San Bernardino Shooting

Beware Simplistic Solutions to Mass Shootings

Tougher gun controls didn't help in California.



Mass shootings elicit a chorus much like the widespread response to the Islamic State: We must do something, now, and any measure is better than none. 

In the wake of the San Bernardino massacre, there is no shortage of tough-sounding solutions on offer. But they are largely exercises in well-meaning futility. Anything is not always better than nothing. 

The automatic prescription anytime someone uses firearms to slaughter a group of people is stricter controls on guns and gun owners. But the San Bernardino episode illustrates the puny impact of such measures. California, after all, has among the tightest restrictions in the country. They didn't stop Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, from killing 14 people and injuring 21 in a barrage of some 150 bullets. 

The state has long prohibited "assault weapons." Anyone who owned one before the ban was required to register it. Magazines holding more than 10 rounds are also illegal. 

Federal law allows private sales without background checks, an exemption President Barack Obama wants to close—but California has already closed it. The state mandates a 10-day waiting period for every gun purchase and a permanent record of the transaction. California is pretty much a gun controller's dream. 

Yet an editorial in the Los Angeles Times immediately demanded universal background checks and a ban on "military-style weapons" and large magazines—the author having forgotten, perhaps, that those are already in place. If those proposals were not sufficiently irrelevant, the editorial also urged "more trigger locks" and the abolition of concealed carry laws, neither of which would have made any positive difference in San Bernardino. 

On Thursday, the Senate blocked legislation introduced by California's Dianne Feinstein to stipulate that people on the Transportation Security Administration's no-fly list may not buy guns. Obama endorsed the idea. But evidently, neither of the killers was on the no-fly list; Farook flew to Saudi Arabia earlier this year, and Malik flew back with him after passing a background check for her visa. 

It's hard to think of any plausible safeguard that would have blocked firearm acquisitions by the husband—a Chicago-born U.S. citizen with a government job, a spotless record and no known history of mental illness. Law enforcement officials report that all four of the guns the killers had were bought legally in California. 

Farook bought the two pistols, and another man bought the two rifles. The couple may have gotten the rifles despite the state's ban on the sale of existing "assault weapons" to private buyers and its rule that all gun transfers must go through a licensed dealer. Determined criminals can easily evade the law. 

Two people capable of making or acquiring more than a dozen pipe bombs, which are not sold at Wal-Mart, probably have ways of getting the sort of guns they deem necessary. 

Not that they would especially need "assault weapons." These rifles are functionally indistinguishable from other semi-automatic firearms, which discharge equally lethal rounds with equal rapidity. And plenty of ordinary guns with higher calibers can do worse damage just as quickly. 

Trying to prevent carnage by getting rid of "assault weapons" is like trying to prevent alcoholism by outlawing vodka. There are plenty of good substitutes. Limiting the size of magazines is also no hurdle for a minimally competent shooter, who can bring extras to quickly replace depleted ones. 

To note these realities is not to succumb to despair. The good news is that it is possible to drastically reduce gun violence. In fact, we have already done it. The rate of fatal shootings has dropped by almost half in the past two decades, and the rate of nonfatal shootings has plunged by 75 percent. 

The crucial changes have come about not in our laws but in our culture. Americans are less violent today than in the past, for reasons we don't entirely understand. 

What about mass shootings? The prevailing belief is that they are becoming far more common. But Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox has noted that regardless of whether you look at the past five years or the past 30, there has been no upward trend. What has increased, hugely, is the amount of media attention such incidents get. 

Increasing or not, it would be nice if someone could devise a reliable way to prevent these gruesome atrocities. Until then, let's not fool ourselves. 

