Civil Liberties

Yes, It's True That Gun Laws, Actual or Proposed, Would Not Have Stopped Recent Mass Shootings


Not so much news to readers of Reason as we alas have occasion to remind you of this anytime a gun murder makes big national news, but presidential candidate and Florida Senator Marco Rubio apparently shocked some people the other week when he declared on CBS's This Morning program that "None of the major shootings that have occurred in this country over the last few months or years that have outraged us, would gun laws have prevented them."

Gage Skidmore via / CC BY-SA

This seemed fishy to people who don't pay attention, for some reason, so the Washington Post's fact-checker was asked to investigate

The full article details 12 different mass shootings, and looks at "whether proposals might have made a difference in how the guns were obtained, or whether existing laws worked as intended."

Despite the suspicion that sometimes media fact checkers have agendas of their own, the truth is too obvious in this case. The Post gives Rubio's statement "a rare Geppetto checkmark" as their article demonstrates how neither existing nor proposed gun laws would have prevented them.

Some interesting quotable details getting down to the minutia of magazine size bans, a favorite "common sense gun safety" proposal:

The common thread that binds most mass shootings is semiautomatic firearms with the ability to accept a high-capacity detachable ammunition magazine," said Avery Palmer, communications director at the Violence Policy Center, which supports restrictions on guns. "These can range from assault rifles, pistols, and shotguns, to compact, high-capacity pistols marketed for concealed carry. Today's gun industry has embraced increased lethality as its marketing lodestar, and one key element in reducing the occurrence and severity of mass shootings lies in ratcheting down the firepower in civilian hands."

By contrast, gun-rights supporters argue that bans on certain weapons and large-capacity magazines would accomplish little. There are already more than 5 million AR-type rifles in circulation in the United States, ownership of which would have been grandfathered under proposed bans….

…an experienced shooter, as shown in this video, can change a magazine in just two to four seconds. That calls into question whether such a ban would significantly reduce the death toll.

A new study by Gary Kleck of Florida State University studied news accounts of 23 shootings between 1994 and 2013 in which more than six people were killed or wounded and large-capacity magazines were used. In only one case was a shooter stopped as he tried to reload. In all of these 23 incidents, the shooter possessed either multiple guns or multiple magazines, indicating that a determined shooter would not have been deterred by smaller magazines.

In other gun-related fact-checking news from the Post, they also cut through the prevarications from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and others about how their proposed bill killed by Republican in the Senate to pre-emptively deny Second Amendment rights to a class of citizens they like to refer to as terror suspects did not just apply to people on the more limited "no fly" list.

Rather it would have entrapped everyone tarred with the incredibly broadbrush and secretive 800,000 people "terror watchlist" of unverified suspicion, with the no-fly list less than 10 percent that big. It was not, despite what you might hear, as simple as "if you are too dangerous to fly, you are too dangerous to buy a gun."