they aren't trying to ban guns and then proceed to suggest banning most guns without even the slightest impression that they understand they are contradicting themselves.

Aren't you supposed to be asking for higher taxes and more guards?

Oh my this.

"We do not want to ban your guns"


"We want to ban your AR's, and your magazine, and your ammo, and if we can't we want to prevent you from buying, selling, repairing, carrying, or using your guns with the intent that after a generation or two your guns will break and rot and rust away and we will get our ban"


"No, dammit, I am not hypocritical, I am not trying to ban your guns. Why are you so irrational and angry? You must be a brainwashed shill the NRA and Russians crawled up inside and die in."

Banning most guns does not imply banning all guns.

By your rhetoric, the Constitution should never be amended then, since it was written perfection the day the ink dried...

Amend it then.

The Constitution says nothing about full auto vs semi auto, but this is regulated. It says nothing about civilians owning bazookas but they are regulated too. We're already okay with some regulations, so why are others so beyond the pale? The right to bear arms is routinely infringed and has been for centuries, and we're probably better off because of it.

You can't even be bothered to know what you are talking about. Why should we take your suggestion that the 2nd amendment be gutted seriously?

I agree with Tabarrok about irrational fears. And it isn't limited to schools and school shootings. For example, fear is what drives much of medicine today, fear of cancer and any number of other maladies, the "solution" being "preventative medicine", as if all disease (and death!) can be avoided by expensive and often invasive screening tests. This is reinforced by bogus "survival rates": nobody bothers to mention that "survival" is measured from the date a disease is detected, not from the date someone has the disease, and with all the "preventative medicine", Americans are far more likely to have disease detected early as compared to residents of other countries that don't emphasize "preventative medicine". Another example: I have resided in a hurricane prone area all of my life, but the constant fear of hurricanes is a relatively recent phenomenon, coinciding with the Weather Channel and its obsessive warnings of the imminent threat from the storm that might develop off the coast of Africa. In the past, threats from hurricanes were issued when there was an actual threat, not a theoretical threat. And I (and Tabarrok) could go on and on about irrational fears. I will add one more: the irrational fears of helicopter parents. They are raising a generation that will live in constant fear, that will be unwilling to take risks (or the opposite, take unnecessary risks because they believe someone will protect them), and with expectations that someone should do something (both to avoid risk and to fix whatever befalls them). But here's where Tabarrok and I diverge: I place a high priority on order and stability, while Tabarrok places a high priority on disruption and change. I suspect that living in a society that places a high priority on disruption and change is a society with irrational fears.

This is not true. Have you heard of randomized control trial? Do you really not want your lung or colorectal cancer detected early?

Rayward may overstate it somewhat, but the mechanism he describes here is real.

A significant portion of screening and other preventive care is of questionable value and done out of risk aversion. Excess screening for some cancers detects minor issues that would not otherwise be detected, raising survival statistics without necessarily extending lives. See the controversies over screening for breast and prostate cancer.

Excessive screening absolutely exists. You should ONLY go to a doctor for screening if you're in a risk group, because a lot of screenings have risks associated with them.

Alex, I think you should take a closer look at the Politifact piece linked here. Under all the hypothesis tests I've tried, the null hypothesis "the US is not a notable outlier in this regard" can be rejected with a great deal of confidence.

Jacob, I am with you on this. It is a lazy piece of work when you fail to notice how numbers are being presented. There has been at least 1 school shooting every year since 2012 with multiple fatalities. I don't get how Alex can come up with a statement "School shootings are actually down since the 1990s".

I don't know why they exclude gang-related shootings and the numbers end in 2014, but this might be how he claims it:

This gives the numbers of homicides in schools:

The reason most people think school shootings have increased is because most people act like black lives, in fact, don't matter, so they ignore the shootings that don't have white victims. They also think that school shootings only include mass shootings.

Yup. This is like saying we have never been more in control of cancer. The incidence of Cancer (with a lot of variability) is steadily declining, and so is the mortality rate (CDC). As with security measures at the airport, the ban on tobacco is just government intrusion. Why don't we go back to the glitzy days of smoking?

There's no ban on smoking

"I don’t know why they exclude gang-related shootings"

For the same reason honest people exclude suicides and domestic violence in this discussion. The subject is what people are afraid of - mass shootings at a given location of anyone in the given location. People can avoid being in gang-related shootings by not being in a gang, domestic violence shootings by not being in an abusive relationship, and suicide shootings by not killing themselves. That isn't what people are worried about. That isn't what this national discussion is about.

Good point Jacob. It's debatable whether one should look country by country, which is what Politifact did and makes the US look moderate because of extreme events in Finland or Norway, or whether one should control for population which makes the US look worse compared to say Europe as a whole. I don't want to get into that debate per se so I cut that part of the sentence. Thanks.

If you look countries by countries, you'll always find small countries doing worse than the US unless you manage to average out on a very long time period. Looking at the data in Politifact, the mass shooting fatalities rate is 0.15/100,000 in the US but it is 0.01 when we take the population weighted average in the 10 other countries (0.06 when excluding China and Mexico). Moreover, the number of mass shooting per per person is 0.001 for the population weighted average of the 10 countries and 0.042 in the US. There are 32 times more mass shooting per person in the US than in the 10 other countries.

And a very simple stat is that there were 133 mass shootings in the US and 23 in the 10 other countries (about 6 times less). So it should not be a surprise that the news on mass shooting are dominated by US mass shootings.

A good economist would never let statistics undermine a pet theory. The entire discipline would be plowed asunder. Time to restructure the model...

You're right that European media don't cover other European countries' school shootings, but only because they rarely happen. Instead, European media cover American school shootings.

The US is lagging behind Norway, Switzerland and Finland. Read the links.

The mass shootings in Norway, Finland and Switzerland were reported extensively in European news. I also remember well the ones in France and Germany. But the total of these mass shootings is a fraction of what happens in the US in the mean time. I don't think the news are biased. If you look at the stats 85% of mass shootings happened in the US.

Excellent letter, Alex.

Strange how Alex can be so on top of the facts regarding school shooting stats, and yet write such a pathetic letter, and not be ashamed to have anyone else see it.

No one cares that "felt oppressed" or that the school "felt like a prison" or that you "felt uncomfortable" seeing a POLICE CAR, of all things. No one gives a crap how you feel. This is your problem. It is not anyone else's problem.

And obviously, no one is going to reduce security for their own children so that you can "feel better." Jesus, man.

Now, if you feel that cameras are waste of effort and money and will not improve safety, then say that and explain yourself. Otherwise, shut up.

You touch upon a good point: his "feelings" have nothing to do with it.

But his "feelings" are related to ACTUAL conditions, not merely psychic damages. The schools have security conditions with serious implications of the Fourth and First Amendments. Now, I do not believe these things violate those amendments, but the concerns are not ludicrous. Even if it is legal for police to have cameras covering every square inch of public space, this could easily enable abusive practices. As a policy matter, voters and their representatives can and should consider whether they SHOULD have surveillance even if they can. And "shoulds" are always a matter of feelings.