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

NEXT: Obama is Right to Call for New AUMF to Fight ISIS, But Maddeningly Vague on Its Contents

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  1. The ‘solution’ is simply to teach your children not to kill each other and ‘the radical ideology/meth/brain chemistry/devil made me do it’ is no excuse. OK now accuse me of ‘heresy’ and threaten the form of physical violence distinctive to your caliphate:

    1. “Trying to prevent carnage by getting rid of “assault weapons” is like trying to prevent alcoholism by outlawing vodka. ” Ahhh, so true. But of course this article gives the likes of Feinstein the benefit of buying her motive. It isn’t to “prevent carnage”, but to ban guns and otherwise increase the state’s jurisdiction. That’s why the same people call for the same “solutions” every time a problem comes up, even when they aren’t connected, like the trigger locks and concealed carry suggestions.

      1. I disagree with the author. It’s like trying to ban alcoholism by banning “assault alcohol*.” A completely made up term that is designed specifically to be emotionally manipulative.

        “Are you drinking assault alcohol, Johnny? You should be ashamed of yourself!”

        * Definition to be provided later and constantly change based on political expedience.

        1. I think we can all agree that Everclear is assault alcohol.

          1. Just because it beat up all those guys doesn’t mean it’s assault alcohol. It’s just misunderstood!

          2. good point.. it does seem to assault one’s powers of reasoning.. not to mention motor control.

            1. Wait, I’ve got it.

              If everclear bottles are legally capped at a volume of 10 decileters, alcoholism will disappear overnight?

      2. if you cant read their minds, which you can’t, you probably should give them the benefit of the doubt (even though their career choices strongly suggest they’re motivated by either by wanting to control other people or be adulated by them, both of which are horrible motivations). anyhow regardless of motivation it’s just a bad idea. already you have to jump through so many hoops if you want a gun you better really want it, which is not a great way to select for people who should be trusted with guns

    2. After seeing a photo of his wife it’s obvious why the guy went on a rampage.

      Why are muslim women so fat and ugly? That’s why muslim men believe in killing themselves, to get away from the ugly women.

      Dosen’t the guy look stoned in this photo?

      1. Do you really think that such comments are helpful?

        1. toadhead — The truth is always helpful!

    3. right people talk about being a “radical” or being “radicalized” like that makes them somehow different from other people who are willing to use force to achieve their goals. we live in a pretty radical time, in that fighting and killing and dying isnt part of our everyday lives

  2. We must do something, now, and any measure is better than none.

    Easing restrictions on self-defense options?

    But they are largely exercises in well-meaning futility.

    Opportunism is seldom altruistic.

    1. you just named perhaps the greatest deterrent to such mass shootings. KNOWING no one would be there with a gun to defend anyone or move against these two assailants makes the organising and execution of the plan so much easier. And THIS is the one thing the ruling bozos just never can admit…. despite the fact that only three of the mass shootings since about 1950 did NOT happen in gun free zones. ALL the rest did…. LET the common guy on the street carry his own defensive protection with him.. he’s the one right on the scene, has zero response time, and is HIGHLY motivated to DO SOMETHING to stop the slaughter.

      I know if that had happened in Washington State, anywhere from ten to perhaps fifty would most certainly have been armed inside there… imagine the surprise (and brown shorts) those two perps would have had if five or ten has atarted shooting back…. and HITTING them….. bod count? Maybe one or two partygoers and two perps dead. Not even a “mass shooting” by the accepted definition. And everyone else gets to go home that night.

  3. Are you saying that taking away the handgun of the single mom that lives in a scary neighborhood won’t prevent mass shootings?

  4. well presumably, if there was a nation-wide assault weapons ban, they would be less likely to have them, since they ust have been purchased out of state. So the LA Times may have a point there. (no i don’t agree)

