On December 25, The Salt Lake Tribune ran an op-ed in which the author pointed out that the key ingredients to mass shootings are not “assault weapons” or “high capacity” magazines, but time and unarmed victims.
Because of the fact that high profile gunmen typically pick a location where victims will be unarmed–Umpqua Community College, Chattanooga recruiting offices, Lafayette Grand Theatre, Fort Hood, DC Navy Yard, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Aurora movie theater, and Columbine–it really does not matter what kind of weapon the attacker chooses to use.
And because response time to such attacks can be lengthy, there is no real pressure to use “high capacity” magazines, as there is time to reload. Adam Lanza had over nine minutes to do whatever he wanted inside Sandy Hook Elementary, and “Columbine lasted for hours.” Thus, the author of The Salt Lake Tribune op-ed stresses, “A ban on high-capacity magazines does not necessarily result in fewer killings. When someone is trying to kill people, and no one is around to stop them, they will keep reloading until everyone around them is dead.”
The op-ed brings up another important point: the combination of time and unarmed victims means attackers can be successful without using a gun at all. The op-ed author points out:
Proponents of gun bans point to the success of Australia and England and Japan as proof that gun bans can work. But England and Japan have cultures that are totally different from our country. In those countries, for hundreds of years, their governments have banned almost all privately owned guns. China also has a ban on private guns but mentally disturbed individuals still go into elementary schools and kill children with a knife. A mentally disturbed man or woman in an enclosed space such as on a train or in a kindergarten class can kill just as well with a knife as they can with a gun.
In California–where gun ownership is being banned incrementally over a period of years–mass stabbings have already taken their place beside mass shootings. On November 4, Breitbart News reported a mass stabbing on the University of California Merced campus. And because stabber Faisal Mohammad had unarmed victims, his plan of attack involved the time-consuming tack of zip-tying his classmates to chairs once he gained the upper hand, then stealing guns with which to ambush and kill police.
Mohammad did not get to implement every aspect of his plan, but he went into the attack knowing he had time and unarmed victims. He used a knife.
It is worth noting that almost all of this comes together with the May 2014 Santa Barbara attack carried out by Elliot Rodger. He used knives to kill three people. He had time. Then he killed three people with a handgun and used only ten-round magazines. He did not need “high capacity” magazines because he operated in a place where it is very difficult for law-abiding citizens to gain the state’s permission to carry a gun for self-defense.
A ban on “high capacity” magazines and/or “assault weapons” would not have stifled Rodger in the least. And such bans will not stifle other mass attackers.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him direclty at firstname.lastname@example.org.