Alex makes a coherent argument about the impact that environment will have on children (including his own). It's not about his feelings--the description of his own experience visiting the school is just to make a point about what kind of atmosphere it is.

Very well, but I still feel its a weak argument. He mentioned wanting his kid to feel free to travel free is his kid goint to feel when he learns that there is security at airports, scanners, guards, police checks on busses etc...the US is a minor player in this game. Many countries have far higher security in piblic places than the US does. Welcome the world kid

“ no one gives a crap how you feel “

Says you venting your feelings lol

A person is three times more likely to be struck by lightning than to be killed in a school shooting.

I hope this probability is conditional on that person going to school I hope?

OK.....a person can also take evasive measures while in a storm to avoid the lightning issue, reducing the odds. And yet measures that could reduce the numbers of potential school shootings are encroaching upon freedom???

We could totally eliminate shootings inside of schools by subjecting every student to a full search before entry to the school grounds. If you disagree with gutting the 4th amendment to save kid's lives you want dead kids?

Just so you know, you are indistinguishable from a conservative freaking out about terrorism, and angry that someone is telling him it's a tiny risk.

Although I will say that people care about agency. 100 deaths from falling furniture is not as bad to people as 100 deaths from gun violence or 100 deaths from terrorism.

Fox Butterfield, is that you?

"Moreover, the truth is that American children have never been safer than they are today...Yet we hide in gated communities, homes and schools as never before."

I'm deeply sympathetic to Alex's point, but I have to admit, you've got him there.

Could the United States, with its current constitution, allow private citizens to own military grade firearms but made their use contingent upon the decisions of the state militia? For example the weapons could be locked and unable to fire until unlocked by the militia or could they have devices installed that enables the militia to track the location of the firearms and monitor their use. If so, then it should be possible to greatly reduce the number of US gun deaths without constitutional change.

All that would do is leave millions of law abiding American unprotected from criminals. Because, and I know this may come as a shock, criminals tend not to obey the law. So they are unlikely to leave their illegal handguns locked up with the police. I may be wrong but I am pretty sure that is a safe bet.

There is no Republican gun menace. Republican voters do not shoot other people much. The problem is (mainly illegal) handguns held by Democrat voters. Any solution to reduce crime needs more guns in the hands of Republicans and fewer guns in the hands of Democrats. Asking Republicans, who pretty much obey the law, to disarm is only going to increase crime.

If you feel like having a go at answering the question, please go right ahead.

Pointing out that the desired conclusion is asinine is answering the question.

You live in Australia, right? Since the gun ban there, the rate of suicide is down. A lot. The rate of gun homicide is down - a little. In fact it is down by about the same as the US. The decline in murder seems to be common across a lot of jurisdictions. But the rate of other forms of violent crime has spiked:

A gun ban means more violent crime and admittedly fewer suicides. But not much else.

Under the current US constitution, could all new firearms purchased privately be required to have devices that allow them to be tracked and their use monitored by state militias?

Guns are a force multiplier. There is a huge difference between knife crime and fist crime vs gun crime, in impact and danger

@Crikey: unfortunately the 2nd Amendment is only a few words, so what's allowed or not under it is entirely up to the courts to interpret. Your idea could work, but it's unlikely you could get Congress or the NRA to allow it.

Thanks for the reply, msgkings.


No, not under current US law, which the US Supreme Court has the final word on. Nor is it likely to change in the near future in my opinion (next 20 years at least) as it is based on the current interpretation of the Constitution.

And thank you for your reply, unknown person.

You need to define the militia to get a reasoned response to this question.

Federally, all male citizens and men who have declared their intent to become a citizen 18 - 45 are the 'unorganized militia'. By this law, I'm militia, and I can unlock my own weapons.

In my state, all citizen and declared intent to become a citizen humans over 18 (regardless of gender) are our unorganized militia (depends on each state's laws). By this law, my wife is militia and I am militia and we can unlock our own weapons. Gender equality for the win!

The US Supreme Court, in Heller, determined the militia portion of the Second Amendment was not meaningful and the right guaranteed was individual. By this law, even if we change the definition of militia it doesn't matter, I'm a US Citizen and I can unlock my own weapons.

So before someone can respond, you need to define your terms. What I think you are implying is Militia - Army or National Guard or Reserves or some form of state or federal military service. Are police and sheriffs militia?

Regardless, you are adding another concept to militia which is command structure; some subset of the 'militia' must give permission for other militia members to unlock their weapons and use them. No law to my knowledge currently defines who those individuals are, or how that is compatible with the Heller decision.

If the disturbed individual in Florida did not have access to a gun, he could have reverted to arson, bombs or just driving into a crowd. Blaming guns, an inanimate object incapable of action, does not seem to be getting at the cause of the violence.

However, some inner-city schools are very violent. A trip to the bathroom can be a journey filled with potential dangers. Security measures, regretfully, are required.

The culture of street violence in many urban areas is accepted while a tragic mass shooting in a Florida school demands immediate changes to the Constitution. These extreme polar opposite reactions seem almost unexplainable.

I was raised with a level of freedom that in retrospect shocks me. When I look back, I sometimes wonder what was my mother thinking. Still, over protection is the new normal.

My wife has always been shocked at my comfort in environments that make most people uncomfortable. However, I was once with a person who was very uncomfortable in a city environment where I wasn't that concerned. I tend to be hyper-vigilant in such situations, aware of my surroundings, but rarely afraid. But the person I was with was uncomfortable. He later told me that he had been a victim of a violent street crime as a teenager and being in a similar environment gave him what I can best describe as mild PTSD. So I don't judge why he would take extra precautions, or why a situation that I'm comfortable with made him very upset. (Not to mention that his visible unease in such cases could mark him as an easy target for some people.)

So I am conflicted. I think many precautions, safety measures, are just show that are unable to deter a determined semi-skilled attacker. But the illusion of protection does seem to give many people a sense of control over things that are really beyond their control. The desire to introduce more gun regulations seems to fall into this category.

I don't understand the willingness of society to tolerate the intrusions of TSA in their life in the name of security but view with horror the police stopping suspicious characters on the street.

So, are the school security measures as harmful as Mr. Tabrrock claims. I think he overstates the potential dangers of long-term damage to the children.

I think the measures are overkill and not very good at achieving their goals, not to mention an annoyance, but I think the PC curriculum of the schools is more of a long-term danger.

Over time I imagine the children, like residents of prisoner of war camps or incarcerated inmates, will find many ways to defeat and fight back against the intrusiveness of these measures. Will they become brainwashed servants to the police state or will they become rebels against silly oppressive rules enacted for their own good? I would bet on the rebels, but I'm often overly optimistic.

Depends. What of when children living in violent areas see measures like you mentioned implemented and see violence levels go down? Kids arent dumb, they can put two and two together. Why rebel against something that works?

