Friendly Reminder: The Usual Anti-Gun Proposals Wouldn't Have Stopped Florida Shooting

Posted: Feb 19, 2018 12:00 PM

On February 14, Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He wounded at least a dozen more. I wish we could all mourn together. Yes, school shootings shouldn’t happen. It’s a tragedy that’s beyond all comprehension. Yet, we can’t do that. The institutional left won’t allow it. Right now, the media and the anti-gun Left are preparing for another assault on our constitutional rights based on shoddy data and hyper-emotionalism: two things that lead to very bad policy. There is a reaction to do something; it’s warranted. Kids are dead. And I know saying that nothing could have stopped this shooting is unacceptable to a lot of people, especially the parents of the 17 victims. Sadly, it looks like that’s where we are here. Like terrorism, when someone is determined to kill, they will do so. 

Given what Democrats want to enact regarding new guns laws, we’re left (again) with the same conclusion: it wouldn’t have stopped the Florida shooter. Was Nikolas Cruz troubled? Yes, but that’s not necessarily a crime. He never had any past violent convictions that would have barred him from purchasing an AR-15 rifle, nor was he adjudicated as being mentally defective. Again, the kid had issues. The local police visited his residence 39 times over the past seven years, with an investigation being launched in September of 2016, after Cruz cut himself on Snapchat. The signs were there. What happened? The worst feeling is the notion that this could have been prevented, not by new guns laws—but if the FBI actually followed up on a January 5 tip that warned Cruz could commit an atrocity such as this. FBI Director Chris Wray admitted last week that protocols were not followed in this regard. This isn’t the first time the FBI dropped the ball in potentially stopping a mass shooter. 

The point is expanded background checks would not have stopped Cruz from buying a rifle. Also, for those of you who don’t know—buying rifles at 18 years of age is not an alien concept. Most states that’s the law, even in deep blue New Jersey, which has some of the strictest (and stupidest) gun laws on the books—18 is the minimum age to buy a long gun. As Reason magazine added, the other proposals—the so-called assault weapons ban, limiting magazine sizes etc.,—would not have prevented this shooting either:

Another policy beloved by both the public and the surveyed public safety experts is a prohibition on violent criminals possessing guns. Cruz however had no criminal history.

One of the less punitive policies plotted on the New York Times graph is expanded mental health treatment. Broward County Mayor Beam Furr says Cruz had been receiving treatment at a mental health clinic, but stopped going about a year ago. One could well make the argument that continued therapy might have prevented Cruz from committing the crimes he did, but it is clear he had access to therapy.

Policies deemed effective but slightly less popular include bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. As any number of firearms experts have stated, "assault weapon" is a political classification, not a technical one. It does not denote enhanced lethality, as everything from a folding stock to a bayonet mount can get a firearm labeled an "assault weapon." The 1994 Assault Weapons ban prohibited the AR-15 on these cosmetic grounds, but even if this law were in effect today, Cruz could still have carried out his crime with an equally lethal, albeit less flashy weapon.

High-capacity magazines are likewise something of an artificial category. Media reports list everything from a 60-round magazine to a 16-round magazine as high-capacity. Of the states that do restrict magazine size, most draw the line at the 10-round mark. As of right now, we do not know the size of the magazines Cruz used, though a 30-round magazine for an AR-15 is considered standard. In any case, the fact that Cruz was reportedly actively shooting students and faculty for several minutes before police arrived suggests he would not have been slowed much by having to stop and reload more frequently.

In addition, the fact that there already exist a huge number of high-capacity magazines and can be purchased for as little as $13 means that actually enforcing any prohibition of the things would face huge practical hurdles.

For now, see something; say something is our best defense. It’s already saved lives. Last week, in Washington State, a grandmother reported her grandson, who allegedly plotted a school shooting in Everett.  Catherine O'Connor reported her grandson, Joshua Alexander; to the police after finding disturbing passages in his journal and thinking the threat was credible. He was promptly arrested, an AK-17 found in his guitar case. He reportedly planned to commit this shooting on April 19