You don’t fight cancer by outlawing super sized sodas in America simply because taking away super sized sodas targets the wrong population. Outlawing super sized sodas is targeting the most likely to become obese population. To fight lung cancer, you need to target the population most likely to contract the disease. Similarly, using gun control legislation to fight school shooting is inappropriate for a number of reasons, especially because it targets the wrong population. One reason Americans buy into gun control legislation in response to school shootings is that politically correct terms misrepresent what is actually involved.
“Gun control” is the politically correct term for legislation and systems designed to limit the law abiding population’s ability to acquire, store and transport guns. It is an inappropriate and ineffective response to school shootings because 1) it targets the wrong population 2) criminals use different sources to obtain weapons than law abiding citizens 3) the purpose of gun control is to limit civilian access to guns and eventually repeal the 2nd Amendment.
Targets the Wrong Population
Although cries for more restrictive gun control and additional gun control legislation inevitably follow highly publicized school shootings, these responses do not address the crime or the perpetrators. School shootings fall into the narrow criminal category of mass murder (1) and although they are horrific and highly publicized, they are actually quite rare. (2) The perpetrators, often school children themselves, are given the politically correct designation of “school shooters”. Although they are usually young, they are not like their classmates. Calling them “shooters” both mitigates what they actually are (mass murderers) and deflects public attention away from what has been committed/attempted “mass murder” and what must be addressed, the attempts to murder as many people as possible in a school setting. (3) Attention is deflected to “shootings” and therefore the impression is given that the remedy is quite simple – limit access to or take away guns and such “shootings” would not occur.
The reality is that all “school shootings were carefully planned, often over a long period of time. These young killers didn’t just suddenly “snap”, grab an all too readily available gun/rifle and start shooting classmates, teachers and principals. They planned their attacks, often timing for maximum damage and often rehearsing using video games. These “shooters”, although in many cases quite young, are determined killers. One 16 year old shot his grandfather, who was a policeman, 10 times in the head and chest (4) with a .22 caliber pistol, shot and killed his grandfather’s girlfriend, stole two more weapons from his grandfather (a shotgun and a handgun) in addition to his grandfather’s gun belt, bulletproof vest and squad car. He then drove his grandfather’s squad car to his high school where he killed an unarmed security guard, a teacher and five students. He also wounded five other students. (5)
Contrary to popular belief, the Columbine killers were not “shooters”, they were “bombers”. They wanted to kill as many people as possible and chose bombs as the most efficient way to do so. They planted two huge bombs in their high school cafeteria timed to go off when the cafeteria was busiest. They hoped that their bombs would compromise the structural integrity of the building, causing the second floor library to crash into the cafeteria. Investigators later determined that if those two bombs had exploded, they likely would have killed more than 1,000 people. The killers rigged their cars to explode also, but at a later time, hoping the secondary explosions would kill emergency responders. In addition, they planted a bomb in a field to go off before their attack as a diversion to tie up as many police as possible so there would be fewer to respond to the school. They obtained their rifle and shot guns by having a friend purchase the weapons for them in order to pick off any survivors of their bombs. In addition to their guns, they brought knives, pipe bombs and smaller bombs which they called “crickets”. Although the bomb planted in the field for diversion went off, by the grace of God, the huge bombs in the cafeteria did not. Therefore, the Columbine killers entered the school with their rifles and began gunning down teachers and students. In addition, they tossed pipe bombs. Their smaller bombs were tossed into the cafeteria in vain attempts to detonate the large bombs. They killed 13 students and teachers and wounded 24 others. (6)
One 16 year old decided to begin his killing rampage with his mother. His weapons of choice for her were a butcher knife, a baseball bat and a pillow. So armed, early in the morning, he headed down the hallway towards his mother’s room, expecting her to be asleep and unable to defend herself. However, she met him in the hallway, returning from early morning jogging. Shocked, but undeterred, he attacked her in the hallway. It was not an easy struggle as she fought for her life. However, he overcame her in the end. He repeatedly stabbed her, bashed her with the baseball bat and finished by smothering her with the pillow. He then stole his brother’s rifle and his mother’s car which he drove to school where he killed two classmates and wounded seven others. (7)
Gun control, which targets law abiding citizens, does not address these mass murderers. There have been efforts to target the mentally ill population. However, this is merely targeting an already vulnerable segment of the law abiding population since the mentally ill are no more prone to violence than the rest of the law abiding population. Despite all of the fascinating episodes of Criminal Minds, even most psychopaths (also called sociopaths) are usually not violent. Dr, Martha Stout wrote an excellent book called The Sociopath Next Door that addresses non-violent sociopaths. These school mass murderers have problems that need to be addressed. They tend to have more in common with each other than with the rest of law abiding society. Simply depriving the nation of guns or further restricting access to guns will not make schools, or any public place for that matter safe from them.