No one is suggesting changing the Constitution. The 2A allows regulation of firearms, we are just discussing ways to do that better.

It allows some limited regulation of firearms

OK let's do that then.

We already are, despite your denial of reality.

Great, let's do it better!

2A says nothing about limited regulation. Frankly as someone who supports much stronger gun regulation, at least legalizing all weapons nationwide would offer significantly greater clarity than we have now.

Saying the 2A allows for some regulation is a political cop-out. Otherwise we can easily move the goal posts to ban everything except hunting rifles and handguns, for instance.

"Otherwise we can easily move the goal posts to ban everything except hunting rifles and handguns": this is actually my preferred policy, but I'm well aware it's impossible, and not universally shared.

Well, it is the law of the land. Whether it is a cop-out or not is really irrelevant

Well, fine. Then the law of the land could easily be "Only muzzle loaders permitted." A lot of people would find issue with that.

I’m somewhat torn on this issue. I prefer to hunt with a bow and do not own firearms.

At the same time, I read a lot of absurd comments about weapons that conflate automatic weapons and an M1 Garand. It’s harder to take people seriously when they have no idea what they’re talking about. It’s the equivalent of a republican putting a snowball on a podium in the Senate and talking about global warming.

I think the unofficial liberal position is to ban all weapons except for ...what? Muzzle loaders? Kevin Drum says all weapons except for bolt action rifles and revolvers.

Msgkings says all semiautomatic weapons. So essentially almost all firearms in circulation would be banned. 90%? FBI is going to go house to house and confiscate weapons? Let a thousand Waco’s bloom....

If it’s about getting the gun homicide rate down, then the action should be focused on handguns. Specifically, extremely tight regulation on purchases and tracking. Vast majority of non domestic violence murders occur with illegally owned handguns. Make straw purchase a 25 year sentence under federal law. Enforce a federal tracking system so the person is identified and enforce it ruthlessly. Give a 2 month waiting period for handguns while an extensive background check is conducted by the FBI and make a handgun tax to support the background check. Homicide rate drops >15% at least.

If it’s about mass shooters then do what I said: require 7 adults to sign off on a firearm purchase and be accept civil liability. Then mass shootings disappear and it maintains the freedom of non crazy people.

There would be gun buyback programs like they did in Australia. It worked there without a Waco.

But your suggestions on regulation are excellent. Why can't we get even one iota of traction on any of these?

Love your ideas. Also I don't necessarily advocate making the semis out there illegal but let's start with not selling new ones, or at least increasing the age to 21 and doing better screening. Great idea of needing a few other adults to vouch for you.

I think there's some short term variability in the data, last 12 months or so, in mass shootings that is hiding in how the data is presented. Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs etc aren't things that happened regularly over a 24 month period. So, there's something to some of the hysteria. Death tolls with some regularity in the dozens is rare. And we've seen an increase in near terms. It may normalize, but hard to ask people to wait until it does without action. I think.

Also, making the jump that your children's risk aversion will increase with the presence of security is a bit of playing out an unobserved behavioral pattern to meet the point of the letter. So, maybe it has that effect. I grew up in inner city schools where they were like prisons long before it was cool to make schools look like prisons. Made the rest of the world seem safer and more welcoming. So, depending on the construct of the point trying to be made, you can craft the narrative. In all, a good point. And good to see that no matter what...comments will degrade into a Second Amendment fight....

I think I agree, without having the number in front of me.

However, I believe that trend is the result of media coverage of these events; this is self-perpetuating violence.

We know media coverage about suicides lifts the suicide rate post-coverage. I think we know school shootings work the same way.

If you really want to curtail these types of mass shootings, school or not, consider limitations on the 1st Amendment by instituting censorship over media coverage on these things. Could be total censorship, could be lesser (never use the shooter's name or face' speak only in derogatory manners about them; or limit your total amount of coverage to X minutes).

But no, we cannot discuss limiting freedom of speech despite the exact same logic (rights can be reasonably limited or regulated). Huh.

Clearly, the Polarization Profiteers are again out to capture the immense profit potential the Parkland tragedy has brought to the gun control issue.

"When going to school requires police, security guards and cameras how can I encourage my child to travel to foreign countries, to seek new experiences, to meet people of different faiths, beliefs and backgrounds?"

Just tell him that it's safer in other countries.

You know, those countries also have police, guards, and cameras, right?

"Overall youth mortality (ages 5-14) has fallen from 60 per 100,000 in 1950 to 13.1 per 100,000 today (CDC, Vital Statistics). Yet we hide in gated communities, homes and schools as never before."

People make the claim that kids are safer than ever as if this is a rebuttal to more security and helicopter parenting. I don't know if it is causal (probably some of it is), but if you plot the number of police in schools with school shootings, I bet they are negatively correlated. If you plot the number of minutes parents spend with their children (not on their smartphones around their children) and the accident rate, I bet the correlation is negative. So when Alex uses the transition word "yet", it seems that someone could just as well use the word "and" instead.

I'm more worried that all the over-protection has led to kids who can't handle conflict and who think words are violence and hearing an opinion you don't like is assault. That has grave implications for a liberal society.

You are more likely to be shot by a cop than to be shot in a mass shooting, so getting the cops out of the schools could well make people safer.

Conditional on being in school, it seems you are less likely to be shot by a cop.

"Moreover, the truth is that American children have never been safer than they are today. Overall youth mortality (ages 5-14) has fallen from 60 per 100,000 in 1950 to 13.1 per 100,000 today (CDC, Vital Statistics). Yet we hide in gated communities, homes and schools as never before."

That statistic is cold comfort to the parent of a child killed in a mass shooting. Better to use in a post that isn't about how mass shootings are over-hyped.

I'm sure statistics are not going to comfort the parent of any dead child.

Yep. The only statistic that matters to them is the 100% mortality rate for their child.

Many kids feel like school is prison already.
I do not see what difference the added security would make to the students.
I do though think it is a costly way to attempt to reduce deaths.

A "prison-like atmosphere" is undesirable, but my primary concern is security. I'm fine with cameras just about everywhere.

We can go a little bit further. Give everyone a social score like in China’s Xinjiang province. If you’re below 70 out of a 100, you pretty much can’t go anywhere. Cruz would have had a low social score. No guns for him. As soon as he stepped outside alarms would ring. Very secure but don’t be different !

"Overall youth mortality (ages 5-14) has fallen from 60 per 100,000 in 1950 to 13.1 per 100,000 today (CDC, Vital Statistics). Yet we hide in gated communities, homes and schools as never before."

What if Yet is not the mot juste?

Norway shooting happened outside school and most of killed are 18 and older

The politifact article: the claim the these types of mass shootings don't happen in other countries is obviously untrue, but I'm not sure the chart makes me feel better. The number of mass shootings per 100,000 people is much higher in the US. And when you tack on the murder rate, you see that maybe mass shootings should only be marginally relevant to the gun control debate.

