The Corner

Politics & Policy

Three Ways to Tamp Down on Mass Killings

(Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

Very briefly:

1. Stop giving these people the infamy they crave. These incidents are obviously contagious — a reality increasingly backed up by good research — and we in the media need to do a better job of keeping killers’ names out of our stories and, in general, being less sensational in our coverage.

2. Monitor online activity for warning signs. There have been three mass killings now tied to websites where individuals congregate to celebrate such atrocities. The government needs to monitor these sites and pay folks a visit when they give off warning signs. If these sites were to shut down because various service providers stopped doing business with them, I would not lose any sleep over it, however sympathetic I am to Big Tech’s critics in a lot of ways.

3. Keep guns away from dangerous people. Anyone who thinks gun control is an obvious, surefire panacea should look at the RAND Corporation’s enormous review of the gun-violence literature from last year, which uncovered “no qualifying studies showing that any of the 13 policies we investigated decreased mass shootings” — and also threw some cold water on the most aggressive claims about Australia’s gun confiscation, a measure far more forceful than anything we could implement here. One might also consider that guns are not the only way to commit mass murder: Explosives were used at Oklahoma City, the Boston Marathon, and numerous mass-casualty incidents in the first half of the 20th century here in the U.S.; an arson in Japan killed at least 35 people just last month; and a vehicle attack in France killed 86 in 2016.

But we could still do more to keep firearms away from individuals who’ve shown themselves to be a danger. I wholeheartedly support David French’s crusade for carefully crafted “red flag” laws, which allow people close to a troubled individual to bring him to the attention of the authorities, who, after providing due process, can take away his guns. I am also a squish on universal background checks, though the potential for good there is much greater for run-of-the-mill gun violence than for mass shootings, as mass shooters generally pass background checks already.

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