After the Uvalde School Shooting, Politicians and Pundits Search for Panaceas
It’s hard to know what to say about yesterday’s tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, during which at least 19 children and 2 adults were killed by 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos. Ramos reportedly shot his grandmother before crashing his car and getting into a shootout with police before running into Robb Elementary School, going on a killing spree, and being shot to death by a Border Patrol agent who had responded to the scene. It’s still unclear if the school was Ramos’ deliberate target, why he chose to commit such terrible acts of violence, or what type of gun he used (initial reports say he had both a handgun and a rifle). What we do know is that this is the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting almost a decade ago that left 26 people dead.
Sgt. Erick Estrada of the Texas Dept of Public Safety tells @andersoncooper the shooter crashed his car near the school, got out with a gun and wearing body armor, was engaged by law enforcement, but made his way into the school anyway and went classroom to classroom shooting.
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) May 25, 2022
It’s understandable that people want someone other than one deranged (and now deceased) individual to be at fault here. It’s understandable—if unfortunate and unproductive—that human anger and fear tends to take the form of looking for larger forces to blame and lashing out at whatever is available. It’s incredibly difficult and depressing to process tragedies like these. People want an easy solution, and obvious villains to incur their wrath and sadness.
With smug righteousness, many keep asserting that we could stop mass shootings if only a certain type of gun were banned, or all guns were banned, or some specific new gun restrictions were enacted. But these are fantasies. Even if Congress could pass any gun restriction that advocates desire today—including a total ban on all guns—it would be impossible to enforce and almost definitely fail to have the impact people wish for.
Banning abortion isn’t gonna stop abortions it’s just going to drive people who want abortions into unsafe situations but banning guns will stop guns. Same people.
— ???????????? (@formerlyed) May 25, 2022
There are more guns than people in the U.S. and Americans aren’t going to simply cooperate with a gun buyback program, for example, the way ma y Australians did when their government started such a program.
A bigger black market in guns would most likely just create more violent crime, and a bigger effort by police to confiscate or crack down on guns would inevitably lead to more police violence.
People may be emotionally soothed by platitudes around all this—an insistence that we could at least try—but the reality is that the trying itself could lead to a lot of violence.
If police are having a hard time controlling every other type of crime at the moment, they’re going to track down and eliminate 400 million guns like that?
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) May 25, 2022
And banning certain types of guns, enacting longer waiting periods for gun purchases, and requiring enhanced background checks often fail to prevent homicides and would have failed to prevent many of the mass shootings we’ve seen recently. What makes people so sure they would work against future mass shootings?
Even “red flag” laws (which allow for courts to order the confiscation of guns from people with mental health issues) are not the panacea people purport them to be. “Predicting violence is much harder than supporters of red flag laws often imply,” notes Reason‘s Jacob Sullum. “Psychiatrists are notoriously bad at it, and people who display what might look like ‘red flags’ almost never commit crimes like these.”
The “ban guns” crowd is far from alone in irrational blame laying, of course. On the right, this impulse has taken a particularly ugly form, with some suggesting, based on the gunman’s name, that he is an immigrant and that lax immigration policies or border control are somehow the issue here.
The idea that one immigrant committing a crime implicates all immigration is absurd and xenophobic. On top of that, Ramos was born in North Dakota.
Pray for the victims, families and community. The killer was Salvador Ramos 18 years old. Did he cross the border illegally? Our nation has a serious national security crisis evolving. God help us???????? https://t.co/PHdb02RN0k
— Code of Vets (@codeofvets) May 24, 2022
And of course no tragedy can take place these days without someone on the right trying to blame gender politics or transgender peop
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