As a side not, there is some validity to saying that "The US had more deaths because we have more people". But I remember reading an article trying to debunk the opioid epidemic narrative, by saying there are a lot more deaths because there are a lot more people taking opioids but the mortality rate was relatively flat (this was excluding illegal opioids). That makes a certain amount of sense until you think that maybe there shouldn't be that many people taking opioids in the first place. But as mentioned above, perhaps lefties are actually making a mistake by focusing on mass shootings since it seems the overall homicide rate is what sets the US apart from other rich countries.

Personally, I think the better solution is to have better mental health monitoring in the schools.
And if the school decides some kid is too disturbed to be in the school, there should be some legal mechanism to mandate treatment for mental illness instead of merely expulsion.
In the parkland case, apparently the kid was expelled and his mother had died recently, so this seems like an obvious case where people should have been aware that he needed some sort of psychiatric treatment and nobody did anything about it.

Inedeed, backreading the wikipedia page on the shooting indicates that in fact , a LOT of people knew he needed mental health treatment and nobody did anything about it.

In 2014, he was transferred to a school for children with emotional or learning disabilities, and returned to Stoneman Douglas High School two years later.[53] The Florida Department of Children and Families investigated him in September 2016 for Snapchat posts in which he cut both his arms and said he planned to buy a gun. State investigators reported Cruz had depression, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In their assessment, they concluded he "was at low risk of harming himself or others".[54] He had previously received mental health treatment, but had not received treatment in the year leading up to the shooting.[51] An email from the school administration had circulated among teachers, warning that Cruz had made threats against other students. This led the school to ban him from wearing a backpack on campus.
These records indicated that at least 45 calls were made in reference to Cruz.[63][64] The calls included tips about his threats to shoot up the school on February 5, 2016, and on November 30, 2017. On September 23, 2016, a peer counselor notified the school resource officer of his suicide attempt and intent to buy a gun; the school indicated it would do a "threat assessment".[65][66][67]

On September 24, 2017, a comment on a YouTube video from the user "nikolas cruz" stated, "Im going to be a professional school shooter". The video's owner reported the comment to the FBI, but according to FBI agent Robert Lasky, it was unable to track down who made the comment after conducting database reviews.[68][69]

On January 5, 2018, the FBI's Public Access Line (PAL) received a tip from a person who was close to Cruz. On February 16 (two days after the shooting), the agency released a statement that detailed this information. According to the statement, "The caller provided information about Cruz's gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting." After conducting an investigation, the FBI said the PAL did not follow protocol when the information was not forwarded to the Miami Field Office, where investigative steps would have been taken.

One has to ask: Is the most important lapse here the fact that he was able to purchase a gun?

The Boward School District had those kind of provisions in place and then abandoned them because people like you complain that black students are be punished too severely.

The school district could have also left provisions in place and at the same time addressed a profiling of black students, if it were the case. It doesent have to be an either or scenario. And likely, it was a case where more black students needed the help anyways...

"The school district could have also left provisions in place and at the same time addressed a profiling of black students"

Not if the disparate statistics reflected a true disparity in the risks represented by students of different demographics.

Again, I'm suggesting providing mental health resources in the school system, not just expelling the student and expecting someone else to deal with the problem, which is what actually did happen here.

"Severe" what? Mental health treatment?
I'm talking about getting kids into treatment not punishing them. Psychiatric treatment should not be regarded as a punishment.

The math isn't quite that pretty: It's pretty easy for the pro-gun lobby to slice and dice numbers. Also, looking at sheer numbers and comparing isn't that great. Say that we remove all school shootings... and exchange them for a TV program where 16 kids chosen at random fight each other until one dies, for he pleasure of the audience. Smaller number, clear problem. The question is whether the actions that lead to the risk are justifiable. Some say more people die from traffic accidents, but cars and trucks probably give us half of GDP, and if autonomous cars were an order of magnitude or two safer, and somewhat affordable, laws banning human driven cars in public roads would not be nuts.

The trick to this, just like the trick to Airport security, is risk/reward. Many of the measures taken seem to make no difference and be quite expensive. The effective solution to this, and other forms of gun violence, is far fewer guns: bolt action and traditional shotguns allowed, handguns limited to lockers in gun ranges. Most would value the lower gun death numbers a whole lot. Some consider the right to bear arms very valuable, while others value it near zero. So while the real solution to the problem is debatable in principle, expensive, half assed measures that do not affect real numbers and are expensive, like turning schools into prisons, are only valuable as of much people consider expensive placebos to be valuable.

"Some consider the right to bear arms very valuable, while others value it near zero " - Yeah, but one of these opinions is absolutely wrong. I am not a firearms owner, but it is RIGHT there in the Constitution. The right to bear arms is just as valuable as the right for that crappy Jacobin magazine to exist or for the Communist Party to organize protests or for the Neo-Nazis to distribute literature. All of these rights are VERY valuable, pretty much the closest thing to sacred as can be in US politics. Social Security is not. Public schools are not. Medicare is not. The police force is not. Firefighters are not. The Civil Rights Act is not. Immigration is not. The right to bear arms is: that's why it's there in the Bill of Rights.

OK....simply because it was written in the 1700's doesent mean it cant be updated and amended

This is radical, by definition. And when the NRA says that the root of the desire to gut the 2nd amendment is control, how can they be wrong when part of the anti-gun movement is anti-constitution?

How is it anti-Constitution to suggest an amendment?

It's not. Your claim is ridiculous.

Yep, it can. By constitutional amendment. So why don't all the anti-gun activists start lobbying for a new amendment? That's the actual method you are supposed to be using, after all. I don't suppose it could be because they know they don't have a chance in hell of gaining enough support for that?

There are over 300 million guns in America, and any bill that attempts to do things like ban assault weapon sales or bump stock sales will not make that number go away. If you could stop ALL gun sales, there would still be 300 million guns in circulation.

If you are serious about gun control that would actually make a difference, you have two options:

1. Pass a constitutional amendment to have guns banned, and hope you don't trigger a civil war or massive public disobedience when you try to implement it, or

2. Wait for two constitutionalist judges to leave the Supreme Court, and hope they do it while Democrats control all three branches of government with veto-proof majorities. Then you can appoint creative judges who will figure out a way to ignore the clear meaning of the second amendment and ban guns or move them to 'militia warehouses' or whatever other harebrained scheme they might come up with to actually reduce the number of guns in circulation. Then all you have to do is hope that those creative judges with lifetime appointments don't apply their powers of creativity to strip away rights you actually care about, such as the right to free speech or the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

I'd wager there are ways to make a difference without having to go that far.

So sometimes people say a gun is like a second dick. This does this apply if for instance your dick was bitten off by your family dog who was being a tease.


I am aghast that this is the post you write, at this time. Your selective blindness here is just stunning.

Let's be real. Your child should never under any circumstances go to a foreign nation. They were born in the only half-way decent nation on earth (not counting when you had troops in Iraq), and to go elsewhere is like being born on the thrown and traveling to the slums and the ghettos for the holidays.

