Skeptic Magazine has a long article by Michael Shermer on gun control and mental health. Shermer does a good job explaining that 1) mass shootings are rare (essentially “black swan” level events) and unpredictable, and 2) we’re becoming a less violent society.
His analysis of the mental health issues is typical of Shermer’s normal excellent scholarship.
Shermer discusses the “Run, Hide, Fight” video put out by the city of Houston as well as a mental health hotline as possible solutions. Then he gets to gun control.
Shermer makes three major mistakes in his gun control analysis. First, his scholarship relies on the infamous Kellermann study on the dangers of keeping guns in the home. A study that had sloppy data collection and treated all deaths by firearm the same, regardless whether it was accident, suicide, or defensive gun use.
Second, Shermer accepts the arguments that banning standard capacity magazines because the shooter can be attacked as he changes magazines. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen in reality. The Arizona shooter wasn’t changing magazines when the crowd subdued him – his pistol jammed. Further, the Virginia Tech shooter was using 10-round magazines during his spree. With a little practice, magazine changes can be accomplished in less than a second. So, if banning standard capacity magazines is not going to provide the openings that its supporters claim, then why ban them?
Thirdly, Shermer attacks “assault weapons.”
Even though it is not clear that the two suggested laws banning assault rifles and large capacity magazines over 10 bullets would have a significant effect on mass murders, there could be a net gain, and it seems to me to be no great threat to liberty if we lump them with the already-existing bans on private citizens owning and operating bazookas, tanks, drone aircraft, fighter jets, and nuclear weapons. Bans on semi-automatic assault rifles and high-volume ammo clips will not stop Sandy Hook Events, but there is some evidence that they could curtail the level of carnage, and that strikes me as a rational response that even freedom-loving libertarians can live with.
I’m tired of our opponents trying to lump our black rifles with non-small arms types of military equipment. That is a strawman argument. The issue are firearms in common use. According to the FBI, the last time we banned “assault weapons” and standard capacity magazines, there was a negligible effect on crime. If anything, the rifles being discussed are probably the best home defense weapons. The use a low-powered, but effective round that has less chance of going through a home’s walls than most standard pistol or shotgun cartridges. A single rifle with a collapsible stock can be adjusted to work for any member of the family that might need to use it.
I carry a pistol because I am not a Highlander with the ability to conceal a three-foot blade without printing. If I had that capability, an AR with a couple of spare PMAGs would be better for defense than my M&P. Ask a police officer why they have patrol rifles. Remember, they face the same threats you do.