There are two kinds of Americans. One sees a mass shooting — such as the recent killings in San Bernardino, California, and Colorado Springs, Colorado — and automatically thinks other people should not be able to buy or own guns or own some kinds of guns. The other learns of a mass shooting and takes comfort in the Second Amendment's right to bear arms.
I fall into the second group while being surrounded by people in the first group. When a mass shooting occurs, the typical Bay Area voter reacts by calling for gun control measures to disarm white male gun nuts. It's a very human reflex. People who are passionate about policy like to think that if their political views prevailed, then the world would be a safer place.
Some observers, however, went too far in their eagerness to blame gun nuts. During a story on the San Bernardino shootings, which left 14 dead, the BBC's James Cook proclaimed, "Just another day in the United States of America, another day of gunfire, panic and fear." Can you imagine an American reporter introducing a story on the Paris shootings that left 130 dead with the same attitude?
As the story unfolded Wednesday, President Barack Obama acknowledged that authorities did not know details but said, "The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world." The president has, in the past, made similar claims, which PolitiFact has rated "mostly false." The United States falls behind Norway, Finland and Switzerland in mass shootings per capita.
Obama went on to say, "And for those who are concerned about terrorism, some may be aware of the fact that we have a no-fly list where people can't get on planes, but those same people who we don't allow to fly could go into a store right now in the United States and buy a firearm, and there's nothing that we can do to stop them. That's a law that needs to be changed." It was a dry, political response.
Sen. Barbara Boxer called on Congress to pass gun control laws like those in her state of California, which she acknowledged did not prevent the shooters from obtaining two assault-style rifles. "In California, we have tough gun laws. I don't know how these weapons got where they were," quoth Boxer. "We'll find out."
Boxer told her colleagues she does not understand "why anyone else would need to have this type of weapon." It's true; Boxer does not understand that there are a lot of people in this country who prefer to take charge of their own protection rather than cede their security to laws that don't work.
San Bernardino police Chief Jarrod Burguan told Politico that all four of the weapons used by shooters Syed Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 27, were purchased legally. In California, that entails a background check. Farook purchased two of the guns. Police found 1,600 rounds of ammunition in the couple's rented SUV when deputies killed them during a shootout. Later, police found 4,500 rounds of ammo, a dozen pipe bombs and hundreds of tools that could have been used to make more bombs in their home. Burguan believes that the two had the capability to wage another attack when they were stopped.
Every piece of new information — the arsenal, the black tactical gear, reports that Malik pledged allegiance to the Islamic State on Facebook during the attack — suggests that this was not a case of angry-man gun violence or workplace-related violence but a planned terrorist attack. By choosing Farook's colleagues — who had thrown him a baby shower — as targets, the couple served the goal of radical Islamists: to drive a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims. This is pure evil.
I don't believe that a federal assault weapons ban could stop a Colorado Springs-style shooting. I certainly don't think "gun safety" laws could stop terrorists. If Congress were to pass such a ban, then lawmakers would have to grandfather existing assault weapons. Manufacturers would find legal ways around Washington restrictions. The kind of Americans who want to take charge of their own defense would buy them. The public would not be safer. The new gun law would be about as effective as the war on drugs.