Another random, violent attack on multiple victims by a deeply troubled man, another set of grieving family and friends, another set of thoughts and prayers. This attack, like Parkland and Sandy Hook, was against schoolchildren. But this time, there is one big difference: In the May 28th violent incident in Kawasaki, Japan, one child and one adult died. The Parkland attack resulted in the death of 17 people, mostly children. The killer in Sandy Hook murdered 28 people, again mostly children.
The stark distinction in the number of fatalities between the Japanese and American attacks has nothing to do with the intent of the killer; it has everything to do with the instrument he used. In Japan, where guns are difficult to obtain both legally and illegally, the killer used a knife on his rampage, stabbing 18 children and one parent, who was killed, along with an 11-year-old girl. The rest survived their injuries,
In the U.S., where guns are easy to obtain both legally and illegally, the firearm is almost always the weapon of choice, as it was in both Parkland and Sandy Hook and countless other sites of mass murder. The gun is a far more effective and efficient killing implement.
The NRA and other gun rights groups have moved from slogan to slogan over the years in their mostly successful attempts to derail any and all reasonable gun control measures. An early slogan was that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Catchy, to the point and designed to direct attention away from the inconvenient fact that people with guns will kill many more people. The 58 people gunned down at the concert in Las Vegas prove this point.
Another early slogan used to fight any attempt to limit the ease with which guns can be obtained in the U.S. was that if we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns. Again catchy and to the point. Well, we have not outlawed guns except in rare cases. How well has that worked out? Has the prevalence of guns stopped crime or limited mass fatal attacks? Have outlaws or mass murderers had any trouble getting their hands on firearms of all sizes, shapes and capabilities or shown any reluctance in using them? Those of a certain age may recall when a mass murder was surprising news. No more.
The latest gambit of the NRA is to blame mass shootings on everything but guns. Blame mental health problems, drugs such as Ritalin, unarmed teachers and unprepared security officers or even violent video games for such murders. Just close your eyes to the instrument used to carry out the killings. These issues are in many instances worth addressing, but not as a means to insulate firearms from any sensible controls.
As the Supreme Court has indicated consistently (even in cases that supported the rights of gun owners), the Second Amendment is no bar to reasonable attempts to control the availability and use of firearms. It is time that our elected officials had the courage to take even the most basic steps, such as universal background checks for gun purchasers (closing the gun show loophole) and limiting large capacity magazines. Our lives and those of our children may depend upon it.
Steven P. Grossman is the Dean Julius Isaacson Professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law; his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.