An alternate approach to curtailing mass shootings?

An alternate approach to curtailing mass shootings? February 21, 2018

I don’t really have much to say on the issue of mass shootings. I don’t think there is a pat solution.  The sort of gun control needed to ensure that the various killers would not have had weapons accessible to them really seems to approach the level of confiscation, which is hardly realistic.  There are smaller steps, to be sure, like the proposed “gun violence restraining orders” and educational steps like, “store your arsenal offsite to avoid someone else getting the key to your gun safe,” and personally I think that the Illinois system with its F.O.I.D. card is a fair method of ensuring that gun owners pass background checks even in the case of individual transactions.  (See my 2016 post.)  There was also a brief consensus around banning the “bump stock” but then, as I recall, the proposed legislation overreached with nebulous wording (by design or by carelessness) that would have banned a much wider set of guns or even, in the hands of a determined judge, nearly any gun at all. The so-called “assault weapons ban” being proposed in various states is, from what I’ve read (sorry, no links) not something that would have an impact because, to the extent that it matches prior versions of such a ban, it would ban guns based on certain cosmetic “scary-looking” features which the designers will work around in new models.  And bans on magazines of greater than a small number of bullets, or bans on detachable magazines at all, might have a small impact but could also lead to enforcement nightmares, particularly in light of 3D printing capabilities.

But here’s what I’m thinking:  the current conventional wisdom is that killers want fame, so the best way to fight back is by not giving them fame, and by not inspiring future killers, by curtailing the news reporting on those killers.  I’m skeptical of this; it may be true in some cases, and may be a contributing factor in others, but in the case, say, of the Parkland shooter, it appears to simply be more a matter of wanting revenge against the school and classmates he hated.  The Charleston church shooter had visions of starting a race war.  I don’t know if the Aurora theater shooter’s motivation has been established, or if mentally ill people are deemed to have no motivation other than their illness.  And most “mass shootings” — as the anti-gun activists count them — occur in the inner city, where gang members shoot their rivals for revenge or to establish dominance.

But it seems to be the case that, as far as the conventional “mass shooter” is concerned, they are either suicidal, or they aim at escaping afterwards in the midst of the panicked crowds — but the 19-year-old killer at Parkland sits in a jail cell, as does the Charleston killer.  And I suspect that, much as plenty of young black men in the city accept prison time as a part of life, these two men do not fit into that world, and are in for a pretty rough time of it.  No, I am not suggesting that prison abuse is a good thing, but, even absent abuse, the prospect of a lifetime in prison (since we’re not Norway, after all) is, I suspect, causing them at least some degree of regret.

Which means that I’d like our police finding greater success at taking these killers alive, and keeping them alive (that is, without the escape of the death penalty), maybe trotting them out occasionally as evidence of the misery of living out your life in jail, as a warning to would-be mass shooters that they can’t rely on plans to escape into the crowd or to kill themselves after they’ve enjoyed their killing spree sufficiently.  Hard time in prison is supposed to be a deterrent.  As much as, for many criminals, there are increasing reports that we’ve lost sight of the fact that there should be meaningful rehabilitative elements for those criminals who will someday be walking the streets again, I’m all for making prison life as unpleasant as possible without crossing the line into abuse and human rights violations, for those criminals who will never see an open sky again.


Image:; By Rennett Stowe from USA (prison guard tower) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment