Gun Control

Outrage at Las Vegas Massacre Does Not Mean Agreeing With Nick Kristof About Gun Control [Updated]

As usual, the policies pushed in response to a mass shooting have little or nothing to do with it.

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Mass shootings like the one in Las Vegas yesterday, which killed at least 58 people, tend to prompt knee-jerk calls for more gun control, which typically have no logical connection to the horrifying event that precipitates them. Nicholas Kristof's column in today's New York Times is an excellent example of this mind-clouding genre, promising in the headline policies aimed at "Preventing Future Mass Shootings Like the Vegas Strip Attack," then admitting in the 15th paragraph that his proposals have little or nothing to do with that.

Kristof begins with a pre-emptive scolding of anyone who does not respond to the Las Vegas massacre the way he thinks they should. "After the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas," he says, "the impulse of politicians will be to lower flags, offer moments of silence, and lead a national mourning. Yet what we need most of all isn't mourning, but action to lower the toll of guns in America."

What sort of action? Kristof lists eight specific ideas, including establishing a minimum purchase age of 21 for firearms, limiting gun purchases by any given buyer "to no more than, say, two a month," promoting "smart guns," requiring "microstamping of cartridges so that they can be traced to the gun that fired them," requiring safe storage of firearms, and spending more money on research "to see what interventions will be more effective in reducing gun deaths." Only two of his ideas are even superficially plausible as responses to mass shootings: "universal background checks for anyone buying a gun" and "a ban on possession of guns by anyone subject to a domestic violence protection order."

Universal background checks are not truly universal, of course, since not everyone will comply with the law, and the government cannot possibly monitor every gun transfer. Even if we ignore that point, background checks can stop gun purchases only by people who are legally disqualified from owning firearms, which mass shooters rarely are.

The two major disqualifying criteria that are flagged by background checks are a criminal record (any felony or a misdemeanor involving domestic violence) or a history of court-ordered psychiatric treatment. We don't know much yet about the Las Vegas shooter, identified by police as Stephen Paddock (above right), a 64-year-old accountant who lived in Mesquite, Nevada, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. But ABC News reports that Paddock "had no criminal history, save a minor citation." Odds are he was never subjected to involuntary psychiatric treatment either. According to The Washington Post, Paddock's brother said "he did not know of any mental illness, alcohol or drug problems in his brother's life." In all likelihood Paddock legally purchased his guns, possibly after passing multiple background checks.*

There is no indication that Paddock was subject to a domestic violence protection order when he bought his guns. His crime, which involved firing on total strangers attending a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Resort and Casino, does not seem to have stemmed from a domestic dispute. The Post reports that "Paddock's family said there was nothing in his past that would suggest violence."

Kristof eventually concedes that "it's too soon to know what, if anything, might have prevented the shooting in Las Vegas, and it may be that nothing could have prevented it." His column, in other words, is a 20-paragraph non sequitur.

Kristof also admits that "mass shootings are anomalies," since "most gun deaths occur in ones or twos, usually with handguns (which kill far more people than assault rifles), and suicides outnumber murders." But he knows that mass shootings attract a lot of attention, and he hopes to take advantage of that. Never mind that street crime and suicides have nothing to do with what happened in Las Vegas yesteday, except that all three involve guns. Well, Paddock did eventually kill himself, so there's that.

The policies Kristof favors should be judged on their own merits, without reference to what has been described as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Using the feelings of dismay, anger, and sadness provoked by that event to push policies that we have no reason to believe would or could have prevented it is the crassest sort of emotionalism and demagoguery. If you are truly outraged by the Las Vegas massacre, Kristof is saying, you will agree with him about gun control. There is so little logic to that syllogism that it does not even qualify as an argument.

*Update: The Times reports that Paddock did pass federal background checks: "Christopher Sullivan, general manager of Guns & Guitars, a gun store in Mesquite, confirmed that Mr. Paddock bought three guns at his shop within the last year—a handgun and two rifles. All the purchases were legal and cleared routine federal screening, Mr. Sullivan said."

NEXT: Vegas Shooter's Dad, Patrick Benjamin Paddock, Was a Convicted Bank Robber Who Escaped Federal Prison, Tried to Run Down FBI Agents With His Car

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  1. So let’s see…if only this 64 year old had been required to prove he was over 21 before buying a gun…and if only the gun was traceable so we knew who fired it…

    This may have been a prewritten column – “run this after the next mass shooting.”