If you're from New York and you wouldn't travel to Mississippi cause they're hicks, why would you travel to another country where they're even more backward and bigoted?

In fact, why leave the house? You're a genius.

"There is not an epidemic of school shootings," he said, adding that more kids are killed each year from pool drownings or bicycle accidents." Yet it's hardly a secret that practically everyone over-reacts to a tiny probability when it concerns an outcome that is either severely negative (school shooting) or wildy positive (won the lottery). This is basic psychology, yet journalists seem totally unaware of it.

The New York Times reported (in one of its increasingly rare rational moments) "Handguns are used in the vast majority of murders each year. ... It turns out that big, scary military rifles don't kill the vast majority of the 11,000 Americans murdered with guns each year."

You'd think it would be obvious after just a little reflection that practically all gun violence in the USA is committed with handguns and very little with long guns. And also that gun-control measures have done precious little to reduce gun violence in the American cities where it's most difficult to legally own a gun.

Yet the political debate seems centered on AR15s, and other semi-auto. long guns...

And now (it seems) we have at least the possibility of some sort of latter-day Children's Crusade.

So, yes, rationality is tough. And often politically impotent and unrewarding, especially when compared with the pleasures and rewards of stoking mass fear.

Divided media universe? Show me a journalist who understands even the rudiments statistics and I'll show you a journalist who lost her job a decade ago.

Which argument are you making, that we should attack all murders first, or that we should do nothing, because we chose the wrong thing first?

Deaths from mass shootings (no actual need to restrict that to schools) are way up:

We can't approach that as a problem to be solved because .. why again?

Dude, that source doesn't even look at per-capita rates. On a per-capita basis not much change in frequency and maybe (maybe) an increase in severity.

Don't dude me. I am looking at the surge in the last 10 years, and yes at the deadliness of shootings.

Moderate gun control should address both frequency and deadliness.

"Moderate gun control should address both frequency and deadliness."

Where's the evidence? What would the cost be and how many lives would be saved?

Some of these changes are fresh, but:

"In a press conference the day after Proposition 63 passed, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom claimed California had seen a "56 percent decline in the gun murder rate" since it began imposing tough gun laws in the 1990s. Newsom appears to have mixed up the gun murder rate with the gun death rate. California’s gun murder rate dropped 67 percent between 1993 and 2014, according to data from the CDC. We found gun homicides have indeed declined significantly, and at an even faster rate than what Newsom stated."

And how does that compare to nationally, etc.? Is this relevant to the "mass shootings" metric that you were discussing?

As every day goes by we get more data from more and less restrictive states. People will have to decompose from trends. For instance, if Los Angeles went from one of the more violent to one of the less violent cities, how much did gun law matter?

But I have to tell you straight up, the Las Vegas and Parkland shooters could not have been supplied here, because those guns are illegal here. Those shootings happened in gun-friendly states.

There's lots of this evidence already and the studies don't really show any connection between degree of gun regulation and amounts of gun violence, etc. Saying you couldn't be supplied in California doesn't mean much because they would have bought other stuff or gone to another state, right?

A 56 percent decline since the 90s in CA isn't as impressive when you consider we've had a 44% decline nationally in gun-related homicides over the same time period, while having increasing numbers of gun sales. That's close enough that if you started looking at demographics and other factors, it may wash out completely as a difference. It's not like a CA resident can't just drive to NV and pick up whatever weapon is being banned for sale in CA and drive back across the border with it. Homicide has been getting better all over the country, as part of a general lower crime trend. In fact, homicide in general is at around a 55-year low in the United States.

So good news, less people are being murdered! As gun sales were way up during the 8 years of the previous administration, there's likely a recent strong correlation to higher gun sales and less crime and murder, at least enough to throw doubt on any claim more gun sales result in more overall murders with guns.

Let's start by solving the inner-city gang violence problem, as that's where the most gun homicides occur, by a very large margin. Low hanging fruit.

It’s not very convincing data. It doesn’t control for population growth.There was a spike in 2017, that’s about it. We should stop pretending it’s the biggest problem in America today, dominating the news for 10 days.

What you are saying is you accept Las Vegas level deaths, Parkland level deaths, as the American bargain.


I accept a lot of things, so do you. It doesn't mean that heaven and and earth have to be moved to satisfy your urges for regulation. There ought to be a law !

I don't know if you caught the other threads, but I live in California, where in some senses we actually have more gun regulation than I would have asked for. As an example, California is moving to background checks for every ammunition purchase. I might have thought that was excessive, but there it is.

In this context and as regards mass shootings in general the real question is "do states like Florida have the right idea, with really gun encouragement, as their state law?"

How do you, wherever you live, want to live?

Meanwhile in Florida

Meanwhile in Georgia

Teacher in custody after 'shots fired' report at Dalton HS; no students in danger

This is an extremely critical utilitarian argument that needs to be addressed.

Singapore has almost no opioid deaths. What you are saying is that you accept 60,000 deaths a year from opioids. This could be almost zero. Clearly we are not copying the Singapore model. Liberals would be the first to veto it.

We could put a firearm limit where 7 adults accept civil liability for purchase. We will not do that. Liberals would be the first to veto it.

We could go full utilitarian. Liberals would riot in the streets.

Points off for complaining about liberals rather than deaths.

"Remind me why semi-automatic weapons need to be available to civilians again?"

Police are civilians. They are not part of the armed forces. The president is not commander-in-chief of your state police. Disarm civilians and you're disarming police. Then you're no safer than Britain and their grooming scandals. Disarm your neighbors and not the police and you have Michael Brown and the Ferguson Riots every night of the week.

This makes no sense.

Now that was some authentic frontier gibberish!

School shootings are actually down since the 1990s

1. The early 90's, which Fox highlights at the linked article, had a very high homicide rate overall, nearly double what it s today. The rate declined steadily through that decade. Maybe some context should be provided.
2. Why count only school shootings? Yes, they are particularly powerful emotionally, but mass shootings are mass shootings. Would it be better if Cruz had killed 17 people at a shopping mall? Do the Orlando and Las Vegas victims not matter?
3. Who cares if it's an "epidemic" or not? A steady-state condition can still be a serious problem.
4. Looking at the first chart, the one with the little circles, I count about as many fatalities from 1996 through 2005 as at Sandy Hook (2012) and Parkland combined. There were other shootings in that shorter time period also.

I think it is sad that Alex treats Las Vegas and Parkland as separate problems, to be honest. Was it honest?

To repeat the link:

Do you have a solution?

Let me guess, it is to ban a cosmetic weapon attribute. Great work Democrats.

How about denying weapons to the mentally ill and their direct relatives.

Didn't we talk just a few days ago about the difference removable magazines makes?

Are you really going to play "cosmetic difference" games now?

Way to disgust a reasonable opposition.

It's interesting how the security debate plays out so differently in different contexts. Imagine instead the remarks, "Remind me again why Muslims need to be allowed into this country," and "one Muslim terror attack is too many."

