Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Maryland School Shooting

The Associated Press reports

At 6:27 a.m. on his first day as a sophomore at Perry Hall High School in the Baltimore suburbs, Robert Wayne Gladden Jr. updated his Facebook status.

"First day of school, last day of my life," he wrote. He then typed a symbol resembling a person with two middle fingers extended before adding "f--- the world."

Gladden, a pale youth with long, dark hair who turned 15 just three weeks ago, has been charged as an adult in the shooting of a 17-year-old classmate, who was hit in the back with a shotgun blast in the school's cafeteria Monday morning. The victim, Daniel Borowy, remained in critical condition Tuesday afternoon.

While authorities did not discuss a motive for the shooting, Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson said Gladden planned the attack and fired a shot at random before school staff rushed him. A second shot hit the ceiling during the struggle, police said.
This one had all the markings of another school mass shooting. Luck and timing and quick intervention on the part of the staff averted a much worse situation.

It offers a good example to discuss one of the most popular pro-gun arguments, that mass shootings usually happen in gun-free zones.

On the surface, this is a fact that cannot be refuted.  Our commenter Frail Liberty recently took the trouble to prove it using Google.  Fair enough.  Although there are many cases in which mass shootings, those involving 4 or more victims, take place at various locations in which guns are not prohibited, the major incidents have happened on school campuses where guns are not allowed.

But, it's the implication that I would like to refute.  The argument seems to be that mass shooters choose these locations for their "target rich" environment and because no resistance would be expected. If only we did away with gun-free zones these deranged shooters wouldn't act, or if they did they'd be stopped in their tracks by a johnny-on-the-spot gun owner.

Gun-rights activists love to blame the gun-free zone for the problem of mass shootings.

I submit that this is false reasoning.  Look at the details of today's story.  The young man was suicidally depressed. He wrote "last day of my life," and "fuck the world" on Facebook. He, like most of the school shooters, was not concerned with selecting just the right place to unleash his murderous rage.  He was going to the place of his troubles, whether they were about bullying or inadequacy or perceived romantic rejection.

The same is true of the fairly common mass shootings that take place at the work place.  Some of them prohibit guns, others do not, but that fact is irrelevant.  When someone decides to kill a bunch of people they are not thinking about gun-free zones.

This brings up another question, if the argument that most mass shootings happen in gun free zones and therefore gun-free zones have to go is false, why do the pro-gun folks keep pushing it.

It's simple.  This is one of the smoke-screen attempts at obfuscation in order to avoid the real issue which is gun availability.

Gun availability to unfit people is the true gun control issue involved in these cases.  Run-rights activists fear this issue because they realize the remedy, although it would save countless lives, would also inconvenience them a bit. Putting up with such regulations as licensing and registration is unacceptable to the biased gun lovers even though it would result in nothing more than a minor inconvenience.  Such incredible levels of self-centeredness is embarrassing, further increasing the need to keep the focus on gun-free zones and other nonsense instead of where it belongs, on gun availability.

What's your opinion?  Please leave a comment.


  1. "Gun-rights activists love to blame the gun-free zone for the problem of mass shootings.

    I submit that this is false reasoning."

    Actually, I blame the shooter for mass shootings and I blame the gun free zone for the higher body count.

    Whether or not a shooter chooses a location because it's a gun free zone doesn't matter. What matters is that being a gun free zone, everyone but the shooter is unarmed.

    1. And this is part 2. We will never know how many "mass killings' weren't - simply because they were stopped by someone after it was just a "one or two" killing or even before it reached that point. We can name a few that were pretty clear there would have been a much higher body count. But how many others weren't so clear?

  2. I think the arguments against GFZ's are a bit more complex than how you are painting it.

    I think you are correct that in this case, and in other workplace shootings, the troubled individual does of course go to the “place of his troubles”. So these locations are not selected because they are GFZ as they may be with “stranger” shootings.

    But I also think you may be missing an important element: If the place of his troubles were not already a GFZ, would this fact have altered his course of action? In many school shootings, the killers never intend to leave and frequently kill themselves after the rampage and I don’t know what this young man’s intentions.

