Mass shootings like the one that injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others on Saturday have sadly created a routine in our culture. The shooting happens. Calls for gun control are issued and then put down with empty slogans like, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Politicians, afraid to provoke emasculation fears and eager to play up their own juvenile cowboy masculinity , won’t even engage the issue in large numbers. And so we wait for another mass shooting, impotent to do anything to stop it.
As Gail Collins makes clear , the lip-smacking nonsense “guns don’t kill people” makes no sense in light of a shooting where the assailant had the sort of weapons that were no more imaginable to our Founding Fathers than space travel—weapons that can discharge dozens of rounds within minutes with remarkable accuracy. Sure, people kill people, but their reach is pretty limited if they don’t have that kind of technology. Try choking two dozen people to death in a crowded area and tell me that’s going to work just as well as unloading a semiautomatic Glock. The scariest part is that alleged shooter Jared Loughner probably would have killed even more people if he hadn’t been intercepted by a 61-year-old woman who had the guts to tackle him and take away the magazine he was attempting to load into his weapon.
The fantasy of gun enthusiasts that these mass shootings can be stopped by having a bunch of concealed weapons out there has been tried, and it failed. Tucson, Ariz., isn’t a vegetarian-heavy co-op in Park Slope; if any place had someone on the premises who was packing and could shoot the assailant, it would have been there. And it didn’t happen. It’s a silly fantasy, if you think about it. In the fantasy, the concealed weapon carrier pulls a weapon with a steady hand and fires on the assailant without running the risk of hitting an innocent person. In reality, you’re just not going to get the combination of a gun on hand and a person who is stable enough to hit the assailant with a single and fatal shot required to stop the violence. Life isn’t an episode of Breaking Bad , and being able to hit a target at the range doesn’t make you Dirty Harry.
I’ve shot guns, and I’ve enjoyed doing it. But it’s ridiculous to suggest all the fun that comes from going to the range would disappear if we banned weapons that were designed just so they could unload dozens of rounds in minutes. People made the same childish arguments about how tragic it would be if we passed laws requiring seatbelts, and the result was that nothing actually changed, except that the number of deaths from car accidents went down. Serious restrictions on guns would be basically the same; the world won’t end if sport shooters have to reload more often.