It was a remarkable 15 hours in American history. A mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, taking nine lives was overshadowed by a massacre in El Paso, Texas, costing 22.
Others are dwelling on the El Paso gunman’s alleged online “manifesto” about Hispanics’ growing political clout in Texas – and Donald Trump’s use of code words appearing to validate the frothing. But here let’s discuss the guns themselves.
Even the Trump-loving New York Post is now calling for a ban on assault weapons, as demands for gun control have swelled. This puts the National Rifle Association, bankrolled by makers of these killing machines, under new pressure. Expect to hear the usual arguments.
Only one of them is semirespectable. That is, the way to stop a bad man with a gun is to have a good man with a gun take him down. With guns already flooding America, one can’t totally dismiss this logic.
Except it doesn’t work in practice. There is almost never such a person on the scene, even in Texas. In nearly all cases, the good men with guns are members of law enforcement who rush to the scene. Police in Dayton reached the suspect in less than a minute, but by then he had already killed nine people.
Some insist that customers at the Walmart in El Paso should have been armed. Really? Has America reached a stage where Saturday shoppers looking for towels are thought careless for not keeping a gun in their handbag?
The NRA pushes the myth that Stephen Willeford, a good man with a gun, somehow stopped a deadly rampage in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Except he didn’t. Willeford confronted the attacker after he had fatally shot worshippers at the First Baptist Church. Was the killer prevented from continuing his rampage elsewhere? Perhaps. But 26 churchgoers dead was hardly a victory.
The theory also operates on the assumption that the good man can shoot straight and keep his cool when confronted with a totally chaotic scene of carnage. Even well-trained members of the military sometimes hit innocents. And note the instances in which even armed professional guards were afraid to rush in on a maniac.
In the Las Vegas massacre, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, the targets at a country music concert could not have fought back, even if they had been armed to the teeth. The gunman was holed up on the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel with 23 guns, including 12 assault weapons, by his side. It took a SWAT team to break into the room, and by then, 58 were fatally shot.
Laws that would keep guns away from the mentally ill and ban weapons of war (let experts designate them) are, of course, essential. They would not infringe on hunters’ activities and could leave plenty of options for those who want firearms for self-defense.
Barring major changes, there is no reason to believe that these tragedies won’t continue. Every mass shooting makes the act seem more normal in the minds of evil and/or unhinged individuals. Social media have created a community of the perverted, sharing their twisted “manifestos” and praising perpetrators of outrageous deeds.
Deranged weaklings will continue to think that it’s manly to shoot unarmed adults and children in the back. The maker of the AR-15-style weapon used in the massacre of 20 elementary school children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, marketed its products with lines like “Consider your man card reissued.”
The mentally ill will always be with us (and they’re in every country). As far as personal safety is concerned, I’d much prefer a psychotic man without a gun to a good man with one.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.