Aurora and the Shooting Next Time

Until Americans view handguns as more of a threat than a safeguard, there will be no meaningful progress toward effective handgun control in this country.  As it is, Americans are trapped in a perverse perception of risk, much like people who would rather drive than fly because the plane might crash.  Presumably there is a certain reassurance in knowing that in one's home one has ready to hand a few ounces of cold steel (or plastic) that will let one  blow away any rabid psychopathic home invader bent on pillaging the home and ravishing the inhabitants or worse.  It never seems to occur to such people that that the likelihood of their six-year-old blowing away his kid sister is greater than the likelihood of home invasion.  See, e.g., Kellerman, et al., Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home, New England Journal of Medicine (1993).  Not to mention the greater suicide risk in homes with guns.  The illusion of control provided by having a weapon at hand overpowers any rational calculation of statistical risk.

It has long been a source of frustration to gun control advocates that no effective action is taken in response to tragedies such as the recent multiple homicides in Aurora, Colorado.  After decades of such events, it appears that the American public is emotionally inoculated against the shock that would normally attend them, and they are perpetuated by indifference.  Coupled with the fantasy that sporting one's own firearm renders one immune to the random predations of a lunatic, the result is a vast public inertia, further fueled by an overall decline in violent crime in recent decades.   If the public is unwilling to muster the political will even to support a Federal Assault Weapons Ban, then it seems unlikely that there will be any meaningful gun control legislation in our times.

This is a shame, because even after the Supreme Court's affirmation of the individual right to own a gun in the home in District of Columbia v. Heller, there seems to be ample room for legislation aimed at limiting access to firearms on the part of potential criminals.