The problem with the advocates of “gun-safety” laws is that they don’t think big enough. They favor expanded background checks, greater monitoring of those stigmatized as “mentally ill,” and a ban on the manufacture of scary-looking semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines. But we know these measures would not have prevented the horrible shootings that have occurred in recent years.
The 1999 Columbine massacre took place while bans on “assault weapons” and high-cap magazines were in place. The killer at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Adam Lanza, wouldn’t haven’t been stopped by a background check because he used his mother’s lawfully purchased guns. The shooter at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater last year, James Eagan Holmes, had no criminal record and bought his weapons legally. He reportedly had contact with so-called “mental-health professionals,” and some acquaintances thought he was weird, but this hardly sounds like grounds to take his guns away or detain him as likely to commit a massacre. Had he been unable to buy guns legally, he would have obtained them in the black market, which people have been doing since guns were invented. Same with Jared Lee Loughner, the Tucson shooter who killed six people and wounded, among others, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
So, what are we to do? It’s not enough to make gun buyers undergo background checks. A would-be killer’s background may be spotless, and those whose backgrounds aren’t will findother ways to get firearms, including theft. Banning the manufacture of certain firearms and magazines won’t work either, because millions of them already exist, and no one proposes confiscation — if for no other reason than that it would be a mission impossible.