Let me start off with my own personal opinion on gun control.
I’m not some crazy person who thinks background checks should be done away with, because I do think that allowing felons to purchase firearms is a bad plan and, therefore, we need to perform background checks to weed them out, because they are criminals and therefore not exactly trustworthy. You can’t expect they are going to follow the law and not buy a gun, they’ve already committed crimes, they clearly don’t care much about the law anyway.
Conversely I don’t appreciate the idea that my name should appear on a registry for the federal or state government (a registry that with one FOIA request could put my address and name out into public view, despite all my social media, I am a fairly private person and I’ve done nothing wrong by owning a firearm) and the idea that I should be required to buy bullets, as one or two senators and left wing pundits have suggested, is insane.
We won’t even get into my feelings on why law abiding citizens should be allowed to own “assault” weapons and have more than 10 bullets in their gun, that’s an entire other can of worms that doesn’t really apply to this situation.
Elliot Rodgers, the disturbed and violent man who murdered 6 people in cold blood last week, did buy his guns legally. California has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States and he was still able to purchase the gun he used to kill two sorority girls and injure a 3rd.
Plenty of people, including the family of the murderer and family of the victims, have used this event to comment on the need for stricter gun laws, so here is the tough question we need to ask.
Would stricter gun laws have prevented this tragedy?
The Right and the Left tend to have knee jerk reactions to a question like this.
The Right shouts “strict gun control just make sure only criminals have guns!” and Left shouts “of course gun control would save people, guns get people killed!”
And while I tend to agree with the Right’s knee jerk reaction, this particular situation with Rodgers is one that is unique and deserves more than a knee jerk reaction.
Would stricter gun control have prevent Rodger’s from murdering 6 people and injuring at least 13 more?
No it would not have.
Rodger’s did not require a gun to commit his murders. In fact, in reading his manifesto (you need a strong stomach for that, let me tell you) his fantasies of killing people revolved more around the more “intimate” forms of murder, things that would connect him to his victims in a personal way.
Knives, decapitation, torture, vehicular manslaughter, those were the things that were mentioned over and over. Only once does he really mention firearms in reference to killing (rather than suicide, which appeared to be his main reason for buying the guns in the first place, to insure he would not go to prison) was in reference to shooting up a house party and if he had not been able to access a firearm I have no doubt, based on his intense homicidal fantasies and delusions, he would have simply committed his murders in another manner.
Gun control would not have stopped Elliot Rodgers and it’s a dishonest, unhelpful, and rather callous thing for people to turn this event into a political issue by pretending that gun control would have saved all these lives and prevented Rodgers fantasies from coming to fruition. The only thing, in my opinion, that would have stopped him from carrying out his plans was death or involuntary commitment for his and others safety.
Now in the general sense, do I think that people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia should be able to buy guns? Probably not, especially not if they refuse to take their medication. That’s a complex issue, one that affects only 1.1% of the population, and should not affect gun laws as they apply to the other 98.9% of the population. It’s an issue that should make us question our mental health system in the United States, consider scalpel precise restrictions (based on assessments from mental health professionals) on gun ownership, and revisit the issue of involuntary commitment and all of the legal issues that it might cause.