how to kill fewer people
or A Short Study on Weapons Legislation vs Crazy People
I think the gun control issue is a question of percentages. We have to weigh acceptable Weapons Legislation against the percentage of Crazy People with a Chance of Going on Killing Sprees. If the latter was exceptionally high, say around 50% of the population, we might only legalize the possession of exceptionally mild weapons such as swords or slingshots. If we had 0% Crazy People, we might be able to legalize nuclear bombs and light sabers.
To decide where you are as a rational person on the issue of gun control, you have to decide how many people you are comfortable with putting at risk of dying, say each year, in Crazy Person Killing Sprees.
In a nation of 320 million people, you have to assume that there will be some Crazy People and that some of them will go on Killing Sprees for whatever Crazy Reason. If all they have is slingshots or their bare hands, they will be able to kill very few people, maybe one or two per incident. If they have nuclear bombs, they will be able to kill maybe 100,000 per incident.
Weapons Legislation usually looks at weapons and victim numbers somewhere inbetween those two extremes.
Over the last 20 years, there have been an average of four Crazy Person Killing Sprees per year (not including robbery-, gang-, or domestic abuse-related mass killings). 5/6 of the weapons used in these incidents were obtained legally. The number of people killed per Crazy Person Killing Spree has ranged from three to 49, with an average of eight per incident. The number of people wounded per Spree ranges from zero to 58, also with an per-incident average of about eight.
So. Eight people killed + eight people wounded = a total of 16 people affected per Spree. Four Sprees each year. Average.
Obviously, with the kinds of high-capacity magazine assault weapons that are currently legal, the average number of deaths could be a lot higher. It could easily be as high as 50 people per Spree.
On the other hand, the average number of deaths and wounded could also be a lot lower. A ban on “weapons that let a shooter fire a large number of bullets quickly without having to reload” would have illegalized 48 of the 143 weapons used in these Sprees (a third).
Sure, a sufficiently-motivated Crazy Person would have just gotten ahold of a smaller weapon, or a slingshot, or just gone into a movie theater and strangled people with his/her bare hands one by one. But the point is, his/her (let’s be honest: his) body count would then have been a lot lower.
There’s no way to know exact numbers here, but we can make educated guesses. Without high-capacity magazine assault weapons, there’s no way to kill/wound 40, 30, even 20 people before someone/everyone takes you down or runs away while you’re reloading. If we lower these large numbers of killed/wounded at the top of the Killing Spree curve, we can get our death average down to about five per Spree and our wounded average down to about four. (Assuming low-capacity magazines of 10 rounds max and extremely high rates of accuracy.)
That’s a minimum of around 12 people saved per year + 16 people unwounded = 28 fewer people affected per year. Not so many. But they would be living human people just the same.
And that’s just the Crazy People Killing Spree victims. A ban on these assault weapons would also lower the robbery-, gang-, and domestic abuse-related mass killings by about the same amount. Approximately another 28 people might be saved. Let’s say a conservative total of around 50 more people living and unharmed per year just from this one tiny adjustment.
So if you’re comfortable with risking 50 more people dying/wounded per year so you can go “Woohooo!!” in the back of your pickup truck or, I don’t know, take down a few more birds before you have to reload, you should oppose any ban on assault weapons.
Also, just think how many birds you could vaporize if grenades were legal, and how cool would your “Woohooo!!” be from the back of a legalized tank instead of your pickup truck!!
But if you think a ban on assault weapons is an acceptable price to pay for 50 fewer victims per year, you should support that.
If all guns were banned, we might get our averages down to one or two people killed per incident, and then those wouldn’t even qualify as mass shootings. So there might be no Crazy People Killing Sprees. But then, there would also be a lot more wild birds and deer alive, so we’d have to worry about that.
It all depends on:
1) How depraved you believe human nature has the capacity to be and
2) How many people you would like to risk giving those depraved people the capacity to kill in one setting.
We have to draw the line somewhere. Are you comfortable with where the line is now? Are you comfortable with mourning 50 extra people killed/wounded per year so you can have the freedom to buy assault weapons? Would you be comfortable with, say, doubling that number and mourning 100 more victims per year if you could have the freedom to buy even heavier weapons such as grenades or fully automatic weapons? Would that be worth it to you?
Would you like the victim number a little bit higher in exchange for a little more freedom? Would you like the victim number a little bit lower in exchange for a little less freedom? Or perhaps a lot lower in exchange for a lot less freedom?
You should think about it while you look at this cute picture of a panda with a machine gun: