Will Gun Control Stop Terrorist Attacks?

By Tom McHale

Image: KESQ
Image: KESQ
Tom McHale
Tom McHale

USA -(AmmoLand.com)- You’re angry. I get it. I’m angry too. The latest terrorist attack in Orlando is unbelievably tragic, but not at all surprising. The only thing surprising is that terrorist attacks like this have been this long in coming.

The signs have been there forever, and I’m not even counting dramatic Al-Qaeda type operations like 9/11. More recently, we’ve seen a series of smaller scale attacks right here at home. Fort Hood. Oklahoma. Garland, Texas. Chattanooga Recruiting Stations. San Bernardino. David French writes a compelling piece about this, and you can read it here.

Hold on to your shorts, because there’s a lot more attacks like this one on the way, and probably soon. They’ll have nothing to do with our gun laws. When someone out there is intent on killing, there are an infinite number of ways to do that. Just last night, an ISIS-inspired attacker killed a Paris police captain and his wife with a knife. Intent is the operative word, not availability.

Consider a few examples:

  • The San Bernardino terrorists were running a bomb factory. In California.
  • Ever heard of the Happy Land Nightclub in the Bronx? While the motivation was different, he killed 87 people there with nothing more than a can of gasoline.
  • Or how about the Monterrey Casino narco-terrorist attack? Again, terrorists used nothing more than a few cans of gas to kill 61 people.
  • We seem to have already forgotten the Boston Marathon attack. A couple of homemade pressure-cooker bombs killed three and wounded 264. Two hundred and sixty-four. Only thanks to the ineptness of those terrorists was the death toll that low.
  • Then, of course, there were the attacks in Paris, arguably one of the gun control capitals of the free world. 130 dead and 368 wounded. And Charlie Hebdo. 11 dead and 11 wounded.
  • Don’t forget Mumbai, another bastion of near total gun control. 164 dead and 308 wounded.

Sadly, I could go on, and on, and on. Do you know what all these attacks have in common? Either guns were not used, or the attacks occurred in areas of heavy firearm regulation or outright restriction.

The point here is that determined attacks like these aren’t about guns or no guns. They’re about determined attacks. That’s the key word – determined.

My wife made an observation that I wholeheartedly agree with. In response to situations like this, people need something tangible to latch onto. Subconsciously they know the cause of the problem is really, really hard to solve. In a fear and shock-induced state, they need something corporeal to grasp so they can begin to process. It’s in our nature to latch onto a way to just fix it, thereby bringing some peace and hope that it won’t happen again.

If you recorded the last couple of days of news and played it back later when emotions settled, you’d be shocked at the knee-jerk solutions that normally rational people called for. Secret government lists. Confiscation. Arrest and punishment without due process. Guilt by investigation, not prosecution. Our willingness to drop all pretense of our most cherished principles when driven by fear is truly stunning.

The problem is that quick and easy tactical fixes don’t work – especially those that are based on half-baked understanding of the issues and driven by fear and emotion. That’s not my opinion or theory; one only has to look back in time to see that proven out again and again. Coming to rational, and most importantly effective, solutions requires that people step away from the temptations of knee-jerk reactions and think.

The even more horrible thing about ill-conceived, fear-based “fixes” is that they are dangerous. The ill-conceived “gun free zone” “fix” has directly CAUSED the needless deaths of untold numbers of innocent people. Murderers and terrorists seek out these “fixed” areas exactly because of that stupid sign on the door. That’s why I’m so passionate about this. It’s not because “I like guns.” It’s because my heart breaks when people die needlessly because of stupid, ineffective, and emotional “fixes” that cause more needless death than they prevent. If you’re going to get actively involved in fixing problems, great! Just don’t do it from a position of emotion and fact-free opinion. If you do, you’ll be partly responsible for more needless death.

Zeroing in on the tools that terrorists use won’t help future attacks any more than it helped the victims of Paris and Mumbai – two places that implemented incredible levels of the tactical fixes that people are now suggesting. Does the conceptual approach of limiting “tools” work any better when trying to solve drunk driving? Would low capacity beers reduce the number of drunk driving murders? How about making crack and heroin illegal? If we just outlaw easily available means of distribution that’ll cause addicts to stop using it, right? The same conceptual plan worked well during the prohibition, right? In all of these examples, the root cause – desire – is ignored.

There’s a reason I chose examples of drunk driving murders and drug abuse. Those are both scenarios where the offending “product” has no societal value. Banning those substances wouldn’t have a boomerang effect and cause more harm as a result.

Guns are a different story. While many gun control proponents leap to the assumption that guns only impact one side of the balance sheet – they only cause bad things – they neglect to factor in the positive impact. When you ban the ability for law-abiding people to defend themselves, you also remove all the cases where someone used a gun to defend against crime or attack. It’s intellectually dishonest not to factor that into the overall cost-benefit math. Depending on whose numbers you read, that happens between one and two million times a year. Wave the magic wand and figure out how much death and injury occurs if you remove the tools for self-defense from law-abiding citizens.