    1. Its incrementalism 101.

      Get people to accept small changes. Push greater and greater changes until you get to your final goal.

      The left’s final goal is to take what they want- when they want. Counter to that is fear of us citizens murdering them with the huge arsenal of guns and hanging the bodies as warnings to all other lefties.

      1. I am intrigued by your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

        Though I think impaling, a la Vlad, would be more effective.

  2. What sort of action? Kristof lists eight specific ideas

    The same ones that the anti-gun crowd always lists. And they will always never deter a mass murderer like this guy.

    People can and will snap, and there will be no warning, they will be on no police radar before. You know how to stop that? Total confiscation and closing the borders. Admit is, anti-gunners. That’s the only way to be sure.

    1. That’s the only way to be sure.

      Nuh-uh. It’s nuking the site from orbit.

      1. And this is why I supported SMOD for President last year.

    2. “People can and will snap,..”
      What is “snap”? Is this a medical term? Is this a legal term?
      Apparently this Second Amendment Citizen checked into his Hotel room a day or two before he started murdering people. This appears to be a premeditated act.

      1. Realistically, neither you nor I can pretend to have any idea at all about his stance on the Second Amendment, or if he even knew what that is. All we can really know is that he had a substantial arsenal at his disposal. But so did Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger et al.

        1. Substantial arsenal”? What is that, defined. Legal term, ethical, used by some organisation? A meaningless term. I’ve seen one hunting rifle and two handguns owned by the same man referred to as “an arsenal”. I also know people who own ten times what he had in the hotel room and do not consider that an arsenal. I knew one man who had over six thousand rifles in his (well secured) garage, and was NOT a dealer by any legal definition.

          You are blowing smoke…..

          1. Arsenal – noun
            1. a place of storage or a magazine containing arms and military equipment for land or naval service.
            2. a government establishment where military equipment or munitions are manufactured.
            3. a collection or supply of weapons or munitions.
            4. a collection or supply of anything; store: as in
            He came to the meeting with an impressive arsenal of new research data.

            http://www.dictionary.com/browse/arsenal?s=t

      2. Well he didn’t spend 60 years planning this. At some point he was a law abiding and generally-functional member of society. Then he later decided not to be.

  3. spending more money on research “to see what interventions will be more effective in reducing gun deaths.”

    I’ll bite. What’s an “intervention” in this context?

    1. Forced into a counseling session, which will allow the counselor to consider you unworthy of gun ownership. Failure to surrender your guns would result in state agents armed with guns kicking your door down, taking your guns away and taking you to prison.

      Fucking duh.

      1. Oh, I was *so* hoping it wasn’t An orchestrated attempt to convince somebody to seek professional help with a psychological problem. 8-(

    2. Or, prove your gun-buying sanity to a licensed professional before you are able to purchase a weapon.

      1. One can never prove one’s sanity to a licensed professional. The operating presumption is that if you want a gun you must be unhinged. Everything follows from that

        1. the fact it is a licensed professional with whom you are forced to interact makes the likelihood of proving you are “normal’ so you can buy guns is somewhere between slim and vanishing. They justify their miserable existences by “protecting the population from the crazies” they are paid to interview. Its a losing battle from the git go.
          Which is why the politicians, ever on the lookout for “things to do” to better manage us peons, will not only go for it, but make certain the process is the punishment for wanting to own guns, which punishment will certainly include a hefty fee to be paid by the one wanting the Mother May I Card to go buy his twenny too rifle…..

        2. Had a forced lie detector test, after which the guy stated I was “being deceptive. I did not tell one lie!!?. But his “professional” opinion helped a bunch of other incompetent professionals making a statement that went completely against the facts that I had completely normal psychological testing, on paper. They can do what they want, even though a lie detector test like I took, is not allowed as evidence in a court of law…for some reason…(;-P If my medical license was not on the line, I would never had agreed to the test. Even that, and the $7500 I paid for a lawyer and the $5000 for this bogus “interrogation” by the Denton Clinic, I never practiced medicine again. Retired at age 55. Ironically five years later had an accident and broke my back with a partial spinal cord injury. Now, i survive on a disability check and have non one to answer to! I would never surrender my guns on the opinion of these every flawed professionals. Counter to that, how could such an evil person function in normal society!

    3. Ha! You asked? You’ll soon find out.
      Next time (if there is one), don’t ask.

    4. An intervention is this context is an umbrella term for any law or program. So, it could be a gun buyback, a stop the violence campaign, mandating fun safety courses, subsidizing or providing such classes free, regulations on gym manufacture/purchase, etc.

