One of my readers observed that all talk of gun control is about so-called "assault" weapons, but that of all the mass shootings in recent history, such a weapon was only involved in one, the rest using ordinary rifles and pistols. I do not know whether that is true, but it underscores two points. The first is that those who favor gun control are ignoring an incongruity in their argument, that the guns they seek to ban are not the ones involved in these casualties; they are simply using the casualties for the emotional appeal, that children were killed by guns, so we should ban the most deadly guns despite the fact that they were not used. The second requires a story.
It was the 1973 graduating year, and as I was sitting in a mid-day history class a bomb exploded in the third floor boys room next door, in a high school of 1200 students in an upper-middle class town. No one was injured. However, it was the first of a string of bombings--notably a car outside a private party in the next town, from which shrapnel came dangerously close to the crib of a sleeping baby, and finally the press box at the high school football field. Although no one was injured, this one broke all the windows in the back of the school, thirty yards away and a hundred yards wide, and when custodial staff came to clean up glass on Sunday so that school could open Monday, there was no glass--they had been sucked out by the updraft from the blast.
Credit goes to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who became involved after the press box bombing, and sufficiently reconstructed the simple bomb as to be able to track the local merchants from whom components were acquired, and from this identify the high school sophomore who was making the bombs, who rolled on the high school sophomore who was buying them and using them. It took three weeks to identify him. The perpetrator did it because he felt rejected by others--the car bombing was because he was turned away when he attempted to crash a private party. The victims suffered only financial loss and fear, but there was significant fear in the local communities as no one could see a pattern in what appeared random bombings. And on some level, the bomber was lucky--he could not have known, for example, that no one would be in the bathroom when he detonated the first.
His motivation seems to have been similar to that of those behind some of these shootings: he wanted to feel as if he were in control, that he was more important than those he perceived as his persecutors. I had known the kid--he was very briefly in our Boy Scout troop. I could give you my mostly negative impressions of him, but as we noted last time in hindsight we all want to feel as if we knew or should have known that individual was dangerous. In truth, there were a lot of kids in my high school I would of thought might do something like that, and it never occurred to me that he might be one of them. Neither of them ever had guns; they used what they had, and it was adequate. They easily could have killed a lot of people--choosing the cafeteria instead of the bathroom, detonating the press box bomb during a football game rather than the middle of the night. Fortunately that was not their intent. It might have been--and the next "shooters" might decide that bombs are more effective and less easily traced to them. If we take away their guns, it becomes more likely.
So is this an argument that we need to let shooters have guns so they won't use bombs? That would be silly. Rather, the point is that those who reach the point that they choose to kill will find a means to do so, and they are not now using assault rifles and could quite easily design and build bombs. Taking assault rifles out of circulation will not prevent the few massacres that are occurring; preventing people identified as "crazies" from purchasing (quite apart from possessing) guns will not prevent them from finding ways to kill.
On one level, it's no skin off my nose--I have never held, let alone owned, an "assault weapon", and it would take nothing from me--nothing, that is, but the Constitutional right to own one if I so chose, if the world became dangerous enough here that I felt that threatened. As has been quipped, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.