    1. They would need to smuggle them, or manufacture them, or use a different type of gun.

  5. I don’t think they were purchased out of state. They were made to comply with CA law and modified after the purchase.

    Some disarmanuts have been decrying the manufacturer obeying the law…

    1. Police say all four guns were bought INSIDE California, two by the guy perp, and two more (the AR’s) by a friend of his, as yet not ublicallyideitified, though I KNOW they know who he is… the Sale Book at the dealers will have that, and BATF already do. The mods were simply to “upgrade” the state mandated “bullet button” back to the normal release lever to drop the mag out of the mag well. Calirnia’s “bullet button” was a stuid idea anyway, everyone hates it, and then the maniracturer came up with a workabout for the stupid law, everyone laughed and went out and bought them. That same firearm, sans the “California Bullsht Button”, can be purchased in every other state of the Union. As far as “importing”, it is against federal and state law… California mandates ALL interstate, and ALL private face to face transfers be done through a California licensed dealer… I can buy a long gun in any other state, put it in my car, and drive back home with it, or put it in a locked hardside case and take it on the airplane with me. (checked baggage, declared at checkin) But no resident of Californa can do that.
      I’m waiting for someone to come up with some new law that WOULD have prevented these clowns from getting the guns….. that also would not prohibit everyone in the country from getting guns. That stupid state have the most rigourous anti-gun laws, and yet they got them… and used them….. unchallenged.

  6. “Nationwide Assault Weapons Ban”? What does that *mean*? Please define an “assault weapon”. Ones that look “scary”? As the article said, there is no functional difference between, say, a magazine-fed hunting rifle and an AR-15. Both fire as quickly as you can pull the trigger. Both will kill just as fast as you can point and pull. This incessant focus on “assault weapons” drives me nuts since, among other reasons, it seems based more on how a particular firearm *looks* (or how it makes the viewer *feel*) than on how it functions.

    And you had to know, as soon as you heard about the event, that our idiot in chief and his cronies would be stumping for more gun control before the investigation was complete and the facts were known.

    1. In the People’s Republic of Maryland, my home state, an assault weapon is defined as any firearm with two of the following characteristics: a flash suppressor, a folding stock, or a grenade launcher. They tried to add thumbhole stocks, telescoping stocks, pistol grips, and forward grips, but those didn’t make the final cut. Still, by the wording of the bill I can buy a Ruger 10/22, add a flash suppressor and a folding stock, and it becomes an “assault weapon”.

      1. I’m fairly gun illiterate and had to google “Ruger 10/22.” The ensuing internet rabbit hole has convinced me that I should buy a 22 and learn how to shoot.

        Unfortunately I live in Japan these days, so things will be more complicated.

  7. We need to point out to those who want to ban guns, that France has very strict gun control. But it didn’t stop 2 separate mass shootings, the first, the Charlie Hebdo murders in January & the recent massacre of 130+ people in Paris.

    1. Yeah, but the point isn’t public safety, the point is to preserve the state’s monopoly on force. Even well-meaning laypersons (as opposed to politicians or activists) in favor of “gun control” eventually admit that the end goal is to make sure that only police have firearms, thus sacrificing the ability of the average person to defend him or herself to preserve the state’s authority.

      The California shooting is a perfect illustration. CA gun laws are incredibly strict, and absent those laws there’s at least a reasonable chance some of the victims could have been armed and might have been able to stop the shooters. Instead, the response is to push for even more gun legislation, increased surveillance, and more power to law enforcement orgs.

    2. French gun control also failed to stop the recent attempted attack on the train. Civilians tackling the killer did the job.

      1. That’s the Flight 93 effect. Now that we know what the new stakes are, we will deal with it appropriate without any input from government one way or the other. It’s difficult for people who have lived their lives within the government sphere to comprehend this. We, as individuals, are capable of dealing with looney birds. The real solution, if there is one, to terrorism of this type is for private individuals to fight back.

        1. Yep. After years of being told to “comply with their demands” and it will be “allright” and/or “goverment will protect you” resulted in two airplanes being driven into buildings… and the third one being overtaken by more of the thugs. At that point SOMEONE on board decided its all er nuthin. Worst case is I’ll die anyway, same as if I do nothing. They tried….. and it broke the spell.

  8. The gun grabbers hold two contradictory positions: that there is a surge in mass shootings, and that gun legislation will prevent those shootings.

