Gary Kleck on Mass Shooting and Gun Control

Very good article in the Wall Street Journal by criminologist Gary Kleck, suggesting gun control is unlikely to do anything to control mass shootings. Kleck is always very useful in these debates because he’s not really one of us, as you can tell by his suggestion for how and where gun control may be effective, but he’s not out to advance a political agenda.

11 thoughts on “Gary Kleck on Mass Shooting and Gun Control”

  1. “Well-enforced laws against carrying guns may discourage criminals who commit unpremeditated acts of violence from routinely being armed.”

    Is he saying that they will discourage people who are already criminals? Or that they will discourage people that are as of yet law abiding? In the first case, existing laws against felons owning guns at all should be just as effective. In the second case, your depriving law abiding citizens an extremely effective means of self defense whenever they are not at home. Which would be odd as the author acknowledged the value of firearms for self defense. Seems he falls into exactly the “lazy reasoning” that he cautions against.

  2. The key there is well-enforced. Most laws that exist now are not, and are therefore useless. But I agree that a well enforced law against criminals carrying firearms can help in giving police and prosecutors something to lock a potentially violent criminal up for before he commits more serious crimes. But again, it’s still, even then, pretty marginal in effect, since most criminals carrying guns are never going to get caught.

  3. From the Kleck article ” I am aware of only one mass shooting—on a Long Island commuter train in 1993—that involved both a shooter armed with a single gun and bystanders willing to stop the shooter when he attempted to reload.”

    There have been others like this one in 2007: and this one in 2008:,2933,356503,00.html

    I’m surprised Kleck doesn’t keep better notes on this kind of thing.

  4. I found it very interesting that he suggested backgkround checks on all transfers would help. I guess telling the obvious truth makes him “not really one of you.” In order to be “one of you,” one would have to be willing to do much more than that.

  5. mikeb,
    I think that a lot of gunnies would support background checks on all transfers if two conditions were met.
    1. Database available to anyone at no charge. IE – wouldn’t have to go to an FFL and add $50+ to the cost of the firearm to satisfy Big Brother.
    2. If we could be sure that the background checks weren’t being used to create a de facto registry of firearm owners.

  6. I agree with Hank Archer. I’ve also noted there would be ways to restructure the Gun Control Act to deal with both our concerns.

  7. mikeb,
    I should also add that I’m sure that background checks on all transfers is another of those regulations that only the law abiding will follow. It won’t end firearms theft, loss of firearms (and recovery by unethical persons) or straw purchases.

  8. Monty,
    “Well-enforced laws against carrying guns may discourage criminals who commit unpremeditated acts of violence from routinely being armed.”

    And the only way to enforce these laws “well” would be random metal detectors or searches.

  9. mikeb302000 Said (January 16th, 2011 at 10:07 am):
    I guess telling the obvious truth makes him “not really one of you.” In order to be “one of you,” one would have to be willing to do much more than that.

    Just who are you accusing of dishonesty?

  10. I have no problem with requiring all firearms transfers to have a background check. But there are several things that need to go along with that:

    1. No record of the gun stays with the government. I don’t particularly mind if the government knows who owns guns–there are so many of us that this would not be terribly useful for confiscation purposes. A non-governmental agency, perhaps the NRA, keeps track of the gun make, serial number, and the transfer authorization number, so that a gun misused in crime could be traced back. Perhaps the holder of this information might charge a fee to keep this data. I can see this becoming a way for NRA to justify its existence, and perhaps give members a discount.

    2. There should be no cost to the seller or buyer for the background check itself. The background check is not for the benefit of any individual. It is for the benefit of the society as a whole, and they should pay for it. If it turns out to cost $2 a transfer, that’s probably worthwhile. If it ends up costing $100 a transfer, perhaps the government would be better off spending the money on crime prevention instead.

    3. Such a background check should be applicable throughout the U.S. If you are a Massachusetts resident visiting Wyoming, and you see a gun you want, the background check lets you buy the gun and take it home. If the goal is to prevent criminals and the mentally ill from obtaining guns, then it should not matter what state this happens in. The provisions of GCA68 concerning out of state transfers were passed because it was barely possible for states to do their own background checks at the time, much less check with the other 49.

    4. Any firearms transfer that takes place with an authorization number exempts the seller from not only criminal but civil liability for subsequent misuse of that firearm. If I sell a gun in good faith that the government told me that the buyer is legal, then I should not have to hire a lawyer to defend myself if the government’s background check was wrong.

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