We have certainly heard remarks like these in the debate over the travel ban, but I'm guessing that the overlap of the people saying those things and the people making the counterpart remarks about guns is near zero.

In countries like the US, the presence of Muslims doesn't pose any problem, except some sporadic acts of terrorism which are statistically insignifiant. In other western countries, especially in western Europe (France, UK, Belgium, more recently Germany and Italy), terrorism is also like everywhere statistically insignifiant, but the presence of important muslim minority that are not well-integrated in the ambient culture and have very high unemployment rate is causing a lot of very serious problems: widespread petty criminality, widespread sexual agressions in public spaces of all kinds, pressure to modify the programs in schools in science (remove evolution, etc.) and history (remove the Holocaust, etc.), rise of anti-semitic violence, successful pressure to separate public facilities such as swimming pools as those for males and those for females, stress on the safety net system, etc.

The "one too many" comment in Europe when there is a terror attack is justified as terror attacks are just a special case of all these problems. The "one too many" comment in America is justified to the extent is it made by Americans who have not yet forgotten the European origin of their country and culture.

Most of us are sitting comfortably in our winter homes (some of you are goofing off at work, shame) far from immediate danger.

And so we balance hypotheticals. Would I like to go to the range? Would I like to buy a(nother) gun? What danger do other people, at schools/malls/concerts really face?

How much should I shape my desires by their risks?

I am willing to reduce my desires to make other people safer. Especially because I see many moderate accommodations. YMMV.

Sure, IF it would make anyone safer and depending on the costs to other people than just you

Wow, the psychology of this whole thing is very interesting. The extremes are definitely visible. We know from streakers and suicides that the more publicity and media coverage that terrible acts get that there is increased likelihood of copy-cat events. The fact that the Columbine made a spectacle ensured there would be more in the future. We could compare that to the mass shooting against the Amish, which seemed to diffuse future potential situations. We know from Robert Cialdini that the things we focus on seem more important, for example the summer of shark, which was just a slow news summer and did not have more shark attacks. On the other hand, having weapons that do not look cool would make them less desirable for disturbed attackers. Of course, not having weapons at all would solve the problem as would having airport security at the schools as would having a media blackout of these sensational events. For the most part, weapons are useless, since they are so rarely needed. On the other hand, didn't the court case against the man would had an armed stand-off with a government agency just get thrown out, due to government over-reach. It also seems that there are mental health issues for a lot of these attackers, which needs to be addressed.

It seems that we have decided that we are either Yankee fans or Red Sox fans, and the other team's fans stink. We should be looking at the root causes, and addressing all of the root causes based on reasonable analysis. The eventual solution will be improvement not complete elimination with multiple small fixes across a range of areas, gun control changes, school security changes, law enforcement improvements, changes to how these events are covered as well as mental health and family support changes.
From an economics perspective, it is interesting how much money can be made from things that scare us.

"On the other hand, having weapons that do not look cool would make them less desirable for disturbed attackers."

You think this was about the weapon, not that he was super pissed at his girlfriend and new boyfriend?

"For the most part, weapons are useless, since they are so rarely needed. "
Numbers I've seen, that remain pretty constant over the years is that citizens stop 2.5 million crimes a year with gun. Far more than the police do.

"Of course, not having weapons at all would solve the problem " Tell that to the prospective victims to all those crimes. Add on the new ones created by everyone knowing that now, physical might makes right. Weaker men and women hurt most.

"On the other hand, didn’t the court case against the man would had an armed stand-off with a government agency just get thrown out, due to government over-reach. It also seems that there are mental health issues for a lot of these attackers, which needs to be addressed." In this case the mental health issues of the attacker were aided by them being the law enforcement. Good catch on the need for a citizen to protect himself from the government.

"more kids are killed each year from pool drownings or bicycle accidents."

Sounds like we need more good guys with pools and bicycles. /s
Enjoy your day, everyone!

How about a fact-based argument?


This article challenges the view that mass shootings overall or at schools are in downtrend.

We are entitled to our own opinions but not our own facts. I am not sure what to make of this statistical debate, but I would like someone to sort it out.

And get tired of this don't-you-worry-everything-is-getting-better narrative that seeks to deny the existence of the problems we worry about.

I don't pretend to have the answers to all of our problems, but can we acknowledge that the problems actually exist?

If a proposal would be ineffectual, make the argument! And try to give a counterproposal which would work instead of just being a critic.

Would outlawing the AR-15 and rifles like them reduce school massacres? Maybe, and maybe not. Would capital punishment work? Maybe. But just don't say that school massacres are going to happen, and we can't do anything about them, so suck it up and have a nice day.

Well said. Also, don't counter calls for sensible regulation of guns with 'all you America-haters want to do is ban guns!'. And don't counter calls for allowing legitimate use of guns with 'all you gun nuts want to do is kill everyone!'. Try to be a grownup.

One problem with the people who want just a little bit more gun control and insist they don't want to ban all the guns they have "allies" who scream about banning all semi-automatic weapons. I don't think they realize how inclusive that category is.

And conversely, the people that want to advocate for responsible, common sense gun ownership have 'allies' who scream about every regulation = banning guns. I'm saying let's ignore the 'allies' and talk about this like grownups.

Compromise depends on trust. "Just ignore my side having rallies to use this as a stepping-stone to complete victory over you" is tough to swallow.

Also, the weapons are currently legal. It's the gun control side that wants change. A stalemate is fine with the gun-rights side, the same way that the pro-choice side wins any stalemate in the abortion debate. The side that wants a change from the status quo can't just demand compromise.

Well it's that partisan lack of trust that's ruining our country now, and here's a good example.

You don't build a high-trust society by telling the other side "you must agree with us or we'll become a low-trust society!"

Pretend that "common sense gun reform" were passed. It doesn't matter what it is, just that it was "common sense" enough that both sides accepted it. Do you think the gun-control side will say "okay, that's enough"? If not, what incentive do the gun-rights people have to go along?

Again, I'm hoping we can find common ground. You apparently think that's impossible, the trust is broken and thus nothing can ever change because any change is only a step towards more change in that direction. Can't ban late trimester abortions because then the pro-life side will try for more. Can't reduce onerous business regulations because that's just an opening to getting rid of all regulation, etc. I hope it's not too late to actually agree on something.

It's possible but it requires a lot of in-group discipline from the people trying to cut a deal.

That's much harder today because Twitter makes it easy to find someone on any side of an argument saying something stupid and give them an audience. And people without an audience tend to like having an audience more than advancing their nominal goals.

In addition, if you don't know how guns work[*], don't try to "start a conversation" about gun laws. Let your friends who do know how guns work propose regulations. Otherwise you're the computer-illiterate senator who wants to ban .jpeg files because someone told him that's how child porn is traded.

[*] If you don't use them, you probably don't. Reading Vox or playing Call Of Duty is explicitly insufficient. And it's fine to not know how guns work. There's no shame in that.

