Three days after and simplistic memes abound. Everyone has retreated to their established positions and they're lobbing the same old slogans back and forth.
49 people -- 49 Americans -- are still dead. There is no way to make it not have happened. "More guns won't stop this," I'm told, and yet it took police, with guns, to stop it, in part by adding a 50th body to the count, killing the shooter himself.
There are something over 8 million AR-15 type rifles in the United States and they're not going away. Tam tells me the killer used a different rifle, which uses the same magazines and has all the controls in the same place; functionally the same gun and split hairs don't bring back the dead any more than lit candles. Remember the so-called assault weapons ban? It didn't ban all weapons of this sort, only a jumble of cosmetic features. Slam it back in place over this incident: the killer buys a slightly different version and the body count remains the same.
I'm supposed, according to the media, according to some of my friends, to feel not simply sad, but guilty. After all they point out, I own an AR-15; I own firearms; I don't think we ought to collect 'em all and melt them down. In fact, I think something different: I think we can't. It's not physically possible.
Let's waive the entire Bill of Rights for a few seconds and say we set out to round up all the guns. The easy place to start is with everyone who has a 4473 (that's the Federal background check when you buy a gun from a dealer) currently in the system. You shut down NICS, grab all the data in their possession (by law, not more than the last 90 days), and start to go door-to-door. Very roughly, 90 days of NICS checks is about 3.9 million transactions -- some will have been denied, some will be for more than one gun, but expect something over three million doors to knock on. Even if the public cooperate, it's going to take a lot of police to knock on that many doors in a timely manner, police who already have plenty else to do.
In the real world, the Bill of Rights remains in force; forget the Second Amendment, what about the Fourth?
You can call for the public to turn in their guns; Australia tried that, paying for self-loading rifles and pump shotguns turned over for destruction, and achieved a compliance rate of 20 percent. 80% of those guns are still out there.
Guns in America are not going away. The people least likely to turn their guns over are the most difficult to find and the most dangerous: criminals and extremists. Who wouldn't like to disarm all the criminals, all the people with horrible violence simmering away in their pressure-cooker heads? There are already laws, after all -- felons and people convicted of domestic abuse aren't even supposed to be in the same room with a firearm. And yet they are not dissuaded. One more law, however harsh, still won't stop them.
"More guns won't stop this?" Neither will fewer guns. In 1927, a man in Bath, Michigan killed 38 schoolchildren, six adults and never fired a shot at a person. If the killer in Orlando had waited until a large crowd left the bar and mowed them down with an SUV, would SUV owners be told to feel ashamed? Would Presidential candidates bemoan that General Motors and Jeep couldn't be sued for the crime? If he had chained the doors shut and set the bar on fire, would there be calls for bans on padlocks and gas cans?
Killers kill. "Make it didn't happen" is among the most poignant of sentiments -- and both sides of the debate are guilty of it; armed patrons at the bar are unlikely to have made much of a difference in the crowding and confusion -- but it is futile. It did happen. People are vulnerable; violence is rare and hence unexpected. The advantage is always the aggressor's.
When we react blindly, unrealistically, we contribute nothing to solving the problem. For every ten thousand opinionators on the Internet, there was less -- far less -- than .01 of a pair of hands trying to control the bleeding of a wounded person in Orlando Saturday night. No vigil, no change in the availability of guns either way can change that.
You want to do something? Give blood. That stuff makes an actual, measurable difference. Contribute to organizations that help people directly rather than lobbying for one more law, or even one less. Learn first aid. Try to be aware of the potential for violence and how you might react. Statistically, you'll never see any; the blood and money you donate will do more good.
Memes don't fix things. Laws don't fix things. Actions do.
You know what I want? I want herd immunity; I want anyone contemplating violence to others to stop and think, "My prospective victims are going to fuck me up," and decide not to strike.
5 weeks ago