In the aftermath of the Las Vegas terrorist attack, as many of us search for something to blame, some will arrive at guns. That anger will apply both to guns and to your friends and acquaintances who support guns. Before reaching that conclusion in sadness and anger, however, I ask you to consider why millions of people, many of whom are in your own families, many of whom are your friends and neighbors, so deeply support gun rights. Why do so many intelligent people believe that blaming guns doesn’t make sense?
It’s difficult to get away with murder. It’s easy to commit murder, though, for somebody who doesn’t care about the consequences. It’s easy to murder a single person with a knife, a brick, or a shovel.
It’s also easy to kill large groups of people for somebody who doesn’t care about the consequences — somebody who plans to die anyway.
Driving a car into a school bus, or flying a plane into a skyscraper, using poison, fire, or homemade bombs are all possibilities for somebody determined to murder others. If somebody simply doesn’t care about the consequences, there are many ways to commit mass murder.
Firearms, unlike most of the above examples, are also highly effective defensive weapons. A homemade pipe bomb is not a great defensive weapon against an assailant. If you use it, you hurt yourself as much as the assailant. Poison would be an inconvenient weapon to use against a would-be mugger or rapist. A car can be used to kill a busload of kids, but it’s not a great weapon for self-defense. And, although a 747 jet can be used in a terrorist attack, it’s difficult to imagine how to use one to defend your home against an invader.
Guns, however, are effective defensive weapons. Simply brandishing a gun can often scare off a potential assailant, an effect that does not exist when brandishing a vial of poison or a 747.
There are a million ways to commit mass murder for somebody who doesn’t care about the consequences, but there are fewer ways to defend against violent assailants, or groups of violent assailants. Guns aren’t always effective as a defense in every situation, and I doubt they would have done much good in Las Vegas. Even the best tools and medicines don’t work for 100 percent of cases.
The terrorist attack in Las Vegas is the result of pure evil, or of a mind so broken as to no longer be meaningfully human. It was no crime of passion, but a planned assault carried out with military planning and precision. Someone willing to do all that damage could have found plenty of other ways to kill.
Blaming guns is easy, but it’s meaningless. The gun laws and waiting periods are distractive scapegoating, keeping our minds focused away from the truth that with or without guns, we are vulnerable. Carrying guns can make us safer, but nothing makes us 100 percent safe. Gun bans function as placebos that add no safety, only granting the illusion thereof.
We deserve better than placebo politics, where meaningless actions are taken to make us feel like something useful is happening. Legally, I believe in repealing all gun laws. They are nothing but distractions. They are simply nuisances for peaceful gun owners, and placebos for those who understand little about guns or the hundreds of other ways to kill.
As individuals, as communities, let’s try to understand and handle the actual problem: people becoming so twisted that they are willing to engage in mass murder, indifferent to the consequences. Yes, that’s a more complex problem, a harder challenge to face. It’s not something that can be accomplished with some placebo law. It is the real problem, though, the only honest and relevant challenge.