Lott: Biden Gun Regulations Don’t Affect Mass Shootings

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Jun 21, 2024 - 02:20 AM

Authored by John R. Lott Jr. via RealClearPolitics,

President Biden is making gun control a central part of his reelection campaign. In a new ad, Biden says that Trump did “nothing” when children were “gunned down in classrooms,” innocent people “killed in church,” and others “massacred at a concert.”

The Biden campaign is referring to shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida; First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas; and an outdoor concert in Las Vegas. In four years, there were 18 mass shootings that occurred in public places and that did not transpire during another crime such as robbery or selling drugs. (A “mass killing” is defined by criminologists as involving four or more fatalities, not counting the shooter.)

But 23 mass public shootings have occurred so far under Biden – a 50% higher annual rate than under Trump. The deadliest shooting resulted in 21 victims at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas – four more than were killed in Parkland.

Besides touting the establishment of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, Biden also points to his new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ regulations for background checks on the private transfer of guns. But these additional background checks wouldn’t have prevented any recent mass public shootings. For example, the Uvalde murderer didn’t obtain his gun through a private transfer, and he passed a federal background check. There isn’t one mass shooting in this century that universal background checks would have stopped. But almost no one seems to challenge the Biden campaign’s stance on this issue.

While Biden touts a regulation that won’t accomplish anything other than creating an obstacle to gun ownership and helping to complete a national gun registry, there is evidence that Trump’s proposed reforms could work.

After the Parkland shooting, Trump tweeted: “If schools are mandated to be gun free zones, violence and danger are given an open invitation to enter. Almost all school shootings are in gun free zones. Cowards will only go where there is no deterrent.” Ironically, the Gun-Free School Zones Act was introduced in Congress in 1990 by then-Sen. Joe Biden.

After a mass murder at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue, Trump made a similar point: “If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better. If they had some kind of protection inside the temple, maybe it could have been a very much different situation. They didn’t.”

The only slight inaccuracy in Trump’s tweet after Parkland is that all school shootings with deaths or injuries, without exception, have occurred in schools that ban teachers and staff from having guns. He needn’t have offered the qualifier “almost.”

These mass murderers want to commit suicide, and they want media coverage. They know that killing more people means greater media coverage, and they know that defenseless victims are easier targets.

Police are very important in fighting crime, but they have a limited ability to stop mass public shootings. “A deputy in uniform has an extremely difficult job in stopping these attacks,” noted Kurt Hoffman, a Sarasota County, Florida, sheriff. Hoffman said that mass shooters can “wait for a deputy to leave the area or pick an undefended location.” And the problem with a visible police or security presence, he said, is that the officers may as well be holding up neon signs saying, “Shoot me first.” Concealed handgun permit holders, however, can’t be identified and therefore take away shooters’ tactical advantage.

California has the strictest gun control laws in the country – all the other regulations Biden would like to see enacted nationally. But its per capita annual rate of mass public shootings is significantly higher than in the rest of the country. For shootings since 2000, California’s rate stands at 0.33 per million whereas the overall U.S. rate is 0.25 per million. Looking at data since 2010, California’s rate is 0.28 per million versus 0.15 for the rest of the U.S. And from 2020 to now, it’s 0.13 for California and 0.05 for the rest of the U.S. California’s rate is also consistently higher than that of Texas, a state that gun control advocates often seek to demonize.

Biden claims credit for the drop in reported murder rates last year, pointing to his background checks and the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. This is a canard. The new rules are only going into effect this year. Also, while last year’s projected murder rate was indeed down from 2022, it’s still 7% above 2019 levels. 

Given Biden’s losing streak in the courts, his background checks may not exist long after taking effect later this year. The difference between Biden and Trump is clear. Biden wants credit for doing something even if it doesn’t help. Trump wants to do something that works.

John R. Lott Jr. is a contributor to RealClearInvestigations, focusing on voting and gun rights. His articles have appeared in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, USA Today, and Chicago Tribune. Lott is an economist who has held research and/or teaching positions at the University of Chicago, Yale University, Stanford, UCLA, Wharton, and Rice.