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Gasoline and Matches

Good thing Japan has strict gun laws or someone might have gotten hurt. My chief argument against people who want to tighten up gun laws because of mass killing is: “OK, then what do we do when that doesn’t work, and we still have mass killings?” Because we will. You don’t need an AR-15 to kill a lot of people quickly. Tactics are a lot more important. Even with a bolt action rifle that only holds 5 rounds, the killer can still succeed if they adjust their tactics to match the capabilities of the weapon. So the idea that you ban this gun or that gun is not borne out by reality. Mass killings have been very successfully pulled off by trucks and explosives and even bladed weapons in countries that have strict gun laws and little cultural history of private gun ownership.

Clayton Cramer is working on a definitive work on the history of mass killing, and from what I’m hearing the history is extensive and pretty interesting. This is not a new phenomena. Mass killing is probably the number one threat to our rights, because it scares the politically powerful in ways that random crime does not. The politically powerful tend to be effectively insulated from random crime, whereas mass killings are more like lightning.

Except lightning kills about 50 people per year versus about 20 for mass shootings. People are generally pretty bad at assessing risk.

21 Responses to “Gasoline and Matches”

  1. Andy B. says:

    Once again all I can contribute is an Old Guy’s reminiscences, but as I recall both from having lived the era as a young adult (and recent veteran) at the time, and the book Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence, there were approximately 2,500 politically motivated bombings in the United States, during one 18-month period of the early 1970s. They became so common, that eventually only the most dramatic bombings were considered newsworthy. They just weren’t reported. The remarkable thing was, very few of them targeted people as victims. Mainly they targeted property, like corporate facilities, college labs, or government facilities like draft boards, with the bombs set to detonate after-hours when no one would be there.

    I have noticed that in the past several years, while there has been a tremendous expansion of radical left- and right-wing activity, there have been relatively few bomb attacks. I have never had access to anything more “explosive” than blackpowder in my life, but I’m wondering whether control of high-explosives was, exceptionally quietly, severely tightened as a result of the early-‘70s bombings (very roughly, averaging five per day at their peak). Witness the addition of the “E” to “BATF” when the BATF was transferred from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of Justice c. 2002. Most of the bombings of the early-‘70s era used explosives burgled from construction or military sources.

    In any case, it seems odd that in a period when the rate of mass shootings have escalated, mass killings via bombings have not. Perhaps it’s because almost all mass shooters are suicidal, while bombers (except for suicide bombers) hope to survive their attacks? But then, why aren’t there more suicide bombings, in the United States?

    I hope I don’t appear to be implying any conclusions; these are just things I reflect on while recalling a completely different world, almost 50 years ago.

  2. Zundfolge says:

    Mass murders of any kind are outlier events … black swans if you will.

    Making ANY policy based on them is at best a fool’s errand and at worse a truckload of asphalt paving one of those roads to hell.

    Even if gun control magically ended all mass murders (which clearly it wouldn’t) the cost to society would be tremendous because guns are by and large used more for good than ill … and more for self defense than for crime.

  3. Miguel GFZ says:

    ” history of mass killing, and from what I’m hearing the history is extensive and pretty interesting.”

    Just a bit…. small tad.

  4. CarlosT says:

    Apparently thoughts and prayers are still legitimate in the context of arson, because the hashtag #prayforkyoani is trending. I’m not a believer, but I find the contempt for sincerely offered condolences by believers truly disgusting.

  5. 234 says:

    Yup.

    Arson is a favorite method of mass murder in Australia (bush fires) and it can reach deaths much higher than a maniac with a gun:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/feb/09/australia-bushfires

  6. Divemedic says:

    I compiled a list of the 25 worst mass killings in the USA

    https://street-pharmacy.blogspot.com/2016/06/deadliest-us-attacks.html?m=1

    • Alex says:

      Your list is out of date. #7 should be the Las Vegas Shooting, in which 59 people were killed (58 if you don’t count the perp).

      • Divemedic says:

        I know. If you look at the list, it was published a year and a half before the Vegas shooting. That would mean that only 5 of the top 20 mass killings was a spree shooting.

        My point is still the same:
        Three quarters of the mass killings in America were NOT completed by using firearms as the means.

  7. Miles says:

    Bu, bu but, they weren’t killed with an eeee-vil, Icky GUNNNN!!!!!
    Or so goes the morally superior anti-gun idjits

  8. Alex says:

    To be fair, this was Japan’s worst mass killing in the last 2 decades. If a gunman took 33 lives in America tomorrow, it wouldn’t even be the worst killing to happen in the past couple years.

  9. MarkPA says:

    “Mass killing is probably the number one threat to our rights, because it scares the politically powerful in ways that random crime does not.”

    I do NOT think that mass killings scare the politically powerful. These are opportunists; they know that mass killings scare the unwashed masses. Opportunists exploit pretexts. If the unwashed masses are afraid of mass killings (whether by gun, gas or plane crashes) they will pounce on that pretext to pursue what they want: power.

    The politicly powerful can figure out that they and their loved ones are exceedingly unlikely to become victims of any mass killing – neither by gun nor gas nor plane. They aren’t promoting beefing up the FAA’s or NTSB’s budgets.

    At best, they fear a lone assassin. Someone jealous of their fame or power or some grievance. But to mitigate this risk they must get the last single-shot gun.

    I wonder if mass shooters are really in it for the glory of dying in a pile of brass. If denied a gun (somehow) would they resort to gas or bombs? Much more deadly and harder to control.

    • The answer from countries with stricter gun control laws is they use other weapons: cars, arson, knives, meat cleaver, poison.

      Mass murderers (especially since the 1970s) are usually mentally ill, suffering hallucinations and subsequent delusions. Many may not think they will die when they pull the trigger, or would prefer non-existence over their current misery. Common hallucinations among schizophrenics include the sensation that bugs are crawling under their skin or that they are on fire. A former girlfriend checked herself into a hospital because she had two nights without sleep. The voices were shouting, “Kill yourself.” (And yes, never sleep with anyone crazier than yourself.) Would experiencing this on a regular basis make suicide seem sensible?

      Depression is also a symptom of schizophrenia. As my brother said a year or two before he died of diabetes for which he refused treatment, “I’m just atoms moving through space.” Deep depression is really bad.

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