Another School Shooting

And, inevitably, another blizzard of legislative leaders blaming it on mental illness.

“It’s not the guns,” they say. “They can always find a way to kill. They can make explosives out of fertilizer. They can drive trucks onto sidewalks. They can use machetes and knives and box-cutters.”

Well, yes, it’s true that people afflicted with mental illness—at least the homicidal ones—will always be able to find a way to kill. But it is the guns. Specifically, it’s the semi-automatic assault rifles.

It’s not likely Nikolas Cruz could have killed 17 and injured another 14 in less than five minutes with any weapon other than a semi-automatic rifle. Nor would Stephen Paddock have been able to kill 58 and injure more than 400—at a range of 450 meters—in less than ten minutes. Semi-automatic weapons like these were specifically developed for only one purpose: to kill or grievously injure as many people as possible as rapidly as possible.

Semi-automatic weapons are suited specifically and explicitly for killing people—human beings, not deer or elephants or inanimate targets. And they accomplish that very well—just ask any veteran who’s been trained on an M-4.

I admit it’s unlikely we’ll be able to eliminate all mass shootings by eliminating semi-automatics. But maybe we can at least make such shootings less common. And maybe that will give us time to work on our mental health problem; maybe, if we can stanch the proliferation of semi-automatic weapons, we can at least reduce the number of casualties while we search for ways to treat the underlying mental illnesses.

And that will take time. Not all mental illness is presently preventable; not all cases lend themselves to timely diagnosis and treatment; and not all illnesses can be effectively managed, much less cured. And it’s worth pointing out that mental illness affects people in other countries too. And it affects women as well as men. But mass shootings occur disproportionately in the U.S. And the perpetrators have been more than 90% male.

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