Data shows that certain gun control measures may bring down mass shootings

We are all horrified that we may be entering into a new period of mass shootings. Following a lull of about a year, probably related to the COVID lockdown, we’ve seen two in a week. Eighteen people have been killed by the shooters in Georgia and Colorado.

President Biden has called for new gun control measures. Would they work? Last night on CNN, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the ban on assault weapons that was in effect from 1994 to 2004 did indeed bring down the number of mass shootings. Cause and effect is tricky, of course. But did the law actually coincide with a period of fewer such crimes?

According to an analysis by Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post, the answer is yes. The assault-weapon ban, combined with a ban on large-capacity magazines (LCMs), did indeed help. In addition, my Northeastern colleague James Alan Fox has shown that state bans on LCMs and mandatory background checks are  associated with fewer mass shootings.

So what are we going to do about it?

Senate assures potential terrorists they can still buy guns

I’m generally in favor of gun control, but I’m not passionate about it because I don’t think there’s much we can do to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

But how could anyone vote against a bill banning people on the terrorism watch list from buying guns, as the Senate did Thursday? This is insane.

Media to president: You’re a liberal!

The state of the union may or may not be strong, but the State of the Union was liberal.

That was the view of media commentators from the left, right and center the morning after President Barack Obama delivered his fourth State of the Union address. The president called for a higher minimum wage, universal preschool and action on gun control and climate change, among other things. And the consensus is that his support for such measures signaled a public embrace of activist government that we’ve rarely seen since the rise of Ronald Reagan more than three decades ago.

Read the rest at the Huffington Post.

What now?

Like many of us, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we could change the laws in this country so that we might actually be able to prevent incidents like the Connecticut school massacre.

I’ve long been an unenthusiastic supporter of stricter gun control. Supporter because I think the wild proliferation of guns is doing terrible things to our country. (Personally, I’d ban everything but hunting rifles.) Unenthusiastic because I have real doubts that anything other than a near-total prohibition would do much good — and that’s not going to happen.

At the moment, I’m thinking that we should focus on doing much, much more to screen people for mental illness before we allow them to buy guns. I don’t know if it would have mattered in Connecticut, especially if it turns out that the guns were purchased by the shooter’s mother. But it might very well have prevented the Gabrielle Giffords and Virginia Tech shootings.

And since we know that this is going to get bogged down in politics, it also seems to me that keeping paranoid schizophrenics away from guns might be the one issue on which Republicans could be persuaded to stand up to the NRA.