“It’s Time to Do Something!”
Regis NicollRegis Nicoll's weblog
- 2018 Feb 26
In the wake of the recent Florida school shooting, a chorus of well-meaning folks is demanding, “Enough—it’s time to do something!” As usual that “something” includes tougher gun controls and universal background checks—technocratic “solutions” that are ineffective at best and detrimental at worst.
In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s epic novel, The Idiot, a well-meaning prince is driven to do something for a woman who, through no fault of her own, was under public shame from a scandalous relationship. Although the prince is engaged to someone else, his “something” is to jilt his true love and marry the disgraced woman in hopes of restoring her honor. It is an ill-conceived move that leads to the woman’s murder and his institutionalization.
Likewise, the “something” called for to end school shootings is not only impotent to accomplish the goal, it could actually exacerbate the problem.
Consider gun control and the proposed ban on the AR-15. (As an aside, “AR” stands for “Armalite” the manufacturer, not “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle.”)
Had 19-year-old Nikolaus Cruz not had access to an AR-15, his killing spree could have been equally horrific with an auto-loading handgun and multiple magazines; without access to those, any number of means was available to him with the potential of achieving a much greater death count.
On July 14, 2016 one of the most efficient attacks occurred in France. In only a matter of minutes, one man in a 19-ton cargo truck barreled down a busy thoroughfare in Nice, killing 84 people and injuring over 300 others.
Three years earlier, a perpetrator used a pipe bomb at a Hindu shrine in Bangkok killing 20 people. And let’s not forget Timothy McVeigh who drove a truck loaded with ammonium nitrate into a federal building and killed 168 people in 1995.
I could go on, but these examples are sufficient to show that the savage hell-bent on unleashing havoc on society will find a way—be it with firearms, explosives, incendiaries, chemicals, biotoxins, or vehicles—some having a much greater potential for mass tragedy than, what amounts to, a deer rifle with an extended magazine.
There’s also the inconvenient fact, documented by Harvard and others, that the correlation between firearm restrictions and gun-related deaths is weak to non-existent. For example, the murder rate in Russia, where handguns are banned, is nearly four times higher than the U.S.
Another “something” demanded by the chorus is better mental health care. The problem is, most people with mental health issues have no violent tendencies, and mostmass killers have no mental issues that signal the need for forcible intervention, much less institutionalization. Prior to the Parkland shooting, one Florida mental health professional found Nikolaus Cruz “stable enough not to be hospitalized,” another concluded that he posed no risk to himself or anyone else.
However, Cruz shares something with other young mass killers that is a symptom of our social and moral health. Continue reading here.