    If the one is true, you’d expect to see fewer fatal mass shootings (and let’s not count gang-related violence in the same statistic, because the concern is clearly with the unhinged loons/domestic terrorists, not drive-bys and turf battles) in states with stricter laws, yet we see that at least there is no relationship between the two, and, at most, there might be an inverse relationship. Clearly CA’s gun laws, some of the strictest in the nation, did not prevent the San Bernadino shooting, which is the worst this year.

    Conversely, nationally we see gun regulations loosening for the most part since the expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban under Clinton, with the exception of Progressive strongholds, and at the same time mass shootings by any definition are at an all-time low.

  9. Dumb question from a non-gun owner: Couldn’t mass shooters armed with shotguns inflict about the same damage on a crowded room full of people as the California killers did with semiautomatic rifles? (I realize the latter have much longer ranges, but these events seem to usually involve close-range shooting.) And if there isn’t an obvious difference in lethality, how come the mass shootings seem to involve AR-15 type rifles? I recall the Navy Yard shooter using a shotgun and killing a lot of people, but that seems like the exception.

    Are military-looking rifles the preference because they instill more fear in a crowded room? Are there just more of them out there than shotguns?

    1. A semi-auto 12ga with slugs or #4 would be horrifying in one of these active shooter situations.

    2. Most shotguns don’t have magazines.
      They tend to be heavier than a rifle.
      Their ammo is bulkier, and heavier

      1. Saiga

        1. Thats the only one I know of though I’m sure there are more.

          What are the chances of going to your LGS and finding one? I’d guess fairly low unless you happen to have a very well stocked shop. Probably rather pricey too.

          1. I can buy two for the price of a good AR and there are several available at my LGS, new and used.

          2. If not Saiga you can get a Vepr. On the cheap get a Century Fury or a PW AR shotgun. If you want a tube magazine get an auto-loader like a 930 or a Versa Max. Attach an extended tube and use speed loaders. Want more capacity? Get an XRAIL. There’s a lot of options out for high capacity shotgunning thanks to the popularity of 3-gun competitions. Not everyone has just an over-under clay gun.

      2. most pump shotguns have TUBULAR magazines that are fixed,not interchangeable. Just like the M1 Garand and broomhandle Mauser have fixed magazines loaded by stripper clips.

        1. Ok, when I said magazines, I really meant detachable, quick to replace magazines.

    3. One of the scariest weapons ever made was the US trench shotgun from WW1.

    4. you just hit on the one “common deniminator” in the large part of these shootings that sort of sticks in my craw and keeps whispering “inside job”, and “false flag”. Seems every mass shooting, including one here in Washington about five yeras back that involved one handgun and killed our. the kneejerks reacting begin hollering for “assault weapon bans”, and lately more of these shootings involve the “black and ugly” guns, wimply though they are by comparison.

      I know if I were ever in a situation where I had to face off a crowd and inflict the greatest damage in the shortest amount of time ,I’d be shopping for a scattergun. Some of the tactical autoloaders have extended magazine tubes, and some can be fed new rounds whilst leaving the gun with a round in battery and able to be fired. I remember back when, after the Watts riots in Los Angeles, and CHP suddenly began to crop up with vertical upright shotgun mounts that held a semiauto 12 guage magnum shotgun. I think they got the Remingtons. We used that one visual to decide whether the “tail” way back there was a Chippie.. that shottie had a big fat barrel, and stuck right up there against the dash. They called them their “riot guns”…. and they were greatly feared.

    5. rifles are only used in about 40% of the big mass shootings, and 2% of all murders with a gun. hand guns are the weapon of choice, but the liberals know those will be harder to ban. the media and dems always mention assault rifles, but they are not always used

  10. “California is pretty much a gun controller’s dream. ”

    Disagree Steve; Ban and confiscate is a gun controllers dream. Everything else is a just a step in the incrementalism.

