Three Reasons That the Latest Mass Shooting Won’t Result in Any New Gun Laws

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 27 2014 8:59 AM

Three Reasons That the Latest Mass Shooting Won’t Result in Any New Gun Laws

The Santa Barbara rampage fell into the familiar culture-war pattern at its most heartbreaking moment. Richard Martinez, a father whose son was killed in a selfie-addicted narcissist's botched "day of retribution," gave a short press statement that turned into a condemnation of the NRA.

"Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA," said Martinez. "They talk about gun rights? What about Chris' right to live?"

This was a "painful truth," according to Adam Gopnik, speaking for millions of people like Martinez. (In 2012, Californians who'd graduated from college voted 60–40 for Obama over Romney.) The NRA, having been called out personally in nationally televised notes, called its usual opossum play—it went silent, ceasing tweets for the weekend and not dignifying Martinez with a response.

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But we know how this is going to play out, don't we? Here are the arguments you'll hear that explain why (bless him) Martinez was wrong, and as ever the best way of preventing massacres is getting more guns in the hands of good guys.

1. The Santa Barbara killer* allegedly committed three murders with a knife. Alex Jones is very good at capturing the pro-gun zeitgeist in moments like this, and he quickly recorded a video response to the killings, asking why the media wasn't covering the use of knives as well as guns. (The media was doing that, but whatever.) "Are we all going to turn our knives and say we're all guilty for what this apparent spoiled brat did?" asked Jones. "It's not about guns, it's not about knives. It's about bad people."

2. Shooting sprees only happen in gun-free zones! This sentiment was expressed crudely and quickly on Twitter, as freelance personal defense enthusiasts asked whether better-armed civilians could have shut this killer down. California has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country (comparable to those in Chicago, another conservative case study of a Second Amendment-free dystopia); the myth that "gun-free zones" attract killers is basically immune to data. Yet we know from his manifesto that the Santa Barbara killer chose to target a sorority house because it was full of the kind of girls he felt had rejected him. Not exactly because it was "gun-free." It's vanishingly unlikely that California Democrats will lose power this year; unlike in Georgia or Arizona, there will probably be no response bill that legalizes guns on campuses.

3. Blame the violent video games. The killer's long, dumb manifesto informs us that he spent many waking hours playing World of Warcraft. That's sort of a break for the gun lobby, the NRA in particular—violent video games can be fingered as the reason this guy killed when so many people with access to guns never would. Free-speech-minded conservatives despise this argument, as it's incredibly stupid.

*I'm simply not comfortable printing the name of the killer. More than most of his spree-murder peers, he made it very clear that he wanted to be loved and worshiped, saying as much in a self-pitying manifesto and a series of mopey vlogs. Let's forget the guy and leave him for the worms.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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