Criminals Use different Sources to Obtain Their Weapons than Law Abiding Citizens
Gun control advocates insist that if the civilian population in America either had more restricted or no access to guns/rifles the killings mentioned above would not have occurred because the killers would not have been able to obtain the weapons used. Even if we disregard the facts mentioned in the cases above, the truth is that criminals intent on obtaining guns usually don’t obtain them from the same places as the law abiding community. Convicted felons and others who for some reason are stopped by gun control legislation from obtaining weapons simply acquire them illegally. Criminals most commonly acquire their guns through straw purchases (where someone else buys a gun for a person who can’t legally buy one) which is itself illegal, through corrupt licensed gun dealers, through unlicensed street dealers and through family and friends by sales, gifting or theft. (8) Studies that interviewed felons in prison revealed that the felons interviewed found it easy to obtain guns through the unconventional and illegal methods mentioned above and were confident of their ability to quickly obtain guns upon release from prison. (9)
School killers obtained their guns using various methods. As we saw above, the Columbine killers used the straw purchase method. One school killer broke into a friend’s home and stole from his friend’s parents. He stole from this residence several times. (10) One convinced his parents to buy guns for him. His parents thought they were keeping his guns under their supervision, but he also bought guns from friends at school. One gun that he purchased was actually stolen. (11) Another student killer stole his father’s .22 caliber pistol. (12) Another stole a gun from his uncle. (13)
The methods of obtaining guns used by most of these young killers resembles methods used by professional criminals more than the law abiding community with perhaps a few exceptions such as Seung Hui Cho, age 23 of the Virginia Tech Massacre (I am omitting references to the Parkland and recent Maryland and Texas massacres because information about such recent attacks is often initially inaccurate). Cho purchased his guns legally. (14) There is no reason to assume that if gun control had rendered the acquisition of weapons more difficult these young killers would not have resorted to the more unconventional means described above. Neither should we assume that these young killers would not use other weapons if guns were not available.
For example, the student who convinced his parents to buy guns for him and that also bought guns from friends at school was obsessed with bombs and knives as well as guns. When he thought that his father would take away his guns, he killed him by shooting him in the back of the head. He killed his mother the same way, then proceeded to his high school the following day where he killed two classmates and wounded 25. However, as I stated above, his fascination was not limited to guns. He made bombs at his home and whenever he had a bad day at school, he would take his bombs to a nearby quarry and detonate them. When authorities went to his home to remove the bodies of his parents, they found explosives that could have severely damaged the neighborhood and had to evacuate it until the bombs were defused. When he attacked the school, he was armed with his rifle, two pistols and a hunting knife strapped to his leg. The hunting knife was undetected by the police until he whipped it out during interrogation, hoping for suicide by cop. (15)
The Purpose of Gun Control Is to Limit Civilian Access to Guns and Eventually Repeal the 2nd Amendment
The mass murderers that attack the nation’s schools comprise a very small and unique community. They and the threat they pose to schools certainly need to be addressed. While doing research for this blog and a white paper on school shootings/massacres, I have read excerpts of the diaries of some school killers. They are heartbreaking. These kids are miserable, tormented and overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy, helplessness and hopelessness. Most are suicidal. Why do these kids kill? Can these kids be saved, pulled back from the brink before they kill? Can they be helped to live happy, productive lives? Are there indications that they may kill that can alert teachers, counselors and administrators? Can fellow students do anything to stop massacres before they happen? What should parents do? Are there warning signs that would alert them? What can be done to protect schools from them? These are appropriate questions and topics concerning school massacres that should be addressed. They are addressed in my white papers, What Everyone Needs To Know About School Shooters, Part I and Part II. However, gun control does not address these questions because that is not its purpose.
Gun control is part of a larger national political struggle over personal liberty and Constitutional freedoms that also includes 1st Amendment freedoms such as freedom of religion. This struggle is not new. It has been ongoing for decades. Therefore, it should not be surprising that the same political ideology that banned the sale of super sized sodas supports gun control. However, gun control is rather convincingly presented to the public as a safety issue. Because Americans tend to favor the 2nd Amendment, gun control advocates are most successful following a crisis such as an assassination or massacre which are called triggering events. (16) This can be tracked through historical gun control legislation to present proposals.
