An interviewer for a local ABC news affiliate pushed hard on Senator Chris Murphy (a Democratic Senator from Connecticut) asking repeatedly why he and his colleagues are pushing laws that would have had no impact on any of the recent mass shootings which have horrified so many of us and taken so many innocent lives. The Senator's reply,
So first of all, we can’t get into that trap. I disagree, I think if this proposal had been into effect it may have stopped the shooting. But we can’t get into the trap in which we are forced to defend our proposal simply because it didn’t stop the last tragedy.
When I was a very young child my grandmother was fond of telling me, "could have, would have, and should have, harvest no corn." I don't know of a single American on either side of the contentious and fiery debate over the Second Amendment who would like to see another Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, or Orlando style mass shooting. We all oppose the insane cowards, vicious thugs, and outright terrorists who engage in these shootings. We all mourn the loss of life that occurs when the wrong person gets their hands on a modern firearm. Everyone I know has the same emotional response to these tragedies. Pro-gun, anti-gun, or indifferent, we all feel the same when we see the news reports and watch the death toll climb.
Feelings and emotions are irrational by nature. At some point we must step beyond those emotions and analyze the situation with our rational minds. We must let the facts stand on their own, without bias, and attempt to reach a conclusion about how to respond in a way that will both reduce the likelihood of another mass shooting and limit the casualties should one occur. After all, this is the real-world goal of both the pro-gun and anti-gun elements in American society. Both groups have a vested interest in preventing the next mass shooting, or failing that, in at least minimizing the casualties. Both groups believe in the very fiber of their being that their position is the "common sense" approach.
The only thing a "common sense" argument ever proves is that there is no such thing as "common sense".
Over the past five years there have been more innocent Americans murdered by assault weapons than in the entire history of semi-automatic rifles. This is a simple fact. Most people, including myself, find it to be a very ugly and horrific fact, but it is still a fact. The reason this number has climbed so high is not simple, and stopping this trend will not take a simple solution. Every popular argument both for and against gun control is overly simplified. Everyone wants a simple answer to a simple fact, but sometimes that is simply not realistic.
The Sandy Hook shooter murdered his mother with a handgun then stole her rifle and killed 26 people, including 20 children. The San Bernardino shooter bought his rifle from a neighbor, but even if he had bought it at a gun store he would have passed a background check and been allowed to make the purchase. The Orlando shooter was not only legally entitled to make his purchase, he was a fully certified armed guard with specialized training in active shooter tactics so he knew ahead of time how the police would respond to him. Technically, the rifle used in Orlando was internally different than the rifles used in Sandy Hook and San Bernardino. However, all three (well, four actually) rifles were semi-automatics chambered for .223 Remington/5.56 NATO ammunition, equipped with pistol grips, and fed with 30-round magazines. These are all simple facts.
A firearm is a tool. While it is indeed true that in the hands of a mass murderer a semi-automatic rifle chambered in .223/5.56 and fed with 30-round magazines will do a great deal of damage in a very short amount of time, that does not mean we could somehow magically reduce the death toll by eliminating any of these three features. The firearm is just a tool, no different than two barrels of chlorine and ammonia spilled together in the middle of a busy intersection, or a barrel of nitrate rich fertilizer ignited with a firecracker in front of a federal building. These are just tools, easily obtained by anyone and everyone on any given day with little or restrictions. If anything, the rifle is the hardest of the three to acquire because if purchased at a gun dealer the person must pass a background check. It does not matter where you purchase chlorine, ammonia, or nitrate-heavy fertilizer, you can freely buy in bulk and never have to worry about background checks. The biggest problem is figuring out some way to deliver them to your target and then activate their inherent deadly potential.
Attempting to control criminals by controlling access to their favorite tools simply moves them to their second or third choices. Even if by some magic we could remove "assault rifles" from our society, we would immediately see an increase in bombings. The problem is not the tool. The problem is the mind that uses the tool for mass murder. The only real "weapon" in the world is the human brain. People create weapons and use them to kill. The weapons do not contain some mystical or magical power that inspires people to use them for mass murder. The mass murderer first conceives of the desire to slaughter innocents and then goes looking for a tool that will make their plan possible. Unfortunately, we can't outlaw thinking. Well, I suppose such laws could be passed, but they would not stop someone from dreaming up plans for mass slaughter.
Murder, even mass murder, is part of being human. As long as we have humans, we will have mass murderers. Sen. Murphy and people like him are completely delusional. I'm not saying that everyone in favor of gun control is delusional. I'm saying that someone is delusional when they demand, "we need such and such to prevent the next mass murder," even after their opposition points out that their proposal would have had zero impact on previous mass murderers. To insist, "I know it will not make a difference, but I think it might!" is what makes this kind of thinking delusional.
As my grandmother was so very fond of saying, "could have, would have, and should have, harvest no corn."