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Another day, another mass shooting.  And another set of commonly used responses I’d rather not have to read for the umpteenth time.

“There have been <insert number here> mass shootings since Sandy Hook, and Congress has done nothing!”

There’s nothing factually incorrect about this statement.  There’s also nothing factually correct about it either, of course, because the definition of a “mass shooting” turns out to be something that changes depending on the agenda of the person using the phrase.

And by varying that definition, we can get wildly different numbers.  Like, orders of magnitude different.  By some metrics, we’ve had ~1500 mass shootings since Sandy Hook; by others, fewer than 30.  There is a legal definition of the term that excludes the 1500 number, incidentally, but since there’s little agreement outside of that statute on what constitutes a mass shooting, people pushing an agenda feel free to redefine the term for the own personal usage on a regular basis.

An awful lot of folks arguing for more gun control use the Gun Violence Archive as the source for their figures; in fact, I believe it’s the source of the 1500 figure, since it would be difficult to arrive at a number that high without using their incredibly generous definition of the term.  Specifically, incidents in which four people were shot.  Not killed, or even seriously wounded, but simply struck by at least part of a bullet.  A quick skimming of their data reveals that the vast majority of “mass shootings” (by their definition) turn out to drive-bys, robberies gone wrong, or other typical criminal activity that definitely do not mesh with the public perception of what a mass shooting is.

Another site, ShootingTracker.com, has been caught reporting kids playing nasty pranks with BB guns as mass shootings.  Sure, a dozen people got hit with low-velocity BBs, but nobody even got their eye shot out.

There’s a similar conflict, incidentally, on whether a “good guy with a gun” has ever stopped a mass shooting.  Because it depends on how you define “good guy”, how you define “mass shooting”, and ultimately how you define “stopped”.

This most recent tragedy, for example, was arguably cut short by a “good guy with a gun”.  The argument will be made, however, that since the shooter did murder dozens before that occurred, the shooting was not “stopped”.  In quite a number of criminal shootings, both sides are armed.  If rival drug dealers shoot each other during a drive-by, and wind up being the only casualties, is the one who shot second considered a “good guy”?

The only remotely consistent thing there is the fact that if the crime is cut sufficiently short that fewer than four people are shot, odds are good that it won’t be considered a mass shooting by anyone, which ironically means that since it won’t be reported as a mass shooting, the fact that it was stopped will go equally unrecorded.


“If he couldn’t have gotten a gun, he’d have just used <insert device here, probably a bomb> which would have been even worse!”

Yeah, no.

I empathize a bit on this one, to be honest.  Obviously bombs have been used to great effect in the past for people committing acts of mass murder.  And yes, if, in this instance, the attacker had managed to infiltrate a bomb into the middle of a concert filled with thousands of people, he might well have caused thousands of casualties.

Except this is where reality intrudes.

Making bombs on that scale isn’t necessary hard, but it’s not easy either.  It requires a certain amount of technical knowledge, and more importantly explosive material, which you’ll either have to acquire (though channels monitored in at least a cursory fashion by law enforcement), or manufacture.  The first option represents another chance for a would-be bomber to get caught, and the second…  There’s a reason why the guys who make the bomb vests aren’t the ones who wear them.  It’s easy to shout something dramatic and press a trigger; manufacturing explosives can be dangerous, requires at least some practice, and again, a lot of the precursors used in more common explosives are monitored.

Hell, when the seed store up the street burned down some years back, one of the first agencies on the scene was the ATF and Homeland Security, trying to determine if the fire had been a cover for the theft of ammonium nitrate.

Plus there’s the problem of delivering a large explosive device.  The Boston Marathon bombers managed to deliver a small explosive device without too much difficulty, but parking a vehicle in a crowded space and walking off hurriedly would probably raise a few eyebrows at the best of times, given past history, and that’s in places without the sort of security presence one could expect at a concert event, such as the target of the Vegas shooter.

Perhaps in a more confined environment he could have rigged up some sort of… glorified grenade slingshot and lobbed improvised explosives into the crowd, but in this case, he was a good 400 yards from the stage… which is about 50 yards further than the maximum range of the M203 grenade launcher that’s actually designed to perform that particular task.

And yes, he could have skipped all that rigamarole and just commandeered a garbage truck to drive into the crowd.  There are some risks you can’t eliminate and simply have to live with.  That’s one of them.

So, long story short; no, it probably wouldn’t have been worse.  There is a much lower barrier to entry in terms of buying a gun and firing wildly into a crowd versus the construction and deployment of an explosive device, at least if the perpetrator doesn’t care about getting caught.

Also, speaking of government agencies, to the agents reading this: Please understand that my search history was for purely academic reasons, and I’m not trying to turn my Honda Civic into a weapon of mass destruction.


“We need to ban high-powered rifles like the AR-15!”

This is pretty much a bitch about semantics, I realize, but bear with me.  The AR-15 platform is emphatically not a “high-powered rifle”.  It fires what’s commonly referred to as an intermediate cartridge, which kinda spells out how powerful the round is.  Pretty much all military rifles today fire intermediate cartridges, in fact, because they’re powerful enough to kill, but not so powerful as to make a fully-automatic weapon too difficult to readily control when it’s actually firing on full auto.

Yes, the ability to fire dozens of rounds in a single second makes modern assault rifles powerful weapons, but they are, in fact, considerably less “high-powered” than the weapons they replaced.

So like I said, it’s a matter of semantics.  You could argue that the intent was to portray the power of the weapon, not necessarily how much energy the bullet is carrying when it exits the muzzle, but what you need to understand is that your ignorance lets people shrug off your arguments.  If you’re going to write about guns, especially gun control, you’re going to be writing to two specific groups: people who know next to nothing about guns, and people who know a hell of a lot about guns.  And the people in the second group are just going to tune you out pretty rapidly if you start calling the sort of mistakes that it seems a hell of a lot of gun control enthusiasts make.

Lemme put it to you this way: Hopefully you understand that Hollywood is just being dramatic, and in real life cars are not thousand pound bombs on wheels, and you’d react appropriately to anyone who starts squawking at you about how you shouldn’t drive around in a weapon of mass destruction.

Imagine your reaction, the thinly veiled contempt and incredulity at the ignorance of some easily deluded sap.  If you spout off about guns with that level of Hollywood-fuelled ignorance, you’re going to get that exact reaction out of people who know what you’re talking about.


I suppose the worst part about these articles is that I have the third one started already, since at the rate we’re going, we’re certainly not going to run out of guns, crazies, or uneducated people running their proverbial mouths on social media.