Person 1: We must do something about these mass shootings.
Person 2: What?
Person 1: Something common sense.
Person 2: Okay, how about we ban all refugees from Syria?
Person 1: That is completely unrelated to the events and will not actually keep us safer. Syrian refugees probably had nothing to do with the attacks in Paris and undergo a stringent vetting before even being allowed in this country. That’s absurd.
Person 2: How about we ban gatherings of more than two people? If more than two people cannot congregate there can be no mass shootings.
Person 1: That’s absurd. That would be unconstitutional and would affect our way of life too much.
Person 2: But I thought you wanted to do something?
Person 1: Well not that. Something common sense.
Person 2: How about we round up all people of Middle Eastern descent and put them in internment camps. The Supreme Court even said such a thing is completely constitutional.
Person 1: That’s absurd. We can’t do that. That is an affront to all that we hold dear as a nation. We guarantee life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We fought for these ideals we shouldn’t settle for less. We value rights. We can’t do that. So many of those people are innocent and did nothing wrong. That is nothing better than what the Nazis did.
Person 2: How about we just round up guys with the first or last name Syed? It would have stopped this last shooting and probably would have saved Hae Min’s life in 1999. I mean if it saves just one life we have to do it, right?
Person 1: That’s absurd. We need individual suspicion. We can’t just put people in jail or deny them rights because of their name.
Person 2: What do you suggest we do?
Person 1: The first thing we need to do is make people ineligible to buy guns if they are on the terrorist watch list.
Person 2: Didn’t you just say we can’t deny people rights because of their names?
Person 1: This is different.
Person 2: How?
Person 1: The DOJ makes a determination if a person is on the watch list.
Person 2: If the DOJ is wrong, how does a person get off of the watch list?
Person 1: Uh, you can’t.
Person 2: Does a person even know if they are on the watch list?
Person 1: Um no.
Person 2: Okay. What else do you suggest?
Person 1: We need to close the gun show loop hole.
Person 2: Do lots of criminals get their guns at gun shows?
Person 1: Well, no.
Person 2: Can gun dealers sell without background checks at a gun show?
Person 1: Well, no.
Person 2: Have any of the mass shooters bought their guns at a gun show?
Person 1: Well, no, but they could.
Person 2: Well then what’s the point?
Person 1: To close the loophole. Gun shows are a scary place.
Person 2: What else have you got?
Person 1: We need to ban assault weapons.
Person 2: What are assault weapons?
Person 1: Guns that look scary.
Person 2: Are they the same ones our army uses?
Person 2: Are assault weapons more deadly than other types of weapons?
Person 1: Well, no. Most actually have a smaller caliber than common hunting weapons or handguns.
Person 2: Have all of the mass shooters used assault weapons?
Person 2: Are assault weapons used in lots of non-mass shooting events?
Person 1: Well, no. Rifles of all types are a very small percentage of gun homicides.
Person 2: How easy are assault weapons to get in California?
Person 2: Then how did the San Bernardino shooter get one?
Person 1: He didn’t. His was legal so it wasn’t an assault weapon.
Person 2: Do you have any other common sense proposals?
Person 1: We need universal background checks.
Person 2: Would universal background checks stop most killings?
Person 1: Well, no. As I said above, most criminals don’t get their guns from a licensed dealer. Additionally, it’s illegal for felons to possess guns but many of the crimes committed are committed by recidivists. And, further, most mass shooters either passed their background check because they had never done anything wrong before, stole the gun, got the gun from someone else, or shouldn’t have been able to pass the background check but did because the system screwed up.
Person 2: Should we be expanding a system that has failed in the past?
Person 1: Yes. It’s common sense. We need more background checks.
Person 2: Maybe we should focus on making the system better?
Person 1: We can’t because of privacy concerns. But we must do something.
Person 2: Violent crime must really be on the rise.
Person 2: We must have way more suicides than other places.
Person 1: Actually, we are in the middle of the pack and well below nations like South Korea & Japan that have much more stringent gun control laws. But we must do something. There have been 355 mass shootings in the US this year.
Person 2: Really? That seems like a lot. That’s horrible.
Person 1: Well, that’s the number a bunch of people on Reddit came up with based on news reports and their own criteria. They even included a BB gun shooting in their database at one point. Mother Jones says there have been four. The FBI says about the same.
Person 2: Wait, four? That’s still too many but not nearly the same as three hundred and fifty-five. Has the number been going up?
Person 1: Well, the Reddit number has only been collected since 2013 so we have no idea if it is rising or if it was 2,000 in 1991 when there were 51% more violent crimes. The Mother Jones number has also gradually risen, but the sample size is so small that it may be meaningless. There was a peak of seven in 2012. We really need Australian style gun laws here. They were a common sense response to a mass shooting. There have been no mass shootings in Australia since.
Person 2: Wasn’t there a terrorist attack in a chocolate shop last year in Australia?
Person 1: Well, yeah, but that doesn’t count because only two victims died.
Person 2: What did the Australian laws do?
Person 1: They confiscated people’s guns.
Person 2: That doesn’t sound very common sense.
Person 1: But we must do something.
Person 2: Well, I don’t know what to suggest. I don’t know if we have to do something. Things seem to actually be getting better. None of your proposals seem tailored to actually deal with the problems. There are constitutional concerns about some of them. You didn’t like my proposals when I thought we should do something. I am just going to offer the victims my thoughts and prayers.
A drama presented by Timothy Sutton. Sutton is the co-host of the Non-Aggression Principle heard every Thursday night on Free State Radio.