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Politics & Policy

The Truths about Mass Shooters That Gun-Control Advocates Ignore

Hand guns that were turned in by their owners in Los Angeles, California, December 26, 2012. (David McNew/Reuters)

On May 31, a Virginia Beach city employee went into the city’s municipal center and shot 16 people, killing twelve of them.

For many Americans, this mass shooting may have gotten lost in the blur of the El Paso mass shooting, the Dayton mass shooting, and all of the other all-too-frequent cases of horrific mass-casualty violence. But in Virginia, locals reacted strongly. Governor Ralph Northam called a special session on gun control, but the Republicans who controlled the chamber quickly voted to adjourn, asking a bipartisan commission to come up with recommendations and postponing the report until after Election Day. Virginia Democrats accused Republicans of shirking their duties and subsequently enjoyed big wins in state legislative elections earlier this month.

Virginia Democrats knew that the proper response to Virginia Beach shooting was gun control — and didn’t need to wait until the full investigation of the shooter had concluded.

Unnervingly, law enforcement officials say they still have no idea why the shooter launched his attack. The city asked a security risk management firm to conduct a comprehensive review to see if any warnings or “red flags” were missed. The extensive report concluded the shooter’s “actions, behaviors and communications before the attack did not include many known pre-incident risk factors for targeted workplace violence . . . We found no evidence that the subject communicated his violent intentions to others before the attack . . . The subject had no known history of mental health care and treatment . . . The subject left no clear evidence of a plan or manifesto detailing his intent and rationale or revealing any observable pre-attack behaviors.”

The report added, “some of the subject’s coworkers described him as reserved, with little emotional affect and socially withdrawn. No one, however, described him, his behaviors or his communications as overtly aggressive or violent. None of the coworkers interviewed thought the subject posed a threat or would commit such a violent act.”

This man had nothing more than seemingly mundane problems at work, a reprimand for poor performance. He begun the process of filing a formal grievance over his assessment, but then dropped his efforts, nine months before the incident. He had completed a divorce nearly two years earlier. But the report cautions “the three risk factors associated with this attacker — weapons skills and/or access, recent job problems and personal stressors — in their reported context of his professional work environment would not normally rise to a perceived level of concern for violence toward others.” Not every gun owner in the country who’s annoyed with boss or went through a divorce is a threat to others.

But there’s still that little detail that nothing Virginia Democrats are proposing would have changed what happened in Virginia Beach if it had been law.

  • Universal background checks? The shooter passed a background check, as he had no criminal record or institutionalization for mental health issues. He had a concealed handgun permit.
  • “Red flag laws”? As noted above, no one around the shooter perceived him as a violent threat until he opened fire.
  • Ten-day waiting periods? He bought his firearms at least a month before the attack, in some cases years earlier.
  • Limits on the number of guns that can be purchased each month? The shooter never purchased more than one gun in a month.
  • A ban on “assault” weapons? The shooter used two pistols in his attack. (Note that Governor Northam has not specified which firearms he considers to be “assault weapons.”)
  • Raising the legal age to purchase a firearm? The shooter was 40, well over 21.
  • Requiring lost or stolen firearms to be reported to police within 24 hours? This was not a case of lost or stolen firearms.
  • Barring people under final protective orders from having guns? Again, the shooter was not under any protective orders.
  • Making it illegal to ”recklessly” leave loaded, unsecured firearms around children under 18? The shooter was 40.
  • Letting localities regulate whether guns are allowed in government buildings? A regulation barring firearms from the building would not have deterred the shooter any more than existing laws banning murder.

Even if all of the Democrats’ desired laws had been in effect for the past few decades in Virginia, none of them would have prevented or even mitigated the actions of the Virginia Beach shooter.


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