Once again, a shooting in San Bernardino has grabbed the headlines. Unlike the incident in December of 2015 in which fourteen were killed and many others wounded, Monday’s event resulted in the death of three, including the shooter, and one injured. But just like the earlier crime, this latest killing has elicited calls for new gun controls.
Logic here is lacking. The shooter in this week’s incident was already someone who could not legally own a firearm, given his criminal record that includes domestic violence and illegal possession of weapons. He also took a gun into a school in a state that has the strictest gun laws among the fifty states. And if he loaded it before going out into public and didn’t have a carry license — which is criminal history would have prevented him from having — he broke yet another law.
In other words, California’s onerous gun laws did nothing to prevent this outrage. What is known so far is that the gun used, a .357 Magnum revolver, was purchased by someone else in Michigan in 1975. How it came to be possessed by the shooter isn’t known.
Advocates of gun control will say that this illustrates the need for laws like California’s in every state and on the federal level, but what they leave out of that claim is — in this example — the forty-two years between what must have been the original sale through a gun shop. In a nation with hundreds of millions of guns in private hands, and with people living in states like the gun-control bastion of New York refusing to comply with requirements to register their so-called assault rifles, the idea that the movement of firearms around the country can be controlled or that people intent on doing crimes with guns can be prevented from getting them is a fantasy.
What can be done? Given the shooter’s history of domestic violence, there is one obvious possibility to explore, namely taking acts of abuse against one’s own family members far more seriously. Abuse deserves prosecution and prison time, and victims should be helped to escape. When a judge issues a restraining order, the person being protected by that order should be automatically approved for a carry license, even and especially in states like California that make legal self-defense difficult. And more than that, as a culture, we have to drive the point home that domestic abuse is unacceptable. Men’s rights activists will cry like babies here, and watching such losers decompensate would be an added benefit.
Unlike gun control, these policy choices would do good, while not violating the rights of people who did no wrong. For those reasons, they will be opposed by advocates of stricter gun laws.
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