This guy who is saying he isn’t about banning literally proposed banning 80-90% of guns in circulation. Anyone reading should be familiar of the sheer scale of his dishonesty.

You guys. One minute you say "assault rifles" are full-auto and already banned. The next minute "assault rifles" are all semi-auto and too many to ban.

It is almost like you prefer confusion.

This is just disingenuous.

Assault rifle does not have a good definition.

To liberals it’s the equivalent of the N word. You know it when you see it due to its color.

This isn’t complicated and I know both of you are smart enough to understand. 1. Assault rifles are banned. 2. Msgking proposed banning all weapons “capable of rapid fire.” This includes all semi automatic rifles and handguns as well as revolvers and depending on your definition of rapid, punch action shotguns and bolt action weapons.

That leaves muskets.

I know you aren’t too stupid to understand that is almost every gun in existence.

Thomas, let me back off from that because you are so focused on it. I just want to have a grown up dialogue about guns, and their uses, and what could be done to make things better. Fine, don't ban every rapid fire gun. Can you agree there are some regulations that could be improved or added to reduce death tolls? And not just for school shootings, I'm very happy to discuss additional regulations of handguns and the like to reduce suicides and inner city violence too.

What if the only solution would be to ban and confiscate guns, and the effect of that would be worse than what we have now? Are we "allowed" to say that?

Why, to sew discord and confusion?

Not sure what you are asking here? I think my point is that people should say what they believe, even if they believe there is no problem or no solution.

Since I trust 'Mother Jones' about as much as I trust Fox News, I went and actually looked at the source data. And it looks a little fishy to me. So allow me to provide some 'alternate facts':

1. The study lumps in Ft. Hood, San Bernardino. The Chattanooga shootings and perhaps a couple of other events that should be reclassified as terrorism, not spree shootings.

2. Although the article says that the FBI standard for a 'mass shooting' is 4 or more deaths, I notice that 12 of the shootings they used since 2014 had three deaths. Not a single one of the earlier attacks had fewer than four deaths. Either this is the statistical outlier of the year, or someone was playing fast and loose with the data, selectively moving the goalposts to get the finding they needed.

And in fact, here's the justification for that change: "An incident with four or more homicide victims was the threshold count for mass killing established by the FBI a decade ago; a federal law signed by President Obama in 2013 defined the threshold as three or more victims killed."

Got it? So they're using the fact that Obama changed the definition in 2013 to include incidents with 3 victims in the mass shooting data. That is obviously a major skew in the direction they want it to go. And why do you suppose Obama changed the definition? It couldn't be because that makes things look worse, could it?

If we discount those shootings and stick with the FBI standard of 4 so we can compare apples to apples, you're left with 17 shootings between 2014 and 2017, or 4.25 per year. In the previous four years there were 20 shootings, or 5.0 per year. In the four years before that, there were 12, and in the four years before that there were only four shootings. But in the four years before that, there were 13. This tells me that the data is highly clustered, non-normal, and very thin. Beware ANY conclusions from this.

3. The data contains so many different types of gun violence, using many different kinds of guns, that it's pretty much useless as an insight into policy. What does a crazy kid in Florida have to do with a terrorist on a mission in California? What does an angry employee who shoots his boss and two co-workers with a handgun then kills himself have to do with a guy who uses a bolt-action hunting rifle to snipe people from the trunk of his car? In terms of gun control, these cases are all wildly different. Lumping them together as 'gun violence' doesn't make much sense, unless you're just trying to make the numbers look as bad as possible.

4. The nature of the data as being irregular and non-normal, along with the thin dataset really calls into question the notion of using Statistical Process Control. I'm certified in Six Sigma and have worked in the SPC field, and I'm not seeing how any of these techniques would be particularly insightful here. But the article doesn't say exactly which method they used, or how they used it, and I can't find the original paper.

The most egregious thing seems to be the inclusion of 3-victim shootings in the later data, which is responsible for pretty much ALL of the increase. In fact, if we exclude them mass shootings have gone down in the past four years as compared to the previous four years. If we remove the terrorist attacks, the last four years look even better. But I wouldn't draw any conclusions from that either - this entire dataset could be the result of mostly variance, coupled with clustering perhaps caused by publicity.

+1 always check to data.

The decreasing danger of school shootings paradoxically makes it even more important to stamp out its last vestiges. It's like, we're THIS close to eradicating it! If a solution feels within reach - rather than some pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking - it's all the more important to sound the alarm to push society over the top and do something once and for all.

^ is what's animating the current moment.

Bleeding heart liberal here. Trained in economics and statistics. I'm well aware that the risk of being killed in a mass shooting is minuscule and rates of school violence is going down. For me, though, using the school shooting to further my belief in the necessity of gun control is a conscious and calculated effort. You could call it cynical.

I believe the astronomical rate of gun death (and yes, this includes suicides) is due to the prevalence and availability of firearms. And the prevalence of firearm homicides in cities like Chicago is due to disparities in gun control laws in neighboring states. But clearly, the drip-drip of unnecessary suicides, homicides against partners, etc. isn't enough to change policy. So, school shootings it is.

In a rational society, we'd study how the availability of firearms is a contributing factor. We'd study this from a criminal justice, public health, and economic perspectives. We've done similar with automobiles, for example, and now death and injury rates have plummeted. As a rational person, I'm prepared to learn from thoughtful, repeated scientific and academic study and am willing to accept that my beliefs, as outlined above, are wrong. But when it comes to firearms we're irrational. We have decided that firearms shouldn't be studied or made safer. So, I'm prepared to be cynical and opportunistic.

But as Alex elegantly wrote, if our only response is to turn our schools into prisons then we've truly failed.

Agreed, this may be one of those cases where we can't let a crisis go to waste as Rahm Emanuel famously said. The sensible middle is thwarted daily by the extreme right and left, and only school shootings get anyone talking about this stuff.

"The sensible middle is thwarted daily"

You said that you want all guns that can fire rapidly banned. Semi auto rifles, handguns, revolvers, pump action shot guns. What does that leave? Muskets and bolt action guns? That's the sensible middle in your mind?

The sensible middle is having a grownup discussion about additional firearm safety measures. But please don't pretend you are interested in anything besides absolutist tribal signaling and kicking those mean old libs in the shins.

I called you out for being an anti-gun extremist who wants to ban almost every gun that exists. I did so by quoting you and putting in the 10 seconds of thought that you never did, in to what your proposal actually meant.

You can’t respond so you resort to attacks on me. I don’t even own a gun and have little interest but I am alergic to dishonest morons.

You're a pedantic child who it's impossible to take seriously.

Firearms are studied extensively

Entities best equipped to perform credible research on gun violence are formally banned from receiving public support to do so.

How did that happen?

My understanding is that the director of said entity publicly stated that the entity would do research to produce results to justify a preferred policy outcome.

Presumably if that research would have been biased in some manner, it would be comparatively easy to perform superior research which contradicted the findings.