    1. Japan is a gun controller’s dream. They can pretend that the ban on guns is the reason violent crime is so low.

      1. but they have double the suicide rate

  11. Pump-action shotguns require training to operate effectively, and are far more difficut to reload. Contrary to popular opinion, shotgun rounds do not spread very much at across-the-room distances. They will make a significantly bigger hole in the target, but you’ll still only hit one person.

  12. my co-worker’s sister-in-law makes $71 every hour on the computer . She has been fired for five months but last month her income was $16368 just working on the computer for a few hours. see page……….

  13. the Second Amendment of the Constitution is NOT ABOUT hunting or sporting.
    semi-auto,magazine-fed rifles such as the AR-15 and AK-47 are today’s modern MILITIA weapons,and thus should be the most protected of firearms under the Second Amendment.

    Militiamen were expected to appear for muster bearing arms and ammo similar to and compatible with what the Regular military had in use AT THAT TIME.
    Since we “compromised” and restricted ownership of full-auto,true assault rifles,that leaves the semi-auto versions for civilian militia use.

    In US v Miller,SCOTUS asked if a short-barreled shotgun was a weapon that a militia would commonly use,implying that arms protected by the 2nd Amendment were arms a militia would use. AR-15’s,M-16’s and AK-47s would be ordinary militia arms,and “hi-capacity magazines” also would be protected.

    1. To bad that so many in elected office, aka law makers, would likely deny this or are just to damned thick headed to grasp and understand the concepts.

    2. and if memory serves the example of the World War Two short-barreled shotgun used in trench warfare was brought up.. and it made some waves….. they were shortbarreled twelve guage shotguns. they had to be short because of the cramped quarters in those trenches. They were to be deployed in clearing of trenches being overrun by our guys, and in defending ours against close quarters attack by enemy. They were vERY effective.

  14. Beware “simple solutions” to any and all complex questions.

    1. Tell that to the mohammedan and christian conservatives. Both crowds have for at least the past four decades been united in their admiration for revealed faith and the initiation of force and hatred of anything peaceful and voluntary.

  15. Increasing or not, it would be nice if someone could devise a reliable way to prevent these gruesome atrocities.

    Use all the gunz to get rid of all the peoples?

  16. There is no magic bullet to solve terrorism. But here’s a deterrent we should consider — assure the desecration of the terrorists’ bodies and (regardless of faith) bury them in a secret grave (that’s what deserts are for). Note that this desecration should be done to any religious murderer.

    For Muslim terrorists, you bury them with a rotting pig carcass wrapped around them. Probably the same for Jewish terrorists (there are SOOOOO many!).

    While bizarre and perhaps barbaric, no one is physically harmed by this desecration tactic. It merits serious consideration.

    For more thoughts on this gonzo idea, read my article:…..o-use.html

    1. Something of the sort was in a Gary Cooper and David Niven movie set in the Philippines. Someone else thought airline hijackings could be curtailed by keeping ham on board. There certainly is little point in arguing with mohammedans, for they are exactly the same as conservatives when it comes to checking superstitious premises.

  17. Since there were no guns at the party – apart from the terrorists’ guns – it was, obviously, a gun-free zone. So eliminate any and all legislation promoting gun-free zones, then everybody would be able to defend themselves if desired.

    As elite firearms expert Larry Correia, Utah Concealed Weapons instructor, military and law enforcement master trainer, expert witness for the Utah State Legislature, Title 7 SOT gun store owner explains:

    “The average number of people shot in a mass shooting event when the shooter is stopped by law enforcement: 14. The average number of people shot in a mass shooting event when the shooter is stopped by civilians: 2.5. The reason is simple:

    “The armed civilians are there when it started.”


    1. if only 1% of people carried, they would have been outnumber 3 to 1.

  18. There is a simple solution to mass killings. A mass killing is defined as killing four or more people so if people are forbidden to congregate in groups larger than three there can be no mass killings. See how simple it is!

    Of course we would have to close all schools and businesses as well as abolishing four person car pools. The standard of living will be reduced to that of Australopithecus but if it will save just one life, isn’t it worth it?

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