While few will want to hear this, there was nothing magic or incredibly destructive about the weapons used in the Orlando terrorist attack. There weren’t any military machine guns involved here. Just a well-planned plot and a guy with a rifle. A regular, everyday rifle. Against a defenseless and captive victim community, a determined attacker can inflict unbelievable harm in minutes using the most basic of weapons. In this case, he had hours.

Only because details matter, there’s nothing special about a semi-automatic rifle. It shoots once each time you pull the trigger, and as far as rifles go, the one used in Orlando is on the lower end of the power scale. People get worked up about the theoretical issues of magazine capacity, but if you go back and look at what actually happened in previous terrorist killing events, regardless of the type of weapon used, all of them could have been completed by the murderer, to equal effect, using an 1860’s-era lever-action rifle. People won’t want to hear this, but the actual rates of fire and magazine issues were simply not a factor. Rarely have one of these sick killers fired more than 10 rounds from a magazine. Rarely has their rate of fire exceeded 12 rounds per minute. We can assume and suppose hypotheticals, but they’re just that. “Yeah but imagine if…” arguments. If you really are serious about solving the hard problems, you have to take an objective look at what actually happened in previous events.

My point isn’t to get nitty gritty or defend certain models of guns, it’s to point out that what has been the determining factor in every one of the prior cases has not been the specifics of the equipment. I has been the will, determination, and planning (usually of location) of the murderer. That’s exactly why I’m so focused on the fact that nothing gets fixed until we look to the root cause – the people willing to do these horrible things.

Since the beginning of people, there has been and always will be a minority percentage who are willing to inflict harm on others. That won’t ever change, so the only remaining question is what do we do about it.

There’s a lot we can do starting with getting rid of these attractive targeted killing zones. Every single mass murder case since the 1950’s (except two) has one thing in common – a sign on the door (literally or legally) says “Hey, the people in here aren’t able to protect themselves.” That’s an invitation to terrorists, mass murderers, or whatever you want to call them. Time after time, in the post-event analysis, it comes to light that the murderers chose their location specifically for the reason that they knew they would have a period of time of total domination with no opposition.

I’m all for cracking down on people with documented (“documented” is the key word) histories and records. If you’re convicted of a crime, you already don’t pass the FBI background check. However, if someone thinks bad thoughts but never crosses paths with law enforcement, there’s no way to “catch them” with a background check, which is exactly why you also have to plan for stopping these people in their tracks. Wouldn’t it be even better if that plan could also discourage the perpetrators from even trying?

There are 13 million “good guys and girls” with concealed carry permits across the US, and that number is growing rapidly. These people jump through hoops to obtain their permits and statistically are the most law abiding demographic measurable. During the past 30 years, they’ve demonstrated themselves to commit crimes at a rate multiple times less than that of active duty police officers. Yes, while I have limitless respect for our law enforcement community, you read that right.

One or two people like this, who aren’t prohibited from carrying in a whole slew of places can put a stop to these things before they become tragic events. In Florida, about eight people out of every 100 have a concealed carry permit. In this nightclub crowd of 320, that means 25 people may have left their gun in the car due to the “gun free zone” legal status of that space.

Concealed carry in a bar? Well, yes. In bars, you’ll find designated drivers who choose to stay sober in order to drive their friends home. What’s so hard to believe about the most law-abiding group of people measurable choosing not to drink when they carry? After all, it’s against the law to drink and carry in most, if not all, places, and concealed carry permit holders have proven they follow laws.

Would an armed citizen have stopped this? Maybe or maybe not, but they certainly would have disrupted it. This terrorist had three hours of complete and total dominance over his victims. One person can disrupt that plan. One person. That person may or may not succeed, or even survive, but that person has the opportunity to provide disruption, potentially changing everything about the outcome. While it would be great if they were, that person doesn’t need to be a DeltaNinjaSeal. As Larry Correia explains, they only need to be a speed bump and provide delay and disruption. That makes all the difference and may even end the event altogether.

For an example of the power of disruption, look up Clackamas Mall, Oregon. You won’t hear much about it on the news simply because it never became a mass tragedy. One citizen with a pistol disrupted the plan of a mass murderer – enough to cause him to flee to a stairwell and shoot himself. There are lots of cases just like this that don’t make NBC news exactly because they never became mass tragedies, simply because of disruption.

Setting aside the incredible impact of disruption, these attacks all end exactly the same way – every single time. Good guys arrive with guns. If the thing that immediately stops a bad guy is the arrival of a good guy with a gun (every single time) I’d prefer to have the good guy already there.

The average police response time during a terrorist attack like this is nine minutes. That includes calling 911, dispatching law enforcement teams, assessment of the situation, formulation of a plan, and execution of that plan. That nine minutes is an eternity when people are at the mercy of a terrorist. Everyone is happy and thankful when the cops show up with a thousand or so guns. But many are freaked out by the thought of that cop’s next door neighbor, who is also trained and proven to be law-abiding, having one.

None of us want to accept or endure pure evil. But guess what? It exists. It always has, and it always will. There are people out there who want nothing more than to kill you and others. Are you going to deal with that reality by burying your head in the sand? Are you going to succumb to the temptation of a simple feel-good “fix” knowing deep down inside that it will accomplish nothing?

Or are you going to lift your chin up and address the real problem?

About the Author:

Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon. You can also find him on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.