James Q. Wilson has an excellent piece in The Los Angeles Times on why more gun control laws isn’t the answer to atrocities such as the Virginia Tech massacre. The reality is that a disturbed individual can always find a weapon, either legally or illegally. The effects of gun prohibition fall only on those who decide to own guns in a lawful manner — it won’t dissuade unlawful gun owners from having or using guns.
The effects of gun prohibition in places like Britain hasn’t decreased gun violence — rather it has reduced the opportunity costs for violent criminals who know that they can prey on a disarmed populace. I’m skeptical whether things like concealed carry laws have more than a negligible impact in reducing crime, but they don’t hurt either. They would work better if every responsible adult had a weapon and knew how to use it in a responsible manner — but even with “shall-issue” laws only a fraction of the populace will ever carry a weapon. It may be enough to provide some herd immunity from violence, but not enough to make a dent in crime.
Horrors like what transpired at Virginia Tech this week are difficult to understand, and it’s easy to search for easy answers. However, there aren’t easy answers to atrocities like these, and thinking that merely banning guns would fix the problem is shifting the blame away from the perpetrators of violent crime and towards inanimate objects that are merely the instruments of an individual’s homicidal tendencies. If we are to prevent horrendous acts of violence like this, we have to look deeper than mere instrumentalities and understand why the systems that are supposed to protect the public from such violence failed.