      Research here is generally getting people trained in stats, gathering the data before and after — comparing different locations that did or didn’t do any of the above and seeing whether they did anything to actually reduce deaths.

      I made this account because I can’t believe nobody is capable of giving you a factual answer. Some people here sound like they’ve had a bad history with “interventions” and possibly psychologists.

      1. Shhhh, you are making too much sense.

  4. When you point out the obvious holes in their proposals, the Leftists will predictably respond with emotional caterwauling that “you just don’t care!”

    1. The reasoning behind the call for more gun control laws after these kinds of events is always the politician’s syllogism:

      1.We must do something
      2.This is something
      3.Therefore, we must do this

      1. The next time we are able to “Pre-Crime” determine that there will be a mass shooting, can we invite all the fucking asshole Progtards to the event?

  5. Things like reflexive calls for gun legislation, irrational handover of civil liberties, and most conspiracy theories have a lot in common.

    They completely deny that life and reality is unpredictable, and cling to notions that somehow, we can easily explain things so they don’t happen again. They deny that every day could be anyone’s last.

    That isn’t to say that certain things can’t be predicted or avoided – it’s just that the above mentioned irrationality reflects that what makes people feel better trumps effective reasoning of minimizing harm.

  6. “…Yet what we need most of all isn’t mourning, but action to lower the toll of guns in America.”
    Lefties never let a tragedy go to waste.

    1. “Lefties never let a tragedy go to waste.”

      Tony was here earlier, waving bloody shirts and leveraging this into an appeal for higher taxes.

    2. We’ll lower the toll of guns in America, alright. Then we can focus our attention on blades, bombs, and trucks. Let’s ask the Europeans how they figured all that out.

  7. All evidence produced for the public indicates that the shooter used a fully automatic rifle. By and large, such weapons are illegal. It’s possible that one could get a license, but only a rich, law-abiding gun enthusiast can legally obtain one ($10,000 each + $300/year license + extensive federal background checks + whatever the state requires). The shooter’s brother says the shooter was not the sort of gun enthusiast that would obtain such a weapon.

    How many times have legally owned, fully automatic weapons been used in murders since they were made illegal in 1934? Not in movies and television, but in real life? This source says two. Elsewhere, I’ve read that the correct number is three, but it may have included last night. One of the cases involved a murderous policeman who used a legally owned automatic weapon to knock off an informant.

    1. “One of the cases involved a murderous policeman who used a legally owned automatic weapon to knock off an informant.”
      Therefore, we need to outlaw murderous policemen!

      1. Leftists’ insistence that we outlaw guns to prevent murders misses the obvious step: let’s outlaw murder! Then no one will be able to kill anyone!

    2. For reference, I posted a detailed description of the current laws concerning civilian ownership of automatic weapons in an earlier thread:

      https://reason.com/blog/2017/10…..nt_6983991

      You are correct that registered fully automatic weapons have only been used to commit crimes a couple of times since the NFA required registration.

    3. Note that the FOPA in 1986 banned the sale of automatic weapons made after its passage.

      BTW, there are only 175,977 automatic weapons in civilian hands? I suspect a good number are owned by Hollywood and museums.

      There are 297,667 in LE and other civilian government hands and 17,020 sales samples.

      1. If you think that all automatic weapons are accounted for, you would be mistaken.

        1. The point is that the unregistered ones are owned contrary to laws that are already on the books.

          I believe it’s perfectly legitimate to ask what magical law can be passed that will accomplish what existing laws cannot.

          1. And this is why law enforcement needs to focus its recruitment upon wizards.

      2. It banned the manufacture for civilian sales not civilian sales of ones already in civilian hands. I think a gunsmith with the right license can repair demilled NFA weapons and definitely can keep ones in working condition working.

  8. “The Latest: Father of Vegas shooter was bank robber”
    http://www.sfchronicle.com/

    Therefore, we need to outlaw bank robber fathers!

    1. Let no one say Sevo is soft on crime!

    2. That article also mentioned another lone wolf shooting not tied to ISIS. That shooter was also a gambling addict. Maybe excessive gambling is the problem we need to address rather than gun laws.

  9. And Hillary jumps in with a typically uninformed, brain-dead liberal comment about how wonderful it is that the shooter did not have silencers for his rifles. The left politicizes everything shamelessly; I have no doubt that this too contributed to he outcome of last year’s election.