    I wonder if Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold would have chosen the same course of action if they thought for a moment that they might be killed before they were able to enact their vengeance.
    So is not just about location advertising and selection but also deterring actions in ANY location.

    I have heard analogies that there are more gun stores in the U.S. than grocery stores. And certainly, as a percentage of worker population, gun stores would employ higher percentage of “angry right-wing gun nuts”. Yet we never hear of a disgruntled gun-store employee coming back to the “place of his troubles” and shooting everybody up. Anecdotal? Sure. But something to think about nonetheless.

  3. 1. What gun-free zones do is disarm people that you don't have to worry about. Crazies who are going to kill don't care about a sign on the door.

    2. With 300,000,000+ guns in this country, there's nothing that you can do about gun availability.

    3. The laws that you propose aren't a minor inconvenience, despite your continual lying about them. Do you recall your admission that you want a tribunal to decide if a person gets to own a gun? That's not minor. Substitute books for guns and consider whether you'd regard it as a minor violation of your rights if a tribunal decided what books you could own.

    4. I'm not ashamed of my stance on gun rights. I don't cover up anything, nor am I afraid to talk about these subjects.

  4. No one knows to what extent a gun free zone attracts spree killers. Logic dictates that they must attract some number of spree killers.

    Regardless, there are two main problems with gun free zones. First, there is a much lower probability of armed resistance so gun free zones enable higher body counts. Second, a gun free zone infringes citizens' rights to defend themselves. While property rights are important, life rights are even more important and people instinctively know that.

    For example everyone understands that a property owner does not have the right to arbitrarily kill a guest on their property. Similarly, everyone understands that a property owner does not have the right to arbitrarily restrain a guest so someone else can kill them. And to finish the point, a property owner has no right to force a guest to face an attacker unarmed so that the attacker can kill them.

    Whether you tie someone's hands literally or indirectly (under threat of armed police busting you for being armed), it is wrong. That is why no one should support gun free zones.

    1. You're right no one knows, but reason does not dictate any such thing as the GFZ attracts spree killers. To me, what attracts them is whatever their place of difficulty is, school, work or wherever.

      About the ability of armed citizens to defend themselves, that's been shown to now work very well. Tucson, in which not a one responded at all, and the Empire State Bldg., in which the response did more harm than good.

    2. In Tucson, the one armed citizen was too far away to intervene while the shooting was in progress. You have no evidence that anyone else there was armed. In New York, it was the police who screwed up. I've shown you how little they train with guns. You doubt that, but you doubt facts regularly.

  5. Assuming what MikeB quoted about the incident is true, what stands out is the fact that several people rushed the armed teen. That is the right attitude: when criminals attack, you have to counter strike as quickly as possible with as much force as possible. That and that alone will stop the attack.

    When citizens are armed, they bring even more force to bear on the attacker. That is why any responsible citizen who wants to be armed should be armed.

  6. This is at least the 26th shooting incident at a gun club so far this year that I've heard of:

    You would think a gun club is the MOST safe and responsible place for guns, given their emphasis on safety training and safety practices and, often, greater supervision. Sadly, wherever there are guns there are shootings.

    1. The CDC says that there are between 16,000 and 18,000 indoor ranges in this country. Add to that the many outdoor ranges, and you'll see just how safe they are as a rule. But your side has a well-known inability to analyze numbers.

    2. According to the article that Baldr linked, all 26 incidents were unintentional discharges or suicides. What is most important is what didn't happen at any shooting range: no violent crimes or mass shootings!

      Can we say the same thing about the 30,000 or so grocery stores in this country? How about the 30,0000 or so gas stations in this country? Convenience stores? Other businesses?

      While gun-free zones are an obvious failure, gun rich zones (e.g. shooting ranges) are totally free of violent crime. Go figure!

    3. Does a police station count as a "gun rich zone", Anonymous?

    4. C'mon Baldr, if you take all those incidents and divide by the estimated 300 million firearms in the US, you'll see what the true problem is.