Federal gun control legislation passed with the help of triggering events includes the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) and the Federal Firearms Act of 1938 (FFA) which were passed in response to triggering events related to gangster violence by organized crime. (17) Support for the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) was strengthened by the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. The assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy in 1968 provided the push needed to get the legislation passed. (18) John Lennon’s murder in December 1980 and the attempted assassination of President Reagan accompanied by the wounding of his Press Secretary, James Brady in 1981 strengthened America’s interest in gun control and support for the gun control lobby. This lead to the introduction of the Brady Bill in 1987 and a fight for its passage. However, the Regan Administration (1981-1989) favored a get tough on criminals policy that was reflected in the gun related legislation of that period. The Bush Administration (1989-1993) also did not provide the best climate for the gun control legislation which faced stiff opposition in Congress. The bill was reintroduced in May 1991 and stalled in June 1991. (19) There were many triggering events in the latter years of the Bush Administration. In November 1991, a 28 year old named Gang Lu killed five and wounded one before committing suicide at the University of Iowa. (20) In May 1992, Eric Houston, age 20, shot and killed his former teacher and three others, wounded 10 and held 70 students hostage for eight hours at his former high school. (21) In December 1992, Wayne Lo, age 18, shot and killed two and wounded four at Simon’s Rock College in Massachusetts. (22) President Clinton assumed office in January 1993 and supported the bill. The triggering events continued. In January 1993, Gary Pennington, age 17, shot and killed his teacher and a custodian and held a class hostage for 20 minutes at his high school in Kentucky. (23) The Brady Bill was reintroduced in February 1993. It was passed and signed into law in November 1993. (24)
The recent Parkland massacre provides an example of how such tragedies, although triggering events for gun control legislation, are not properly addressed by the legislation that is alleged to increase school safety. On February 14, 2018, 19 year old Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 and wounded 17 more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He used a legally purchased rifle. In response to this event, there have been calls for the repeal of the 2nd Amendment by protesters, a former Supreme Court Justice and a Democrat National Committee Vice Chairwoman. In addition, there has been the expected flurry of legislative proposals for gun control. One of the common proposals is a ban on gun purchase/ownership by individuals within the 18 to 20 age range. While such legislation will certainly strengthen the national gun control struggle, it will do little to increase school safety and does not significantly relate to the issue of “school shootings”.
I reviewed 29 secondary “school shooters” from 1979 to 2018. Of those 29, only seven fell within the 18 to 20 year old range. The largest age range was from 11 to 17 years old. Unfortunately, 19 young killers (66%) fell within this age range. Three killers were adults from 24 to 32 years old. To deny all young people in this country between the ages of 18 to 20 the ability to purchase and/or own guns when such a small number of school shooters falls within that age range emphasizes the politicization of the legislation. It also emphasizes that gun control and school shootings are two separate topics. Otherwise a a measure that would affect such a small number or school killers would not be introduced as a response. This is the way the political gun control lobby leverages national tragedy, pushing legislation to allegedly make schools safer that really has little or no relation to true school safety issues. The 2nd Amendment, on the other hand, was not written to make students safe. It was written to keep them free.
(Further Reading at Amazon Discount Prices)
- Peter Langman, PhD, Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters (New York: Macmillan, 2009), Kindle, Preface 56.
- Trevor Burrus and Matthew Larosiere, “Maryland School Shooting Complicates the School Safety Movement,” Cato Institute, March 22, 2018, https://www.cato.org/blog/maryland-school-shooting-complicates-school-safety-movement.
- Peter Langman, School Shooters: Understanding High School, College, and Adult Perpetrators (Seattle, Washington: Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2017), Kindle, Jeffrey Weise.
- Langman, Why Kids Kill, Chapter 5, 16 Years of Accumulated Rage.
- Jenn Baxter, Killers in the Classroom: Case Studies of School Rampage Shooters (Seattlle, Washington: Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2017), Kindle, Jeffrey Weise.
- Baxter, Killers in the Classroom, Columbine High School Shooting.
- Baxter, killers in the Classroom, Pearl High School Shooting, 595.
- Dan Noyes, “Hot Guns: How Criminals Get Guns,” Frontline, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/guns/procon/guns.html.
- Russ Chastain, “Criminals Don’t Buy Their Guns Legally,” AllOutDoor, September 8, 2015, http://www.allourdoor.com/2015/09/08/criminals-dont-buy-their-guns-legally/.
- Baxter, Killers in the Classroom, Heath High School Shooting.
- Baxter, Killers in the Classroom, Thurston High School Shooting.
- Baxter, Killers in the Classroom, Santana High School Shooting.
- Baxter, Killers in the Classroom, Chardon High School Shooting.
- Baxter, Killers in the Classroom, Virginia Tech Massacre.
- Baxter, Killers in the Classroom, Thurston High School Shooting.
- Harry L. Wilson, Guns, Gun Control and Elections: The Politics and Policy o Firearms (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), Kindle, Chapter Three, Policy Making and Gun Control.
- Wilson, Guns, Gun Control, and Elections, Chapter Three, Federal Gun Control Laws, National Firearms Act of 1934, Federal Firearms Act of 1938.
- Wilson, Guns, Gun Control, and Elections, Chapter Three, Gun Control Act of 1968.
- Wilson, Guns, Gun Control and Elections, Chapter Three, The Brady Bill.
- Langman, School Shooters, Chapter 5.
- Langman, School Shooters, Chapter 4.
- Langman, School Shooters, Chapter 6.
- Langman, School Shooters, Chapter 4.
- Wilson, Guns, Gun Control, and Elections, Chapter Three, The Brady Bill
Did you enjoy this post? Become a Patron!