There’s been a lot of talk since the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Talk about how this happened, talk about how we can move on, and, most of all, talk about how we can keep something like this from happening again. A number of solutions have been put forth: revive the assault weapons ban, go after large magazines, expanding mental health services so people like the Newtown shooter are never in a position to do something like this in the first place.
Newsweek contributor Megan McArdle is having none of this. In a recent column, McArdle espoused her belief that we should just gang rush the shooters to put an end to this. Why, if 8-12 of the kindergartners had just bum-rushed the guy with the semi-auto rifle, the shooting would have been over! From her piece:
I’d also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once.
I’ll stop here for a moment to let that mental image sink in, a dozen 6-year-olds running towards an armed man actively shooting at them.
Got it? No? Because here’s what it looks like. This guy starts off with a lever-action rifle, a much slower rate of fire than the AR-15 used in Newtown, and he’d still have no trouble finishing of a rampaging horde of Dora the Explorer fans in a matter of seconds. Skip forward a bit to see what it actually looks like with a semi-automatic weapon, when the rate of fire truly picks up steam.
Who doesn’t want to run straight in to that?!? Let’s go!
This apparently ‘respectable’ journalist is saying that all of us – children, movie-goers, and college students – could have stopped the mass shootings of recent years if those on the scene had just “gang rushed” the shooter, a plea that’s nearly as stupid as it is irresponsible.
On the face of it, it’s hard to envision anyone who’s ever even seen any sort of weapon fired in real life, much less actually been actively shot at, proposing such a moronic ‘solution,’ one that flies in the face of common sense and government safety guidelines (courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security). McArdle, however, has an agenda. Of course she does. Stupid rarely fails to have an agenda these days.
Let me preface this right out front: there is a dire need to have a serious debate about America’s abhorrent rate of gun violence, a fact McArdle herself provides documentation for. But the debate needs to be an intelligent one. We have to be able to openly, honestly, and above all, intelligently discuss the real reasons for such crimes. However, when you hear someone use a phrase like “30 bullet magazine,” like McArdle did, that should set off a warning light. It means this person has absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. They’ve failed to grasp even the most elementary aspects of the topic at hand. You wouldn’t go to your mechanic for advice on a brain tumor, so if the person in question fails even this most basic muster, they should likely be automatically disregarded. The same holds true for when a person attempts to blame video games, or any other media, for the behavior, a fact McArdle couldn’t resist listing. The claim that violence in video games promotes violent behavior has been roundly and thoroughly debunked, and many of its most vocal proponents have been laughed off the professional stage.
McArdle’s piece goes through a point-by-point rebuttal of the reasons the most commonly discussed responses to the tragedy would fail to work. Increasing mental health services, namely the institutions that would segregate the mentally ill, at least until some point of “being not potentially dangerous,” is a non-starter for McArdle, as she cites the liberty implications of such a move. What she fails to mention, though, is that the near-total lack of such facilities in America is directly the result of President Reagan, the patron saint of American conservatives. There’s quite a bit to be said for proper facilities to care for the mentally ill (not the “weird,” as McArdle so loving puts it), giving the most dangerous among them a secure environment for treatment and, most importantly, reducing the risk to the general population.
She goes on to explain why ammunition taxes and a full-on ban would not work, points I’m actually prepared to give her — what’s a few extra bucks to someone dead-set on carrying out something like that and how does one deal with the hundreds of millions of guns already in circulation in America are both valid points. At this point, however, McArdle rolls over and dies, saying that there’s literally nothing that can be done to stop such tragedies beyond her obscenely asinine suggestion that little kids dog-pile the shooter.
In decrying the notion that there’s no one law that would change the situation, McArdle misses the forest for the trees. She’s so dead-set on finding a single cure-all panacea that she’s incapable of seeing the problem for what it truly is, namely one that must be addressed on multiple fronts. We, as a nation, must be capable of having a rational discussion on what types of weapons it’s reasonable to allow the average person to have access to, what sort of increased safeguards we’re willing to put in place to ensure that only the most thoroughly qualified and capable individuals have the right to own (it’s easier to be licensed to own a fully automatic weapon, despite McArdle’s claim that they’re all patently illegal, than it is to be a licensed hair stylist), and what qualifications and requirements an individual should have to comply with to continue to own weapons — such as a relatively cheap and easily available biometric gun safe, which plausibly would have limited Lanza’s access to his mother’s firearms and, it’s safe to assume, would also help curtail the number of stolen/illegal weapons in circulation today. While a PBS Frontline report puts that at 10 to 15 percent of the firearms used in crimes, I can’t imagine anyone being against a 10 to 15 percent reduction here.
We must also be honest about the state of our mental health system and truly be willing to address the fact that there are untold numbers of dangerous and potentially dangerous people in the population today with no oversight, no care, no real hope for treatment in the future and with nearly unfettered access to the firearm of their choosing. We must also be willing to address a culture of violence that acknowledges that while things like TV and video games aren’t a direct cause, we as a society have glorified violence in nearly every conceivable way, to the point where many of the truly deranged would rather be remembered as a killer instead of a “sad little nobody.”
Ultimately, McArdle boils her point down to one of statistics, insinuating that the inevitable deaths resulting from her “rush the shooter” plan would be better than what we have now, leaving perhaps six dead instead of 20. She implies it’s only because we’re incapable of addressing the real problem that we won’t accept her revolutionary idea, that we’re all too afraid of the truth to accept the cost. What she fails to realize, though, is that any number of dead in a situation like this is and ought to be completely unacceptable – one death is as tragic as 50. Each one is a living person, a human being with a life of their own and none of them, not one, should have to give their lives because we’re too afraid of the real issues, too blinded by politics and too ashamed of our own previous mistakes a society to take the necessary steps to prevent such things from happening in the first place. For someone to insist that it’s a failing of the victims that leads to such tragedies – if only the people being shot at had done something differently! – is beyond offensive. The only “gang rush” I see as appropriate here is the one aimed directly at McArdle.