When shooting sprees occur, such as the events last week in Florida, it’s more important we just do something than it is that the response is timely or effective, according to columnist Jill Lawrence.
“As both sides in the gun debate mobilize for a possible second act on Capitol Hill, could we please retire the argument that taking step X on guns wouldn’t have prevented tragedy Y?” Lawrence wrote in 2013 in an article reproduced this week to try to sway the new Florida-inspired debate on gun control.
Her reasoning is that although Step X may not address the current crime, it may help prevent future crimes or may have prevented shootings in the past.
She then uses an argument that undermines her point.
“Expanded background checks might have saved the life of Ricky Byrdsong, the former Northwestern University basketball coach killed by white supremacist Benjamin Nathan Smith in 1999,” Lawrence wrote. “Smith tried to buy a gun from a licensed dealer in June 1999 but was blocked because of a domestic-violence restraining order against him.
“The next month, he bought one from an unlicensed dealer and used it to target blacks, Asians and orthodox Jews in a three-day, multi-city rampage. Nine were wounded and two died, among them Byrdsong, who was shot multiple times while walking with two of his children.”
In this case, Smith was turned away because he failed a background check. And people ended up dead anyway because Smith did not care about gun laws.
Lawrence then writes that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, perpetrators of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School outside Denver, got three of their four guns from a friend, who, at 18, was old enough to buy them at a gun show.
“I would not have bought a gun for Eric and Dylan if I had had to give any personal information or submit to any kind of check at all,” the buyer is quoted as saying. But he did have to submit to a check. Otherwise, how would the sellers have known he, but not Harris and Klebold, was old enough to buy a gun?”
Limiting the size of magazines “could make a difference,” Lawrence wrote.
Adam Lanza brought 10 magazines of 30 rounds each into Sandy Hook Elementary School. If he had had smaller magazines, Lawrence wrote, more children might have survived. Lanza had just 22 minutes to shoot whomever he could find before police arrived at the scene. That’s plenty of time to reload several times, especially for an experienced a shooter as he was.
Lawrence quoted the national policy director of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence saying, “there’s no single way to head off shootings, which is why most gun-control advocates support a wide range of steps.”
It starts with background checks, the spokesman said, and goes to waiting periods, limits on purchases and other areas that people such as Loughner or Lanza or Cruz would happily bide their time to obtain the weapons they think they need.
The same ideas are trotted out and rejected, because, as Lawrence admits, they don’t apply to the crimes at hand.
We now know Cruz had posted that he wanted to be a professional school shooter, that he had warned authorities himself that he planned to go off, and that most of the kids in the school knew him to be dangerous.