However, guns advocates never seem to have an interest in the possibility of that approach. Instead, banning funding of research.

However, if what you say about what he said is true, in principle I agree that this would not represent the sort of scientific-minded approach that would be preferable for motivating good public policy. But, it is possible to hold a policy preference and nevertheless perform research that is essentially unbiased.

*One* particular entity, that had shown many signs of biased research, and which was not particularly well equipped to research that field.

The NIH, and the NIJ, among many others, continued and still continue to do research on , the matter. The BJS among others has maintained data for such research.

It is of course a worthwhile goal to reduce homicides (and probably suicides for the most part, although perhaps at least some percentage of those people are making well-reasoned decisions for themselves?) And I agree that having more data and study is also a good thing.

But as a statistically-minded bleeding heart liberal, how do you reconcile the massive increase in gun purchases with the continued decrease in gun homicides, and still claim "the astronomical rate of gun death ... is due to the prevalence and availability of firearms.") The correlation is in the other direction.

How would making firearms "safer" reduce or homicides or suicides? Perhaps it would reduce accidental shooting deaths. CDC WONDER shows under 500 of these in the past year - and a near-steady drop in deaths annually from about 800 per year 15 years ago. How mush effort, precisely, do you want the nation to spend to save 500 people, and how many lives would you put at risk to do so?

I respect your position, but I simply fail to understand the logic, and while I accept the emotional driver (and empathize), do you not think that there are costs (in lives) for enacting these policies as well? How do you reconcile that?

More people die of heart attacks than homicides. That does not make homicides a non-problem.

Over the past few years I had required "active shooter training" on three separate occasions at work. I never had this prior to 2010; what changed?

It's insanity that we will try literally everything to reduce gun violence except reduce guns. All these theories about black market sales of guns but no evidence. Let's have a 5 year moratorium on all gun sales and see if anything changes. If not, we go back to normal and the gun control lobby will evaporate.

This is a nonsense argument. Some fuzzy-head at your office wanted active-shooter training. If they had Islamic Terrorist Training twice a month for the past 4 years, that wouldn't indicate there were a problem with Islamic Terrorists. It would just indicate that the people in charge have some axe to grind, taking our their irrational fears on their workforce.

In your case, you are more than happy to be a pawn in their game.

I don't see how I'm a pawn. I didn't come up with the idea for training, and I worked at some very conservative (defense) companies. Hardly the type that would have an axe to grind regarding gun control.

More importantly, what do you think changed? I had this required training at multiple, unrelated companies, but it only began a few years ago.

Probably the main thing is that a sales-oriented person sold a service and/or they simply decided to use an available training budget for that. Daniel's explanation would not necessarily be inconsistent with that, considering that sales people would probably seek any possible angle to get the sale for the service they were looking to sell.

Your employer could have instead provided training in IT security basics for workplace and home, or some other thing of similarly ubiquitous importance which many people are underinformed about ...

A young lad told me he spends about 10% of his time in class concentrating on the lesson and about 90% thinking about what he would do if there was a school shooting. Note this is in Australia where school shootings aren't a thing. We have had zero in our history. So I can only imagine how it weighs on the minds of American school children. Especially seeing as there is very little that comes out of the United States that we take seriously.

Looking at US school shootings I see there have been at least 188 since 2000. But these figures include universities and we have had one university shooting. So just looking at this century, per capita we have had one fourteenth the number of school and university shootings as the US.

The odd thing about these comments is how ridiculously parochial they are. This is not a US trait - here in the UK we can be as obtuse about, say the NHS or the monarchy as you are about healthcare or guns. Nonetheless, reading the comments on this thread gives me a mixture of incredulity and disgust. I live in a country where has been one school shooting in my lifetime, where the homicide rate is a fraction of yours, and where most cops carry a baton instead of a gun. No police officer was shot last year in the UK. One was stabbed by a terrorist, three were killed in traffic incidents. Not one cop was shot. Not one. In a country of 70 million people. Even though they are just armed with a stick. And no child was shot in a school. Not one. You can bleat all you like about the constitution, but you are becoming a laughing stock. Wake up, grow up, and talk about the issues instead of this incessant posturing about a well ordered militia and all that nonsense. Read the comments here, all the blathering from grown men competing to be complacent about the murder of children, and be ashamed of yourselves.

Clearly if guns were banned and confiscated we could reduce gun violence dramatically. But that would require a constitutional amendment and would come with very high costs. Also, yes many people in the U.S. don't want it. Yes they would rather have many people die than have their guns taken away.

It is possible the guns are worth the cost for their option value, in case an armed uprising really becomes necessary. Hard to judge, of course.

Grown men don't care if other people laugh at them. That would be a sorry way to run one's life and especially one's country.

There are good reasons for gun control. This is not one of them.

Grown men don't care if other people laugh at them. That would be a sorry way to run one's life and especially one's country.

There are good reasons for gun control. This is not one of them.

Just like healthcare costs, this is only "good news" if you exclude the rest of the world. The US still ranks the worst per capita for both mass shootings and school shootings. And the reason why schools have to focus on the security problem is because the ways to actually deal with this are all legislative and not under their control. If you want schools to feel less like prisons, you need gun reform.

"The US still ranks the worst per capita for both mass shootings and school shootings."

mmmm, no. Even Norway, Denmark and Finland are worse than us.

"Overall youth mortality (ages 5-14) has fallen from 60 per 100,000 in 1950 to 13.1 per 100,000 today (CDC, Vital Statistics). Yet we hide in gated communities, homes and schools as never before."

This is very misleading, I'm disappointed in Alex. That reduction is due to the fall in childhood disease and traffic fatalities. The homicide rate is similar to what it was in the 1950s. The violent crime rate is significantly higher. Yes, our children are safer from bugs and car accidents, but how is that relevant to this post about violence?

Violent crime rate is higher?

Thanks for writing this, Alex.

I read this blog regularly -- and very much appreciate it. I almost never comment. Alex, your letter is spot on in every way. Thank you.

Look Alex: it turns out guns are dangerous!

I was making these same arguments to my spouse the other day -- that the violence has declined, and we live in a safer world today than ever before. But in spite of all that, we feel less safe, and demand more security. Her (devil's-advocate) counter-argument was that perhaps we are safer today BECAUSE of all those security measures, ergo we need more of it to continue making progress.

It instantly reminded me of a story in which a guy shouts 'GO AWAY ELEPHANTS!' every morning at the railway tracks to make sure that elephants don't get in the way of the trains and cause an accident. He does this every morning for many years. And when someone tells him that he's wasting his time, an elephant has never been seen around these tracks before. He replies, "Exactly! So my efforts are working to keep them away!"

Massive school shootings don't just hurt the 17 killed. Other students are traumatized and families are ruined. If a child dies in a pool it is sad and traumatic for those closest. A school murder is traumatizing for everyone as far away as the other side of the country. This is the saddest and most pathetic argument in our nation. Guns kill people and ruin lives in a very fast and horrific way.

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