Gun Control Cannot Prevent Mass Killings

After the recent shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, many anti-gun groups and politicians have renewed their cries for stricter gun control in the United States. As inconvenient as the facts may be (especially in this case), these folks continue to push that just a few more laws would prevent tragedies like we have seen this week. Given these assertions, let us take a look at why they simply are not correct (in keeping with site policy, shooters’ names will not be mentioned).

Universal Background Checks Would Not Work

In Charleston, the shooter passed the mandated NICS background check when he purchased the handgun back in April. While anti-gun groups like to argue for the effectiveness of such checks, the truth of the matter is that most mass killers pass these checks without issue. Shooters at Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Aurora, Newtown, the D.C. Navy Yard, and in Charleston all passed (or would have passed) the NICS background checks. A few other instances, such as Columbine and the shooting at Clackamas Town Center involved shooters that stole firearms from family or friends.

“Assault Weapons” Bans are Ineffective

The shooter in Charleston used a low capacity, .45 ACP handgun to commit his heinous crime. The only two recent incidents involving any firearm that would be politically considered an “assault weapon” were the killings at Sandy Hook and Aurora. The deadliest shooting incident in U.S. history, at Virginia Tech, involved the use of two standard handguns (a Glock 19 and a diminutive Walther P22). The Navy Yard shooter took 12 lives with a common pump-action shotgun. Columbine took place in the midst of the Clinton-era Assault Weapons Ban.

Magazine Capacity is Irrelevant

Arguments that shooters can be overwhelmed while reloading have not proven themselves reasonable. The shooter in Charleston reloaded his handgun 5 times before fleeing the scene. At Columbine, the attackers reportedly reloaded 13 times during the course of their rampage. The Virginia Tech shooter reloaded at least 17 times during that incident. In Newtown, the assailant reloaded frequently, often dropping magazines that were at least half full. At the Navy Yard, the killer used a low capacity shotgun. Reports following the Arizona shooting where Gabby Giffords was wounded indicated that the assailant’s high-capacity magazine jammed, which ultimately led to his apprehension. Similar information from the Aurora shooting has implied that a high-capacity magazine jammed during that incident as well. Put simply, magazine capacity limits are entirely arbitrary and their supposed benefits are entirely theoretical with little empirical support.

Waiting Periods Have No Effect

The idea of a “cooling off” period before taking possession of a firearm is wishful thinking, especially when it comes to mass murderers. Every mass casualty shooting has involved shooters who possessed the firearm well in advance of the crime. When these sick people spend months planning their attacks, a waiting period is trivial.

Gun Free Zones Aren’t

Firearms are banned from churches in South Carolina by statute. This did not stop a disturbed criminal from entering a church with a firearm. Likewise, the shootings at Sandy Hook, Columbine, the D.C. Navy Yard, and Fort Hood all occurred in places where firearms were laws banned firearms. At this point, it should be clear that the only people that respect these restrictions are those that mean no harm in the first place.

Gun-A-Month Limits are Pointless

In every recent incident, the shooters have used no more than three firearms. Most have used one or two. Some have argued that these restrictions help combat trafficking, but reality is that the current background checks could do this just as effectively. As it stands, these sorts of laws harm peaceable collectors and do little to curb crime.

Ammunition Restrictions Will Not Prevent Crime

Some states have pushed for bans on online ammunition purchases. The theory is that forcing buyers to purchase in person (perhaps even with a background check) will help catch dangerous individuals. If the background check for the firearm is not going to stop a potentially violent person from acquiring a gun, the same checks are not magically going to succeed when it comes to ammunition.

Likewise, limits on the amount of ammunition that a person may purchase or possess would only punish legal gun owners. The Virginia Tech shooter fired more rounds than any other mass killer and even he only expended approximately 170 rounds. That may seem like a substantial sum to many, but the fact is that most enthusiasts and competitors will fire more than that on an average range day.


If people are serious about curbing violence, then we need to do a better job of identifying the causes of these incidents. We must also be more effective when it comes to flagging those that might be at risk of committing such acts. In many cases, these individuals have shown signs of potential violence, only to be completely ignored. That must stop for these events to be effectively minimized. As it stands, there simply is no reasonable way to attack these challenges from a gun control angle.