Would these gun laws have made the impact media claims?

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Far too often, we see anti-gun activists pushing gun laws that wouldn’t have done a damn thing to stop the mass shooting they’re using to justify those laws. Take right now, for instance. The Senate appears set to pass red flag laws and universal background checks despite neither of those having done a thing to prevent Uvalde and having done nothing to stop Buffalo.

However, it seems some in the media have decided to dig a bit and they have some mass shootings they say may have been averted if we’d had their preferred gun laws on the books.

If the key gun control proposals now being considered in Congress had been law since 1999, four gunmen younger than 21 would have been blocked from legally buying the rifles they used in mass shootings. At least four other assailants would have been subject to a required background check instead of slipping through a loophole. Ten might have been unable to steal their weapons because of efforts to require or encourage safer gun storage. And 20 would not have been allowed to legally purchase the large-capacity magazines that helped them kill, on average, 16 people each.

Taken together, those four measures might have changed the course of 35 mass shootings — one-third of such episodes in the United States since the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, a New York Times analysis has found. Those 35 shootings killed a combined 446 people.

Now, this story originally appeared at the New York Times, and I want to be fair and include the next paragraph that actually does make an important point:

But in a nation awash with guns, for every mass killing those limited reforms could plausibly have altered, another two would have been unaffected — either because assailants obtained their guns illegally or because they were older adults using weapons that would not have been subject to any proposed restrictions.

Now, to the original point, that these mass shootings could have been averted if certain laws were on the books…well, is it possible?


However, what people fail to think about is whether such killers would be deterred by such laws. Would they have found a way to break them and obtain a firearm anyway? That’s a question such stories never seem to ask.

Another one they typically fail to ask is how many people would have died because of these laws.

See, gun control laws don’t stop criminals from getting guns. They stop law-abiding citizens from getting them. When law-abiding citizens can’t get guns, some of them get killed by bad guys who can.

Had those laws passed after Columbine, could those 445 people’s lives have been saved? Maybe.

But how many thousands may have died because they couldn’t have a gun or because the law meant they had to keep them locked up and weren’t able to access them when needed?

When we talk about lives, we have to balance the good with the bad. If you save one life but it costs you a dozen others, was that law a good thing to pass?

Of course, those numbers are unknowable, but that doesn’t mean the truth is anything but the truth.