    There isn’t a single mass shooting that could or would have been prevented by any of the gun-control measures so relentlessly touted by the liberals. Not one. Where facts and theory diverge, the rule is to change your theory. Or, perhaps second best, call your local liberal

    1. This is absolutely in response to the SHARE act vote that was set to happen this week. The hearing protection act got rolled into it. We were finally going to see the ratchet move the other way, if just a little bit, but not not anymore. Those fuckers.

      1. The SHARE Act was never scheduled for this week. Much as I hate to use a Trump phrase, that’s “fake news.”
        http://www.washingtonexaminer……le/2636299

        But the media figures “Hey, why let facts get in the way of a good [read: politically useful] story?”

  10. And yet, the next time a Muslim kills a bunch of people, Kristof will discourage a hasty, emotional response; encouraging calm rationality; noting how statistically anamalous such attacks are, and that we shouldn’t make sweeping generalizations or broad bans based on them.

    How curious.

    1. Has he done this in the past?

  11. David Post over at Volokh goes on a weepy gun control rant, asking why we are the only country where this regularly happens.

    I guess he forgets about the Paris nightclub shooting, the Belgium train station shooting, the Spanish subway bombing, the several trucks running into crowds.

    This killer had a gun he probably got illegally. Same for all those European shooters. How much more illegal does he think ti will take?

    Fuck him.

    1. Brussels
      Bataclan
      Charlie Hebdo
      Liege
      Cumbria
      Munich
      Oslo
      Stockholm
      London
      Westminster
      Nice
      Berlin
      Barcelona
      Manchester

  12. Lowering gun deaths is easy, end the War on Drugs. Getting around background checks is also easy if you live in a state that allows private sales without them which I believe Nevada does. I bought my AR in a Walmart parking lot from a guy off Armslist whose name I never got. Took 5 minutes was completely legal and no one in government knows anything about it. As for automatic weapons all you need is a lightning link and you’re good to go.

    https://youtu.be/aDWVYYJN_2Q

  13. If there is no logical connection between the mass shooting and gun control- let’s try for an illogical one. The shooter had more than 30 guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his home, in addition to the number of guns and the ammunition that he had with him at the hotel. Surely there can be some way to keep track of those guns- how many were registered? Why should one man be allowed to purchase so many rounds of ammunition without red flags being raised with law enforcement authorities where he lived? Aren’t there records kept of ammunition purchases and if not why not? The crazies are always with us and not easily identified. This man probably bought his guns legally but the question is did he buy them over time or in bulk. Banks must report deposits over $10,000 why shouldn’t gun dealers report huge purchases of weapons and ammunition? Does the NRA believe that amassing an arsenal should always be allowed because…., the second amendment notwithstanding.

    1. Why should one man be allowed to purchase so many rounds of ammunition…

      The Texas License to Carry practical involves shooting 50 rounds, and the practical for instructors takes 100. A round of skeet or trap is 50 shells. A routine day of practice at the range is 50 to 100 rounds for average shooters. Shooters who regularly compete may double or triple that per practice day. Take two kids to the range with their .22s and they’ll go through 100 rounds each and ask for more.

      “Hundreds of rounds of ammunition” is like hundreds of pieces of paper in your printer.

  14. Kristof’s article is short and easy to understand. You quote from it extensively. And yet your response suggests that either you haven’t read it or failed to understand it. While admittedly the title (which may well have been written by his editor) refers to preventing mass shootings, the rest of the article is clearly a discussion of gun deaths in general in the USA and what to about them. So the entire list of eight measures is relevant.

    You write:

    “Using the feelings of dismay, anger, and sadness provoked by that event to push policies that we have no reason to believe would or could have prevented it is the crassest sort of emotionalism and demagoguery.”

    But all he is doing is drawing attention to a very serious issue – gun deaths – at the time of a particularly horrific example. Yes there are many different types of gun deaths, and in any given case only some of the measures will be relevant. But what is wrong with raising the issue of gun deaths in general at a time when people are attending and might be motivated to actually do something? Your argument is like saying it is wrong to discuss road safety in general at a time of particularly horrific pile-up because only some road safety measures are relevant to that particular pile-up.

  15. “[Kristoff’s] column, in other words, is a 20-paragraph non sequitur.”

    It’s a Pavlovian thing. Liberals can’t see a gun incident and not talk about gun control any more than some rednecks can see “October” on the calendar without putting up their Christmas trees.

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