I have deliberately waited to comment on the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., for a variety of reasons. Not least was the abundance of wrongly reported “facts” early on that made it difficult for someone hundreds of miles away from the story to feel confident about even the basics of the case; this story was not exactly the news media’s finest hour.
Still more important is the impropriety, in my view, of too soon devoting words at a time such as this to anything other than the victims and their families. They deserve better than to be gathered up as evidence for a policy debate within mere hours of their terrible deaths.
Eventually, though, those of us outside Newtown have to grapple with whether there is something we can do to prevent the evil and the insane among us from committing other such acts of wickedness.
As someone who is generally opposed to making our gun laws stricter, and who believes proponents of gun control have spent years making their case to the public without success, I don’t keep a lot of crime statistics at the ready. Here are some facts I’ve been able to gather that might surprise some of you:
[T]he Aurora shooter, who killed twelve people earlier this year, had a choice of seven movie theaters that were showing the Batman movie he was obsessed with. All were within a 20-minute drive of his home. The Cinemark Theater the killer ultimately chose wasn’t the closest, but it was the only one that posted signs saying it banned concealed handguns carried by law-abiding individuals. All of the other theaters allowed the approximately 4 percent of Colorado adults who have a concealed-handgun permit to enter with their weapons.
People who look to other explanations for mass shootings — such as the degradation of the culture, falling religiosity, or gun violence in movies and video games — also have to account for the declining crime statistics above.
It certainly goes against the grain for most of us to look at what happened in Newtown on Friday and conclude nothing can be done. And it is counter-intuitive for many people to believe more guns can lead to lower crime. But if we really are interested in eliminating as many violent deaths as humanly possible — and I know of no one arguing the contrary — we ought to let our policy debate be guided by the facts, rather than the understandable and heavy emotions we’ll all be dealing with for days to come.
(H/t for a few of these links to Ben Domenech’s excellent Transom newsletter. Normally it’s for subscribers only, but today’s edition can be seen for free here.)
– By Kyle Wingfield