Second Amendment

Restrictive Laws Are No Barrier to the Likes of Elliot Rodger

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Elliot Rodger

Just hours after Elliot Rodger stabbed and shot six people in Isla Vista, California, before, apparently, belatedly ending his own wretched existence on this Earth, an as-yet unidentified gunman murdered four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium. The usual round of pundits immediately started pointing fingers at their favorite political targets in the United States as the real culprits. Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker found an opening to blame gun owners.

Wrote Gopnik:

Christopher died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the N.R.A. That's true. That the killer in question was in the grip of a mad, woman-hating ideology, or that he was also capable of stabbing someone to death with a knife, are peripheral issues to the central one of a gun culture that has struck the Martinez family and ruined their lives.

I'm not sure why the means of killing half of the victims is "peripheral" if the means of killing the other half is a core concern. And let it be noted that misogyny has also been called out as the real culprit by other pundits with other axes to grind.

But Gopnik isn't alone. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also wants to "end the insanity" and tighten gun restrictions in the United States until they're…What? As restrictive as those in Belgium? Maybe he just wants national laws as tight as those in Connecticut, where new restrictions promptly met mass defiance and turned tens of thousands of residents into instant felons.

But back to Belgium. That country has rather tighter laws than those in most of the United States, including licensing and registration. Ammunition purchases are restricted along with gun ownership. Backgrounds are checked, including for mental health issues. Owners are required to justify their purchase of guns with a rationale, whether it's hunting, collecting, or the like.

That this hasn't prevented amok murders like Saturday's shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium is obvious. Nor did such laws prevent the 2011 mass murder in Liege, which took the lives of five people.

Laws aren't magical barriers against bad things. Really, nobody ever thought that Belgium's restrictive laws had disarmed the country. In 2003, the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey estimated that the country's 11 million people had stashed 2 million illegal firearms to accompany the legally registered 458,000 in civilian hands.

The residents of Belgium and Connecticut would seem to have something in common.

Laws may define the limits of legally accepted behavior and the penalties for those who are caught crossing those limits, but they don't prevent those limits from being crossed.

And, sadly, researchers have yet to find any effective means of preventing spree killings. The Congressional Research Service is among the bodies that concluded that popular public health and law enforcement efforts show no promise in preventing such crimes.

That's not reassuring news to those of us who want to see an end to such killings, and to such killers. (Although it's encouraging that such crimes do not seem to be on the rise.) But if nothing else, it's obvious that the restrictive laws peddled as instant solutions don't just threaten liberty, they've failed to live up to their advertising where they've already been tried.

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  1. How many days into this tragedy and still, no statement from Wusthof? Shame on the Knife lobby.

    1. I blame CRKE.

      1. CRKT*, dammit.

  2. or that he was also capable of stabbing someone to death with a knife, are peripheral issues to the central one of a gun culture that has struck the Martinez family and ruined their lives.

    Imagine you’re the parent of one of the three people stabbed to death. Imagine you read Gopnik’s comment about how your child’s death is peripheral to the issues Gopnik thinks are important.

    Imagine that. For a moment. Imagine it.

    1. Liberals don’t think others exist other than as abstractions in their own heads.

      1. Pawns in their own political ambition.

    2. Imagine that. For a moment. Imagine it.

      Thanks a lot – now *I’m* feeling stabby.

  3. Owners are required to justify their purchase of guns with a rationale, whether it’s hunting, collecting, or the like.

    My neighbors are plotting against me.

    With the space lizards.

    1. Owners are required to justify their purchase of guns with a rationale, whether it’s hunting, collecting, or the like.

      Let’s apply this “purchase rationale” to *everything*. Just imagine the JOBS!

      1. Certificate of Need anyone?

        1. Can my Milk Ration stamps be substituted for Ammo ration stamps?

          1. No, absolutely not. And don’t even think about trading your milk stamps to that new mother over there that wants to purchase more milk.

  4. Christopher died because of craven, irresponsible politicians

    Who are beholden to their constituents. It’s real easy to badmouth an elected pol. What Gopnik means but doesn’t have the balls to write is that 2A voters are craven and irresponsible.

    1. Gopnik means but doesn’t have the balls to write is that 2A voters are craven and irresponsible.

      I’m sure he’s got the balls. Many others have said exactly as much.

  5. Imagine that. For a moment. Imagine it.

    “What a relief. I don’t have to worry about a bunch of reporters trampling my flower beds in an attempt to film my sobbing wife as they goad her into making a politically charged expression of outrage. I feel so much better, now.”

  6. 11 million people had stashed 2 million illegal firearms

    I’m confused. Does this mean that 2.2e+13 guns were stashed, or that 11 million people stashed 2 million guns with some people evidently discovering previously stashed guns and then re-stashing them?

    1. I’m assuming that 11 million people refers to the total population, and somewhere within that population, 2 million guns have been stored.

    2. You’re missing the point. BIG! SCARY! NUMBERS!!!

  7. Sure, we have 10,000 gun laws already on the books. But I’m telling ya, we’re just missing a couple that will solve the problem permanently. Trust us this time.

  8. Tooch nailed the alt-text. Nicely done.

  9. I don’t understand how this kid never got laid. Assholes who think they’re God’s gift to humanity usually get laid all the time.

  10. The only “legal solution” I can think of that might seriously reduce spree killings is to make it easier to involuntarily commit the mentally ill — Lock up the few million diagnosed schizophrenics and anyone else identified as having uncontrollable violent impulses, and you wouldn’t eliminate such crimes, but I think you’d clearly reduce the rate at which they occur, and more significantly than any additional regulations on firearms or other weapons would.

    Of course, you’d also be depriving millions of people of their liberty who posed no actual threat to anyone, but the number of people thus harmed would be far less than the number of people deprived of their rights or turned into criminals by sweeping gun bans. How could that calculus not appeal to a good “progressive”?

  11. “Laws may define the limits of legally accepted behavior and the penalties for those who are caught crossing those limits, but they don’t prevent those limits from being crossed.”

    That very astute statement expresses, in a nutshell, the difference between free societies and authoritarian, police states. In free societies, we understand and accept this statement as being consistent with reality. In authoritarian States, the police and other agencies use any means necessary, including some very intrusive interventions, to actively prevent people from stepping over the often arbitrary lines set by the laws. The latter approach may actually reduce the number of occasions of misbehavior, but at a high cost in treasure, not to mention damage to the social fabric. Nevertheless, even turning a society into a locked down prison State will not result in total prevention of illegal behavior. People will STILL cross the lines. In free societies, sensible adult citizens understand that the cost to chase the folly of “total prevention” is too high a price to pay, and naturally try to strike a balance between liberty and security that maximizes freedom and does not come close to the point of diminishing returns that authoritarian States pull out all stops to reach and exceed.

  12. Holy fuck am I sick of seeing this shit pile’s face.

    Can’t we get a photo of him post-gunshot to the face?

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