Earlier this week, I wrote about the numerous bad policy ideas circulating in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando. The temptation always exists to “do something” in the wake of attacks like this. But just as most decisions in life need to be taken only upon calm reflection, so too do lawmakers need to resist the urge to pass laws during emotionally charged times.
Since I wrote about what we shouldn’t do to prevent mass shootings, people have asked me “what is the solution?” It’s human nature to want to prevent things like this from happening again.
But the fact of the matter is that there probably isn’t a realistic solution that can stop a determined man from carrying out a mass shooting in a free society. That may not be an ideal answer but it’s a realistic one.
Every policy idea has to be examined through a cost-benefit analysis of some kind. The first obvious one is whether or not the policy being debated would accomplish its goal. For example, many on the left recommend restoring an assault weapons and high-capacity magazine ban. The USA Today editorial board made a common argument in favor of that on Tuesday:
While assault weapons equipped with high-capacity magazines are used in only a small percentage of crimes, holding down the size of magazines could save lives, Johns Hopkins’ researchers reported in 2012. Even if the ban eventually prevented only 20% of those incidents, that would translate into 100 fewer homicides and 500 fewer people wounded by gunshots per year.
While that sounds great, it’s a small drop in the bucket compared to the number of high-capacity magazines available in the country, which could be around 100 million. Other gun manufacturers have also found ways to get around these laws. Such a law would only be effective if it banned both the possession and sale of such magazines, which means there would have to be a buyback program, and that could get expensive. Here’s the ironic thing: a magazine capacity restriction is one of the better gun control ideas out there. But would it still prevent the next mass shooting? That’s unlikely.
Now there is one way to prevent acts of terror from having their desired impact. We could simply refuse to be terrorized. Don’t let these incidents alter our lives and prevent us from being the open, liberal, free, and tolerant society we are. Love our fellow Americans whether they’re gay, straight, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or whatever.
There may not be any legislative solution to what happened in Orlando on Sunday. Instead, the solution may lie in all of us as a people.