It was another revealing, if tragic, day in the current gun control debate in America, which has often been played out in the media. Even as President Obama met, to no avail, with guns-for-all advocates in DC—who claimed he was out to destroy the Second Amendment—there was another school shooting, this time in California.
Then there was this: A school district in Ohio voted to arm its custodians (what could go wrong?). A national coalition of groups upped the anti-Obama rhetoric around its upcoming national Gun Appreciation Day. A man in Ohio carried out a particularly gruesome murder/suicide—killing himself only after shooting his son, age five. Ted Nugent compared gun rights advocates today to Rosa Parks.
This morning, Media Matters reports that NBC Sports—home of Bob Costas—is co-sponsoring the largest US gun show, produced by that leading gun industry group based in (wait for it) Newtown, CT. The event is, distastefully, known as SHOT, for the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show.
The classroom shooting in Kern County, California, ended with one student critically wounded, and a much higher toll likely averted thanks to two factors. Two unarmed men—the teacher in the classroom and a school supervisor—managed to talk the 16-year-old boy into putting down his weapon after he fired and missed another student (the shooter was known to have a “hit list” of kids who had allegedly bullied him). Secondly, the shooter was armed only with an old-fangled shotgun, which he’d obtained from his brother, not your basic automatic rifle favored by crazed Americans aiming at mass murder these days.
Now, Kern County, more than 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, is known as a mainly rural area, a real rough-and-tumble outdoorsy kind of place heavily-populated by gun owners. You might not expect the major local newspaper, The Bakersfield Californian, to respond to this incident with a strong pro-gun-control editorial. But that’s just what happened this morning:
The Taft gunman was armed with a shotgun. He was reportedly carrying a dozen or more shotgun shells in his pocket, which, had he had the time and motivation, would have to be manually loaded. Kern County sheriff’s officials say between two and four shots were fired at two students, and only one was hit. Had the shooter been wielding a semi-automatic gun the outcome most certainly would have been different. According to an FBI study, even a novice shooter can fire off three rounds a second with a semi-automatic rifle. A shotgun can certainly be deadly—especially in a crowded place, given the way the shot disperses—but it’s much more cumbersome and certainly doesn’t have the rapid-fire capabilities of an AR-15 with high-capacity magazines, where a sustained spray of bullets can make up for poor aim.
For that we can be thankful that we live in a state with some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. California already bans the sale of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And it has much stricter requirements for registration and training and rigorous background checks on gun sales. Interestingly, our strong gun laws can be traced to Republican Governor George Deukmejian, who passed the nation’s first assault weapons ban in California..
The shooting in Taft also points out the major weakness in proposals by the National Rifle Association and others that the only way to counter a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.
It concluded: “We got lucky with this one. All other factors notwithstanding, had the shooter brought a different weapon onto that campus, the tears might still be flowing.”