Jacob Sullum on Magical Thinking After the Charleston Massacre


White House

"If Congress had passed some common-sense gun safety reforms after Newtown," President Obama said on Friday, "we don't know if it would have prevented what happened in Charleston." Actually, says Jacob Sullum, we do know: Had the bill to which Obama was referring been enacted, it would not have stopped Dylann Roof from murdering nine people at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church last week.

Sullum argues that Obama's comment reflects the magical thinking that horrific crimes like Roof's seem to invite: If only we had adopted Policy X, this might not have happened. That tendency—driven by the understandable desire to "do something," as Obama put it—is most conspicuous among supporters of gun control but is not limited to them.