Gun Control Fails Again at the Pittsburgh Synagogue

More Gun Control

by Rob Morse

A murderer killed unarmed victims at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Mass murders will continue until we stop them. Religious institutions are the target of criminal violence hundreds of times a year. That hard data comes from the dedicated individuals who work to protect our churches and synagogues. It seems that every politician running for office also has an opinion on the recent attack. Fortunately, we can, and we have, come up with better ideas than that. Let’s look at evidence rather than at campaign talking points. Here is what failed in Pittsburgh and here is what works to stop mass murder.

The murderer purchased his firearms legally. That means he passed his background checks with the FBI when he bought his firearms in a gun store. He also passed state background checks to buy his three handguns. Those FBI background checks failed to stop a mass murderer who was not a criminal until he killed. The Pennsylvania state background check failed as well. The so called “universal” background checks would fare no better because background checks contain a fatal flaw; looking backwards doesn’t predict the future. We have looked at past mass murderers to see if proposed background checks would have stopped them. With the exception of the murderers who killed to obtain their weapons, mass murderers obtained their firearms legally and passed their background checks to obtain their guns. Background checks don’t stop mass murderers.

Pennsylvania state law requires that gun stores keep a registry of the handguns they sell. Criminals don’t buy guns over the counter, so that registry doesn’t stop criminals from getting guns. The registry didn’t stop this murderer either, even though he bought his pistols legally. Handgun registries don’t stop mass murderers.

Pennsylvania requires a license to carry a concealed firearm in public. In a singularly unusual turn, this murderer acquired his permit. That meant that the murderer carried his concealed firearms to the church in a legal manner. Having a state issued carry permit failed to stop him from murdering innocent people at the Synagogue, but the state permit requirements may have helped disarm the innocent victims sitting in the Synagogue. When we listen to proposed solutions, the first rule is to do no harm. Most murderers don’t bother to get a permit, so more stringent requirements on carry permits could very well disarm more victims rather than disarm future murderers.

Armed security was frequently mentioned in the immediate news reports. Several politicians said that guns are not the answer to protect innocent people in churches, synagogues, and schools.  Without exception, the politicians I saw making those statements had armed bodyguards with them. A noteworthy exception was the Brooklyn, New York borough president Eric Adams. President Adams said he plans to carry his gun to church. He asked other retired law enforcement officers to carry at church or synagogue when they are off duty. Armed guards protect politicians when the politicians go to church. The rest of us should be protected as well.

Armed guards help, but are only one of several known solutions.

The news media is a significant factor in promoting mass murder. Though less of a factor at the Pittsburgh synagogue attack, the extensive media coverage given to mass murderers lures the next narcissistic murderer to kill. We learned this lesson with teen suicide. Today, we have media guidelines in place so we won’t mention the name of the suicide victim. We know that works because we’ve seen the change in teen suicide data. We don’t turn a dead teenager into an immortal celebrity.. unless he takes several of his classmates with him. The message is clear enough for a headline that any editor can understand-

Don’t Reward Murderers!

Armed security is already in place at many religious assemblies. These security teams can be made of off-duty police, dedicated church staff, and/or armed congregants. The only thing stopping more churches and synagogues from having armed staff is apathy. If you want protection when you worship, then ask your pastor or rabi. Armed security is only a part of a larger security plan, so ask if you can see the entire plan.

There is an exception to the trend of armed churches and synagogues. Almost all mass murders are in so called “gun-free” zones. Some states forbid or severely restrict armed church staff.  Arguing for armed churches is a difficult political proposition in some states. I propose we make the government strictly liable for every injury in a government mandated “gun-free” zone. If disarming churches and synagogues is such a good idea, then the government wouldn’t have to pay a thing. If not, then the state must pay for the murders it caused.

Some churches have decided to deny their members the right of armed self defense. I propose we make these churches and synagogues strictly liable for every injury in their self imposed “gun-free” zone. Again, if disarming your congregations is such a good idea, then they have no liability to worry about.  If these gun free zones actually increase the risk to parishioners and staff, then these churches and synagogues should be held liable for the safety of the people they disarmed.

Is there any “gun-free” zone where we have not found a gun?

When it comes to mental health, I’m tempted to add that we should hold bureaucrats responsible for the crazy people they release back into society. I can’t take that proposal seriously since we have never found a way to hold bureaucrats responsible for their actions. Claiming bureaucratic responsibility as a solution is magical thinking and this isn’t a story about political fiction.

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